One of the problems with the embarrassment of riches enjoyed by John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats is that playing time on the 2011-12 team looks very hard to come by, even for great players like Trevor Lacey and DeAndre Daniels. Of course, calling that a "problem" is kind of like hitting the Powerball lottery and realizing you don't have any idea how to handle that much money. It's a problem, but it's the kind of problem everyone would love to try on.
You can trust me that every college coach in America would love to have the problem of a class so good that late-breaking recruits see too little playing time available to go there. John Calipari's absence from the recruiting scene right now is instructive to me. Do you think he would have taken the Dominican Republic job if his team next year depended on Trevor Lacey and DeAndre Daniels? I don't, but then, who really knows?
In any case, a five-star player looking at Kentucky right now has to wonder where he is going to find playing time. At the wings, he is set to go up against an outstanding senior, a top five recruit, and a second-year five-star shooting guard who was a big part of a Final Four season, as well as several talented, experienced returners. Not exactly a formula for a ton of playing time. It's one thing to compete against other similar players for the same job, or less talented returners. It's another to compete against significantly better players and very talented returners.
In the end, I think Lacey's decision was a very good one for him, not to mention Anthony Grant, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and the SEC as a whole. It isn't that Kentucky could not have used Lacey, no doubt we could have. Lacey is a good player who is not a one-and-done type, and he will be at Alabama for two or three years. By the time he leaves, he's likely going to be an all-SEC performer who will wind up somewhere in the NBA draft, unless he surprises me and improves even more than I think he will. Here's what Dave Telep said about Trevor Lacey:
"He is a very good player. He is not a one-and-done guy," said Dave Telep, ESPN.com's respected national recruiting analyst. "He's a guy whose resume could include a professional career. He'll be in Tuscaloosa three or four years and you'll expect him to get better every year. He's not a guy outside maybe the state of Alabama who would be thought of as a one-and-done player."
Lacey would have helped Kentucky's depth in the back court, which we maybe could use a little, but we do have bodies there that will certainly be better next year, like Stacey Poole and Jon Hood. Where Kentucky most needs backcourt help -- at the point guard -- Lacey would not have been a contributor. In the end, I can't see a good argument for going to Kentucky as a shooting guard over Alabama, where Lacey can start every year he plays and still showcase his talent in the SEC.
Of course, just like every other school, we have our share of fans who perform stupid human tricks on Twitter for the entertainment of the sober, sane, and mature among us. Alas, every fan base in the country has some of these, and they always seem to make everyone look a little worse.
DeAndre Daniels is not much different, which is why I don't expect him to wind up in Lexington. Daniels is a sweet-shooting wing, and although we have plenty of those, his plight at UK would be identical to Lacey's. He is a better shooter than Lacey, at least in the few times I've seen him, so he might wind up being used more for that skill, but he is not a better shooter than Doron Lamb or Darius Miller -- not yet, at least. In the end, I think the Texas Longhorns is his most likely destination, although word on the street is that his father wants him to go to the Kansas Jayhawks.
At the end of the day, losing these late recruits means little. UK could have used them in theory, but after a certain point, too many stars can sow dissension and unrest in the ranks. I think I would rather see us a little bit undermanned than wind up with a situation where one or two players who expected to play a lot wound up on the bench and screwing with the team chemistry. One of the great things about the last three years is how Kentucky has been able to avoid that problem, but there comes a point of critical mass, I think, where it can happen to a team.
Anyway, stay tuned to A Sea of Blue to see how Daniels' decision works out.