As Kentucky wrapped up one of the more dominating recruiting classes in the history of college basketball today (more on that later), we are reminded of the first superstar recruiting class of the modern era, the Fab Five at Michigan. Just as recruiting began being noticed on a national level and the hip-hop culture was making its presence felt in sports, along came the Fab Five to completely change the way basketball was played, and looked at by fans. It is somewhat amazing to realize just what an effect these group of Freshmen (Webber, Rose, Howard, Jackson and King) had not just on the college, but the pro game as well. They were the first “cool” team of college basketball, going to the NCAA Championship game two straight years and becoming the first (and depending on how Calipari plays it), probably the last, team to start five Freshmen in a Championship game. They took the trend of long shorts to the extreme and made the baggy look so commonplace, that became the norm for the sport. They talked trash, played with aggression, but most of all radiated fun and were without question, the most popular team for non-committed (aka basketball fans with no college allegiance) basketball fans that we have ever seen. While they never won a title, they are an iconic group and have become the gold standard to which all great recruiting classes are measured. And they did it all while playing for the worst coach to ever win an NCAA Title…quite the accomplishment.
To the news:
— The big story of the day of course is the completion of the #1 ranked recruiting class in America, as UK completed Signing Day by taking four players ranked among the Top 20. People around John Calipari tell me that while he has liked many classes in the past, there is probably none that he is more excited about than the 2011 group. The talented foursome combine EXACTLY what you want in a basketball program. All four are excellent players, all four are hard-workers and all four are good students who have caused no problems off the court. While it is often the case that a team has to sacrifice some of its goals in terms of talent, attitude, academics, playing style, etc in order to complete its recruiting class, this group is outstanding from top to bottom. I believe it fits right in with the best in college basketball history (joining the Fab Five, the 1999 Duke, 2006 Ohio State and 2010 Kentucky classes). I am giddy.
— While all four committed, the one question that arose from Signing Day was how Kyle Wiltjer will fit into the Calipari system when he arrives in Lexington. Marquis Teague, Mike Gilchrist and Anthony Davis are prototypical Dribble-Drive players, who are able to take their opponent off the dribble, get to the rim and finish with explosiveness. However Wiltjer is a different type of player, more of a “pick and pop” guy who can back his defender down, shoot from the outside and plays a more traditional, motion offensive game. I cant think of a Calipari player that has ever played like Wiltjer and it will be fascinating to watch him develop. I know Calipari was unbeleivably excited to get him and speaks very highly of him to everyone. But watching him play in the DDO system is going to be quite interesting.
— It is worth noting that Calipari said today that the Cats would “probably take 1 to 2 more players” in the class before the 2011 group is complete. Evan Daniels of Scout.com was on the radio show this morning and said that the staff really wants Trevor Lacey, the Shooting Guard who is ranked in the Top 25, to complete the class and he expects that they will wait to see how the dominoes fall to see if there are any Spring players that become available. A lot also depends on the situation with the NBA and whether there is a Lockout. While many assume that could mean Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter would stay, it probably is a bigger deal for a player like Terrence Jones, who is borderline to declare in any event. Keeping the ability to have those guys on the roster next year is certainly a part of Calipari’s planning in terms of filling the 2011 class.
— HUGE NIGHT FOR JOHN WALL tonight as he had a Triple-Double in only his sixth NBA game. Wall scored 19 points, dished 13 assists, grabbed 10 boards and nabbed 6 steals in an effort that amazed even long-time league watchers. With Magic Johnson sitting at courtside, Wall put on a shot that included only one turnover in the Wizards 7 point home victory over the Houston Rockets. With all of the talk recently related to the ESPN Radio host who called Wall “Selfish” and saying that he knew all he needed to know about his intelligence based upon a dance, Wall’s effort had to shut the mouth of his (few) critics and pointed to his amazing future. He is one of only six players in history to get a Triple-Double in his first six games (Oscar Robertson and Magic are two of the others) and is the third youngest player to get one in history. Pretty amazing stuff for Mr. Wall.
— Also a shout out to Jodie Meeks, who had a big night in his first real attempt at playing time. Meeks had 17 points and drained four 3s in the 76ers game versus the Nets. Good for Jodie after a start to the season he would like to forget.
— Derrick Locke will play on Saturday against Vanderbilt and claims that he is close to 100%. While it is great to have Locke back, it was also interesting to hear his thoughts about the decision he made to return to school for his Senior season. He said that while he doesnt regret returning, the injuries have been frustrating and do make the year somewhat of a struggle. With Randall Cobb likely facing the same decision soon, one wonders if the toil that the hits on Cobb’s body (like that of Locke) will add up. Both kids have taken a LOT of hits in college and there could be an incentive to save his body and head to the Draft a year early. We shall see.
— I freely admit to being VERY worried about the ETSU game on Friday night. There are a lot of factors that I think make the Buccaneers a scary opponent, but the primary one is their ability to press and cause disruption to UK on defense. Last year, the Cats were able to score on ETSU by handling the press easily and overpowering ETSU down low. This year, the post scoring is not there and we have no proof yet of a team that can handle defensive pressure well. I predict the game is close throughout and I can tell you that a lot of folks around the program are quietly nervous going into Friday as to what UK team will show up on the court. Believe me, I am as well.
We have another big day today on KSR as we get ready for the basketball-football weekend yet again. On the radio show today, we have MIKE DECOURCY AND SETH DAVIS coming on back to back to talk about the College basketball season. It should be a big show beginning at 10 am on WKJK 1080 and then available later on Podcast. If you want to hear today’s show that included Evan Daniels talking about the UK recruits and Jeff Goodman/Gary Parrish answering the question of whether other coaches like Calipari, listen below….there is good stuff for nearly every UK fan. More later:
Hey ladies, Chinese basketball coaches are still here waiting for you…..