With the majority of the team that reached the national title game returning to campus, not to mention the arrival of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, Kentucky has been pegged by many as the early favorite to win the national title next season. John Calipari’s program will get a head start of sorts in preparing for the 2014-15 season, with the team taking a trip to the Bahamas in mid-August.
Friday morning the team’s plans for the trip, which will run from August 10-17, were revealed with the Wildcats playing six games during their stay in the Bahamas. Kentucky will play two games apiece against the Dominican Republic national team, Puerto Rico’s national team reserves and the French professional club Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket.
“We are excited to make the trip to the Bahamas for our foreign tour,” Calipari said in the release. “Working with Lea and Mason Miller [of Complete Sports Management] has been a pleasure. My goal is for our team to grow together, to learn about one another, to have fun and to compete against teams that will stretch us out.
“These teams should be a challenge that will let us really see where we are at this point. But again, learning and having fun will be the emphasis of the trip. It’s another opportunity for us to fail fast.”
Kentucky will have to account for the departures of Julius Randle and James Young, with both leaving Lexington after one season for the NBA Draft where both are expected to be first-round selections with Randle likely going in the lottery. But the Harrison twins are back on the perimeter, and front court contributors such as Willie Cauley-Stein (he’s unlikely to play after undergoing offseason surgery), Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress return as well.
The practices and games in the Bahamas will help the Wildcats as they look to strengthen the chemistry between the newcomers and a freshman class that features guards Devon Booker and Tyler Ulis and big men Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.
“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”
The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.
What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.
The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.
Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.
Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.
Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.