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John Calipari’s Roster Turnover at Kentucky is Even Crazier Than You Think

Severe roster turnover has been the norm for head coach John Calipari during his tenure at Kentucky, but this is unprecedented territory even for him.

Only sophomore Keion Brooks will start next season with previous experience playing for Kentucky – and he didn’t even hit 500 total minutes. Eight players from the 2019-20 season will not come back, for various reasons. Calipari hasn’t experienced roster turnover this lop-sided since the mass exodus that followed the 2012 National Championship team (and we all know how the next season went).

Even with an impressive recruiting class coming in, headlined by two potential superstars, next season’s roster has holes, mainly with a lack of experience. Somewhat head-scratching decisions by players such as Kahlil Whitney (transferred midseason) and EJ Montgomery (declared for NBA Draft) have exacerbated the issue. The NBA’s beefed-up version of the G League is designed specifically for the potential superstar players Calipari goes after and it will absolutely have an effect on the program going forward.

Because of the G League’s latest move, the NCAA is now in a bad situation that could have immediate impacts and even worse longterm impacts. An established societal culture among the younger generation has translated to more player freedom over the last half-decade or so. More rules are being set (and will continue to be set) in place that will extend even more player freedom (i.e., the expected passing of an immediate transfer rule in the coming month).

Dealing with roster turnover is going to be one of Calipari’s most challenging tasks to overcome while he’s been in Lexington.

Over at The Courier-JournalJon Hale and others dug deep into the advanced statistics of just how unique Kentucky has been in terms of players flowing in and out of the program since 2009. The post is literally STOCKED with interesting and eye-opening numbers that put Kentucky on a completely different playing field than it’s competition. Here’s what they did.

“To gain a better understanding of how Calipari’s system [of high roster turnover] compares to the Wildcats’ top competitors,” Hale wrote. “The Courier Journal analyzed each signing class from 2009 to 2018 from each of the other 12 programs to either reach multiple Final Fours or win a national championship during Calipari’s tenure in Lexington: Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Syracuse, Villanova, Virginia and Wisconsin.”

What they found was both impressive and a bit concerning.

I won’t spoil all of the work that the CJ put into their post (and there are a ton of tidbits), but here are two points that stuck out to me, in particular.

  • “Of the 55 high school or junior college recruits signed by Calipari at UK between 2009 and 2018, only five (9.1%) completed their eligibility in Lexington. Two of the five Wildcats who did were junior college transfers with only two years of eligibility remaining when they signed with Kentucky. At least 36% of the signees at the other 12 programs exhausted their eligibility for that school or remain on the team’s 2020-21 roster.”

Just THREE players that have come to UK out of high school have stayed all four seasons. Louisville is the next closest school at 36.4 percent completing their eligibility, with Duke and Kansas not far behind. The nontraditional bluebloods such as Wisconsin and Butler are all the way up in the 60s.

  • “Between 2010 and 2015, between 42 and 50 college underclassmen kept their names in the NBA draft. That number has increased in each of the next four years, all the way to 84 in 2019. With only 60 selections in the two-round draft each year, a growing number of college underclassmen are guaranteed to go undrafted.”

The picture that the CJ is trying to paint is that this is an issue that is not going away any time soon. It’s something that is continually getting worse with each passing season. At Kentucky, the issue is heightened even more compared to other programs. Over the past few seasons, it’s the departures of the Whitney’s and the Montgomery’s that force Calipari’s hand the most as he now has to dive deeper and deeper into the transfer portal.

No one knows for sure why all of these younger players are skipping a second or third year in college they that so clearly need. They could have outside noise interfering with their intentions or possibly fear the embarrassment of coming back for a third year when they originally came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit. Social media is surely a proponent of the latter. But there could be so many other factors behind the scenes.

If the G League continues to pump money into this newfound developmental program, and they build it up to the point where they are snagging 20-30 of the top high school prospects instead of just two or three, that’s when hunting one-and-dones might not be the best route for Calipari and his staff. In reality, there might not be any left to pluck from the high school ranks five years down the road.

