Commentary

How Kentucky gets it done in recruiting

Coach John Calipari has has fully embraced the one-and-done era at Kentucky

Originally Published: April 1, 2011
By Paul Biancardi | ESPN Recruiting

As one of the elite blue-blood programs in college basketball, Kentucky enjoys the advantage of outstanding resources, facilities, fan following and tradition to excel on the recruiting trail. Kentucky has had many players go onto the NBA after playing in Lexington and it is expected by the Wildcat faithful that their coaches will be able to get involved with and sign their fair share of top level talent.

When John Calipari came to town most fans were excited and dreamed about the potential talent that they hoped he could attract to the Bluegrass State. But even the most zealous Wildcats fan probably didn't imagine that Calipari would bring in three consecutive No.1 recruiting classes.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Knight
Bob Kupbens/Icon SMIBrandon Knight has been counted on to make some big shots this tournament.

Calipari, who always seems to be a step or two ahead of the competition, has embraced the "one-and-done" era and is not afraid to rely on freshman in leadership positions. Although the high level of turnover can be stressful, Calipari seems to have the perfect disposition for the process. He is a master at molding individuals into a team. His staff is able to successfully recruit on a national level as elite players that are looking to have quick access to the NBA give the Kentucky program a hard look. The fact that Kentucky had an unprecedented five first-round draft picks in the 2010 NBA Draft probably doesn't hurt the cause much either.

Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest)
Class: 2010 | Position: PG
Calipari has had a tremendous run of success at the point guard position and it was widely accepted that John Wall was the projected No.1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Knight strongly considered staying home to play at Florida, but the opportunity at Kentucky seemed like the best fit. As the Wildcats' leading scorer (17.3 points per game) he has continued the trend of NBA-level point guards in Calipari's program.

Josh Harrellson (St. Charles, Ill./Southwestern Illinois CC)
Class: 2007 | Position: C
No player has had as much of a surprising impact on his team than Harrellson. The 2007 graduate originally signed with Western Illinois out of high school, but decided on the junior college route instead. The Leathernecks' loss was the Wildcats gain as Harrellson has gone from limited minutes behind DeMarcus Cousins into a dominant post presence. The development of Harrellson under Calipari has been amazing.

DeAndre Liggins (Chicago, Ill./Findlay Prep)
Class: 2008 | Position: SF
Liggins, another hold over from the previous regime, was actually recruited by Calipari at Memphis, but chose the Wildcats instead. The Chicago native was one of the first high-profile players at Findlay Prep (Nev.) and has evolved into having an important leadership role on the team.

Terrence Jones (Portland, Ore./Jefferson)
Class: 2010 | Position: SF
Jones' recruitment was well publicized as the talented face-up player initially committed to Washington but then had a change of heart and decided to cast his lot with the Wildcats. His skill set has allowed him to lead Kentucky on many nights this season and he is projected as a potential lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Darius Miller (Maysville, Ky./Mason County)
Class: 2008 | Position: SF
The state of Kentucky loves its basketball, but it does not produce many high-major Division I athletes. When one does come along that is good enough Kentucky rarely loses the battle to keep the prospect home. Although Miller, who was recruited by the previous staff, had his share of suitors the call to play for Big Blue was too strong.

Doron Lamb (Laurelton, Ky./Oak Hill)
Class: 2010 | Position: SG
Lamb utilized all five of his official visits, but the handicappers all felt that it would come down between national powers Kentucky and Kansas for the NYC phenom. With Eric Bledsoe's early entry into the NBA Draft the opportunity for immediate playing time became a major factor in Lamb's decision.

Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter. Mike LaPlante contributed to this piece.

Paul Biancardi

Basketball Recruiting