So, it seems that sports talk today is wall-to-wall John Wall, so it’s no surprise that the nation’s No. 1 recruit, who has reportedly committed to the University of Kentucky today, will be the column topic for tomorrow. But seeing as how the sports buzz will get a 24-hour head start (at least) on whatever I say in tomorrow’s paper, I’d better jump in on the blog before all the good lines are taken.
For starters, John Calipari at the moment has to be the hottest brand in college basketball. While UK’s tradition and facilities haven’t hurt in luring the recruits he has landed since arriving, Calipari has been the main factor in every decision, as acknowledged by the players themselves. Consider that he has barely scratched the surface of leveraging UK’s assets on the recruiting trail.
A guy at Churchill Downs this weekend came up to me and said, “Did you hear that everyone wants John Calipari to buy a piece of their horses?”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Calipari can lead a horse to water AND make him drink.”
If you like stars in the Rivals.com recruitng ranking system, you like Calipari’s first UK recruiting class. It took 70 years for the U.S. flag to accumulate 28 stars. Calipari did it here in 7 weeks.
Though to be fair, it’s not like UK hasn’t seen recruiting hauls like this before. Let’s not forget, Tubby Smith had three “5-star” players in his 2004 class that was ranked No. 1 nationally — Joe Crawford, Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo. But let’s also be honest. It’s one thing to have Rondo coming into Tubby Smith’s half-court offense. It’s another to have Wall coming to play the dribble drive.
One is like your grandfather buying a Ferrari. I think you know which one.
So what is so special about Wall? I suggest you head over to YouTube and watch some footage of his play. He’s the most-watched guy on the Internet since Rick Astley. At one point this morning, he was the No. 4 trending topic on Twitter. He was getting almost as much play as the new Palm Pre Smartphone. But most recruiting gurus would tell you that Wall has more aps.
In all seriousness, the importance of Wall is that he’s such a fit for Calipari’s dribble-drive. He’s the best high school player in the nation at creating his own offense, but he also has the ability and willingness to distribute the ball. He’s got good size. He’s essentailly Tyreke Evans all over again, but probably more skilled.
He’s a ready-made guy, in the mold of Evans and Derrick Rose.
That he’s the No. 1 recruit in the nation, and that he further propels a class that already was ranked No. 1 to complete an almost mind-boggling recruiting turnaround in Calipari’s first seven weeks on the job, further adds to the magnitude.
First 100 days? Forget that. Look at Calipari’s first 50. He has signed up 60,000 Twitter followers and three five-star recruits.
And while the benefits of that from a talent standpoint are obvious, there’s also an ancillary benefit in image, both in national prestige and in buzz on the recruiting trail. If you don’t think UK will be more of a presence on the summer camp scene this year than at any time since the mid-1990s, you don’t know the “now” mentality of elite young players.
I’ll just say this. I saw one report last winter where a guy said that Wall was “making a name for” his North Carolina school. Given that the name of the school was already “Word of God Christian Academy,” I thought it a telling statement.
And while he can’t perform a cross-over on water, Wall could be the kind of player who could deliver a Final Four, and perhaps more, to a program that is long overdue.
Expect Calipari to immediately begin to temper expectations when the letter of intent is received. He’s right to do that. Even with talented freshmen, there is a significant adjustment period.
But for now, UK fans are having fun trying to adjust to the feeling of the best recruits in the country beating down their doors again. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t enjoy it.