Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Calipari to Kentucky, Will Recruits Follow? Henry, Cousins, Wall Could End up in Lexington
John Calipari will be the next coach of Kentucky after accepting an eight-year, $35-million deal, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Calipari plans to bring his “whole staff” with him, Memphis assistant coach Orlando Antigua said.
“Go Big Blue,” Antigua wrote in a text message.
Memphis point guard Tyreke Evans also plans to leave and will head to the NBA after his freshman season.
“If he’s leaving, I’m not staying,” Evans told Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com. “Coach leaving did it for me.”
Now the question is: What happens to Calipari’s star-studded recruiting class?
We talked to Carl Henry, the father of Xavier and C.J. Henry; John Wall; and Otis Hughley, the coach of DeMarcus Cousins. Here’s what they had to say.
Carl Henry said Calipari would like both of his sons — Xavier and C.J. — to follow him to Kentucky.
“He wants both of my kids to come,” Carl Henry said. “I can’t speak for them. They gotta tell me if they want to go to Kentucky, or where they want to go to school.”
Xavier is currently in Miami at the McDonald’s All-American Game. Carl said C.J., who is not on scholarship at Memphis, was “kind of in shock that [Calipari] left.”
Xavier, the No. 1 shooting guard in the Class of 2009, told reporters in Miami that he would re-open his recruitment.
“I could get out of my letter of intent if he wasn’t there for any reason,” he said of Calipari. “It re-opens my whole recruitment to everybody and anybody.”
Carl said his son could wind up at Kansas or Kentucky, but would not remain at Memphis.
“If he wants to go to Kentucky, it’s fine,” Carl said. “If he wants to go to Kansas, it’s fine. They would not go to Memphis, no.”
Xavier chose Memphis over Kansas last November, and Kansas could try to get him back a second time. He still has three official visits remaining.
Lance Stephenson, the 6-5 wing out of Brooklyn Lincoln ranked No. 4 among shooting guards, was expected to announce for Kansas Tuesday in Miami, but chose to hold off instead.
Now it remains to be seen if Kansas coach Bill Self will target Henry over Stephenson, or vice versa.
The Jayhawks could theoretically land both, but would have to juggle some scholarships with the in-state players on the roster.
Carl Henry said Kentucky was an option, but that his son didn’t know much about the school.
“You went to Memphis for Coach Cal,” he said. “He goes to Kentucky. To me it’s nothing as a player to do what Coach Cal did and follow a guy. But as a 17-year-old he might think different. He knows nothing abut Kentucky.”
Wall, who is uncommitted and is ranked the top recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, said he would consider following Calipari to Kentucky. Memphis had been his leader.
“Probably so, yeah,” he said Tuesday by phone. “I probably would [follow Calipari]. I really have to sit down and talk to my family and all that.”
Memphis appears to be out now that Calipari is gone.
“I wasn’t committed to nobody, they were just my leader and everything like that,” he said of Memphis.
The 6-4 point guard out of Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God said he’s still considering Duke, Kansas, Miami, Baylor and N.C. State. He has visited Kansas, Duke and Baylor and will trip to Miami April 22. He has one official visit remaining.
He said he plans to cut his list down by the Jordan Brand Classic April 18 at Madison Square Garden.
“I think I’m going to narrow my list down at the Jordan Game,” he said. “I’m going to have to rethink it all over and cut my list.”
And what about possibly playing with Henry and Cousins at Kentucky?
“It would be good,” he said. “It could still happen or maybe not, you never know.”
As for the 6-10 Cousins of Mobile (Ala.) LeFlore, he made an oral commitment to Memphis in March but hasn’t signed. Cousins is the No. 1 power forward in the Class of 2009 according to Rivals.
“I’m just waiting like everybody else,” Cousins told Jerry Meyer of Rivals. “If he leaves, I guess I’ll have to start all the way over.”
Kansas State and Washington were Cousins’ other top options before he chose Memphis and Calipari. With Coach Cal gone, one source close to Cousins said he thinks he’s gone, too.
“I think he’s going to follow Coach Cal,” the source said. “He wasn’t going because of Memphis, it was because of Coach Calipari.”
(Calipari photo image courtesy Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.