Kentucky introduces another No. 1 recruiting class

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 15, 2013

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 20: Coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats talks to his team during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 20, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
Kentucky coach John Calipari stops just short of calling his latest talented freshmen group the best ever because previous classes have featured top NBA draft picks and won an NCAA championship. This class has yet to even play a game at Kentucky. Still, Calipari hinted Tuesday his view could quickly change. His eight-player freshmen contingent includes McDonald's All-Americans Dakari Johnson, twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Marcus Lee. In-state players Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis round out this latest crop. The coach concedes that ''this team is a lot deeper,'' suggesting he could possibly start five freshmen. The talent has expectations of Kentucky winning a ninth national title high - especially after the Wildcats went 21-12 last year and were upset in the NIT. This Wildcat roster at least has Calipari thinking of fulfilling his dream of coaching an unbeaten national championship team. ''For eight years I've said that before I retire I'd like to coach a team that goes 40-0,'' Calipari said during media day. ''Will it happen? I don't know. But we've got the will to win.'' Kentucky certainly has the talent and experience to make a run. Besides the freshmen, the Wildcats return 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein and forward Alex Poythress, who bypassed the NBA draft for another year of college experience. They could provide the veteran leadership missing last season as Kentucky stumbled out of the rankings after starting No. 3 with that duo, Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin, now in the NBA. Then again, Calipari sees potential leaders with his newcomers, especially 6-foot-9 forward Julius Randle. The coach has referred to him as the ''alpha beast'' for his take-charge mentality but notes there are others ready to step and direct things. Kentucky will need some floor generals to maintain focus with projections of a preseason No. 1 ranking and an unbeaten season along with its second championship in three years. Such expectations are nothing new for a Kentucky program that has thrived with talented freshmen under Calipari, but none have had quite the hoopla surrounding this class. Calipari's challenge in choosing which five to play is a problem any coach would love to have. Kentucky's fervent fan base is certainly eager to see how the lineup and rotation will look. They get their first chance to see at Friday night's sold-out Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena.
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