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Calipari expecting Poythress to return for his senior year, Lee to have breakout season

Marcus Lee (left) will shine with increased playing time next year, UK coach John Calipari said (UK Athletics Photo)

Marcus Lee (left) will shine with increased playing time next year, UK coach John Calipari said (UK Athletics Photo)


Kentucky head coach John Calipari said he expects injured junior forward Alex Poythress to return for his senior season and to team with fellow front-court man Marcus Lee to provide the Wildcats with the foundation for another highly ranked team next year.

Poythress, who was Kentucky’s best player during the exhibition trip to the Bahamas prior to last season, missed all but eight games after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. He had surgery in December and is expected to be cleared for play before the fall practices begin.

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Lee, a 6-9 junior-to-be forward, is a McDonald’s All-American who played sparingly during last season’s 38-1 run because he was slotted behind All-Americans Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns. Both of those players have declared for the upcoming NBA Draft, along with Devin Booker, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson.

Lee played in all 39 games, but averaged just 11 minutes per appearance.

“We’ve talked,” Calipari said of Poythress after formally accepting his award as the Adolph Rupp Commonwealth Athletic Club of Kentucky’s Coach of the Year Thursday. “I think he wants to come back. He’ll be fine. I’m so anxious to get him and Marcus Lee on the court because it’s their time now. This is their time.”

Calipari, who is the only two-time winner of the Rupp Award, named for the legendary former UK coach, said that he expects Lee to shine with more consistent playing time next year.”

“It’s hard. He played behind Karl(-Anthony Towns) and Willie (Cauley-Stein),” said Calipari. “In a normal college situation, that is normal. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, but you’re at Kentucky. It’s like warp speed. I am so anxious for him and want this for him. It’s his time and he knows it. I think you’ll see people saying, ‘Cal should’ve played him the last two years. What the heck was he thinking?’ But those guys in front of him were pretty good.”

Calipari said two other returning players, guard Dominique Hawkins and forward Derek Willis, are also putting time in during the off season to improve their games and get more playing time. But he continues to marvel at how high his Cats have been ranked in some preseason polls that are floating around in the media.

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“I would say both of them (are working hard),” Calipari said. “I’ve seen Derek in the gym on his own putting up shots. It’s still an exciting time. We have three guys in the warm-up line right now and someone said they picked us to be No. 1 in the country. We don’t even have a team and we’re No. 1 in the country. It comes back to what Coach Rupp started here. It’s expected here.”

Calipari currently has commitments from three recruits for next year and is working on more, but he acknowledged the Cats might not add any additional players.

“Some guys have to talk to us, but I think we’re going to be fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be crazy again.”

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