to-turnover ratio. In the six NCAA Tournament games, he tallied 38 assists, 16 steals and just five turnovers, while averaging a team-leading 30 minutes per game.
"Next to the definition of winner in Webster's Dictionary should be Anthony's picture," Pitino remarked.
Epps' savvy, along with his experience, will give him the upper hand for playing time over Wayne Turner, who started eight games as a freshman in January and February last season. The jet-quick Turner is a lead guard who loves to penetrate and score.
"He has worked harder than any other player on improving his jump shot," Pitino said. "It's gone from subpar to above average. I think Wayne is going to be a terrific point guard for us."
Steve Masiello will also work into a backup role. The walk-on freshman from White Plains, N.Y., joins the team after averaging 34-5 points and eight assists per game at The Harvey School. Masiello was an honorable mention All-State performer as a senior after leading his team to the New England Conference Championship his junior year.
The familiar depth is not just limited to point guard. Competing for playing time at the two-guard will be Anderson, Sheppard, Allen Edwards and Cameron Mills. The 6-4 Anderson is the team's leading returning scorer (9.4 ppg) and rebounder (3.4 ppg). He started 24 of the 36 games last season, mostly at small forward. But with the loss of Delk, coupled with the late-season emergence of Mercer, Anderson will likely start at the shooting guard position in the season opener.
Sheppard will see ample playing time, but if he redshirts, the back-up role will fall to a number of possible candidates. Edwards, who continues to improve, will likely back-up both the two and three positions. Epps could also play the two-guard spot when Turner is at the point. Even Mills, the junior who earned his first scholarship this season, will have a chance to unleash his patented jumper, as long as he shows improvement defensively.
"Our perimeter game is the strength of our team," Pitino said. "It's a team that's very strong at the one, two and three. But how strong remains to be seen. Because again, you're talking about support players from last
year. Edwards, Mercer, Sheppard and Turner were all support players. You can't base everything on potential. Potential must be proven before you can speak in concrete terms."
But Pitino's excitement with the Cats' potential can't be hidden when he speaks of Mercer. The Nashville native finished his freshman season with a career night against Syracuse, scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor, including 3-4 from three-point land.
"Ron, we feel, will live up to his ability," Pitino said. "He has the potential to be one of the greatest Kentucky has ever had. If Ron stays around for four years, I think he'll become one of the most exciting players to ever put on a Kentucky uniform."
Allen Edwards will see more time at both shooting guard and small forward.