NCB On The Trail: John Calipari

The early signing period will officially come to an end in a matter of hours. Before the clock strikes midnight, we look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the past eight days.

Winners

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
Jeff Hinds/adidasDuke is a big winner with the addition of Jahlil Okafor, the nations top-ranked overall prospect,
Duke
When the nation’s top-ranked overall prospect and best point guard coordinate a dual announcement on national TV and flip over your hat, it’s a win. Duke might not officially have the top-ranked recruiting class in the country just yet, but there’s no denying it scored the biggest prize.


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Video: Calipari talks UK recruiting

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
5:00
PM ET

Kentucky coach John Calipari joins Matt Schick to discuss Kentucky's 2014 commitments and his philosophy for building recruiting classes.
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On his 18th birthday Tuesday, five-star power forward and ESPN 100 No. 7 overall recruit Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Tech) committed to Kentucky over in-state rival Louisville.

What does Lyles bring to the Wildcats and how will he fit in John Calipari's system? Let's break it down:


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Derrick Jones (Philadelphia/Archbishop Carroll) had the type of week most kids can only dream about last week.

The 6-foot-6 rising junior swingman was already a top national prospect -- ranked No. 16 in the ESPN 60 -- and held scholarship offers from the likes of Syracuse, Villanova, Maryland, Seton Hall, Temple and St. Joseph’s even before the start of the annual July live evaluation period.

Then, in the span of just a few hours, things really escalated quickly.

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Trey LylesCourtesy David Dixon/tnl1.comNo. 4 recruit Trey Lyles trimmed his list to Kentucky, Louisville, Florida and Butler this week, but it could come down to a battle between John Calipari and Rick Pitino.

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Trey Lyles cut his final college list to four earlier this week down here at the Peach Jam, and the onetime Indiana commit kept the dream alive when both Louisville and Kentucky remained in the hunt.

Lyles is a stud, ranked No. 4 in the ESPN 100. Think a 6-foot-9, 250-pound version of Tim Duncan. Not overly athletic, but super skilled and with an extremely high IQ. The senior power forward out of Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis can score with both hands in the paint, has terrific touch around the basket, can bury shots from midrange, and can even step out beyond the arc and drain shots from deep.

No. 1 point guard Tyus Jones and No. 1 overall Jahlil Okafor have soaked up the majority of the headlines in the 2014 class thanks to their talents and their willingness to play together in college, but Lyles could have as much of a winning impact as anyone in this entire group. He’s a versatile scorer who can rebound, pass and help lead a team. He’s more than capable of being a double-double guy as a freshman in college thanks to his rebounding instincts.

Florida and Butler also made the cut in Lyles’ final four, but this one could very well come down to a Battle of the Bluegrass. In fact, many of those close to this recruitment feel it will ultimately be John Calipari vs. Rick Pitino.

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The busy July in basketball recruiting isn’t just about the players -- it’s about the college coaches, too. Specifically, with three open evaluation periods (July 10-14, July 17-21 and July 24-28) and more than a dozen major events throughout the country, it’s about where those coaches are and which prospects they are watching.

Since the whereabouts of a coach in July can be a major indicator of his recruiting priorities, here’s a look at five head coaches -- plus a bonus recruiting rivalry -- whose travel plans the college basketball world will be glued to this month.

[+] EnlargeMike Krzyzewski
Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsWith the potential to lose as many as six players next offseason, the 2014 class is an important one for Duke and Coach K.
1. Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
Coach K isn’t retiring from Team USA after all, so that means he’ll again have limited time to cover the recruiting period. The difference this year, however, is that the 2014 class is one of the most important for Duke in recent memory, as the Blue Devils could possibly be looking at as many as six scholarships to fill after the coming season (depending on the potential for Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon to leave early for the NBA draft). That makes the days Coach K does have to recruit especially valuable, which means we’ll be able to tell quite a bit about Duke’s priorities based on the prospects he’s following. ESPN 100 sharpshooter Grayson Allen is already on board and the Blue Devils would like to sign three prospects in November’s early signing period, but they’ll need a strong showing from the big boss to make that happen.

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video

Dakari Johnson (New York, N.Y./Montverde) has been making a lot of news lately. The No. 1 center in the ESPN 100 plays for the nation’s No. 1 team, won MVP honors just before Christmas at the loaded City of Palms Classic in Florida and just this past weekend announced his commitment to Kentucky.

But who is Dakari Johnson and what makes his game special? Let’s break it down -- and remember that even though he’s a senior, this is only his third year of basketball.

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The nation's No. 3 recruit in the ESPN 100, senior power forward Julius Randle (Dallas, Texas/Prestonwood), returned home Sunday from Kentucky after his first official visit.

All senior prospects are allowed five official visits that last no longer than 48 hours, and Randle shared his itinerary and thoughts from his first experience, on which he was accompanied by his mother, Carolyn Kyles.

[+] EnlargeJulius Randle
Courtesy Lori YoungNo. 3 recruit Julius Randle is down to Kentucky, Kansas, Texas and Florida.
On Friday, Randle had dinner at coach John Calipari's house with the staff and team and spent an evening with the Kentucky players. On Saturday he met with an academic adviser, went on a campus tour, attended the UK alumni game at Rupp Arena, attended Kentucky's football game against Western Kentucky and had dinner with the coaching staff. Later Saturday night he went to the practice facility and did some late-night shooting from 1:30-3 a.m. with some Kentucky players. And finally on Sunday he had breakfast with the staff and attended team practice before departing.

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