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Top recruits talk about the current perception of Kentucky basketball

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Can Kentucky get back to the level we saw when Calipari first arrived?

John Calipari. Huddle. Isamu Haynes-Sunayama - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats have hit a wall in a way, and it has many wondering if the Cats are still viewed as one of the top programs in the eyes of the recruits.

Under John Calipari, the Cats went to five Elite Eights, four Final Fours, two title games, and won one championship from 2009-2015. Since then, the Cats have been to just two Elite Eights and haven’t been back to the Final Four.

During the first half of the Calipari era, Kentucky landed the No. 1 recruiting class six of the first seven years and had three No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft.

Since then, Kentucky has brought in the No. 1 recruiting class just once at that was the 2020 class that ended up finishing with a 9-16 record. Also, from 2016-2022 Kentucky has had just three top-10 draft picks.

So has the perception of Kentucky changed in the eyes of recruits?

Jack Pilgrim of Kentucky Sports Radio spoke with three McDonald’s All-Americans about Kentucky and if their perception of the program has changed.

One player he spoke with was 6-foot-8 power forward Mark Mitchell, who in the past said Kentucky was his favorite school growing up. However, he has signed to play his college basketball at Duke.

For Mitchell, he doesn’t think that the perception of Kentucky has changed, but top recruits are starting to do their own thing with talent spreading out across the country.

“Well, that’s a different one. I mean, yeah, I think (the perception is the same),” Mitchell said. “Growing up, I personally was a Kentucky fan. I think as you grow older, you grow out of certain things. Not that I wasn’t a Kentucky fan anymore, I just opened my mind up a little bit. But I think it still has that appeal.”

Despite the recent trend, Mitchell doesn’t see Kentucky falling off and believes they will always be a top program in college basketball.

“I think people are just going in different ways a little bit now,” he added. “But I think Kentucky will still always be Kentucky. What Cal does over there is really good for that program. I think they’ll always be a blue blood of college basketball.”

You can check out what all three McDonald’s All-Americans had to say about the perception of Kentucky here.