We are now in the midst of John Calipari’s 3rd season as the coach of the University of Kentucky. Over the next few months, we’ll see whether he will finally be able to do what he’s being paid to do: Win an NCAA Championship. The stakes are high, but so are the pressure and expectations. Will the team flame out of the 2012 NCAA Tournament the way it did the prior two years? Will it suffer (almost) double-digit losses like it did last year? Will Coach Cal once again produce fewer NCAA Championships than first round draft picks? (h/t: Rick Bozich.) Stay tuned. In the meantime, to stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Highly Suspicious: In a game on New Year’s Eve against the Sacramento Kings, former UK player Josh Harrellson scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Notably, the big guy went 4 for 8 from three point range. This may very well cripple Kentucky’s recruiting efforts in the future. What this does is send an unmistakeable signal to blue-chippers across the country that UK coach John Calipari does not, in fact, “unleash” his players, as he likes to claim. During his entire senior season at UK, Harrellson only managed to connect on 2 three pointers. The fact that he was allowed to double that output in one game in the NBA reveals that Calipari does not allow his players any freedom whatsoever. To make matters worse, a mass email was just sent to every unsigned top 100 player in the classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014 informing them of this, and also letting them know that Harrelson actually hit five three pointers during the 2008-09 season at UK, thus providing further evidence that it was actually the much maligned Billy Gillispie — rather than Calipari — who “unleashed” his players at Kentucky. This sort of player development (or lack thereof) by Calipari could very well be the reason Harrellson was not selected until the 2nd round of the 2011 NBA Draft.
*One Big Holiday: In Kentucky’s 69-62 win over Louisville, the Cats shot a whopping 43 free throws after drawing an incredible 29 fouls from the upstart Cardinals. This may very well cripple Kentucky’s recruiting efforts in the future. What this does is send an unmistakeable signal to blue-chippers across the country that the style of play employed by Cal’s Cats is a deliberate, physical type of basketball that lends itself to getting hacked and shooting free throws, rather than the up and down style that today’s players favor. To add insult to injury, the Cats allowed the Cards to register more 2 point field goal attempts (44 to 41) and more 3 point attempts (18 to 16) than the Cats. Not only are recruits likely to recognize this, but it seems UK fans are starting to take notice too. In Kentucky’s next game, UK fans stayed away in droves from Freedom Hall, as a measly 15,000 fans bothered to show up to watch UK play Arkansas Little Rock. By contrast, over 20,000 Louisville fans packed that exact same building just two years ago when UofL faced #1 Syracuse. And for those who don’t believe that 5 star high schoolers wouldn’t rather play the fast-paced style offered by Louisville, don’t forget that it wasn’t that long ago that the #6 player in the class of 2012, Rodney Purvis, committed to the Cards.
*It Beats 4 U: After the Kentucky/Louisville game, UK sophomore Michael Kidd-Gilchrist received national accolades for giving unrelenting effort during his 24 point, 19 rebound tour de force. Specifically, he was lauded for running down loose balls, grabbing rebounds, and exhibiting the type of leadership that will not only make his name live in Kentucky lore forever, but will also propel him to the top 5 of the 2012 NBA Draft. This may very well cripple Kentucky’s recruiting efforts in the future. What this does is send an unmistakeable signal to blue-chippers across the country that it is simply effort — rather than talent or style of play, as Calipari likes to claim — that NBA scouts notice. To be blunt, in one 40 minute game Kidd-Gilchrist single-handedly disproved the whole concept of the “Kentucky Effect.” And once 5 star players everywhere realize this, it shouldn’t take long for John Calipari’s string of top ranked recruiting classes to come to an abrupt and unpleasant end.
* On this date: On this date in 1986, Auburn beat Kentucky, 60-56. Auburn is not very good at basketball.