Once again, Happy New Year to everyone at A Sea of Blue, and to the entire Big Blue Nation. May the going of the old year, and the coming of the new be blessed, and may you all be healthy, happy, and prosperous.
Having said that, let's take a look at two New Years "resolutions" for some of the Wildcats; or rather, what I think the resolutions should be:
Andrew Harrison — Resolved to relax, and remember that while scoring the basketball can be easy, it is a bigger part of his job to distribute the ball and get his teammates involved.
Resolved to move his feet on defense and stop grabbing. Kentucky is not as good with Andrew on the bench as on the floor, and he needs to put considerable effort into learning to defend smaller, quicker players so he doesn't get saddled with foul trouble so often.
Aaron Harrison — Resolved to discover his intensity. Aaron, when he is intense, is the player we thought he would be.
Resolved to rediscover the joy of basketball, to turn that frown upside down, and to recognize that basketball is a game where bad calls, mistakes, and errors are part of the game. Embrace the idea that you can help your team whether your shot is falling or not.
James Young — Resolved to learn to pump fake, reset his feet, and shoot from a position of strength and comfort. Young often forces shots over people when a pump fake would send his defender soaring into the stands to high-five the cheerleaders.
Resolved to understand that every basket attack need not result in a shot. When Young is well-defended, he needs to learn to look for his teammates, not just for his shot.
Julius Randle — Resolved to learn to raise his energy on defense to a similar level as it is on offense. When Kentucky has the ball, Randle is a whirling dervish, driving, dashing, dunking and attacking. When he is on defense, is is more like a ficus than a fiend.
Resolved, like Aaron, to rise above the pathetic attempts of referees to officiate him. Give up the hands-in-the-air frustration on calls, and just play the game. Prove to the officials that they are clueless by treating their weak judgments with disdain rather than demonstration.
Willie Cauley-Stein — Resolved to occasionally look at the basket, and try to score. WCS is great as a defender, great as an energy guy, offensive rebounder and floor-runner. But he needs to offend a bit.
Resolved to get more involved with his teammates, to show just a little bit more passion, to talk a bit more. Willie has a great demeanor in terms of level-headedness, but sometimes he borders on the dispassionate. Just a dollop of passion will help him enjoy the game more.
Alex Poythress — Resolved to keep doing what he is doing — getting better — and being patient while doing so. Alex, your time will come.
Resolved to not be afraid to shoot the ball. Sometimes, Alex will second-guess himself and pass up a wide-open shot. No need. If you're open within the offense, Alex, let it fly. You've got 500 lbs. of beef inside to clean up any misses.
Dominque Hawkins — Resolved to learn to shoot the ball better from the outside. There is nothing technically wrong with Hawkins' shot, it just needs refinement and confidence.
Resolved to never give up his love for the game, and the joy and effort that he plays with. Don't give up your spot as the highest heart rate on the team.
Dakari Johnson — Resolved to be patient. It has been slow going for Dakari so far, but it will get better in SEC play where he will have plenty of opportunities to perform.
Resolved to work hard on free throws. Dakari will get fouled a ridiculous amount, and he needs to make opponents pay.
Marcus Lee — Resolved, like Dakari, to be patient. His time will come, and he will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his skill.
Resolved to work on a face-up game at midrange. Marcus needs to be a threat from the free throw line and in to make a jumpshot. He's going to get that shot a lot.
The rest of the bench — Resolved to get better, and play their roles. They will all get opportunities to play, and they well know how John Calipari likes to settle on a rotation that he's comfortable with. But in this weak SEC, Kentucky will be in some non-competitive games where the bench will get their chances to get more playing time and make an impression.
Camp Cal should make a huge difference in this team, and unlike last season, this year's squad has no gaping holes or major issues. Perimeter defense is a concern and needs to improve. Free throw and 3-point shooting are also areas that are deficiencies, but these problems are not mechanical, but rather a matter of confidence and repetition. They need to be addressed, and will be.
So once again, Happy New Year to you all, to the team, and to all of us. 2014 promises to be a very fun ride.