Calipari getting ready to reload with recruits

broberts@herald-leader.comApril 8, 2012 

  • 2012 signees

    Willie Cauley-Stein

    6-10, 215, forward/center

    Olathe, Kan.

    Rivals: 39

    Scout: 30

    ESPN: 40

    MaxPreps: 34

    Notes: Not projected to be an immediate starter, but could see extended minutes off the bench as a freshman. He's not a typical post player and is comfortable playing away from the basket.

    Archie Goodwin

    6-5, 180, guard

    Little Rock, Ark.

    Rivals: 12

    Scout: 17

    ESPN: 15

    MaxPreps: 7

    Notes: A lightning-fast guard who picked Kentucky over home-state Arkansas. He'll be expected to come in right away and be one of UK's biggest scoring threats next season.

    Alex Poythress

    6-7, 215, forward

    Clarksville, Tenn.

    Rivals: 19

    Scout: 15

    ESPN: 13

    MaxPreps: 12

    Notes: A versatile forward who could start from day one in Lexington. senior analyst Jerry Meyer once described him as a "more explosive" Terrence Jones.

    2012-13 Transfer

    Ryan Harrow

    6-1, 160, point guard

    Marietta, Ga.

    2010 rankings

    Rivals: 19

    Scout: 25

    ESPN: 39

    MaxPreps: 23

    Notes: Essentially a third-year player after one season at N.C. State and one season of practice under Calipari. He could be one of the country's top point guards as a sophomore.

    2012 recruiting targets

    Anthony Bennett

    6-8, 230, power forward

    Brampton, Canada

    Rivals: 7

    Scout: 7

    ESPN: 7

    MaxPreps: 11

    Notes: A big-bodied post player who can also handle the ball and shoot from outside. His recruitment has been one of the biggest mysteries in the class of 2012.

    Amile Jefferson

    6-7, 185, small forward


    Rivals: 36

    Scout: 22

    ESPN: 25

    MaxPreps: 16

    Another versatile forward who would fit nicely in Calipari's dribble-drive offense. He's a hard worker on the court, and an excellent rebounder and shot blocker.

    Shabazz Muhammad

    6-6, 215, guard/forward

    Las Vegas

    Rivals: 1

    Scout: 2

    ESPN: 2

    MaxPreps: 2

    Notes: UK's biggest recruiting target for most of the last year. He's the best scorer in his class and brings an intensity similar to that of UK freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

    Nerlens Noel

    6-10, 215, center

    Everett, Mass.

    Rivals: NR

    Scout: 1

    ESPN: 1

    MaxPreps: 1

    The consensus pick as the No. 1 player in the class of 2012. Noel would step right into Anthony Davis' role as the Cats' defensive stopper in the paint.

    Alex Oriakhi

    6-9, 240, forward/center

    Lowell, Mass.

    Averaged 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds for UConn last season

    Notes: Played a key role during UConn's run to the national title last year. He would give the Cats a veteran presence and more size in the post, both of which will be needed.

    2013 commitment

    Derek Willis

    6-9, 195, power forward

    Mt. Washington, Ky.

    Rivals: 23

    Scout: 30

    ESPN: 35

    MaxPreps: 30

    Notes: UK's lone commitment for the class of 2013. He could become the first future Wildcat from Kentucky to play in the McDonald's All-American Game since Rajon Rondo.

    2013 recruiting targets

    Aaron Harrison

    Shooting guard

    6-5, 205


    Rivals: 7

    Scout: 6

    ESPN: 6

    MaxPreps: 5

    Notes: One half of perhaps the best backcourt in high school basketball. The twins are considering UK, Maryland, Villanova and Baylor, and the Cats are perceived to be the favorites.

    Andrew Harrison

    6-5, 210, point guard


    Rivals: 1

    Scout: 4

    ESPN: 5

    MaxPreps: 3

    Notes: The higher ranked of the two brothers and the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2013. The Harrisons could start as freshmen for whatever school they choose.

    Jabari Parker

    6-8, 220, Small forward


    Rivals: 2

    Scout: 1

    ESPN: 1

    MaxPreps: 1

    Notes: Some consider him the best player in all of high school basketball, regardless of class. He could be the latest elite talent out of Chicago to team up with Calipari.

    Julius Randle

    6-8, 235, forward

    Plano, Texas

    Rivals: 4

    Scout: 3

    ESPN: 3

    MaxPreps: 4

    Notes: Another major target in the class of 2013. A point forward with tremendous size, he's being recruited by just about every major program in the country.

    Troy Williams

    6-6, 190, Small forward

    Hampton, Va.

    Rivals: 14

    Scout: 8

    ESPN: 7

    MaxPreps: 17

    Notes: The nephew of AAU legend Boo Williams, who has a relationship with Calipari. He is expected to choose either UK or North Carolina in the next few weeks.

When you recruit like John Calipari, there's not much time to sit around reflecting on your accomplishments.

Even the biggest ones.

