After playing to numerous sold-out shows before thousands at Rupp Arena, receiving boffo reviews for performances at the Bankers Life Field House, United and Yum Centers, and easily quieting some not-so-adoring crowds on the SEC trail, Kentucky entered last season’s tournaments determined to complete their World Perfection Tour.
More rave reviews followed the Cats for their appearances in Nashville, back to Louisville and in Cleveland. Regretfully the quest for perfection ended on a Saturday night in Indianapolis when three straight shot clock violations derailed the hopes of a 40-0 season.
Many of the rock star band mates, er, teammates, left to pursue their dreams of playing in the NBA, leaving behind a skeleton crew for Coach Cal, the orchestrator, to pick up the pieces for a new season.
The holdovers are Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis and Kentucky natives Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins, both of whom are said to be much improved despite Hawkins’ recent setback with a broken right hand. Poythress is still finding his way back from his ACL injury, Lee brought lots of energy in the exhibition games and Ulis has been touted by many as the best point guard in the country.
By now, as everyone in Kentucky knows, Coach Cal is a master at getting new players.
To add to the core group Coach Cal has scoured the globe to replenish UKs’ roster, getting players from foreign countries Haiti, Australia, Canada, and New Jersey (Isn’t Jersey a foreign country?).
Skal Labissiere (S-Cal Lay-Biss-E-Air) is projected as a possible No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft, and has looked the part through two exhibition games.
Isaac Humphries, at 7 feet, 260 pounds, gives the Cats some much needed size.
Jamal Murray, based on his shooting ability, could end up being the most important player on the team and Isaiah Briscoe brings a lot of toughness and swagger to the point or two-guard position.
Rounding out this year’s recruiting class are Charles Matthews and junior college transfer Mychal Mulder, two guards, both with good size and reputations as good scorers.
Some very tough non-conference games, Duke, UCLA, Ohio State, Louisville and Kansas means UK will probably have a few loses this season. Coupling this with what appears to be a much-improved SEC should make for a very exciting season filled with close games.
So far, Cal has not predicted a perfect season or a championship banner, but this team should be very good in what should be a more typical basketball year. How well will players accept their roles? Can the Cats become a good free-throw shooting team, and are they determined enough to be a good rebounding team? These are the questions all teams must answer, and this edition of the Wildcats will be forced to find these solutions in order to make a run at another title.