John Calipari’s “Untold Story” of his Kentucky Wildcats and a few other recruits of interest in the 2014 and 2016 classes


Mar 9, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts to a call during the game against the Florida Gators in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Florida 61-57. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve read or heard virtually anything come out of John Calipari’s mouth or fingers, you can guarantee there are multiple messages being sent to and received multiple people.  He has always been known as the “one and done” coach because he recruits, and often lands, the highest profile recruits available yet the rule that makes kids attend only one year of college is an NBA rule so his hands are tied.   Nevertheless, occasionally he has inherited players who don’t have a future in professional basketball anywhere so he took a moment yesterday to take aim at all the senseless idiots who sling rhetoric around like Peyton Siva texts hookers.  From coachcal.com:

While I was on the road recruiting this weekend, it occurred to me that as much as we are evaluating and looking at all these talented kids and their terrific families, they are looking right back at us and what we’re doing here at Kentucky.

When we walk into a gym and players start to stir, I know they are looking at us because of what we have done on the court over the last few years. When they see us, they realize we will have produced 17 draft picks over the last four years after the upcoming draft. They know we’ve averaged more than 30 wins over the last four years. They remember our national championship. They know about our Final Fours. They understand we are on national television every single week.

But why is that the only thing people talk about with us? Why just one-and-done? Why don’t we ever discuss the incredible academic marks we have achieved over the last four years?

Of our 10 players who have been eligible to graduate by the end of their senior years, all 10 will have graduated after this weekend. For you math majors out there, that’s 100 percent.  We’ve also had a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average over the last three years.

It’s the norm, not an aberration.

Our latest graduates are Jarrod Polson, Jon Hood and Twany Beckham, all of whom will walk across that stage this weekend to receive their degree. I couldn’t be more proud of all three.

With Wayne Turner and Marquis Estill, who we invited to come back to finish their degrees, we’ve actually graduated 12 people over the last four years. We will continue to invite any and all players to come back and finish their degree.

We’re waiting on the spring semester to conclude, but we had five players on the Southeastern Conference Winter Academic Honor Roll this year, which doesn’t include freshmen. If you want to judge us by the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, we had a four-year composite score of 963 last year, well above the NCAA’s cutoff mark of 930.

I’m proud of what we’ve done on the court over the last few years. Few things make me happier than seeing our young men achieve their dreams on the court, whether that’s cutting down the national championship nets or seeing them hold up NBA jerseys with their names on it.

Are we proud of our players making it to the NBA? Of course. Are we happy about averaging more than 30 wins over the last four years? You bet.

But we’re about more than that here at Kentucky. When you run a players-first program, it’s about helping kids reach their dreams both on and off the court and preparing them for the rest of their lives. You can do both at the University of Kentucky. It’s a standard that’s been set.

 I’ve heard and said repeatedly recruiting is a year round sport in itself and Coach Calipari is taking this to near Billy Gillispie heights this week with some news coming from Adam Zagoria and Ben Roberts.  Adam takes a look at 2014 6-7 PF Abdul-Malik Abu and some interest being shown him by the Wildcats.

Two of the top players in the Class of 2014 picked up high-major offers after their performances at the Boo Williams Nike EYBL stop this weekeend.

Jared Terrell, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Brewster (N.H.) Academy, added offers from Kansas and Florida, according to his Expressions Elite coach Tyron Boswell.

Abdul-Malik Abu, a 6-7 power forward from Kimball (N.H.) Union, added offers from Kansas, N.C. State, Texas and Minnesota.

Kentucky coach John Calipari also watched Abu and UK assistant Orlando Antigua called Boswell Monday.

“Cal watched a game and then the assistant watched a game,” Boswell told SNY.tv. “He loved how he rebounded above the square and loved his motor.”

Asked if Abu might visit Kentucky, Boswell said, “If they offer, it’s possible.”

Boswell said the two players have talked about playing together in college and various schools have offered both players, including Florida, Kansas, UConn, St. John’s, Providence, Marquette and URI.

“That’s their goal,” Boswell said. “The goal is to try to play together if it works out for them both. If not, they’ll do what’s in the best interest of each of them.”

Now fastforward two years to the 2016 class and Calipari is already handing out offers.   I present 2016 Forward Jayson Tatum.

Class of 2016 forward Jayson Tatum told ChicagoHoops.com’s Scott Burgess that he received a scholarship offer from Kentucky on Monday.

Tatum would be the first 2016 prospect to receive a UK offer. Only one 2015 player — Haitian big man Skal Labissiere — has a confirmed scholarship offer from John Calipari.

Calipari checked in on Tatum during last weekend’s Nike EYBL session in Hampton, Va. The 6-foot-6 wing player from St. Louis is considered one of the top players in his class. The major recruiting services have not yet released player rankings for 2016.

Jodie Meeks just finished his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers and due to massive injuries and his own sharp shooting, dual guard ability, he was a significant contributor.  He sat down for an exit interview and the summary is below:

On the ankle that kept him out of the final three playoff games: “It feels all right. It’s still hard to get a shoe on … I’m going to talk to (head athletic trainer) Gary Vitti and see what he wants me to do. But (I will) get it back to 100 percent.”

