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This time John Calipari has plenty of time to fill vacant roster spots for next season

Jamal Murray (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Certainly it would have made Kentucky a better team next year if PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro had all decided to play another year for the Cats rather than heading to the NBA.

Same with Jemarl Baker, who has decided to transfer rather than return for his redshirt sophomore season where his 3-point shooting and defense certainly could have been a big asset for John Calipari’s team.

Yet the positive here is that it is only April 17th and Calipari knows they will all be missing next season and has time to plan and recruit accordingly. He can look for another graduate transfer — he already has one in Bucknell’s Nate Sestina. He could still sign a high school senior or he might find a player who decides late to reclassify from the 2020 to 2019 class like he did with Jamal Murray a few years back.

It’s not like Kentucky is going to be without talent next year. USA Today has Kentucky No. 2 in its early preseason poll for next year. Sporting News puts Kentucky at No. 3 and CBS Sports has UK No. 4.

The Cats return starting point guard Ashton Hagans — all other four starters are gone (Washington, Johnson, Herro and Travis Reid). They also return two bigs — EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards. Both should benefit from what they learned from Travis and Washington this year. Guard Immanuel Quickley also returns and can play either guard spot — and could be UK’s best 3-point shooter.

Point guard Tyrese Maxey headlines the incoming freshman class. Wing Kahlil Whitney is a big-time talent. Same with Keion Brooks, who can play anywhere from the three to even center for brief periods if needed. Pendleton County’s Dontaie Allen could be a needed outside shooting threat if he’s recovered from his torn ACL fully.

Then there is grad transfer Nate Sestina, a 6-9 player who can stretch the court with his 3-point shooting.

Very few coaches in the country would not be happy to start next season with that group and take their chances. But Calipari has always shown a creative way to find just the pieces he needs to put a roster together in surprising ways and thanks to the early decisions that Washington, Johnson, Herro and even Baker made, it gives him even more time this year to do that than he’s had most seasons.

3 comments

  1. I hope Cal can snag Blackshear if he’s available.
    He could be a real difference maker.
    There are plenty of guards out there who would be a good fit.

  2. Great article. I had forgotten that Jamal Murray came to school early.

  3. It looks like Cal has found a niche in picking up graduate talent. I hope he will take advantage of Sestina’s inside/outside scoring ability and not let the guards go shot crazy like he usually does. There is a chance he could get Blackburn, but after watching Cal relegate Reid to a subordinate role this past year, he may go somewhere where he will be the star. EJ is trying to get his ego stroked with his testing of the NBA waters. He needs to knuckle down, toughen up, and have a great sophomore year so he won’t have to wonder about his NBA readiness. Short of getting another big, both he and Nick will see more PT and will hopefully make the most of it. We could have a decent team next year with just what we have in the fold at present. Getting Blackburn would put us over the top…if Cal doesn’t hold them back.

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