Kentucky Still Hoping for Recruiting Magic
Three-year streak of boasting top recruiting class in jeopardy; still hope for upward move
Kentucky has scored the top recruiting class in the nation for three years running.
"Since [John] Calipari's been there, they've had the most elite players of any program, whether they've won it or not," longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski told FiveStarBasketball.com.
But that streak is in serious jeopardy at the moment.
With just two pledged commits for the Class of 2012 in Arkansas shooting guard Archie Goodwin and Kansas center Willie Cauley, the Wildcats class is currently ranked No. 11 by ESPN.com.
Arizona, N.C. State, North Carolina, Texas and Michigan make up the Top 5 in the current ESPN.com rankings.
Still, there is hope for Kentucky to make a move upward in the coming days.
Alex Poythress, a five-star forward out Clarksville (Tenn.) Northeast, will announce Thursday for either Kentucky, Memphis, Florida or Vanderbilt.
Jarnell Stokes, a fellow five-star power forward from Memphis Southwind, is also expected to sign early and is considering Kentucky, Memphis, Arkansas and Tennessee, with Memphis considered the clubhouse favorite.
Five-star shooting guard Gary Harris of Indiana will choose from among Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue.
And five-star forward Amile Jefferson of Philadelphia Friends Central is considering seven schools, including Kentucky.
"That obviously strengthens and gives them greater depth, but those are not program-changers," Konchalski said of the possibility of Kentucky adding some of those players.
"They're guys who can be major pieces of a winning puzzle, but they're not program-changers and elevators. They're more maintainers. That doesn't mean they're not going to be NBA first-round picks.
"The guys who would be program-changers would be like the Anthony Davis and the Michael Gilchrist and the guys...like John Wall and back at Memphis Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. Those are the program-elevators and the program-changers."
For four years running, Calipari's point guards have been one-and-done: Rose, Evans, Wall and then Brandon Knight last year.
Kentucky remains involved with a program-changer in Las Vegas Bishop Gorman small forward Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2012, but he won't sign until the spring.
Findlay Prep power forward Anthony Bennett and Mississippi small forward Devonta Pollard -- two other Kentucky targets -- will also wait until the late period.
Even if Kentucky doesn't end up with the No. 1 overall class -- or even a Top 5 class -- they could be extremely strong for the next couple of years depending on what happens with the NBA lockout and the collective bargaining agreement.
Davis, Kentucky's 6-11 freshman stud, is projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, and Gilchrist is projected to go at No. 9.
But if the new CBA requires players to stay in college for two years before going pro, Kentucky would then still be very potent in the 2012-13 season even if sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb leave after this season. (Jones is projected by DraftExpress.com to go at No. 15, and Lamb is considered a second-rounder.)
There is also the possibility that, independent of a new CBA, a yearlong NBA lockout could encourage kids to choose to stay on campus longer.
"If there is no [NBA] season, how appealing is [the NBA]?" Konchalski asked. "I think this might encourage kids to stay a little longer in college."
Calipari expects as many as five players to go pro under the current system, and likes the idea of his players becoming millionaires after their time on campus.
Still, he doesn't mind having some experience along with all his young talent, too.
"Winning with young players, you do need some veterans," Calipari told Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports on "Courtside With Seth Davis."
Next year, Davis and Gilchrist could end up being those veterans -- along with fellow frosh Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer -- depending on how the NBA situation shakes out.
"The Golden State Warriors came in and the guy they were talking about was Kyle Wiltjer," Calipari said. "He is a really good player. Obviously, Anthony, Michael and Marquis are really talented, but so is he."
So take a breath, Kentucky fans.
Even if you don't land the No. 1 overall class, there is still hope for the future.
**Among the top players expected to sign during the late period are Muhammad, Pollard, Bennett, Tony Parker, Ricardo Gathers (St. John's decommit) and Winston Shepard
**Oak Hill Academy will have five players sign Letters of Intent Wednesday:D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown), A.J. Hammons (Purdue), Jordan Adams (UCLA), Tyler Lewis (N.C. State) and Damien Wilson (Memphis).
**Brewster (N.H.) Academy also has five players pledged to the D-1 ranks: T.J. Warren (N.C. State), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Aaron Thomas (Florida State), Semaj Christon (Xavier) and Jalen Reynolds (Xavier).
**All four seniors at Arlington (Fla.) Country Day, including recent Texas Tech decommit Jordan Goodman, and Torian Graham will sign in the spring, per coach Rex Morgan. Ian Baker and Carlos Morris both committed to South Carolina but will wait until April.