Kentucky Basketball: Biggest Changes Wildcats Will Undergo in 2014 Offseason
What happens in Kentucky's offseason is still up in the air as NBA general managers and Wildcat fans are all waiting the news on who declares for the NBA.
The only players we know for sure who aren't coming back to Lexington are graduating seniors Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Julius Randle and James Young declare for the NBA, but nothing has been announced just yet.
Not that it's a surprise anymore, but Kentucky head coach John Calipari is bringing in a stellar recruiting class with four McDonald's All-Americans in Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles, Karl Towns and Devin Booker. So, with what we know so far this offseason, what can we expect heading into the 2014-15 season?
This slideshow will take a look at some of the biggest changes facing the Wildcats this offseason. There will be new players, a possible offensive and defensive switch in philosophy and, for the first time under Calipari, an injury concern. Let's take a look at how the team will be made over the summer.
Orlando Heads to Florida, in Comes Slice
Former Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua accepted the head coaching position at South Florida right before the Final Four. While this shouldn't be a surprise to most people, as Antigua was highly regarded across the country, it still was a blow to the Wildcats.
Antigua was one of the best, if not the best recruiter in the country. He commonly made the bond with the players and played a key role in Kentucky's commitments. Antigua also brought valuable experience as a former Division I player at Pittsburgh and recently as a head coach of the Dominican Republic national team.
While the loss of Antigua stings, John Calipari is looking to quickly fill his staff. While it wasn't who I projected in Tony Barbee, the Wildcats are expecting to make a splash. Expected to join Calipari's staff is Barry "Slice" Rohrssen, who most recently was an assistant coach at Pittsburgh.
Don't expect a drop-off in recruiting with Rohrssen being known as an excellent recruiter as well. Coupled with the fact he has the CEO look, with expensive suits and a resume that reads head coach at Manhattan as well as an actor in Glengarry Glen Ross, Rohrssen should easily connect with star high school players.
More importantly, Rohrssen is a New York City guy, something that Kentucky has actually lacked. During Calipari's era, the only New York City guys to come to Lexington have been Doron Lamb and Dakari Johnson. Expect a heavy push to get more guys from the Big Apple with Rohrssen having a name there.
Time to Rehab
What came as a surprise to most, Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein decided to return to Lexington for his junior year. Some of this could possibly be due to the fact he will have to rehab an ankle injury that sidelined him for most of Kentucky's run to the title game.
For the first time in his five seasons at Kentucky, Calipari and his staff will have to rehab an injured player who is expected to see serious playing time heading into the next season. The Wildcats have been blessed to not experience many injuries during the Calipari era, with the only notable one being Nerlens Noel tearing his ACL in the 2012-13 season.
While the injury shouldn't linger into the preseason, or even much of the offseason, the fact is it's still an ankle injury, and what makes Cauley-Stein so good is his athleticism and shot-blocking ability. If he loses any power on that ankle, whether it's lateral quickness or jumping, his talent level shrinks dramatically.
It will be vital for the coaching and training staff at Kentucky to keep Cauley-Stein on a schedule that doesn't push him too hard so he is ready to start the 2014-15 season with no setbacks. The biggest strength Kentucky will have next year is its frontcourt, and that includes the experience Cauley-Stein provides.
When people think of Kentucky teams under Calipari, the image that comes to mind is of tall, athletic guards attacking the rim looking to finish or throw an alley-oop to an even more athletic big. Calipari has notoriously ran the dribble-drive offense, looking to beat his opponent by overmatching them athletically.
This year could be vastly different, especially if the Harrison twins and James Young decide to declare for the NBA. Kentucky is loaded in the frontcourt with Marcus Lee, Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl Towns and Trey Lyles on the roster. Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson could still join that list this offseason.
While the majority of these players are skilled enough to play both facing the basket or with their backs to the basket, the one thing all of them have is incredible size. It wouldn't be outrageous to think Calipari and his staff could change their philosophy to look to get their big guys more involved in either a pick-and-roll offense or a conventional post offense.
What will help Kentucky run those types of offenses are the two guards coming into Kentucky for the 2014-15 season. Devin Booker could arguably be the best shooter Calipari will have at Kentucky. He has the ability to shoot from 23 feet and can shoot either off the catch or off the dribble. Tyler Ulis is also a good enough shooter to keep defenses honest instead of doubling the post.
While the conventional post offense is a vast difference from what Calipari tends to run, expect to see more high screen-and-rolls like you see in the NBA.
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