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UK's freshmen fit in fine with veterans

The revolving door of talent spun out John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton and spun in Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Stacey Poole and Doron Lamb.

Yet somehow Kentucky hasn’t spun out of control.

The Wildcats may have a blemish on their record sooner than last season -- in Game 5 rather than Game 20 -- but Kentucky has managed to sync and mesh its new parts with a seamlessness some teams would envy (for example, North Carolina, UK’s opponent on Saturday afternoon).

A roster of uber-talent certainly eases the pain of any potentially rocky transition, but for it to really work -- for a team to basically reinvent itself two years in a row -- there has to be more.

“We’re together all the time,” junior guard Darius Miller said. “We live in the same place; we go places and do things together. All of that builds relationships and trust. You can’t win if you don’t have that.”

Miller is one of a handful of non-moving parts on the Kentucky roster. Just 20, he is a seasoned veteran by UK standards, one of only three Wildcats to have worn a Kentucky uniform for more than two years.

If anyone’s patience could have been tested, it is his and that of his veteran teammates, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson. They spent one year playing for Billy Gillispie, another adjusting to John Calipari and entered this season with basically a reworked roster.

Yet Miller & Co. feel no frustration. Instead they have helped foster the connection Kentucky needed, first on campus and later in Canada.

The Wildcats spent three days playing games in Windsor, but more importantly, 10 days preparing for the trip. The experience and time together proved invaluable as John Calipari reconfigured his squad.

“That whole trip was huge for us,” Miller said. “It was like getting a head start, so the guys could get used to practice, to understanding what coach wants.”

There is, of course, a natural tendency to compare this Kentucky team to last season’s. Before David Stern closed the curtain on the 2010 NBA draft, fans began to wonder where Brandon Knight stood on a scale of one to John Wall and whether this crew of freshman could take the extra step its predecessors missed, namely a trip to the Final Four.

It is what fans do, what fans frankly are supposed to do while they stand around the watercooler on Monday mornings and the watering holes on Friday nights.

It is not, however, what players do, not even ones blessed with front-row seats to witness the greatness of Wall or the evolution of Knight.

“No, we don’t do that at all; it wouldn’t be fair,” Miller said. “This team is completely different. We’re different players. We play a different style. These guys came in here with the right attitude: be yourself. They came in ready to play their own game.”

It just so happens their game has transitioned quite nicely.

The revolving door may spin at Kentucky, but no one is feeling too dizzy.