Three key Kentucky freshmen indicated after last night’s season-ending 59-57 loss to Robert Morris in the NIT that they will return to campus for their sophomore seasons, which has major implications not only for next year’s national college basketball landscape but also for the impending recruiting decisions of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon, too.
Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein all said they would return to Kentucky, which would give the Wildcats a very deep and experienced team coming back in 2013-14 — similar to what they had last season when they won the NCAA championship with a group of talented freshmen plus two sophomores and a senior.
Coach John Calipari already has a six-man recruiting class coming in, including five McDonald’s All-Americans.
Randle will announce at 1 p.m. today (Wednesday) and is expected to choose between Kentucky and Kansas.
With Poythress and Cauley-Stein returning to a frontcourt that will add Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and Dakari Johnson, is there room for Randle?
The same goes for Gordon, a Blake Griffin clone who is also mulling Arizona, Oregon and Washington.
Similarly, the Cats will now have Goodwin on the wing joining incoming recruits Aaron and Andrew Harrison and James Young.
Wiggins, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, would add another talented wing player to the mix, but is there room enough for all those guys to play on the same team?
Wiggins is also considering Florida State, North Carolina and Kansas.
The 6-4 Goodwin is projected at No. 18 on the DraftExpress.com Mock Draft. He told reporters according to Kyle Tucker: “I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year … and just try to do better than what we did this year. Because the expectations we had for ourselves this year, we didn’t meet them at all. We didn’t come close. So I think think that’s what says we should all come back.”
The 6-7 Poythress is projected at No. 13 in the Mock Draft and also indicated he would return.
“Yeah, I do,” he said. “I don’t think I’m ready (for the NBA). I don’t even think I’m ready for – you’ve just got to get used to it. You’ve just gotta come back and be focused on the offseason. That’s when you get better and just continue to regroup and come back and maybe next year we can have a better year. We’ll have a lot of leadership, a lot of veteran players. This year we had a couple. Julius did the best job he could in the world to be our leader, but it just falls back on the followers. We didn’t do the best job following. It falls back on us.”
The 7-1 Cauley-Stein said he still wants to win a national title at Kentucky.
“I want to win a national championship,” he said. “Could be next year. Could be the year after. But I never won a ring before, and I really want a ring before I leave college.”
He did say he would consider the NBA.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’ve just gotta look out for me and my family. If it comes down to it, if my family needs me, then I’ll go. But if not, I’ll stay and get a couple more years of education and develop myself (into) more of an all-around basketball player.”
Injured center Nerlens Noel is expected to go in the top couple of picks in the draft, but has yet to announce his plans.
All of this news should also be music to the ears of Charles Barkley, who recently told me that most, if not all, of Kentucky’s stars from last year’s team should’ve stayed in school.