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NBA executives feel John Calipari is among the best in preparing players for the league

Throughout the John Calipari era at Kentucky, there have obviously been numerous big-name recruits come through the program and make a massive impact on the floor in their lone season with the team before making a jump to the NBA.

Recently, though, Calipari has established a reputation for building the draft stock of solid four-stars and anticipated multi-year prospects into legitimate one-and-done talents.

On June 17, though, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas made headlines by tweeting that the idea of college programs and coaches developing players into NBA talent simply isn’t accurate.

“One thing: college programs “don’t “produce” pros, they recruit them,” he said. “Good coaches at every level help players improve but [they] don’t “produce” pros.”

When asked about Bilas’ comments during his post-NBA Draft press conference, Calipari said he didn’t agree with the ESPN analyst in the slightest.

“He’s said it before. I don’t agree,” Caliapri said. “What about Tyler Herro? What about Eric Bledsoe? I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something. Everybody must have missed on those kids. They just didn’t evaluate them right and we did.

“I think that there are two things that have come out of this. How are our kids, 75% of them, getting to second and third contracts? We just evaluated better? There are other schools that are evaluating just like us and their kids don’t seem to make it. When they do make it, it’s about 20% of the kids, 15%. So, I don’t agree with him.”

In ten NBA Drafts as Kentucky’s head coach, Calipari has turned perceived multi-year players Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Tyler Herro, among others, into legitimate first-round talent after just one season with the program.

And while Bilas might not see it, apparently NBA executives do.

In response to Bilas (and several others in his mentions) on Twitter, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic went out of his way to note that during his regular conversations with NBA executives each year, Calipari is “always” brought up when asked about specific coaches who prepare players for the NBA the best.

“Professionalism, typically good culture guys, body [development],” Vecenie said. “UK does a good job.”

Bilas’ argument is obviously correct to an extent when it comes to can’t-miss prospects out of high school such as Zion Williamson, Ben Simmons, Anthony Davis, and John Wall, among others. Yes, there are players that are good enough to be drafted right out of high school and make an impact in the NBA right away.

But when you look at that next tier of recruits, it’s fairly obvious that development at the collegiate level is make-or-break for them in terms of their draft stock, especially if the goal is to go pro after just one season.

If Herro stuck with his original commitment to Wisconsin out of high school, would he have gotten the coaching and exposure necessary to be a lottery pick after one season? Or Booker if he went elsewhere to be utilized as a four-star role player? Gilgeous-Alexander?

Even the anticipated one-and-done guys out of high school just a tier below the cant-miss superstars such as Karl-Anthony Towns, De’Aaron Fox, and Jamal Murray, among others, all learned the ins and outs of the league and how to carry themselves as professionals during their time at Kentucky. Now, they are seen as leaders and cornerstones of their respective franchises going forward.

There have been some misses over the years, but in terms of overall track record from top-to-bottom, it’s tough to argue with Kentucky’s success over the years. Vecenie’s report only confirms that.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

52 Comments for NBA executives feel John Calipari is among the best in preparing players for the league

  1. 4everUKblue
    1:36 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Well this is not going to sit well with with you know who, our resident coaching and talent evaluation expert. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!

    • mashburnfan1
      3:22 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Says what I have said. This says he prepares them and I have said that many times. He does a great job at teaching all our young men life lessons and to give back, be humble etc. Our guys are seldom in any trouble on or off the court, do great things for Lexington and their team communities. I have said this for years about Cal and thanked him for this.
      My point is he does not develop them talent wise, no coach does, in the 8 months he has them. If he was the reason they are drafted by development please explain Richards from #1 C and lottery pick in HS to not wanted by NBA, same with Briscoe, SKJ, POY, Twins and more. All top picks from HS to nothing. You guys spin things how you want them but again please prove where anything I said was false. I posted a link to players that were unranked from HS or in the 150 to 300 range that were just drafted…Culver, Morant, and more…those guys developed into NBA picks…not Zion, RJ, Wall, AD, etc.
      I guess all kids should go overseas and develop, I mean the NBA ROY, POY, most improved and D player of year were all from overseas.

