Kentucky in 2013-14: Recruiting This Year’s Freshmen Now is Key to Winning Title Next YearPosted by Brian Joyce on October 18th, 2012
“For the next four years I’ll be attending the University of Kentucky,” is a common phrase spoken by the top high school seniors these days. In fact, four top 25 recruits from the class of 2013 have committed to Kentucky in the past three weeks (two of whom used the same phrase). Most recently it was four-star center, Marcus Lee who chose to pledge his allegiance to the Wildcats on Wednesday. But in a revolving door of one-and-done commiments, what if someone actually did finish their eligibility at Kentucky? The recent pledges to play at Kentucky caused us to think about how dominant UK could be in that instance. Did Lee mean it? Not likely. But for John Calipari and the Cats, it is actually the young men who stayed past their freshmen year that have been the most influential.Scout.com’s Evan Daniels views Lee as a prospect on the rise. “He grew a couple of inches, he got more fluid, he became a better athlete, he developed some on the offensive end,” Daniels said. “He’s a guy that I think can really impact a game with his ability to run the floor, his ability to contest shots, his ability to rebound. […] He has a lot of tools and there’s a lot to like about him.” Lee joins James Young and Andrew and Aaron Harrison in what could turn out to be the best recruiting class ever. With a fourth commitment in a span of several weeks, it is no surprise that many are already considering the Wildcats as the favorite to win it all in 2013-14.
Talent is in no shortage these days at the University of Kentucky. Though the hype and national attention is given to the freshmen that Calipari brings in each year, it is arguably the select group of returnees who have been more instrumental in Calipari’s success. A top-ranked recruit like Anthony Davis completely changes the dynamic of last year’s national championship team, but the phenomenal freshmen do not cut down the nets alone. Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague needed sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb and senior Darius Miller to lead the way. While freshman Brandon Knight excelled in leading the Cats to the Final Four in 2011, UK doesn’t go to Houston without Josh Harrelson.
Talent wins championships. And Calipari’s freshmen have plenty of talent. But Calipari and Kentucky need veteran leadership to carry out his system and accelerate the learning curve. After racking up top 10 recruit after top 10 recruit, what the Wildcats need more than anything is a player who knows the system and is willing to come back for another year. Calipari needs his next Jones. His next Lamb. His next Miller.
College sports are interesting in that we can begin talking about next season before we have even begun this season. And that’s okay with most of us. But the irony in this situation is that any conversation about 2013-14 for Kentucky needs to start with the guys on this current roster because the number of returnees from this year will dictate how far next season goes. Kentucky nabbed another top recruit yesterday in 6’9″ forward Marcus Lee. But the prized recruits Kentucky really needs to lock up are the ones with the UK jersey on right now.
Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.