Cal still produces NBA talent at a higher rate than any other college program (probably in history). The CJ notes that “of Calipari’s first 55 signees at Kentucky, 41 have entered the NBA draft as underclassmen, more than twice as many as the program with the second most early entrants on the list (Duke, at 20).”

Until the system stops working and Kentucky continues to miss out on Elite Eight and Final Four appearances, it’s hard to argue against it. But there have never been as many outside factors putting pressure on Calipari to find elite talent than there is right now.

It’s time to get creative.

[Courier-Journal]

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Covering all things NBA and UK Hoops. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR

48 Comments for John Calipari’s Roster Turnover at Kentucky is Even Crazier Than You Think



  1. TonyMontana
    7:22 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    In 2019, 44 underclassmen NCAA basketball players who declared for the draft went undrafted. They cannot return to college basketball. If they played baseball or hockey they would have been allowed to return. NCAA Baseball and Hockey players do not even have to declare for the draft. If the NHL or MLB picks any player from College, that player has 72 hours after the draft to decide if they want to go pro or stay in college. The NCAA demands basketball players renounce their eligibility if they want a shot at getting drafted. This seems illogical and certainly unfair compared to the other sports.

    Within the first 13 picks of the 2019 NHL draft, 4 underclassmen were selected who decided not to go Pro but to stay in College for another season, including the #5 overall pick. It stands to reason that plenty of basketball players would make the same choice. Especially those taken in the 2nd round and perhaps all of those 44 players who went undrafted.

    These players returning to college for another season would make college basketball more exciting and competitive, plus it would be beneficial for these student athletes to continue their education.

    Of course the big difference between basketball and baseball / hockey is the amount of farm teams and development leagues available. Every baseball team has it’s own minor league team and there are a crazy amount of varying levels of hockey leagues, including 2 that are sanctioned by the NCAA for players between 16-20 that allow you to keep your eligibility.



    • desertCard
      7:46 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      The sports you mentioned are considered “minor” sports. Most players, if not all, don’t even receive full scholarships. Is that fair?

      There are plenty of developmental leagues for basketball that keeps their eligibility before college. Called the AAU circuit.

      Most of these players, especially at UK, are told they’re a sure thing from the time they’re recruited till final horn of their last game.
      I doubt that once that horn sounds they’ve even able to qualify as school stops for them.



  2. just a guy
    7:27 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    But this is a “generational thing” and “all schools are doing it. No. No they are not. It’s a calipari thing. 13 transfers OUT of the program in 11 years. At least 10 guys leaving for NBA that barely ever sniffed a roster. No coach anywhere has more above average seasons with more “NBA” talent. Yes 2013 was bad after 6 left in 2012, and 2016 was only a bit better after 7 left in 2015. That 2013 team had 4 players on it that eventually played in NBA. If they don’t leave for NBA they transfer out. How many left from last years team? No one else is doing this. Just calipari.



    • BlooBloodRon
      8:35 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      And if they had just ONE more ship he’d be hands down the best coach in college b-ball during his time here. He is one game from being the undisputed best in the country. And you act like he’s a failure. And that you know what you are talking about.



    • nousername
      9:53 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      BlooBloodRon
      just a guy is basically just stating facts here, although it does seem like it’s Cal AND Coach K going down this path. I think most agree Cal is a great coach. But he’s created a monster and a disastrous culture over the past five years, at least for winning national championships. Which is all UK fans want, truth be told. Tubby was also a great coach, but it became obvious he would end his career with only one title due to roster issues of another kind. Time to move on.



    • njcat
      10:42 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      Comments like this fail to recognize the decline in both recruiting and NCAA tournament success over the past 5 years. His attracting ‘the best of the best’ has become a distant memory.

      The trend is bad and with the NBA’s moves it’s going to get even worse. Cal needs to change or become irrelevant.



