It usually happens every weekend this time of year. A self-described “recruiting expert” on Twitter spouts out some “information” and it catches on like wildfire. It happened this weekend with the speculation that Stanley Johnson was no longer considering Kentucky, which sent some portions of the BBN into a full-blown panic. OF course, then the real recruiting gurus spring into action and usually call on the player to confirm or refute the rumors, which Adam Zagoria did with Johnson on the UK rumor.
Johnson dismissed rumors that he is no longer considering Kentucky.
“I don’t know what person would think I’m not feeling Kentucky,” he said. “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Johnson visited Kentucky last month for “Big Blue Madness” and was a top target of head coach John Calipari all summer.
“I really enjoy Coach Cal,” Johnson said. “People try to shoot him down but he’s a really great guy. Being at school, at practice, it was good to see on my official.”
Arizona also remains strongly in the mix.
“[Coach] Sean Miller has recruited me forever, I know him really, really well,” Johnson said. “I really like him.”
Johnson sounds as though it’s still a tough decision for him to make.
“It really is close as a person going through recruitment,” he said. “They’re doing a great job recruiting me. Both schools [Kentucky and Arizona] are.”
Still, he probably won’t announce until January, meaning a late-signing.
John Calipari was talking to the recruits at Big Blue Madness when he made the statement that “Kentucky is college basketball: and Kentucky fans should know by now that Cal is going to make bold statements. John Clay makes some interesting comments about whether the current Calipari or the past Pitino was more beloved by the Kentucky fanbase.
You can make the argument that when the UK program was rolling back in the 1990s, Rick Pitino was more beloved. (Not the Rick Pitino of now, not the Traitor Rick in the eyes of Kentucky fans, but the Rick Pitino who brought UK out of the ashes of probation.) If memory serves, the cheers at Pitino’s introductions trumped, if ever so slightly, the current cheers for Cal.
And yet no Kentucky coach might be as in tune with the UK fan base as Calipari. He is the UK coach with the gumption to say what they are thinking, believing, saying themselves.
Of course, at some point, you have to back such a statement up, and there is a feeling that Calipari seems a little more emboldened this year.
Here was a media question, or media comment, from the team’s media day: “It seems like you’ve got some of the swagger back.”
Calipari’s answer: “You know, everybody keeps saying, well, I sound different.”
Now that the basketball season is getting underway, it’s time to stop listening to the hype and for the Wildcats to start backing it up. Kentucky, of course, has the best recruiting class in recent history and John Calipari routinely pulls in the top classes. At this point, it becomes a nature versus nurture debate as with all of Kentucky’s talent, they have not been able to pull off the back to back titles. The only team to do that recently was Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators, which was not that highly ranked class.
Then again, what do the rankings really mean? The Florida class that won the 2006 and 2007 national championships as sophomores and juniors had only one McDonald’s All-American: Corey Brewer. Coach Billy Donovan considered Al Horford and Joakim Noah “projects,” which is akin to the mildly derogatory designation of “game manager” for quarterbacks.
“The minute they stepped into practice, their mind-set, their attitude, their disposition set them apart,” Donovan said. “I knew these guys were going to be special.”
Horford, Noah and company put team first. They were “ultra-competitive,” Donovan said, yet fostered a palpable unity of purpose.
“Joakim Noah and Al Horford never, ever said once to me over a three-year period, ‘I need more touches; I need more shots,’” Donovan said.
So, Donovan lucked into a treasure trove of A-plus talent, temperament and achievement?
“Absolutely,” he said. “We all do. If everybody had it figured out, we’d never have some of the guys we have in our programs. It’s such an inexact science. You don’t know a player till you coach him.”
Recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans doesn’t ensure success, but that’s where the smart money goes. Calipari has preached chemistry. He’s noted how Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist did not demand shots, and he’s noted how no UK player took more than nine shots in the 2012 national semifinal victory over Louisville.