Good luck finding a weakness on the University of Kentucky’s basketball team next season. In a somewhat surprising move, twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison announced Friday they’ll put their NBA dream on hold and return for their sophomore seasons, giving the Wildcats the most loaded college basketball roster in recent memory and almost certainly a preseason No. 1 ranking.
The Harrisons are the last Kentucky players to make their decision public and, in the end, six of the top eight players from this season’s NCAA runner-up — all of whom had a legitimate chance to be drafted — elected to return. Only forward Julius Randle and swingman James Young are leaving early for the NBA.
“I’m coming back for a second season in large part because last year’s title run was special, but we still have unfinished business,” Aaron Harrison said in a news release from UK.
Added Andrew Harrison: “I’m returning for my sophomore season because I want to win a national title.”
With four McDonald’s All-American freshmen coming in, the Cats will have an unprecedented nine burger boys and 10 former top-40 recruits on next year’s team. Remarkably, coach John Calipari, the face of the one-and-done phenomenon, could field a starting lineup next season without a single freshman.
“I’m excited about Aaron and Andrew’s decision to return for next season,” Calipari said in a news release. “Their postseason play was a result of the improvement they made all season and displayed what they’re capable of doing on the court. I look forward to having the opportunity to work with them during the summer and watch them lead next year’s team.”
The 6-foot-6 twins and 7-foot center Dakari Johnson, all three starters last season, are sophomores. Swingman Alex Poythress and versatile 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, both starters at various points in their UK careers, will be juniors.
The Cats will return 59.3 percent of their points, 58.7 percent of their rebounds, 67.3 percent of their assists and 82.6 percent of their blocked shots from last season. Compare that to this past season, when UK got back just 31.2 percent of its points, 40.1 percent of its rebounds, 19.5 percent of its assists and 35.5 percent of its blocks.
The Wildcats will have a combined 164 career starts on the roster next season compared to just 46 coming into this season.
Even before the twins’ decision, the Cats were set to be stacked, but they would’ve been imbalanced and perilously thin in the backcourt. Seven players 6-8 or taller return, five of them McDonald’s All-Americans and three of them 7-footres. If the Harrison twins left, however, UK would’ve had just three scholarship guards.
Now with four McDonald’s All-Americans in the backcourt, too, the Cats are fully stocked with elite talent across the board.
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SOURCE: USA Today