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Three Kentucky stars say they likely return. Well, they say that now.

Mar 20, 2013, 10:27 AM EDT

Florida v Kentucky Getty Images

Here is a sentence we will be retyping a lot over the next few weeks:

Never believe what a college player says about his future in the minutes after he is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. In the emotion of the moment they almost always say they will return, then upon reflection in a few weeks, with the temptation of the NBA money out there, some change their minds. Whether they should or not. It happens every year.

In Kentucky, Nerlens Noel is gone. Well, he’s not talking but I’m stunned if he stays. Despite the ACL injury he is pretty much a lock top 3 NBA draft pick and possible No. 1 overall.

But what about Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin? Well, after Kentucky’s NIT loss to Robert Morris Tuesday they all told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com that they are leaning toward returning to Kentucky.

“I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going [to the NBA] or not,” Goodwin said. “I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year … and just try to do better than what we did this year. Because the expectations we had for ourselves this year, we didn’t meet them at all. We didn’t come close. So I think think that’s what says we should all come back…”

Poythress was asked whether he thinks he will stay in school: “Yeah, I do. I don’t think I’m ready [for the NBA]. I don’t even think I’m ready for — you’ve just got to get used to it. You’ve just gotta come back and be focused on the offseason. That’s when you get better and just continue to regroup and come back and maybe next year we can have a better year. We’ll have a lot of leadership, a lot of veteran players. This year we had a couple….”

Cauley-Stein was less definitive, noting he will “absolutely” weigh his NBA stock. But he added that “I really want a ring before I leave college” and when asked about Goodwin’s comment that the Wildcat prospects are not ready for the pros, Cauley-Stein said: “I have no idea. I can’t speak for anybody else. I’m not. I feel like I left something out. Something’s missing. I’ve got this empty feeling in my gut and I want to fill it.”

Again, take it with a grain of salt. We’ll see what they say in a few weeks.

Poythress is a possible lottery pick; DraftExpress.com has him at 15 in this draft. He’s an athletic wing with a lot of potential who can defend and play at both ends. Problem is he is very inconsistent and there are questions about his motivation and desire.

Goodwin is a two guard who would go middle of the first round this year. Again very athletic (aren’t all Kentucky players lately) who can score shooting from the outside or driving the lane. He needs to learn to pick his spots better (especially in the NBA where he will be a role player) but again teams like his potential

Cauley-Stein is raw and really would benefit more than the other two from another year in college (which is why DraftExpress.com lists him in their 2014 draft class). But he’s a mobile, athletic 7’0” center and you know how NBA teams are desperate for quality bigs, so he would go in the middle of the first round somewhere if he came out. But if you draft him he’s a project. He’s athletic but needs a whole lot of polish. Still, not a bad gamble for a team.

Those guys are first round picks, three years guaranteed NBA money if they come out now. It may not be the best thing for all of them, but I but at least two jump to the NBA next season.

  1. bucrightoff - Mar 20, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Well yeah, they clearly didn’t earn their Calipari pay this year, so come back next year and earn that money. Being bounced in the first round of the NIT is embarassing.

  2. karlton3 - Mar 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    “Never believe what a college player says about his future in the minutes after he is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.”

    —————————————————

    Or, apparently the NIT tournament either.

    Big Blew.

    LOL.

  3. bucrightoff - Mar 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    They get paid better at Kentucky

    • icanhazblogs - Mar 20, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      Wow, great insight.

  4. gmsalpha - Mar 20, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    If UK had a mediocre class coming in next year, I can see them staying….maybe. But they have a monster group coming in, so now their playing time will get cut at the very least. Another year together is not going to make a huge difference because they simply don’t have the same chemistry and level of selflessness that last year’s champions had.

    If I’m a UK guy who is a near-lock to be an early to mid 1st round pick, I’m gone. No question. Your stock may get better if you make the Elite Eight or better next year, but that’s assuming you also show improvement in your game, and now you’re fighting for playing time? My advice would be to leave. You had high expectations as a top 5 pre-season team playing for the reigning NCAA champ, but it was a disaster of a year. Look to the future and forget about your year in Lexington as quickly as you can.

    Calipari is an excellent recruiter, but talent alone does not a champion make. I’d be shocked if he has another group that gels the same way the Davis/Kidd-Gilchrist/Teague group did.

  5. thetooloftools - Mar 20, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    They are coming back because they tanked so bad and showed so little heart at the end of the season none of them might evern be drafted if they did come out.

    • cmehustle - Mar 20, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      Na, all four of those guys would go in the first round. Even last season the entire starting five and sixth man got drafted. The problem with coming back is they got two guys coming in so good on the wing that Goodwin and Pothyreus or whatever the hell his name is might not even start. Cal talked about competition next season and you can bet he meant those two. So they may want to take a bigger look at the draft, this may be the highest they will ever get in a down draft year.

  6. birdsflynorth206 - Mar 20, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    It would be smart for all them to come back unless they want to play in the D-league next year, but with the recruiting class Kentucky has coming in is the smart move to stay

  7. dko83 - Mar 20, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    Julius Randle commits to UK today. Keep hating on the Cats… You’ll hate it even more when they DOMINATE the field next year.

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