May 15, 2013
The nucleus of next year's Kentucky team, chasing its ninth title, will be formed from players who have yet to play a minute of college basketball.
They'll be showcased on this Wildcats team, under the scrutiny of being prohibitive championship favorites. Here's what John Calipari had to say about them individually at Wednesday's press conference. You can read what he said about the returning players here, and his full transcript -- which ran for more than 30 minutes and is full of great material -- on our premium board here.
Anyway, here's Calipari on the players that comprise the most decorated recruiting class in history:
AARON HARRISON: Big guard, can score the ball, should be and will be and is expected to be and will be demanded to be a lock-down defender. With his size, with his athleticism, one we can play a big zone. Two, we should be able to press because we're going to be so big with our guard play and whoever we put up there. But it will start with Aaron. We know what he can do scoring the ball, but we want him to other to do other things and again, help define his game.
ANDREW HARRISON: My hope is by the end of the year, he's just like some of the other point guards we've had. You look at him and say, hey he can do things that other point guards can't do at his size, his scoring ability. And both of them are terrific drivers, which kind of tells you that we're going to go back to a lot more dribble-drive. I've talked to a couple of my friends. We're talking about dribble-drive into pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll, into dribble-drive, because of the team.
JULIUS RANDLE: Truly a hard worker who can play multiple positions, who can play inside and out. He's a beast. He's an alpha beast who will drive the team. Has a little bit of Micheal (Kidd-Gilchrist) in him, in a different way. In my mind, there are good players out there, he's as good as any of them.
DAKARI JOHNSON: I watched him two summers ago folks, and I'm going to tell you, he had a knee issue and I looked at him and said, 'I'm not so sure.' Then I watched him a little bit later, and I said 'Wait a minute.' Then I watched him later in the season, could not believe it. The line of improvement for Dakari is like that. He's a kid that will get up at six in the morning and work out. He's a great student. He does all the things, and he wants to be better. He was on a team that there were times he wasn't getting the ball. Never said one thing, ran that court, posted up. When he did get it, he did good things. He's got great skills and his seven-foot tall.
MARCUS LEE: (He) averaged a triple-double for the season. Like 11 blocks, like 15 rebounds and 18 points. Pogo stick, active, high energy, 6-10, 6-11, long armed. Another player who, again, wanted to be here. These kids all wanted to be here. This is where..They wanted the challenge of this, and they wanted to do it together. So when you look at Marcus Lee, you say he could have gone somewhere…He didn't want to go. He wanted to come here and take on this challenge.
JAMES YOUNG: Gives you that 6-7 wing who flat can shoot the ball. Some of the issues…Again, we shot a high percentage. When you looked at our numbers from last year, our defensive numbers, our shot-blocking numbers, our offensive percentages, you would say we should have won more games. But, we weren't as skilled as we needed to be, especially at crunch time. We weren't as skilled. We weren't as physically dominating as my teams in the past. This team should be.
DOMINIQUE HAWKINS: A young man from in state that just kind of blew me away with his will to win, his temperament on the court, his demeanor in helping his team win a championship. You always want to coach guys who understand. By winning a state championship and being down 16 two games, it shows what a tough mentality. And with what I just went through, I wanted a tough point guard. I wanted one more tough, physical -how bout this -not just fighting, physical tough, how bout mentally tough? How bout not break down? How bout, 'I'm bringing it and I'm not afraid to be 16 down and it has no effect on me?' That's what I saw in Dominique and why we recruited him.
DEREK WILLIS: 6-9, 6-10, long, skilled big man from the state. Again, where his game goes…He wanted the challenge of this. 'I want to go every day against players this good to see how I can be.' Isn't that the greatest part of this? I mean it's not, 'Well, I want to go here so I can be the guy and the only man. I want to go here and be challenged. How good can I be? And the only way I'm going to find it out is to go against the best. I'm going to go against the best every day.' Well, he's got a chance of really being good and being special.