So who are the Lost Boys? They are the UK basketball players who are overlooked, under-appreciated, forgotten ... well, sort of lost.
The Lost Boys for 2007 are Jared Carter and Ramon Harris. Why are they lost? Because we forget about them.
It should be hard to forget about Jared Carter, as big as he is now at 7'3", but many fans have written him off as the player that might have been, but never was. Carter was one of only two freshmen in 2005, and Adam Williams, the other, transfered to Marshall after the 2005-2006 campaign.
It might surprise some people to know that Carter was highly thought of coming out of Scott County high school. He was ranked a 4-star prospect by Rivals.com, was said to run the floor well and set the Kentucky high school state record for blocks as a senior.
His freshman year, Carter impressed some Wildcat fans with his aggressive play and surprising poise for such a young player. However, Carter found little playing time in spite of Kentucky's weak presence in the middle, with Orbzut and Allene garnering most of the minutes until Randolph Morris returned. With Morris back, Carter rarely saw any action at all.
Much was expected from Jared in the 2006-2007 campaign, but he delivered nothing, getting injured very early in the season. So far in two years, Jarred Carter has played a total of about 100 minutes in a total of 20 games. He has dislocated his shoulder twice now, one time early last year and again early this summer.
Carter could be the presence we need in the middle if his injury knits well and he is able to avoid injuring it further, but some sports physicians are skeptical -- this type of repeating dislocation injury seems to have a chronic tendency to it, and if so, Jared's career as a basketball player could be over. Time will tell, but optimism around the Big Blue nation is muted.
Assuming Carter does recover, though, what can we expect? Well, in the few games he played in 2006-07, he showed an improved touch from the foul line and improved shot mechanics. What he needs more than anything is playing time against SEC competition, so his game can grow into his body. Jared has talent, but he also has poor footwork and a tendency to wilt under any kind of contact. That has to change if he is ever to be an effective post player in the SEC.
Where Jared has shown some ability is a willingness and a desire to rebound. I don't know if he will be more tentative because of his injury going forward, but if he sticks his nose in there, he could be a big help on the glass, as well as on defense. Carter has long arms and is capable of blocking shots, although he has yet to prove that he can do so against Division 1 competition.
The other Lost Boy is Ramon Harris from Alaska. Known affectionately by Wildcat fans as "Razor", Harris joined the team in the middle of last season and hardly ever got off the bench, although when he did, he often made some good things happen before he became lost, which was frequently after the first minute or so.
Ramon is capable, long and athletic. I have never seen him shoot a jump shot, so I cannot say one thing about that part of his game. But he has shown flashes of skill, like last year's South Carolina game, where in 8 minutes he had 2 steals, one assist, one block, one rebound and one point. Unfortunately, he also had two turnovers.
Harris was virtually unknown and unseen before matriculating to Kentucky. If you search Rivals and Scout, you might think he came from overseas (well, I suppose Alaska almost counts as another country). But some who have seen him play think he may be capable of significant contributions to the Cats next year.
Ramon must learn to engage his competition, and Coach Gillispie's simpler offensive and defensive schemes should make that transition happen much quicker than it would have under Tubby Smith. Reports from summer pick-up games are highly complimentary of Harris, but I warn our readers not to take those to heart -- too often, we have been told so-and-so was tearing it up in the summer, only to have them falter during the season.
So as Big Blue Madness slowly creeps out of the future and closer to the present, we find ourselves with reason to hope -- hope that the Lost Boys of Kentucky will find their game, their confidence, and their health, and help lead the Big Blue Nation back over the rainbow.
P.S. Sorry about the lack of posting today. My computer went on hiatus and it took me all day to get it back.