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July 29, 2013

Ex-Cats see big things ahead for 2013-14 team

There's no denying last season was disappointing for Kentucky basketball, but with a top recruiting class and a few key pieces returning, expectations are high for the 2013-2014 season.

And some of the non-returning pieces, Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays, believe if the current Wildcats heed their advice and listen to John Calipari, they can meet those expectations.

"I've been back and forth and I've worked out with them a few times," Mays said at The Prasco John Calipari Basketball ProCamp on Monday. "From what I've seen, they've got all the talent in the world. Like I told them: If they can all check their egos at the door and - I know once Coach Cal gets his hands on all of them and gets them playing together - they're going to be real dangerous."

Last season had fewer ups than downs, and for the first time in Calipari's tenure at UK he couldn't get all his players to buy into his system.

Goodwin said if the players buy into what Calipari's saying and don't get down on themselves, the 2013-2014 team could avoid some of the same mistakes last season's team made.

"My biggest advice would be to listen to what Coach Cal says and not how he says it," Goodwin said. "I feel like last year we had a couple guys that, when he said things, the way he said it really put guys down because they're not used to the way he coaches.

"It's kind of hard to get used to that coming from high school where you're able to do whatever you want. But if they just listen to what he says instead of how he says it, they'll be just fine. Because like I said, they have all the athletic ability and all the talent in the world. They've just got to make sure their head is mentally right."

Last season's team also boasted the nation's top recruiting class but never could establish a leader. Noel said it's crucial for a young team to have a leader.

"And establishing team chemistry early on in the year and make sure a leader steps up, because a young team like that, they're especially going to need a leader that's always going to keep them like a rock-solid team and always keep those guys composed," Noel said.

But Noel believes that shouldn't be an issue.

"They've got a lot of mature players," he said. "It's just definitely staying focused for them."

And Noel would know best. He was in the 2013 class before reclassifying to the 2012 class. He grew up playing against players in the 2013 class before making the switch.

"They're really talented players, great work ethics, and they just really have the fire- and what Kentucky's about: playing hard and just getting here and being about Kentucky basketball," Noel said.

Forward Julius Randle has stood out to Goodwin. Randle is rated the No.2 player in the Rivals150.

Randle expects to bring a certain toughness that was lacking at times last season.

"Julius, he really stands out to me," Goodwin said. "He's a competitive guy just like I was, in the gym every night just like I was, from what I've seen. So I feel like he's going to be a really good player. As far as the other guys, they're still doing their things."

And Goodwin believes UK will have a great chance at winning its second championship in three years.

"I feel like with the team they have this year, just the talent alone is going to win a championship," Goodwin said. "It's just a matter of them meshing together. Their competitive spirit is going to be there because it's just too many guys on this team that hate to lose. I feel like they're going to do some special things."


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