|Sign up for KyForward news updates|
A glance at the 2012-13 UK men’s basketball roster shows the Wildcats’ will not be lacking in at least one thing this season: size.
Five of the 12 Wildcats are 6-foot-7 or taller. Three of the 12 are 6-foot-10 or taller.
Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein tops the list at 7-foot. Freshman Nerlens Noel and sophomore Kyle Wiltjer follow closely behind at 6-foot-10. Junior Jon Hood and freshman Alex Poythress are both listed at 6-foot-7.
All that size has players identifying one area where the current Cats are already better than the 2012 national championship team.
“There’s different ways we can do it, but we could be longer than we were a year ago at times,” said UK head coach John Calipari in a preseason roundtable interview with local media.
“I think we’re a lot longer this year,” said junior guard Jarrod Polson. “Obviously last year we had Anthony (Davis) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but we’ve got Willie, Nerlens, Kyle, Archie (Goodwin). We’re a really long team this year and really athletic.”
The most commonly projected starting lineup would have Noel, Wiltjer and Poythress on the floor at the same time. Calipari could also play Poythress at power forward to exploit his athleticism against bigger, slower players.
Perhaps the lineup that has intrigued Calipari the most so far would have Noel and Cauley-Stein on the floor at the same time.
“I said to coach (Joe B.) Hall, ‘We’re going to have to sit down and talk about this two-big-guy thing,’” Calipari said. “And he (said), ‘I got some good stuff for you.’”
With Noel missing summer workouts while finishing the academic requirements needed to reclassify to the high school class of 2012, Cauley-Stein emerged as the team’s early surprise.
“He gained ground on Nerlens because Nerlens wasn’t here,” Calipari said. “Those eight weeks of conditioning, weight training and 16 one-hour workouts put him on a different level than Nerlens.”
The question of how to play with the “Twin Towers” lineup is one Calipari will have to answer quickly if Cauley-Stein continues to force his hand.
The lineup could make UK a defensive nightmare for opponents.
“It’s just crazy to think about,” Cauley-Stein said. “You watch both of us playing defense on separate films and you kind of imagine what we’d be like together. Both of us block shots. Both of us rebound. Both of us go up and get lobs. If you put two people on the floor that can do that, that makes it hard to match up.”
“I think it can add a whole lot, especially on the defensive end,” Noel said. “Me and him down there blocking shots would really keep them out of the paint and really expand us in size.”
The plethora of size even had Calipari mention his dreaded “z” word.
“I’ve talked about maybe a 2-3 (zone) with the two big guys on the wings, 7-foot, 6-11,” he said. “Then I thought maybe we could play a 3-2 (zone) with the two bigs down low.”
Calipari admits that talk might just be preseason dreaming though.
“Will we play some zone this year? I can say yes and the chances are slim and none,” he said. “But I’m going to tell you, yeah, we’re going to think about playing some zone this year.”
Calipari is pleased with the amount of weapons at his disposal, but he is far from deciding how exactly he will use the size to his advantage.
“There are times when the more information you get, the more confused you are,” he said. “That’s kind of where I am with this group.”
In the two weeks before Big Blue Madness, KyForward sports editor Jon Hale will be previewing the 2012-13 UK men’s basketball series with a profile of each of the 12 Wildcats as well as other features to get you ready for the team’s attempt to repeat as National Champions. Previous profiles in the series have looked at Willie Cauley-Stein and Archie Goodwin. Tomorrow the series looks at Alex Poythress.
Today on KyForward, you can read the profile of Wildcat freshman forward Nerlens Noel: “Noel has eyes on shot-blocking record, but Calipari says comparisons to Davis aren’t fair.”