    • timbo
      11:23 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      Yeah. No players from any other team are transferring, just UK. Not sure how we get a transfer in every year and likely three next year, considering no other program has kids transferring and all… just Calipari.
      Sometimes it’s really easy to figure out low IQ contributors and non-fans.



    • desertCard
      4:41 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      Timbo you obviously didn’t read the story. Yes many players transfer in/out but UK/Cal is on a whole other level. The 2nd place team in that category isn’t even close to Cal’s dubious mark.



    • blueNtheFace
      11:56 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      This place (UK) has become a circus, a spectacle and nothing more. It’s gets old seeing the rolodex of players with NO FINAL FOURS. Yes CBB has changed but wow can we get back to one soon, please. Players first, KENTUCKY last! Getting old!!



  3. Newtype
    7:44 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    Why’d you have to give the old crybabies the fuel they need with this one.



    • desertCard
      7:48 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      Because it’s true. Take off the blue tint glasses and stop drinking the blue Kool aid



    • Newtype
      9:02 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      You mean being a fan regardless? Nah Imma keep doing that. And you can keep dreaming of a “better time” when guys stuck around for 4 years and “played for the name on the front of the Jersey.” Or become a fan of division 2 or some shit I don’t care. Y’all’s constant complaining and wetting yourselves is just exhausting to see on hear. Good thing you’re the minority.



    • desertCard
      4:44 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      Lol if you think you’re in the majority here. Cal’s “recipe for success” has netted one NC with loaded rosters. But also many early rounds flameouts and the illustrious NIT bid and first round loss to Bob Morris.



    • Newtype
      11:20 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      They’ve only not made it to the 2nd weekend once in the tournament so you might wanna get checked for alzheimers. And who really cares where you finish in the NIT? That was a fluke year anyway.



  4. desertCard
    7:55 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    “Until the system stops working and Kentucky continues to miss out on Elite Eight and Final Four appearances, it’s hard to argue against it. But there have never been as many outside factors putting pressure on Calipari to find elite talent than there is right now.

    It’s time to get creative.”

    No it’s time to learn how to recruit, piece together and develop a team, not a group of barnstorming mercenaries. He promises these kids the world to get them for a year. If they’re not good enough for the draft… then adios.



    • BlooBloodRon
      8:33 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

      Loser



    • desertCard
      9:32 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      LOL how does that make me a loser? More than UK in the present system? That’s a huge fail.



    • Bluehender
      1:04 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      desertCard YOU are in the minority. Go back to U6.



    • Tom Bombadil
      6:25 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      I say all you cry baby bums need to find another team. W.Kentucky has 4 yr players! And have Kentucky in their name! Lmao cry babys



  5. BlooBloodRon
    8:32 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    Why is this a problem now that there is a transfer portal with no sitting out? We will get the best of both worlds. The best of high school talent that wants the spotlight of Kentucky AND the best proven transfers who want to up their game. What’s the problem chicken littles?



    • desertCard
      5:14 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      Toppin is not the best transfer. Actually the team 70 miles up the road got that transfer recruit. Mintz is 33rd in immediate play transfers, Toppin not rated in any category. Now if UK gets Haarms… And the transfer portal and no sitting out is for grad transfers not all transfer. Toppin will most likely have to sit out a year until you can get his astounding 5.1 URI earned PPG.



    • desertCard
      9:34 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      And the “no sit out” rule is only in discussion.



    • Tom Bombadil
      6:21 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      Blue blood i stand with you. Ive cheered for UK since 78… championships only come around every 20 years anyway it seems with 1 year..or 4 year players. Cry babies gonna cry! Waaaaaaa waaaaaa.
      To me this is the most exciting time. I love to watch the best players, no matter how long they stay at Kentucky.



  6. VirginiaCat
    8:47 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    Cal has said on more than one occasion that the name on the back of the jersey is more important than the name on the front. There needs to be a better balance between what’s good for the players and what is good for the program. The imbalance has resulted in a ton of players leaving at the earliest possible moment, costing the program multiple championships.



