With all of the discussion about the lack of depth on John Calipari’s bench and criticism of his recruiting strategy, I thought of a novel idea. Nerlens Noel’s injury has exposed the glaring weakness of strategically only having a seven-man rotation. When someone goes down, especially your star player, it can leave your team in shambles. It can be especially hard to handle when your team lacks veteran leadership due to playing freshmen predominantly.
It is very understandable that Calipari prefers to leave scholarships open on his roster considering the caliber of player he signs every year and you can hardly argue with his string of top-ranked signing classes. So how can you add high-quality athletes who will stick around for a full career instead of transferring? How do you build depth with less-than super-star ballers, yet still have scholarships available to take as many McDonald’s All-Americans that you want? The answer: Kentucky football players.
Every year high-quality players sign football scholarship papers for a variety of reasons. Most are simply better at football than basketball. A lot of them will tell you that basketball is their first love, some will try to play both in college.
A great example would be Louisville native Mekale McKay, now an Arkansas Razorback. McKay is 6’6” , athletic and can jump out of the gym. He was All-State in both football and basketball, and he was determined to play both in college. So determined that he committed to lowly Texas El-Paso at one point , despite several BCS offers. The Miners were offering a chance to play both sports. Eventually Arkansas offered him the same opportunity and he signed with the Hogs. After just missing out on the All-SEC freshman team McKay decided to focus on football, but you can bet that Mekale would be a Wildcat in a second had Calipari offered him a walk-on spot.
A great example from this year would be Tennessee Athlete Corn Elder, whom Kentucky was recruiting feverishly behind the scenes. Elder waited until after signing day to choose a school because he was exploring his two-sport options. As a football player Elder was a 4* Rivals 250 athlete who would likely play running back at the next level. On the court Elder was a 2-3* point guard whose best scholarship offer was Purdue. Not a bad pick-up for either sport. Elder chose Miami.
Now before you go ranting about Calipari doing Stoops a favor or helping recruit football players, hold your horses. The idea is a mutually beneficial to both teams. The players would be primarily football guys since that is where their scholarships would be spent. The opportunities would be rare, only a couple of players a year would probably fit the mold. And there is no guarantee that Coach Stoops would be willing to share his players. Or that Calipari would accept anything perceived as assistance to help fill his roster.
It’s just an idea, but one would think Kentucky could use a guy like McKay this year and for leadership during that Final Four run in 2016. As lovable as Sam Malone and Brian Long are, they are unlikely to ever make a significant contribution to the team. Why not fill out those last spots