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John Calipari’s Former Players Become Great Recruiting Tools for Kentucky Basketball

When Cal’s former Cats talk about the process of preparation at UK, recruits are listening.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kentucky vs Northern Kentucky Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The dust of the draft has settled. We now know where everyone stands. De’Aaron Fox, selected fifth overall, will be joining Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere in Sacramento. Malik Monk, selected 11th overall, will be joining Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in Charlotte. Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, selected 14th overall, will be joining the Miami Heat.

In the run up to the draft, Fox and Monk and Adebayo, through the various interviews and press conferences that are part of the draft, became the latest in the long line of UK players to tout the process of playing and preparation they experienced under the tutelage of John Calipari.

Just a brief look at the numbers, including Thursday night’s draft:

  • 30 - Number of draft picks under Coach Cal; twice as many as any other school in the same span
  • 24 - First round selections since 2010; next most is Duke with 13
  • 17 - Number of lottery picks; next most is Kansas with 9

Calipari has set up a veritable pipeline from the University of Kentucky to the NBA. And a majority of those players have gone on to have huge success. One simply needs to watch the NBA on any given night of play (or SportsCenter the morning after) to see highlights that, more often than not, include a former Cat.

John Wall and Anthony Davis are former number one picks who have turned into perennial All-Stars, and Karl Anthony-Towns (the third number one overall under Cal) is well on his way to joining that elite company. UK players are spread out across half the NBA with at least one player on 15 of the 30 teams (and the Phoenix Suns have four!).

All this is an impressive enough resume to bring kids into the program. But what’s even more impressive is the kids themselves selling their coach and their program. Lottery picks De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Bam Adebayo spoke about the importance Cal played in their development and in helping them reach their dreams. Said Fox:

“For Coach Cal, it’s more about having kids live out their dream. Of course he wants to win too, but that’s more important.”

And Monk offered more of the same when asked why he picked Kentucky over his home state Arkansas:

“It was just amazing. If you want to go to the NBA and you want a career as a basketball player...go there.”

Bam Adebayo also joined his teammates in talking about the role Cal played in his decision to go pro. Bam told the Courier-Journal’s Fletcher Page that Cal encouraged him to sign with an agent after declaring for the draft. Said Adebayo, “He felt like I was doubting my potential...he was like ‘What’s wrong with you man? ...Go.’” Cal wants his guys to be able to achieve their dreams, even if it means they leave his program, even if it means losing some incredible talent after just one year.

These three, Fox, Monk, and Adebayo, have become the latest in the line of Wildcats to talk about the importance of Cal in their development and how that translated to realizing their dreams and having success in the NBA.

You can go back and look at what KAT and AD had to say about their college experience and why they wanted to play at UK. These players don’t shy away from the platform they are given to talk about the ways Cal helped to mold them or the role he played in helping them to their goal of playing in the NBA.

After hearing these guys talk about their time at UK and then getting to see them live out their dreams and be successful in the league, it’s hard to imagine that Calipari hasn’t gotten every player he’s wanted.

But those misses happen. You can’t win them all, but Cal’s successes and his players’ willingness to give him the praise they do are powerful tools on the recruiting trail.

I don’t know details, but I’ve heard Cal has a great pitch that he gives to each recruit he visits. But I think actions speak louder than words. Cal’s ability to continue taking these high school kids and getting them ready to realize their dreams as professional basketball players is something that reverberates in the mind of a young kid contemplating where he wants to spend his time as a college basketball player.

Whether it’s one year or more, Cal can get ‘em to the league. And, year after year, we strap ourselves in and go along for the ride.