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So What Happened with Jaylen Brown?

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This group of young girls watching Jared Polson speak at a church recently are similar to how UK fans were in hoping to get one more recruit

There have been some strange recruiting decision moments in my time here on KSR. There was the time we had a cell phone held up at the Patrick Patterson press conference in order to play the audio live over my (virtually unheard) radio show. There have been the countless streams of grainy video from high school gyms across America, as UK fans crash all viewing parties with their sheer numbers. And there was the year that all of UK’s decisions were part of a reality show, that showcased the traveling circus that can be UK basketball. However few decisions for me were more random than the one Friday night with Jaylen Brown. I was at the Barnstable Brown party with Drew Franklin and about 25-30 UK fans, all waiting anxiously for the Brown decision. The group was outfitted in tuxedos and surrounded by celebrities but the only thing anyone cared about was where Brown would go. When the text came through that he had picked California, I announced it to the group and the look of shock was ubiquitous. HOW COULD HE DO THAT? I just shook my head and answered the same way I have explained the Newman, Zimmerman and other decisions this year with two words, “That’s Recruiting.”

It has been an odd string of losses for UK and it is clear that the continued punches to the gut have weighed on the fanbase. Just one week ago, it looked as if Jaylen Brown had virtually no chance of picking Kentucky, but then things changed. Kentucky moved up on Brown to such a degree that most around Lexington believed the Cats had him. The last Friday was a circus of activity. A national recruiting insider sent me this text around noon, “it is Kentucky or California…I think he has eliminated Michigan but don’t tell anyone because the kid doesn’t want it out.” Not telling anyone was easy (it was Oaks day and the distractions were everywhere) but the sentiment made me feel great. I was hesitant to eliminate Michigan since most of the world seemed to think they were the favorite, but if it was Kentucky and California, how could a kid from Atlanta, Ga who wants to be in the NBA not pick Kentucky? During the Oaks I got a text that the folks in Lexington were feeling good about their chances and that “everyone will be by their phones this weekend.” One national recruiting writer even went so far as to tell me he had the Brown to Kentucky story written, because he felt it was close to done. Then Friday night came…and the pick was California. Amazing.

At the end of the day, this much is clear. The platoon system killed Kentucky on the recruiting trail in the final weeks. What was a huge positive during the season, because it showcased how Calipari would take care of his kids and a group of players could sacrifice their individual interests for a collective goal, became a hammer that opposing coaches pounded UK with on the recruiting trail. One source told me, “Zimmerman, Newman, Diallo and Swanigan all four at some point probably had UK as their leader…and all four were barraged with the platoon talk all season.” Even though Calipari told the recruits that the platoon thing was a one time deal and told parents that people should look at it as a positive (he takes care of all his kids), the worry about playing time being sacrificed made kids who were UK leans turn into open recruits. After seven players declared for the Draft, Kentucky then found itself behind in recruitments that it once led in (Zimmerman, Newman) and forced to play catchup on recruitments where it had trailed (Ingram, Brown). Everyone assumed someone would bite…but slowly no one did as the characteristic which made the 2015 team so special was used to help weaken the crop that would make up the 2016 version.

In Brown’s particular case, another factor was at play. A source close to the situation told me on Sunday that “Jaylen Brown is one kid where the UK media/fan attention actually hurt UK’s chances.” According to the source, Brown expressed to a number of people the worry that the attention at UK was overwhelming and might be more than he would like to deal with. All season long, Brown has avoided the media spotlight…he didn’t do a ton of interviews, his people leaked almost nothing to the press and he also chose to make his announcement without any tv cameras or press in attendance. Instead he did it after a team banquet, and the only reason people knew it was happening was due to a school student fan section Twitter account (how random is that?). Brown’s choice of California was for a variety of reasons but those close to the recruitment said a big one was the circus that UK basketball was the year/has been for decades. “For most players, UK being on Sportcenter every night and having fans blowing up their twitter account is a positive…but Jaylen is one of the few that saw it as a negative.”

