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Without Bamba, Calipari’s Wildcats are in a Similar Situation

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Mo Bamba is not coming to Kentucky.  Arguably the most sought after recruit in John Calipari’s 2017 class will head to the Big 12 instead of the Bluegrass.  A few hours after the decision, Calipari announced the addition of the three spring signees — Jarred Vanderbilt, Kevin Knox and Jemarl Baker — essentially calling it quits on the 2017 class.

Coach Cal did not finish the offseason recruiting season with a new Top Two player, but he’ll be just fine.  After all, he’s been here before.  Let me take you back to 2013.

All of the McDonald’s All-Americans

Entering the month of May 2013, John Calipari already had stacked the Kentucky roster with a record six McDonald’s All-Americans.  The No. 1 recruiting class in America, it was touted as one of the greatest classes ever, drawing “40-0” considerations early and often.  You can understand why:

  • Julius Randle — 6’9″ 250 lbs., No. 2 player overall
  • Andrew Harrison —  6’4″ 200 lbs., No. 3
  • Aaron Harrison — 6’4″ 200 lbs., No. 5
  • Dakari Johnson — 6’10” 250 lbs., No. 8
  • James Young — 6’6″ 200 lbs., No. 10
  • Marcus Lee –6’9″ 215 lbs., No. 14
  • Derek Willis — 6’9″ 200 lbs., No. 58
  • Dominique Hawkins — 6’1 170 lbs., No. 151

Four years later, John Calipari has the No. 1 class in the nation, but it’s received exponentially less hype, even drawing concerns from some fans.  Still, Calipari has five McDonald’s All-Americans  ranked in the Top 20 of the recruiting class (and maybe even tenth-ranked Hamidou Diallo?).

  • Jarred Vanderbilt — 6’9″ 213 bs., No. 8 player overall
  • Nick Richards — 7’0 240 lbs., No. 14
  • Kevin Knox — 6’9″ 206 lbs., No. 17
  • P.J. Washington — 6’8″ 230 lbs., No. 18
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — 6’6″ 175 lbs., No. 19
  • Quade Green — 6’1″ 175 lbs., No. 30
  • Jemarl Baker — 6’4″ 185 lbs, No. 83

Just like in mid-May of 2013, it was an impressive class that still had room to grow, with one top-ranked player at forefront near the end of the spring signing period.

Andrew Wiggins

On May 14, 2013, Matt Jones spent two hours on Kentucky Sports Radio calling every famous person in his cell phone to ask: “Where’s Wiggins going?”  Choosing between Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky and his parents’ school, Florida State, the Commonwealth was buzzing like never before for a recruit’s decision.

The future No. 1 pick turned down the Cats and his parents to take his talents to the land of the Big 12 in Lawrence, Kansas.  The Jayhawks lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while Kentucky went to the National Title.

Today on May 18, 2017, Calipari’s class “ended” with a whimper when the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick* opted for Texas.  Bamba and Wiggins are much different players, but their unbelievable impact on the game is comparable.

Stability at Center

SKJ by Mark Zerof | USA Today

SKJ by Mark Zerof | USA Today

When Calipari didn’t add a highlight-maker at the end of the 2013 class, the Cats were covered with McDonald’s All-American James Young ready to step in at the wing in Wiggins’ place.  In the post, he had an incoming McDonald’s All-American seven-footer, Dakari Johnson.  His raw offensive talent is not unlike this year’s McDonald’s All-American center, Nick Richards.

To ensure Johnson did not need to step in to play right away, returning sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein was ready to either temporarily fill the void, or take his game to the next level.  This year’s hyphenated returning sophomore finds himself at a similar crossroad.  Sacha Killeya-Jones wowed during summer practices, drawing comparisons to the former unanimous All-American, but he could never get comfortable during his freshman season, unable to find significant time on the floor.

By all indications, SKJ is prepared to take a Cauley-Stein-sized step up in 2017-18.

An Enormous Roster

I made it a point to list the heights for each of the two recruiting classes.  The first Harrison Twin team to reach the title didn’t have two-platoons with three guys over 6’10,” but they still had the kind of size rarely seen in college basketball.

As the game shifts toward perimeter-oriented style, Calipari’s 2017-18 team will look like his lengthy teams from the past.  Excluding Green and Baker, the rest of the team is at least 6’6,” with the ability to play a lineup ( with Kevin Knox at the wing) featuring four players taller than 6’8.”

Losing Bamba hurts, but there’s more than enough reasons to remain optimistic about next season based on Calipari’s proven ability to cater his style to his players.  Additionally, he’ll have extra time this summer to coach most of his new players for Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Cairo.

