John Calipari’s season at Kentucky is now officially over. At least that’s what he was telling everyone after James Young was selected 17th overall by the Boston Celtics last night, ten picks after Julius Randle went to the Los Angeles Lakers. If you haven’t been keeping track, that’s now 15 first-rounders for Calipari in his five years at Kentucky, including at least one lottery pick in each.
Those numbers shouldn’t surprise you, though, especially after last night’s Draft. While his now former players might’ve dropped a tad from where they were initially projected to go, Kentucky basketball’s reputation remains clean and better than ever. That’s Calipari’s magic working. As Randle was picked by the Lakers — a destination both coach and player were hoping for — the cameras caught Calipari pumping his fist and then giving the bull of a power forward a massive hug. On the other hand, Young was slipping, but that isn’t the story today. Calipari made sure of that by pointing out how Young is headed to one of the blue blood franchises in the NBA.
As ESPN’s panel of analysts were discussing Kentucky’s draft accolades, they too mentioned how Calipari told them his season is now over. Randle, Young and Kentucky all were sitting prominently in the spotlight. This is what he does, this is what he’s better than his peers at.
Bill Self, Kansas’ undeniably successful head coach, could’ve put on the same act, too. His players didn’t fall to seven and 17, they went first and third. As the Cleveland Cavaliers made Andrew Wiggins the first-overall pick, we didn’t hear much about Kansas, we didn’t hear about Self’s ability to get players drafted. No, it was all about Wiggins. Although Self’s other lottery pick, Joel Embiid, wasn’t at the draft, the same scenario played out as the Philadelphia 76ers selected him third overall. In fact, Self’s most memorable, recognizable moment probably came when he thought Marcus Smart was looking for a handshake.
Consider that another victory for Calipari and the ‘Cats.
As for Randle and Young, they find themselves in promising situations. Randle, as I suggested here, lands on a Lakers’ roster that is devoid of talent. Outside of an aging Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, there’s hardly anything there. Depending on what they do with the cash they have to spend, Randle could be looking at a starting spot from the jump — a scenario that should benefit him, as his body should be able to handle a relatively heavy load of the pro game while he cuts his teeth as a rookie.
There’s not much standing in the way of Young on the Celtics’ roster as well. Boston currently has Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace on the wing, along with seventh-overall pick Marcus Smart in the back-court currently, leaving Young with an opportunity to find playing time sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see how Brad Stevens decides to employ Young early on. Obviously free agency could change things for both players, but both will be suiting up for excellent organizations.
If Randle or Young are able to carve out spots and make names for themselves with the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, it only increases the magnitude that is Kentucky’s brand. A brand that resonates with teenage basketball players around the country. A brand that has been lifted to new heights by none other than John Calipari.
And we’ll likely see him working his magic once again a year from now.