Maybe John Calipari Needs a New Recruiting Philosophy…or Something…ANYTHING
I once wrote that it had been 30 years since the Kentucky Wildcats lost five games in a row.
It was the 1989-1990 season, Rick Pitino's first, and the 'Cats were in the midst of a three-year post-season ban. And despite the ugliness of it all, UK quickly returned to respectability the next season, finishing in the top ten in the AP college basketball poll. They were still post-season-ineligible, but they were back in the top ten.
Who knows? Maybe this current group of freshmen and the one non-senior transfer will rise to that sort of occasion next season. Calipari's sophomore-laden squads have done very well in years past.
But right now, Kentucky is sporting a heretofore unthinkable 1-6 record. One reason it's unthinkable is that we have to go back to 1911 to find the last time the record looked like that. In other words, back to a time when no one currently living was on Earth.
247 Sports is one of many outlets that named UK's 2020 recruiting class the best one. The team began the season in the top ten. (My feelings about pre-season rankings are for another time.) And they kicked off the season by pummeling Morehead State by 36 points.
The next game, a three-point loss to Kansas, was totally acceptable. Hey, it was a one-possession loss. But the hits have just kept on coming. That 17-point beatdown at the hands of really just a so-so Georgia Tech team was a really eye-opener--meaning that once you opened your eyes, you wanted to close them again.
I'm no expert, but maybe this one-and-done thing has a life span of about 11 years, then it runs out of steam. Duke started doing it and they're running into trouble this year, too. Of course, the Blue Devils had to go and beat Notre Dame IN South Bend, whereas Kentucky lost by a point to the Irish in Rupp Arena.
But it's not just the one-and-done thing that has made me grow weary. I don't think John Calipari recruits like it's the third decade of the 21st century. Don't get me wrong; any team would love to have a modern version of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain on its roster, but the game has evolved past being a big man's game.
I think Coach Cal really needs to SERIOUSLY start recruiting the perimeter, hot and heavy, and start getting cracker jack shooters into Lexington.
Former role players Jonny Juzang, Jemarl Baker Jr., and Charles Matthews all left Lexington, in recent seasons, because it became clear they weren't going to get much playing time because of a boffo incoming freshman class. And what happened?
Matthews transferred to Michigan where he was named the Most Outstanding Player West Region in the 2018 NCAA Tournament and helped the Wolverines make it all the way to the championship game.
Juzang is giving UCLA quality minutes in his sophomore campaign, while averaging better than 10 points per game.
Baker is averaging 15.1 points per game for an Arizona team that's currently 7-1. (Unfortunate side note though--the desert Wildcats have placed themselves on a one-year post-season ban.) But the numbers are the numbers and are to my point.
I like John Calipari a lot and he cares deeply for his kids. But I want him to recruit like it's NOW, not 30 years ago (more great shooters). I want him to keep promising players instead of watch them leave and become stars elsewhere. And I want to develop a familiarity with the members of the Kentucky team, like it used to be.
I don't know the names of ANY of these current Wildcats off the top of my head. And if any of them jump to the NBA (huge mistake), they will become footnotes in my memory banks, if that.
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