April 23, 2014

Johnson's return adds to stacked UK frontcourt

Despite two NBA departures, Kentucky's frontcourt will be fully loaded in 2014-15.

Freshman center Dakari Johnson on Wednesday became the fourth player in the Wildcats' frontcourt player to announce he'll return to school next season, joining freshman Marcus Lee and sophomores Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress.

"After looking at the information provided to me by Coach Cal and the NBA committee, my family and I made the decision for me to return to UK for my sophomore year," Johnson said in a statement released by UK. "Returning to school allows me to build on my leadership skills, improve my individual basketball strength and conditioning skills, and have another opportunity to accomplish one of my individual goals: winning an NCAA national championship in college."

In addition to Johnson, Lee, Cauley-Stein and Poythress, freshman Derek Willis will return next season. Kentucky adds McDonald's All-American forwards Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles.

Power forward Julius Randle and swingman James Young -- Kentucky's leading scorers this season -- have announced they'll enter the NBA Draft. Still, Johnson's return means that UK will return 763 points and 604 rebounds from its 2013-14 frontcourt.

The 7-foot, 265-pound Johnson averaged 5.2 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman. He scored a career-high 15 points in an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 win against Louisville and had 10 points and seven rebounds in a Final Four win against Wisconsin.

"I'm happy to have Dakari back with us for next season," head coach John Calipari said. "Despite being the youngest player on the team this season, he continued to improve every day on the court and it showed. We look forward to seeing his improvement over the summer and throughout next year."

Johnson was projected as a possible late first-round pick. ESPN.com's Chad Ford ranked him as the No. 36 prospect available in the draft had he elected to enter.

His announcement leaves Kentucky with two players who have yet to declare their future plans. Twin guards Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison have yet to announce whether they'll return for their sophomore seasons or enter the NBA Draft. Ford ranks Andrew Harrison the No. 32 prospect in the draft and Aaron Harrison No. 34.



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