Despite five straight classes ranked the best in the country, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari might not even be the best college recruiter inside New Circle Road. At least in terms of volume shopping, that distinction belongs to Edrick Floreal.
Floreal led a recruiting effort that brought a class of 49 athletes — yes, 49! — to UK's cross country and track and field programs this school year. That gives him plenty of ammunition in his friendly recruiting rivalry with Calipari.
"He's winning in terms of super-stud quality," Floreal said of Calipari. "But I've got him in terms of numbers."
Speaking Tuesday at a "Fall Sports Media Day" arranged to promote UK's soccer, volleyball and cross country programs, Floreal said the 49 recruits can help him in the goal to make his programs "relevant" nationally.
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"We just really need some bodies," he said. The normal recruiting class would be about 30 athletes.
"He asked me, where are you going to put them?" Floreal said of Calipari's reaction. "We've got to get our locker room bigger. We've got to make some changes just to house all of them."
As many as half the recruits are "extremely good," Floreal said. "So we're not talking about regular kids you're trying to develop. We're talking about a proven commodity."
The newcomers can help Floreal avoid overusing Cally Macumber, who last season became the first UK cross country runner to win the Southeastern Conference since 1989.
Of her history-making performance, Macumber said, "Obviously, really exciting." A moment later, she added, "Actually, I was pretty surprised how things turned out. But it was a pleasant surprise."
A bit of counter intuitive training helped Macumber succeed. Although she increased her workout load by about 50 miles per week, she lessened her rate of injury.
"When you make an omelette, you can't do it without breaking some eggs," Floreal said.
UK's medical staff monitored the stresses while the coach pushed Macumber toward her goal of achieving on a national level.
"You're not going to do it by being too mushy about it," Floreal said. "Mushy workouts produce mushy athletes."
However, a pudgy coach reflects a successful program. At least, that's the subject of continual teasing between Floreal and Calipari.
"He had gained a little weight," Floreal said. "I was kind of picking on him a little bit. Then he tells me, there's a trademark of coaching: When a team isn't doing well, you get real skinny.
"When you're winning, you're laid back. Everything is going your way."
But when the team struggles, the coach works off his anxiety with exercise.
"If you don't have the right athletes, it doesn't matter how good a coach you are," Floreal said. "If you're driving a Pinto and I'm driving a Ferrari, it's impossible to be competitive. Me, I'm going after Ferraris."
Floreal and Calipari hit it off so well the UK basketball coach added his friend's son, E.J. Floreal, as a walk-on.
A native of Haiti, the elder Floreal moved to Montreal, Canada, with his family when he was 5. He competed as a long jumper/triple jumper for Arkansas' highly decorated track team and twice for Canada's Olympic team (1988 and 1992).
Floreal came to UK from Stanford last year. The 49 recruits suggest he's intent on building a Ferrari, and, perhaps, developing a Calipari-sized paunch.
"We want to be relevant," he said of his goals for cross country and track and field. "If we show up, I want to make sure our presence is felt."