So now we are where we are. Jamal Murray is still on the board, but his status at this moment is unclear. He may not want to reclassify to 2015 and if he does, issues of him fitting into the UK system/shunning an Oregon program that has been on him for some time will still come into play. His situation should be more clear at some point this week. There is still always the chance another player could pop up (either by transfer or a potential 2016 reclassification), but fans should come closer to accepting the very real possibility that this UK team as constituted may be the final draft. A very good year is still quite possible. It requires a few variables to break a certain way (Alex be healthy, Skal totally eligible, Derek Willis ready to make a step up), but if those things happen, the Cats can still be very good. But absent Murray or a last minute surprise, Brown’s pick of Cuonzo Martin and former UK Assistant Tracy Webster (who was Cuonzo’s lead recruiter for Cal on Brown), may have made the roster what it will be…a group with lots of talent, lots of questions and the a vow to never use the word “platoon” again.

Article written by Matt Jones

25 Comments for So What Happened with Jaylen Brown?



  1. wildcat1515
    8:50 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    Wonder how long the Platoon will hurt us? 2016 also??



    • babydangy
      8:59 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

      How would it hurt us in 2016? Teams have not built a relationship like with 2015 class so coaches can’t use it to negative recruit and Cal has assured he will never platoon again. The 2016 class will be a great class and the players aren’t stupid like the 2015 players.



    • satcheluk
      1:57 pm May 4, 2015 Permalink

      It will continue to hurt us for as long as both other coaches continue to bring it up and recruits to continue to perceiev it as a negative. Each year that passes without another platoon will lessens its negative effect, but this will not go away immediately.



  2. 3 fan
    9:03 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    So long story short: we still didn’t win the NC, players sacrificed so players like Dakari and Lee could get minutes and it completely CRUSHED us recruiting. What a f’ing sick joke this spring has been



    • ukbradstith
      11:44 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

      We have a top 3 class so crushed us is a bit strong.



  3. I'mJustSayin
    9:14 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    I know this is an unpopular opinion but regardless of the record this season has turned into an epic fail. Not only did we not win the championship with the clear best team but we doomed this year’s recruiting with the ridiculous platoons. And every player with even a sniff of being drafted has jumped ship.

    By my count we have 9 scholarship players for next year at this point with Skal a possible question mark and Alex healing. How are they even going to have productive practices? Just an unbelievably frustrating last month.



  4. sa_hunt
    9:27 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    We have 10 scholarship players including Floreal. The platoon system was great and I loved it. It hurt the system when Alex went down. The season was a great success. Is surely wasn’t clear we were the best team because we weren’t. Duke was the best team and was the best team all season long. The difference was we played a Junior High schedule because the SEC was way down. Our out of conference wins were also meaningless, UNC, Kansas, UCLA, Providence, Louisville all proved to be solid teams but not even really good teams. We had a really good team and with a break here and there we would of won it, BUT those breaks didn’t present themselves and Duke won it. If you think about it, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M, Notre Dame with a lucky bounce beats us. We weren’t dominate regardless of record. This years starting 5 of Ulis, Briscoe, Poy, Skal and either Mulder/Matthews will be a better starting 5 than we had last year. The Harrison’s were solid but not close to Ulis and Briscoe. Towns was really good but no better than Skal. Willie had ZERO offense, NONE. Lyles was fantastic skill wise and he will be better than whoever we start at the 3 this year.



  5. Gowcats
    9:38 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    Cal unexpectedly gets players back from the previous season and makes a decision to platoon because he is putting players first and it ends up hurting us? Seems like the kids coming out of high school this year are not putting as much emphasis on ” we” as “me”. That, and as has been said, UK is not for everyone, but how do you go to a school who has a coach who has previously shown he cannot take a team and its players to another level? This makes me think these players like situations where they don’t have to compete at a high level to stand out…big fish in a little pond…not the competitors we are used to seeing.



