VAUGHT: Where does Buike's departure leave UK?

So many of us were wrong and Kelenna Azubuike signed with an agent hoping to become a first-round draft pick. Where does that leave the Wildcats going into next season?

Kelenna Azubuike has signed with an agent hoping to become a first-round draft pick. That's old news by now. Where does that leave the Wildcats going into next season? That is something fans will be discussing all summer long.

Obviously, Azubuike will be missed. What team wouldn't miss its leading scorer? However, if there is one spot Kentucky could afford to take a hit, it might be at Azubuike's position.

Obviously, guards Rajon Rondo and Patrick Sparks return to the positions they played so well this year and have Ramel Bradley ready to back up both of them. All three should be better next year after having one season to play together and learn exactly what coach Tubby Smith expects from them.

Randolph Morris returns at center and in the final few weeks of the season started to show that he could eventually be a dominant player. Assuming both Shagari Alleyne and Lukasz Obrzut return as they indicated, the Cats are set at this position again even if Jared Carter does decide to redshirt.

That leaves the small forward spot Azubuike played. Kentucky has Joe Crawford, a rising star, waiting for more playing time. Joe slides nicely into this spot and will get all the playing time he wants. He also got better late in the season and Azubuike's departure to the NBA would make it easy for him to get the playing time he wants.

Both Ravi Moss and Bobby Perry will provide adequate relief at this spot. Moss could also shift to two guard as needed like he did this year. Then there is incoming freshman Adam Williams, who could be a pleasant surprise if rumors about his improved play are close to accurate.

That leaves power forward, the spot Chuck Hayes is vacating. Smith is still busy trying to find a recruit to help fill the void -- and he probably will. But what happens if Smith doesn't work his recruiting magic?

The Cats are not without options. The guess here is that Sheray Thomas will be the team's most improved player next year now that he's finally healthy. Look for Perry to add needed muscle and be a possibility here. Obrzut would love the chance to play on the court where he feels his skills could be better utilized.

So next year, a starting lineup of Rondo, Sparks, Morris, Crawford and Thomas, Perry or Obrzut would be one a lot of teams would love to have especially with the bench strength the Cats would still have. Throw in a possible signing of a power forward -- or maybe two because you never know with Smith -- and next season looks good enough for UK to be a preseason top 10 team.


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