    • Soylentbeans
      4:50 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Hey guys mash is actually right, but dont let him fool you he to is twisting things to prove his point. Everybody knows that talent cant be taught. its everything else that cal does that people are saying better prepare players for the league. As for the others that dont make it. sometimes the most talented guys bust out happens to a lot and I mean a lot of these guys. It’s only heightened because we get so many highly ranked recruits. Dont let people whos job it is to evaluate and draft players tell you that you are wrong though.

    • StuckinLville
      12:27 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

      You know why? Because coach cant make them work hard. He cant make them get in extra work. He doesn’t have a magic wand, he can only do so much. The rest is up to them.

    • runningunnin.454
      3:37 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      4ever, my man, you have GOT to stop doing that!
      It would appear Jay Bias and Mash are in the minority. Of course, they know more than NBA execs whose jobs are on the line.
      Bilas is still trying to recover from Dook’s recent ncaa tournament embarrassment.

    • 4everUKblue
      5:18 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Yep RG, it’s way too easy to summons the evil spirits on this site. I won’t even read one word he posts anymore because I know what clown he is. No more Beetlejuice from me.

    • gobble gobble
      7:19 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Don’t forget WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN

    • ukcamel
      10:59 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      4ever that was hysterical! Mash would have us believe Cal is claiming he could turn me and you into Wall and Cousins with some pixie dust.

    • k3ntucky_jer
      12:18 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

      Mash o Mash do you really watch anything? The games? The growth of a player over the season? The overall process? Some player just don’t have that drive as most elite players. Now keep thinking Cal can’t make a player better then he was. Real talk now open your eyes and hush it about dumb stuff Tennessee would say.

    • 4everUKblue
      1:53 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

      Camel, mash is nothing but a hater who thinks he’s smarter than all the NBA execs who make their living at this. Delusions of grandeur comes to mind when I think of mash. He wants so badly to matter….but just doesn’t.

    • Cletis75
      4:23 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

      Mashburnfan1, how many times must I call you out on your BS that Nick was the number one ranked Center in his class? Dayton, Bamba, Wendell Carter, Marvin Bagley, Mitchell Robinson and Brandon McCoy were all ranked ahead of him. Stop telling lies to try to make a point.

    • Cletis75
      4:23 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

      Ayton not Dayton

  2. Catcasey1
    1:39 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Suck it Jay

  3. nocode96
    1:40 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Not news to us! We all know what Cal has done for these young men and this program. I’m sure virginiacat or mashburnfan will disagree, but what they don’t realize that the rest of us do is that they’re idiots.

    • 4everUKblue
      1:42 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Code, do you think those two know more than Pat Riley? Don’t answer that, I know your answer. I am positive they both think they do.

    • CatfaninCinci
      1:55 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Mashburnfan1 is just a football fan. He’s perennially butthurt that Football will always be basketball’s little brother at UK, and he can’t deal.

    • nocode96
      2:22 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      That’s the most frustrating thing about that dude, he’s super level headed and forgiving when it comes to football, the players, and Stoops. Then, like a sorta hillbilly Jekyll and Hyde, basketball brings out the stupid in him.

    • J-Dub421
      2:27 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      VirginiaCat and Trashburn are both old and live in the past and view it with rose colored glasses. They hate the one-and-done era and blame Cal for it, when he’s really just the guy who adapted the fastest (and the best) to a new era. They want guys like AD and KAT to stay for 4 years, which is never going to happen. They simply cannot/refuse to adjust to the present.

    • CatfaninCinci
      3:00 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Yeah, if I didn’t like UK football, is troll football right back at him just to troll him like he does Basketball, but I have a soul that bleeds blue.

