Five players announced early departures from Team Kentucky AAU today. Five thoughts.
1). Best wishes to all. You always hope when guys make this decision that it works for the best. For one or two of these, it might mean a return to UK, but not if current projections are to be trusted. There’s not one of these guys who I could say definitively made a mistake by declaring.
2). Calipari is playing the current one-and-done system better than anyone. But he’s in uncharted water now. If one or two early departures mean a coach has to scramble, five mean he has to remake his program every season. Calipari seems supremely confident that he can do this. It’s certainly a powerful recruiting sell to point to an entire freshman class that moved on. In fact, I don’t know of a coach in America who can sell something more valuable to elite level recruits now.
3). While this is great for the UK basketball image — and I disagree with anyone who says otherwise — it’s not great for the university’s image. Calipari is doing what he was brought to UK to do, win basketball games, draw the best talent and move it on to the NBA. But when an entire freshman class comes in and spends less time together on campus than they did with their AAU programs, it doesn’t look good for the larger mission.
4). Patrick Patterson deserves special mention in all this, and it’s a shame his departure will be overshadowed by the news of four freshmen declaring on the same day. Patterson never got enough credit, in my estimation, for staying in school when he could have left, and for finishing his degree in three years. He deserves a special place in the memory of UK fans for what he contributed to the program and school — in good times and bad. (UPDATE: Patterson’s mother says the school jumped the gun on his announcement. See Brett Dawson’s story on today’s events.)
5). In some ways, the deal Calipari has in motion now might fit the desires of the current basketball fan better than any other system in America. I would rank most rabid fans’ interests in their teams at these percentages:
– Performance/record of current team 50 percent
– Following recruits and possible recruiting targets 40 percent
– Anticipating future players/recruits once signed 10 percent
Given that, what could be better than a roster that is nearly half remade every year? I think it will suit some fans to a T. At least, until the performance/record suffers. Get good enough players, however, and it won’t. At the very least, it’s going to be interesting to watch.