Rank: #5 SEC
22-13, 9-7, 3rd East
barely slipped into the NCAA Tournament for their 15th
consecutive appearance with a 9-7 record in the SEC. The
Wildcats started to come together late in the year and Coach
Tubby Smith hopes that will continue into the 2006-2007
Rajon Rondo, who left early for the NBA and Patrick Sparks are
the major departures for UK. Rondo averaged 11.2 points, 4.9
assists, 6.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. None of those
numbers are easy to replace, but the Wildcats have options.
Sparks sputtered through his senior year averaging 9.7 points
while struggling to find his shot. The backcourt depth will
have to be handled by incoming freshmen with the departures of
Ravi Moss, Adam Williams, Brandon Stockton and Preston LeMaster.
The transfers of Shagari Alleyne and Rekalin Sims won’t hurt the
frontcourt too much. Alleyene averaged just 2.0 points in 22
contests while Sims added 4.4 points and 2.9 boards per contest.
Derrick Jasper and Jodie Meeks won’t be given much time to
adjust to life in the SEC before they are thrown into the fire.
Jasper is a great passer and has a knack for finding an open
teammate. At 6-6, his size is a great asset for a point guard.
The Paso Robles, California product won’t score much, but the
Wildcats won’t need him to this year. Meeks can create his own
shots and has a nice mid-range game, but the long range shooting
is not as consistent as Coach Smith would like. Combo Guard
Michael Porter could use his toughness and intelligence to earn
some minutes as a freshman. Perry Stevenson should be in the
mix for playing time in the paint. Listed at 178 pounds, the
6-9 forward needs to add strength before he can effectively
battle day after day in the SEC. Mark Coury, a 6-9 walk-on,
will add more depth up front.
Who to Watch:
Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford will replace Rondo and Sparks in
the backcourt. While Bradley can’t compare with Rondo on the
defensive end, he is a better shooter and is a hardworker who
could become a team leader. After spending much of his first
two seasons at the three, Crawford will slide over to where he
belongs at the two. The 6-5 junior averaged 10.2 points per
game and is a solid outside shooter. If the nagging injuries
remain in the past, Crawford is due for a big season.
Morris returns and may end up to be the most important player on
the team. After averaging 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in a
shortened season due to his involvement with an agent, the 6-11
center is expected to shoulder even a bigger load in the scoring
department and on the glass. His frontcourt mates will likely
be Sheray Thomas at the four and Bobby Perry at the three.
Jared Carter, a 7-2 sophomore will be in the mix as well.
Carter saw very few minutes as a freshman, but the highly touted
recruit will be ready to play a bigger role this year. If Coach
Smith wants to play big, Morris could spend some minutes at the
four with Carter at the five. This might not be as talented of
a squad as Kentucky fans have become accustomed to, but it is
not as bad as some make it out to be either. The Wildcats have
top 25 talent, they just have to find some leadership in order
to turn that talent into success.
Bradley, Junior, Guard, 7.9 points per game
Junior, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Senior , Forward, 7.1 points per game
Thomas, Senior, Forward, 4.3 points per game
Morris, Junior, Forward, 13.3 points per game