How does John Calipari do it? How does the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky keep on and on piling up talented high school players?
It isn’t easy. Every head coach of a major school gets leads – phone calls, letters and all kinds of social networks. Calipari and his assistants reach out to friends who live near where the touted player lives. Major coaches have networks they have developed through the years. No phone call or other communications go unanswered.
Cal’s assistants have some of the same sources.
Those sources are cross-checked.
If the UK coaches get promising replies, Cal may send one or two of them to go see the prospect play. If they are impressed with the players, they will develop relationships with the player, his coaches and his family. In recent years, AAU coaches have become increasingly prominent in the lives of young players. The UK coaches try to develop relationships with both the AAU coaches and the players’ high school coaches.
Each year that Calipari succeeds in recruiting five or six ones-and-dones who are immensely talented and wind up going high in the NBA draft helps fuel the desire of top players to sign with the Wildcats.
If Cal and his recruiters need help in luring the best of the best to Lexington, the UK coach can roll out the biggest of the big guns: LeBron James. He and Cal are close.
Other than Joe B. Hall, Calipari is the first UK coach to cherish the past. He made sure that a representative of each of the Wildcats’ national championship teams was represented at this year’s Big Blue Madness:
Cliff Hagan, 1951, Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones 1948, Jeff Sheppard 1998, Derek Anderson and Ron Mercer 1996, Jack “Goose” Givens 1978, Adrian “Odie” Smith and Vernon Hatton 1958.
Calipari called Wah Wah “the greatest athlete in UK history.” Wah’s credentials: Olympic Gold Medal in basketball, All-American, All-SEC in football and basketball and the only SEC Legend in two sports.
Photos by VICTORIA GRAFF | Contributing Photographer