Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel have made their decisions known, and it’s a mixed bag.
Muhammad, believed by most in the days leading up to the decision, was leaning to UCLA and he affirmed that decision last night, picking the Bruins over Kentucky. This is the first major target that Calipari has gone all-in on and whiffed — at least at Kentucky. This doesn’t damage his reputation as a recruiter at all, but it does sting a little. We aren’t used to rejection.
What does this say about Muhammad? Who knows really? Maybe he didn’t want to be the guy. Maybe he was intimidated by Caliapari and Big Blue Nation. Maybe he realized he is one-and-one with or without Coach Cal. No matter what, if a player isn’t going to buy into Calipari, his system, and the team… It was never meant to be.
I’m not going to sit here and rip Muhammad just because he picked the wrong school. But let’s be real. He wants the Los Angeles limelight. Ben Howland has minimal control over his program; we’ve seen examples of that in the past. Shabazz Muhammad can come into that Bruins system and drop 30 every night. That’s what he wants, and that’s what he’ll get. Maybe we can watch him at 3 o’clock in the morning over here on the east coast.
Calipari says it best about Kentucky, “This program isn’t for everyone… You’ve got to go all in.”
Back in Lexington: The night would improve considerably, as the No. 1 player in the nation, Nerlens Noel picked the Cats over the Georgetown Hoyas. It was a much-anticipated buildup, and up until the moments of his decision no one knew the chosen school.
Noel punked just about everyone watching, as the only flatbill cap on the table was that of Georgetown. But the chair spun around and it was UK carved into the back of his flat top. Calipari has landed the top-ranked recruiting class for another year. Get your poster board and blank t-shirts stockpiled, because the flat top feller is a Cat.
Looking forward, Calipari obviously seemed content with his guard situation — Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin will be the stars, assuming both Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb leave for the NBA draft. Cal focused all his resources on big men, and it’s time to pick up one or two more guys and move on.
So where does Kentucky go from here? The 3-position is going to be hard to fill and is wide open right now. It seems Calipari leaned heavily on the fact he would land Muhammad and lock up the wing spot, but now that he is off the board we may see Alex Poythress slide out.
Then hope for 6-7, 230 pound Anthony Bennett to come in to play power forward. Alex Oriakhi, the UConn transfer, is still looking for a home as well. Kentucky is high on his list, but with the Noel commitment he may not want to come into a program already loaded with talent down low. But the Noel-Oriakhi ties are close, both played for the same AAU team, and have surely spoken about the possibility of playing together.
The only player really left out of the mix right now is Kyle Wiltjer getting a starting spot. That isn’t a bad thing, but his defense needs a ton of work for that to pay off at both ends of the floor. Wiltjer will again get considerable minutes, but I have to imagine Calipari will plan to groom him for another year.
Two major players in the 2012 recruiting race are out of the running, and Kentucky now has to piece together the last of its class. Nerlens Noel already had legendary status with the flat top, but that stunt he pulled tonight will never be forgotten, and Big Blue Nation has fallen completely in love.