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What we’ve learned this season: The “one and done” world isn’t for everyone

When John Calipari arrived at Kentucky a decade ago, he had a recruiting blueprint that was so simple in its concept, it was sort of amazing that no one had ever tried to pull it off before.

That concept? Rather than building a college basketball the team the traditional way, taking players and molding them over three or four years into a title contender (which was the way it was done back then) Calipari wanted to do the opposite. He wanted to stockpile the best players one after the other after the other, and make a run at a title every year. Then, after losing many of those players after one year, he’d recruit a new batch of superstars and try to do it again the following season.

People forget that before Kevin Durant and the Warriors or LeBron James and the Miami Heat, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Kentucky was the original “super team” in basketball.

Of course over time we’ve also realized just how hard it is to win with Calipari’s method at the college level. Sure, loading your roster up with the best players sounds good, but what few realized, is how challenging it is to take a whole new group of players, every single season and get them competing at the highest level. To figure out your player’s strengths and weaknesses on the fly, and doing it with egos and attitudes at play, with handlers and parents on the sidelines. And also doing it while playing a team game, and pursuing team goals like a national championship.

Since Calipari first initiated the plan, many have tried, and a few (most notably Coach K) have had success. But mostly, the college basketball world has slowly realized, that the one and done world just isn’t for everyone.

And if there was ever an example of just how hard it is to build teams based almost entirely on freshmen, we’re seeing it this season. Washington, Georgia and Memphis all brought in Top 12 classes nationally a year ago, highlighted by no fewer than three Top 100 prospects and at least one projected lottery pick at each school. Because of their recruiting prowess, all three entered the season with big-time expectations and dreams of a deep tournament run. Well, not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but all three have instead largely fallen flat on their faces, with Washington in last place in the Pac-12, Georgia in second to last place in the SEC, and Memphis on the wrong side of the bubble after a three-game losing streak.

Again, the one and done world simply isn’t for everyone. And if there was ever a season to learn that, it’s the 2019-2020 campaign.

Starting with Washington, their struggles aren’t so much about their “freshmen struggling” as it is, they have a knucklehead junior who messed everything up. I’m of course talking about Quade Green, who, regardless of what you think of his time at Kentucky, emerged as a very important piece for the Huskies. With Green in the lineup, Washington jumped out to an 11-4 start to the season, which included a victory over Baylor back in mid-November. Three months later, it is still the only loss on Baylor’s resume.

Yet after that 11-4 start, Green was ruled academically ineligible, a simply stunning turn of events that should never happen at a Power 5 basketball program (blame both Green and the coaching staff for allowing it to happen). And since Green flunked off the team, the Huskies are 1-10 overall, and again, in last place in the Pac-12.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Still, even despite Green’s departure it doesn’t change the fact that, with Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels – two Top 10 recruits who are projected as Top 20 NBA Draft picks – the Huskies simply shouldn’t be this bad. It also doesn’t change the fact that Hopkins has had trouble corralling in McDaniels and at one point was forced to bench him for erratic play. McDaniels has also dealt with maturity issues and gotten a few costly technical fouls throughout the season (if I’m going to criticize McDaniels, it’s probably worth nothing that Stewart has been, by all accounts, the consummate teammate and a guy who comes to play every single night)

At Georgia, well there is no built-in excuse, other than Tom Crean going full-on Tom Crean in Athens. Even with No. 2 ranked prosepct Anthony Edwards on the roster, anyone who followed Crean closely through the years knew that this might be coming. Historically, Crean’s best seasons always came with veteran teams filled with grinders, not flashy teams with star recruits.

Still, like Washington, you can’t use youth as an excuse for the Dawgs being this bad either. Following Georgia’s loss to Texas A&M this weekend, the Bulldogs fell to 12-13 overall, 2-10 in SEC play and are essentially wasting Edwards one year on campus. And while again, Crean will at some point inevitably blame youth and experience on the Bulldogs’ struggles, the bottom-line remains that this team has too much talent to be struggling as much as they are. In addition to Edwards, Georgia has three other Top 100 recruits, and certainly has more talent than many teams that they’re looking up at in the SEC standings. That includes the A&M team they lost to on Saturday, a team which was picked to finish 13th in the SEC in the preseason. Instead, Buzz Williams – who essentially has the same salary as Crean – has the Aggies at 6-6 in the conference overall, and is showing what a coach who earns his paycheck actually looks like.

And finally, there’s Memphis. Never forget that Penny Hardaway asked for “All the Smoke” in the preseason, and well, someone call a doctor, because the man appears to be dying of inhalation. Following a loss at UConn on Sunday, Memphis has now lost three straight and are just 5-7 in their last 12, after starting the year 12-1.

Now in Penny’s defense, there is a logical excuse for the Tigers’ struggles. Memphis of course could have never predicted that James Wiseman would leave the team mid-season following a suspension, nor that DJ Jeffries would get hurt. Which means the Tigers are down their first and third leading scorers from the beginning of the year.

