For a program known for putting players in the NBA as quickly as possible, Kentucky sure has an awful lot of pro prospects returning next season.
Sophomore forward Alex Poythress became the third likely draft pick to pass on NBA riches for now when he announced Wednesday he will instead come back to Kentucky. Earlier this month, both near-certain first-round pick Willie Cauley-Stein and potential second-round pick Marcus Lee both revealed that they too intend to return to the Wildcats.
Keeping Poythress another year is not as big of a surprise as Cauley-Stein's return because the 6-foot-7 forward was likely to slip to the second round after an up-and-down sophomore season. He came off the bench to average 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, showing elite athleticism in bursts around the rim but also disappearing for long stretches too.
“Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine, but I want to make sure that I’m NBA-ready before I make that jump,” Poythress said in a school-issued news release. “By coming back, I’ll be so much closer to earning my degree in business and it will give me another year to prepare my game and my body for the next level.”
With Kentucky loaded in the frontcourt thanks to the return of Lee and Cauley-Stein, the potential return of 7-foot Dakari Johnson and the arrival of highly touted freshmen Karl Towns and Trey Lyles, Poythress' role next season will probably be at small forward. To thrive in that role, he needs to improve his perimeter game, especially his 24.2 percent 3-point shooting and his 62.5 percent foul shooting.
Whether Poythress plays a key role or a complementary role as a junior probably depends on both his own development and whether the Harrison twins decide to return for their sophomore seasons or not.
Kentucky will be loaded at guard if the twins return and could potentially start a three-guard look with the twins and freshman wing Devin Booker. Conversely, the Wildcats would likely start freshman Tyler Ulis at point guard, Booker at shooting guard and Poythress at small forward if the Andrew and Aaron Harrison decide by Sunday's NBA early-entry deadline to turn pro.
Regardless, John Calipari is pleased to have Poythress back another season.
Said Calipari in the news release, "I think he’s ready to take that next step and lead this team next season.”
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