FIRST, JOHN CALIPARI SIGNED THE NO. 1-RATED PROSPECT in each of the next 10 recruiting classes. What’s that? Just the next two? It only seemed like the next 10 from all the hype.
Fine. It doesn’t change this fact: Remember all the talk you’ve heard from Rick Pitino about the Microwave Society? Kentucky went out and bought itself a microwave.
It’s unprecedented. Calipari loses four freshmen to the NBA Draft and pulls out two more No. 1 prospects (Brandon Knight, entering fall of 2010 and Michael Gilchrist, entering fall of ’11) and another top 25 player (Doron Lamb) like Hot Pockets out of the freezer.
Some perspective on Calipari’s recruiting.
From 2002 to 2008 — that’s seven recruiting classes — the storied University of Kentucky basketball program landed four top 25 recruits, two of those ranked in the top 10, none in the top 5, according to a Rivals.com database.
In about a year, 370 days, if you want to be exact about it (that’s from the date he signed his first UK recruit, DeMarcus Cousins), John Calipari has landed six top 25 players, including four ranked in the top 10, capped on Wednesday by the daily double signing of No. 1 players in successive classes.
And that’s not counting Turkish big man Enes Kanter. And the class isn’t complete.
At this point, Calipari is like the guy who gets behind the wheel of his Ferrari for the first time and, instead of easing her out on the highway, just floors it to see what’s under the hood.
The absolute efficiency with which he is attracting top players has one of two effects: You either think it’s eye-popping, or eyebrow-raising. I suppose you can think both.
The more he stays on the gas, the more people are going to be combing through the paths these players take to Lexington. But for the moment, the skid marks all over the lists of top recruits are Calipari, peeling out. And when the beeping stops, expect another top 5 class (if not another No. 1 class) to be left sitting to cool before being thrown straight into play.
SPEAKING OF RAISED EYEBROWS, THEY ARE ALWAYS the case when a player de-commits, and while 6-10 Michael Chandler of Indianapolis Lawrence North says he’s not officially out of the University of Louisville camp, his announcement last week that he will re-open his recruitment has to mean that he’s looking elsewhere.
Now, there are a couple of things to be said. If you want to know the worth of a 16-year-old boy’s commitment, ask a 16-year-old girl. That’s why getting worked up over these kids two years out is a dangerous thing. These kids can’t keep a cell phone for 6 months, but you think they’re going to pick a college and stick with it?
Nonetheless, Chandler’s decision further exacerbates the general feeling of anxiousness that hangs like a giant ash cloud above the U of L faithful. If the Marquis Teague decision doesn’t go Rick Pitino’s way — and I’m not saying it won’t, because he still appears to have the slightly upper hand in the deal and has put in more time with Teague and his family than anyone — it’s going to be hand-wringing time in the Derby city, especially if Teague winds up in Calipari’s production of Charlie and the Point Guard Factory over in Lexington.
Pitino could use a break on the recruiting trail. Last week, though, he just received another bad one. There’s no question that he can still get the interest of — even commitments from — elite talent. But getting them to campus has presented one bizarre challenge after another. First his top commitments bolted for the NBA. One (Sebastian Telfair) had a $10 million apparel deal before he ever was drafted. Another (Jeremy Tyler) skipped his senior year of high school and went to Israel.
Holy Land? Holy $#!+@&! He’s had everything happen but have a recruit snatched into the wilderness and raised by an AAU team of wolves. Or maybe that’s what happened to Amir Johnson. I forget.
How much of this to chalk up to bad luck, or bad strategy, or recruiting the wrong kids, or not being willing to put up with the demands/egos/whatever else of (insert family member here) is something that will likely be debated ad infinitum should Pitino get more bad news this week. So it’s a big week for the guys in red, especially when the coach in blue down I-64 seems to be nuking just about everybody on the recruiting trail.