Stop me if you’ve heard this before: John Calipari’s recruiting philosophy isn’t working and it’s finally catching up to him.
I feel like we get the same article every season, sometimes more than one of them, where the author criticizes Cal’s recruiting philosophy and team structure because (gasp!) he lost some games in January/February.
This season’s early edition comes from the SB Nation Mothership. Ricky O’Donnell is lamenting that the pieces of this current Kentucky Wildcats basketball team don’t fit and it’ all John Calipari’s fault.
Kentucky has as much talent as any team in the country. This statement can be made every single year and it’s true again this season. The Wildcats have eight five-star recruits on the roster, and that’s not counting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a highly touted four-star point guard who might be their best player right now.
Point is, Kentucky is loaded. Kentucky is always loaded. But for this Kentucky team in particular, it’s fair to wonder if the pieces fit together.
Calipari wants the biggest, fastest player at every position. That’s been the Kentucky coach’s recruiting strategy for years, but it’s never been more transparent than it is this year.
And this comes after Seth Greenberg’s asinine comments. Yawn.
Here is something that O’Donnell isn’t pointing out: John Calipari hasn’t had his full complement of players all season long and he likely won’t have the team that he had in his mind at the beginning of the season and none of that is his fault.
Jarred Vanderbilt just played in his first game against South Carolina due to a foot injury. Quade Green hasn’t played in over a week due to a back. They’ve never played together in a game. Jemarl Baker, a four star sharpshooter that Calipari recruited specifically to be an outside threat, probably won’t play all season long because of a knee injury or surgery.
Length and athleticism are great, but they can really only be leveraged at the college level with proper spacing and shooting. The exception is when you have a superstar like Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s how Calipari’s two best teams at Kentucky have won. This group has a bunch of a really good players, but no true studs. When you factor in the lack of fit, that’s why this Kentucky teams feels so beatable.
This is true. But Jarred Vanderbilt sure passed the eye test as far as athleticism and basketball IQ are concerned. He’s 6’9 and was effectively running point guard in his first game on a college basketball court.
Anthony Davis was a star from the moment he stepped on the court. It took KAT until January to find his groove. Not every players steps into college a star, it takes some guys a while to adjust.
So miss me with the entire “Cal needs to change how he builds a team” mumbo-jumbo because Calipari built a team that had all of the pieces, but injuries have forced him to readjust and play guys in positions that he didn’t think he would need to.
And where have we heard this before? Oh yeah.
But if it’s not the players’ fault, and they weren’t all massively overrated coming out of high school, who hasn’t done the job of coalescing them into a team?
This classic gem was penned by Pat Forde in 2014 when Kentucky was an eight seed in the tournament. Calipari turned it around and went to a national title game. Forde had to backtrack a bit.
And it’s not like there are these juggernaut teams this season in college basketball. Where are the articles about Duke not getting the pieces right? What about the veteran Michigan State team that everyone was in love with that’s dropping games left and right? Where’s the article about Tom Izzo floundering with yet another top five team? I could go on and on and on...
Literally every team is losing right now with the exception of Villanova. But of course this is ignored because it’s a Calipari and Kentucky problem.
How many time do we have to go through this until people wake up and figure out that Calipari knows exactly what he’s doing? Last year’s team struggled at times because of players being young, sick, or injured at various times. Then they ended up clobbering UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen and were a Luke Maye shot away from the Final Four.
This happens every season. Kentucky loses some SEC games and everyone freaks out. It’s nothing new but it’s getting old at the same time.
Let’s wait until Cal actually has his full complement of players on the court for a decent period of time before we start making grand proclamations about this team’s future in March. Or more appropriately, Calipari’s philosophy over all.
Cal continues to succeed but people don’t seem to learn their lesson.