We've been hearing a lot of static lately that Kentucky isn't going to have the #1 recruiting class in 2014, and that the loss of Kelly Oubre Jr. is one more indication of that. Some have opined that with the 2013 class, Calipari reached the peak of his recruiting powers, and that he has nowhere to go but down.
That may be true in the near term, and in a completely relative sense. When you accomplish a generational, even historical feat like Calipari just did with 2013, reprising it is really a tough job. But the cynical fatalism of the Big Blue nation I've seen rearing its ugly head needs to be tamped down a bit.
Here's what 2014 looks like right now:
|Committed to Kentucky||Pos||Rank*|
|Karl Towns Jr.||C/F||8|
|Left on the board and being recruited by Kentucky|
|* RCSIHoops consensus ranking for summer|
Any combination of Okafor, Johnson and Turner puts Kentucky in contention for the #1 class. It's also worth mentioning that Karl Towns Jr., because he doesn't participate in AAU ball, is somewhat undervalued in the rankings — it's easy to undervalue what you don't see very often. Despite what you hear about package deals, they rarely happen when there isn't family involved, so I think we have a fine shot at Okafor. I think we will get Lyles and Blackmon, and possibly Booker as well.
All in all, this may be the first time Calipari winds up dropping out of the top two, but it's hard to see him out of the top five. When you have an unprecedented run going, it has to end sometime — that's just the way these things go.
None of this is, in my opinion at least, a diminution of Calipari's powers of persuasion. More likely it's just the kind of variation you see in complex situations like recruiting. One of the top three recruits, Emmanuel Mudiay, was taken off the board by a school that has no business landing a player like that, even with Larry Brown as coach. You rarely see that happen, and it is quite likely that absent the unusual planetary alignment, that player would have been in Blue and White next year. But for that extraordinary event, we wouldn't even be having a conversation about the likely #1 class.
So buck up, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation. No matter where we wind up in 2014 commitment-wise, we have no idea who will stay from this year, and it's a pretty sure bet we'll have several. Will one or more of the best players stay? It depends on circumstances, I expect, but it's too early to speculate right now.