    • mashburnfan1
      3:37 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      code I am not forgiving to Stoops or players. Did not like Bowden his FR year crying about playing time and said so. Great to see he seems to have matured into a leader now. Also bashed Stoops and team for effort vs U6 in a home blowout loss that I left at halftime of, only game in my life I left early and I have seen us lose 65-0 at UF. I just call it like I see it and deal in facts without letting my fandom interfere with facts. The last 2 years I could see in November 2017 we were not very good and last season it was January that I could tell we had no title shot. I say so and get bashed yet both seasons we get a great draw to the F4 and lose to far less talented teams. Is the frustration I have with Cal, this new team every year and we don’t know what we have till January/Feb most years. Just like this year and all saying how talented we are, really, based on what? Could be best team ever IF 2 of the FR are great and EJ and Hagans improve like PJ did. Could also be NIT if the FR are like Richards, Hagans and Quickly plays like last year, EJ and Nick don’t show lots of improvement. FR are up and down players usually and in those BIG moments they can’t be dependable, happens every freakin year.

    • 4everUKblue
      1:55 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

      Sorry mashbum, I no longer read any of your BS, it’s clear you need professional help. Now run along and play with your action figures.

  4. mashman 93
    2:08 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    In Cal we trust. GO BIG BLUE!!!!!

  5. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    2:20 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Hey bashburn go get your mommy and have her read this to you. It says the exact thing we’ve been saying for years. Cal is awesome and you suck.

  6. Mathlete
    2:27 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    But but but “Cal doesn’t develop players”???

    • mashburnfan1
      3:27 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      This did not say he develops them, the NBA executives say he prepares them. BIG difference and I have agreed with that. Also I have said NO COACH develops these guys into NBA picks in the 8 months they have one and dones. I just go after Cal more because he seems to claim that he is the reason they got there. Simmons was #1 from HS and played for a terrible team and coach yet you gonna say that coach developed him to top pick. Look at Garland this year,played 5 games and was not that great in them yet went #5. Some other kid skipped college ball and worked at shoe company and went higher than Cal could develop Keldon.

    • nocode96
      3:49 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Come on mathlete, mash is right. Developing and preparing are two totally different things. Like, my baker makes the cakes I like, but she doesn’t produce them….hold on a sec, I’m getting a memo. Well I’ll be, turns out preparing and developing are actually synonyms, in this instance and in the English language. I’m shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that mashburnfan is wrong….gtfo outta here mash, you’re a tool.

    • Mathlete
      4:37 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Couldn’t you argue that Cal develops them from talented high schoolers to professional players? He’s not teaching them how to dribble or shoot because no one would at this level. He’s teaching them how to play as part of a good team instead of always being the best guy on the floor, and how to grind and outwork the other guys because as KD would tell you “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

      The physical tools are already there for pretty much any D-1 player, but there’s so much more to being a professional player than just being able to do skills drills well and THAT’S what Cal develops.

    • Soylentbeans
      5:05 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Preparing and developing really aren’t mutually exclusive. Talent wise no he doesnt develop them because talent is something you have not something you learn. Things that are taught like how to be a man, how to play for a team, how to be a leader…etc is still development. He developed into a great leader, I’m sure you’ve heard that one before.

    • nocode96
      5:20 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      You’re arguing for mash, both here and above, on a moot point. No one here is saying Cal teaches them “talent”. That’s not even what the article says. The article and all of our opinions in the comments are exclusively for Cal developing/producing/teaching whatever…these guys into NBA ready players.

    • runningunnin.454
      3:54 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Nonsense; that’s just semantics. Develop and prepare are synonyms…to make ready for a specific future purpose.
      Everybody seems to know what they’re saying, except you.

    • runningunnin.454
      4:00 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Ha ha ha, English class dismissed. Mash still no hablo Ingles.

