In case you missed the news early this morning, ESPN is reporting that John Calipari will coach the U19 National Team in the FIBA World Championships this summer in Cairo, Egypt. This is huge for Calipari, who has wanted to be part of USA Basketball for a long time; however, it’s also big news for Kentucky. Why? Let’s break it down.
Calipari will have access to the top players in the sport
First, the obvious: recruiting. The under 19 squad is made up of the best rising college sophomores, incoming college freshmen and rising high school seniors in the country, meaning Calipari will have access to several members of the 2018 class. The 2015 U19 team featured Terrance Ferguson, Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, and Jayson Tatum, all of whom were uncommitted at the time. Several top prospects in the 2018 class could be on the U19 team, such as Immanuel Quickley, Javonte Smart, Romeo Langford, and Cameron Reddish. As if Calipari needs help recruiting, having access to these guys this summer is a huge advantage. (And don’t worry, the FIBA World Championships ends just in time for Calipari to be back for the Peach Jam.)
It will basically be summer practice for a core group of incoming Kentucky freshmen (and maybe sophomores)
Even before word that Calipari will be coach leaked out, several future Cats had a great chance of making the U19 squad; Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, and PJ Washington all played for the gold medal-winning Team USA U18 squad last summer, along with Mohamed Bamba, one of Calipari’s few remaining prospects in the 2017 class. You’ve gotta assume Calipari will bring all of those guys, along with Jarred Vanderbilt, who has played in the USA Basketball system before, and any current freshmen that decide to come back. (Nick Richards was born in Jamaica, so he can’t participate.)
With Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, and most of this year’s freshmen class headed out the door after this season, next year’s group could be Calipari’s youngest squad ever (and that’s saying something). We saw the impact a 10-day trip to the Bahamas had on the 2014-15 squad; Calipari being able to coach the core of his new team this summer will be the head start he’s needed now more than ever.
It puts Calipari back in the USA Basketball system
It’s no secret that Calipari has wanted back in the USA Basketball system for years. Cal dipped his toe into international basketball waters in 2011 and 2012 by coaching the Dominican Republic National Team, which included Karl Towns. With Coach K stepping down as the US Men’s National Team head coach, Calipari is now back in the system. Gregg Popovich will coach the US Men’s National Team in the 2020 Olympics, but by then, he’ll be in his 70’s. Is this step #1 to Calipari eventually replacing him?