FOX Sports Exclusive
Calipari succeeds at herding cats
Kentucky fans were concerned for a few days, maybe even a week, after just about everyone with a pulse decided to leave Lexington early for a shot at the NBA.
The loss of John Wall was expected.
Same for Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins and maybe even Eric Bledsoe.
Daniel Orton and his trio of points per game were not.
But now the UK fanatics have been talked down from their ledges after the top guard in the Class of 2010, Brandon Knight (No. 2, Scout.com) and the top player in the junior class, Michael Gilchrist, pledged their love and their futures to John Calipari on Wednesday — the first day of the late signing period.
Let’s face it: Neither would have been in Lexington had Billy Gillispie or Tubby Smith still been the coach.
But this is all about Calipari.
Kentucky fans just aren’t used to this. It’s been years since they had anyone who could stand toe-to-toe in recruiting wars and not end up on the canvas.
Sure, Gillispie was able to convince Patrick Patterson to come to Kentucky and also landed Orton. But for every hit, there were several strikeouts.
Case in point: Kevin Galloway, who transferred to Texas Southern after Gillispie’s departure. Or early pledge Dakotah Euton, who is headed to Akron this fall; or Konner Tucker, a former Kentucky pledge who is now transferring from Wake Forest after barely playing for the Demon Deacons.
Or how about G.J. Vilarino and K.C. Ross Miller, two more Gillispie commits who weren’t on par with what Kentucky should be bringing in talent-wise.
Brandon Knight could be the next one-and-done star for John Calipari.
Tubby brought in some quality players also, but there just weren’t enough McDonald’s All-Americans and high-level guys in the equation. Not to sustain national relevance.
Calipari is a perfect match for Kentucky fans.
Not just because he enjoys — no, yearns for the spotlight — but also due to the fact that he will load up talent in Lexington.
He showed that with last year’s last-minute recruiting haul of Wall, Cousins and Bledsoe.
It honestly doesn’t matter who is on his staff.
It’s all about Cal — with maybe some credit going to William Wesley (aka Worldwide Wes).
Knight might have wound up playing in his home state of Florida if Calipari didn’t take the Kentucky gig, and Gilchrist would have followed Calipari to Alaska-Anchorage.
But this is just the start.
Plug Knight in for Wall, and while he doesn’t possess the same intangibles of the previous point guard, he’ll still be a star.
Then watch as the floodgates open.
Talented big man Enes Kanter, as long as the NCAA deems him eligible (and I’m not referring to academics), will step right in and start in the middle in the spot vacated by Cousins.
DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller are both back on the wings.
Don’t be shocked if Calipari gets Oak Hill Academy (Va.) combo guard Doron Lamb, a consensus top 20 player in the country, this weekend to fill the void left by the departure of Bledsoe.
Then watch him land either C.J. Leslie, who played with Wall at Word of God in North Carolina, or Terrence Jones — another athletic forward who is also ranked in the top 20 in the country.
In fact, why can’t Calipari land both of them?
It’s hard to question a guy who got Patterson to stick around despite being a lock first-rounder and maybe even a lottery pick a year ago.
It’s impossible to doubt the recruiting prowess of someone who could convince Bledsoe to come in and play off the ball alongside Wall when he had no shortage of high-major offers to play point guard.
Knight and Gilchrist were just the start.
More Stories From Jeff Goodman