Kentucky may boast a 6-13 overall record and the team’s NCAA Tournament dreams may rely entirely on an SEC Tournament championship run, but don’t expect the program’s recruiting success to take a hit.
At the end of the day, Kentucky is still Kentucky, and high-profile recruits still feel good about the long-term success of the program. With UK head coach John Calipari’s track record with wins, deep tournament runs, draft picks and NBA success, one bad season isn’t going to ruin a decade of dominance.
“Why wouldn’t they? That’s my thing. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they feel good? They see the results that they’ve had with the players,” Kentucky assistant coach Bruiser Flint said Tuesday. “I mean, teams go through stuff like this sometimes. This is my first year at Kentucky, believe me I didn’t think it was going to be like this. But people understand what Coach Cal has done, what type of coach he is, what type of program this is.”
In talking with future recruits, Flint says they see the player development and wins. They also understand – like most people – that this season is unlike any we’ve ever seen, one without a normal summer of workouts, preseason camp, exhibition games and a light non-conference slate.
The program won’t receive a free pass in the record books, but they may get one with high-level prospects.
“This is as storied of a program as there is in college basketball. So, you have a little bit of a hiccup, and you’re having a hiccup for a whole year,” Flint said. “Everybody knows on this Zoom, you know, 2020-2021, has not been regular. All you’ve got to do is just look at the history of it, and not only that, but in terms of what Coach Cal has done with recruiting, how he’s developed his players.
“I know we’re having a tough season, but anybody that looks at that and thinks this is going to continue they’re out of their minds. So, I think the kids understand that and they love Kentucky basketball. I think that’s why we’re still pretty good with the recruits.”
With many of the nation’s blue blood programs struggling this season, Sports Illustrated’s Jason Jordan interviewed several elite prospects about the impact this year’s results had on their recruitments, with many noting it had zero impact.
“It’s tough,” 2021 five-star forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. told Jordan. “This year just seems off for everyone on every level. … I’m not gonna put too much stock into this season. I know what those schools have been traditionally and even last season in most cases.”
“The blue bloods were gonna need that time COVID-19 took from them to get ready this summer. That hurt them,” 2021 five-star forward Michael Foster said. “You can’t really hold this year against them.”
“This year is hard,” 2023 five-star guard Simeon Wilcher added. “People don’t understand what all this stuff does to you mentally. You’ve gotta look at it like those guys are used to dominating and being on TV all the time with their fans screaming for them. Now, that’s all taken away just like that. Of course, it’s gonna be harder on them. You can’t hold this year against anybody, especially not them.”
Kentucky has signed three prospects in its 2021 recruiting class, with five-star center Daimion Collins leading the way, followed by four-star guard Nolan Hickman and four-star forward Bryce Hopkins. UK has also earned a commitment from five-star guard Skyy Clark in the class of 2022.