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Kentucky Basketball: What Terrence Jones means to Kentucky

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First of all, let me say that I had both hoped and expected Terrence Jones would stick to his original pick of the Washington Huskies.  Lorenzo Romar is a fine basketball coach that any school would be proud to have and any player would be proud to play for, and I like to see kids make their choice and stick with it.  But Jones decided Kentucky was a better choice for him, and who am I to gainsay his decision? 

The good news is, Jones and players like him can hardly go wrong -- these young men have the opportunity for a first-class education no matter who they choose, and let's face it, the Huskies have a very good basketball team.  But these are young men just out of high school, and we have to be understanding if they are a little flighty in their decision-making, particularly when it comes to such seemingly momentous things as a choice of college.  Hopefully, he got it right after all this deliberation and mind-changing.

With that said, as a Wildcat fan it is hard not to be pleased to see the much-coveted Jones finally decide to play for John Calipari and the Wildcats.  Even though the 'Cats had largely solved the gaping hole at power forward with the matriculation of Eloy Vargas, now Vargas finds himself competing for playing time with one of the best freshmen in that spot in America.  Welcome to Kentucky, Mr. Jones, where the good players want to go.  You will have a lot of quality company, and you will not believe the fan support you'll get.

Basketball fans of all stripes should be shocked and appalled at some of the remarks directed at Terrence Jones on Twitter last night.  Matt May of The Cats Pause summed it up thus in a tweet early this AM:

It's a sad commentary on college sports & its fans how venomous the response has been toward @TerranceJones1 for switching commitment...

Certainly all fan bases have their bad apples, and when Jones famously picked the black UW hat about a month ago, there were nasty remarks directed at him from the UK fan base. Predictably, there were many Washington fans, as well as fans of other schools who will remain unmentioned here, tweeting vulgar invective at Terrence Jones last night.

If many of the UW fan comments to Jones on Twitter were reprehensible, at least they had the virtue of coming from fans with a vested interest in the Jones recruitment  who were understandably disappointed in his decision. That doesn't excuse the classless comments that some made, but what is truly offensive is the fact that many of the most vitriolic comments directed at Terrence Jones have been fans of schools with little or no interest in this story.  That's simply dreadful misbehavior, and as Matt said, a really unfortunate commentary on the state of college basketball fandom.  But I digress.

With Jones now ostensibly coming to UK, this means that the 2010 recruiting class is not only #1 nationally, but also is arguably better than last years'.  I know some won't agree because of the singular nature of John Wall's talent and the rapid development of DeMarcus Cousins, but this class has much better balance than last year in a lot of fundamental ways.

Unlike last year when most of Kentucky's talent was shared between three players -- Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and Wall, this year's class is more diverse and has the skill spread among more different players -- we have great post play, great rebounding, great athleticism, great decision-making and great shooting.  At the very minimum, we lacked shooting, especially consistent shooting, last year.

The 2010-11 version of Kentucky will not contain a singular athlete of Wall's stature, nor a freakish rebounder in the mold of Cousins, but it will have major depth at every position and much more versatility in both the front and back court.  Let's have a quick review of the team as it stands right now, and as I see it:

Scholarship Player Brings to the table
1 Jon Hood Athleticism, length, can shoot the ball from the wing and finish at the rim. Significant role player next year.
2 Darnell Dodson Shooting, length, and the ability to score points in bunches. Role player next year.
3 DeAndre Liggins Energy, length, ballhandling, perimeter shooting and defense. Starter or major reserve.
4 Darius Miller Experience, toughness, maturity. Long, smooth athlete.  Should be an improved shooter and good position rebounder. Starter next year.
5 Josh Harrellson Front-court depth, can face and shoot, big body. Role player next year.
6 Brandon Knight Shooting, decision-making, defense and passing. Starting point guard.
7 Stacey Poole Shooting, rebounding and versatility. Role player next year.
8 Doron Lamb Shooting, ballhandling, passing, good size for position. Versatile guard who will be a starter or major reserve next year.
9 Enes Kanter Tenacious rebounder who can post, face, and defend. Starter next year.
10 Terrence Jones Versatile athlete who can shoot, rebound and defend his position. Long and runs the floor well. Starter next year.
11 Eloy Vargas Long forward who can face, shoot from the perimeter and run the floor well. Not a great athlete, but more skilled than many thihnk.  Significant role player next year.
12 --Unfilled--
13 --Unfilled--

Of course, things may change between now and November, and there is no telling who will emerge in what position.  We often see players for whom we see in a fairly limited role emerge as a contender for a starting spot, and make a major impact on the team.  That could come from several places next year, but with four Rivals 5-star players, Kentucky is as loaded with young talent as any team in the nation.

The front court, which was looking very thin only two weeks ago, now is replete with size and skill.  Vargas and Jones completely changed the front court picture for the Wildcats, and that will make a big difference in the expectations for next year's team.

So as we look forward to Big Blue Madness next fall, the Big Blue Nation can now relax just a bit in the knowledge that this team now resembles a complete team that should be able to compete at the highest level.  Kentucky is probably a year away from competing for the national title, but the pieces for a great 2010 campaign are in place now, and ready for deployment.  We should be seeing a lot more of the Dribble Drive Motion next year, although recent developments have made it possible for Kentucky to mix in traditional sets as well, which is a flexibility that looked somewhat doubtful only a couple of weeks ago.

The 'Cats are sitting pretty again for next year.  This will be a long, anxious summer.