Calipari Continues To Creatively Separate Himself As the Nation’s Top RecruiterPosted by EJacoby on June 12th, 2012
At this point, it’s impossible to argue for anybody other than John Calipari as the top recruiter in college basketball. Since Coach Cal joined the Big Blue Nation as Kentucky‘s head coach in 2009, he’s brought in the top recruiting class to Lexington every single season. Next year and depending on whom you ask, the Wildcats once again rank as the #1 or #2 class (behind UCLA). So how does he do it — what makes Calipari such a dominant figure in the recruiting game? It helps to coach at one of the premier hoops schools in the country, but it’s also the specific tactics that Calipari uses which helps make him the single best recruiter in the country. Instead of relaxing to enjoy his first National Championship this summer, Calipari will coach the Dominican Republic national team as it attempts to qualify for the July Summer Olympics in London, which in the process also gives him a chance to scout and recruit a top US prospect with Dominican lineage for the class of 2015 (Karl Towns). “We sit down and just say, `How can we keep separating,'” says Calipari, and he simply never stops working on more creative ways to push the envelope as a recruiter.
Coaching a potential Olympic team isn’t the only busy endeavor of Cal’s summer plans. He’ll also host the John Calipari Fantasy Basketball Experience in Rupp Arena that will allow participants to practice and play on the Wildcats’ home floor during several sessions – all for the convenient cost of $7,500. Proceeds go to his personal charity, the Calipari Family Foundation, which ‘invests in policies and programs that make a positive, measurable impact on communities across the country.’ How many other coaches at top schools are willing and able to devote this much planning and effort for off-court community causes? It’s all part of the grand scheme to keep distinguishing himself as the most dedicated recruiting figure in the country.
But that’s not all the head coach is up to these days. Calipari will also take advantage of a new NCAA rule that allows coaches to work with players for two hours per week over the summer before fall semester begins. He’ll work out the freshman class to get to know the new rookies and promote his message even before they start classes. The coach also wants to put on his AD hat to propose scheduling ideas this summer. He’s looking to promote a triple-header weekend that pits Kentucky’s football, basketball, and women’s basketball teams against another school’s three teams – all in one weekend at the same venue. “We’re going to do some new things that are different and you’re going to look at and say,`When did they have the time to think this stuff up?”’
Obviously, the fact that Kentucky is a blueblood basketball school with one of the most passionate fan bases in America allows the coach to thrive in the year-round environment in Lexington. But UK shares that level of prestige with UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, and arguably plenty of other schools as well (Michigan State, Georgetown, Connecticut, Arizona to name a few). Kentucky is just getting back to its dominant place in college basketball — the Wildcats didn’t have a single top 10 recruiting class and never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in any of the four seasons prior to Calipari’s arrival. Now his nonstop work ethic has produced four consecutive #1 classes, the 2012 National Championship, and a top five ranking heading into next season. Say what you will about the motives behind his methods, or his murky history in leaving schools with vacated Final Four appearances, but the results speak for themselves as the best recruiter in college basketball. It’s being validated both on and off the court.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him on Twitter @evanJacoby.