Earlier today I was sitting on a snow-covered bench in Triangle Park, looking up at the college basketball palace that is Rupp Arena, and I got to thinking: Why would anyone go anywhere else, if given the opportunity to play for John Calipari at Kentucky?
Let’s take a school like… oh… say Clemson for instance. I don’t mean any ill will toward Clemson; it’s just the first school that popped into my head while thinking about other places one could potentially go to play college basketball. I assure you there is no reasoning behind Clemson as my example, and I definitely don’t have a specific college basketball prospect in mind while having this internal debate — it is completely hypothetical and not related to any real life scenario at all.
But let’s say you’re a young star, maybe you play on the wing and can really fly, and have some crazy amount of Instagram followers, like 1.1 million or so. If that were the case, you’d definitely want to go to Kentucky, right? Going to Clemson — or even somewhere like South Carolina, another school with absolutely no relevance to this imaginary situation — shouldn’t be an option you would even fathom.
For instance, Clemson was 70th in the nation last season with an average attendance of 7,261 fans per game. Kentucky ranked first with more than triple that amount each game in Rupp Arena. Kentucky plays all of its games on national TV too, while I can count Clemson’s national TV appearances on one hand. If it were me, those numbers alone tell me Kentucky is the place to go if I want to build my brand and maximize my exposure for my one year of college basketball. What better place to do that than the school with the biggest fan base and strongest brand in the game?
Then there is the coaching debate. John Calipari is the best of the best at putting guys in the league. I hate to pick on Clemson — which, again, is a completely random school for the sake of this conversation — but who even coaches Clemson? Is Oliver Purnell still there? I honestly don’t know. Clemson’s coach could walk up to me right now in a Clemson basketball t-shirt with a whistle around his neck and I wouldn’t know who he is.
And why go to Clemson where you could be the best player in the program’s history and still not half as popular as Dabo Swinney? Clemson is a football school that wouldn’t know the NCAA tournament if it was played in the middle of campus.
I guess one could argue Clemson has a proven track record with NBA guys like Tree Rollins, Larry Nance, Horace Grant and Dale Davis, all of whom were really good before today’s high school stars were even born, but there isn’t a program in America with the college-to-NBA results like Kentucky, especially not Clemson. Or South Carolina.
I grant you the Kentucky-Clemson debate is a weird thing to be on my mind lately, randomly, but I really felt compelled to share it with you today for no other reason than to spark a meaningless debate. Like I said, it’s completely irrelevant to any current event coming up this weekend or any real life scenario at all — it’s just something that popped in my head, because, seriously, who in their right mind would pick Clemson over Kentucky?
(If that were ever an actual situation.)
As you were.