Before season even starts, fans looking forward to 2013 class

By Nick Jones | @Kernel_Nick

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The 2012-13 UK men’s basketball team began practice on Oct. 12 when the players were introduced at Big Blue Madness. With the college basketball season underway, Cats fans have directed their full attention to this year’s team.

UK head coach John Calipari and the rest of his coaching staff have put together yet another top recruiting class headlined by 6-foot-11 center Nerlens Noel and his tenacious shot blocking ability.

With all the incoming talent and fresh faces on UK’s roster, along with returning players such as sophomore forward Kyle Wiljter and North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow, one would think that the attention would remain on the current Cats throughout the entire season.

Most fan bases around the country would be ecstatic to have their program listed in the preseason top five. This is the case with UK fans, of course, but it is nearly impossible to keep from looking ahead to the next group to wear the blue and white.

The class of 2013 is one of the more top-heavy classes in recent memory. With Calipari’s track record on the recruiting trail, a class overloaded with elite talent is a scary combination for the rest of college basketball.

As of right now, UK occupies the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, and it does not appear to be losing that crown any time soon. Instead, Calipari only plans to expand his recruiting class, which already has a total of five members.

The first player to commit to UK was the home state product, Derek Willis, from Mt. Washington, Ky. After a summer of AAU ball and team USA appearances, the nation’s top guards, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, pledged to join Willis in Lexington next fall.

In the two consecutive weeks following the Harrison twins’ announcement, James Young and Marcus Lee held press conferences to confirm they would also be joining the star-studded class.

Young, a 6-foot-6 left-handed shooting guard from Rochester, Mich., is a unanimous top 10 player in the 2013 class and one of the best scorers in the country. Lee is a five-star power forward with a great deal of untapped potential and athletic ability.

This 2013 class is one of the more impressive classes to date, but it certainly has an opportunity to go down as the No. 1 class of all-time. There are still a few players that Calipari would like to add. However, it seems as though his wish list is down to just three top 10 prospects.

Aaron Gordon, who currently holds an offer from UK, is a 6-foot-8, 210-pound power forward from San Jose, Calif. The high-flying top 10 hybrid forward plans to visit UK’s campus in the near future and make his college decision during the spring signing period.

The only power forward ranked higher than Gordon is Julius Randle, a top five player in the class of 2013 out of Dallas, Texas. Calipari will attempt to lure Randle away from other programs such as Florida and Texas. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward is a man among boys against high school competition and is on pace to have an exceptional career as a pro. He will be a much-needed piece to the 2013 roster as he will be able to add muscle to the Cats’ interior.

UK’s class almost seems incomplete without the highly coveted Andrew Wiggins. The Huntington Prep star recently made the jump from the 2014 to 2013 class, a decision that has been long awaited. Wiggins is an ultra-athletic forward who, at 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, can play multiple positions on the court. The No. 1 amateur basketball player is the top priority for Calipari and it is easy to see why, as he may be the best player to come out of high school since LeBron James in 2003.

Four-star forward Tyler Roberson, who recently cut the Cats from his list, was mostly seen as a backup option if Gordon, Randle and Wiggins all decided to pass on the Cats. With the Union, N.J., native no longer considering UK, it seems as though Cats’ coaching staff remains confident in landing any number of their final three recruits.

If the addition of Gordon, Randle or Wiggins is made to the five current members of the 2013 class, you can expect UK to be the early favorite to win another national championship in 2013-14.

But if more than one, or all, of those guys end up in Lexington next fall, Cats’ fans will be looking at arguably the most talented team in college basketball history with a shot at achieving the impossible first ever 40-0 season.

For now, though, Big Blue Nation must resist the temptation to look ahead and enjoy what is right in front of them – a basketball team that has the potential to hang a ninth banner from the rafters in Rupp Arena.