UK basketball recruiting stands out


Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari directs his team during the game against the Wichita State Shockers in the second round game of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN on Sunday, March 19, 2017. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff

Since 2010, the evolution of not just Kentucky basketball, but NCAA basketball, has changed with freshmen playing big roles on teams and leaving after one year; the one-and-done. But what makes the next class pick that school? Is it success? NBA draft picks? Television exposure?

In NCAA basketball, the “blue bloods” have always been in the scene regardless, but evolution is a factor for the major programs. They see one team do it, they all follow suit. For example, seeing Duke change their philosophy after twenty years of success to adapt to the one-and-done era is incredible. Everybody knows the phrase, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” But why is it being fixed?

When you see the thoroughbred at Keeneland run, it is the most beautiful thing. Seeing Kentucky basketball run, is comparably a beautiful thing. After Wall, Cousins and company, basketball was changed and an era was born. Now that Kentucky doesn’t have Wall or Cousins pushing the pen to history, Kevin Knox and Quade Green are writing the future.

The recruiting scene is as hectic as the stock floor in New York, chaos all over the place until signing day or the bell rings. With big talent up for grabs, it begs the question: why does Kentucky get what they need consistently?

Every year there are players who go places fans and experts would never expect, Mitchell Robinson to WKU being one. Yet, Kentucky is considered for nearly every top ten player each year. What attracts isn’t the weather or the attractions, it’s the environment.

Being a “players first” program isn’t the easiest thing to handle. Everyone has an end goal and it is not always a degree. Players come for a handshake with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and a hat for an NBA team on draft night. As Coach Cal has said many times, it’s a graduation for players going early. He’s right, a ceremony for a great job interview.

Now what do we see for the program? For everyone who does commit and eventually sign for the Cats say the same thing. Coach Calipari says players earn their minutes, they aren’t simply handed to them. The experience of competitiveness is always a key role. An NBA feeder like UK generally practices worse than the actual games. These college athletes have been in systems primarily focused on their game, but not at Kentucky.

Calipari and the coaching staff keep everything in perspective. Why should a coach guarantee minutes to a player who doesn’t learn anything? Earning is the mentality in the pros, athletes earn their money. Acting like minutes is money is a great comparison for college athletes prepping for the big leagues.

With everything in place, Kentucky is the best or near the top, every year in recruiting, which comes as no surprise. The program that Coach Calipari has set up for the Cats has not only changed college basketball, but the lives of young people. 

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