The big news out of Lexington this week is that there will be a visitor this weekend from the lesser of the two known provinces that comprise Serbia and Montenegro, Nemanja Calasan (pronounced Nay-Mon-Ya Co-Los-on) Calasan (thats him in the back) is the type of player we thought we might see to end up this class…..a big power forward, who can come in and get minutes immediately, while only taking up a scholarship for two years, thus opening said scholarship up for the class of 2009, where Kentucky currently is scheduled to have none open. Today on the Sports Mob, we had the beat writer for the Midland, Texas newspaper (who reminded me that Permian High from “Friday Night Lights” is in Odessa, not Midland and he doesnt think too kindly of one making that mistake either), who compared Calasan’s game to a Dirk Nowiskti-type but with much more inside aggression. “He is not a guy who is afraid to mix it up down low. That is the think that makes him different from most European players. He would be perfect for what Billy Gillispie likes to do.” (by the way, the phrase “likes to do” has become one of the most overused sports cliches of all time…..as pointed out by my friend Trevor, it means nothing, yet is said to describe every coach and every system).
We dont know a whole lot about Calasan as a player, but we do know he has great potential. At the beginning of the season, he was ranked as the #2 JUCO prospect in the country, a designation that it is unclear whether he kept through the course of the season. He did however score around 15 a game with about 7 rebounds, while playing on a team that went on to win the JUCO national championship. He originally signed with Utah, but after a conversation with the new coach, decided to go in another direction. He apparently visited Purdue today and is looking at going to UK this weekend, where he may even be offered a scholarship for next year.
Trusting Billy Clyde as I do, the above info makes me confident that he can be a good get for the Cats. He fills a spot, while leaving a scholarship for the future and allowing another big body on a team lacking in such players. But the question I have is whether having JUCOS on Kentucky is a good idea in the first place. Lets face it…..the history of JUCOS at Kentucky has not been strong. Nate Knight, Antwain Barbour and Rekalin Sims had varying degress of success, but all were much more hype than product. On a national level, there have been some star JUCOS (Stevie Franchise, Nick the Quick and Kenyon Martin come to mind), but a whole host of others that have tanked or been underachievers. The top programs in America (UNC, Duke, Kansas, etc) rarely take JUCO guys and they usually seem a quick fix for second tier programs. So is it in UK’s best interests to take one?
In my mind, the answer for this year only is yes. Due to an odd roster, with an unbalanced makeup by class, Kentucky needs another player, but not one that will have the scholarship for four years. A JUCO player fills that void by being ready to play right away, but only taking up a spot for two years. However in the long run, I think getting JUCOS is a bad idea. They are a difficult group to have mesh well with the team, as they come in with college experience, but against inferior competition. They often struggle to blend in and finding correct amounts of playing time is difficult for a player who has already been a college star on a new, higher level. JUCOS are usually quick-fix patches for rosters that have holes that need replacing. Such a system and roster may be in place right now at Kentucky. But if Billy Clyde has his way, that wont be the case for wrong. In my view, if a good JUCO is on the table this year, you take him. But in the long-run, relying on JUCOS at a program like Kentucky is a bad move.