[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Obviously, Kentucky is on top of the collegiate basketball landscape at the moment. Reigning National Champions, about to send possibly 6 players to the first round of the NBA Draft, and bringing in their 4th consecutive number 1 recruiting class to back it all up. But is it possible that we may have only seen the tip of the iceberg in regards to the infamous “Kentucky Effect”?
In June of 2010, Coach Calipari claimed that Kentucky being the first team to have 5 players drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft was the greatest day in the program’s history, which sent the fan base at the time into a minor uproar. At UK, success is measured by Final Fours and titles, not rookie contracts, they screamed from every corner of the Bluegrass State. I even stumbled upon this article written by David Hyland after the 2010 Draft, which in perspective now, can only make you laugh:
John Calipari believes that last night was a great moment for his program at Kentucky, but in reality it was one of its most embarrassing moments. Why? Because with that much talent, with five players with enough skill and ability to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, how did Kentucky not win the championship? How did they not at the very least make it to the Final Four? (Cont.) John Calipari’s Kentucky team this year had loads of talent, but they did not produce as they should have and some of the blame has to be placed upon Coach Calipari. So yes, he should be proud of his players being drafted and beginning their professional careers, but it should also drive him to do a better job knowing that he had a roster full of future NBA talent and couldn’t win a championship. It’s hard to imagine him having another team with five first round draft choices on it, but let’s hope if he does he will be able to produce better than this year. And hopefully, the next time Coach Calipari talks about great moments in Kentucky basketball, he will have read up on it a little more so he will actually know what he is talking about.
Now, 2 years removed, Calipari’s genius has been proven right once again. Kentucky has been regarded by many as the mecca of college basketball tradition and passion, but along with that, Calipari has brought one key X factor back to Kentucky basketball. Lexington is THE place to be in college basketball. Whether your a All-American high school recruit, an NBA scout, a coach, or any basketball analyst not named Robert Montgomery Knight, Kentucky is at the center. With a national championship now under Calipari’s belt, and 15 players sent to the NBA in the last 3 seasons, Coach Cal has been promoted from Grand Poobah to King Midas, no matter what he has done at Kentucky, he has eventually proved there is a method to all of the madness. Whether it be hosting the Thunder and Celtics in Lexington during the lockout, or creating a “Pro Day” for his outgoing players, Calipari is always plotting, finding any edge he can to remain light years ahead of his coaching competition in regards to program marketing.
Obviously, all the accolades are great, but the real meal ticket is brought home in the form of recruiting. It’s scary to think that a team who has scored maybe the greatest collection of talent in history over their past 4 consecutive #1 recruiting classes is just now scratching the surface on the recruiting front, but that is exactly what is occurring. Players like Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel had major interest in Kentucky, but for players in future classes like 2014 wing Andrew Wiggins and 2013 forward Jabari Parker, Kentucky has been the gold standard in basketball for much of their teenage life. We have seen an influx of players naming Kentucky as their leader or “dream school” early on in the recruiting process, most of the time even without a scholarship offer to back it up. Kentucky is in good position with 6 of the top 7 players in the nation in 2013, which is shaping up to possibly be, on paper, the best recruiting class in history.
People like Rick Pitino say that a bond between University, City, and Player can not be created and taken away in 9 months time, but regardless of belief, the best players will prove themselves enough in one year of college to become professional in their chosen career, which is what college is for anyway, right? I can say now that the bond between the team and it’s fans is at an all-time high in the Will Totten era, and even with my limited 19 years of case study, I can not imagine a time when the morale of the program could even approach where it is currently. The machine is rolling now, and it’s becoming self sufficient as well, each success a product of the one that came before it, with no end in sight. What started out as a controversial comment in June of 2010 has become exactly what it was intended to become, an open letter to the rest of college basketball, a warning of things to come.
Once again, Kentucky is the needle.
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