This is the second in a series of post with various media members on the Kentucky season going into NCAA play.
Question: What player has surprised you the most — either by what he has done or has not done?
Ryan Lemond: “It’s got to be Willie Cauley-Stein. He was projected to be a lottery pick, and he started out the season that way. But once SEC play started, he not only lost his starting position, he lost playing time. There are times when he just doesn’t play with much heart or energy. That’s inexcusable to me. Didn’t you come back to better yourself this season? Lack of effort has led to many ‘missing in action’ games this season, often when the team needed him the most.”
Larry Glover: “Andrew Harrison has been the biggest surprise. He was talked about by recruiting experts as transcendently good but instead he’s been very much a work in progress. In time, he can become a really good college guard but I’m not sure I see a guy that can play a lot at the next level, … at least not right now.”
Taylor: “Expected better point guard play from Andrew Harrison. His up and down play has hurt the team but that’s to be expected from freshmen.”
Tyler Thompson: “I’ve been disappointed in Willie Cauley-Stein. After UK lost to Robert Morris in the NIT, Willie seemed like a man on a mission, vowing to come back and right all of last season’s wrongs. Before this season started, Willie even said he was ready to be the ‘go-to guy’ Kentucky needs, but thus far, he’s disappeared just as many times as he’s appeared. Willie is one of the few players on the team who wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, but at 7-foot with those athletic skills, his upside is tremendous, and for that reason, his hit-and-miss progress this season has been disappointing.”
Mary Jo Perino: “It’s players. It’s probably going to be the easy answer, but for me it’s true, it’s the Harrison twins. We thought after last year when there was no real point guard, this would be a different story. My belief is just they are not as good as we expected them to be. That’s not necessarily their fault either. It’s also unfair to put them together all the time (even though I just did) but fair or unfair that’s how they are judged. We may have been completely unfair with our expectations of the Twins and perhaps if they stuck around another, I think they would improve a lot. They just aren’t what I thought and that’s ok.”
Mark Buerger: “To start with something positive — just for the shock value — Dakari Johnson has surprised me with how much he has developed. Game-wise, he’s pretty close to the only guy who seems to have improved much over the course of the year. He moves better, his offense has improved dramatically and his energy level and effort have improved to the point that he often seems like the only guy who’s playing hard.
“On the other end, it’s hard to pick just one. I guess James Young’s struggles have been the most surprising thing given the way he was lauded during the pre-season. Obviously he is capable of great things, he just hasn’t really shown it in a while.”
Jennifer Palumbo: “I’m most surprised by Willie Cauley-Stein. The incoming freshmen received a lot of attention, but Willie’s progression from last year has been impressive. He struggled at times this season, but he’s also had some great games.”
Tom Leach: “Dakari Johnson. He has developed into a real force as a low-post scoring threat and you can tell he’s worked hard to improve his defense. A smart player finds a way to maximize his assets and minimize his weaknesses and that’s what Dakari has done. Also, it looks like his teammates are really feeding off the energy and passion with which he plays the game.”