  7. mashburnfan1
    9:25 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    Bottom line is we already know next year we have no chance of the title, rinse and repeat, have not had a chance to the title since 2015 and we knew it before the season even started. Yes we win more games then several teams like a Vandy, Bama etc. but we are no different than them at the beginning of the season as far as knowing we have no title shot. No team ever will win a championship that has to depend on freshman. Has never happened and never will, you must have experienced players to win a title.



    • Tom Bombadil
      6:36 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      Since Kentucky has no shot I suggest you find another team that does have a shot maybe Louisville! Losers! I know you can start your line beard right now! U suk mashbum



  8. mashburnfan1
    9:28 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    And the real sad part is this group wasn’t even that good, losing to very bad teams and barely beating very bad teams. Oh yeah they won the SEC title, big deal the SEC was horrible. Better to win it than not, but that was not a very good accomplishment based on the talent level of this conference this year. Even winning the SEC regular season we struggled against average and below teams like Ole Miss, Vandy, Georgia, Florida and these guys think they can now go play against pros. What a joke



  9. CrystalBall
    11:07 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    If Cal didn’t recruit one-and-dones and only managed to win 20 games per year, would the unsatisfied fans then be asking, ” Why doesn’t he recruit the best so we could win 30 per year”.



    • desertCard
      5:19 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      Without leadership you cannot win NCs. That’s a proven fact. With your Burger Boys you need some dogs and role players. Someone a little more experienced to keep the team focused. Cal is a great salesman and recruiter. He doesn’t seem a great Xs and Os guy. Like every good snake oil salesman you shouldn’t stay in one place too long. So yeah you could win 30 a yr but will never, lol, win 40.



    • Robkycats54
      10:06 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

      @mash I don’t often agree with you but your spot on with this, there’s no way we shouldn’t returned juzang, Quickley, Richards & EJ we are not winning a natty with a team full of freshman….. Not going to happen, on top of that you can include hagans all four of those guys have a chance of not being drafted smh this coach of our has a lifetime contact smh & giving these kids bad advice or not being straight up with the parents, take EJ he’s not on 1 draft board but he declares & signs a agent makes no sense or IQ & Nick they are rank 56 & 58, those type of almost certainly returned for another season but they leave. This is a problem & a Calipari problem you need guys veterans & a mix of talented freshman to win, Duke & UNC return all those guys who aren’t expected to be drafted in the first round but cal pushes them to NBA knowing they won’t be drafted look Issac Humphries he had no business entering the draft smh



  10. friendsofcoal
    11:07 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    The problem with a guy being drafted into the NBA then deciding to return to college for another year is that it screws the team that drafted him. Each team gets two picks every year (unless more through trades) and teams could end up coming out of the draft without any players. Tough situation for sure.



  11. Lip Man 1
    11:16 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    When the NBA and the NBAPA get together and work out new eligibility rules this will no longer be as much of an issue.

    The top 10-15 high school kids will be heading right to the pros and the remaining players just a shade lower in talent will be playing longer at the college level.



  12. Big Sexy
    11:43 pm April 17, 2020 Permalink

    Cal needs to start buying half the guys who leave early Rosetta Stone or Babble subscriptions. That way they can learn the languages as they bounce around the world playing when the NBA spits them out or completely snubs them.



  13. desertCard
    5:01 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

    “Cal still produces NBA talent at a higher rate than any other college program (probably in history). The CJ notes that “of Calipari’s first 55 signees at Kentucky, 41 have entered the NBA draft as underclassmen, more than twice as many as the program with the second most early entrants on the list (Duke, at 20).”

