Kentucky has become a factory for the NBA and the 2013-2014 basketball team may have had the finest group of talent in college basketball history.
Ever since John Calipari arrived in Lexington, KY in 2009 he has been able to sign some of the top high school players in the country. In his five years, he has had five completely different teams that have been to three Final Fours and won a national championship. If you aren’t a McDonald’s All American, Kentucky is not the place for you.
Six McDonald’s All Americans were part of Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class. It is the most to ever sign with a team. The ride they went on was one for the ages. At the beginning they were preseason number one but lost a lot of games and fell out of the AP Top 25. However, they picked it up at the end of the season and only lost to Florida in the SEC Championship game by one point.
Two star freshmen from a year ago, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, returned to school for their sophomore seasons and showed leadership. Poythress had some ferocious dunks and came off the bench while Cauley-Stein was a good player until an injury ended his season in the NCAA Tournament. They are both returning to school.
The freshmen were the stars of this team though. Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young were all rated in the top 11 by Rivals while Marcus Lee wasn’t far behind at 19. No team has ever recruited such heralded players. When Willie Cauley-Stein got hurt, it opened up playing time for all the freshmen.
Marcus Lee seldom saw minutes until he was thrust into action during the NCAA Tournament. He had some exciting plays where he dunked with authority on rebounds. He would have probably been a first round pick if he had declared. He is instead going back to school. I think that was a mistake. Kentucky will have a lot of big men next year, he probably won’t get many minutes.
James Young had a slam dunk in the national championship game that was unforgettable. He is a great player that can shoot, play defense, and score at a very high level. His potential is almost endless and he is worth a top five pick. He will be the best NBA player in this draft class and whoever gets him in the late lottery will be really lucky and probably go deep in the playoffs his rookie year.
Dakari Johnson was rated as the ninth best player on Rivals but he didn’t get much playing time before the Cauley-Stein injury. His draft stock took a hit every week. But when his minutes went up he proved to be a pretty good player. His draft stock is very unpredictable and I think he should have declared for the draft instead of returning.
Aaron and Andrew Harrison are both great players that did well in the NCAA Tournament. Aaron hit some of the biggest shots in college basketball history including one that Wisconsin players will probably never forget. A lot of teams have multiple first round picks. The odds are low, but they could wind up on the same team. Whether they decide to return to school or to jump to the NBA, their future is very bright and they really can’t make a bad decision.
Julius Randle is a great player who made a great decision declaring for the draft. He will probably be drafted in the high part of the lottery and besides James Young, I think Randle will be the second best player from this Kentucky team in the NBA.
James Young plays with the intensity and skill that not too many NBA players have. He probably will go to a team that could make a serious run at the championship since he probably won’t be a top five or maybe even a top 10 pick. Every team that passes on him will regret it.
Related articles across the web
You can follow Thomas Frey on Twitter: @ThomasFreyRP