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The One and Done or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cats

Does the phrase "One and Done" make your ears bleed? I know I have about had it up to the metaphorical "here" with it. No more so than I gag every time I hear or read "Dribble Drive". Thankfully that has toned down quite a bit. Either way, moving on, before I start my rant I have a desperate need to make sure anyone who reads this understands I can only assume I’m not the first to say what follows. Compulsion however, insists that I state my mind once and for all on the subject of this whole John Calipari, "One and Done" phenomenon. For my own sanity, that is the last time that phrase will be used in this article. Anyhow, I have had this discussion with my closest basketball confidant on a regular basis. We are both what we consider to be rational UK fans, and both a bit sociopathic, if there is such a thing as a harmless, well-meaning sociopath. So, in a nutshell, my argument to be explored in this writing, is that I don’t think John Calipari is doing all of this on purpose. I believe much of it is reactionary and will explain why below. I think Calipari took the job at UK with a depleted roster in place. Knowing that UK was a flagship basketball school, he parlayed his personal career momentum and recruiting talents along with the storied history of the UK program into an amazing incoming class in ’09-’10. Did he expect to get all of those players? Maybe. Was it a best case scenario haul? Absolutely. Did he expect to have the success he had in his first year at Kentucky? I think so. That’s what coaches do. Did he think he was going to lose 5 guys to the NBA and be back at square 1 in his second season? I don’t think so. I contend that the success of the 1st year of his tenure at UK somewhat forced Coach Cal’s hand and began this cycle of roster turnover, and that due to some unexpected attrition and poor play in the line-up (Orton, Dodson, Wiltjer, Harrow to name a few) along with what was widely considered a weak crop of incoming talent in ’12-’13, he has been caught in a position he did not want to be in for the past 3 years, that of basically starting over from scratch each season. Of course, that position also includes his 1st and UK’s #8, so you takes the goods with the bads. Here’s the rub, Calipari brings all of this on himself by bucking the system and by using the media to drive home a message to future recruits. He may have even been temporarily blinded by his own success but I don't want to delve into that. In general, coaches are stubborn and they don't often back away from what has worked for them or what has come out of their mouth. Once he turned UK into this recruiting monster his first season, he couldn't go backwards. He had to keep going after all the best players he could get, because you don't know which ones you are going to get. His success getting all of these guys the past 5 years is rivaled only by a few coaches and programs and is rarely sustained even for this long. Unfortunately, rival fans, our own fans, and the media have a tendency to take everything Coach Cal says far too literally (in my opinion) and not read between the lines enough. Also, he seems to be one of those guys that thinks out loud a lot, and those thoughts are often misconstrued, and he seems to be fine with letting people say and believe what they want. I think Coach Calipari seems like a real intelligent human. I would be hard pressed to believe that he truly prefers starting from scratch every year. Hell, just look at how exhausted he looks this year. I think if you were to ask him his ideal situation, I believe it would be a blend of guys like John Wall and Darius Miller. I think Cal would prefer to have NBA talent that needs 4 years of college mixed with his superstar freshmen. What coach wouldn’t? Is this as blatantly obvious as it feels to type and re-read? The reason I am writing this is for my own sanity and because the complaints about the roster turnover have obviously risen this year. A lot of Wildcat fans are beginning to begrudge the coach this situation, as if all of it has specifically been by the coach’s design. I literally heard a caller on the radio this morning say he doesn’t understand why Coach Cal doesn’t recruit more kids like Jared Polson and develop them to be players by the time they are upperclassmen. Well, first of all, people got sick of Tubby Smith for that real quick, and second, Coach Cal is the one who put Polson on his team. Third: Willis, Hawkins, Lee, Floreal (anyone remember that kid that dunked on Randle in the Blue/White game?). I think Coach Cal may have finally achieved a bit of equilibrium so desperately needed with his roster this season. Of course, there is the possibility that we could lose too many guys to the NBA this year to sustain it. If UK were to go on a run and make the Final Four or win another title, by my count there are 9 guys that could potentially leave the team for early draft entry and due to graduation. If we were to win another title, I don’t think you would hear a lot of people complaining about having to restock the cupboard again next year. Then again, it is UK. I believe it is counterintuitive to think that what has happened thus far has all been by Cal’s design. I also think he chooses to drive home a message that leads to this counterintuitive thought, I.E. that whole "greatest day in UK history" draft comment he made. Sort of like the way he recruits all these freshmen then laments the fact that they are freshmen all season when he is trying to coach them. I’ve heard many already complaining about this and to be fair I’m a little tired of it as well. Not because it isn’t true, but because "we get it already!" Still, the things that people do that drive us crazy are often the things that truly endear them to us as well. Right? Before I completely lose focus I shall start finishing this up. I read a post on another article from the other day (I think…maybe it was today…what’s that saying about the memory being the first to do something?) on here where another ASOB member brought up a very similar point to the one I am making here and honestly, I felt like it was the first time I had seen or heard someone else discuss it. This ball was all set in motion with the success of year 1. Who would have dreamed Coach Cal would have been able to come in and have that much success his first year? Strike that. Other than Coach Cal, who would have rationally thought in advance that he was going to get all those recruits and have that much success? That is the more accurate question. We are a super-short attention span society these days. Sometimes we forget that things take time. The old saying was a coach needed at least 3 years to build a program if not 5. Well, I think it has taken Coach Cal five, for reasons listed above. Of course, the best part is in the process he went to a final four and won a championship. I don’t believe the NBA is going to change their rule anytime soon and I sure as hell don’t think the NCAA is going to change the way they deal with it. This is where we are for the time being. About 15-20 guys every year are going to be good enough coming out of high school to spend one year in college and go pro. Hopefully, as UK continues to recruit these kids, Cal now has his roster in a position where he will continually have upperclassmen players to blend in with them. One final thought. An almost non sequitur if you will. The NCAA.com website states that about 40% of Men’s D1 basketball players leave their first school after their sophomore season. 40%! The days of the majority of kids staying all 4 years at 1 program are pretty much over, and if you think about it, they have been for a while. To prove my point, try to remember just how many guys Tubby actually had stay all four years throughout his tenure. The game has changed. It changed a while back. I understand nostalgia and preferring things a certain way, but the days of watching recruiting classes come in together and stay together are over. So to my fellow fans of UK (and college basketball in general) who don’t like that, I say to you that I understand, but if you want to continue to enjoy watching college basketball for the rest of your life you are going to have to take it like a kick in the knee, and walk it off. Strictly going by the national average to make a point, UK is going to lose 40% of its underclassman roster every year anyway. So if we are going to lose them, would you rather have a team full of guys that are leaving because they have been successful and are going pro, or not?

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