Kentucky Basketball: Which Star Freshman Will Be the Top Option on Offense?
For the last five seasons, John Calipari's teams have been led in scoring by a freshman. There aren't any record books that track that sort of thing, but that has to be unprecedented.
This upcoming season, Calipari has six candidates from his historic freshman class who could lead the team in scoring.
Who's it going to be? We rank the six McDonald's All-Americans from least likely to most likely to be Kentucky's go-to scorer.
6. Dakari Johnson
The odds are against Dakari Johnson. The likely scenario is that Johnson will have to come off the bench behind Willie Cauley-Stein. Cauley-Stein is the more explosive athlete and better defender of the two.
With so many scoring options at other positions, the Wildcats would benefit more from Cauley-Stein's defense than Johnson's offense.
Cauley-Stein might even be the better scorer next season if he's able to continue his development throughout the offseason. Johnson is skilled for his size, but he's not an elite athlete, and it could take some time for Johnson to learn how to use his size to his advantage.
5. Marcus Lee
In a year or two after Julius Randle bolts for the NBA, Marcus Lee could become Kentucky's leading scorer.
When Lee does get playing time next season, he should benefit from the penetration of the Harrison twins. Lee is the best dunker in UK's freshman class. What may take some time to develop is an ability to post up and consistently score with his back to the basket.
4. James Young
John Calipari has not had a small forward lead his team in scoring since Chris Douglas-Roberts did so in 2008.
Similar to Marcus Lee, competition is what could hold James Young back as a freshman. Young will battle Alex Poythress for playing time at the three spot. By Poythress returning to school, you would think that he expects to be the starter, but do not put it past Calipari starting the more talented player if that is Young.
What the Wildcats lacked last season was outside scoring, and that's one reason Young could be a better fit in the lineup. Young has more of a perimeter game than Poythress. If there's a worthy dark-horse pick to lead the 'Cats in scoring, it's Young.
3. Andrew Harrison
John Calipari's dribble-drive offense has been kind to point guards who are future lottery picks.
From 2009 to 2011, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight all led Calipari's teams in scoring. In 2008, Derrick Rose was the second-leading scorer for Memphis.
Andrew Harrison is in the mold of Evans, Wall and Rose. He's projected to be a lottery pick, and he excels at getting to the rim. Harrison will be looked upon to do that for the Wildcats. But more so than those score-first point guards, Calipari will need Harrison to be a distributor, as Harrison will be surrounded by more scoring weapons than Rose, Evans, Wall or Knight had.
2. Aaron Harrison
The player with the most influence on who leads Kentucky in scoring could be Andrew Harrison. The one guy Harrison knows he can trust is his twin brother, Aaron Harrison.
Aaron was the leading scorer at Travis High School. The brothers share similar games, but it's Aaron who has a reputation for looking for his own offense more often. Archie Goodwin was the first 2-guard to lead a Calipari-coached team in scoring in the last 10 seasons. Aaron, who has a much better outside shot than Goodwin, could make it two 2-guards in a row to lead the 'Cats in scoring.
1. Julius Randle
The last power forward to lead a Calipari-coached team in scoring was Sean Banks in 2004 at Memphis.
Julius Randle plays at the most crowded position for Kentucky. Randle will share playing time with Marcus Lee and Kyle Wiltjer. Alex Poythress could also spend some time at the 4-spot.
Those are the reasons to bet against Randle.
Here is a reason to bet on Randle:
Four of the last five freshmen who have led Calipari's team in scoring were the highest-ranked prospect Calipari had landed that year. Randle is the highest-ranked guy in this class for the Wildcats.
If there is a guy in this class with the combination of size, strength and athleticism to dominate right away, it's Randle. He's naturally aggressive, and as a skilled lefty, he's a tough cover at any level.
The most similar comparison of past UK players to Randle is fellow lefty power forward Terrence Jones. Jones didn't lead UK in scoring in his two seasons in Lexington, but he did put up good numbers, especially as a freshman when he averaged 15.7 points per game. If Randle can match that number, there's a good chance that would be enough to lead the 'Cats.