Kentucky's derailed defense of its national championship came to a fitting end Tuesday in a 3,000…
UK players talk about future
UK coach John Calipari began the year by adding yet another top-ranked recruiting class, headlined by star center Nerlens Noel, but after losing their best player to injury, the Wildcats bowed out of the SEC Tournament after one game and, shockingly, did the same on Tuesday in the National Invitational Tournament.
In what may have been the most unique scene in college basketball this season, top-seeded UK lost 59-57 to eighth-seeded Robert Morris in the Colonials' 3,000-seat Sewall Center. Attendance was announced at 3,444, well above official capacity of 3,056 as a standing-room-only crowd cheered RMU to a memorable victory.
The loss immediately turned the Big Blue Nation's attention to the future. What will the UK roster look like in 2013-14? Will the Cats' highly-regarded freshmen buck the recent trend of one-and-done to the NBA and return to Lexington? Will all of them be welcomed back?
Freshman guard Archie Goodwin, who fared well in Tuesday's loss with a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds, was the first to state his intentions for the future.
"I don't think it's a question," Goodwin said when asked if he was ready to make the jump to the NBA. "I don't think I'm ready. I don't think any of us should leave."
Goodwin went on to speak for his teammates: "If any of us said we should leave, we'd all be delusional."
Freshman forward Alex Poythress agreed with Goodwin in the notion that he is not ready for the professional ranks.
"Honestly, I don't think I'm ready," Poythress said. "And it's okay to admit that. Everybody can't be John Wall, (Anthony Davis) and (Michael Kidd-Gilchist)."
Willie Cauley-Stein only reiterated what his fellow freshman previously noted.
"I'm not letting this happen next year," said the 7-foot center, hinting of a stronger leadership role in the future. "The mentality is going to be different all from the get-go."
"I feel like something is missing – an empty feeling in my gut, and I want to fill it," Cauley-Stein added. "I want to win a national championship."
Calipari says he'll have a fresh mindset for his program moving forward.
"This was humbling. You think you're supposed to win 30 every year," Calipari said. "All the sudden this hits you. It's a humbling experience."
The UK boss stressed that fans have plenty to be excited about. "With what we have coming in, we're going to be fine. And I'm jacked."
According to Scout, UK currently has the top-ranked recruiting class in 2013. Five-star Texas twin guards Andrew Harrison and Andrew Harrison will join five-star Michigan wing James Young, five-star California center Marcus Lee, five-star Florida center Dakari Johnson and three-star Kentucky forward Derek Willis in Lexington next fall.
But Calipari's staff may not be finished. Five-star Texas forward Julius Randle is set to make his college decision on Wednesday, and UK, along with the Kansas Jayhawks, appears to be favored for his services.
Calipari will not mourn the loss to Robert Morris for long. He said he has to "get back to work" Wednesday as he hits the recruiting trail to evaluate his junior prospects.
While this may feel like rock bottom for UK fans, the future certainly looks bright in Lexington.
"We have something to prove. If there is any doubters, have at it," Calipari said. "This program is in great shape. It's all good."
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