At the same time, it’s hard to give Penny a pass either, for a few reasons.

One, Wiseman’s absence is largely Penny’s own fault (you know, the whole “paying Wiseman’s family to move across state” thin”) even if he could have never known Wiseman would leave the team mid-season. And even without Wiseman and Jeffries, this team still has three other Top 60 recruits as freshmen, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis and Lester Quinones, as well as two more just outside the Top 100 (Malcolm Dandridge and Damion Baugh). Which is the biggest problem for Memphis, and the biggest criticism for those looking at the program from the outside: Besides Achiuwa, can we really say any of the freshmen have even lived up to expectations, let alone exceeded them? You’ve also got to wonder if the top recruits are starting to question Hardaway as well, as Memphis has a grand total of zero players committed for the 2020 recruiting class. ZERO! This, just one year after signing the top class in the country.

Regardless, of the exact circumstances of each program, it doesn’t change the fact that each is among the most disappointing teams in college basketball, and it also highlights what we said at the top: It’s really hard to do what John Calipari (and to a smaller degree what Coach K) have done over the last decade and change.

We hear that both those guys “should win more” in the NCAA Tournament with all the talent that they have. Yet in the end, the tournament is a total crapshoot, one where a bad bounce, missed foul shot or twisted ankle can completely alter the trajectory of a season.

It’s also a testament to John Calipari and Coach K, that independent of what happens in the tournament, that their teams remain in the mix for the title every single season.

It isn’t easy to take a group of highly-ranked players, and to get them to play hard and play together, while chasing their individual dreams all within the context of the team goal.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Washington, Georgia and Memphis.

They’re three teams who are learning that the hard way.

Learning, that the one and done world simply isn’t for everyone.

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

34 Comments for What we’ve learned this season: The “one and done” world isn’t for everyone

  1. Witnessed
    8:29 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    why go at quade?

    • The Big Lebowski
      9:05 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      Green made his own bed. He’s not exempt from criticism.

    • ClutchCargo
      1:07 am February 18, 2020 Permalink

      Because he is old enough to be expected to do what he has to do to stay eligible. And that is ignoring that he quit on UK midseason. Time to man up and and do what nearly every other college athlete does.

  2. makeitstop
    8:33 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Nailed it Aaron

  3. miggles
    8:47 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Anyone who didn’t learn that until this season is behind the times.

  4. snoopjdawg
    8:59 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    UNC is also struggling from trying the one and done system. Ole Roy says this years team is awful? Then Recruit better when your one and done players are leaving. He tried White, Little, etc. now he’s paying for it. It’s just not Roys style.

    • makeitstop
      9:55 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      And UNCheat went down again tonight – guaranteed a losing season… I hate gloating but… ok, I don’t hate gloating lol

  5. Han
    9:07 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Lebron’s super team in Miami is held up as the example/first, but Allen and Garnett joining Pierce in Boston was the big, controversial teamup before Lebron. Lebron’s was only really controversial because of “The Decision.”

  6. ScoggDog
    9:07 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Cal has shown, again and again, that he can use a year or two to get kids to the level of being drafted. Which is why Cal gets those kids.

    But that is not – simply is not – the best formula for championship success at the college level. To win championships, you have to accept a couple down years to bring a roster along. That ain’t what Cal wants to do – and that isn’t what UK fans want to do.

    It comes down to this – do you want to hang a banner every few years – or be in the hunt every year ? Cal is in the hunt every year – but unless it’s a bumper crop of players that he can get – he’s always going to lose to an older team. Just how it is.

    • kentuckybackupplayer
      9:13 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      remember that championship cal won? and all the final fours. his championship production is fine.

    • michaelb
      10:07 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      Scogg- tell us who in tf . Hangs banners every couple years ??????????

    • mashburnfan1
      10:24 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      If Cal could coach we would have a few titles. People always try to compare Cals wins versus other coaches but you can’t do that. Cal in 99% of his games has the best players, most talent etc. There are coaches who would have won multiple titles with that same talent level. In fact there are coaches who have multiple titles that never had near that talent level. The problem is the youth and hopefully that will change when they change the one and done rule I think it will benefit the system Csl uses

    • CrystalBall
      10:31 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      Talent alone won’t win it all. It has been proven. Also need “experience”. Something which a
      team of one and dones does not have.

    • 4everUKBlue
      10:56 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      Funny every coach, analyst and anyone who gets paid for their expert opinions all say Cal is the best at what he does and is a great coach, but mashbum, whose expertise is limited to criticizing Cal while making excuses for our football team says Cal can’t coach. Sorry son but you have zero credibility except with Wrongous1, you two are on the same page, so you got that going for you.

