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Tony Barbee helped end UK’s streak of missing on top-5 talent

Terrence Clarke was the first top five player to commit to the Cats since 2015

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 22 CBS Sports Classic - North Carolina v Kentucky Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For first time since 2015, the Kentucky coaching staff has been able to celebrate receiving a commitment from a top-five recruit.

The drought of failing to sign a top prospect dated all the way back to Skal Labissiere and the consistent misses have caused some criticism directed at UK’s primary recruiters, specifically Tony Barbee.

But the tides finally turned when five-star shooting guard Terrence Clarke pledged his allegiance to Wildcats. With his reclassification into the class of 2020 Clarke has moved up to the #4 player in the country at Rivals and 247 Sports, and he could climb even higher with a good showing this season.

Lost in the shuffle of this big-time commitment was that Barbee was Clarke’s lead recruiter as Kentucky was viewed as the heavy favorite from start to finish before the Cat’s ended up as the pick.

When describing why he chose Kentucky, Clarke cited his relationship with Barbee, who has recruited him since 9th grade.

Getting involved with Clarke very early in his recruitment clearly paid dividends when you consider that his decision came much faster than many expected. Clarke was one of the very first players in the class of 2021 to receive a scholarship offer from John Calipari, and Barbee helped lay the groundwork from start to finish.

“Coach [Tony] Barbee and me built a great relationship, and those guys prioritize that we want to get to the next level and they’re going to do everything in their power to help that,” Clarke said following his commitment.

In theory, the Brewster Academy superstar could have had a lengthier recruitment that lasted nearly two more years if he chose to stay in 2021 and drag his decision out into the spring months. Instead, Clarke ended his recruitment before the fall even began, assuring that Kentucky has its cornerstone piece going into the fall signing period.

Barbee should begin to garner more respect as a recruiter with how he executed with a widely coveted top-five talent like Terrence Clarke.

For the past several years fans have began to ridicule UK’s recruiting efforts after former assistant coach Orlando Antigua left the program. Even though it’s foolish to be genuinely displeased with Calipari and his staff’s recruiting success, there is some merit to the frustrations of missing on the top-five guys.

However, putting the bulk of blame on Barbee was never justified, and Clarke’s commitment was a major step in the right direction for repairing that image and getting Barbee a nice feather in his cap.

Now the question remains, who follows Terrence Clarke in the class of 2020?

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