The past week has been Calipari-centric pretty much everywhere….and I dont just mean in this state. If you are like me (and I hope for your sake that you are not), then you have been getting calls and messages from friends out of state who are asking you “So you have to be happy now right?” The Calipari news has dominated all of sports for the past week and has even become the lead for discussions in other realms of society. FoxNews even dealt with the issue today, although my “I wont read Fox News” stance prevented me from seeing the article that criticized Kentucky for spending so much money on Calipari (keep it up Fox, and you will really turn this state Blue). Simply put, Calipari has energized this state and its fanbase like no other. I have never seen a more collective sense of possibility than that which has been expressed in recent days. Calipari and others want to downplay expectations by saying that he isnt the “Grand Poobah” and he doesnt “walk on water.” My advice….just hush. We want to believe that….at least for now. The idea of Kentucky basketball winning (as Gregg Doyel said) “like the Boston Celtics”, is EXACTLY what we need and for a fanbase that has had its share of turmoil over the last few years, just that hope is like a miracle salve sold by Mr. Haney. Yes we know its irrational to think we can win multiple titles next season and yes we are quick to annoit Calipari the next Rupp. But I dont care. Its UK basketball and we love it….and for the first time in some time, we are excited. Lets not stop the dreaming now….
To the news….
(1): It has been an unbelievably packed day in the UK world with the state of the roster playing the central role. Today was about the coming and going of recruits as even more UK recruits decommitted from the school. We found out that Michael Avery, the 8th grader that many of us still cant believe actually existed, decided that it was in his best interest to actually be able to get a driver’s license before he made his final college choice. In addition, Dakotah Euton, the much-maligned kid from Scott County made the decision to look elsewhere, opening up yet another offer for Calipari. That makes 5 recruits looking elsewhere in the past two days. Those names of course are:
Tuck those names in the back of your pocket. I wish all those kids nothing but the best and from what it seems, they all are great kids off the court. But I will be interested to see what happens with them in the coming years. When we are looking back on the Gillispie era, the fates of these five young men could have been the fates of the UK program. We shall see what they will be.
(2): That leaves two future recruits still committed, Dominique Ferguson and Vinny Zollo. Ferguson is reportedly considering a decommit, but hasnt made a final decision, even after his conversation with Calipari. I would suspect at some point he will decide to open up his search, but expect Calipari to keep the press on him. Coach likes him a great deal and I have been told that keeping him is a top priority going forward. As for Vinny Zollo, I have seen no conversation with he or his parents as to what his future may hold. He is apparently still committed for now and we will see what the coming days bring us in that regard.
(3): As for the other recruits that John Calipari is actively seeking, the news is a bit brighter. Daniel Orton met with Calipari yesterday and the news is relatively positive. He expects to stay committed at this time, although Orton and his father are going to spend the weekend this weekend discussing the issue. It is telling that Calipari spent his first night as the UK coach at the Orton home in order to try to convince him to stay a Cat. He believes in Orton and knows that his success in Lexington next year may be huge for the team’s first year possibilities.
(4): I also spoke with John Wall this evening (the interview is below) and he said that the Cats are not officially his leader, but that he is very much considering the school. In speaking with him, I got the feeling that Calipari is his favorite coach in the recruiting process and that in terms of the schools that light up his voice, it really comes down to UK and Duke. He spoke glowingly of both coaches and said that both “know how to get you to the next level.” He also spoke of both schools’ traditions and how rabid their fanbases are at each place. It was assumed that he will announce his decision at the Jordan Classic on April 18, and while he told me that is not now certain, I still think it is likely. The Cats are in desperate need of a top PG, so getting Wall must be a top priority.
(5): Finally, tonight Calipari had his first practice as the UK coach. One doesnt want to put too much weight on one practice, but you have to think that it was a big moment for the players who are trying to make an impression for their new coach. At this point, going into the practice today, the roster for next year would look like this:
So if Calipari were to bring in no other players, that would be 14 players for 13 scholarships. Everyone assumes that Donald Williams will not have a scholarship next season. If that is true then you basically have 13 players and 13 scholarships. That means that for every player Calipari bring in, one would have to go….period. That is something to keep in mind as we go over these next few weeks. I think the most likely candidates to leave (in order of probability) are:
That isnt to say that all may not stay or that someone else may not go….but that is where my bets would be. Stewart and Harrellson are potential transfers and Porter is a potential candidate to end his basketball career a bit early after the birth of his child and his early graduation. But keep that in mind…..for every player Cal brings in, one from that list goes out….it will be interesting to watch it develop.
We will be back all day….enjoy the opening of Keeneland if you are going….I will be there on Saturday. Stay tuned……..
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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