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Monday / March 19.
  • Calipari Lands Historic Recruiting Class

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    John Calipari has yet to coach his first game at the University of Kentucky and he is already a Big Winner.

    Just six weeks after moving to Kentucky from Memphis, Calipari has lined up a blockbuster recruiting class that should immediately make the Wildcats a potential Top 10, if not Final Four-type, team.

    When point guard John Wall signed with Kentucky earlier this week, he became the fourth five-star recruit to land in Lexington since Rivals began monitoring basketball recruiting in 2003.

    “They’re the No. 1 class and a pretty decisive No. 1 class,” national recruiting expert Jerry Meyer of Rivals told USA Today. “You’re taking about a six-man class that is stacked with players in the top 40 or above.”

    Even Calipari’s colleagues in the coaching fraternity were awed by what he pulled off.

    “I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure this has ever been done before or will be done again,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford told ESPN’s Andy Katz. “Everything was lined into place. It all worked out great. I think this is why he went to Kentucky — to have his pick. I’m excited for my alma mater. It’s going to be them and Kansas [for the title]. I wouldn’t be surprised if either one didn’t lose a game.”

    The signing of the 6-foot-1 Wall, the nation’s top recruit, and 6-9 power forward DeMarcus Cousins (pictured at left) give the Wildcats the country’s top two recruits. 6-10 center Daniel Orton (No. 22) and 6-1 point guard Eric Bledsoe (No. 23) are also five-stars. Oh, and they added 6-6 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood, too.

    Kentucky also signed 6-5 junior college wing Darnell Dodson, who had originally committed to Memphis when Calipari was there.

    “It’s gonna be a lot of pressure,” Wall told me the other day. “A lot of good freshmen [are] coming. It’s going to be pressure when you start off with a lot of freshmen. I think it’s going to be a little bump I think we can be a great team.”

    These recruits will join a roster that already includes 6-9 forward Patrick Patterson, who withdrew from the NBA Draft to return to campus, and wings Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins.

    If shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who dropped 54 points in one game last year, also pulls out of the Draft, the Wildcats will really be loaded.

    As of now, all the blue-chippers are saying the right things, too.

    Wall teased Kentucky fans by saying his “plan is to go to the University of Kentucky for the next two or three years.”

    Gary Parrish of CBSSports quickly shot this down by pointing out the long list of prep stars who also said they might stay on campus for more than one year.

    Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that if a year from now Wall is projected as a top-five pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, he would stay on campus.

    “John Calipari majors in one-and-done guards with Derrick Rose and Tyreke  Evans and John Wall probably sees himself following in their footprints,” New York-based recruiting expert Tom Konchalski said. “He can really be a program-changer. He’s an extraterrestrial athlete. He has a different level of athleticism than even the guards in the NBA.”

    But at least Wall is saying the right things.

    “I’ve recruited John for nearly two years and I’ve gotten to know him to be not only a fine player but a fine person,” Calipari said. “He’s a terrific teammate who wants to win, yet driven to personally improve. I’m very excited for the opportunity to add him to our family.”

    How good is this Kentucky recruiting class?

    While many programs in America are desperately searching for a quality point guard, Kentucky landed two five-star floor generals in Wall and Bledsoe.

    So if Wall jumps to the NBA after one year, no problem.

    Bledsoe steps right in the following year.

    “I’m gonna make him better. He’s gonna make me better,” Wall said of Bledsoe. “We’re just going to battle it out….I’m just hoping to help the team as much as I can.”

    In the frontcourt, Orton initially committed to former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, but opted to stay put in Lexington even after Cousins shifted allegiances to Kentucky.

    Orton could have easily left for another coach and program that would have guaranteed more playing time, but he stayed on, knowing that Patterson would likely return also.

    “I figure you can’t go wrong, two good players,” Orton told me in April before the Jordan Brand Classic. “I am [excited about playing with DeMarcus]. It’s going to be fun, especially if Patrick Patterson stays, which I think he will.”

    During the Jordan practices, Cousins was relentless in trying to get both Wall  and Xavier Henry to commit to Lexington. He consistently peppered both players with questions, “Where you gonna go, John? You coming to Kentucky, Xavier?”

    In the end, Henry chose Kansas, but Wall  did end up coming to Kentucky, solidifying one of the greatest recruiting classes in history.

    So how good can Kentucky be with all this talent coming in and coming back?

    “Final Four contenders,” Cousins said emphatically. “We’ll beat Duke and North Carolina.”

    “There’s no telling right now,” Orton added. “Just wait and see.”

    (Photos courtesy AP, Kelly Kline, Getty Images)

    Written by

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    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.

