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John Clay: Expectations for UK realistically high

John Clay
John Clay

John Wall is coming to Lexington.

The coveted point guard from Raleigh, N.C., is going to play basketball at the University of Kentucky, joining a Big Blue galaxy of four-stars and five-stars in what might be the best collection of first-year talent college basketball has ever seen.

So let the high expectations begin.

Seriously.

This is normally the point where the voice-of-reason columnist jumps in and preaches patience and realism, and points out that great recruits don't always equate to great teams.

This is where the wet blankets feel compelled to issue admonitions to the overzealous about keeping expectations, and emotions, at a reasonable level.

Forget that.

This Kentucky basketball team should win every game. By double digits. It should win many more by much more than that. It should win division championships and conference championships and NCAA regional championships and, yes, NCAA championships.

All of that is not going to happen, of course. Kentucky will suffer losses next season, maybe one or two, and even experience a few closer-than-they-should-have-been wins. There will be missteps, and the 2009-10 Cats probably won't meet each and every one of their heady ambitions.

This great new Kentucky basketball class won't always keep the fans happy, or as happy as they are right now.

But after the tempered, if not tepid, expectations of recent UK basketball seasons, there's nothing wrong with a little over-the-top.

It just feels good.

To be sure, new coach John Calipari, the talent hunter whose trophy case now overflows, will throw up a caution light. He did it during his marathon news conference last week, arguing that half of next year's roster has never played a Division I college game before, and the other half has never played in his dribble-drive motion offense.

And, no doubt, there will be some chemistry issues, unless Calipari can sweet-talk the game's rules committee into a two-basketball exemption rule whenever the Cats are on offense. So be it. Watching the science project take shape figures to be more than half the fun.

But Coach Cal didn't go out and secure the gaudy likes of John Wall (ranked as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Rivals.com), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 2) and Eric Bledsoe (No. 23), along with coveted junior-college transfer Darnell Dodson, while talking holdover signees Daniel Orton (No. 22) and Jon Hood (No. 40) into staying on, just so the Kentucky coach could win guarantee games.

Calipari didn't convince Patrick Patterson to postpone his NBA leap of faith or speak of Jodie Meeks as if the senior-to-be sharpshooter was already preparing to stack 54 more points on Bruce Pearl's head, just because he wants to crack the top three in the SEC East.

Coach Cal is thinking big.

And Twittering big.

And recruiting big.

So let's join him.

On paper, anyway, this recruiting red-carpet list is the best Kentucky recruiting class of all time — better than the 1974 class (Jack Givens, Rick Robey, Mike Phillips, James Lee and Danny Hall), better than the 1971 "Super Kittens" class (Kevin Grevey, Jimmy Dan Conner, Mike Flynn, Bob Guyette, Steve Lochmueller, Jerry Hale and G.J. Smith), better than the 1979 class (Sam Bowie, Dirk Minniefield, Derrick Hord, Charles Hurt and Tom Heitz).

There, we said it.

And if you sign big stars, you're going to be expected to shoot for the stars.

That's the way it should be.

High expectations?

Bring 'em on.

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