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Kentucky Basketball: Highlighting Potential Unsung Heroes in 2013-14

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 19: Alex Poythress #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats defends the shot of Lonnie McClanahan #22 of the Texas-Arlington Mavericks during the game at Rupp Arena on November 19, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJune 13, 2016

The young and entertaining Kentucky Wildcats came up short in their first real test this season, turning the ball over 17 times and digging themselves into a double-digit hole in a tight loss to Michigan State. 

Luckily for Kentucky, there are plenty more tests ahead, and plenty more opportunities for some players flying under the radar to emerge as integral contributors. 

Below we'll highlight three overlooked Wildcats with the potential to become unsung heroes in 2013-14.

 

Willie Cauley-Stein

Nov 19, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) walks off the court during the game against the Texas-Arlington Mavericks in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Texas-Arlington 105-76. Mandatory Credit: Ma
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Seven-foot sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein isn't going to get a ton of love thanks to his low scoring output. But without his presence on the boards and his ability to protect the rim, the Wildcats would be a far less dangerous team.

Cauley-Stein is averaging a pedestrian 7.2 points through Kentucky's first five games, but has left a massive mark as both a rebounder and a shot-blocker, leading the Wildcats in blocked shots with more than two per game.

Not to mention that when he does try to score, he's usually successful, connecting from the field at a clip of 58.3 percent.

Overall, Cauley-Stein's numbers are right around where they were last season. But there's been a noticeable improvement in the rebounding department, as well as some increased aggression and focus defensively. 

 

Marcus Lee

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 19:  Marcus Lee #00 of the Kentucky Wildcats blocks the shot of Lonnie McClanahan #22 of  the Texas-Arlington Mavericks during the game at Rupp Arena on November 19, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Although freshman forward Marcus Lee has seen most of his action in blowout wins over teams like UNC Asheville, Northern Kentucky and Texas-Arlington, the 6'9" California native has got to start somewhere and is building key confidence early in the season.

Lee has buried 13 of his 16 shot attempts and is averaging 6.4 points in only 10.4 minutes per game. His 81.3 field-goal percentage is the best among all Kentucky players with more than one attempt thus far. 

The 19-year-old could also become a factor on the glass moving forward.

He's only averaging 2.6 rebounds per game in limited action this season, but keep in mind that he snagged half a dozen in just 14 minutes against Northern Kentucky earlier this month. 

Lee's also making his presence felt defensively.

He's got seven blocks already and is picking up right where he left off as a senior in high school, where he averaged 17.7 points, 19.5 rebounds and 6.7 blocked shots per game.

 

Alex Poythress 

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 23:  Alex Poythress #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball during the game against the Long Island Blackbirds at Rupp Arena on November 23, 2012 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Another sophomore capable of becoming an overlooked grinder in 2013-14 is Alex Poythress, who is off to a slow start this fall.

The 6'8", 240-pound forward has seen his playing time reduce from last season and his shooting percentages plummet. Fortunately, it's only November and Poythress has plenty of time shake his funk.

But John Calipari and the Wildcats can be encouraged by a few things they've seen thus far from the Clarksville, Tenn. native.

Mainly, Poythress' strong play on the boards.

He's averaging eight rebounds per game and pulled down a dozen in Kentucky's narrow loss to Michigan State. 

Poythress also proved he can be a major factor defensively against the Spartans, blocking three shots.

Like Cauley-Stein, Poythress is one of the very few non-freshmen in Kentucky's rotation. Therefore, his experience gives him a slight edge in the race to become an unsung hero for the Wildcats in 2013-14.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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