It’s that time of year again. The BBN has grown accustomed to dreading the end of college basketball season not just because there will be months of waiting until our beloved Cats hit the floor again, but also because we will say goodbye to some young players earlier than we’d like. In this era of One and Done, we barely get to know some players before they are heading off to the professional ranks, either in the NBA, overseas, or the G-League.
This year is somewhat unique as it would appear we will have more players returning than we’ve had in recent years. While I have no super-secret insider information, here’s how I see the decisions falling:
Absolutely, Positively Returning
I’ll state the obvious first: all 3 walk-ons, Dillon Pulliam, Jonny David, and Brad Calipari will be back. This will assure the BBN of having two seniors on the roster and some paper hoops on Senior Night. I also believe Nick Richards, Quade Green, and Sacha Killeya-Jones will return as well. Quade and SKJ had a lot of great moments this past season and should be primed to absolutely shine in the 2018-19 season. Richards should also experience tremendous growth and improvement. Remember, Nick has only played basketball for a little over 5 years and, while he struggled most of the season, he did show flashes of the player he is capable of becoming. And let’s not forget Jamarl Baker, the 3-point specialist who unfortunately was injured before the season began and sat out the entire year. This group forms a pretty decent foundation for next year’s edition of the Cats.
Far More Likely Than Not to Return
I would be shocked if PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Wenyen Gabriel did not return. While all 3 of these players showed some flashes of brilliance throughout the season, each could reap huge benefits from another season. Vanderbilt absolutely needs to show he can make it through a season without injury. While he is an absolute rebounding machine, he could take this opportunity to expand his offensive skills. Gabriel has proven he can shoot the long ball, but another year of experience could be invaluable for his overall game.
It’s Anybody’s Guess
My head says Kevin Knox will go, but my heart wants him to stay. Further muddying the waters has been the comments from Knox’s father that the family doesn’t have pressing financial needs that might tip the scales to an early entry into the NBA Draft. Knox has also noted himself that there are areas of his game, specifically defense, that need improvement. Furthermore, the 2019 draft is expected to be much weaker than this year and that could vault Kevin from a mid-teen pick to top 3. This is certainly the most intriguing situation and it will be interesting to see what the final decision is.
I’d be beyond shocked if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned. He’s already played himself into the lottery and there’s not much else he could do in another season to make his stock any higher. Sure, I’d be over the moon if he came back, but I’ve already resigned myself to bidding him a very fond farewell and wish nothing but the best for him in his future endeavors.
Also on my list of not returning would be Hamidou Diallo. While he could certainly improve his overall game with another year of college competition, my gut tells me he’ll enter the draft.
Advice for the Fans
Lastly, I implore the BBN to be supportive of our players regardless of the decisions they ultimately make. In the end, it is their futures and it is their circumstances that will lead them to their choices. Perhaps we think they “need” to stay, but it’s not about what we think. They will each receive information from Coach Calipari, NBA scouts, and their families. That information is all they should consider, not what some fans think is best. Some may declare for the draft and attend the NBA Combine to get more information. Let’s all appreciate the hard work and dedication they gave to the Kentucky Basketball program during their time here and send them nothing but the best wishes, regardless of where they may be next year. After all, once a Cat, always a Cat!
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