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Kentucky Wildcats Musings: John Calipari is back, roster chaos, and more

Kentucky Basketball is in flux but Cal has unquestionably reclaimed his recruiting swagger.

IPFW v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There’s a lot going on in the world of Kentucky Wildcats basketball. John Calipari is adding recruits left and right, former players are going pro or transferring, and we still have no idea how any of this will shake out.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

Jeff Goodman caught a lot of flack from Kentucky fans because of this article. Goodman claimed that Coach K was beating Cal at his own game in recruiting and he used a lot of evidence to back it up.

He primarily used the example of Duke’s current recruiting class. John Calipari whiffed on RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson.

It did appear as if K had stolen some of Cal’s mojo.

And then John Calipari got pissed off. KSR’s Matt Jones alluded to a story about what happened when Calipari found out that Zion Williamson had committed to Duke seemingly out of nowhere (Clemson and Kentucky were considered the favorites).

While Jones did not elaborate, he suggested that Cal was upset and then he decided to take recruiting matters into his own hands.

Since that time, Calipari has landed DJ Jeffries for 2019, battled Duke for EJ Montgomery and won, and landed 2019’s top point guard in Ashton Hagans. Hagans will likely reclassify and become the top point guard in the 2018 class.

After landing Montgomery and Hagans on consecutive mornings, Calipari released this tweet:

There are rumors that Calipari is ready to pull the trigger on 1-2 more players from the class of 2019 and possibly a grad transfer.

Make no mistake about it, Duke’s success pushed Calipari to the point to where he was either going to adapt to a new system or double down and improve his current system.

There does not appear to be an upcoming article from Goodman about how Calipari is now moving back ahead of K on the recruiting trail.

Roster Chaos

I have no clue what the roster will look like in 2018.

I had figured on Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leaving with another transfer as a possibility. I also figured that outside of EJ Montgomery, Cal was finished recruiting. I was banking on multiple guys from last year’s team returning in order to give Kentucky some veteran leadership.

I might be way off.

So far the departures have not surprised me with SGA, Knox, and even Sacha Killeya-Jones transferring. I still expect Diallo to leave. But what I wasn’t expecting was PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel, and Jarred Vanderbilt all talking about leaving for the NBA or the professional leagues overseas.

I also was not expecting Calipari to get another guard, so now there are rumors that Quade Green may transfer.

Simply put: we won’t know what the final roster will be until after the NBA Combine. So right now it’s best to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

The roster as it stands right now with guys we know will be in uniform at the University of Kentucky in 2018/2019:

  • Immanuel Quickley
  • Keldon Johnson
  • Tyler Herro
  • EJ Montgomery
  • Nick Richards
  • Jemarl Baker

Guys that I think will likely be on the roster:

  • Ashton Hagans
  • Quade Green
  • Jarred Vanderbilt
  • PJ Washington

I have a feeling will opt for elsewhere:

  • Wenyen Gabriel

I have no inside sources on this; I’m just reading the tea leaves based on things that I’ve heard through the grapevine and who John Calipari is targeting still.

Why isn’t Nick Richards getting more love?

It was announced, with little fanfare, that Nick Richards is coming back to Kentucky for his sophomore season and he won’t test the NBA waters.

I think this is a big deal for next season’s team. If there is a position that will need bodies, it’s the frontcourt. Richards experienced struggles, but he showed glimpses of what he could be if he reached his potential.

Richards is still a five star player, a McDonald’s All American, and he’s 6’11. He will be a valuable player, even if he’s coming off of the bench, especially if he makes a jump during the offseason.

He will have a great deal of time to work on his game, including the trip to the Bahamas. I think fans are overlooking the worth of Nick Richards.

PJ, Wenyen, and Vanderbilt

With Calipari allegedly pursuing grad transfer power forward Reid Travis and possibly convincing 2019 power forward Matthew Hurt to reclassify, I think it’s safe to say Calipari is expecting to lose more than just Sacha Killeya-Jones in the frontcourt.

PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Wenyen Gabriel are all supposedly struggling with their decisions to stay. I would have expected two of the three to return (Washington and Vanderbilt), but there’s a real possibility that none of them come back.

The one I understand the least is Vanderbilt. NBA teams would have to take a giant leap on a player that is injury prone and one that there is a very small sample size in terms of college play.

As far as Gabriel, I know that his family has struggled with money in the past and even a professional career overseas would be a huge deal for them.

Washington will leave if he gets any indication that he will be close to the first round after his combine workouts. I don’t expect that to happen, but I have been surprised before.

If two of those three end up staying, then I think Kentucky contends for a title and would be the best team in the country. If one stays, I think they’re still elite and a strong Final Four threat.

If all three leave, then I think Cal is still in great shape, especially if he can work his recruiting magic once again.

If I were pressed to make a guess, I say that Vanderbilt and Washington return while Wenyen plays somewhere professionally next season.