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Just because John Calipari can’t technically recruit, doesn’t mean he won’t in his own unique way

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John Calipari is one of the most brilliant minds the sport of college basketball has ever seen. That’s why his most recent recruiting pitch/tactic was perfectly executed.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Kentucky
Outside of the dreadful 2012-13 season, Kentucky coach John Calipari has won 25+ games in every one of his 11 seasons in Lexington. That seems good.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Like most fans, the craving for sports content since the middle of last week has been never-ending and with no NCAA Tournament bracket to fill out and no Kentucky games to watch in primetime, life feels pretty pointless at this time of the year due to the Coronavirus sweeping the globe.

But, as usual, John Calipari finds a way into the spotlight to give us stuff to talk about.

Along with his final radio show of the season that brought some eyebrow-raising remarks (in a not-bad way, mind you) and a couple potential eye-watering ancedotes about how Kentucky found out their season was over, he made an appearance on the hit show from Complex titled, “Sneaker Shopping.”

Sneaker Shopping is one of Complex’s most popular commodities and it’s basically a show produced by the company where host Joe La Puma goes all over the place to different sneaker-based shops and interviews some of pop culture and sports’ biggest names. Some guests of the recent past include Carmelo Anthony, Lawrence Taylor, Damian Lillard, Megan Rapinoe, Guy Fieri and Roger Federer.

The day before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was supposed to tip off, Complex dropped their latest episode of the show, featuring Calipari at the Oneness Boutique in Louisville that was shot a couple weeks prior to the release of the episode.

The expression goes, “Chess, not checkers.”

During the nine-plus minutes of the show, Calipari broke down some of the rare pairs of shoes he has in his personal collection, including both pairs out of the 80 created from the Jordan Brand and world-renowned music star Drake’s personal editions of the “Air Jordan VIII” that both he and Calipari have signed. He also has a rare pair of the Jordan Brand’s “Air Jordan III” designed around DJ Khaled, one of music’s most popular names in the present day.

In short, Calipari knows what he’s doing. His connection to the pop culture scene is what helps connect him to his players and potential recruits. If a 16-year-old kid sees the guy with the biggest coaching contract in college basketball taking pictures on Instagram with Drake and hanging out with other NBA stars that he used to coach like John Wall, it definitely doesn’t hurt Kentucky’s chances of landing the best names across the high school hoop scene each year.

Another main reason for the episode featuring Calipari was the anticipated release of Nike’s Kentucky Low Dunk shoe that sold out in about 130 seconds this past Saturday, which is talked about in the episode above, along with the original 1985 Nike Dunks that Kentucky wore under coach Eddie Sutton.

Plus, imagine Kentucky coming off their 32nd SEC Tournament title this past weekend, landing a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation’s hottest teams and then that episode dropping a day before the tournament’s “First Four” was set to tip.

Recruiting never actually stops, even if it technically is shut down for the foreseeable future by the NCAA. Calipari’s obviously not breaking any rules and it’s another sign that he gets it, especially when you think back to the ESPN “One and Not Done” documentary that was released in April 2017, 10 days after the national title game in Arizona between Gonzaga and North Carolina.

Not many, if any, coaches truly get the landscape like Calipari does. His ability to put sell himself, his coaches, his program, the craziness of the BBN and the brand of putting his players first is something that everyone from Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, to Tyler Herro and PJ Washington can appreciate.

(How many times this season did he say during press conferences, “I told the guys, ‘This is your program. You guys have to take the reigns here.’”?)

Joe B. Hall, the former Kentucky coach and a widely-beloved figure in Big Blue Nation, had plenty to say in the sit-down documentary featuring him and the 2012 title-winning coach, and for an interview with The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker.

This line right here stuck out:

When Calipari finally decides to end his time in Lexington, Hall’s words will probably ring even more true then than they do right now.