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Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein unlikely to play during team’s August trip

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Per NCAA rules a college basketball program is allowed to take one summer trip outside of the country every four years. Those experiences can be valuable both on and off the court, with players being able to take in some unfamiliar sights while also working with an eye towards the upcoming season. With ten practices allowed before the trip and the exhibition games to be played during the “vacation” a group can develop better chemistry both on the court and away from it.

That’s the goal for Kentucky this summer, as the Wildcats will hit the road in August (according to multiple reports the Bahamas are the likely destination). John Calipari returns some key members of the rotation that reached the national title game last season, and he’ll also be adding some of the best freshmen in the country.

Unfortunately it’s unlikely that one of the returnees will be able to play, as it was reported by Darrell Bird of The Cats Pause on Thursday that rising junior center Willie Cauley-Stein won’t be able to play. Cauley-Stein, who was lost for the season due to an ankle injury suffered in Kentucky’s Sweet 16 victory over Louisville, is still recovering from surgery and will miss the games as a result.

Kentucky’s roster is loaded with nine McDonald’s All-Americans as only two starters jumped to the NBA draft, making it the most experienced club Calipari has fielded in his time at Kentucky. But there is one wrinkle for the summer trip. The Cats will be without 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein, who is recovering from surgery, and Calipari believes that will make for a fascinating dynamic.

“It will be a great trip for our fans to see this team for the first time, especially with Willie not playing,” Calipari said. “Everybody is going to get more minutes and you get to see some different guys.”

Cauley-Stein averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game last season, splitting his time between starting (18 starts) and serving as a valuable reserve off the bench. Once again his athleticism and defensive ability will be valuable assets for Kentucky, which loses Julius Randle from the front court rotation but adds Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Kentucky lost two starters from last season’s national runner-up squad (Randle and guard James Young), and in addition to Lyles and Towns the Wildcats add guards Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.