While we marvel at Rich Brooks’s rise to fifth-ranked genius among SEC coaches, up from 12th, the Commonwealth’s hottest new celebrity is back in the news.
John Calipari, who on Tuesday got a committment from John Wall, the nation’s number one point guard, was trying to put the brakes on fan expectations next season and drew support from an NBA general manager and a Louisville fan in western Kentucky.
Rex Chapman told The Sporting
News: “… I believe it’s going to realistically be at least two years before the Cats can be back in a Final Four.”
And, Ralph Dickerson emailed: “… many fans claim UK will either go to a Final Four, or win the championship next year. While I do believe UK will be good, I don’t think it will advance to the Final Four because of a lack of experience. Only two quality players return with extensive experience (Jodie) Meeks and (Patrick) Patterson. Some quality talent exists in (DeAndre) Liggins and (Darius) Miller, and the rest of the talent are freshmen with no experience.”
Also, “none are used to the dribble drive offense. It will take time to become used to the college game. I think it will take Calipari two or three years to develop the talent necessary for an NCAA title run.”
And, fans, “… try to temper outof control expectations for UK next year. Give Cal time to work his magic first.”
Good points, all, and respectfully taken.
But count me among the believers who see a Final Four next spring as completely reasonable, especially given the news that alleverything Wall will be attending UK.
All-American Patrick Patterson is one of seven experienced hands not counting Meeks (yet). Perry Stevenson, Darius Miller, Ramon Harris, DeAndre Liggins, Kevin Galloway and Josh Harrellson started games last season. Add transfer Matt Pilgrim to a best-in- America recruiting class and show us a better, deeper collective of talent.
Extraordinary depth allows Calipari to tinker with higher risk strategies — all-court pressure in waves, substitution without drop off, and extra fouls to give.
Schedule. UK lost home games during the last two seasons that won’t happen again. Including home dates with North Carolina and Louisville.
With honeymoon in full bloom, a fast start next season will turn Calipari’s into the kind of full blown love affair last seen in Lexington in 1992 with Da Coach and the Unforgettables swooned ’em.
Intangible pluses: Calipari is already a national media darling backed by a fevered fan base starved for Top 10 status. Preseason magazine experts will help launch what Wildcat fans are already calling “a new era.”
Just Wondering Dept.
• Rajon Rondo. Anybody else think the words ‘great’ and ‘Hall of Famer’ are premature for a 23- year-old? Some in the media herd are salivating over Boston’s point guy too much too soon. Brings to mind the old jock complaint: “media just builds an athlete up so they can tear him down.”
• Tom Leach. If Kentucky’s coach recruits players from China as he proposes to do, won’t it be interesting to hear a Paris, Kentucky native handling a tonguetwister from Jiangsu Guizhou or Heilong Province on radio playby play?
The Captain’s List
This week’s additions to The Captains List: Collin Gamble of Owenton and Elizabeth Horn of Berea.
Collin Gamble. Leading scorer for Owen County’s basketball team and an All-Eight Region pick. Was a .400-plus hitter for baseball team this spring.
Best part? Gamble maintained a 4.0 GPA and will attend University of Kentucky in the fall on a Governor’s Scholarship.
Elizabeth Horn. Played basketball at Berea High after which she had a basketball scholarship to Transylvania.
Then Eastern Kentucky University awarded her a Beacon Math and Science Scholarship awarded each year to a Madison County student along with 21 others from around Kentucky.
“I think this shows that classroom work and basketball can work together,” her father Mike Horn said in an e-mail. “Without basketball the self-discipline would not be there to achieve scholastic goals. People don’t realize a majority of these girls maintain extremely high GPA’s while playing basketball and do not get the accolades for academic performance they deserve.”
Worth Repeating Dept.
• The Tim Floyd-O.J.Mayo- Southern Cal flap gave birth to a blog item last week of interest in Kentucky. A 10 Most Scandalous Basketball Coaches list. At No. 8 Clem Haskins, at No. 4. Eddie Sutton. No. 1? Jerry Tarkanian of course.
• With tongue-in-cheek (we think), Mitch Barnhart noted his approval ratings rise at a public function in Lexington last week.
In lieu of Calipari’s hiring, UK’s director of athletics said, “Seven weeks, eight weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have been invited to speak here. (Some) people wanted me to find a new job. Eight weeks later, boy I’ve got invitations to the Derby, ‘We’re gonna go places,’ ‘we’re having fun again.’
COMMENT. How soon we forget. Barnhart still must find settlement money for Billy Clyde Gillispie. Somebody will pay the bill, but it won’t be UK’s AD.
And so it goes. You can reach bob Watkins at email@example.com