Since Saturday night, John Calipari has successfully taken the “most analyzed team” tag from his Kentucky Wildcats basketball team and put the focus solely on him, making him America’s most analyzed man. Seth Davis weighs in on the “everything Calipari news cycle” and suggests that perhaps Calipari should change his approach to recruiting.
Kentucky was never going to be as good as people said they’d be at the start of the season, and they’re not as bad as people are saying now. Too many people forgot that for all the brilliance of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the 2012 champs were anchored by three non-freshmen who showed the youngsters how to win. This team doesn’t have that. Maybe in the future, this season’s disappointment will convince John Calipari to recruit some four-year “program guys” to complement those talented one-and-doners. If he doesn’t, this will keep happening.
To be honest, I really don’t get this approach. Davis is suggesting that Calipari stop going after the best players in the land and instead recruit players that are not a threat to go pro after one year. And if you look at the Kentucky roster, there are several players (Poythress, Hawkins, Lee, and Willis) that look to be at least three year players if not four and next years class has players like Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker that fit that mode as well.
Don’t expect Calipari to change his approach to recruiting however. He was asked about that during his press conference yesterday.
“I don’t think so. Look, I’d like to have guys stay for me. But if the opportunity arises for them, I’m not going to hold guys back. I’m recruiting good players. Some of them, people think would go. Others, think they wouldn’t go. You don’t know until the year’s out. You just don’t know. The environment we’re in — you can either convince players to stay that should leave. Or recruit players who aren’t quite good enough to be here and compete. I’ll recruit a Top 50 — he thinks he’s one-and-done too. That’s why the rule — like I keep coming back to — I’m hoping this rule changes and it goes to two years. It makes it good for the kids, high school kids, college kids, the NBA. It’s good for everybody.”
Tonight is senior night for Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, and some are worried that this may be an extinct night under John Calipari. Mark Story had a good point about Calipari’s teams and how players like Darius Miller were instrumental to the success of Calipari’s teams over the last three years. With no players like Miller the last couple of years, the team has struggled.
The other consequence of Calipari so heavily promoting Kentucky as the quickest route to the NBA is that, whether it is the coach’s intention or not, it creates a two-tiered perception of players.
When Calipari signed in-state standouts Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis as part of his ballyhooed 2013 recruiting class, the duo were immediately labeled by some as “program players.” That term was applied because those two were expected to be in the Kentucky program for multiple years instead of being one-and-dones. To me, there’s something lamentable about an approach that causes players apt to be with your team for the long haul to be diminished.
The irony for a school now synonymous with the one-and-done recruit is that Kentucky’s performance has fallen off dramatically since older players in place when Calipari came to Lexington have cycled out of the program.
With some combination of Patrick Patterson (three years in UK program), DeAndre Liggins (three years), Josh Harrellson (three years) and Darius Miller (four years) mixed in with Cal’s elite one-and-done talent, the coach’s first three Kentucky teams went 102-14 overall, 40-8 in SEC regular-season games and 26-4 versus teams ranked in the AP Top 25.
Since Miller, the last holdover Cal inherited, played his final game in the 2012 NCAA title game, Kentucky is 42-20 overall, 23-11 in SEC contests — and 3-7 against ranked foes.