For the first time since the end of the Rajon Rondo era in 2006, Kentucky basketball will be led by the same point guard for two consecutive seasons.
Andrew Harrison, along with twin brother Aaron, will wear the Kentucky jersey for at least one more season. The announcement of the return was echoed loudly throughout the Big Blue nation, as Kentucky’s backcourt depth chart is now set.
Harrison will lead a five-star studded Kentucky Wildcat team once again during the 2014-2015 season. This time, Harrison will be asked to orchestrate an offense that must find a way to replace 39.2 percent of the team’s points from a year ago, after the departure of fellow freshmen Julius Randle and James Young.
The Harrison twins wanted to join Randle and Young in the draft, but the heroic tournament performance was not enough to spark significant interest from NBA scouts. Rejection often leads to anger, and an infuriated Andrew Harrison will be exactly what the Wildcats need.
Harrison will improve tremendously after the “surprisingly” extended 2013-2014 season and thanks to an upcoming roster full of returning players. Harrison’s assist numbers should increase, as lobs to a frontcourt rotation featuring six players 6-foot-10 or taller will be frequent.
Harrison’s shooting, defense and passing will all likely improve, but the one element the 6-foot-5 Harrison will struggle bolstering is speed. Often times last season when matched against a quicker, smaller point guard, Harrison struggled. The Wildcats did not have much depth at the position to combat the speed.
The 5-foot-9 Ulis is a five-star recruit from Chicago and has incredible range, immaculate speed and an impeccable scoring ability.
Ulis can split the defense in a blur and finish at the rim with an array of shots. Ulis will provide Kentucky basketball with a quality backup point guard who will assist and score on a majority of offensive plays.
The height of Ulis may prohibit him from dunking the ball with ease, but I cannot overemphasize his ability to score. Some may liken Ulis to Nate Robinson, but Ulis does not base his game on his athleticism. Ulis is more like Isaiah Thomas of the Sacramento Kings, who is also 5-foot-9. Both rely on their shooting ability and passing instincts to run an offense.
Defensively, Ulis can torment opposing guards with his quickness, just like Shabazz Napier tortured the Harrison twins in the title game. Once Ulis comes up with a steal in the open court, the scorekeeper just needs to know how many points to add for the Wildcats. Ulis is magnificent in transition and will be a joy to watch on the fast break.
I understand that I just spent 187 words complimenting Ulis, but it was pure conjecture. Ulis has the capability to step in and provide point production for a team that will be searching for scoring, but if for some unforeseen reason Ulis cannot get the job done, Kentucky has another option.
Hawkins is a combination point/shooting guard but certainly has the toughness to lead the second unit for the Wildcats. Hawkins literally puts the hawk in ball hawk. He is a defensive specialist but can score around the rim with consistency. Hawkins was the best defensive guard for the Wildcats a season ago. Coupled with a Kentucky Mr. Basketball trophy and a clear passion for the Big Blue, Hawkins is a fan favorite in the hearts of the Big Blue faithful.
But can he receive playing time on a team with more All-Americans than assistant coaches?
Hawkins is similar to a former SEC point guard named Patrick Beverley, who now plays for the Houston Rockets. Like Beverley, Hawkins is not known for his shooting ability. Also like Beverley, Hawkins will impose his will and create havoc for opposing guards, and forwards for that matter, with his defense. Just like a season ago, Hawkins will have to battle to earn minutes, but do not be surprised if he is a key contributor for the Wildcats yet again.
To this point, 40-0 prognosticators have been silenced, but many believe the Wildcats will have what it takes to bring home number nine. One thing is definite for next season. Andrew Harrison, the young man who willed the Wildcats to victory against previously undefeated Wichita State despite a hyperextended elbow in the NCAA Tournament, will be manning the point for the Wildcats.
After being disrespected by NBA scouts and sports analysts, and reaching the pinnacle of college basketball greatness only to have the championship snatched away by a senior point guard for Connecticut, Harrison will embody the mindset of the Wildcats during his sophomore season.
Harrison is back with vengeance.
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