The 2012-13 season is mercifully over, and despite having the #1 ranked recruiting class in the country, Kentucky failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and were unceremoniously dispatched in the First Round of the NIT by Robert Morris. Hard to see things being any different in 2013-14. To stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*The Thunder Rolls: Last week, 5 star recruit Aaron Gordon committed to Arizona over Kentucky. This marks the second consecutive year that a high profile recruit has spurned Kentucky, the first being Shabazz Muhammad in 2012. Does this mean Calipari has lost his mojo? Is UK no longer the “it” school? Have elite recruits started looking at places other than Kentucky? Yes. It was an impressive run while it lasted, sort of, but all good things must come to an end. Perhaps Calipari himself saw the writing on the wall when he opted not to offer a scholarship to McDonald’s All-American and eventual Florida commit Chris Walker, as he knew that a public rejection would only do more damage to his reputation as a guy who just can’t seal the deal. Maybe this is why Cal is always promoting pizza and frozen yogurt instead of coffee. Because coffee is for closers.
*In Another’s Eyes: Last week when Willie Cauley-Stein announced his intention to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season, the consensus among Kentucky fans was that this was a good thing. However, there is one person who may not agree. UK commit Dakari Johnson plays the same position as WCS, and he is the one who is most directly impacted by Cauley-Stein’s decision to return. Though Johnson’s public comments indicate that he is pleased with WCS’s decision and that all he’s concerned about is “winning,” he was likely instructed by John Calipari to put a positive public spin on the matter, or else he’d lose what little playing time he would otherwise be getting. When I contacted Johnson’s AAU coach by email, I asked him what his thoughts were, and he said that he too only wanted Dakari to win a championship. However, when I asked him whether he wants his ex-player to have a successful college career, he said “yes.” Translation: “I want him to start and play all 40 minutes.” I then forwarded his response to UK’s basketball office, but there has not yet been a response, which likely means the staff is trying to figure out a way to revoke Johnson’s scholarship. Buckle up, folks. This figures to be a bumpy ride.
*Friends In Low Places: Last week, freshman Alex Poythress announced he will be returning to UK next year. This does not bode well for Kentucky. In previous years, UK has seen several hot-shot freshmen leave Lexington for the riches and glory of the NBA. As a result of all these one-and-dones, Kentucky was known as the best place for elite freshmen to go in order to provide for the families. However, this is no longer the case, as next year’s UK roster will include holdovers such as Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kyle Wiltjer, Jarrod Polson, Tod Lanter, Brian Long and Sam Malone. Meanwhile, the only freshman to leave early is Archie Goodwin. (Nerlens Noel doesn’t count because he was injured and didn’t play much of the season, which means he will be drafted only on potential rather than anything John Calipari did.) In other words, of the 8 underclassmen who, by declaring for the draft could have bolstered UK’s reputation as the place for 5 star recruits to go, only 1 of them was actually developed by the staff as a legitimate NBA prospect. Don’t think this has had an impact on the program? I have two words for you: Robert Morris.
* On this date: On this date in 1987, Indiana was fresh off its last national championship. The TV show “Alf” was popular.