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Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson to return for sophomore season

Dakari Johnson

Kentucky center Dakari Johnson (44) celebrates after a third-round game against Wichita State at the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. Kentucky won 78-76. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Charlie Riedel

Wednesday’s proven to be a very good day for John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program. Hours after combo forward Alex Poythress announced his decision to return to school for his junior season, center Dakari Johnson made it official that he’ll be back in Lexington for his sophomore campaign.

With his move into the starting lineup in the latter stages of the 2013-14 season and his solid play during the NCAA tournament, there were some questions as to whether or not Johnson would make a run at the NBA. But there are still areas in which he can improve, something Johnson (5.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg) noted in the statement released by Kentucky.

“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 the release. “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.”

Johnson’s decision to return adds another quality piece to to the Kentucky front court in 2014-15, with incoming freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles joining a talented group of returnees that will include Johnson, Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Marcus Lee.

With that much talent on campus some will point out the “fact” that someone won’t be too thrilled with the number of minutes they receive next season. But on the flip side there the competition that should make all parties (and that includes Derek Willis, who didn’t see much playing time this year) better in both the short and long-term.

If all players looking to earn minutes in the front court can see the challenge as an opportunity while also pushing forward in the same direction team-wise, Kentucky’s more than equipped to make a run at the program’s ninth national title.

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