Burden on Calipari to handle the height

By Nick Gray

Nick Gray Sports Editor

Nick Gray
Sports Editor

ngray@kykernel.com

It was — or should have been — the immediate reaction from across the country last Friday after freshman guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison announced their return for next season.

Gulp.

Somehow, some way, UK is going to be more talented next season than last. John Calipari’s biggest job will be meshing the absurdly talented roster in a way that satisfies the seven returning players and the four incoming freshmen.

The options are endless.

Right now, only two spots can logically be filled. Aaron and Andrew Harrison are too talented not to be in the starting backcourt. They will be pushed by incoming freshmen guards Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, but the Harrisons would not come back if they weren’t sure that they would start in 2014-15.

That’s where Calipari’s juggling skills will come into play.

Incoming freshmen forwards Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns join freshman forward Marcus Lee, freshman center Dakari Johnson and sophomore forward Willie Cauley-Stein. All five stand 6-foot-9 or taller.

When scouts and coaches say UK will have NBA height next season, they are telling the truth.

With freshman forward Derek Willis (6-foot-9) included into the number, UK has as many or more players 6-foot-9 or taller than eight NBA playoff teams, including the defending champion Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

Calipari can play any combination of defensive-first players like Lee and Cauley-Stein, a post scorer like Johnson or stretch forwards like Lyles and Towns.

UK has talent. But how that talent meshes will determine whether or not UK will celebrate its ninth national championship next April.

Expectations will be as large as UK is tall. The national runner-up is returning 60 percent of its lineup, lost not a single vital bench player and will likely have four McDonald’s All-Americans on the bench when games begin.

But this team’s success once again falls on Calipari. The Cats will be the most talented team in the country, but they cannot afford to wait again until March for Calipari to employ the tweak that will send UK in the right direction.