Kentucky features combination of youth, experience
There will once again be another highly touted group of freshman playing for Kentucky's John Calipari.
That's not a surprise.
However, Calipari also has three returning players who started or played significant minutes on last year's Final Four team. The combination is why the Wildcats are expected to contend for a national championship.
Sophomore forward Terrence Jones, who averaged 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds last year and put his name in for NBA Draft consideration before withdrawing on the day of the deadline to return to school, is back. So is guard Doron Lamb, who shot 48.6 percent on 3-pointers, along with senior Darius Miller.
Joining them is another group of heralded incoming freshmen, including point guard Marquis Teague, younger brother of Atlanta Hawks Jeff Teague. The class also includes small forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kyle Wiltjer, and power forward Anthony Davis. They all committed to Kentucky early enough to where they played in the same all-star games across the country just to be together.
''It started there. As soon as we committed, that was Day One of our brotherhood,'' said Teague, younger brother of Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague. ''We were Kentucky basketball players before we ever got here. Now we're familiar with each other's games and we haven't even started practicing yet. That's great for us. That's helped us out a lot. That's a big advantage for us that most other teams won't have.''
That's what you expect at a players-first program like Kentucky, Calipari said.
''We're trying to put guys in position to win,'' Calipari said Thursday at Kentucky's media day. ''During the season, it is about our team. The minute the season ends, it is about those individual players. We help give them information so they can make decisions on what they want to do.
''You do right by these kids and they drag you to do what you want to do, which is putting up banners.''
Sprinkled among the questions about Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis and Wiltjer was one about keeping fans content with an ever-rotating cast of players, if it's difficult maintaining a players-first environment where the fans are ruthlessly and loudly in search of the Wildcats' eighth national championship.
Calpari answered matter of factly, ''Well, as long as I'm here, that's how it will be.''
And few will dispute his methods as long as the Wildcats are winning.