Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Is Kentucky's 2013 class the best ever?
By Dave Telep
No one has ever done this before.
Six McDonald’s All Americans and four top-rated players at their position in one class. The No. 1 recruiting classes four of the past five years. Unreal.
John Calipari sits atop the mountain of college basketball recruiting. He looks over the horizon, glares down at the masses of programs trying to scale the heights, and what does he do? He picks up the phone and offers the next round of guys likely to commit to him.
Yep, he’s got it like that.
It’s one thing to say, “This is the best recruiting class this year.” It’s on a completely different level to speak the following phrase: best recruiting class of all time. We’re not comparing Kentucky’s recruiting class to No. 2 Memphis or No. 3 Kansas anymore. Really what we’re talking about here is UK 2013 versus Michigan 1991, the “Fab Five.”
Honestly, even before Wednesday’s commitment of No. 1 power forward and No. 3 overall senior Julius Randle I could have made an argument that UK’s 2013 class was better than Steve Fischer’s Michigan bunch. By the way, this entire argument would have to happen on paper or in an alternate universe. Back in Michigan’s day, the crew stayed together for more than a year. This UK contingent won’t be around much past 365 days from when you read this column. So comparing the two on anything but paper is impossible.
John Calipari is in the midst of a recruiting run unlike any coach in college hoops history.
Randle is this class’ Chris Webber. Here you give the head-to-head edge to Michigan because Webber was the No. 1 prospect in his class. But that’s where Michigan’s edge runs its course.
In addition to Randle at No. 3, the Wildcats also have signatures or commitments from the Nos. 5, 6, 7, 11 and 18 players in the ESPN 100: point guard Andrew Harrison, shooting guard Aaron Harrison, small forward James Young, center Dakari Johnson and power forward Marcus Lee. Toss in three-star power forward Derek Willis for good measure and you’ve got an embarrassment of basketball riches.
In addition to the frontcourt, there’s also size and strength in the backcourt with the Harrison twins. The only point guard I can think of with a body that’s 6-foot-5 and more than 200 pounds is NBA vet Jason Kidd. No way a college point guard enjoys his Harrison experience up close.
Now, some will look at what happened to this year’s Kentucky team full of elite recruits and discount the hype of the 2013 class. But last year, we told you UK’s recruiting class was the weakest of the Calipari era. Now, obviously that’s all relative because it was the No. 2 class overall behind UCLA. Tuesday night’s loss to Robert Morris in the NIT first round was not expected. Playing in the NIT was not expected.
Other than Noel, you didn’t hear us trumpeting the one-and-dones from Kentucky’s 2012 class. However, at UK, because of the assembly line of draft picks, that’s the expectation. The reality was that only Noel was rated that level of prospect coming out of high school. There’s always a chance kids jump after a year. However, going into the year, my expectation for Poythress and Goodwin was to see them in blue at least two seasons. Cauley-Stein, prior to arriving at Kentucky, was not supposed to be a one-and-done guy. He was more prospect than player in high school and remains that through his first year in Lexington. By the way, that’s not a bad thing. He and his fellow freshmen are allowed to run their own races and develop naturally.
With the 2013 class, the expectations for UK’s incoming recruits are different. Randle is virtually a lock one-and-done player. Expect similar fates for the Harrison twins. And from a pure talent perspective, James Young is that kind of prospect, plus the kid can shoot it and has size. Last year we told you UK had a singular one-and-done. Next year: probably four.
Kentucky has more one-and-dones per year than most conferences. Next year, five of the nation’s 11 highest-rated players are going to Kentucky. Four of them are the best prospect at their position. That hasn’t been done before.