Last night, the last remaining McDonald’s All-American, Jaylen Brown, made his college selection, and to the surprise of many, he picked the California Golden Bears. Not many saw this coming, and I certainly wouldn’t have put much money on Cal, even though he’s been on Brown’s list for a while.
Cuonzo Martin, the former Tennessee coach, has really recruited a stellar class at Cal that includes Brown and fellow McDonald’s teammate Ivan Rabb. It is noteworthy that Martin has signed as many from this year’s McDonald’s class as John Calipari. Impressive, coach Martin. Very impressive. I wonder what Tennessee fans are thinking about now after running Martin out of Knoxville?
And don’t think for a minute that Kentucky wasn’t in the running for Brown. Consider this from an article earlier this month:
“Kentucky, man. Kentucky is probably the best basketball program right now in America,” Brown said. “I took a lot of visits. Nobody’s basketball program was as good as Kentucky. And … basketball is what I’m going to do with my life.
But he also warned in that same article that other considerations took precedence over the pure basketball aspect, and the academic reputation of Cal appears to be a major factor in his final decision.
Anyhow, that leaves only Thon Maker, who is currently planning to enroll in the second semester, which means that if he does come to Kentucky, he’ll have to work his way into an existing rotation. As skilled as he is, I don’t think that would be a problem for him at all, but we’ll have to wait and see if that happens.
I must confess, I am not that disappointed in losing Brown. He’s a really good player, but in my opinion he is somewhat overrated in this class. He’s a small forward with more of a power forward’s game, which in modern college basketball is to say that he doesn’t have reliable range on his jump shot, and isn’t a particularly good shooter from anywhere outside the paint. He is a great athlete and finisher, though, and no team in America has too many of those.
So absent a commitment from Maker, an eligible transfer that we are yet unaware of or early matriculation by Tai Wynayard, Kentucky’s roster for next season is set. In a way, this is very good news for Kentucky players as both Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins stand to get major minutes for the first time in their careers, and arguably at about the point where they are ready to contribute and really help the team win.
I think Kentucky will be among the favorites for next season, but this recruiting class might be the weakest in the Calipari era on paper. Having said that, there is way more than enough NBA talent on this team without any modification for Kentucky to win it all in 2016.