"Think you used enough dynamite there Butch?"
Like a serial-thief in possession of a constitution akin to an Enron executive, John Calipari, in broad daylight, blows up the recruiting world ...
Well, we all knew it was a possibility, but dared not "knew it" too much for fear of being wrong or jinxing the process. But Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has once again displayed why the combination of his demonstrable recruiting charisma, which makes him perhaps the ultimate recruiter in college basketball, coupled with one of the elite college basketball universities, makes for a lethal combination for all those hoping to keep up.
The practice facilities, the arena full of zealots, the comparatively plush living quarters, the television exposure, the beautiful campus, the, umm, beautiful campus sights, the unparalleled history, and the envied tradition of UK, all conspire to make playing basketball at the University of Kentucky an attractive option for most high school studly do-rights. But, we are quickly discovering; The NBA experience of John Calipari, as well as his player-friendly dribble-drive motion offense, and his ability to make his already uber-talented players better, add to the unique amenities UK has to offer, and a nudge is all most players need to cast their lot with the 'Cats.
And casting they are ... like never before.
With last year's inking of consensus No. 1 recruit John Wall, and this season's signing of the Rivals.com No.1 recruit, in the form of point guard Brandon Knight, along with gaining the verbal commitment of the best high school player in all the land regardless of class, 6-7 junior small forward Michael Gilchrist, Calipari has, for the first time in history (as far as I can ascertain), landed the top high school player in America three straight years (based on the Rivals.com top-150). A terrific trifecta, indeed, and impressive, to say the least.
Adding to the volatility of the mixture of UK's 2010 class is top-30 wing Stacey Poole, and the player already projected to be a top-10 NBA Draft choice in 2011, 6-11 center Enes Kanter. And folks, Calipari isn't done yet. With ample roster spots available, and a serious need for a power forward and possibly a shooting guard, Calipari is locked-in on top-14 forwards C.J. Leslie and Terrence Jones. No. 21 overall, shooting guard Doron Lamb, has also had a bead drawn on him by Calipari, and with persistent rumors pointing toward announcements from Lamb, and possibly guard Josh Selby at this weekends Jordan Brand Classic in New York City, it may not be long before Kentucky fans know just how happy to be.
But regardless of the decisions of the best remaining high school players available, Kentucky and Calipari have left an indelible mark on the present, and future, of the recruitment of the lords of the court. As long as Calipari continues to successfully pursue the best high school players in the nation, as a result, he will have to continually restock the Big Blue cupboard. And with Calipari's historic 2009 and 2010 recruiting hauls, the gauntlet has been enthusiastically cast for those coaches not fortunate enough to call Lexington home. For Calipari has shown he can reload with vigor, which indicates a future worthy of Ray-Bans for the Big Blue faithful.
A Big Blue faithful once loathe to compare recruiting classes with Duke, North Carolina, and even the once nouveau riche Florida Gators, can now rejoice in the knowledge that John Calipari is serious about restocking the UK roster with the absolute best talent available. All of the hand-wringing and what-ifs over not getting the big one seems to be a worry of the past.
But lastly, what shouldn't be lost in all the Calipari back-slapping is the work of the UK assistant coaches, who all are at least partly responsible for procuring what may be two top-rated classes in a row for the 'Cats. John Robic, Orlando Antigua, and Rod Strickland should all be congratulated for their yeomen-like work on the recruiting trail. A trail becoming more and more crowded and competitive.
Often-times those vying to prove themselves worthy of occupying the head chair are left off the congratulations caravan, but consider this my thank you to Robic, Antigua, and Strickland for working alongside Calipari with never-ending passion to bring the nations best ballers to Rupp Arena.
Where We Now Stand
The addition of point guard Knight, center/forward Kanter, and wing player Poole, to Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Jon Hood, Josh Harrellson, and hopefully a happy Darnell Dodson, Kentucky currently has eight scholarships spoken for. With the most glaring need (as mentioned above) at the power forward spot, and shooting guard, going forward Calipari must put on a full-court press to nab at least two of the following players: forward C.J. Leslie, forward Terrence Jones, shooting guard Doron Lamb, guard Josh Selby, or three-star forward Marcus Thornton.
If Calipari accomplishes that goal, then the 'Cats will be ready, willing, and able to continue their upward climb toward their goal of kicking down the door to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. The Elite Eight is nice, but we've been there, done that, four times now in the last 12 years. It's time grab the prize by the throat and make it UK's own.
Will this be the class? Will this be the group that earns the ever-lasting adulation of a ravished fan-base? The coming days and weeks will surely begin to tell the tale.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!