Catnip

A Peek at Cal the Recruiter

By Steve Kaufman

Did everyone else see that video of John Calipari sitting in the living room with the family of a basketball recruit?

Did everyone else wonder why a kid would want to play anywhere else?
If you didn’t see it, the kid was Immanuel Quickley, a 6-foot-3 point guard from Bel Air, Maryland, who is rated five stars and ranked the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2018.
Quickley is the only point guard, apparently, that Cal is pursuing for 2018. So he’s clearly the biggest bass in the lake.
Thus, Cal was at his persuasive best that day.
It should be noted that this was not a video stage-managed by the Calipari team. Quickley has been videotaping his entire life for two years – in class, in the gym, at parties, at home, on the court. I imagine there are also home-visit videos of Bill Self (Kansas), Mark Turgeon (Maryland) and Jim Larranaga (Miami), the other three schools on Quickley’s recently announced short list.
Probably also videos of Rick Pitino, Frank Martin, Steve Alford and Kevin Ollie, who didn’t make the cut.
A true point guard. That has always made Calipari’s toes curl, going back to Derek Rose at Memphis. Perhaps even further back, to Tony Barbee at UMass. Who doesn’t know the legacy? Tyreke Evans. John Wall. Brandon Knight. Andrew Harrison. Tyler Ulis. De’Aaron Fox. Perhaps, soon, Quade Green.
I’ll tell you who knows. The Quickley family sitting around that room. Very little escapes these families about the possibilities for their sons and the history of who accomplishes what.
So Cal, who perhaps wasn’t entirely happy about having his patter exposed on social media, went right to work. He talked about the possibilities that come from playing at Kentucky, but also about the rigors. The practices against equally good athletes. The classroom time. The off-the-court expectations.
He didn’t fail to mention his record on NBA draft night.
He also didn’t fail to mention ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentary, though of course he made it clear that it wasn’t his preference. But he mentioned it. Yes, we all know who’s the celebrity personality on the college coaching circuit.
He didn’t emphasize the one-and-done opportunity. “You don’t have to leave after one year. I’ve had guys leave after a year, or two or three.” But he did hammer the word “contract.” “It’s all about the second contract,” Calipari said. “My guys go into the league and get that second contract.”
He told the Quickleys what he always says about his program. “For you guys, this is a business decision. And it should be, ‘What kind of a coach do we want him to play for? What do we want that coach to stand for?’
“If you compare what’s happened to [other coaches’] kids and how they coach versus what’s happened to our kids and how we coach, [you] can’t beat us!”
And how is that? Calipari broke it down. You get better – NBA-ready better – by playing against other good players. At most schools, he said, a kid like Quickley will come in as the face of the program, the best player, and play 30-plus games, perhaps eight of those against tough competition in a competitive environment. “Unless you come to Kentucky, in which case you play 200 times against tough competition because we practice every day with six or seven guys just as good as you.
“That’s how our guys get better!” And get that lottery draft spot, and that second contract.
Where do I sign?

The Hope Diamond

For some reason, college baseball never gets the attention that college football or basketball does.
Who knows why? When I was in school, our football games drew 85,000 people, and 16,000 jammed the basketball arena. But when I went out to cover the baseball team, they were lucky to have 100 people scattered around the stands.
The weather’s good. The sport is in our very DNA. The semester’s almost over. But kids apparently prefer throwing a frisbee on the quad, or studying for finals.
So I’ve ignored, for too long, the accomplishments this year of Nick Mingione and his UK baseball team. A national title? Whoa, hold on!
But nearly 5,000 packed Cliff Hagan Stadium for the first round of the NCAA tournament. The best interview in sports around here is “Coach Minge” – SEC coach of the year – a 1,200-volt charge of positive energy.
I don’t currently know whether Kentucky will survive this year’s first-round weekend. But going forward, the sky seems to be the limit. And why not? VT