  6. Cousins Fake Tooth
    10:02 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    I said the same thing about the platoon system on UK boards the other day and was called an idiot, a dumb ass and stupid for thinking it causes problems
    How many kids want to.come out of high.school and play just 18-20 minutes a game.



  7. catdaddyd
    10:07 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    I find it hard to believe the platooning hurt us with recruits. It showed us that marginal players like Booker(ONE OF MY FAVS) can play limited minutes an be a lottery pick. Maybe these recruits saw the coaching in final four and decided it wasn’t for them. Then again some of them made some odd choices imo. UK ain’t for everyone.



    • theWilkman
      10:27 am May 4, 2015 Permalink

      In the mind of these kids, they are the next great NBA player, so they think if they get 30+ min a game they’ll average 40 a game. It definitely hurt us, but seeing as we hav th #3 recruiting class, didn’t hurt us much.



    • American Errorist
      1:38 pm May 4, 2015 Permalink

      I didn’t hurt in the sense that we didn’t get a couple great recruits but you can’t lose 7 contributors and only gain 3 back.



  8. kentuckyjoe
    10:31 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    Is UK out of the picture with Thon Maker? I thought he was still up for grabs and considering UK.



    • ukbradstith
      11:47 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

      UK has backed off him. To big a circus.



    • Bobbum Man
      12:26 pm May 4, 2015 Permalink

      Care to share ur source?



  9. Rixter
    10:33 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    How can last year’s platoon system hurt recruiting for next year? If kids are really that stupid, then it’s a sad commentary on our society. Do they not see Cal platooned because he had 10 great players, and next year he doesn’t? Do they think Coach Cal is so stuck on the platoon system that he’s going to play EJ Floreal and a couple of walk-ons, just to make the numbers work?

    I expect great things from the group of geniuses who have turned UK down this year because they don’t want to platoon, and yes, that’s sarcasm, thick and heavy.



  10. CatSmitty
    11:03 pm May 3, 2015 Permalink

    Agree about platooning and hope to never see it again. Had my doubts from the beginning but believed in Cal. It was a grand experiment but it didn’t work, so we should all move on to something else. Had we won the Championship the very opposite might be happening with recruiting. The epic fail at the end of Wisconsin game was hard to swallow for fans and recruits. We owned the last five minutes all year except for when it counted. Still believe in Cal and just want to move forward. We all learn from our mistakes, we adapt and hope for bigger and better things in the future. At the end of my life I am reveling in four Final Fours and a Championship. Count your blessings BBN, it could be worse, a whole lot worse. Don’t kill the goose that laid a golden egg.



    • UK Big Board Update
      11:34 am May 4, 2015 Permalink

      I agree. The platoon system really hurt Karl Anthony Towns draft stock. If we hadn’t platooned, WCS would have been first team All-American, and maybe Defensive Player of the Year. Sacrificing minutes probably knocked Lyles out the lottery, and Booker into the second round. As far as the coaching is concerned, I think platooning cost us too many games early in the season, and that hurt our seeding in the tournament. With the talent we had, if we hadn’t platooned, we’d probably run the table in the regular season and conference tournament.

      /s



    • satcheluk
      2:05 pm May 4, 2015 Permalink

      I idn’t work? You nd I clearly have differen definitions of what works. aking it to the Final Four as the overall #1 seed is a great result. We lost a tough game. **it happens! If we had gone to the NIT I would agree with you. Your expectations are misplaced, IMO.



  11. msnthrop
    8:23 am May 4, 2015 Permalink

    I’m surprised that platooning is being used to convince players not come here…but I can see how it would work with lower tier players. For those very top recruits who are already being mentioned as NBA draft picks for the year following their required college year, the biggest danger while in college is being exposed as frauds. The Harrison twins were considered lottery picks before they played a single college game, one year later they had dropped into the second round or were considered undraftable. After returning for a second year, which shocked most everyone including themselves I suspect, they are in the same position. They were exposed as not being the kind of players that NBA draft guys would want to select (that’s not to say they may well turn out to be great pros someday in the future) and part of that might be because how much they played in their first year (32 mpg). If they had a platoon system in place during their first year, and only played, say, 22 mpg, would they have fallen so far out of favor with the NBA scouts? It is not unreasonable to speculate that if they had played less during their freshmen year, they might have still been considered first round picks at the end. For lower tier guys, their best recipe for sneaking into the NBA draft is more exposure and more playing time rather than less so maybe that is why the argument appears to have swayed some of this years recruits.



