At the Boo Williams event yesterday, recruiting analysts and coaches alike salivated at hearing center Jahlil Okafor claim that there is a “99.9% chance” he and point guard Tyus Jones* will end up at the same school together. Both players have Kentucky on their list, and the two plan on taking their first official visit together to Baylor at the end of August. Getting one elite player is great, but if Calipari can metaphorically kill two birds with one stone and convince a center-gaurd duo to come to Kentucky- well, that would be a great package deal to follow up the Harrisons’ dual announcement.
Not so fast, however. When speaking to reporters yesterday, number two point guard and fellow Kentucky recruit Emmanuel Mudiay acknowledged that he can’t picture himself playing with Tyus Jones, because he wants to play the point guard position.
Now, Calipari has been recruiting Mudiay pretty hard, telling the Dallas Prime Prep star that “he wants me as his point guard.” Mudiay’s brother, Stephane, seconds that, noting that Calipari has told Emmanuel how he likes point guards with good size (Emmanuel is 6’4″) who can “go to the basket and finish everything as a whole.”
With all this in mind, is Calipari facing an either/or recruiting situation in the 2014 class? Either offer Mudiay, who Cal has been interested in from Day 1 and who fits Calipari’s model of the ideal scoring point guard, or shoot for the moon and try to land both a top center and a top guard?
Personally, I don’t think it’s as simple as “if A comes here, B will go elsewhere.” If we’ve learned anything about recruiting during this past year, it’s that the best players- and the kind of guys that Kentucky wants- are open to the idea of playing together. Calipari has worked the “come to Lexington and win a National Championship” angle to great success with the 2013 class- many of whom, at various times, were the subject of rumors about rivalries between players (Julius Randle and the Harrison twins, anyone?). Even if there are two players wanting to play point guard for Kentucky, Calipari can lead his recruiting pitch with how practices are going to be more competitive than games and will do a better job of preparing players for the NBA than any other college.
Plus, it’s early. So early. All three players in question have yet to take their first official visits (Mudiay mentioned yesterday wanting to go to the Baylor-UK game in Cowboys Stadium, which is a 15 minute drive from his house- Cal, you evil scheduling genius, you), and Mudiay or Jones could easily change their minds what positions they’re willing to play if the end result is a national championship. And as much as it pains me to say this, I kind of take the “99.9%” dual commitment comment with a grain of salt- I’ll believe it when I see an Vine of the signed letters being faxed to Calipari’s office. With the lone exception of the Harrison twins (because duh), Calipari can’t recruit players assuming that their desire to play together is set in stone. Things change. Players realize that different schools have different advantages specific to their game and future. That’s just the way it is.
Calipari is famous for telling his recruits that he’s going to give it to them straight, no bull- and it’s worked pretty darn well for him so far. There’s no reason for him to change his recruiting style for Mudiay or Jones/Okafor. In Cal we trust.
*ESPN has Jones as the top point guard in 2014, followed by Mudiay. Rivals has Mudiay as the top point guard, followed by Jones. So it’s a virtual toss up.