The game has obviously changed in Lexington since John Calipari came to town. Since he arrived in 2009, the Kentucky Wildcats have had the #1 or #2 class in each recruiting year.
From a National Championship to the NIT, some classes have seen more success than others. But if you could go back and take any one class over another, knowing what we know now, which would you take?
Here are the definitive rankings of Coach Cal’s 8 classes at Kentucky.
Recruits by rank:
Nerlens Noel, PF/C, #1 overall
Alex Poythress, SF/PF, #7 overall
Archie Goodwin, PG, #15 overall
Willie Cauley-Stein, C, #43 overall
Not only is this the class that led the Kentucky Wildcats to a first round NIT loss to Robert Morris, but it may also be the worst performing professionally. Only Noel and Cauley-Stein are currently in the league, and one could argue that Willie is currently the most successful of the two. Not bad for a football player, eh?
Skal Labissiere, C, #2 overall
Jamal Murray, SG, #10 overall
Isaiah Briscoe, PG, #12 overall
Isaac Humphries, C, #50 overall
Charles Matthews, SG, #59 overall
Mychal Mulder, SG, #14 transfer
Skal was, and by all indications continues to be, a bust. Jamal Murray has a high ceiling and is performing well. Briscoe will probably get drafted, but he will be a limited NBA player. This class had minimal success at UK, and at best has one successful NBA guy in Murray.
Brandon Knight, PG, #5 overall
Terrence Jones, SF/PF, #8 overall
Enes Kanter , C, #9 overall
Doron Lamb, SG, #23 overall
Stacey Poole, SG, #46 overall
Eloy Vargas, C, #16 transfer
Sorry, I cannot make myself count Kanter as a former Cat. If I did, this group would be much higher on the list. This group did have a memorable run to a Final Four, but they had a lot of help from the returning roster.
Both Knight and Jones have been solid, dependable players for their various teams in the league. But the rest of this group cannot be found on even a D-League roster.
De’Aaron Fox, PG, #6 overall
Bam Adebayo, PF, #9 overall
Malik Monk, SG, #11 overall
Wenyen Gabriel, PF, #14 overall
Sacha Killeya-Jones, PF, #24 overall
With so many guys in the top 4 groups making an impact in the NBA, it would be irresponsible to put this class ahead of them. However, it seems like at least three of these guys have the potential to be solid players in the league. If Fox can be a B- to John Wall’s A, Monk can be close to what Devin Booker is now, and Bam can follow Julius Randle’s path, this group has a high ceiling to represent Kentucky in the league and could easily move up this list.
Julius Randle, PF, #2 overall
Andrew Harrison, PG, #5 overall
Aaron Harrison, SG, #6 overall
James Young, SG/SF, #9 overall
Dakari Johnson, C, #10 overall
Marcus Lee, PF/C, #18 overall
Derek Willis, SF, #128 overall
Dominique Hawkins, PG/SG, #194 overall
When they arrived on campus, this group looked like it was destined to be one of the best recruiting classes of all time. And although several of these guys led the Cats to consecutive Final Fours (including a finals appearance), I think this class has to be classified as a disappointment.
Andrew Harrison has been a surprising contributor in Memphis. James Young is currently in the middle of his longest stint on the Celtics roster. Dakari is surprisingly tearing up the D-League. Perhaps if one of the guys still in college makes a splash in the NBA, which seems unlikely, this group will move up the list. But with Randle being the only star of the group, and boy is he turning into a beast, it’s hard to rank this class above the others at this point.
Anthony Davis, PF/C, #1 overall
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, #3 overall
Marquis Teague, PG, #7 overall
Kyle Wiltjer, PF, #20 overall
This group led Kentucky to John Calipari’s only National Championship, losing only 2 games in the process. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are the only teammates to ever be selected with the first two picks in the same NBA draft.
The Brow is easily a top 5 player in the NBA. MKG is a lock-down defender. And it actually seems like Kyle Wiltjer may have found a home with the Houston Rockets.
With 75% of this class being in the league and considering the star power of Anthony Davis, this is easily one of Cal’s top classes at Kentucky.
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, #5 overall
Trey Lyles, PF, #10 overall
Tyler Ulis, PG, #19 overall
Devin Booker, SG, #22 overall
38-1. Yes, Kentucky had probably its most talented returning roster in the Cal era. But the team that made a run at 40-0 will forever live in Kentucky basketball lore. This recruiting class led that group and will always be remembered for that amazing season.
This is also the only recruiting class where every player is in the NBA. Tyler Ulis was never supposed to make a league roster, but is a solid contributor off of the Suns’ bench. Trey Lyles is getting more than 20 minutes per game in Utah and is on track to move into the starting lineup potentially before the season is over.
Devin Booker is quickly becoming a star in the league and has turned into Phoenix’s primary scoring option. And, of course, KAT is doing things that only hall of famers have done in their first two years in the league.
Give it a year or two and this group could take the number one spot. But there are a few OG’s that may have something to say about that.
John Wall, PG, #2 overall
DeMarcus Cousins, C, #3 overall
Daniel Orton, C, #16 overall
Jon Hood, SG, #52 overall
Eric Bledsoe, PG, #57 overall
Darnell Dodson, SF, #7 transfer
Let’s just cut to the chase. Boogie Cousins may be the best big man in the NBA. John Wall is arguably a top-5 point guard in the league. Both are multiple-time All-Stars. Having two players of that caliber sets this class apart from all of the others. That is not even to mention the fact that Bledsoe could be an All-Star if he can find a way to stay healthy.
This group has obviously had more time in the NBA to build up their resumes. But until another class proves itself to be better, the original Coach Cal group will remain king of the Hill.
Given what we know now, how would you rank Kentucky’s recruiting classes from the last 8 years?