I know it seems weird to say it, but could John Calipari be changing his method of recruiting and how he puts his team together? I know that Calipari is known as the king of one and done players but the 2014 class could be shaping up to be more than a “direct to the NBA” pipeline. Instead of just going after the best of the best, could Cal be looking at some players that will stick around a few years and provide that veteran leadership?
As we saw last year, you simply can not reload and expect to win the title without some experience. And that will be provided by Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress this year. But the 2014 class is shaping up to be a very nice mix of one and done stardom and players that will help to shape future teams as well.
Already, Kentucky has Tyler Ulis as their point guard for the 2014 class. And Ulis looks to stay around a few seasons. ESPN projects Ulis as one of the top juniors in college basketball for the 2016-17 season.
Tyler Ulis (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic)
5-9, 150, PG, Kentucky
Here’s the thing about the NBA — size counts. So while Ulis may not be quite the pro prospect Kentucky fans are used to seeing as their starting point guard, that won’t impact his opportunity to be the Cats’ floor general from Day 1 next season. If he can capitalize, Ulis should be one of the most established and experienced point guards in college basketball by the time he’s a junior.
There is a lot to be said about Ulis. Some pundits say that Calipari took Ulis because he knew that he could not get Tyus Jones. However, Tyus Jones recently told Evan Daniel that he cancelled his visit to Kentucky “because they got a point guard”. We all know that John Calipari does nothing without sending out a message, so I wonder if Calipari accepting the commitment to Ulis was more of a Cal picking Ulis over Jones moment? Ulis’s stock really blew up when he dominated Jones in an AAU Tounament over the summer.
If you look back at last season, the biggest disappointment was Ryan Harrow. Could Calipari be committing to a PG that he know will stick around and grow with the program? Of course, Harrow was not thought to be a one and done, but if he could have taken UK to the Final Four, he may have left and moved up the draft projections. With Ulis, he will be a Wildcat for a while and will play with a team goal rather than one eye on the NBA.
Also, in the ESPN list of top juniors in 2016-17 is Devin Booker. While not a Wildcat yet, Booker is expected to commit to Kentucky on Halloween. And he would provide a nice stable piece that will grow with Ulis.
Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point)
6-5, 185, SG, Undecided
He’s got NBA-caliber size for his position and range on his jumper, but has to prove he can diversify his offense and defend pro athletes on the perimeter. More than likely he looks the part of a guy who will grow into a signature offensive role in college and then have a chance to be a solid complementary part at the next level because of his high basketball I.Q. and ability to space the floor in a half-court set.
Same could probably be said about James Blackmon, although it is not certain if he would be a “one and done” at Kentucky. And don’t get me wrong, John Calipari will always go after the best of the best players in high school and each class will feature a couple of one and dones. But expect Calipari to look to the future and also go after solid three to four year players in an attempt to replicate the magic he had in 2012.