John Calipari, Ryan Harrow

Christmas Wish List: A steady Ryan Harrow is vital for Kentucky

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Ryan Harrow to become a good point guard

For all the talent that Kentucky has on their roster, if this team is truly going to reach their full potential, they need Ryan Harrow to be able to run the show. Do they need him to be Derrick Rose or John Wall? No, because he’s simply just not that good. They don’t even need him to be Marquis Teague. What the Wildcats need is for Harrow to do is to play a role similar to what Quinn Cook does for Duke. He needs to be able to bring the ball up and get the Wildcats into their sets. He needs to hit open threes when they are there and be able to beat his man off the dribble when the situation presents itself.

He doesn’t need to carry the load offensively. Archie Goodwin is good enough to do that. He can be the guy that the offense runs through. The comparisons to Tyreke Evans are fair. Harrow simply needs to be the one that gets Goodwin — and Alex Poythrees, Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays — the ball where he can be effective. (Evans was the point guard for that 2008 Memphis team, but he also had Anthony Anderson in the back court with him.) The problem? I’m still not convinced Harrow can be that guy, but his play in the last two games — eight points and six assists against Portland, 12 points and two assists against Lipscomb — are definitely a step in the right direction.

Stocking stuffer: Consistency for Alex Poythress

The frustrating thing about Alex Poythress is that he can, quite literally, be as good as he wants to be. We all saw what he was able to do against Duke. He’s got the size, strength and athleticism to be a monster on the glass. He’s also got the perimeter skills to hit threes and use the dribble to go from the three point line to the rim. Put a smaller guy on him, and he’ll dominate inside. Put a bigger guy on him, and he’ll show off his face-up game. But until the effort is there — every possession and every game — Poythress will never reach his full potential, which is saying something given the fact he is averaging 15.0 points and 6.3 boards right now.

Planning on re-gifting: Big men

You want to know the biggest issue with this Kentucky team? Four of their five best players are in the front court, and unless John Calipari only uses two of them at the same time, someone is going to be playing out of position. Do you really want to have Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein on the floor at the same time when they are both the same player? Do you want Kyle Wiltjer to try and defend a three on the perimeter? Poythress is a prototypical new-age power forward, and sliding him over to the small forward spot takes away some of that advantage.

Texas lands commitment from top 100 center

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James Banks announced on Thursday that he has committed to Texas, joining Jacob Young in Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns.

Banks is an interesting prospect. A 6-foot-10 center from Georgia, Banks is a still-developing prospect that was recruited more on his potential than his immediate ability.

“James Banks emerged as a good low post prospect this spring and summer,” NBC Recruiting Analyst Scott Phillips said. “With a good set of hands, some offensive potential and a frame that can add weight, Banks is a nice upside grab for Texas.”

He’s probably a few years away from having a major impact in the Big 12, but he may not have that much time to develop. Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Conner Lamert all graduate after this season, meaning that Banks is going to have to contribute immediately when he sets foot on the Austin campus for the 2016-17 season.

Texas has three commitments in the Class of 2015. Smart convinced Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis to remain committed to the program when he took over for Rick Barnes while he landed a commitment from Tevin Mack, who pledged to Smart when he was at VCU.

Memphis guard could miss season with shoulder injury

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Memphis just cannot catch a break.


It’s to the point where I almost feel bad for Josh Pastner.

Today, reported that Kedren Johnson, a 6-foot-4 point guard that was on track towards being an all-SEC point guard at Vanderbilt, could end up missing the season due to a shoulder injury. If he can handle the pain he can avoid surgery and play with the injury, but at the very least, Johnson is going to be less than his best.

Johnson averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 assists last season for the Tigers. He sat out 2013-14 after leaving Vanderbilt and entered last season incredibly out of shape. There was hope that he would be able to make a bigger impact this season and help fill the void at the point guard spot.

This news comes on the heels of Memphis finding out that Jaylen Fisher is heading to UNLV. Who’s Jaylen Fisher? Well, he’s a point guard and top 40 recruit from Memphis that was Pastner’s No. 1 recruiting target that opted to leave the city for his college hoops instead of play for the Tigers.

That’s a bad sign, but not quite as bad as Memphis losing star center Austin Nichols — another local kid — to a transfer over the summer. Nichols transferred to Virginia.