Fresh off our eighth national title Kentucky fans didn’t take long to wonder, “Repeat?” In a time when programs have to replace players on a yearly basis because of the one-and-done rule this feat becomes seemingly impossible, but we here at Kentucky have one thing no other school in the country has, John Calipari. Calipari has always been known as one of the elite recruiters in the country bringing in the best talent out of every class, and them sending them off to the NBA. This upcoming year is no different as Calipari is bringing in his 4th straight #1 ranked recruiting class thanks to the latest signees.
Last year’s incoming class was headlined by a certain unibrow(and we all know how that turned out). This year’s incoming freshman are headlined by a flat-top that rises above all others. Nerlens Noel, the number 1 overall recruiting prospect in the 2012 class verbally committed to Kentucky Wednesday night on ESPN’s signing day special. Noel is a one of a kind athlete, and player. At 6’ 10” (hair included) he is being touted as the best shot blocker in the class, and even better than Anthony Davis was at this point. It’s incredible to think that after the year Davis just had we might be bringing in someone better. The class is also highlighted by Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin. Poythress, who is the #13 overall recruiting prospect, hails from Clarksville, TN and is known for his athleticism and scoring ability in both the post and on the perimeter. Goodwin, the #15 overall recruiting prospect, comes from Little Rock, AR and has incredible leaping ability for his size. Rounding out the class is #40 overall prospect Willie Cauley, out of Spearville, KS. Cauley is another big man at 6’ 10” and should provide us some needed depth on our front line. There are still some prospects considering Kentucky that we might need to look out for in the coming weeks as they make their college decisions. The top prospect left in the 2012 class is Anthony Bennett, the number 7 overall recruiting prospect. Bennett is coming out of Findlay Prep, a known basketball academy who gave us DeAndre Liggins and has produced outstanding NBA prospects over the years. Bennett is good, he has all the tools you want in a big man with great post offense and defense to go along with a mid-range jump shot, similar to Anthony Davis. Bennett is down to 3 on his list, Florida Kentucky and Washington, however many believe it is going to come down to Florida and Kentucky. Cats Pause, an insider recruiting site, reported Wednesday during the ESPN special that Bennett was close to a commitment to Kentucky. The other Kentucky target still left is Amile Jefferson. Jefferson is another big man out of Philadelphia, PA and is considering Kentucky, NC State, and Ohio State. Jefferson isn’t as good as Bennett, but he is still an incredible athlete and would be a good pick up for the Wildcats.
Now the question that has been and will be asked about a thousand times until something is said. Who from Kentucky is declaring for the NBA draft? We can all assume one thing. Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas are gone, I know it’s sad. However as far as the rest of the guys go nothing is ever certain. You can make a pretty good guess on Anthony Davis declaring for the draft, but until he officially announces you can hold on to your glimmer of hope. Other probable exits to come are Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Both these guys surprised us by coming back for their sophomore season, however I don’t see them coming back next year. Many will argue that Lamb might come back, but he really has no shot to improve his draft stock any more. Lamb is projected as a late first round pick after arguably a better season than his first, shooting 48% from behind the arc this season. The last two under classmen that are considering leaving school early for the draft are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague. Teague is projected as a late first round pick but could fall as far as the middle of the second round. I think Teague will go because since his first day on campus he has done nothing but improve and NBA scouts have been watching and like what they see. Kidd-Gilchrist is a question mark for me despite what I’m hearing. Projected to be the 2nd overall pick many expect him to go without a thought, but I’m cautious to jump to that conclusion after Gilchrist’s comments to the media following a February 25 meeting with Vanderbilt. “I’m graduating here. I’m not going nowhere. I’m staying at Kentucky.” I’m not going to lie when I heard this I celebrated and screamed like a little girl, holding out hope that we could have this kid back for another year. I hope he stays, but I know all too well that Calipari wants kids to go the NBA and he might push Michael out the door.
As for next year, hopes are high in Lexington as couches are being stockpiled for another tournament run. I think our season will be a good one, but in order to take that to a great level John Calipari will again have to make freshman unite and sacrifice for each other in the hopes that they will believe in the “Kentucky Effect” and bring home #9.