Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Dodging a Bullet in Recruiting


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the announcement that Emmanuel Mundiay is heading overseas to play basketball for a year instead of enrolling at SMU, it would appear that John Calipari—and, more importantly, Kentucky—dodged yet another bullet. Mundiay insists that his decision to not enroll at SMU had nothing to do with eligibility issues and, unlike many national sportswriters, I believe him. Absent evidence to the contrary, I believe he simply wanted to provide for his family sooner, rather than later.

But, regardless of whether Mundiay’s decision was driven by concerns over his eligibility or a desire to begin earning a living, SMU will head into the 2014-2015 college basketball season without its top recruit, creating a major hole in Larry Brown’s roster. Emmanuel Mundiay was one of John Calipari’s prized recruiting targets. It’s no secret that Calipari coveted the electric point guard. And when Mundiay chose the Mustangs over the Wildcats, Calipari turned his attention towards Tyler Ulis, who would eventually commit, and then sign, with Kentucky.

Kentucky losing Mundiay to SMU is, it now appears, one more blessing in disguise. Since John Calipari was hired at Kentucky, there have been several recruits who, though recruited heavily by Coach Cal, chose another school and either ran into trouble or simply underwhelmed at their chosen school. Josh Selby is the best example. Considered the top overall recruit by Rivals for the Class of 2010, the point guard was heavily recruited by Calipari. And, while some may argue that Cal ultimately cooled to Selby, no one can deny that at one point he was one of Cal’s top targets. Selby eventually chose Kansas. After sitting out the first 9 games of the season because of receiving impermissible benefits, Selby averaged a pitiful 7.9 points per game while average 2.0 turnovers per game. He would eventually declare for the NBA Draft, drafted 49th overall by Memphis. Selby is currently without a team.

Meanwhile, Cal received a commitment from a kid out of Florida who would lead the team to the 2011 Final Four before being drafted 8th overall by the Detroit Pistons.

Shabazz Muhammad, Xavier Henry, C.J. Leslie, Tobias Harris—all were recruited by Calipari; all chose to go somewhere other than Kentucky; all had less than stellar collegiate careers or, in the case of Shabazz, ran into questions about eligibility.

As recruiting for the Class of 2015 heats up, there will be kids who choose Kentucky and kids who do not. And, for the ones who do not, it may end up being yet another bullet eventually dodged by the Wildcats. It’s important to mention this because the reaction, too often, by many fans when a recruit decides not to pick Kentucky is to attack the kid on social media. In a moment, guys who fans were begging to come to Kentucky are being called “losers” or “trash” or “failures” or, in some case, worse. Meanwhile, the kid who ultimately decides to come to Kentucky may very well end up being the next Brandon Knight. The point is, in recruiting, you never know. In the meantime, as is often said, Trust in Cal.