Kentucky Basketball: Projecting the Wildcats' 2013-2014 Roster

Dan BodnerCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2013

Nov 13, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) and forward Nerlens Noel (3) and forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) react during the first half of the 2012 Champions Classic against the Duke Blue Devils at the Georgia Dome.  Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Although SEC play has just gotten under way for Kentucky, it is never too early to begin speculating about next year’s roster—especially when the Wildcats are expected to reel in one of the top recruiting classes of all time.

The only guarantees on next year’s roster are the players who will be graduating: Twany Beckham and Julius Mays. The NCAA permits college basketball teams to distribute a total of 13 scholarships each year. If we assume that Sam Malone and Brian Long will revert to being walk-ons, that leaves five open scholarships as things currently stand.

Now the million-dollar question is, who of the underclassmen will stick around another year, and who will make the jump to the NBA?’s latest 2013 mock draft has Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Archie Goodwin being drafted this spring. If we assume this to be the case, the roster will project as follows:

Point guard: Andrew Harrison (Fr.), Ryan Harrow (Jr.), Jarrod Polson (Sr.)

Shooting guard: Aaron Harrison (Fr.), Jon Hood (Sr.)

Small forward: Alex Poythress (So.), James Young (Fr.)

Power forward: Marcus Lee (Fr.), Kyle Wiltjer (Jr.), Derek Willis (Fr.)

Center: Dakari Johnson (Fr.)

The preceding scenario leaves Kentucky with a total of 11 players (not counting walk-ons) already projected on next year’s roster, leaving two scholarships vacant. This means that the Wildcats could still add two of their top-three remaining recruiting targets, which include forwards Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.

The consensus is that Kentucky will land at least one of these three players, with two out of three being a distinct possibility. The best-case scenario—speaking purely from the perspective of recruiting rankings—consists of the Wildcats landing Wiggins and Randle. Following is how the roster breaks down if this indeed occurs:

Point guard: Andrew Harrison (Fr.), Ryan Harrow (Jr.), Jarrod Polson (Sr.)

Shooting guard: Aaron Harrison (Fr.), James Young (Fr.), Jon Hood (Sr.)

Small forward: Andrew Wiggins (Fr.), Alex Poythress (So.)

Power forward: Julius Randle (Fr.), Kyle Wiltjer (Jr.), Derek Willis (Fr.)

Center: Marcus Lee (Fr.), Dakari Johnson (Fr.)

Although the starting lineup would likely project as five freshmen, the roster would be deeper than any team John Calipari has coached in the past. The Wildcats would likely field a 10-man rotation consisting wholly of five-star recruits. In fact, a roster consisting solely of Kentucky’s second team (Harrow, Young, Poythress, Wiltjer, Johnson) could easily crack the Top 25.

Suddenly, Calipari’s roster looks awfully reminiscent of Kentucky’s vaunted 1996 team, which featured a total of nine future NBA players. It would come as no surprise if Calipari proceeded to re-up his record of five first-round players selected in a single draft.

In reality, it is improbable that next year’s roster will shake out just as projected. Harrow and Poythress could certainly leave early. Conversely, a guy like Willie Cauley-Stein could choose to stick around another year. Depending on who stays and who goes, the Wildcats could land any combination of Wiggins, Randle and Gordon.

One thing that is for certain is that the Wildcats are on pace to field arguably the most talented—and possibly the deepest—roster of Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky.

Regardless of how the current season finishes, this is something all Big Blue Nation fans can get excited about.