    • Shaddiest recruiters in NCAA:

      1. Jim Calhoun
      2. USC – The entire University’s athletic department from Bball to Football.
      3. John Calipari

      ….this guy needs to get investigated.

    • bigbird, your kidding me right? If you actually kept up with sports you would know that they did investigate him and could find nothing wrong with what he was doing, as a matter of fact they even said that he was one of the best ppl that they had ever worked with. You sound like most other teams fans, just a little (LOT) TERRIFIED of what is to come now that a great coach like Cal can really show off what he and his schools can do now that he is at a real school like UK. GO CATS AND GO COACH CAL!!!!!!!

      • No, they investigated his program at UMass and decided that there was a lot wrong- so much so that they put them on severe probation. Of course Calipari had seen the NCAA coming and jumped to the NBA in part so he wouldn’t be investigated personally.

        There’s also that part about him not being a very good coach. It’s great to recruit top flight talent but if you can’t get them to play together you’re USC.

      • Huge_UK_IDIOT this class is not as good as the committed/signed class that Cal had coming to Memphis. Henry, Wall, Cousins, Coleman, Dodson.

        BTW, you are an idiot.

        • Wall had committed to Memphis? Guess I missed that.

    • Calipari didnt recruit this entire class. Hood and Orton are gillespie guys.

      UK and KU will be on a collision course next year!

    • Tremendous haul they got there at UK. If they don’t make it to the final four there could be some grumbling in the BBN

    • Besides Orton, has anyone in this class qualified? Might be a much different team than people think come November.

    • “Final Four contenders,” Cousins said emphatically. “We’ll beat Duke and North Carolina.”

      Wow. That is some nice bulletin board material right there for Duke and North Carolina. No mention of Kansas of course…

      • Especially because North Carolina has a damned close class of freshman coming in (and a much better returning squad and coach).

        • Yeah, that great coach with a bench loaded with McDonald’s All Americans and player of the year. What a great coach.

          How many McDonald’s All Americans did Cal have when he blew the game to KS? 1. How many 5 star recruits? 1.

          Based on this analysis, a smart person would conclude that Big Ben is an idiot.

          • After watching him coach for 5 years you really think his coaching ability is on par with Roy Williams? And then have the audacity to call someone else an idiot?

    • With a few exceptions, stacked young classes don’t fare well in the tourney. You’ll see that veteran teams tend to go further and do better (compare this years Mich State teams versus any younger team). Look at the 08 Kansas squad and 09 Tarheels. Neither could get it done until they were juniors and seniors even though both were very highly touted as freshmen. I think the same will go for Kentucky. They’ll make some noise but won’t be serious title contenders this year. Of course how many will stay past year 1?

      • Which is why 1 one-and-done is fine, but a team full of them is both not very good and a hassle to get enough shots for/convince to play defense. Calipari isn’t exactly the best bench coach/ player developer so I’m even less optimistic about this class than I would be about the average class with 3 one-and-dones.

        Of course it could be like the Carolina classes that were this good or better where none of the one-and-dones actually leave. They’d be scary next year even with Calipari on the bench.

    • Calipari isn’t exactly the best bench coach/ player developer
      more evidence Big Ben is an idiot.

      • Interesting. Who exactly did Calipari make better while at Memphis? Derrick Rose was an NBA lottery pick before he got to Memphis, as was Shawne Williams. Who you got?

        • Believe me as a Memphis fan defending Calipari is difficult for me and while there were players that showed very little improvement under Calipari he did develop several key players in the last few years while at Memphis like Rodney Carney(1st round pick)Chris Douglas Roberts (2nd round)Joey Dorsey (2nd round)and Robert Dozier who may or may not get drafted.In my opinion his xs and os/bench coaching is lacking.He needs to have great players to win big. John Wall did not commit but was quoted as “leaning” toward memphis before Cal departed.

    • Let’s face the facts, Calipari is an amazing recruiter but he has not yet shown he is a top notch coach. I’m a KU fan and I felt the same thing about Self until 08. I’m not saying he won’t be but he’s not yet in the coaching elite. I’ve always felt that you hire recruiters and teach them to coach because it’s much harder to teach recruiting. But CalMemTucky, settle down. Big Ben is not an idiot. Cal has not proven to be an elite coach. It will take, at least, a National Championship for that. And let’s face it, he blew the 08 game against KU.

      Calling people idiots because they express an opinion (especially one held by a large number of people) is ridiculous.

      I guess this year will tell us a lot about Cal as a coach.

    • you won’t find a louder UK fan than myself, as many of you know……so here is a mostly objective opinion on the above……..

