If there is a college basketball season this fall, John Calipari is really excited about what his Wildcats can accomplish.
In an interview with KSR, Calipari raved about his newest team, saying this has the potential to be one of his most special groups in Lexington.
“Look, to come here you know you have to have a certain level of talent,” Calipari said. “But the second thing you have to have is, you really have to be into your team and sharing and your whole thing in your mindset is, how good can I be, how good a teammate can I be? And so sometimes we will lose kids that are being told other things: that to be here, that’s what it is.
“This group is all bought into that, both feet. Their parents trust us with their child, and we’re really good. We got some really good players. So I’m sitting here saying, [having a special group] has happened three or four times, but let me tell you what those teams have done. The teams you’re talking about became unbelievable teams. Teams. That’s, like I said, where the work comes in.”
Matt Jones added that the only times he’s heard Calipari be this giddy about his teams were in 2011-12 (38-2 and national champs) and 2014-15 (38-1 and Final Four berth).
This team certainly has all the ingredients of a special group, though a lot of that hinges on Olivier Sarr getting a transfer waiver to play next season. Toward the end of his junior season at Wake Forest, Sarr was one of the best big men in college basketball.
If Sarr is eligible, he’ll join Keion Brooks Jr. as UK’s starting bigs, which could be one of the better frontcourts in college hoops. Brooks’ freshman season numbers weren’t worth bragging about, but the former top-15 recruit did end the year on a high note and looks primed for a big jump in Year 2.
That’s not even accounting for what blue-chip recruits Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware could give UK coming off the bench. Despite being a borderline five-star recruit, Jackson is regarded among the best shot-blockers in his class, and that’s an area UK certainly needs more help at.
But the real strength should be in the backcourt, where top-10 recruits Brandon Boston and Terrence Clarke should be one of the best guard tandems Calipari has had at UK. Boston is UK’s first top-five recruit in five years and already looks like he can be one of the best to ever play at UK under Cal, while Clarke was called one of the best shooting guards recruiting guru Jerry Meyer ever scouted.
Then you’ve got a five-star prospect in Devin Askew and a senior grad transfer in Davion Mintz to run the point. That’s a little bit more of a question mark, but neither will be asked to do much with the weapons they have to work with at the other four spots. Askew was also once called one of the most college-ready point guards in his class.
There’s also the potential for guys like four-star recruit Cam’Ron Fletcher and redshirt freshman Dontaie Allen to surprise people and become solid role players this season. After all, Allen was supposedly UK’s best shooter and compared to Kyle Korver, while Fletcher was a big-time recruit who also held offers from North Carolina and Kansas before picking the Cats.
And by now, we all know Calipari tends to pump the brakes on offseason hype, so for him to express this much excitement over his team really speaks to how much potential they have to be a special group.
Let’s just hope they have a season to prove their coach right.