Matt Jones notes that Kentucky is offering more players scholarships in 2014 than at any other time during the John Calipari era.
This seems like more support for the idea that he really learned his lessons from 2012-13. It seems that Calipari is willing to take more commitments play scholarship games if necessary in order to ensure a sufficient stock of talent. There is no doubt at all that Coach Cal was humbled by the events of last season that left Kentucky looking more like a good mid-major than the most storied program in basketball history.
Let's take a quick look at the players that Kentucky has offered for 2014 so far:
|F||Stanley Johnson||Santa Ana, CaliforniaMater Dei||6'6"||200||5 stars|
|G||Emmanuel Mudiay||Dallas, TexasPrime Prep Academy||6'5"||197||5 stars|
|G||Isaiah Whitehead||Brooklyn, New YorkAbraham Lincoln||6'4"||170||5 stars|
|G||Tyus Jones||Apple Valley, MinnesotaApple Valley||6'1"||171||5 stars|
|G||Devin Booker||Moss Point, MississippiMoss Point||6'3"||180||4 stars|
|C||Karl Towns||Metuchen, New JerseySt. Joseph's||6'10"||225||5 stars|
|F||Cliff Alexander||Chicago, IllinoisCurie||6'8"||240||5 stars|
|C||Jahlil Okafor||Chicago, IllinoisWhitney Young||6'10"||280||5 stars|
|F||Trey Lyles||Indianapolis, IndianaArsenal Technical||6'10"||245||5 stars|
This is a long and impressive list, to be sure, and what it represents is essentially the top tier of the 2014 class. It is beyond the scope of this article to handicap Calipari's chances with each of these players (except for Karl Towns Jr., who has already committed to UK), but typically, Calipari doesn't miss many. He won't land all of these, most likely, but you'd have to say odds favor him getting as many as six out of the nine, including Towns.
There are some other rising players that may yet draw an offer from Calipari also, such as Abdul-Malik Abu, Angel Delgado and Craig Victor. These players have been having big summers, and could wind up in the five-star ranks later this year.
Given all this, it's pretty clear that Calipari meant it when he said that 2012-13 wasn't going to happen again. No more "protection" of players, no more "hijacking" of the program. Calipari famously made this comment after the season:
Calipari said, "All the sudden this hits you. It's a humbling experience, but it's also a learning experience. Things that I've never done before. One, I did things to try to help this team I've never done, but things that I did to try to save guys, when you have more people you just cut right then. Now you're on the team, but you're just not gonna play that much because you won't change. Most of it is just accepting change. You can't play this way and play
"All I know is, there were things that we did this year we will not do. We will correct, and we'll be fine. This program's fine. We will be a tough ball team next year. We will be a tough, hard-nosed, fighting team next year. I promise you, we will be, because I can't sit through that. I can't take it."
It seems, based on actions and not just words, that Coach Cal was not kidding. He was, and is, serious, and recruiting at Kentucky has changed again.
Too much talent?
So it seems that Coach Cal is going to continue to not only recruit a great starting five, but also depth as well. We've seen Kentucky win with a short bench, but last year was such an extraordinary mess both internally and on the court that Calipari is not having any more of it. That much seems clear.
What is less clear is how hard it will be to recruit as much depth as he needs each year from the cream of the crop. He was able to do it effortlessly for 2013, and as we have seen, players ranked outside the top ten in a class often need two years to elevate their game to the level that they can play in the NBA.
But what this also means is that transfers are likely to become more common, a la Kyle Wiltjer. Most of the Big Blue Nation would like to believe that Wiltjer's case was an anomaly, but it seems reasonable to believe that transfers will become more and more of an annual event as Calipari decides to ensure a robust roster and competition for every spot in order to avoid anther "hijacking."
Change comes with a cost, but in this case, it looks very much like it will be worth the price.