    • 4everUKBlue
      1:45 pm February 18, 2020 Permalink

      BP actually said it better so credit to the BP chick.

  7. michaelb
    10:05 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Tom Crean goes full retard . Never go full retard

  8. mashburnfan1
    10:45 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Not a true comparison. When Cal first got here he was getting four or five of the top 20 players, players that would’ve been number one picks out of high school. Georgia Washington and Memphis to a lesser extent did not. Plus Memphis is struggling due to injury and Wiseman Being ineligible. If you remember what happen when Nerlens went out Cal lost to Robert Morris. And we were in danger of not making the tournament before he got hurt

  9. mashburnfan1
    10:50 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    And all that really matters is every year in the tournament Coach Cal losers to a much more inferior team, a much less talented team. People always use the “ who else you gonna get” well how about Billy Donovan. He has far less draft picks than Cal had but he has more titles in a lot less seasons. If Donovan had all the exact same teams Cal has had (UK & Memphis). he would have won 4 or more titles. And he finishes that undefeated season undefeated.

    • 4everUKBlue
      11:00 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      So mashbum is a prophet, predicting what would have happened and yet he can’t state the facts in real time. Donovan won two with the exact same team and didn’t do jack besides that. You and Wrongous need to go back t spooning and telling each other how great you are.

    • ClutchCargo
      1:13 am February 18, 2020 Permalink

      Do I really need to point out that recruiting is part of the job description of any coach? That Cal has done it at a high level from day 1 is a stupid and lazy criticism.

    • StillBP
      6:54 am February 18, 2020 Permalink

      Assuming Donovan or any coach would win with the players Cal gets means you should also win with the talent K gets…and he doesn’t seem to be winning championships with all that talent for a while now. So if you’re saying Cal can’t coach because he can’t win with “great” high school players, then you’re implying K can’t coach bc he can’t win with them either. Bummy, you’re so predictable and illogical.

  10. Bluehender
    11:05 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Wrongeous1 is that you? Once again you’re wrong. Donovan wouldn’t come to Kentucky. We been down that road before. And if he had, he wouldn’t be able to get the players that Cal has brought in. And like Aaron said, it’s a total crap shoot to win a title. You’re nuts if you think ANYONE would have won 4 or more titles with Cal’s teams. What a ridiculous statement. We’ve had a great run with Cal and sorry to tell you, but he’s gonna be here until he’s ready to leave.

    • Bluehender
      11:08 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      This comment meant for the knucklehead above, Mashburnfan..

    • 4everUKBlue
      11:09 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      You just made mashbum so mad….

    • Bluehender
      11:11 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      It’s reality 4ever..he needs to face it..

    • 4everUKBlue
      11:14 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      It is reality but he’s not capable of facing reality, he’s living in a dream world where he can predict what would’ve happened if someone else coached here. Total buffoon.

    • Bluehender
      11:17 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      I totally agree 4ever..

    • 4everUKBlue
      11:19 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      I thought mashbum was below the idiot lever but it seems that’s not possible…

      Retardation Levels
      To classify scores below 70, psychologists invented a scale of “retardation” – Morons, Imbeciles, and Idiots:
      ? Morons – Those with IQs between 51 and 70 (adequate learning skills to complete menial tasks and to communicate)
      ? Imbeciles – Those with IQs between 26 and 50 (unable to progress past a mental age of approximately six)
      ? Idiots – those with IQs between 0 and 25 (poor motor skills, extremely limited communication, and little response to stimulus)

    • 4everUKBlue
      11:20 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink


    • Bluehender
      11:22 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      Oh, it’s possible…

    • 4everUKBlue
      11:25 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

      I think he’s overwhelmed with delusions of grandeur, no one has a higher opinion of him than he does.

  11. Aar
    11:52 pm February 17, 2020 Permalink

    Is this a down year for college basketball talent or is less freshman talent the new normal? With many players reclassifying to a year earlier, opting overseas, choosing a lesser program to coast through and still others bailing out mid-season it’s a valid question. Why doesn’t some gifted journalist dive deep into that analysis?

    • trumpetguy
      3:11 pm February 18, 2020 Permalink

      Aar, maybe naive on our part, but I’m under the impression that class work/attendance etc is something staff at UK expect from potential recruits. Perhaps, I say perhaps, Wash didn’t stress that to QG, until it was too late. Seems that Ben Simmons at LSU back in the day, treated academic progress as a waste of time, knowing he was lottery pick, after 1st semester. Then coach Johnny Jones sat him for a game or two because of it…..IMO, some high caliber players go elsewhere because of “green light” approach on offense allowed by head coach. Others go elsewhere because UK staff inform the kid and their parents school work is to be done as scheduled…..Some want discipline AND coaching, some want easiest path to NBA and winning at collegiate level just not that important. That would be interesting documentary/ segment on ESPN if they could get truthful commentary from former collegiate players.