- On his shooting being inconsistent on the season: “My shooting was up and down this season for whatever reason. I’ll be ready to come back next year and (get better); this system fits me perfectly and (Mike D’Antoni) has a lot of confidence in me.” Meeks didn’t have a great answer for why he was inconsistent, for a guy with such a quick release and nice stroke. Perhaps the constantly changing line ups were difficult, as he wasn’t always sure from where he’d be receiving the ball and from whom, which can be key for a shooter.

- On his defense, for a guy known as a shooter: “I thought I did a pretty good job. I just talked to coach, and he said I came along well defensively. I watched a lot of film this year, more than what I was used to, and that helped out a lot.”

- Meeks on playing with Kobe Bryant: “I didn’t really know what to expect before the season started – it was sort of surreal at first. But he was a great teammate, giving me a lot of confidence to play the way I can … his mental preparation (stands out to me the most). No matter if he’s hurt, sick, whatever, he has the same focus for every single game. That’s hard when you’re playing against the best players in the league.”

- Meeks on Dwight Howard, with whom he is probably closer than anyone else on the team: “I know he loves this city and this team. We got pretty close as friends. I can’t say exactly what he’s going to do, but I know he likes (Los Angeles).

- On Kobe and Howard’s relationship: “I don’t think the relationship was ever bad. They got along fine from day one. I think they just got to know one another’s games as the season went on, but there was never any beef in the locker room.”

And to finish off this five, former Kentucky Wildcats baseball player Alex Meyer sat down with Dom Amore and talked pitching.  It’s an interesting article and great read but he talks about a pitch I had never heard of until I read this.  the 6’9″ pitcher who was a stud for the Bat Cats expects to be called up this year at some point.  His stuff is just too good.

David Meyer, umpiring a high school game in Indiana, saw something he’d never seen before, an unusually sharp-breaking curveball.

“My dad wasn’t sure what it was,” Alex Meyer said, “so he asked [the pitcher], ‘What are you throwing?’ and he showed him the grip for it. My dad came home and showed me, and I started messing around, playing catch with it.”

Alex Meyer was a freshman at Greensburg High, and the pitch was a spike curveball, which was becoming popular. It is thrown with the forefinger bent, the tip on the ball. Meyer eventually put a very different spin on the pitch.

And now his “knuckle curve,” as he calls it, and another unusual pitch, his no-seam fastball, have him very close to the major leagues. Meyer is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA for the Rock Cats, and Twins GM Terry Ryan is expected to join the team and watch him pitch against Harrisburg at New Britain Stadium Tuesday night.

“And if my dad hadn’t umpired that day and asked that kid, I probably would never have learned to throw the pitch,” Meyer said.

Meyer, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound righthander, was Indiana’s Mr. Baseball in 2008, when he went 8-0 with an 0.95 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 51 innings. The Red Sox drafted him in the 20th round and offered $2 million, but he chose to attend the University of Kentucky. Three years later, Meyer was touching 100 mph and had dominated the SEC and was drafted in the first round, 23rd, by the Nationals in 2011, signing for $2 million.

After a strong first season in Class A, Meyer was traded to the Twins for outfielder Denard Span in November.

Meyer, 23, pitched five innings in big league camp, allowing one hit.

“The big kid,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after one outing, “is really fun to watch.”

He was assigned to Double A and in four starts for the ‘Cats has allowed 21 hits and eight walks in 22 innings with 26 strikeouts and a 3.75 groundout-to-flyout ratio.

Meyer’s version, too, is his own and presents its own challenges.

“I’ve never met anybody who throws it the way I do,” he said. “I really stick my fingernail into the seam. You have to have big enough fingers to be able to do it. Most guys have the finger up against the ball. With me, if my fingernail is not right that day, it’s going to be really hard for me to throw it. I’ve learned to adapt so that the length of my fingernail is where I like to have it. I use a nail file during the season.”

Meyer digs his fingernail into the seams and flicks the ball as he releases it with his three-quarters motion. But there’s nothing slow about Meyer’s knuckle curve, which is why some scouts think it is a slider. He throws it better than 85 mph and it has a late, violent swerve.

“It’s a hard slurve,” Smith said. “The hitters’ reaction? Not good. Especially right-handed hitters. He gets a lot of swings and misses with it.”

Of course, a pitch released in this manner is bound to be hard to control — and since no one else throws it, Meyer has had to become his own pitching coach.

“My junior year in high school I really started throwing it,” Meyer said. “I really struggled to throw it for a strike. When I was throwing it for a strike, most guys were turning out of the way, thinking I was going to hit ‘em. Once I got to college, it was OK. It still had the big break, but there were days I couldn’t throw it for a strike. By the time I left there, and into now, I feel pretty good, where I can throw it for a strike when I need to. No one has ever tried to coach me out of it.”

At Kentucky, his conventional four-seam fastball was hard but straight, and it got hit. Former major league closer Bill Caudill, who later became his agent, suggested he try a no-seam grip. A four-seamer is gripped against the seams, a two-seamer, or sinker, is gripped on the seams. Meyer throws his fastball with his fingers in the bare, horseshoe area of the ball. It’s 93-to-97 mph with a late sinking action, and he has had opposing pitchers this season asking him what the heck it is.

“Despite the unusual grips, Meyer is able to make all his pitches look identical coming out of his hand, which might be the most important element. I really look for that,” Smith said. “And most of the time I can’t tell what he’s throwing.”

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