Role-playing: Where all the Cats fit in the post-season

Lexington Herald-LeaderMarch 17, 2013 

Willie Cauley-Stein

7-0 freshman forward

8.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 58 blocks

Cauley-Stein entered the season as the least-heralded UK freshman. He has made steady progress, and his role magnified when an injury to Nerlens Noel moved him into a starting role. He is still unpolished, but few players can match his size and athletic ability. He runs the floor well and can finish in transition. He can alter the game defensively inside, evidenced by his seven blocks against Missouri.

NIT role: John Calipari has said he could be the player who takes UK to another level in the post-season. He must be a strong inside presence defensively while staying out of foul trouble.

 

Archie Goodwin

6-4½ freshman guard

14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 87 assists

The team's leading scorer, Goodwin is an electric athlete who loves to take the ball to the rim. He is explosive and can score points in bunches. He started the season strong but was forced to play more point guard than expected early. Goodwin is dangerous going one-on-one and draws a lot of fouls off the drive. His youthfulness has shown at times in his decision-making. If he cuts down on mistakes, he can match up against anyone.

NIT role: He is Kentucky's most explosive player. For this team to make a run, he must figure out how to use that while playing under control. He needs to hit free throws.

 

Ryan Harrow

6-2 sophomore guard

10.3 ppg, 81 assists, 42 turnovers

Harrow is a quick point guard with scoring ability. He can be exceptional (17 points, 0 turnovers against Louisville) and scored in double figures in 18 of the last 22 regular-season games. He also can be inconsistent. In two of the four games he did not score in double figures, he was scoreless. His season was full of peaks and valleys. His game often seems to be dictated by how he starts. Strong point guard play is a must in the Calipari system.

NIT role: His coach says he can be as good as any point guard around. Consistent production from Harrow is a must for UK to avoid an early exit.

 

Jon Hood

6-7 junior guard

1.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg

Hood was Kentucky's 2009 Mr. Basketball, and he returned this year from knee surgery. He played 11 or more minutes in three games during the regular season and made 11 of his 21 shot attempts, including 5-for-11 on three-pointers. In 116 minutes, he made only two turnovers. He has been used at several positions.

NIT role: If called on, he needs to bring energy and play mistake-free. With UK's limited depth, he may have to contribute.

 

Julius Mays

6-2 junior guard

9.5 ppg, .841 FT pct., 90 assists

Mays came to UK from Wright State, and his role increased as the season progressed. He was the team's most consistent outside shooter and showed a knack for delivering baskets in the clutch. With that he also emerged as the team leader, thus the nickname "Uncle Julius." He is by far the team's most experienced college player and probably its most savvy. He leads the team in assists and has good court sense.

NIT role: He was certainly Mr. Clutch during the season. His ability to hit outside shots can help open the floor for drivers like Goodwin and Harrow. He is clearly the team leader on the court.

 

Jarrod Polson

6-2 junior guard

2.9 ppg, 31 assists, 13.4 mpg

A former walk-on, Polson stepped into a more important role than most people probably expected. He opened the season with 10 points in 22 minutes against Maryland. He played 15 or more minutes 14 times. He became a crowd favorite with his hustle and gritty play. He hit 32 of his 62 shots and made one start.

NIT role: Calipari had to count on Polson and he was steady coming off the bench. The same will be needed in the tournament.

 

Alex Poythress

6-7 freshman forward

11.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .584 FG pct.

Hopes were that Poythress could walk into the college game and have a dominant impact. At times he did, such as his 20-point, eight-rebound game against Duke. That was the first of four consecutive games in which he scored at least 20 points, but he did that only two more times in the next 26 games. He is athletic and powerful but at times passive, and his inexperience was evident. He can be a force on the blocks and hit the three-pointer.

NIT role: Perhaps he did not meet all expectations as a freshman, but he is one guy who can take this team to another level. He needs to be the "beast" he can be.

 

Kyle Wiltjer

6-10 sophomore forward

10.5 ppg, .818 FT pct., 4.3 rpg

Wiltjer was a rare Kentucky player with college experience when the season began. Like most of his teammates, he struggled with consistency. He had eight games when he scored 17 or more points but nine games with five or fewer points. For spurts he was UK's go-to guy on offense, but in three games he did not make a basket. He can be a deadly outside shooter and is a nice interior passer.

NIT role: At the least, he needs to make open three-pointers when available. His defense can't be such a liability that Calipari can't afford to play him.

 

OTHERS

Twany Beckham: 6-41/2 senior guard (injured)

Tod Lanter: 6-2 sophomore guard

Brian Long: 5-9 sophomore guard

Sam Malone: 5-11 sophomore guard

Nerlens Noel: 6-10 freshman forward (injured)

Note: Statistics include regular-season games only.

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