Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Lost Recruits: 2010

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. I covered the 2009 class here.

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)%.

#1 (PG) Josh Selby
NCAA - Kansas (2010-2011): 8/2/2 0-1 with (37/36/76)% at 20 MPG in 26 games
NBA - Declared for 2011 NBA Draft (#44 by Chad Ford)

A number of UK fans grieved once news got out that Selby wouldn't be joining Brandon Knight to create a second straight year of a dual point guard backcourt. Shortly after his Kansas announcement, UK fans took a sigh of relief once it was announced Selby would be suspended by the NCAA for the first nine games of the the season after receiving $4,607.58 in improper benefits by an agent that included clothes, transportation, meals, and lodging. If this would've happened to a UK recruit, it would've been widely assumed that John Calipari directly set up those expenses through that agent. Once Kansas broke past the cupcake part of its non-conference schedule, Selby's production plummeted and he essentially became a non-factor as Tyshawn Taylor's back-up. He did debut on fire, making 8 three-pointers between his first two games, but his stroke quickly wavered and his elite penetration ability never surfaced effectively against collegiate defenses. He also only totaled two games with more than four assists, so his playmaking never settled in to allow him to contribute on the court when his shot wasn't dropping. Selby has already declared his intention to leave for the NBA this summer, despite his expected fall to a late-first round pick.

Bottom-line: Great pass. It was unknown at the time, but Selby was a huge ineligibility risk. It's crazy to say that we should be glad we missed the top 2010 recruit, but we should be glad. He may have flourished given extensive minutes in Kentucky's offense, but he would've taken the ball out of Knight's hands and killed off much of what Knight did to run this ball club. Even if he were swapped out with Knight, our offense would've stagnated and been far more turnover-prone than it already was.

#4 (PG) Kyrie Irving
NCAA - Duke (2010-2011): 18/3/4 1-2 with (53/46/90)% at 28 MPG in 11 games
NBA - Declared for 2011 NBA Draft (#1 by Chad Ford)

Back when Irving spurned Kentucky and Indiana to sign with Duke, he was assumed to be in the second tier of top talent in his class. Brandon Knight was leaning towards UK at the time and was the top 2010 prize in most fans' eyes at the time, so everyone quickly got over the Irving defection. Irving pretty much universally jumped to the top of the heap as a potential world-class playmaker after his commitment. Irving proved everyone right as he was an absolute sensation from the very second he stepped on the court. He scored and got to the line with ease, never forgetting to set up his teammates along the way. The only force that could take the super-frosh down a notch was when a structural foot problem flared up, killing his toe and requiring surgery. There goes the youngster's season. Except he popped right back up at tournament time playing at near-full strength and was able to get to the rim with the exact same ease as before, netting 28 points in his possible final game as an amateur ballplayer.

Bottom-line: Situational toss-up. The problem here is the word "structural." I give the hypothetically-healthy Irving the "best freshman in the world" award, hands down. In that case, he's a huge miss for Calipari who's made his living on securing those guys. But if we travel down the road of what-ifs ... what if Irving selects UK and Knight decides he doesn't want to play off-ball, heading up to Connecticut or down to Florida? Kentucky breaks out of the gates in monstrous fashion to secure a top-5 early season ranking, but Irving's inevitable foot problem shows up less than a month in. We're sunk the rest of the season with an inadequate point-guard-by-committee line-up since we have no clear back-up. That's a disaster. If his toe was bound to be a problem, it's a miracle we passed on him. Amazing player and, by all accounts, a great kid, but we couldn't have survived signing him and not Knight.

#7 (PF) Tobias Harris
NCAA - Tennessee (2010-2011): 15/7/1 1-1 with (46/30/75)% at 29 MPG in 34 games
NBA - Declared for 2011 NBA Draft (#29 by Chad Ford)

Harris dropped Kentucky and Syracuse for Tennessee before his future Vol teammates were caught with a gun and other inappropriate things to have in a car you're driving, but stuck faithfully to his commitment. The kid was obviously a big Bruce Pearl guy and is now set to head to the NBA since Pearl got the boot from TN. Harris was one of UK fans' original big men to fawn over (along with Terrence Jones and C.J. Leslie) before he instantly became hated for picking our SEC rival. He kept a much lower profile than we're accustomed to seeing from Tennessee players off the court. And while he was highly ignored in the grand scheme of things with UK's freshman stealing all the SEC attention for the second straight year, he might've been the second-best frosh after Brandon Knight in the conference.

