TAYLOR: Cats have fresh start and new mission

No superstars, no problem. All during preseason, Kentucky's basketball program and its players have shunned the national spotlight. To open the season, the Wildcats aren't ranked among the Top 5 teams in the country and don't have a single player on the roster listed on an abundant supply of all-american teams listed by various publications and media outlets.

No superstars, no problem.

All during preseason, Kentucky's basketball program and its players have shunned the national spotlight. To open the season, the Wildcats aren't ranked among the Top 5 teams in the country and don't have a single player on the roster listed on an abundant supply of all-american teams listed by various publications and media outlets.

The Wildcats were listed No. 22 in the Associated Press poll released earlier this week. The ranking was a far cry from what the team is used to at this time of the year, but being at the bottom echelon of the poll may not be a bad thing. It simply means the coaches and the players have something to shoot for once the season begins.

As some coaches like to put it, it's not how you start, but rather how you finish.

Just because Kentucky is flying under the radar screen at the current moment doesn't mean some big things aren't in store as Tubby Smith begins his 10th season in Lexington.

A year ago, the status of Randolph Morris and whether or not he would play created a distraction for the first part of the season. Although no one was willing to admit it, the Morris problem created a bigger one at the time.

The Morris saga continued well into the first month of the season, until the NCAA made a decision on his status for the rest of the year in December. Morris played, but it wasn't the same as what could had the temptation of playing in the NBA hadn't been so strong following his freshman campaign at Kentucky.

A glass full of playing time is better than one half empty.

No one, including Rajon Rondo, wanted to take up the leadership role.

Make no mistake about it. Rondo is a talented player, but at times last season, nobody wanted to move and set screens on offense and just waited to see what Rondo was going to do next. That likely explains why Brandon Stockton took over as the team's point guard during a crucial stretch that helped the Cats avoid missing the NCAA Tournament.

In two exhibition games, this team has shown that it doesn't have a legitimate superstar, but has several players capable of making a big play down the stretch, thus giving Smith and his staff more options during close games.

Sometimes having more than one player to call on when it counts is a good thing and creates more problems for opposing coaches. The cast is a mixture of veterans and newcomers, which gives the team a fresh start and a new mission. The Cats have no where to go but up once the ball is officially tipped up on Wednesday night at Rupp Arena.


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