While it's unclear whether Enes Kanter will ever take the floor for Kentucky this season, coach John Calipari has a freshman star at point guard - again.
Brandon Knight will make his debut for the 11th-ranked Wildcats on Friday night when they host East Tennessee State in a season-opening rematch of a first-round NCAA tournament game from last season.
Kentucky lost five players who became first-round picks from last year's team that went 35-3 and fell one game short of the Final Four in Calipari's first season. Calipari reloaded with another tremendous recruiting class, and Kanter was expected to emerge as one of the stars.
The Turkish center, though, has been ruled permanently ineligible, and the school will appeal the decision. The NCAA ruled Kanter received over $33,000 above his necessary expenses for the 2008-09 season while playing for a club team in his native country.
Calipari had no immediate comment but has stated repeatedly he believed Kanter maintained his amateur status. Athletic director Mitch Barnhart said the school will appeal because of the "uniqueness" surrounding Kanter's situation.
"It is our hope that he will be allowed to continue his academic and athletic career at Kentucky," Barnhart said.
The Wildcats started three freshmen in last Friday's exhibition game, and the spotlight in the opener is squarely on Knight. That's because the three previous point guards Calipari used were Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and John Wall last season.
Rose and Evans won NBA rookie of the year honors, and Wall could make it three in a row after being selected first overall in this year's draft by Washington. Knight is the latest point guard to choose to play for Calipari because of the coach's dribble-drive offense.
"It allows players to figure it out," Knight said. "It's really about beating your man. I think that's what a lot of players want to be able to do ... I think that's what's really attractive about coach Cal's offense."
Calipari is quick to point out that Kentucky also has to replace first-rounders DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and reserve Daniel Orton.
Freshmen Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb are expected to start. Jones had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in Friday's exhibition rout of Dillard.
"They've been good, they're all receptive," said the coach about his freshmen. "They've just never gone at this pace. They've never gone with this intensity. They've never gone with this kind of physical play. But they're going to see it Friday."
East Tennessee State isn't expected to be a pushover, although the Buccaneers fell 100-71 to the Wildcats in the NCAAs in March. ETSU won the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament for the second straight season and returns its top seven scorers.
"This was a bad first game to schedule," Calipari said. "(They are) well coached. They play hard, play aggressive, play loose, and throw it up the floor, if you have 3s take them, play with nothing to lose. The rim is going to be huge. And we are going to have a bunch of young guys out there trying to hold the fort down."
Kentucky is 88-19 in season openers, winning seven of its last eight. The Wildcats are 3-0 all-time against ETSU.