May 15, 2013
The 2012-13 Kentucky team will be low on experience, with more newcomers than returning scholarship players.
But those five returnees -- Willie Cauley-Stein, Kyle Wiltjer, Alex Poythress, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson -- will play a vital role next year as the Wildcats chase a ninth championship.
Here are Calipari's comments on those five individual players. You can read about the newcomers here, and read a full transcript -- he went more than 30 minutes previewing the season, and it's all great stuff -- on our premium message board here.
Anyway, to the five guys coming back:
WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: "(He) has a chance to be one of the better players that I've ever coached. Is not delusional at all. Understood how far he had come. Understood how far he needed to go. Understood he could have been a first-round draft pick. He knew. But he came back anyway. Because he wasn't delusional. ... You know what I love the most? Hated school (at the beginning of the year). He'd have told you at the beginning of the year: 'I hate school.' And I appreciate an honest guy. He didn't BS. You know what he said by the end of the year? 'I'm kind of loving this. I'm good now. The school part of it, I'm liking."
KYLE WILTJER: Body's got to change. Sixth man of the year has to get better. Physically. We all know what his skill set is. He has to take his defense and all those areas of his game to another level, which I think he will. My hope is he makes the national team, the Canadian national team, and then takes his game to another level.
ALEX POYTHRESS: (He) learned a lot about himself and where he's going to have to take everything to be the player that he wants to be. Now, let me say that, with that being said, he would have been in the first round had he put his name in the draft. He knew he wasn't ready. And again, he was being pushed by some corners to put his name in the draft, but he knew. Again, wasn't delusional. He knew, I have to change. I have to take this to another level. If he does, and the competition brings out the best in him, it is scary how good he can be. He's not close to where he needs to be. ... Now you've got a competitive spirit going, because it's you and a guy every day in practice. And it's going to bring out the best in him. Believe me, he wants to do well. I don't believe I can tell individuals - if they got a 4.0 (GPA), I can't say those things, but he did well academically. He's a conscientious kid. This overwhelmed him. It overwhelmed him. You think about yourself, if I put you in there. It wouldn't overwhelm you? There are kids that come here that take longer. It doesn't matter to me if you take one, two, three or four years. Does it really matter? I just want you to get it so you're ready to go on and have success."
JON HOOD: By the end of the year, for the first time had a breakthrough. And I was excited for him. He was one of those guys who played, he had fun playing, he didn't feel the weight of the world on him, he didn't have anything to prove. He went out to play.
JARROD POLSON: (He) ended up being one of our better guards at the end of the year. So those five -- only Kyle, in a small way, has tasted the success that we want and expect. The others have not.