    • J-Dub421
      5:19 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Getting drafted isn’t the only measure of success. Okafor got drafted third, but he’s been crap in the NBA and the 76’ers spent years trying to get rid of him. Now he rides pine behind AD (before leaving Nola), and Julius Randle. Coach K gets the same level of talent Cal does, but a much higher percentage of his players from Duke wash out of the League, or never come close to living up to their potential.

    • 4everUKblue
      5:19 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Still can’t believe no NBA team has contacted mash to work for them, he’s so much smarter that NBA execs.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:07 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Okafor got better at drunken street fighting people much smaller than him.

    • ukcamel
      11:13 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      “Every Harvard Law graduate isn’t a great lawyer so that means they couldn’t do a better job at training attorneys than NKU”


      You are arguing a straw man. No one is saying Cal has mystical powers. But with a huge sample size, the results are heavily in his favor, especially when compared to K.

  7. TOMCATS1990
    2:33 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    No brainer KY and CAL know how to get this kids ready for the league.

    3:04 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Vindication FOR CAL AND KENTUCKY! Not just Jay Bilass but ku, Duke,UL fans etc .. PLUS alot OF the talking bobbleHEAD hear their own head rattle national sports media. Y’all have been called out by NBA EXECUTIVES AND OWNERS!! CAL AND UK IS THE BEST!

  9. UKsuperdave
    3:26 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Just to be fair, the parents of pros “produce” them.

  10. notFromhere
    3:44 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    The question is how many sure one and dones were held back for DECADES by K and others to the benefit of the NCAA and the networks. Bilas trolling… what’s the world come to these days

  11. notFromhere
    4:00 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Let’s ask another question. How many “sure fire” kids wound up not going pro for years, at all, or not being very successful at the next level that went to other schools during Cal’s time at UK and last years at Memphis?

    • Mathlete
      4:44 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      It’s probably in the 5-10% range if I were ballparking it. Lamb, Poythress, Orton, Teague, and T Jones are all guys who were big deal here and didn’t do much in the NBA. A few other guys have transferred out because it didn’t work out here and of them only Matthews has really been successful elsewhere.

    • notFromhere
      11:37 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Sorry. I meant which “sure fire” kids went to other schools originally. Like went to KashU and UNClass, etc. rather than UK, and had those results i mentioned. I know Cal has had a handful. (I wouldn’t count TJones or Poythress among them, actually.)

  12. Boman2112
    4:22 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    I wish we cared about something more important than this that we would write about it on a blog. Maybe say children who are suffering? These guys all do well. Some kids are dying. This instead takes up out time.

    • StillBP
      4:37 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      This is sarcasm, right? I mean you really don’t expect a sports blog to talk about suffering children instead of sports, correct? Or did you land on this site on accident?

    • Mathlete
      4:40 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can’t live in outrage mode 24/7. Sports news is a great way to come back down from that

    • ukcamel
      11:17 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Boman, it’s weird that when you googled “children suffering” you got directed to KSR.

      So many valid criticisms of KSR, but this ain’t one.

    • notFromhere
      11:39 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      Boman got himself Camel Towed out of here! Who biches about a lack of cats at a Dog Show? !

    • 4everUKblue
      2:00 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

      Now that’s funny Camel!

  13. Mad Max
    11:05 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    I agree with Bilas…if your talking about Duke. Who was the last Duke player that was different at the end of the season than in the first game? Can’t think of any. Who was the last one with real NBA success? Kylie? He had 11 games there LOL

    Now let’s ask. How many Cats loom the same on the last game as their first. One develops players. The other is Duke!!!

    • notFromhere
      11:41 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

      The internet just exploded and is closed for the night. Nice post

  14. mapcatfan
    11:28 pm June 25, 2019 Permalink

    Anyone else remember the special tv story on KAT at the end of his year at UK? They interviewed his high school coach and some of his high school team mates. They were shocked at how much improvement he had made at UK.

  15. anrbob
    9:20 am June 26, 2019 Permalink

    And water is wet…these are things we already know.