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Insider

Kentucky's pitch well received by recruits

11/1/2011

I can’t remember the first time I heard him say it, but since noticing it, I can’t get it out of my head. Kentucky coach John Calipari isn’t afraid to throw out, in public statements that he’s often encouraged kids to leave early. The way he says it is almost as if he’s surprised if kids come back. No question, he doesn’t mind the one-and-done player and to me, few head coaches are so accepting of the notion. In recruiting, Calipari has used that concept and it’s resonating with recruits like Willie Cauley (Spearville, Kan./Olathe NW).

“Nobody else is putting as many guys out each year,” Cauley said. “It goes in with their recruiting pitch but their big thing is they want your dreams to happen. They say that a lot. If you’re dreaming of making it big, that’s the place to go because you play against the best guys every day.”

Kentucky’s pitch to kids is if you’re ready to go, we’ll be the first ones to tell you to leave. Calipari wants guys to leave early and but also makes it clear that he wants guys who leave early to have success. There’s a difference between having a kid leave early and having multiple kids leave early and have early success in the NBA. Kentucky under Calipari has embraced the early entry players and as a result, they get a ton of them. There’s something to be said for knowing who you are, branding it and recruiting to it year in and year out. Whether or not Cauley is one-and-done doesn’t matter. What matters is the player thinks UK will put him in position and won’t mind telling him to leave when he’s ready.

In addition to UK’s recruiting pitch, Cauley was blown away by the fans. Admittedly, Kentucky was not first on his list going into his official visit. “I wasn’t really thinking Kentucky until a week ago,” Cauley said. “I kind of got a feeling when I was there.”

Miami’s latest addition deserves ink

Jim Larranaga pulled a bit of a recruiting coup this week. It’s not that center Tonye Jekiri (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnant Catholic) shouldn’t have been a Hurricane, it’s more like he shouldn’t have been a Hurricane next year; at least in theory. Following the summer circuit, Jekiri was listed as a member of the Class of 2013. However, this week it was made public that he’s committed to the Canes and will be a 2012 recruit. Apparently, post-July, a number of teams did their homework and found out he could graduate this year.

Jekiri visited George Mason and Clemson officially before locking into the Class of 2012. Credit the teams for keeping the information quiet because surely had Jekiri’s situation been public, there would have been a line out the door for his services. Teams that missed on primary big man targets would have locked in on this guy for sure. Miami beat everyone to the punch.

Jekiri, a native of Nigeria, is a local prospect who ran with the Miami-based Team Breakdown in the summer. His high point on the circuit came at the Big Shots event in Myrtle Beach where he graded out as a high-major junior prospect. The kid is at least 6-11 and not only is he big, but he’s got a measure of feel to his game. This commit didn’t generate much buzz but it’s only because many are unfamiliar with the player.

Did anyone think the Hurleys wouldn’t get players?

Dan Hurley ran a tight ship at St. Benedict’s. Each year he was surrounded with talent. His brother, Wagner assistant coach Bobby Hurley, is arguably the greatest college assist man ever. These guys know players and oh by the way, their father made the basketball hall of fame as a high school coach. So far, the Hurley’s have been quite the duo at Wagner. Forget the losing season last year (they did go 9-9 in conference). These guys are building.

Coming off the summer, they nabbed Kam Mitchell (Jacksonville, Fla./Mandarin). Never heard of him? You will because he’s going to drill 3-pointers for four years for the Hurleys. The boys spotted him at the AAU’s, made their calls and after falling in love with his game, went down to Florida and got him. Under the radar? Yes. Undervalued? Sure, but not by Wagner. These guys are adding players the old fashioned way: they’re evaluating them for their system and then they won’t take “no” for an answer.

I’ve watched these guys, spent time with them in the gym. They take nothing for granted and aren’t afraid to take chances. They don’t care about a player’s reputation, they care about finding players; the right fits for them. Danny Hurley has always been a grinder; a true coach’s son. He’s fiery, intense and short fused and his friends will tell you that’s on a good day. His brother, a former All-American and NBA player, came into college coaching with no ego and an appetite to get better and learn. It’s been fun watching them piece this program together and eventually they’ll turn it into a winner. They’re already winning recruiting battles.

Wagner’s latest score is Dwaun Anderson, a former Michigan State signee and Mr. Basketball in Michigan. In May, he lost his mother. Anderson left Michigan State. Recently, he visited Wagner and made a commitment. One newspaper article called him the best player to enter the NEC since Rik Smits.

“Hurley” is a big name in basketball. There was bound to be a lot of attention directed at Wagner because the boys reunited to coach the team. What’s been impressive is the blue-collar approach they’ve brought to college basketball. One of these years, Wagner is going to take someone to the wire and it won’t be in the NEC Tournament, it’ll be the in the NCAA Tournament.

Worth noting

Yesterday I alluded to Pac-12 teams with multiple players from the Oakland Soldiers program. Apparently, I omitted a program. Oregon State has Jared Cunningham, a former Soldier, on the roster. This fall, they’ll sign Langston Morris-Walker (Berkeley, Calif./Berkeley), a 2011 Soldier.