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Calipari says the 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats “changed college basketball”

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They set the stage for all the success that has followed.

Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images

It is now official that the Kentucky Wildcats will have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for 2020. This is the 7th time that John Calipari has signed the top class in his 12 seasons in Lexington.

Coach Cal was the one that started the one-and-done era of college basketball, but he said that none of his recruiting success would be possible without his 2009 and first class as the Kentucky head coach.

That 2009 recruiting class was headlined by three of the top recruits in the country with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe. On top of that, Cal brought in 5-stars Daniel Orton, Jon Hood, and Darnell Dodson.

Chris Fisher of 247 Sports noted that the 2009 class is now ranked as the No. 11 overall class in the one-and-done era by ESPN. Those recruits paired with Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson, Ramon Harris, and Perry Stevenson made up the 2009-10 roster that started 19-0 soaring to the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

Coach Cal joined in on a Zoom reunion with the 2010 team and that is when he told them that they changed college basketball.

“You changed college basketball because you shared,” Calipari said during the Zoom reunion call with the 2010 team. “What you did, how you did it, whether it be the guys returning, how you accepted the young guys, how you young guys accepted each other changed college basketball forever. What you guys did is have everybody’s eyes open to what we’re supposed to be doing for young people. It was an enjoyable thing for me to be a part of. Just know, you all, this group, you changed college basketball.”

On December 21, 2009, the Cats had an opportunity against Drexel to become the first program in history to reach 2,000 wins. The Cats would go on to win that game 88-44. Now, the Kentucky program is sitting at 2,293 wins for most all-time just ahead of Kansas with 2,274 wins.

The 2009-10 Kentucky team went on to have a 35-3 record and made a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament which at the time was the first in five years for the program.

“We weren’t a great execution team if I remember right, but we were so talented we didn’t have to be,” Calipari said. “I can remember us doing drills where you had DeMarcus, Daniel, Patrick, Ramon, you couldn’t get a layup off.”

That team had five first round draft picks including Wall (No. 1), Cousins (No. 5), Patterson (No. 14), Bledsoe (No. 18) and Orton (No. 29).

That entire season set the stage for the tremendous success that coach Cal has had in his time at Kentucky which includes a national championship, 4 Final 4s, 7 Elite 8s, 8 Sweet 16s, and 31 total NCAA Tournament wins.

Since the start of the Cal era at Kentucky, no school has produced more No. 1 overall picks (3), top-10 picks (13), lottery picks (21), first round picks (29), or total NBA Draft picks (38).

The 2009-10 team marked the return of Kentucky basketball to the gold standard in the sport and the amount of success that has followed that season is why no one in the country is better suited for the job here than coach Cal.