Any time there is extreme turnover, there’s a significant adjustment period, but if the team that didn’t get Bamba turns out anything like the team that didn’t get Wiggins, hold on, it’s about to be a wild ride.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

23 Comments for Without Bamba, Calipari’s Wildcats are in a Similar Situation

  1. AGSlater
    7:38 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    Another non title year. This team will struggle. One and done baby!!!

    • catsarerunnin
      8:04 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

      Another NIT huh Slater?? You’re one and dumb.

    • Eazy
      10:25 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

      And what school wouldn’t take the best players? Louisville and UNC recruit them but don’t get them. All the other top 10-15 programs have copied UK. Also, I’ll take four final fours and a title in 8 years all day. It beats the alternative. Duke has 2 titles with one and dones btw. How many titles do the schools with no elite players have? I’ll wait.

    • CatstopWontstop
      11:47 pm May 19, 2017 Permalink

      He said non-title, not NIT…and he’s not wrong,

  2. Mathlete
    7:58 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    Just a friendly public service announcement… Feeding the trolls keeps them coming back for more

  3. jim tom
    8:42 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    Rick Flair and the 4 horsemen son. Wheeeeeew

  4. jaws2
    8:56 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    This team will be fine, IF the mysterious Vanderbilt shows up healthy early. If not, they’ll struggle in December against the tough teams.

  5. kenny
    9:09 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    Any news about Jared Vanderbilt’s injury?

  6. Jarisn02
    9:32 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    Diallo is coming back. Book it! Why else would Cal annouce the new signees already?

  7. Game Changer
    9:47 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    I read Bamba’s letter and his reasoning behind his decision to pick Texas. Although very eloquent it still remains a very stupid decision. If his reasoning is education, then why not pick Duke or Michigan. Not only that but he knows that he is one and done, so is he planning to gain that amazing Texas education for that one year. If his decision was based on player development, yeah Cal’s big men didn’t do great this past years, but his record for the past 8 years can’t be matched by any other coach when it comes to guards and centers. Lastly, if you are planning to go NBA why not go somewhere that has shown consistency at getting players drafter very high. I honestly, think that his personality type is one who wants to be the big fish in the little pond, hence why he did not pick UK or DUKE. Good luck young man, but just like Simmons not a very good move.
    On another note, Calipari did not do Bam or UK any favors by pushing him out early… the young man was pushed out to make it more enticing for Bamba… guess what we lost both of them and now the poor kid will possibly drop to the late 1st round when he could have improved to a lottery pick in next years much weaker draft… oh well!!

    • TonyMontana
      10:57 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

      I also feel like sometimes Cal encourages some kids to go when it would actually benefit them more to come back for another year and improve their status. It’s not a race to get there, why not try to get there with the best possible outcome.

    • donjohnson
      6:52 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

      What if he didn’t develop legit post moves or a jumper next year? Is he a second round pick. I LOVE bam…he has been one of my favorites to root for because he seems to do things the right way. However he is a tweener in the league. Not big enough to play 5 and not skilled enough to play the 4.

  8. SanDiegoCats
    10:30 pm May 18, 2017 Permalink

    Are we no longer in the running for Cam Johnson?

  9. Wilfred Smith
    8:25 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

    Familiar situation.

    Please take a writing class.

    • Nick Roush
      8:46 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

      Alliteration > Perfect Grammar

    • Nick Roush
      8:46 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

      Sorry, it’s not alliteration, it’s consonance.

    • CATandMONKEY
      10:41 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

      Poor journalism.

  10. 2Dogs
    8:35 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

    Mo Bamba is not walking through that door. Please no more articles about who ISN”T on the team.

  11. chrisg18
    9:07 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

    Stability at center? Please explain more. We are relying on a talented, but very raw incoming freshman who looks like he will struggle with foul trouble, and a talented, former McD AA who was our 4th string center last year and couldn’t get off the bench the second half of the season. Actually just based on last year, Tai is the favorite to be the starting center this coming year. It’s a shame Humphries left. He would probably be the starter.

  12. Eazy
    10:28 am May 19, 2017 Permalink

    The land of the Big 12 where national titles come once every 20 years and tournament chokes are a March madness tradition.

  13. CatBlue in LR
    5:43 pm May 19, 2017 Permalink

    We’re going to experience a little more pain than we’ve been used to lately. I’m thinking ’13 might be a better comparison than ’14 (in terms of the way the season ends — actually, up until SEC Tourney time, ’14 was very similar to ’13, but not after that).

  14. CatstopWontstop
    11:50 pm May 19, 2017 Permalink

    The team you reference here had 5 recruits in the top 10…this one has one. It’s not the same.