      1st… does not always require a team to be mainly jrs and srs to win a championship

      look at cuse 03……two freshman starters…..
      look at florida 06 – that was a sophomore group, and they were not talented coming in the way this UK group is…….that’s a fact, not just an opinion

      and neither of those teams were even thought to be final four contenders during the season……this is also fact, not just an opinion

      actually, Kentucky WAS the favorite to win it all in 03 and they blew it in the elite 8

      you also have to keep in mind that Meeks and Patterson WILL BE SR AND JR this year…….and could leave to play in the NBA now if they wanted to……..
      UK also has many experienced role players and pretty good players returning from a young team last year

      only the freshman will be inexperienced at the college level, the rest of the team is experienced

      this is why i don’t buy for a second that we are too young this year……..this is OUR year……..lots of experience plus LOTS of talent

      im not saying KU won’t be good this year, they will………..but it doesn’t mean we won’t be

      the comments regarding Cal’s pure ability to coach is not inaccurate, he needs to improve this………but i want him at UK because he can recruit like no other and i think the improvement in pure coaching will come, as was mentioned above as well

      this particular season will benefit UK as well because all the teams who were on top last year won’t be this year…..except Mich St……..

      yes KU will be better this year than last

      UNC won’t be as strong, neither will Louisville nor UConn…..Pitt

      this year is prime for for UK if someone wants to accept our youth as a hindrance

      P gentlement

      • Careful, you’re going to ruin the idea that all Kentucky fans are toothless blow hards! 🙂 Great post, btw, not sure I could disagree with much of it at all. My only comment is that from what I understand neither Meeks nor Patterson are ‘leader’-types (or at least in the positive connotation of the word). Perhaps winning will improve their attitudes like it does for a lot of kids this age.

    • This article is great…

      The rest of college basketball is completely green with envy and all they can do is hate, hate, hate, hate…

      “Calipari’s a shady recruiter…”

      Cal was never cited for NCAA violations…instead Camby himself was cited. Unlike Tim Floyd, it was never proven that Cal actually paid someone to get him to come to UMass.

      “Some of them won’t qualify…”

      All of them will qualify — watch it and see.

      “They’re all one and done…”

      Wall is the most likely one and done and he’s even said that he could see himself playing 2-3 seasons. He said it was up to Coach Cal…

      “The team will be too young to do damage…”

      WHEN Meeks comes back, the primary scorer will be a senior and the Power Forward will be a Junior — Patterson…

      We’ll have plenty of experience and leadership.

      Cal will prove he is an Elite coach this year by molding this group into a great team. It WILL Happen…

      And I don’t think they will win a title but the fact that experts are picking them in the Preseason Top 3 — just shows you how strong they could be.

      BTW…John Wall is 6’3″ – 6’4″ Dodson has grown to 6’7″ -6’8″ now…

    • I’m glad that other programs, especially the KU’s and UNC’s are hating us again, they forgot about us during most of the Tubby era and the Billy G. era.

      Cal doesn’t play around, what the haters are ignoring, especially the KU fans, is they won the title on a last-second 3-pter. Cal making the national title game and other Elite 8’s at CUSA Memphis doesn’t make him a “bad” coach. Had Self blown that game, he would be considered, like Pitino before he won it, the guy who couldn’t win it all. KU fans weren’t in love with Self when he was choking to nobodys in the first round – Cal is at a Blueblood school now, his time will come.

      Thanks for hating us again – that means Big Blue is back !!!

    • the only thats goin to be big and blue are your nuts when youre left wanting more out of cal. he is not that great of a coach. we almost got beat in the second round against miss state by him not calling a timeout or fouling. and of course it did get us against KU. the guy couldnt even coach a player to shoot free throws for god sakes. hes a hell of a salesman with worldwide wes in his pocket throwing him one and dones. we will see next year how great of a recruiter he is next year without pastner being his top recruiter. cousins is overrated, wall is a true star and will be gone, bledsoe will lose interest quick playing backup to wall. when UK play UT, there will be a few fans wearing tiger blue pulling for the dreaded vols. looks like theres a new rivalry in college bball, if the coward will play us, which he says he wont. CAT fans get ready for a let down, and light the torches to run another out. tradition? right

    • Let’s face it, recruiting is the currency in college coaching.

      If Xs and Os were all that mattered, then Izzo would probably be in the top 5 of coaching discussions if not number 1, but he’s probably not.

      The best three recruiters in the Nation are without a doubt Callipari, Bill Self, and Roy WIlliams. Howland at UCLA is probably a solid number 4, and you can argue that maybe Coach K at Duke is 5th, or a handful of other guys… Barnes at Texas is really good too, maybe better then Coach K, and maybe on par with Howland.