    Meanwhile Coach K, Roy Williams and JAY WRIGHT have won multiple NCs in that time. Problem seems to be that BBN, or a vocal minority within, is happy being a feeder school for the NBA et al and would rather brag about that than win another NC or retain the tradition that was UK. It just all seems so unethical with todays recipe fr success in Lexington and as a fan… I don’t get it. Cal will not win another NC at UK I’ll bet you $100 right now. Another players jersey will not be hanging fro the rafters of Rupp. How does BBN tolerate this? This is not a natter of wanting the good ole days of college bball it’s about being UK and not a bunch of mercenary athletes who care nothing for the university, city, state or BBN. Only thing missing is Lavar Ball and his merry band of sideshows. And from what I read many of you would be happy with that idiot.



    • Tom Bombadil
      6:39 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      I heard a song the other day…
      Cry Me a River oh Cry Me a River! Waaaaa waaaaaaa



  14. Newtype
    11:34 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

    Go root for those teams then clown. Fact is they have many more disappointing tournament exits than UK. If you were a fan of those schools you’d be making a fool of yourself on their message boards too. The problem is with you and the rest of the fringe minority who have nothing but bitching to do with this regime.



    • desertCard
      12:15 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      How can it be any more disappointing to recruit the cream of the crop of HS bball and only win one NC + RM disaster in NIT? Anything other than at least the title game would be a disaster all things considered. I seriously don’t think you and your ilk are the majority of BBN. All my other UK friends of course like to win but understand the game and what it takes to win NCs. A mix of players, molded into a team + leadership on the floor AND on the sidelines. That’s what UK lacks these years.



    • Bluehender
      1:08 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      He’s right desertCard. The whiners like you are the ones who are the loudest. Doesn’t mean you’re in the majority. Just means you make more noise…



    • desertCard
      2:57 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      That’s your opinion but not everyones for sure.



  15. blueNtheFace
    11:46 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

    Love him or not, if Cal doesn’t make the final 4 in the next 5 years, he will not be the coach of Kentucky! And before anyone jumps on me being a hater, I’ve always supported Cals ways. But facts are facts! 2015 killed the momentum and we have yet to recover.



  16. Newtype
    11:50 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

    I’ll agree with you on 2015 but not the first part. Let’s say he kept falling short in the elite 8. There’s no way any school would fire someone with that level of success still. It’s just a bad look. No one would want to replace him.



  17. blueNtheFace
    11:57 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

    You are correct but he will leave, not be fired. The pressure would be too much as it’s already showing.



  18. blueNtheFace
    11:59 am April 18, 2020 Permalink

    Let’s just hope we find our way back and he has a longer tenure.



    • Tom Bombadil
      6:44 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

      Some of you crybabies need to go and find a publisher!! Hahaha …oh i mean waaaa waaaaa
      Seriously write a book next time! Such drivel



    • blueNtheFace
      3:35 pm April 19, 2020 Permalink

      Lifetime fan and supporter. It’s getting old very old dude. No one is crying



  19. chris43
    1:45 pm April 18, 2020 Permalink

    The G league isn’t stopping and it’s only going to continue to pluck more and more elite level high school talent. Most want to be “one and done” and use college to showcase their talents. In fact I’d argue the top 10 or so would never play an NCAA game if they were allowed to declare directly after high school. Fact is you might as well forget about the majority of elite players playing in the NCAA with the G Leauge offering 500k for a FIVE MONTH season. Can you blame them for not playing for free for a season? I LOVE COLLEGE BASKETBALL! But it’s time for UK and other to fact it….were going to have to start going after the 3 and 4 stars who’ll take time to develop. It’ll be an adjustment but in time all will work out.



  20. GACAT
    6:36 pm April 20, 2020 Permalink

    BlueN in the face, you are absolutely correct. As an Alumnus of UK I would run Cal out of town. I am sick and tired of Cal’s coaching inabilities and the massive turnover of players. All he does is yell at the kids the entire game. If he had kids who would stay for four years he could sit his fat ass down. He has publically stated he is more concerned with putting kids in the pros than winning championships. I am over Cal and I am sick of the same results every year.