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Best of Spring and Summer 2013 in sports: NIT loss to Robert Morris reviewed and more

To get you ready for 2014, we’re recapping the year that was in sports. We’ll start with reviewing the spring and summer of 2013 in one fell swoop. The year began with unusual turmoil at Rupp Arena, and it was evident when the ball dropped on Jan. 1. It was confirmed and the season was all but put to bed when Nerlens Noel tore his ACL in February. And then it was put to bed for good in the first round of the NIT in a loss at Robert Morris. That game story is re-published below.


Published below the story is a collection of further reading, deemed the best of KyForward.com’s sports page, for the purpose of newsworthiness, writing or otherwise, through July 2013. The best of fall 2013 will be published Dec. 30, and the best of winter ’13 will be published Jan. 3.




MOON TOWNSHIP, Penn. — A season that began with the Wildcats ranked No. 3 in both major polls, ended Tuesday with a loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT in a gym that sat just more than 3,000 people.


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In a season where little went as planned and almost nothing went the way players and coaches hoped, a missed three at the buzzer ensured UK would not win a NIT title, let alone defend its NCAA championship.


“They deserved it,” said UK head coach John Calipari of the Northeast Conference regular season champion Robert Morris Colonials. “If we’d have won at the buzzer, it would have been a shame, wouldn’t it have? Because we didn’t deserve to win the game.”


Calipari and players noted the Cats’ final loss, in which they fell behind 10-0 to start the game and could not complete two different comebacks from double-digit deficits, was a fitting metaphor for the entire season.


With no more games on the schedule, the question quickly became where do players and Calipari go from here?


“I don’t think it’s a question on whether I’m going (to the NBA) or not,” said freshman guard Archie Goodwin. “I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year, play with and focus on the team we have and try to do better than we did this year because the expectations we had for ourselves this year, we didn’t meet them at all.”


With almost no exception, Goodwin’s teammates backed up his assessment following the loss.


“I don’t think I’m ready (for the NBA),” said freshman forward Alex Poythress.


“I have unfinished business here,” said freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein. “I want to win a ring.”


Cauley-Stein qualified those comments by noting if his family needs him to declare for the draft, he will, but he said he has no problem returning to school and continuing to develop his game.


For his part, Calipari said he will have individual meetings with each player to offer advice about the future.


“I told them one thing is, ‘Expect me to be honest with you,'” he said.


Calipari throws his hands up after a call vs. Robert Morris. (Photo by Jon Hale)

The freshmen, including injured star Nerlens Noel, will not be the only players using those meetings to judge their future.


Asked specifically if sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow, who played just nine minutes Tuesday, had a future in the program, Calipari only noted that he would have a meeting with Harrow like the other players.


For his part, Harrow, who has already used his redshirt transfer season, doesn’t expect to leave Lexington.


“I wouldn’t be transferring anywhere,” he said. “I feel like we could be really good next year, just have to get ready for that.”


“Really good next year,” could end up being an understatement.


Calipari has already secured his fifth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, which could still add more players. Most recruiting analysts project the incoming class could be Calipari’s best yet.


Mixing those players with some experienced returners could be the recipe for a special season, but the level of talent on the roster and competition for playing time could also theoretically influence players’ decision to stay or go.


“The best thing that’s going to happen to us next year is we’re going to have unbelievable competition at every spot,” Calipari said. “There’s no one here that’s promised, ‘OK, I played 30 minutes a game.’ You may play five, but you will change.”


Players said that competition should not push anyone out the door.


“I’m not scared to compete with anybody,” Goodwin said. “Those guys are great players, but at the same time, I can play too. I’m going to compete with them, and we’re just going to battle it out.”


Players and fans may be eager to turn the clock ahead to next year, but for Calipari there is still some introspection to do after a season that posted several new lows for his UK tenure.


The Cats dropped their first game at Rupp Arena in the Calipari Era, and then lost another game at home. After losing one game by double digits in his first three seasons at UK, Calipari’s team lost six games by double digits this season.


“This is humbling,” he said. “You think you’re supposed to win 30 every year. You win 30, 35, go to the Final Four, go to the Elite Eight, win the league, win the league tournament, go to the finals of every league tournament. All of the sudden this hits you. It’s a humbling experience, but it’s also a learning experience.”


As for the future, Calipari is already working. He will be on the road looking at high school juniors Wednesday.


“If there’s any doubters, have at it,” he said. “You can doubt all you want. This program’s in great shape. Kids across the country still want to come here. It’s all good.”


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May 8: Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett providing Cats consistent presence in leadoff spot, by Jon Hale


June 12: After finishing degree, Wayne Turner hopes to help other kids overcome similar diversity, by Alex Forkner


July 3: Chaz Roe’s promotion latest sign that Lexington is becoming a baseball town, by Jon Hale


July 10: Architectural firm, construction team chosen to redesign Rupp Arena, convention center, by Jon Hale

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