Every year in the John Calipari era is like starting all over again. Again. Every day is the same. But different.
The clock radio clicks on with the same Sonny and Cher tune. You look out the window onto the same quiet neighborhood. You have the same idle chitchat about the weather in the hallway of your B&B.
And yet, everything is new. Brandon Knight is holding the ball John Wall once held. And then, itâ€™s Marquis Teague. Archie Goodwin. Andrew Harrison. Tyler Ulis.
That was DeMarcus Cousins blotting out the sun. Only now itâ€™s Terrence Jones. Then Anthony Davis. Nerlens Noel. Willie Cauley-Stein. Julius Randle. Karl-Anthony Towns. Skal LabissiÃ¨re.
Once again, April brings the news of defections to the NBA. Jamal Murray has already declared. Watch for Tyler Ulis to follow. And Skal.
Isaiah Briscoe? Marcus Lee? Derek Willis? Who knows? New rules have made it possible for anyone to declare. A more-relaxed timetable allows everyone to throw his hat into the ring and then pull it back if thereâ€™s insufficient interest.
And, once again, April brings the promise of another powerful recruiting class to Lexington. Not for the first time, observers declare this a historically superior group of freshmen. Maybe Calâ€™s best ever.
Thatâ€™s saying something. Wall/Cousins/Bledsoe/Dodson/Orton/Hood was pretty good in 2009. Knight/Jones/Kanter/Lamb/Poole in 2010.
Davis/Teague/Wiltsher/Kidd-Gilchrist in 2011.
Goodwin/Noel/Poythress/Mays/Cauley-Stein in 2012.
Then there was the astounding class of 2013 â€“ Randle/Johnson/Young/Willis/Hawkins/Lee/the Harrisons â€“ that had everyone twittering 40-0.
And the 2014 group â€“ Towns/Lyles/Booker/Ulis â€“ that almost did get to 40-0.
Finally, there was Calipariâ€™s 2015 effort that brought in the highly prized LabissiÃ¨re, plus Murray, Briscoe, Matthews, Humphries, Mulder and Wynyard.
But this 2016 class has put the tingle back in a down-in-the-dumps Big Blue Nation. It is driven by three main impulses: (1.) to wipe away the bad taste of a premature exit from the NCAA tournament; (2.) to replace what looks like another defection of key players from this yearâ€™s team; and (3.) because, on paper, it looks really, really good.
Of course, the optimism has to be tempered. Really good on paper doesnâ€™t always translate to really good on the court. You only have to think of Skal. Or Darnell Dodson. Stacey Poole. Ryan Harrow. Or, through no fault of his own, Enes Kanter.
But letâ€™s, for the moment, concentrate on the ridiculous promise of it all.
Thereâ€™s Edrice Adabayo â€“ intriguingly nicknamed â€œBamâ€ â€“ from North Carolina, who reportedly earned his nickname when he picked up the familyâ€™s coffee table. At a year old.
â€œThe Flintstonesâ€ was playing on television at the time, so the story goes, ergo, Bamm-Bamm, later shortened to Bam.
But his nickname was about the only thing that got smaller. Edrice grew to 6-foot-9, 260 pounds. Muscles. Broad shoulders. Nobodyâ€™s going to kick sand in this frontcourtâ€™s face next winter.
Thereâ€™s Wenyen Gabriel from New Hampshire â€“ also 6-foot-9 â€“ and 6-foot-10 Sacha Killeya-Jones from North Carolina. Theyâ€™re skinnier than Adabayo, which will mean sessions in the weight room once they hit the Wildcat Lodge, but theyâ€™re already strong enough to tote around all those stars theyâ€™ve been given by Scout, Rivals and the other rating services.
Thereâ€™s Deâ€™Aron Fox from Texas, anointed the latest in the Calipari tree of great point guards. People looking at him think â€œJohn Wall.â€ If only. But then again: Why not?
And thereâ€™s Malik Monk from Bentonville, Arkansas but really from tiny Lepanto, Arkansas. His story was charmingly told on a Bleacher Report video. (Go to aseaofblue.com and check out Jason Marcumâ€™s post, â€œAwesome feature on Malik Monk, his upbringing and rise to stardom.â€)
Great family. Great story. Great observations from his brother, Marcus Monk. Think the Chris and Cliff Paul ads from State Farm, except that Marcus is a former All-SEC wide receiver. Also, great dunking videos.
And Cal may not be finished. He still has his sights on big men Marques Bolden and Jarrett Allen. Both uncommitted as of this writing. Both from Texas. Why donâ€™t all those Texas universities have more national championships?
Word was the UK recruits were trying to work their magic on Bolden during the recent McDonaldâ€™s All-American game in Chicago. What kind of magic? Fox offered to break Boldenâ€™s kneecap if he didnâ€™t declare for UK. The others concurred. Of course, they were smiling the whole time.
That, by the way, is what really impressed me about these kids. Not the threat of violence â€“ the incessant good humor and happy togetherness they all showed for one another, heading into their Big Blue adventure.
That, and some ridiculous basketball skills.
Did someone say 40-0? Wasnâ€™t me! VT