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Coach Cal's legendary recruiting powers growing stronger


Kyle Wiltjer is widely regarded as the worst prospect in Kentucky's four-player recruiting class.

And he's a consensus top 20 national recruit.

Rutgers coach Mike Rice has secured three top 100 recruits. (AP)  
Rutgers coach Mike Rice has secured three top 100 recruits. (AP)  
So if there's any question about which school reigns supreme on National Signing Day -- and, really, there isn't any question at all -- those first two lines should provide the answer. John Calipari spent the spring and summer assembling a recruiting class featuring the nation's top point guard (Marquis Teague), small forward (Mike Gilchrist) and power forward (Anthony Davis). He then added Wiltjer in what some described as a terrifying development for the opposition because, well, I'll just tell you what a rival coach told me.

"Cal is an icon to city kids on the East coast, really anywhere east of the Mississippi River," the coach told me the week Wiltjer committed. "But now he's going all the way across the country, to Oregon, and getting a white kid he barely recruited. That's crazy. Kids are just enamored with him. Wiltjer isn't a one-and-done [player], but he's [Calipari] convinced he can be a 6-9 forward who plays with all those pros, stands in the corner, makes jumpers and becomes a lottery pick. And you know what? He might be right. When kids saw [Daniel] Orton get picked 29th even though he barely played [at Kentucky], that was it. Now they all think all you have to do is play for Cal and you'll get there, and he's using it to his advantage."

Consequently, the Wildcats have the nation's best recruiting class.

For the third straight year.

So it's a huge signing week in Kentucky.


Here's what else you need to know about the future of college hoops:

Top five storylines

1. The Big Blue Nation clearly has the country's best class, but Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are in good shape, too. Duke has secured commitments from Austin Rivers (No. 3 at, Quinn Cook (No. 20), Michael Gbinije (No. 21) and Marshall Plumlee (No. 40). It's a class that could have the Blue Devils in contention for a three-peat if they were to win a second straight title this season.

2. St. John's and Rutgers have been symbolic of the struggles of New York-area college hoops, which is what, at least in part, led to coaching changes at both schools. It's still too early to tell whether Steve Lavin (St. John's) and Mike Rice (Rutgers) will turn things around, but both have secured classes ranked in the top 10 at St. John's has four top 100 prospects committed. Rutgers has three.

3. It remains debatable whether Louisville can make the NCAA tournament with the players on campus this season, but I think everybody can agree that the Cardinals will be back soon, either way. Rick Pitino has secured a class that ranks sixth at, seventh at The stars of the group are Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan, a pair of consensus top 35 prospects gifted enough to be Big East stars.

4. The Pac-10 is expected to have another down year on the court because the league lacks top-tier talent, and this recruiting class won't do much to solve that problem. Only two consensus top 25 prospects -- Oregon's Jabari Brown and Arizona's Josiah Turner -- have committed to Pac-10 schools. To put this into perspective, consider that nine prospects in's top 25 have committed to SEC schools -- No. 1 Anthony Davis (UK), No. 5 Mike Gilchrist (UK), No. 6 Marquis Teague (UK), No. 7 Brad Beal (Florida), No. 13 Kentavious Caldwell (Georgia), No. 17 B.J. Young (Arkansas), No. 19 Kyle Wiltjer (UK), No. 23 Johnny O'Bryant (LSU) and No. 25 Levi Randolph (Alabama).

5. Texas and Arkansas got scares over the past few weeks when Myck Kabongo (No. 24 at and Rashad "Ky" Madden (No. 27 at both announced they had no plans to sign early with the schools to which they had previously committed. Predictably, both were quickly talked back into honoring their commitments -- it took five days to convince Kabongo, roughly five hours to convince Madden -- and so now Kabongo is expected to sign with Texas this week while Madden inks with Arkansas. If there's a change of plans, I'll let you know.

The Uncommitted

Four prospects ranked in the top 20 at remain uncommitted.

They are:

 No. 9 DeAndre Daniels

 No. 17 Ben McLemore

 No. 19 Norvel Pelle

 No. 20 Cody Zeller

Daniels was once committed to Texas, but he's now considering a number of schools -- Texas, Florida, N.C. State, Tennessee, etc., -- and is expected to sign late. McLemore is reportedly considering Kansas and Missouri, Pelle is down to Washington and St. John's, and Zeller (the younger brother of North Carolina standout Tyler Zeller and former Notre Dame player Luke Zeller) will choose Thursday between Butler, Indiana and North Carolina. The smart money has the 6-10 forward from Indiana choosing Tom Crean's Hoosiers.

Final thought: Marc Isenberg, the author of Money Players: A Guide to Success in Sports, Business & Life for Current and Future Pro Athletes, posted 10 reasons why the National Letter of Intent most prospects will sign this week is a ridiculous document. I agree with Isenberg on all points, especially the ninth point about how top recruits have leverage but rarely use it.

Isenberg wrote: "Top 50 recruits have the leverage to dictate the terms of their enrollment. If a blue-chip recruit tells a coach, 'I'll commit to your program, but I'm not going to sign the NLI,' how many coaches will say that's not good enough? If John Wall, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant or any other top recruit refused to sign the NLI, their coaches [would've kept] a scholarship available."

Of course they would've.

Which begs the question: Why?

Why would any elite prospect ever sign this one-sided document?

There's nothing to be gained, literally no advantage to signing it. So if you're the parent of an elite recruit, make sure to read Isenberg's post, ask questions and demand answers, and unless somebody can come up with a good reason to sign a letter of intent, don't. Again, it's a one-sided document designed to protect the school and trap the student-athlete. But more than anything, it's just unnecessary for the best of the best.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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