The college basketball recruiting system has been set on its ear with the NCAA transfer portal plan. At last look, more than 1,000 players had placed their names on the latest portal list, dozens of them capable of significantly improving the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky has already used it to bolster its roster with Kellan Grady and Oscar Tshiebwe. Might they use it for more?
At Kentucky (and some other bluebloods such as Duke and North Carolina), John Calipari, in recent years, has been dependent on outstanding freshman players to carry the load each season in the one and done Era.
Because of a number of reasons, that formula left the Wildcats on the outside looking in for the 2020-21 season, shocking UK fans across the nation.
The most significant saving grace for the Cats last season was transfer portal players Olivier Sarr and Davion Mintz (both have a chance to return for the 2021-22 season, but that possibility seems unlikely in recent weeks).
Perhaps Calipari should adjust his one and done philosophy with a new plan, perhaps the distribution of his 13 scholarships with a 4-4-4-1 system – sign four good transfers, sign four outstanding freshmen, retain four players from his latest team and sign one outstanding Kentucky high school player (sometimes sign more than one state star as part of the four incoming frosh if circumstances deem fit).
Using this formula would seem to give Calipari enough rotating talent every year and keep the Cats as a threat to win Championship No. 9 year in and year out.
The big key would to be able to sign outstanding transfer portal player every season, such as Grady and Tshiebwe.
Kentucky has also lost some very good players in the transfer madhouse, most recently 6-6 Johnny Juzang, who is now a star at UCLA.
There is a lot of excellent players available on this year’s list. Some other of those who could change the UK program include Florida’s Noah Locke, Auburn’s Justin Powell, Marcus Carr of Minnesota, and Utah’s Tim Allen. Calipari has probably already been in touch with some other potential transfers to UK.
Why so many outstanding players looking for greener pastures?
Unhappiness over playing time, disagreement with coaching philosophies, unwillingness to wait their turn at stardom, unwillingness to play a backup role, seeking a team that is a national contender, ad nauseum.
Transfers are only going to become a bigger part of the game, especially if the NCAA indeed decides on Sept. 16 to permanently eliminate the rule that has always required players to sit out for a whole season.
(Ken Mink is a former Herald-Leader sportswriter and a journalist/author of more than 60 years. He grew up in Vicco, near Hazard)