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.