There are people out there saying that John Calipari and Kentucky are perverting the spirit of college basketball by signing kids (or renting them as some say) for a year. The assumption is that these kids have no further connection to the university aside from playing 35 games in a given season and then they are on to the NBA.
I recently heard C.M. Newton, former Kentucky A.D. on a popular talk show talk about the one-and-dones. He said that these young men go to school in the fall and go to class so they can be eligible. Then they stop going to class after the spring semester starts, focusing only on basketball and going to the NBA. He didn't call any names, but he made a blanket statement.
It's a stupid statement.
It's stupid because you can't lump everybody together. During John Calipari's three seasons at Kentucky, he's had five one-and-done players suit up for the Wildcats. Only one of them neglected to finish the spring semester of his freshman season at Kentucky.
If that were the problem at Kentucky, which several people from the outside imply, then Kentucky wouldn't have the second highest APR in the SEC behind Vanderbilt.
Another absurdity is that Kentucky is the only school recruiting these players. John Wall was heavily recruited by Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Baylor. Brandon Knight was heavily recruited by Connecticut, Kansas and Florida. Anthony Davis (who is likely to go pro early this year) had a final three of Kentucky, Ohio State and Syracuse.
Every school has an opportunity to recruit these young men. There's no rule in the book that says only Kentucky is allow to woo the top prospects in the nation. After all, Nerlens Noel is widely considered as one of the top two players in the 2013 class. Guess who his finalists are?
Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown.
Somebody has to win the recruiting battle. Kentucky is on a massive streak right now and at some point another school will go on a similar streak. You recruit the best players to get the best results. Every school wants these players. Many of them are just too full of themselves to admit it.
And while I can completely understand wanting these top players to stay in school more than a year, these young men have opportunities to earn large sums of money in a very short period of time. Not to mention live their dreams. As a coach, you have to give these guys the best advice you can regarding their future. And you have to favor the individual player.
The worst part of this situation is that there's also an implication that these are bad kids. Watch the Wildcats play. All they do on the court is have fun and play the best basketball they can play. You don't hear about any of them getting arrested. There are no drunken brawls at the local bar. They aren't suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team." There are no failed drug tests.
Under Kentucky's two prior coaches, numerous players were suspended for academics, arrested for varying misdemeanors, dismissed from the team and even fighting with their teammates.
I don't claim to be a huge John Calipari fan based on his previous track record. But to this point, as a Kentucky follower, there's nothing that you can possibly complain about regarding discipline, on the court performance or off the court performance.
His players have consistently gotten better from the start of the season to the end and through their careers. His teams have followed suit.
Whether their careers are long or short, if a player puts forth effort for the team, Kentucky fans will remember him fondly. And in the end, that's what matters most in college sports – the memories that the program provides to its supporters.
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