Kentucky Basketball: Offseason To-Do List for Wildcats
Kentucky basketball just capped off one of the most unbelievable seasons in recent memory. The season started with expectations of a near-perfect season and a ninth national championship.
However, the talent didn't mesh right away, and soon there was a 10-loss regular season. When March came around, though, Big Blue Nation got to experience the team that everyone thought it would be as the Wildcats ended up playing on Monday night for the championship.
The season has just concluded, but there has already been plenty of buzz this offseason. Assistant coach Orlando Antigua left Kentucky to become the head coach at South Florida. Per ESPN.com, there have been rumors that Julius Randle will declare for the NBA draft. Then, of course, there are the rumors of head coach John Calipari becoming head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, per Kentucky alumnus Rex Chapman on Twitter.
This slideshow will take a look at the most important things for the Wildcats to do this offseason.
Hire Tony Barbee
There's an open spot on the coaching staff due to Orlando Antigua becoming the head coach at South Florida. The best person to fill this void is Tony Barbee.
In fact, this almost makes too much sense to happen. He has a reputation as a great recruiter and has history with John Calipari. Antigua was Kentucky's best recruiter and often formed a quick bond with players and recruits, which would help get their commitment. Barbee would easily fill that recruiting need for Calipari and Kentucky.
Also, since he is familiar with Calipari's system, he would have a smooth transition by not having to learn the offensive or defensive schemes. Barbee played for the coach at Massachusetts and then spent time as a graduate assistant under Calipari there before joining him as an assistant coach at Memphis from 2000-2006.
Barbee most recently was the head coach of Auburn, where he compiled a 49-75 record in four years.
Teach Dominique Hawkins to Shoot
Dominique Hawkins showed during the NCAA tournament that he's a vital player to this Kentucky roster. That won't change over the next three years, as it would be a big surprise if he left early. There's just one problem when it comes to him.
He doesn't have any form of an offensive game.
Hawkins is great defensively. He showed this by guarding star players in the NCAA tournament like Nik Stauskas, Russ Smith and Ryan Boatright. He also showed that being on the court allows other defenses to leave him alone and double-team Julius Randle in the post.
Hawkins averaged less than one point per game this season despite playing almost nine minutes per game. His field-goal attempt against Wisconsin on April 5 in the Final Four was his first field-goal attempt since February 22 against LSU and his first made field goal since January 8.
If Hawkins will never even threaten to look at the rim when he's on the court, why should he be out there? The staff needs to get that through to him, and he's more than capable of contributing some offense. In high school, he led his Madison Central High School team to a state championship by attacking the rim.
He will likely see more minutes throughout the next couple of years, especially if the Harrison twins declare for the NBA during this offseason.
Put Some Muscle on Marcus Lee
Marcus Lee showed that he can jump with anyone in the country and has exceptional timing when it comes to grabbing an offensive rebound. More importantly, he's smart enough not to come down with the ball and instead looks to dunk it immediately.
However, he needs to be stronger. While he has great shot-blocking ability, he has to be able to battle in the post with other centers. Lee is 6'9" but weighs only 215 pounds. He doesn't need to bulk up tremendously, but another 10 pounds of muscle would help him to hold his ground.
Offensively, Lee should look to develop a post game beyond looking for an alley-oop or putback dunk. He needs to work on gaining position to catch the pass above the low block and make a quick move to the basket or kick it back out to a guard for an open jumper.
Keep Dakari Johnson at the Free-Throw Line
Dakari Johnson improved throughout the season, working his way into the starting lineup during conference play. However, the one place he didn't improve was at the free-throw line.
He shot only 44 percent from the line this year, despite getting there 85 times. At 7'0", Johnson has exception footwork in the post that will often get him to the line. His poor free-throw shooting hurts Kentucky just as much as Hawkins' lack of offense.
Johnson developed his offensive game as the season progressed. He displayed great ability in getting position in the post and making a quick drop-step move to get to the basket. His size often made smaller defenders try to hack his arms as he went up for easy layups.
This slide is all based on the premise of Johnson returning for his sophomore season, which I believe he will do. If this is the case, the coaching staff should have him shoot hundreds of free throws daily to try and find his stroke. His form isn't poor, but he needs to raise his shooting percentage closer to 60 percent by the time next year rolls around.