Perhaps the first warning sign for the 2012-12 Kentucky Wildcats basketball team came on April 17, 2012. It was just a couple of weeks since the Wildcats cut down the nets for their eighth national title and the Kentucky players just held a press conference to announce they were going to forego their college careers for the NBA. Among the players was PG Marquis Teague. Teague’s departures left Kentucky woefully thin at the PG position with transfer Ryan Harrow set to carry the mantle for Calipari point guards. Backing up Harrow would be former walk on Jarrod Polson and little used Twany Beckham.
Harrow had tons of potential, but was in the most part, a huge question mark. His freshman season at NC State was solid, but not spectacular. But the reports from Kentucky’s practice during the season was promising. Various whispers stated that if Harrow was eligible the 2011-12 season, his practice play indicated that he could press Marquis Teague for playing time. The practice reviews of Harrow were mostly raves, but in the end, really accounted for nothing.
Shortly after the NBA announcement, John Calipari set to fill in the pieces on his NBA devastated team. When former Xavier PG Mark Lyons became available, Kentucky got involved in the battle for his services, despite Lyon’s somewhat checkered past. Mark Lyons visited Kentucky on April 30th and made a followup meeting with John Calipari. Despite Lyons’s personal baggage, Calipari pursued Lyons, perhaps sensing that this team needed veteran leadership and that he may need another option to Ryan Harrow. In the end, Lyons headed to Arizona, where he would start for the Wildcats and lead them in scoring with 15.4 ppg and into the Sweet Sixteen.
And for Calipari, the search for experience and leadership continued. About a week after Lyons decided upon Arizona, Calipari added Wright State SG Julius Mays to the roster. Mays was not a true PG, but could play the point and would provide senior leadership. But apparently Calipari was still not convinced his guard roster was enough. In late August, Wells went after another former Xavier player with a checkered past, Dezmine Wells. Wells was a SG but could provide scoring and was a dynamic player. Wells eventually committed to Maryland, and won a surprise appeal to become eligible for this season. Wells went on to lead Maryland in scoring with 13.2 ppg. Unable to add any additional depth, Kentucky readied for battle for the upcoming basketball season.
While Kentucky rolled through their exhibition slate of games, not everyone was in awe of the Wildcats pasting inferior opponents. Former UK great Cameron Mills, in a WBN podcast right before the tip of the regular season, expressed his concern over the defensive liabilities of this team. Mills said that this years team “was not that good right now” on defense and stressed the importance of finding a leader. He also stressed the importance of team play and the concept of “We go further than I do”. For most Kentucky fans, Mills’s concerns would go unheard and he seemed to be in the minority of people expressing concern about this team.