As we get ready to leave the Nike Peach Jam for another year, it is time once again to reflect. This year’s event had virtually every top coach in America in attendance and was a great event to get a snapshot of the nation’s recruiting scene. I saw every UK target in attendance at least once and talked to a number of coaches, media members and recruiting gurus to get a sense of exactly where UK stood in the 2012 and 2013 class. A few reflections:
1. Most are unsure as to UK’s overall focus in 2012:
The continuing theme in my conversations throughout the week was uncertainty as to John Calipari’s plan with the 2012 class. While I got some insight from a number of sources, many were asking me for information as they were unsure exactly where UK was headed. Nearly everyone was certain that UK would end up with another great class, but who will make up that class was up for debate. Watching UK and Calipari’s priorities over the last two weeks, it does seem that these players are of a top focus:
There are clearly other players on UK’s radar, but in terms of Calipari focus, these 11 seem to be the primary targets. Calipari spent the last two weeks flying around the country to see these 11 and it is likely that UK’s final class will be 3 or 4 of these young men.
2. Ricardo Ledo is the Wildcard…In More Ways Than One
I always hesitate to comment on the attitude of young players. Sometimes players that we end up liking when we learn more about them (a la Demarcus Cousins) can give off bad first impressions. With that said, having watched him play three times in the last three days, it is awful hard to like Ricardo Ledo. I sat one row behind his bench for a game and heard him curse at his coach, berate his teammates and throw more pouty fits than I have ever seen in an AAU game…which is saying something. His attitude was universally poor in all three games and seemed like a bad teammate in every encounter.
But with that said, Ledo has become a great player. He has improved exponentially in the past year and he may be the best pure perimeter scorer in the class. All of that leaves Kentucky with a bit of a quandary. It is unclear what level of interest Kentucky has in Ledo, and whether a firm offer is on the table for him. His AAU coach said that he wasn’t sure what UK’s interest was, but that Ledo was a big fan of Calipari/UK. Calipari needs a perimeter scorer and if he goes full bore after Ledo, he may very well get him. But Ledo has a lot of maturing to do and that may go into whatever final decision on him the UK staff makes. It is yet another wildcard in a 2012 class that will be full of them.
3. Kentucky is going to LOAD UP in 2013
The 2013 class is loaded. I saw three players in the 2013 class at the Peach Jam that I would take over almost anyone in the 2012 class. Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Nerlens Noel are special talents that will blow up over the course of the next year. And Kentucky is in contention for all three and will almost certainly get at least one of the group. Add in Chris Thomas, Chris Walker and others, and it becomes clear that Kentucky is going to create a MONSTER class in 2013. Whatever happens in 2012, just know that a boatload of talent is coming that next season and Kentucky is at the head of the pack for just about everyone that matters in that group.
4. The hierarchy of coaches is most apparent at AAU events
When you walk into an AAU event, the most striking sight is the immediacy of all the famous names next to you. In a gym smaller than that of almost any middle school, the biggest names in college basketball are sitting along a wall, watching high school kids play glorified pickup games. It it is bizarrely odd. But even with that group, there is a certain cache that comes with the appearance of particular coaches. It basically comes down to this:
Stop the presses appearances:
If they are in the building, everyone knows and everyone takes notice. These three coaches are the only three that don’t consistently wear the logo of their program and when they arrive a buzz of “K, Roy, Cal is here” goes through the room.
Wow, did you see ____? appearances
This group is small but strong. When these five men arrive in a gym, everyone takes note. They are famous enough to be recognized by all the players and families, and most want to shake their hand.
The “we recognize” that guy group:
A larger group of coaches that includes names like
Tubby Smith (probably at the top of this group but not quite in group 2 anymore)
There are more in this group, but it is basically every known head coach in America at a relatively popular school. It is the classic, “hey what is that guy’s name?” group and will contain Rick Barnes and Jamie Dixon until the end of time.
Every other head coach
That is the group. You judge a game and its importance by scanning the wall to see what members of each group are there. If any of the top group are there, you watch. If 2 or more of the second group are there, you take notice. If its all third group guys, then stay only if you care about the particular coach in attendance. That is the way the AAU game is played now and Kentucky’s coach is, for the first time since the late Pitino years, squarely in group number one.
Hope everyone is well…we begin our baseball trip tonight. See you along the way….