Anybody got some popcorn? Gonna need some popcorn here, because John Calipari is about to reload at Kentucky, and I want to enjoy the show. Gonna help myself to a big ol' box of buttered while he helps himself to ...
Brandon Knight, for starters. Knight is the No. 1 point guard in the high school class of 2010, and he remains unsigned, even uncommitted. It's almost like Knight, a 6-foot-3 greyhound out of Fort Lauderdale, has been waiting to make sure Kentucky freshmen John Wall and/or Eric Bledsoe entered the 2010 NBA Draft. Which they did, of course. Almost everybody at Kentucky did.
|Brandon Knight could very well end up replacing John Wall as point guard. (Getty Images)|
Calipari is a genius at this sort of thing. I'm guessing the man knows his X's from his O's, though I myself am not qualified to make that declaration -- but I'm positive he's a recruiting genius. Look what he did last year at Kentucky, when he surveyed the scorched earth left behind by Billy Gillispie and immediately planted trees named DeMarcus Cousins and Wall, then landscaped with Daniel Orton and Bledsoe. Those are the four freshmen who came to Kentucky, joined junior Patrick Patterson in leading the Wildcats to the No. 1 ranking and a No. 1 seed, and then joined Patterson in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Kentucky had virtually nothing, then it had everything, and now it has virtually nothing again. But Calipari will bring it back, and he'll bring it back quicker than any coach at any school could do it. Most coaches, I don't care who they are, if they lose four freshmen and a junior to the NBA Draft -- not to mention losing Darnell Dodson as an expected transfer -- they're toast. They're going from the penthouse to the outhouse, and people would understand. But not Calipari. He doesn't understand. He doesn't do outhouses. He'll have Kentucky back in the Top 25 in 2010-11. I have no idea how he'll do it. I just know he will.
That's why I'm going to grab a comfortable chair and a large soda to watch as Calipari grabs himself a big man like ...
Enes Kanter, a 6-10, 270-pound monster out of Turkey by way of a prep school in California. He has committed to the Wildcats, one of two recruits already in the fold. Yeah, that's right -- two. That's it so far. Kentucky returns two contributors from last season, wings Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins, and Kentucky has two recruits locked up. One is Stacey Poole Jr., a 6-5 wing from Jacksonville, Fla. The other is Kanter, an atypically physical Euro who broke Dirk Nowitzki's Hoop Summit record on Saturday with 34 points (and 13 rebounds) in a game pitting international prospects vs. Americans. Kanter has turned down millions of dollars in Europe to play at Kentucky and is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by people who project such things.
So there's Kanter and Poole. And there's Miller and Liggins. And Knight is presumed to be a future Wildcat by people who presume such things.
Which means Calipari isn't finished. Not even close. That's five players, and five pretty good players, but he needs a rotation of eight or nine guys, which is why I'm going to fish through this box for a handful of Milk Duds while Calipari fishes through the 2010 McDonald's All-American game for a handful of ...
C.J. Leslie, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and/or Cory Joseph. Those are four of the best uncommitted high school seniors. All four, along with the aforementioned Brandon Knight, played in the McDonald's All-American game. Only one of them hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds, but that's why Knight is a future NBA point guard, the Derrick Rose or the Tyreke Evans or the John Wall of his high school class.
Jones and Leslie are power forwards. Lamb's a shooting guard. Joseph's a point. Calipari won't get all four of them, I don't suspect, but then again he wasn't supposed get Bledsoe after landing Wall, and he wasn't supposed to sign both Cousins and Orton, seeing how they played the same position. But he did it anyway, because he's greedy like that. Calipari recruits now like Mike Krzyzewski recruited when he was the best recruiter in college basketball a decade ago. In 1997 Krzyzewski targeted the top two post recruits in the country, Elton Brand and Chris Burgess, as well as future first-round NBA picks at forward (Shane Battier) and guard (William Avery). Krzyzewski didn't expect to get them all. He hoped for three, would have settled for two, but got all four. Shocked everybody. When you're good, that's how it goes.
And that's how it has been going for Calipari at Kentucky. The man's good. The man's Midas. Which is why next season I expect to see Knight and Kanter starting alongside either Miller or Liggins, with two more freshmen in the lineup and two more coming off the bench. That's an eight-man rotation, and while it probably won't be good enough to go 35-3 again, it'll be good enough to win 25 or more games, get into the NCAA Tournament, probably even get into the Top 10 at some point.
That's how this story ends, and I know it. I just don't know the names of all the leading characters who will pick Kentucky in the next few weeks. Brandon Knight will make his college decision on Wednesday, the first of many plot twists to come.
So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to butter some more popcorn and get comfortable. This movie's about to get good.