Kentucky Basketball: Stock Up, Stock Down for Wildcats Starters

Bobby ReaganFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

Kentucky Basketball: Stock Up, Stock Down for Wildcats Starters

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    After dropping a home loss to Florida, Kentucky basketball rebounded with an impressive road win at Ole Miss. The Wildcats are sitting at 20-6 and 10-3 in SEC play with just five regular-season games left. 

    While Kentucky hasn't reached expectations yet and the 40-0 plans were squashed early in the season, the Wildcats still need to have a strong finish to the season for a decent seed in the NCAA tournament. They can also make a run and cross off winning the SEC tournament on their checklist.

    With rematch games against LSU, Arkansas and Florida on the horizon, we'll take a look at the stock of Kentucky's five starting freshmen.

    Which players are developing as the season goes on? Which ones are starting to taper off? Read on to find out. 

Andrew Harrison

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Andrew Harrison had the expectation of being the next great point guard under John Calipari. Billed as the next coming of Tyreke Evans due to his size and ability to finish at the rim, Harrison was the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2013.

    While he struggled early in the season with his decision making and inconsistent play, he has quickly become one of the better point guards in the conference. He has improved his play by learning how and when to attack with the ball in his hands. 

    He has developed a strong mid-range jumper, which he seems to hit often when coming off a pick-and-roll. He's also improved his percentage from behind the arc, shooting just under 38 percent for the season.

    The Texas native has been one of the better offensive weapons for Kentucky, scoring double digits in the last three games.

    Stock: Up

Aaron Harrison

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    Aaron Harrison often gets lumped as the same person with his twin brother Andrew. However, they showed they aren't the same at all. 

    While Andrew Harrison struggled early in the season, Aaron found his groove as one of the best scorers in the conference. Lately, however, he has struggled from the field, shooting over 50 percent just one time in Kentucky's last seven games. 

    The biggest problem for him is inconsistency. You never know which Aaron Harrison will show up. Against Florida, he played arguably his worst game of the season, scoring only three points on 1-of-7 shooting. But on the road against Missouri and Ole Miss, he scored 21 and 17 points, respectively. 

    Stock: Down

James Young

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    If Aaron Harrison struggles with inconsistency, James Young lives by inconsistency. However, he is who he is, and that will be never change. 

    The Michigan native is a volume shooter who doesn't let a bad shooting night deter him from putting up shots. He has struggled from a percentage standpoint, shooting 41 percent from the field and 32 percent from behind the arc. However, he's still scoring, averaging 14.3 points per game.

    While you never know what you're going to get from Young on the offensive side, you do know that he will struggle defensively. Ever since the Michigan State game when he continually was beaten off transition defense, he's been a liability on the defensive side of the ball.

    Kentucky head coach John Calipari has often taken Young out defensively late in games for Alex Poythress. With all that said though, Young has single-handedly kept Kentucky in games when his teammates have struggled.

    Stock: Rocky 

Julius Randle

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    After struggling with facing double- and triple-teams in the post, Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is starting to get back to the way he played early in the season. 

    He's slowed his game down and is beginning to limit bad shots and turnovers. Too often he showed frustration by grabbing a defense rebound and charging down the court; he was determined to shoot no matter what, which often resulted in an offensive foul or a wild shot. However, he has started to work for his shots and only has one five-turnover game in Kentucky's last 10.

    He is also attacking the glass again. After recording less than 10 rebounds in six of seven games, he has grabbed at least 12 rebounds in the last three contests. 

    More importantly, he's beginning to trust his teammates. When Randle catches the ball in the post, he's beginning to survey the defense and kick the ball out to the wing. While it often doesn't result in an assist, it leads to the next pass, which usually goes to the open shooter. 

    Stock: Up

Dakari Johnson

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    Tim Mueller/Associated Press

    Dakari Johnson had one of the highest stocks just a couple of weeks ago when he played his way into the starting lineup after putting up 15 points and six rebounds in a loss at LSU. Since then he hasn't scored double digits and played more than 20 minutes just twice.

    Johnson isn't needed to be a great scorer due to the other four freshmen around him. However, he's reverted back to his early-season form by missing too many easy layups at the rim. He uses his good footwork to get an open look but has failed to convert way too often for a 7-footer.

    When he can stay on the court, he has played decently. He played 21 minutes against both Mississippi State and Auburn and grabbed eight rebounds in each game. He also pitched in nine and eight points, respectively. 

    Stock: Down