The University of Kentucky won a NCAA basketball championship Monday night starting three freshmen and two sophomores. That would lead one to think the future is bright for the Wildcats. Well, the future may indeed be bright in Lexington, but those underclassmen you watched win the championship on Monday will likely be long gone the next time Kentucky wins a NCAA championship, and that could be as soon as next year.
It is possible that all five of Kentucky’s starters from Monday’s game could be headed to the NBA next year; three would likely be the minimum. Coaches and sports analysts toss around ideas all the time about what formula it takes to win a national championship. The consensus boils down to good guard play and two or three future NBA players on your roster. Kentucky probably has seven future NBA players. And no, none of those will be the guys on the end of UK’s bench that looked like part of The Big Bang Theory cast.
Dropping down in the championship equation is experience and senior leadership. Those two attributes got West Virginia University to the final four two years ago, and they are still very valuable, but not so much when a coach can recruit four or five McDonald’s All Americans every year. Give UK Coach John Calipari credit for being able to recruit at such a high level. Give him even more credit if he actually does so within the rules.
Calipari left Massachusetts and Memphis on probation and with vacated Final Four appearances, and even though he personally escaped being caught doing anything wrong, he has not escaped the cloud of suspicion that follows him.
There is a significant underbelly to recruiting these top high school basketball players and that is that most of them have “handlers.” A handler would typically be an AAU coach, friend of the family or some other connection to the player. You don’t need much imagination to see how some of these handlers can create an unsavory recruiting atmosphere.
Okay, enough with Calipari and the AAU games he may, or may not have to play to recruit elite level players. How do we, as fans, feel, about recruiting one and done players to our schools? It has been rumored that WVU Coach Bob Huggins has lost some recruits recently, very late in the process, by refusing to play the AAU game. Apply your own meaning to that.
Being a championship starved WVU fan, I would love to see Huggins land a couple players that are good enough to be one and done kids and could bring a national championship to Morgantown. With that said, I would not want Huggins focusing on bringing class after class of those kids to the program. First, I’m old fashioned enough that I still appreciate watching hard working student athletes develop into a team, much like the 2009-2010 team. Second, as already mentioned, travelling that road is full of trouble.
Most of that last paragraph is a moot point, because Huggins will not enter that arena. Still, I have to wonder how Kentucky fans feel about Calipari and his recruiting strategy. Naturally they are euphoric about their current championship, but in the long run, would multiple championships be as satisfying when cast of players changes every year?
That may not matter as Calipari is said to be atop the coaching list of the New York Knicks. This will be interesting to watch. Some say Calipari has it made at Kentucky, and he does make around $5 million a year, but the Knicks will offer plenty more and Calipari will be out from under the microscope.