Kentucky got some big news on Monday afternoon as sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein took to Twitter to announce his return to Lexington for his junior season.
The 7-foot Cauley-Stein averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.2 steals on 59 percent shooting during his sophomore year at Kentucky before injuring his ankle during Kentucky’s Sweet 16 win over Louisville. Cauley-Stein missed the rest of the 2014 NCAA Tournament as he watched from the sidelines on crutches. It is unclear how serious the ankle injury to the sophomore center really is and it could be part of the reason for his return next season.
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Cauley-Stein was regarded as the No. 12 prospect in the 2014 Draft Express NBA mock draft.
This is huge news for Kentucky — and it makes for an interesting frontcourt dilemma for head coach John Calipari next season. Although freshman power forward Julius Randle is expected to leave for the 2014 NBA Draft, freshman forward Marcus Lee and freshman center Dakari Johnson are expected to return next season — although the return of Cauley-Stein could complicate matters.
Calipari also reloaded with two more McDonald’s All-Americans in the frontcourt for 2014-15 as incoming freshmen forward Trey Lyles and freshman center Karl Towns are both signed for next season.
Kentucky will now wait to hear the fate of Randle, freshman wing James Young and the Harrison twins for next season.
Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.
Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.
Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.
Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.
Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.
Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).
In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.