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March 20, 2013MOON TONWNHIP, Pa. - With one season finished, Kentucky's players already were thinking about the next - and what that team could potentially look like.
Freshmen Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein all said in the locker room following Kentucky's 59-57 loss at Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT Tournament that they had plans on returning for another year.
Although each said they couldn't be 100 percent certain right now, all of them cited this year's disappointing finish as the primary reason they would come back.
"It's no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave," Goodwin said. "We should come back next year and focus on the team that we have and just try to do better than we did this year, because... the expectations that we had for ourselves this year, we didn't meet them at all. We didn't come close to them. I think that's a way to just say that we should all come back."
Cauley-Stein said a first-round NIT exit wasn't the finish he had in mind when he started the season, and he doesn't want that to be the way his college career ends.
"I want to win a national championship," Cauley-Stein said. "It could be next year, it could be the year after, but I never won a ring before, and I really want a ring before I leave college."
Poythress said "there's a lot of regrets and a lot of disappointments" for him and the team this season.
"Nobody wants to leave like this," Poythress said.
But besides feeling like they have unfinished business, each said they have plenty of room left to improve if they return for sophomore seasons.
Goodwin, who averaged 14.1 points on 44 percent shooting with a 0.87 assist-to-turnover ratio, said he improved over the course of the year. He got stronger and became a "better all-around player," he said. But it's not enough for him.
"I don't feel like I had the season I need to have," Goodwin said. "I know that I have a lot to improve on before I get to the next level."
Poythress, who averaged 11.2 points on 58.1 percent shooting and 6.0 rebounds, said he wished he had worked harder and pushed himself further than he did.
"Honestly, I don't think I'm ready," Poythress said. "It's okay to admit that. Everybody can't be John Wall, AD (Anthony Davis), Mike (Kidd-Gilchrist). You just got to - it depends on how you get to stay in college. Everybody's different. They were great players, you see how they're doing right now. Everybody can't be like that."
All three admitted they couldn't be 100 percent certain about a decision right now. Jarrod Polson also noted that they were talking about returning "on a whim" and that, with time, each would find more clarity for their choice.
And plenty of players - including Kidd-Gilchrist toward the end of last season - have said they planned to return only to declare for the draft in the following weeks.
"If something out of the blue happens to where it would benefit me and coach tells me it would benefit me to leave, then I'll leave," Goodwin said. "But I don't see that happening, especially with the year we're having."
Poythress, too, said he doesn't think he needs to "evaluate my options" any further. But he did say he's going to talk to his mother, Calipari and the other coaches to get more input.
Cauley-Stein said his family will make a difference on his decision.
"If it comes down to it, if my family needs me, I'll go," Cauley-Stein said. "If not, I'll stay and get a couple more years of education and develop myself (as) more of an all-around basketball player."
If they do return, they will be joining another No. 1 recruiting class that features five signed five-star players - and, potentially, more of their teammates.
Ryan Harrow said he would have to talk to Calipari about his future, but wanted to stay at Kentucky, even if it does mean more competition from a bolstered roster.
"I mean, we'll be real good next year," Harrow said. "There will be a lot of people playing. You'll have to be fighting for your position, basically, because everybody's going to be good next year."