Alpha Cats

Andrew Harrison

One must engage in a lot of stretching before attempting to find a potential Achilles heel in John Calipari's latest No. 1 recruiting class at Kentucky. Could the presence of multiple "alpha-type" personalities be that weakness?

One must engage in a lot of stretching before attempting to find a potential Achilles heel in John Calipari's latest No. 1 recruiting class at Kentucky.

In a class that features the No. 1 prospect at four out of five positions on the floor and two other players ranked among the top three at their spots, many are calling it the greatest assemblage of raw talent in the history of the college game.

But we also live in an age of critics and skeptics. Nothing is ever as good as advertised, they suggest.

And those types may have some leverage with that notion after UK reeled in the No. 1 class a year ago and didn't even get an opportunity to defend its national championship.

Like the victim of an improbable shot in H-O-R-S-E, they're sitting back and saying "Prove it."

The most common concern for Kentucky fans next season may be, ironically, the amount of talent Calipari has landed. Is it possible to have too many "alpha dogs" on one team? He addressed that Wednesday in a pre-summer press conference to discuss his new signees and how the roster shapes up for 2013-14.

"We don't have as many as you think," Calipari said. "This team will have maybe two. That's OK. And what happens is, when you have multiple (alpha males), which we had on my team two years ago, different guys can lead at different points in the year.

"There are times where a guy's not playing well or he's not into it; there's something happening, he's sick. Well, he steps back and someone else steps forward."

During the 2012 championship run, there was no shortage of alphas, but it blended well due to the team-first mindset of stars like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

The 2013 season was an entirely different scenario. Nerlens Noel was the only player with both the attitude and skills to lead. Calipari stopped just shy of begging others to step up and be more assertive.

"When you don't have that alpha male at all, you have to do things to try to lead yourself as a coach, and your team can never have the type of success you want," Calipari said. "You try to figure out who that could be or who could step up. A lot of times they are who they are in that regard – those guys who will step up and hold and push the group and not be afraid. That's what you're looking for when you have a good team."

The Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, have earned that reputation during their high school and AAU careers. Two of most competitive players in their class, they have been known to let a teammate know when he needs to pick up the slack. More than a few analysts have noted a Kobe Bryant streak to the proverbial fire they bring to the court. Balancing that fire with their talented, new teammates at UK – in particular, another fiery competitor from Texas in Julius Randle – will be one of the key storylines to watch next season.

"There are a lot of alpha dog-type guys in this class and guys who will need to get their shots, but I think if anyone has proven he can deal with those type of players, it's Calipari," said FOX Sports Next and Scout.com national basketball analyst Evan Daniels. "At the end of the day, this class is terrific, and it's a good ‘problem' to have.

"One thing that I would add is, while you have a lot of guys who want to get their shots, they all play extremely hard. I think that can help when it comes to the alpha dog question. Cal is good at getting guys to work together when they're competing and playing hard. I think these guys will do that."

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