  12. RealCatsFan
    10:05 am May 4, 2015 Permalink

    I personally think that we may be better off not having some of these kids if playing time is their #1 consideration for picking a school. Selfishness is not a quality you want on your squad. However, there are also a couple of kids who just decided to play for their hometown school. The part that burns me about this one is that people were applauding them for making this decision, but then when Damien Harris spurned his hometown for Bama, people were saying he had to make that decision. Harris is MUCH more likely to find himself riding the bench or getting recruited over than any of the basketball players who elected to stay home.

    One thing that gets lost in all of this is the angle that Cal used about honing your game by competing against high level players every day in practice. Also, what happened to the NBA “combine” that Cal put on for the players in the fall. At the time this was said to be something revolutionary, and we figured it would be a huge recruiting advantage for us. Did all of this just vaporize into the ether, or was it overhyped to begin with?

    In either case, I find it hard to believe that playing a few less minutes at a school like UK is going to adversely affect your draft status in contrast to playing at a lot of minutes at an also-ran school. These kids are pretty gullible, IMO.



  13. CatBlue in LR
    1:20 pm May 4, 2015 Permalink

    To say the platoon system was a negative for recruiting is a massive overreaction. It may have sparked some potshots from other recruiters, but they’re going to use whatever they can whether it makes any sense or not. They’re also out there saying Cal is going to the NBA any minute now. They’re saying all kinds of things, but in the case of the platoon system, why would anybody pay any attention to it?

    It’s a non sequitur to say unselfish kids would choose another school because of that (I can see it making the difference with kids who want to have the ball in their hands on every possession of the game, but we don’t want them, anyway). It’s a non sequitur because all those guys that played 20 or fewer minutes ARE GETTING DRAFTED! Do you think Devin, Trey, Dakari or any of them have any regrets? Are you kidding me? That system allowed them to be a part of one of the most magical seasons ever–the only team ever to win its first 38 games. The greatest season ever was right there for the taking, and they should have been able to close the deal–it sure wasn’t the platoon system that kept them from it. They got to be a part of that, AND they’re going to get drafted, most of them in the first round. How could it have been a better experience if they had played 30 mins./game? They wouldn’t have gotten to be on a team like that if they had. They got to make history and have about as much fun as possible on a college team and still get drafted as high as they would have anyway. You telling me those high school kids can’t see that?

    Again, the only ones that would have a problem with that are selfish players, the kind who would say, “The game’s no fun if I don’t get my minutes and my shots.” Why do we want that kind of kid anyway?



  14. CatSmitty
    1:35 pm May 4, 2015 Permalink

    Big Board,
    Since there has been no draft yet your sarcasm is a little premature. There were times when the platoon broke the rhythm of the game. No great player wants to ride the bench with game on the line despite the Band of Brothers rhetoric. It was my personal opinion that going with your five best players for most of the game would produce a different result and allow offensive cohesion and maybe a lot more points. I thought this team capable of 90+ points per game instead of merely 75. How many of those ranked teams, we destroyed, made the Elite Eight. An offensive juggernaut that played good D would been much more entertaining and would have kept the plodders like Wisconsin at bay. Big 10 and their ilk play ugly BB and this year so did UK. Don’t like ugly and never have and these are just my opinions. In Cal we Trust is our mantra and we’ll go down swinging at any rate. Just think up tempo and a few loses would be more entertaining.



    • UK Big Board Update
      6:18 pm May 4, 2015 Permalink

      When did I say anything sarcastic…?



  15. CatSmitty
    2:31 pm May 5, 2015 Permalink

    Good-bye platoon @ coachcal.com!!!