Over the past five years, John Calipari has developed a reputation as the best recruiter in the nation. Since coming to Kentucky, he’s pulled in the number one class five years in a row. But, how big is the gap between Cal and the rest of the pack? I decided to put some cold hard numbers behind Cal’s case as the best coach to get players ready for the NBA.
I started with the top eight coaches still in the game: John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and Jim Boeheim. This group includes the coaches who over the past decade have gotten the most 5 star talent to come to their school and who are still coaching at that school (thus no Ben Howland). I looked up all of the 5-star recruits they’ve brought in during the past decade and how each of those recruits fared in the NBA Draft (or, if they went undrafted). Picking 5 star talent is not a perfect indicator, as their are obviously differences between a player ranked #1 and those ranked #20 (where 5 star rankings usually end). But it is the best indicator of elite status and the players that most all of the top programs focus on recruiting. Because the 2013 draft hasn’t happened yet, I excluded the 2012 class, and developed a point system to determine which coach is most successful in getting players to the league.
The NBA Prep Point System
0 = Undrafted
1 = Drafted in the second round
2 = Drafted in the first round
3 = Lottery pick
4 = Top 5
5 = Number one pick
SIS = Still in school
D-2013 = Declared for 2013 draft
Why the different levels? I awarded zero points to players that came in as 5-stars and left school without being drafted. To me, that shows a lack of preparation by their coach for the league. This could also include players who were not drafted, but signed with a team later on.
I awarded one point to players who were drafted in the second round, since they do not receive guaranteed contracts. Two points go to players drafted in the first round, but not in the lottery, since those players receive guaranteed multi-year contracts. Three points to players selected in the lottery, or picks one through fourteen, and four points to player picked in the top five. The money payout for the top five picks is significantly more than the rest of the lottery picks, as is the pressure to go pro if that’s your projection. I awarded five points to players who went first because of the notoriety and money that comes with it, as well as the bragging rights that go to the school. I took the average of the players’ NBA Prep rank and assigned them to each coach. That number shows, on average, where each five-star recruit that plays for that coach goes in the NBA Draft.
1. John Calipari, Kentucky/Memphis
Not surprisingly, Cal came out on top, in both his time at Kentucky, and the average of his two tenures at Memphis and UK. What Cal did at Memphis was impressive; on average, the five-star recruits he brought in went somewhere between picks 14-30, but what he is doing at Kentucky is astounding. Not only does Cal have the most five-star recruits in the past decade, he also has the most five-star recruits in the league, and the highest-ranked in the draft. That means five star recruits that come to UK under Calipari are ON AVERAGE PICKED IN THE LOTTERY. That is remarkable.
Keep in mind that Patrick Patterson was not included because he was technically a Tubby Smith/Billy Gillispie recruit, and Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin aren’t eligible because the 2013 draft hasn’t happened yet. If those numbers were included (with Patterson going in lottery and presumably Noel being the first pick), Calipari’s score would rise.
2. Roy Williams, North Carolina
On average, Roy Williams’ five-star recruits are drafted just outside the lottery, likely between picks 20-25. Cal and Roy are by far the two most successful coaches in getting their players to the league, and from there, it is a big dropoff.
3. Billy Donovan, Florida
Considering that Billy Donovan’s most successful NBA players were actually four-stars (Al Horford, Joakim Noah), his NBA Prep rank was still pretty high, thanks in large part to Bradley Beal. Donovan doesn’t land a lot of five-star recruits, but when he does, he succeeds in getting them to the league, on average in the second round.
4. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Coach K’s most successful NBA player is the one that went to the draft after one year (Kyrie Irving), which throws a little salt on his anti-one-and-done stance. The players that do stick around for a few years at Duke end up going from the mid-first round to early second, which would give him a higher average if Demarcus Nelson, Greg Paulus, and Brian Zoubek hadn’t gone undrafted.
T5. Bill Self, Kansas
* JR Giddens was recruited to Kansas by Roy Williams, but Bill Self persuaded him to stay when he was hired. Dave Padgett was also a member of Kansas 2003 class, but transferred to Louisville after his freshman year.
Bill Self came to Kansas in 2003 after Roy Williams left for North Carolina, and really hit his stride in 2005 with the Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, and Julian Wright class. Sherron Collins going undrafted hurt his rank, but Xavier Henry helped boost it, as will Andrew Wiggins. But on the whole, the performance of Bill Self with top players is surprisingly disappointing.
T5. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Boeheim’s early five-stars weren’t drafted, which really hurt his average. The rest of his five-stars have all gone in the first round, with Jonny Flynn being his highest five-star player drafted since Carmelo Anthony, at #6. Since Anthony was from the class of 2002, he was not included in the study.
7. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Izzo has a reputation for recruiting three or four year players, which is reflected in his NBA Prep rankings. His only five-star player drafted was Shannon Brown, way back in 2003.
8. Rick Pitino, Louisville
Rick Pitino’s five-star recruits have been all over the place, with four going undrafted, one going late in the lottery, and Derrick Caracter barely squeaking into the second round in 2010.
Conclusion: The Kentucky Effect is a fact
Based on these numbers, John Calipari is not only the best recruiter in college basketball, he’s also the most successful when it comes to getting his players drafted. On average during his time at UK, he has turned five-star recruits into lottery picks. Even more, he’s helped several four-star recruits get there as well. Also these numbers seem to me to send a message to elite 5 star high school recruits. If you are in that group and want to be a high NBA Draft pick, Kentucky and North Carolina, based on track record, are the clear and obvious choices as destinations. My guess is that most schools don’t show these numbers to incoming players, but if I were John Calipari (and secondarily Roy Williams), I think I would. It is clear UK, followed by UNC, are the best places for the best of the best to reach the NBA.