MOON, Pa. — Three Kentucky freshmen who have been projected at times as possible NBA draft lottery picks all indicated they are learning to coming back for their sophomore seasons.
Kentucky lost 59-57 to Robert Morris in an NIT first-round game Tuesday, and Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein will not have long to decide what they want to do about next season. However, Goodwin made it clear he thought he would be back.
“I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going (to the NBA) or not. I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave,” said Goodwin, who led UK with 18 points. “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 that’s what says we should all come back.”
Kentucky, a preseason top-five team with the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, finished 21-12 and lost four of its last five games.
“If any of us were saying we think we should leave, then we’d all be delusional. None of us need to leave,” Goodwin said. “So I just feel that’s going to help us in the long run because next year we have a strong group coming in and we’re going to continue to get better. … I think it’ll work out for us in the end, like it did last year. If you recall, the only one that left was Brandon Knight — and Enes Kanter, but he didn’t play. The other guys came back and they got a championship. Hopefully we can do the same thing with this group.”
Goodwin admitted that “was just me talking” and he didn’t know what others, including Nerlens Noel who didn’t travel with the team after having surgery to repair his knee last week, would do for sure.
“Maybe some freak stuff happens to where people leave, including myself. But I don’t see that happening because we didn’t have near the year we were supposed to have as a team or individually, so I don’t feel none of us should leave,” he said.
Poythress had just six points and two rebounds Tuesday. He said he would talk to his family and coach John Calipari about his future, but that he is “leaning” to coming back because of the way this season went for him and the team.
“We feel like we came here and just stunk it up this year pretty much. We just have to regroup and come back stronger next year. Just come back and play,” he said. “You came here for a certain reason and you just disappointed all the fans, disappointed all the coaches. Nobody wants to end on a loss, especially a loss like this. Nobody wants to go out like that.
“I feel like I disappointed a lot of people. It is just frustrating. I do (think I will be back). I don’t think I am ready (for the NBA). You just have to get used to it. You just have to focus on the offseason. That is when you get better and continue to regroup and maybe next year we can have a better year.
Cauley-Stein had three early turnovers in Tuesday’s loss and finished with nine points, four rebounds, one block and four turnovers in 36 minutes.
He said he had “no idea” if anyone else was ready for the NBA, but knew he was 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,” Cauley-Stein said.
He said his decision would depend on his “situation” because he had to look out for his family.
“I want to win a national championship. Could be next year. Could be the year after. But I never won a ring before, and I really want a ring before I leave college,” he said. “If it comes down to it, if my family needs me, then I’ll go. But if not, I’ll stay and get a couple more years of education and develop myself (into) more of an all-around basketball player.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said he will have individual meetings with the players soon.
“I told them one thing to expect from me is to be honest with you. That’s what I will do,” said Calipari, who had six players drafted last year including four in the first round. “I will be honest with every one of the guys. I told the guys I love everyone of you and will look after you, but you will hear the truth and we will be a tough team next year. We will be a tough, hard-nosed fighting team next year. I can’t sit through this again.”