Kentucky Basketball: Way-Too-Early Grades for Wildcats Starters
Kentucky is only four games into its season, but the Wildcats have already faced the pressure of playing a high-pressure game away from Rupp Arena.
Despite the loss to Michigan State last week in Chicago, there has been plenty to be excited about so far in the 2013-14 season. Freshman Julius Randle is living up to the absurd hype he had leading into the year by recording a double-double in every game.
Kentucky sits at 3-1 so far and still has games against Louisville, North Carolina, Baylor and Providence before getting into conference play.
Despite Kentucky head coach John Calipari using his bench a decent amount this season, it has been the starting five that has drawn the attention from the national media. Read on to get way-too-early grades for each Wildcat starter through four games.
Andrew Harrison: C
So far Andrew Harrison looks like Marquis Teague, John Wall, Brandon Knight, Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose.
Doesn't seem like bad company, so why the average grade?
Because every player on that list didn't play their best in the beginning of their seasons under John Calipari. Harrison is simply another work in progress for the coach who has produced the first-round picks.
There has been times where Harrison has shown his ability by overpowering smaller guards and finishing at the rim. He is currently fourth on the team with 10 points per game while also pitching in three assists and shooting 50 percent from the field.
He is also getting it done elsewhere, shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe and over 56 percent from behind the arc.
However, there will be the Michigan State game. Remember this is a way-too-early grade and his body language in the Robert Morris victory. Too often Harrison made a mistake that is sure to be corrected throughout the season and compounded it by sulking or not hustling back on defense.
Much like the other great point guards under Calipari, Harrison will only improve as the season goes on and that C is sure to quickly look a lot better.
Aaron Harrison: B
Aaron Harrison is a scorer. That's what made him a top-10 recruit in the loaded class of 2013.
So far he has been doing that for the Wildcats.
He is averaging over 14 points per game, good enough for second on the team. He is also coming off the best game of his young career by torching Robert Morris for 28 points while shooting 4-for-7 from the three-point line and a perfect 10-for-10 at the free throw line.
Harrison has scored in double digits three times in four games this season, with the only time being against Michigan State.
Harrison is one of the, if not the best three-point shooters on the Kentucky roster. So far, he has struggled from behind the arc hitting on only 30 percent of his attempts. However, after looking like he found his comfort level against Robert Morris, expect that to increase.
Much like his brother, Harrison showed some poor body language against Michigan State when he struggled to the tune of three points on 1-of-7 shooting.
However, the bounce back game against Robert Morris and proving a scoring threat during four games has earned Aaron Harrison a B-grade.
James Young: B-
James Young wowed NBA scouts during practices before the first game, drawing interest as one of the best players in all of college basketball.
While he certainly hasn't been that so far this season, he has been successful. It was Young who kept the Wildcats within striking distance against Michigan State before teammate Julius Randle took over in the second half.
Young scored 19 points in the loss and like Aaron Harrison has scored in double digits three of the four games so far this season.
He has struggled defensively though. Despite his scoring output against the Spartans, often times it was Young getting beat in transition or off the dribble by one of the Michigan State players leading to easy buckets.
While the adjustment to the college level is taking place, Young needs to continue his consistency on both sides of the floor.
He is shooting just 35 percent from the field while averaging 11 points per game. Once he starts getting comfortable with his shot and role on the team expect that to quickly go up. However, don't be surprised if you see him starting to shine defensively first.
Julius Randle: A+
It was almost impossible for Julius Randle to live up to the hype as the face of this star-studded recruiting class.
However, Randle has shattered expectations early in the season averaging over 20 points and 14 rebounds per game. He has recorded a double-double in each of the four games and the 14.5 rebound per game average is good for fourth in the nation so far this season.
Following the steps of great freshmen big men at Kentucky in the form of DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel, Randle has grabbed more rebounds than any of them through the first four games.
There are some parts to his game that you would like to see improve, such as his nearly four turnovers per game. But, as an 18-year old who has only played four games at the collegiate level that is almost expected, especially when he put the team on his back to almost defeat Michigan State.
Randle is arguably the one player at the collegiate level who you could put into an NBA game right now and be the most competitive.
Despite teams making adjustments to stop the Texas native, don't be surprised to see Randle keep this level of play up throughout the season.
Willie Cauley-Stein: C+
Willie Cauley-Stein returned to Lexington for his sophomore year with expectations of becoming a lottery pick in the NBA for the 2014 draft.
So far this season, Cauley-Stein looks to be the same player as he was as a freshman. A player who gives his team plenty of energy and hustle while grabbing rebounds. He has excelled averaging over nine rebounds per game this season, grabbing a season-high 13 in the last outing against Robert Morris.
Cauley-Stein is still finding himself getting into foul trouble, something that plagued him last year. He has recorded at least two fouls in every game this season and has yet to show an improvement offensively.
Against Michigan State, the Spartans dared Cauley-Stein to beat them by putting Aderian Payne on Julius Randle and giving Cauley-Stein a mismatch against a normal power forward. However, the sophomore was unable to take advantage, only pitching in five points on four shots in 27 minutes of action.
Cauley-Stein may be deferring to the more offensive-minded freshmen, but he needs to be a presence on the court to keep other teams honest.
The reason for the low grade so far because there just hasn't been an improvement from the freshman to sophomore year yet for Cauley-Stein.
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