UK Recruiting

Focus on the 'one' in theone-and-done

John Clay
John Clay

It's "I Love the '70s" all over again, Big Blue style.

Back then, Joe B. Hall was Kentucky's basketball coach. Leonard Hamilton was ace recruiter. Blue-chip stars covered UK's radar like bees on a sugar cube. Recruiting wasn't just part of the game. Recruiting was the game.

Here we are again. John Calipari is Kentucky's basketball coach. After falling off the maps of the stars, the Cats are back to big-name hunting again. Recruiting is once again the game.

True, the world is different now. There's Twitter and Facebook and Rivals and Scout and blogs and Blackberrys. Instant (recruiting) information is king.

And we're also in the world of the one-and-done.

As much as I've heard wild enthusiasm for Calipari placing Kentucky's name back on exclusive lists, some are fretting over the prospect of the Cats bringing in potential one-and-dones — players who stay in college one year before entering the NBA — when the school has never had one.

What about chemistry? What about program building?

How about: Get over it.

If you want to "recruit the best of the best," as Calipari proclaimed the day he was introduced as the UK coach, you're going to run the risk of signing a short-timer.

Want John Wall, the Raleigh, N.C., point guard who is freakishly fast, to wear UK blue? Then you run the risk Wall fulfills his one-year college requirement and takes the exit ramp.

Same with DeMarcus Cousins, the 6-foot-9 center from Alabama who switched allegiance from Memphis to UK once Calipari changed addresses. Rivals ranks Cousins the No. 2 player in the nation. Right behind Wall.

Same with Rivals' No. 8 prospect, Xavier Henry, the sweet-shooting 6-7 swingman from Oklahoma who might or might not visit UK this weekend after being allowed out of his letter of intent by Memphis.

Henry appears to be having some difficulty deciding whether to become a Cat, a Kansas Jayhawk, or stay a Memphis Tiger. He might not have nearly as much difficulty next year when deciding whether to put his name into the NBA Draft.

It's the way of the modern world. Thanks to the NBA's age-limit rule, the number of college freshmen drafted jumped from two in 2006 to eight in 2007. It increased to 11 last year, starting with No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls point guard who played his college ball at, yes, Memphis.

Surprisingly, Rose was one of only three one-and-done players Calipari coached during his nine-year Memphis run. DaJuan Wagner in 2002 and Shawne Williams in 2006 preceded Rose. In fact, Calipari had as many seniors — Antonio Burks in '04, Rodney Carney in '06 and Joey Dorsey last season — drafted at Memphis as he did first-year players.

But that was then, and this is now, when Calipari's dribble-drive motion offense is so popular among prospects, when three of the nation's top ten prep players have either signed with Calipari or are strongly considering doing so. All three could be students for a year.

Then again, 1975 had its Bill "Poodles" Willoughby. A 6-foot-8 forward from Englewood, N.J., Willoughby signed with Kentucky, only to join Darryl Dawkins as high schoolers opting for the NBA Draft that year under the league's "hardship rule." Willoughby never put on a Kentucky uniform.

Better a one-and-done than a none-and-done.