If you are in need of a fun fact for the day, here is one: Despite having the first or second ranked recruiting class in every year of John Calipari's tenure, Kentucky has been lacking in one rather salient aspect of high school recruiting; luring top overall recruits.
One would figure that this is something John Calipari would excel at. Seemingly every single class has been the best in the country, which has included three No. 1 NBA draft picks; first assumption would be that the best of the best would want to come to Kentucky, right?
Well, that correlation is not the case. Over the nine majestic recruiting classes that Calipari has put together at Kentucky, including the still in progress 2017 class, only two top overall recruits in ESPN's recruiting classes have committed to Kentucky. Two out of nine? 22%?
It seems to be almost unfathomable. The first one was easy: Anthony Davis came to Kentucky as the top recruit before going on to be the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
The second was the following year and the last No. 1 recruit to come to Kentucky, Nerlens Noel.
Yes, it has been five year since a top recruit has journeyed to the land of Bluegrass to learn from the wisdom of Calipari. Who were these top recruits that declined Kentucky you might ask? Who happened to be ranked higher than even John Wall in 2009?
None other than Boston Celtics' guard Avery Bradley!
Then it goes like this. In 2010 the top overall recruit was Harrison Barnes, who committed to North Carolina. Kentucky's highest recruit that year was Brandon Knight at No. 4. After Davis and Noel, 2013's top guy was Andrew Wiggins who notably played at Kansas. Julius Randle topped out Kentucky's notorious recruiting class that year at #3. In 2014? It was Duke's Jahlil Okafor. Calipari's top recruit in the 38-1 season was actually Trey Lyles at #6. Karl Anthony-Towns was 9th!
Didn't Kentucky come close in 2015? Indeed, Skal Labissiere was ranked No. 2 that year. Ben Simmons, who was kind of a big deal at that point, was the clear number one that year. Not even 2016? Duke, again, grabbed No. 1 Harry Giles. Bam Adebayo was Kentucky's highest at 5th. Is there a chance at it for 2017?
Nope, top recruit Deandre Ayton has already committed to Arizona.
Crazy, right? In the 2018 recruiting class, however, Calipari has a solid shot at breaking this ugly trend and eventually bringing in the top player of the current junior class. That top-ranked recruit is Arizona product Marvin Bagley. A power forward prospect currently playing high school in California, Bagley is everything you want in a big man.
Bagley has been a phenom for years, despite having a little bit of scrutiny throughout high school. Spending his entire life in the state of Arizona, Bagley played spectacularly at Corona del Sol High in Tempe, Arizona as a freshman.
Excelling as both an athlete, leading the school to a state championship, as well as a student with a 4.0 GPA it was shocking when Bagley was pulled out of Corona in order to attend Hillcrest Prep in Arizona. Like most Prep Academy's, Hillcrest is considered more of a year round Basketball School more so than an actual school.
Inevitably, academic issues would result from Bagley's time at Hillcrest. Eventually, Bagley would leave his home state of Arizona to attend Sierra Canyon High in California. While Bagley may wind up being the best basketball player to step foot there, Sierra Canyon has alumni that range from Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Will Smith's daughter and singer Willow Smith, and Alec Baldwin's daughter, Ireland Baldwin.
So, in essence, Bagley has big shoes to fill as a Sierra Canyon star.
Unfortunately, due to the previously mentioned academic issues, Bagley was ruled ineligible to play his first year at Sierra Canyon. After becoming academically eligible again, Bagley headed into his official junior season this year ready to make up the year he missed. So far, he has shown that he is indeed the best of his class.
Bagley is a 6-11, 220-pound power forward that really shows out as a big man. The biggest upside, for me at least, in Bagley's game is that he plays like a prototypical front court player. Most power forwards in today's game like to show off their handles, take perimeter shots, and ultimately play like guards.
Bagley, on the other hand, plays a traditional game. Mainly staying around the rim, Bagley plays extremely well with his back to the basket at this stage of his career and flat out finishes through contact.
No need to worry, he is plenty flashy as well. Bagley possesses superb floor vision and awareness as well as the ability to run the floor fluently. This allows him to get plenty of transition looks at the rim, and when Bagley gets there, he will throw it down and be sure to make a show out of it.
Bagley has a wide skill set and a phenomenal body frame that compliments his athleticism. He finishes around the rim as well as anybody, and simply plays the way a traditional power forward should. All of this makes Bagley as good of a prospect as it gets.
“At this point, Marvin Bagley is head and shoulders the top prospect in the class of 2018, and I really don’t think that he’s even being pushed right now,” Scout.com recruiting guru Daniels told the Herald-Leader this past summer. “It’s evident and it’s clear. At 6-foot-10, he’s the full package at the power forward spot. He can score with his back to the rim, facing the rim. He has high-level athleticism. He defends. He can really rebound. He can block shots.
“He’s easily the best player in that class right now.”
Kentucky will likely be in the front-running for Bagley's talents whenever that time rolls around, as we allow him to make those recruiting decisions for himself. You can expect Calipari and company to have some big competition, especially from Bagley's hometown schools. Even though he has moved away from Arizona, there will still be an obvious connection between Bagley and the place he called home for so many years.
This should have Sean Miller's Arizona Wildcats as well as Bobby Hurley's Arizona State Sun Devils in contention down to the very end. It is also worth adding that Bagley is close friends with future Arizona Wildcat Deandre Ayton.
The two are former teammates and have known each other for years. Would not be surprised if Ayton ended up campaigning his Arizona team to Bagley throughout his recruiting journey.
If John Calipari can break this No. 1 recruit slump and have a talent like Bagley commit to Kentucky, the young stud would fall right in line with each of the previous star big men that have played under Calipari's tutelage.
It’s early, but Bagley’s 247 Sports Crystal Ball has UK getting four of the five picks:
Don't think it's exaggerating putting Bagley in the same group as the likes of Davis, Cousins, and Towns, as this kid can seriously play.