Bottom-line: Miss. I think Harris would've been a more consistent force in UK's system than what Jones turned into late. He was lost amidst a disorganized and troubled Tennessee squad all season, yet still managed to be one of their few bright spots as the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder. He's a hard worker who would've fit in seamlessly with any squad he chose to commit to. Plus, if he had come to UK then he might've been the type of guy who'd be more inclined to stay longer than just his freshman season. At worst, fans would've thrown less things at their TVs than Jones caused in the second half of the season.

#11 (SG) Will Barton
NCAA - Memphis (2010-2011): 12/5/3 1-2 with (43/27/70)% at 31 MPG in 35 games
NCAA - Will return to Memphis for 2011-2012

Numerous sites reported Barton as Calipari's first 2010 commitment before he'd ever even coach a game wearing a UK blue tie. Fans were relieved because we have a penchant for stressing about stuff years before it even affects us. Then Barton signed right away ... with Memphis. A year later as he was finally getting out of high school, the NCAA declared him academically ineligible. But then they cleared him before the season started. That minor crisis was averted and he took his top-10 talent and played great all year, forcing his way into the starting line-up after only a few games. His only misstep along the way was guaranteeing a championship for the Tigers in the preseason.

Bottom-line: Toss-up. It depends on what you value out of the off-guard position as to whether you'd prefer Barton or Lamb with UK's 2010-2011 squad. Barton is much more dynamic and a freak athlete, but Lamb shot nearly twice Barton's percentage from deep. Both seem set to come back for their sophomore seasons, so you can't even weigh that into the long-term debate. Do you want the benefit of the potential superstar-type slasher or the long-range stud role player who accidentally drops seven 3s one night? Though Barton was an eligibility risk at one point, he would've been a great plug-in addition to our squad.

#14 (PF) C.J. Leslie
NCAA - NC State (2010-2011): 11/7/1 1-1 with (43/25/54) at 25 MPG in 30 games
NBA - Expected to enter 2011 NBA Draft (#37 by Chad Ford)

Most UK fans assumed that John Wall's high school teammate was a shoe-in to follow his foot steps to Lexington. Little did they know that Wall helped talk Calipari off recruiting Leslie. While a number of writers questioned Cal for "losing" Leslie to N.C. State, it's pretty obvious that Cal was actually the one doing the spurning. On the basketball side of things, Leslie has limitless athletic potential and a natural NBA-type body, but his skill set itself is much less defined. He had quite a few solid scoring games this year, but was wildly inconsistent with nine games of 5 or less points. He was also suspended on the eve of his squad getting blown-out by Duke for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Bottom-line: Great pass. On the court, Leslie would've been a downgrade across the board from Terrence Jones (16/9/2 2-1). Off the court, he would've brought character issues to a team who pretty much succeeded solely on the basis of team chemistry. UK detractors would've had a field day with Leslie, but he's gone essentially unnoticed in the less-than-bright lights of N.C. State.

#16 (C) Fab Melo
NCAA - Syracuse (2010-2011): 2/2/0 1-0 with (61/0/36)% at 10 MPG in 33 games
NCAA - Expected to return to Syracuse for 2011-2012

Melo eliminated Kentucky when he cut his list down to his final four schools. It was always an outside shot of getting in close with him, but Calipari and his staff were found at quite a few of his games. He's a mammoth of a center who was pegged for U of L for quite awhile, though Jim Boeheim ended up pulling him for Syracuse. Now that I think about it, once getting a Melo commitment wouldn't result in spiting Rick Pitino, maybe Calipari simply lost interest and let Boeheim keep him. Melo also did little for the majority of the season to show his potential as a legitimate post presence, failing to even put up Daniel Orton numbers off the Orange's bench in his freshman season. He was also suspended toward the end of the regular season for missing practice.

Bottom-line: Irrelevant. Though Cal switched up his offense to allow Cousins to flourish last year, Melo isn't half as talented as Demarcus and probably would've been a rough squeeze into the dibble-drive motion offense. While he may have had a major opportunity in the wake of Enes' ineligibility and Harrellson's graduation, it seems as if UK didn't miss out on too much by not snatching Melo. He would've been a tremendous upgrade over Eloy Vargas, though, and is a player that people still believe could be an NBA prospect.

If you can think of any other 2010 guys, let me know. Even though we missed out playing the big guy, Cal's seven-man class of (#3) Enes Kanter, (#6) Brandon Knight, (#13) Terrence Jones, (#21) Doron Lamb, (#33) Stacey Poole, (#26 in 2008) Eloy Vargas, and (not ranked) Jarrod Polson proved to not be too shabby. None of the other guys I just discussed are getting sized for their Final Four rings this year. Next time I'll tackle the upcoming class of 2011 ... even though we can't even begin to evaluate them yet. Ha. Oh well.

... and Free Enes.

1 comment:

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