Kentucky Basketball: 5 Takeaways from Start of Wildcats Practices

Bobby Reagan@uklefty22Featured ColumnistOctober 15, 2013

Kentucky Basketball: 5 Takeaways from Start of Wildcats Practices

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    Time has flown by lately for Kentucky basketball. John Calipari is entering his fifth year as the head coach of the Wildcats and it's arguably the team with the most expectations.

    While actual games are still a couple weeks out, practices have officially begun and national championship expectations are in place. Anything short of raising the ninth national title banner could be considered falling below expectations for Kentucky in 2013-14.

    We'll take a look at five early takeaways from the beginning of Kentucky's practices. 

James Young Might Be the Best Player No One Talks About

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    Per SNY's Adam Zagoria, NBA scouts are saying that James Young is the best player in the country. 

    Go ahead and take a second to read that statement again. It's not Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart or any of those other big names. It's a guy who is expected to be the sixth man on this Kentucky team. 

    While most people are shocked, there are plenty of reasons to believe why scouts are so high on Young. He has the ideal size at 6'7" to play either wing position, which he couples with his ability to finish ferociously at the rim or pull up from well behind the 3-point line.

    It's not unreasonable to think Young takes the role that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did a couple years ago for Kentucky. Young finishes well in traffic and is not afraid of contact. 

Julius Randle Lives at the Gym

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    During his press conference today, John Calipari praised the way Julius Randle for spending his time in the gym, per

    Calipari said the only player who has worked harder than Randle in the gym during his time at Kentucky has been Brandon Knight. That's pretty heavy praise since Knight led the Wildcats to a Final Four during his only year in Lexington.

    Calipari is planning on playing Randle away from the basket, similar to how Patrick Patterson played during his one year with Calipari. There has been an adjustment period for Randle since he will be playing slightly out of position.

    Has it been tough for Randle? Obviously. However, Calipari said Randle is often in the gym until 10:30 at night and has already broken a sweat by the time Calipari comes into the gym in the morning. 

Marcus Lee Will Be the Fan Favorite

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    Similar to DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee is the next big guy that will be the lovable giants for Big Blue Nation.

    Lee plays with the energy Cauley-Stein did, aggressively finishing at the rim and looking to swat every shot that comes in his direction. 

    During today's media day, James Pennington of KyForward sent out a tweet talking about how Lee cracks him up during a simple interview. On top of that, Tina Cox at Vaught's Views brought her own insight from Calipari's Women's Clinic over the weekend. 

    Cox expects Lee to be the one raising his hands during the season encouraging Big Blue Nation to bring the roof down at Rupp Arena. On top of that, he has the personality Cousins had during his tenure at Kentucky in making his teammates smile and the clown of this team. 


This Team Is Very Deep

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    John Calipari's teams at Kentucky have never been known for being deep. However, that will change this year as Calipari will have a rotation of eight players and another three to four that could crack the normal rotation.

    Expected to be in the regular rotation is Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, James Young, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. However, don't be surprised to see players such as Derek Willis, Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson and Dominique Hawkins to see some playing time as well.

    A known tradition is the helmet award, where someone who gets dunked on in practice has to wear a helmet for a picture. In a practice, Willis has already made a name for himself for dunking on both Julius Randle and Johnson. 

    Per Vaught's Views, Calipari said that it will be tough to steal minutes on this year's team, but Willis is doing the best he can to crack the early rotation.


They Will Run the Dribble-Drive Offense

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    John Calipari is known for running the dribble-drive offense during his tenure at Memphis and when he came to Kentucky. 

    However, he hasn't really been able to run it during his time in Lexington due to the rosters he has had. However, that will change this year. For the first time since his 2007-08 Memphis team, the predominant offense will be the famous dribble-drive.

    According to Jerry Tipton of, Calipari has said this is his best team for it since the team lead by Derrick Rose. He also expects that if his team runs it as well as he thinks they can, it will force teams to run a zone against Kentucky. 

    While this could be a deterrent to Calipari's teams in the past, this year's team has plenty of shooting to force teams to make a tough decision.