      When it comes to being proven coaches most of those same guys are on the list.
      I’m a KU fan, but I’m starting to feel bad for the little guys, College Basketball is going to be a 3 horse show for a while. KU, UK, UNC. I expect one of those 3 schools to win it all at least every other year as long as those coaches are in place. Everyone needs to quit bashing the other guy’s school, they’re all great programs.

    • Firstly, Izzo is absolutely a top 5 coach. Secondly, don’t discount Thad Matta and Jay Wright. They’re all as good of recruiters as anyone, and are recruiting as well as Calipari or Self without the Kansas on the front the jersey.

      • First up…Cal and Roy Williams are the best recruiters in college bball…

        After that — Pitino…..then comes Wright and Matta.

        But think about this… other than Cal…all of the other coaches represent very strong universities.

        All of those schools have great athletic programs…what does Memphis have?

        Cal brought Memphis up from the dumps of CUSA to dominate it.

        Before Cal, Memphis was irrelevant and they will fade into obscurity with Pastner as coach.

        • Memphis had world wide wes and an administration that was willing to look the other way.

          And no way Pitino is recruiting better than Self, Wright or Matta. His top recruit for 09 was #42. He’s had 2 top 40 recruits in 5 years. Rarely does Self, Roy or Matta even have to take guys out of the top 40.

          • Before he left for the NBA i think pitino was an excellent recruiter – 1 of the best……our 2 championships in the 90’s were with his recruits……not since though…….he’s not a top dawg

        • Do you mean the same obscurity Kentucky has been in til they got desperate enought to buy a coach and program? I love these programs that won a bunch of championships during World War II trying to convince everybody that they are still relevant.

    • I forgot about Self and yes after looking into it…

      Pitino shouldn’t be as high as I mentioned previously.

      My main point still stands…

      Cal was among the Top 3 recruiters in the nation…FOR MEMPHIS…

      Have you been to Memphis’ campus or the town itself?

      The campus is a dump and so is the town…the brightspots are the Tigers’ facilities and the FedEx Forum…

      Now he’s at UK…

      There’s no real Pro team in KY…and b/c of that we have the best fans in the nation plus the best facilities and a downtown that is by no means a metropolis but it sure isn’t a dump like Memphis.

      If Cal could get guys to Memphis he’ll have no trouble getting them to come to UK.

      As for everyone doubting Coach Cal’s x’s and o’s abilities…

      Please see Bill Self’s Jayhawks’ performances against Bucknell and Bradley…once he got some more time in at KU…he’s done quite alright.

      AND PLEASE DON”T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT — GETTING HIS OWN RECRUITS IN— Losing to those Mid-majors falls on the coach when you’re the 3 or 4 seed.

      • Gosh with everything Kentucky supposedly has to offer why were none of these 5 star recruits even considering them before Calitucky got there?

    • Ben

      I was trying (for once lol) to be more level and put my UK bias aside

      Obviously I hope that we have a tremendous season…..BEEN WAITING FOR IT!

      Regarding the leadership – I am HOPING that Meeks will have the confidence to be just that, a leader. He has proven he can score, he just needs to bring it all together. I think his relationship difficulties with Gillispie was part of the problem, but we’ll find out. Patterson should be vocal this year, at least I am hopeful. They will have to be because the freshman will need guidance. Talent is great but there needs to be more than just that.

      Thanks fella


    • thank you to everyone who has posted, this is an actual intelligent college basketball conversation instead of the usual ranting and raving. its alot more fun this way isnt it?

      anyways, i agree that KU and UK are at the top next year, with UNC right behind them, and MSU and Nova right behind the heels.

      this will be a very telling season to how good of a coach Cal is. as it has been well documented, he can recruit like none other, but…

      this is his first stint at a major program that has high expectations, for winning. will he be able to handle those?

      He will not be able to win a million conference games in a row just because his players are so much better than everybody else’s like it was at memphis. The athletes, programs and coaches in the SEC will challenge him more than ever.

      also keep in mind how young this team is and how freshman usually play. there will be times next year that UK could beat NBA teams, and times they will look bad. can Cal get them to be consistent and not turn the ball over?

      he can prove to the nation he belongs in that elite group of coaches next year, or he could end up looking like a great recruiter, bad bench coach. we shall see.

      im pumped for next season already! should be alot of fun if UK and KU get to play in march… or april

      Rock Chalk!

    • Dominate C-USA? Didn’t that domination start after Louisville (who won the Big East) and Marquette (very competitive in the Big East) left C-USA?

    • Oops, forgot Cincinnati leaving C-USA for the big east too.

      All those C-USA tournament championships and regular season championships, except for one, came after the best teams in the conference left for the Big East.