Tuesday, March 23, 1999

Don't fear for UK's future

Kentucky has talent coming in

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. LOUIS — It's tempting to fear the future. Kentucky's only returning starters next season will be Michael Bradley and Desmond Allison. It may not have a scholarship player in the senior class. If Jamaal Magloire leaves, it could lose 55.5 percent of its scoring.

        But hey, relax. It's Kentucky.

        “Kentucky's always going to have the firepower,” Bradley said. “We'll be all right.”

        UK's second five — junior Magloire, sophomores Saul Smith and Ryan Hogan, and freshmen Tayshaun Prince and Jules Camara — might make a strong starting lineup next year.

        They often played together as a platoon, and a talented one, occasionally beating the starters in practice.

        “That's our team pretty much for next year,” UK coach Tubby Smith said. “Now they've tasted what NCAA (Tournament) play is all about, which can only help them.”

        UK will be young, but very talented. Ballyhooed recruits Marvin Stone and Keith Bogans are on the way — you can see them at 9 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN in the McDonald's All-American game — and this year's freshman class will be a year older and stronger.

        “Those freshmen have given us a big lift off the bench all year,” outgoing senior Wayne Turner said Sunday. “They're going to have something special here next year.”

        Sunday against Michigan State, seniors Scott Padgett, Heshimu Evans and Turner made just 10 of 26 shots (38.5 percent) and totaled 28 points. By contrast, freshmen Prince, Camara and Allison produced 23 points and shot 8-for-15 (53.5 percent).

        Prince, a 1998 McDonald's All-American, seems a star in bloom. The willowy 6-foot-8 swingman averaged 6.5 points, including a perfect shooting night Sunday in scoring a team-high 12 points.

        “I've had confidence in myself all year, even when my shot wasn't falling,” he said. “I know what I'm capable of. We've got a lot of guys capable of doing a lot.”

        There are two trouble spots on the horizon.

        The biggest concerns Magloire's future. A handful of mock drafts project him as a mid-to-late first-round NBA draftee if he comes out. If he does, UK's only senior will be seldom-used walk-on Steve Masiello.

        The second trouble spot is at point guard. Saul Smith has spent two seasons as Turner's understudy, but he struggled with his shot (36.9 percent) this season and had only a 1.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

        Having a coach's son running the team would put both Smiths under a heat lamp.

        UK still has two scholarships remaining and is recruiting a JUCO point guard, Antonio Jackson of Butler County (Kan.) Community College. Jackson hasn't yet narrowed his choices.

        The strength next year? Size. UK could have five players 6-9 or taller: Magloire (if he stays), Bradley, Camara, Stone and incoming freshman Marquis Estill.

        “We've been strong down low the past few years, and we'll still be,” Bradley said.

        NBA scouts are whispering that Camara is the most talented player on campus. Though he has to bulk up his 213-pound frame, he has a deadly turnaround jumper and deceptively quick moves to the basket.

        “The only guy on the team that's a good jump shooter is Camara, and he's 6-11,” UK play-by-play announcer Ralph Hacker said.

        Camara's .534 shooting percentage ranked second only to Bradley's .660. Camara primarily shot 10-foot jumpers; Bradley, mostly dunks and layups.

        Bradley vanished in the postseason and has been stereotyped as a one-dimensional player (no defense). He's a nice guy who needs to get nastier.

        Allison is the team's top defender. Averaging only 4.7 points per game, he will need to become more of a scorer to hang on to his starting spot.

        Fans will be eager to see Bogans and Stone. Stone is a 6-10, 244-pound power forward who'll probably platoon with Camara. Bogans, a 6-4 shooting guard, could displace Allison.

        Estill, 6-9 and 265 pounds, has knee injuries in both knees to rehab. He'll be a project in the Nazr Mohammed mold.

        If all breaks right, UK's first team of the new millennium could contend for a Final Four berth.

        “We're going to remember losing and how we felt (Sunday), and use that to motivate us to work hard in the offseason,” Bradley said.


Kentucky Stories
- Don't fear for UK's future
Next season's Kentucky lineup