“So, 2012 will be my fourth straight #1 recruiting class. Deal with it”
We get it. John Calipari is an amazing recruiter. Perhaps one of the best recruiters ever. About a week or so ago, we looked at the past three years in recruiting and saw that Kentucky’s three year haul was heads above any of the other “master recruiters“
in college basketball. As I stated then, no other college coach can touch Calipari in terms of recruiting. He has three top five players committed for 2011, and let’s just say that DeAndre Daniels joins Kentucky as a member of his already top ranked 2010 class …. at some point it just isn’t fair.
Calipari’s 2011 class is set to become the top recruiting class ever. And Calipari is not winning these rankings by narrow margins. In 2011, Calipari is looking like Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, winning by an astounding 31 lengths.
But at what point can we call Calipari’s haul the best ever over a three year period? If we look at merely high school rankings, Calipari has already done that. But at some point, you have to look at the on court accomplishments of these recruiting classes and decide if they are truly the best ever.
Even with a 35-3 record and an Elite Eight appearance, last year’s version of the Wildcats underperformed in some pundit’s eyes. Do I agree with that assessment? No. After the last years of Tubby and the unmitigated disaster that was the Gillispie era, all the BBN wanted was to become relevant again. And Calipari more than did that in his first season. Granted, this team had the talent to win the national title and I think that Kentucky will beat West Virginia 8 of 10 times, but nevertheless, Calipari Year 1 was a success.
But with another top ranked recruiting class comes increased expectations, and national titles, not number one classes is what John Calipari will ultimately be judged against. We all know that that John Calipari made history when he had five players drafted in the first round of the NBA Tournament. You can say that Kentucky had the all time best NBA Draft in history, yet the 2007 Gator NBA class (#3 Horford, #7 Brewer and #9 Noah) had two NCAA titles to show for their time in college.
With overall college achievements in mind, the folks at Rush the Court took a look at Calipari’s three year haul and matched it against what they perceived to be the previous top three year haul by a college coach, the 1997-1999 haul landed by Coach K:
Elton Brand (#1, 1997)
Chris Burgess (#7, 1997)
Shane Battier (#8, 1997)
William Avery (#14, 1997)
Corey Maggette (#16, 1998)
Jason Williams (#3, 1999)
Carlos Boozer (#8, 1999)
Casey Sanders (#16, 1999)
Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (#26, 1999)
The recruiting rankings alone are nasty, but when you consider the actual accomplishments of this group, it takes on a whole new meaning. Six lottery picks, three NPOYs, two title game appearances and a national championship (2001). In two of the years where they didn’t cut the nets down, (1999 and 2002), Duke was the prohibitive favorite to win the title (finishing #1 in the final AP poll every year from 1999-2002) in large part because they had more talent than anybody else. They actually won it all in 2001, but we’re still trying to figure out how Jim Calhoun’s vastly underrated (but also undermanned) Huskies were able to slay the Duke dragon in 1999 (oh, right, Trajan Langdon). It was an amazing run of talent acquisition, and we haven’t seen anything like it for at least a decade.
So there you have it. The gauntlet has been thrown down. If we want to truly claim this as the best three year period, Calipari needs to land some hardware. Of course, the recruiting landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade. Coach K claimed nine players in those three years and their impact was felt on Duke’s roster for at least six seasons.
To date, Calipari has fifteen recruits. And they have just one year’s impact on the program: an elite eight appearance. And as great of a class that RTC deems the Duke class was, they only delivered one title. Color me as drinking the big blue kool-aid, but I am seeing more than one title in the next six to seven seasons. But we have plenty of time to argue over it.