Looking at the positives of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball season

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Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

With all the over-analyzation of the Wildcats this year, it’s hard to forget the positives. This team is a long ways from the 2012-13 NIT team and while it is not the 40-0 team fans wanted, is probably closer to the 2010-11 Final Four team. With more potential if that makes sense. All the negativity has a way of wearing down the fans and such when in reality, this is a pretty darn good basketball team. John Clay helps us look at the bright side of life with UK basketball.

 Let’s look for the positives.

Of UK’s five losses, not one was by double figures. OK, maybe the LSU loss should have been double figures. The Tigers led by as many as 15 in the second half. The Cats did close the gap late, however, and ended up losing by five points, though to be fair it wasn’t really that close.

Back in November, the Cats trailed Michigan State by 13 with 11:31 to go, but rallied to tie with 4:48 remaining before losing. They were tied 44-44 with North Carolina at the 14:14 mark before losing. They led Baylor by nine points with 13:07 left before losing. They lost at Arkansas on a last-second follow dunk in overtime.

Compare that to some other Top 25 teams. No. 6 Villanova lost at home to Creighton by 28. No. 7 Kansas lost at Texas by 12. No. 8 Duke lost at Clemson by 13. No. 9 Michigan State lost at home to North Carolina by 14. No. 10 Cincinnati lost at SMU by 21 on Saturday night. No. 11 Iowa State lost at West Virginia by 25 on Monday night.


Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Hood’s Kentucky career has not panned out the way that he imagined, but he has a chance to really make an impact heading down the home stretch of this season. Against Mississippi State, Hood was one of UK’s “hustle guys” and helped spark the lethargic Wildcats. And regardless of his playing time, he has a chance to be a great Wildcat leader.

Even if Hood never steps on the floor again this season, his coaches and teammates say he’s an important part of this UK squad.

“I would say Jon Hood has been one of our most prominent leaders,” said assistant coach Kenny Payne. “He’s one of the most energetic guys in practice, totally positive, comes in every day and works his tail off. And when he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it and played really well. I thought it would be hard for us to win that game at Mississippi State without him.”

Payne acknowledged that it’s “extremely hard” to be a leader when you rarely see any time on the court.

Before Saturday, Hood had played in just seven games all season — never more than six minutes in any contest. The last time he played more than two minutes in a game had been the victory over Robert Morris on Nov. 17.

“But he’s never deterred,” Payne said. “He’s always being positive, he’s always talking to guys, motivating guys, and when his time came, again, he produced.”

The young McDonald’s All-Americans on this team have plenty of reasons to listen to what Hood has to say.

The NBA players he’s practiced against and played alongside over the last four-plus years is mind-boggling: Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Nerlens Noel, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Patrick Patterson, and the list goes on.


Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Like Jon Hood, things did not happen at UK like Ryan Harrow imagined and after the season, he headed to tiny Georgia State which would be his third team in four years. And after a slow start, things are working out for Harrow. His Panthers have won 14 games in a row and Harrow is a big reason why. And he finally seems happy playing basketball.

“Most kids coming out of high school choose a college based on the crowd, the size of the arena, the I’m-going-to-get-to-the-NBA (attitude) — all the wrong reasons. That’s why our transfer rates are so high. So, by the time they come back to you those things aren’t as important anymore.”

Harrow saw the bright lights of Raleigh and Lexington before transferring home to be nearer his father. Mark Harrow suffered a stroke the summer of 2012.When he arrived, Harrow was so concerned about fitting in that Hunter had to caution him not to over-pass, not to be too selfless.

He is the Panthers’ second-leading scorer, just behind R.J. Hunter’s 20 per game.Going from Rupp Arena to the GSU Sports Arena (capacity 3,400) has been not the shock it would seem, Harrow said.”I’m extremely happy. We’re winning games. I get to see my family and friends. The boys have accepted me. Coach Hunter has made me into a better player, a more mature player,” he said. Best of all, he has one more season of eligibility remaining.

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