Amid Freshmen Superstars, Kentucky Sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein Will Be a Star Next Season

Joshua Lindsey-USA Today Sports

Heading into the 2013-14 college basketball season, the nation is well aware of who the preseason favorite will be — that title belongs to the Kentucky Wildcats.

How does a team, who lost two first round draft picks in both Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin and failed to make the NCAA Tournament this past year, have such high expectations? Well, credit the incoming freshmen. Head coach John Calipari has hauled together the best recruiting class of his career with a group that could possibly be the greatest collection of freshmen talent ever.

From Andrew and Aaron Harrison in the back court to James Young on the wing to Julius Randle, Marcus Lee, and Dakari Johnson the level of talent and hype is undeniable. Amid all the hoopla surrounding yet another loaded Wildcats’ recruiting class are two returnees who should provide some “veteran” leadership as sophomores. While Alex Poythress looks to find his niche in the loaded perimeter rotation, the key to Kentucky’s success next season may lie in the hands of Willie Cauley-Stein.

The 7-foot, Kansas-native was overshadowed down low by Noel this past season, but expectations are through the roof. In fact, Cauley-Stein could have opted to leave Lexington after one season and he probably would have joined Noel in the first round. However, he’s ready to emerge as a breakout candidate and help guide the Wildcats back to the promised land.

As a freshman, Cauley-Stein averaged 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and those numbers should increase next season simply due to the fact that Randle will be likely starting alongside him in the front court. Randle will demand the instant attention, so that should allow Cauley-Stein to shine.

Stardom is found in this Wildcats’ freshmen class, but don’t sleep on the sophomore 7-footer inside.

 

Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS

 

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