by Brian Eldridge
It wasn’t long ago that Kentucky couldn’t nab that much needed power forward. The search for a good power forward lasted several seasons and began under Tubby Smith.
Unsuccessfully, Smith recruited the likes of Brandan Wright and Tyler Hansbrough, who both coincidentally wound up at North Carolina, and fell short. Tubby’s best shot in years to get that elite big man that could change the way his teams played came in 2007 recruit Patrick Patterson.
Smith had come close to getting Patterson, but soon opted to leave the university and head up to Minnesota. Billy Gillispie came in and got Patterson’s signature and UK fans rejoiced.
Fast forward to the John Calipari era and fans are in a constant state of elation.
Calipari helped develop Patrick Patterson’s skills over his junior season and landed much ballyhooed recruits John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Not only did he recruit those guys, but they are now NBA millionaires, with Wall being the top pick in the NBA draft.
Getting players to the pros is the bottom line when recruits look at coaches. And John Calipari is the guy who has gotten several prospects to the NBA in recent years has gained a ton of credibility in the eyes of recruits. Why?
Each of these players are lottery picks under Calipari in the last three seasons. And five star recruits love to see this kid of trend in a college they may be considering.
Players like Quincy Miller and Anthony Davis are highly considering the Wildcats mostly due to the fact that Calipari has put so many guys in the lottery the last few seasons. Kentucky’s seven national championships and 2000 plus wins is just an added bonus.
There will still be questions about who Kentucky will get commitments from on the recruiting trail, but it won’t be because the Wildcats are struggling to land the prospect. It will be because there are so many guys interested that Cal and his staff really can’t go wrong. Among highly rated recruits, Calipari is the toast of the town. Among his peers, that’s not the case.
There have always been people who question the legitimacy of Calipari and his recruiting tactics. There have been allegations, vacated wins and ineligible recruits. People can talk about the constant shroud of questions surrounding Calipari all they want, but he’s proven to be a player’s coach. His players love him and he loves his players. The kind of support; the give and take between he and these young men, is endearing.
This writer chooses to believe that Calipari is taking the high road and recruits love him for who he is and what he can do for them personally and professionally. Any prospect in the country would be foolish not to consider Cal’s connections to the pro ranks, his track record for getting guys to the NBA and his relationships that he’s developed with these young men on their way to the league.
In the end, we don’t know who Kentucky will land in each recruiting class under Calipari, but what we do know is that Calipari has made it that much easier for the Kentucky Wildcats to get into the living rooms of the top prospects in the nation. And that’s half the battle.