February 11, 2016

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Final grades for UK

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, March 26, 2013

LEXINGTON Final grades for the University of Kentucky mens basketball team from the recently concluded 2012-13 season, along with a brief look ahead:

Nerlens Noel, 6-foot-10, freshman center: Grade A. Noel brought several attributes pretty much lacking anywhere else on the Kentucky roster: Toughness, intensity and defensive stability.

Even with the ACL surgery, Noel will go in the top three picks of the June NBA Draft. He promises to have a long pro career, barring more significant injury, simply because hes so solid defensively and plays so hard.

Noel has a lot of work to do on his offensive game to be considered one of the great centers at the pro level. But theres plenty of time. His defensive presence should give him all the time he needs. We know he has the work ethic.

Archie Goodwin, 6-4, freshman guard: Grade B. Goodwin took a lot of criticism for his frequent reckless drives into the paint. That overshadowed just a bit the fact Goodwin has immense physical gifts and cares. He led the Wildcats in scoring with 14.1 points per game and added 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists each time out.

Goodwin said after the NIT loss at Robert Morris that he definitely is not ready for the NBA and will return to UK. Still, there are NBA draft experts who say Goodwin could be one of the top 20 draft picks if he comes out, which would make him a millionaire.

So, well see.

I believe Kentucky badly needs Goodwin to return, to tutor freshman guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who are joining the Kentucky flock next season. I also believe Goodwin has the skills and work ethic to become a premier guard with one more year of college experience.

Still, theres the issue of the projected million dollars

Willie Cauley-Stein, 7-foot, freshman center: Grade B. Cauley-Stein improved dramatically on the defensive end after Noel went down with the ACL injury in early February. Cauley-Stein is probably a better player offensively than Noel, though he still has a long way to go in that area.

He averaged 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season.

Cauley-Stein also says he plans to return to UK for his sophomore season, and he is also projected to be a top 15, NBA Draft pick. The guess here is we wont see him back at Kentucky.

Both Cauley-Stein and the Wildcats would benefit greatly from another season here, however. Kentucky has several critically acclaimed power forwards coming in the recruiting class, but only one center.

Alex Poythress, 6-7, freshman forward: Grade C+. Poythress was pretty much a season-long mystery. He appears to have all the athleticism and basketball skills you could want, but he never played with the intensity needed to maximize those skills and boost Kentuckys fortunes in ways Kentucky fans wished he would.

Even going into the SEC Tournament, Poythress admitted he hadnt played hard all season, but was ready to turn it around.

He did not.

It seems unfathomable that Poythress would be drafted by the NBA, but some experts say its a very weak draft and Poythress will go in the first round if he comes out.

If Poythress returns to UK, hell see a dramatic upswing in competition at the forward spots with a highly-touted recruiting class coming in. So well see if Poythress sinks or swims. I have no idea.

Kyle Wiltjer, 6-10, sophomore forward: Grade C-. Wiltjer teased us with occasional bursts of hot perimeter shooting, but he was never consistent enough to be counted on. And against the more athletic teams, Wiltjer was almost defenseless, especially after Noel went down.

Unless he finds his shot on an extremely consistent basis, I dont see much of a future for Wiltjer with the recruiting class coming in. On the other hand, it could help Wiltjer that there will be enough talent and athleticism around him next season to make up for his lack of defensive ability.

Julius Mays, 6-2, senior swing man: Grade B. I feel bad for Mays, who transferred here from Wright State hoping for a season of Division I glory, only to find immaturity everywhere he looked.

Mays has limits physically and did not shoot as consistently as we hoped he would, but he was a good leader on a team that badly needed leadership.

Ryan Harrow, 6-2, sophomore guard: Grade C-. Harrow had a three-to-four game stretch in early January where it all seemed to be coming together for him at point guard. But his play deteriorated steadily as the season wore on.

Harrow tearfully admitted at the SECTournament that his failures badly hurt the Wildcats post-season hopes.

A shame. Harrow seems like an immensely likeable, sensitive young man. He may be too sensitive to survive in the pressure fishbowl of Kentucky basketball. Coach John Calipari played Harrow only nine minutes in the NIT loss at Robert Morris. A bad sign, that.

Jarrod Polson, 6-2, junior guard: Grade B. Polson plays so darned hard and cares so much, but has limits physically that cant be overcome against more athletic teams.

If Calipari signs anybody else, theres speculation that Cal may ask Polson whos on target to graduate this spring to walk on next season. Polson would be a good guy to tutor and back up the Harrison twins, especially if Goodwin leaves.

Polson rarely hurts you and occasionally helps. He played well in the loss at Robert Morris.

Jon Hood, 6-7, junior forward: Grade B. Hood has seemingly been caught between a rock and a hard place ever since he arrived at Kentucky because hes too limited athletically to dent the lineup with more athletic teammates around him.

But like Polson, Hood cares passionately about rarely misses a shot in practice. But Calipari has never been able to give Hood the playing time in games to develop the rhythm and confidence needed to see just how good Hood could be.

Hood also will graduate this spring, but has another year of eligibility, so well see if he comes back. I hope he does, even if its just for his off-court leadership. Its tough to see him playing any more next season than he has in the past.