Over the past 4 years, Kentucky has fallen off the map on a national level on the court. UK really didn’t even belong on the same floor as North Carolina, Kansas, Connecticut, and UCLA. UK’s non-competitiveness extended to the realm of recruiting, as UK seemed to have an uphill battle anytime one of those schools was involved with a prospect.
I’m not going to go through the laundry list of prospects that UK missed out on, but think back to any time UK went up against one of those teams on the court. Even when Kentucky managed to stay in the game, it felt like a bit of a hopeless cause.
Kentucky has dropped 5 in a row to North Carolina by an average deficit of over 11 points.
Kentucky has dropped 3 in a row to Kansas by an average deficit of 15 points, including a 2007 NCAA Tournament loss which was Tubby Smith’s last game as UK coach.
Kentucky lost to Connecticut in the 2006 NCAA Tournament Second Round by only 4 points, but only thanks to unconscious performances by Patrick Sparks and Bobby Perry. The talent disparity was disturbing.
That same Kentucky team lost to UCLA in the Maui Invitational 73-68 in a hard fought game that turned out to be one of UK’s stronger performances of the season.
That’s a total of 10 consecutive losses on the court to these 4 college basketball powers, arguably the best 4 programs of this decade. There have been quite a few blowouts and the even the close games were depressing because the ‘Cats played well and still could not come through.
Over the past 4 seasons, while Kentucky struggled, you could find these 4 schools in the top 10 pretty much every week. You could also find them in the top 10 of pretty much every ranking of recruiting classes as well, while Kentucky lagged behind.
Those times appear to have changed. We’ve yet to see evidence on the floor, but in terms of recruiting, the UK name is now on that list of names to be feared.
However, as much as UK fans want to believe Kentucky basketball is going to be an unstoppable force on a conference level and a national level, these 4 schools are not slowing down. These 4 schools are not going to cede center stage without a fight, neither on the floor nor on the recruiting trail.
Really the only of these 4 that Kentucky went head to head with in putting together the best recruiting class in 2009 was Kansas. Kansas and UK both were after Daniel Orton and Xavier Henry with UK wrestling away Orton and Kansas BARELY holding on to Henry. UNC was somewhat involved with John Wall, but Tar Heel fans will point out that things may have been different had Ole Roy put on the full court blitz. UCLA and UConn had both wrapped up most of their 2009 recruiting by the time John Calipari had been hired at UK
Kentucky will have showdowns at some point with each of these 4 both on the floor and on the trail with Calipari at the helm, but for the class of 2010, when I look at Kentucky’s prime targets, Kansas and Connecticut jump out at me.
Kentucky’s 3 top point guard targets in the class are Brandon Knight, Josh Selby, and Kyrie Irving.
Both Kansas and UConn are heavily involved with Brandon Knight. Many thought it would come down to a duel between Calipari and Jim Calhoun for the top ranked PG in the class, but recently, we have learned that Kansas has landed a Midnight Madness visit from him. I would be surprised if he ends up somewhere other than Lexington, Lawrence, or Storrs.
Josh Selby has 5 in home visits planned, 3 of which will be by UK, KU, and UConn. UConn and UK are in a bit stronger than Kansas for Selby, but this is still another battleground.
Kyrie Irving has a final 6 that includes both UK and UConn, even though IU and Duke look to be in better standing.
UK’s top wing targets as of right now are Doron Lamb, Jelan Kendrick, Jeremy Lamb, and Stacey Poole.
Doron Lamb visited UK’s campus unofficially this summer and many thought he could be UK’s first 2010 commit, but he has not. We have learned that he too will visit Kansas for Late Night in the Phog and has recently scored an offer from Oklahoma. UConn is also involved.
Things have been quiet on the Jelan Kendrick-UK front, and amazingly, neither UConn nor Kansas are involved.
Jeremy Lamb is a player who, on his strong play, has gone from considering offers from Louisiana Tech among others to hearing from Kentucky, Xavier, Clemson, Alabama, and Connecticut. He knows about Kentucky, because he attends the same high school as Jodie Meeks.
Stacey Poole has nailed down an offer from John Calipari and UK has subsequently become his favorite. The Florida native is also considering South Carolina, Clemson, and Indiana. Again, UConn and Kansas are not involved.
UK’s main big man targets are Tobias Harris, Terrence Jones, CJ Leslie, and Adreian Payne.
Tobias Harris is one of the hottest commodities around and has a LOOONG list of in-home visits upcoming from Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Louisville, West Virginia, and, you guessed it, Connecticut.
Another player that has benefitted from a big summer has been Terrence Jones. Jones is also at the in-home visit stage and is hearing from Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, and Kansas.
Recent reports have said that NC State decommit CJ Leslie may be leaning toward recommitting to the school, but UK is still involved and figures to benefit from John Wall’s relationship with him, since they were high school teammates. Florida and North Carolina are also involved.
Finally, Adreian Payne is a prospect that UK is heavily targeting. The main competition looks to be coming from Michigan State and West Virginia. Kansas was involved but does not appear to be in contention.
So, UK has 11 main targets for the class of 2010. 3 of these targets are also considering both Kansas and UConn and 7 of the 11 are considering either Kansas or UConn. If John Calipari, Bill Self, and Jim Calhoun and their staffs don’t already know each other well, I think they are going to have plenty of chances to spend time together.