This guy started it all.
With the addition of Nerlens Noel on Wednesday, it looks like Coach Cal has landed his fourth straight #1 recruiting class at Kentucky. Since Kentucky has only itself to compete with, it makes sense to rank these four classes against one another to see when Calipari worked his magic the best.
We'll start out by looking at each class and seeing where Rivals had each of the players on its final list of high school prospects. For the sake of this exercise, we'll ignore JC players, transfers and players initially recruited as walk-ons, since none has had a huge impact on any of Cal's Kentucky teams. I'm also leaving out Enes Kanter. You could argue that getting him to Kentucky is still evidence of Cal's recruiting acumen. I'd counter that one cannot receive credit for recruiting someone who isn't allowed to play. If LeBron James shows up on campus next year and tries to suit up, that won't count either.
Each table shows the final overall (or in the case of 2012, the current) Rivals ranking of the player listed. Again, no JC players, transfers or players intended to be walk-ons.
|Name||Rivals Rank||Name||Rivals Rank|
|John Wall||1||Brandon Knight||6|
|DeMarcus Cousins||2||Terrence Jones||13|
|Daniel Orton||22||Doron Lamb||21|
|Eric Bledsoe||23||Stacey Poole, Jr.||33|
|Name||Rivals Rank||Name||Rivals Rank|
|Anthony Davis||2||Nerlens Noel||2|
|Michael Kidd-Gilchrist||3||Alex Poythress||8|
|Marcus Teague||5||Archie Goodwin||14|
|Kyle Wiltjer||22||Willie Cauley||40|
(For the record, Rivals ranked Austin Rivers as the #1 high school player, ahead of Davis, in 2011. Rivers is a terrific player, but I'm sure it would take a mulligan on that if it could.)
As far as ranking the classes, a couple of caveats are in order. The past classes probably shouldn't be reviewed in retrospect, since the 2012 players haven't done anything yet. Yes, Eric Bledsoe ended up being much better than the 23rd best player in his class and players ranked far below Stacey Poole have had more impact, but we'll use that more as a tiebreaker. Second, yes I know other services rank(ed) these guys differently. I'm not getting paid for this, so one look is all you get. Sue me.
Glancing at the numbers, the 2009 and 2011's classes were the most stacked. I am not sure what is the greater accomplishment, getting the top two in '09 or three of the top five two years later. The most impressive aspect of the 2011 is landing the top player at three different positions. But you can't ignore the Wall, Cousins duo. When you consider that Coach Cal had only taken over at Kentucky a short time before, convincing both to come here has to be one of the best sales jobs ever pulled off in this business.
Both classes produced two superstars, a very good freshman starter, and a key bench player. Channels his inner Bill Simmons: This one is like trying to pick the cutest Middleton sister. You aren't going wrong either way. Okay, I'm done. In the end, covering three different positions so well is too hard to ignore and, let's face it, AD was the best player in last year's class, so I'll go with 2011 over 2009, by a hair.
This leaves the even year classes, including the most recent signees and 2010. This year's class, of course, might not be complete. If Kentucky lands Anthony Bennett (#7), it vaults into rarified air, albeit still slightly behind the two aforementioned classes (though some might argue otherwise). As of now, I put it ahead of the 2010 class because of Noel. He is the plumb, and as much as I like Jones and Knight, they didn't have quite his star power coming out of high school.
With all this said, I'd take a class identical to any of these four any time for the rest of my life. What Calipari has done here is truly staggering and in some sense I'm gilding the lilly by even making these comparisons. In sum, though, I'd rank Cal's four signing classes at UK 2011, 2009, 2012 and 2010, in that order.
What do you think?
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