"Right now I've got two days off, and then I've got to go out recruiting Friday," Calipari said last Monday, less than two hours after Kentucky wrapped up its eighth national title.

Turns out the UK coach couldn't even stay off the trail that long.

Calipari traveled north Thursday to meet with Alex Oriakhi, the UConn forward who tormented the Cats in last year's Final Four and announced after the tournament that he planned to transfer for his senior season.

And so begins another UK "offseason" under Calipari, who will try once again to reload a roster that's expected to be decimated by several early entrants to the NBA Draft.

Seniors Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas are obviously done in Lexington, and Calipari could also lose his all-underclassman starting five of Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague.

That would leave Kyle Wiltjer as the only returning player who played a role on this year's championship team.

"We've got to go out and recruit another group of young people. ... And we'll go again," Calipari said last Monday night.

There will be plenty of options, but Calipari will likely need plenty of help to get the Cats back to the Final Four.

It all starts with Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad, the top two recruits in the class of 2012. They'll both announce their decisions on a nationally televised special Wednesday, and both have UK in their final three.

Noel is a 6-foot-10 center with an old-school flattop and a throwback post game to match. Many analysts consider him the best shot blocker to come out of high school since Greg Oden in 2006, a category that includes Davis.

Some think he's better than both of those players, and the consensus is that Davis' blocked-shot records could be in jeopardy after one season if Noel comes to Lexington.

"Just seeing (Davis) have all the success that he's had this year definitely makes me think a lot about what I could be doing there. That's really appealing to me," Noel said last week in his ESPN journal.

Noel will pick UK, Syracuse or Georgetown.

Muhammad had a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot in 2012 until Noel reclassified earlier this year. He's an elite scorer, an excellent defender and has in the past month been named both the Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year and MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game.

Muhammad scored 35 points in the Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday, breaking former UK recruit Enes Kanter's previous record of 34.

The Las Vegas native is down to UK, UCLA and Duke, but the Blue Devils seem to be a long shot.

There have been questions concerning Muhammad's eligibility after CBS reported in March that two financial advisers had helped fund the player's AAU team and paid for some of his unofficial visits to colleges.

Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, confirmed that information, characterized both men as family friends, and said he had been in contact with the NCAA over the issues.

Muhammad said before the McDonald's game that he was not concerned.

"I know I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "I know the NCAA has to look into stuff, but I feel good knowing me and my family have done things the right way and not broken any rules."

Anthony Bennett is the other top-10 recruit on UK's radar. The 6-8 power forward is also looking at Florida, UNLV, Washington and Oregon, but has not taken official visits to any of the schools on his list.

UK and Florida are considered the favorites, but Bennett says he plans to visit all five schools before making an announcement. He said over the weekend he expects to make a decision by early May.

Another McDonald's All-American, Amile Jefferson, was all but written off as a UK recruit after several reports said he had whittled his list to Duke and N.C. State.

The Philadelphia native disputed that at last week's Derby Festival Classic in Louisville, saying UK and hometown Villanova were still very much in the picture.

Jefferson, who scored 26 points in the Derby Classic, said he got a phone call from UK assistant Kenny Payne on Wednesday.

"I love the job that Coach Cal does with his players," Jefferson said later that day. "The way he gets young players to be devoted and motivated to getting better over the course of the year, and play at such a high level so early on."

He's expected to make a decision within the next couple of weeks.

Oriakhi averaged 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds during a stellar sophomore season in which UConn won the national championship. His junior season wasn't as productive, thanks in part to the arrival of super recruit Andre Drummond and a reported falling out with Coach Jim Calhoun.

Because UConn is banned from participating in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Oriakhi would be eligible to play without having to sit out a transfer year. Due to a relatively new conference rule, the SEC would have to grant him a special waiver to play immediately, but that hasn't prevented him from putting UK and Missouri on his list.

Oriakhi told CBS on Saturday that he plans to visit Missouri this weekend and Kentucky the weekend of April 20. Duke, North Carolina and Xavier are among the other schools on his list.

Oriakhi would give the Cats a much-needed veteran presence on a team that's expected to be lacking in experience, which he and Calipari talked about during their meeting last week.

"He would like for me to come in and lead right away and I definitely feel he was honest," Oriakhi told ZagsBlog. "He just told me he has two players returning. He has nobody."

Whoever Calipari brings in will join a young group of newcomers that includes McDonald's All-Americans Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin, four-star forward/center Willie Cauley-Stein, and Ryan Harrow.

Harrow was a five-star recruit for N.C. State in 2010, but decided to transfer after a disappointing freshman season and the firing of head coach Sidney Lowe.

He spent this year going against Teague in practice, and will be expected to slide into the starting point guard spot should Teague leave for the NBA.

Harrow could be yet another point guard who needs only one season under Calipari before heading off to a professional career. is already projecting him as the No. 18 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Noel and Muhammad are the top two players in that mock draft, and successful freshman seasons would likely put Poythress, Goodwin and Bennett in the one-and-done discussion as well.

Then the attention will turn to the class of 2013, and Calipari's attempt to do the same thing all over again.

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