Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Lost Recruits: 2009

I love the heavy months of high school basketball recruiting. Having John Calipari as your head coach will make you obsessive about that kind of thing. So many kids become the most important thing a UK fan could possibly keep tabs on, only to fade from our entire conscious the second they pick the hat of another program. I wanted to bring back our old temporary dudes to give a perspective on if Coach Cal has been making the perfect recruiting pulls that we assume he's been making as our infallible grand puba.

All of the given rankings are according to Rivals and all the stats are displayed as points/rebounds/assists blocks-steals with percentages given as (field goal/three-point/free throw)%.

#8 (SG) Xavier Henry
NCAA - Kansas (2009-2010): 13/4/2 0-2 with (46/42/78)% at 28 MPG in 36 games
NBA - Grizzlies (2010-2011): 6/1/1 0-0 with (44/22/70)% at 21 MPG in 16 starts

In a year where Coach Cal seemed to be picking his recruits straight off the factory line, Xavier was the single one who actually got away. Which is kind of weird because he already had his commitment to start off. X and Demarcus Cousins were the flagship guys that Cal already had signed to play for him at the University of Memphis, marking his first dual superstar class to one-up his Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans recruitments. Once Calipari took the Kentucky job, Henry immediately de-committed from Memphis and proceeded to have one of the most confusingly indecisive recruitments ever. On any given day, Henry was reported to have committed to Kansas or to have switched his verbal to Kentucky or to have been told by either of his parents to attend opposite schools. This went full circle through the media rounds two separate occasions before he finally suited up for the Jayhawks, drawing the ire of UK fans who minutes before were pleading for him. He tore our heart strings out twice and was probably amongst the most hated humans out there last season for the Wildcat faithful. Before we quickly forgot that he existed, of course. After an early bounce from the NCAA tournament, Xavier proceeded to bolt from KU right for the league (as was always expected) and was selected 12th by the Memphis Grizzlies. His NBA career started out with a rough PR patch when he held out from signing his rookie contract for a significant amount of time over the small wiggle percentage that NBA teams are allowed to finagle under the rookie scale. His play on the court was never an issue, but prima dona claims have followed him due to weirdness of his recruiting journey and certain statements he's let slip publicly.

Bottom-line: Miss. Henry possibly could have been the missing piece to a championship season last year as he would have been an immense upgrade over Darnell Dodson and redefined the team as the probable starting shooting guard, relegating Eric Bledsoe to a 6th man role. As an outsider, though, he could have created chemistry problems due to not connecting early with "The Three Amigos" of freshmen John Wall, Cousins, and Bledsoe.

#11 (SG) Lance Stephenson
NCAA - Cincinnati (2009-2010): 12/5/3 0-1 with (44/22/66)% at 28 MPG in 34 games
NBA - Pacers (2010-2011): 3/2/1 0-0 with (33/0/79)% at 10 MPG in 12 games

Lance had his fair share of image issues in high school that left him as the last beauty pageant contestant on the runway. Before Cincinnati accepted him an entire month after the last day of the late signing period, not a single flagship program was willing to take a chance on Stephenson's elite talent after Kansas, St. John's, Maryland, and Arizona all severed ties after he floated them as his "finalists." He was an ineligibility risk at one time due to his involvement in a documentary following his high school basketball exploits. Beyond that, his personal reputation was sullied to begin with due to being suspended as a high school senior for fighting with a teammate as well as facing a misdemeanor sexual assault charge in the same year. Before his first season as a Pacer even started, he was arrest for third degree assault in an incident involving his girlfriend. Lance was always slated as a probable one-and-done guy and he upheld that by bolting for the NBA right away, being selected in the second round by the Indiana Pacers with the 40th pick. Just months earlier he told reporters: "I don't think I have had an NBA season this year so the best choice is for me to stay."

Bottom-line: Great pass. It's undeniably a good thing we skipped giving "Born Ready" a chance. His rap sheet reads as every problem people thought Demarcus Cousins would be. Great talent, but an eligibility risk and would have caused chemistry problems for the single season he would have spent at UK. He also was a mediocre long-range shooter and would have required the ball to be taken out of John Wall's hands.

#19 (SF) Royce White
NCAA - Minnesota (2009-2010): did not play, left team
NCAA - Iowa State (2010-2011): did not play, sat out due to transfer

Royce was originally a Tubby commit who never suited up for Minny due to a mall arrest because of shoplifting and misdemeanor assault on a security guard. This was followed up with him being mentioned in the case of a stolen laptop from a dorm. White left the team after the hard stance Minnesota took with him, though he claimed to know nothing about the laptop. All of this has temporarily stymied the basketball career of a McDonald's All-American who was renowned as a monster rebounder who can score from anywhere on the floor as a combo forward. White originally vowed that he was quitting basketball altogether because of the way he was treated at Minnesota, but Coach Cal highly considered adding him to UK's 2010 class once he reneged and started looking for a school to transfer to. In later interviews, White said that he felt Iowa State was a better fit than Kentucky even though Calipari offered him a scholarship. However, it's contrastingly been reported that Kentucky pulled back on its pursuit of White before he committed to the Cyclones.

Bottom-line: To be determined. White could have been an invaluable frontline addition to create a legitimate big man trio with Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson in 2010-2011, but his ability has yet to be shown against collegiate competition and his possible character issues could have plagued the team through media scrutiny. Once he hits the court and stays out of trouble, we'll see if we actually missed out on a ball player.

#58 (SG) Nolan Dennis
NCAA - Baylor (2009-2010): 2/1/1 0-0 (44/29/50)% at 8 MPG in 25 games
NCAA - Baylor (2010-2011): 2/1/0 0-1 (41/23/50)% at 8 MPG in 15 games

Dennis was supposed to be great slasher with a solid shooting stroke coming into the collegiate ranks. Calipari obviously agreed by making Dennis part of his broken-up Memphis class (along with Cousins, Henry, Darnell Dodson, and Will Coleman). Everyone out of that class except for Coleman bounced to another team, with Dennis heading to Baylor. He's barely made a ripple of an impact since, only hitting his career high of 10 points in two separate games and not even stepping on the floor for a large percentage of the games beyond that. There's always room for him to carve out his role as an upperclassman, but he simply hasn't shown his talent as of yet.

Bottom-line: Irrelevant. Maybe Baylor's just the wrong system for Dennis and he could've made a bigger impact under Calipari, but the evidence is that he's just not that good yet. He probably would've never seen rotation minutes at the off-guard position over Bledsoe/Miller/Liggins in his freshman season, nor Liggins/Lamb/Miller this season. He might've been an all-world bench cheerer a la Stacey Poole, though.

If you can think of any other 2009 guys, let me know. I don't expect there were many more since Cal had to completely gut his inaugural UK roster just to fit in the six newcomers of (#1) John Wall, (#2) Demarcus Cousins, (#22) Daniel Orton, (#23) Eric Bledsoe, (#40) Jon Hood, and (#130 in 2007) Darnell Dodson. Next time I'll tackle the super-messy class of 2010 ... where Cal pretty much swung for everybody in the top 15.

... and Free Enes.


so what did ya think about whatever the heck i wrote?