Calipari makes presence felt at UIC

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
4:39
PM CT
[+] EnlargeJohn Calipari & Derrick Rose
Scott PowersThe success players like Derrick Rose have had after playing for John Calipari doesn't hurt the coach's chances while recruiting Chicago.
The sight of Kentucky coach John Calipari sitting courtside at a Chicago high school basketball game isn't usually good news for other programs.

Calipari's presence means he wants a Chicago player, and lately he's been getting what he wants in Chicago.

"I really haven't recruited a ton of kids here," Calipari said prior to Thursday's game between Simeon and Whitney Young at UIC. "I've recruited some. The two I really recruited and really wanted were Derrick [Rose] and Anthony Davis, and they turned out to be terrific players.

"The crazy thing for me is the two I have had, there's a good chance they're both going to be No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft after one year."

It's probably as good of a recruiting pitch for a Chicago player as there is in college basketball right now. Rose is currently the face of Chicago, and Davis, a Kentucky freshman, is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft.

Calipari undoubtedly won't forget to mention his recent successes when he's recruiting his current Chicago targets -- Simeon 6-8 forward Jabari Parker, the nation's top-ranked junior, and Whitney Young 6-10 center Jahlil Okafor, who is ranked third in the Class of 2014.

With Thursday's crowd including Calipari, Rose and Davis, Parker had 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, and Okafor had 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

For probable one-and-done type players like Parker and Okafor, what they're looking for in a college program is somewhere they have a shot at winning a national championship and will boost their NBA stock right away.

Calipari can sell that right now. He's had six first-round picks in the last two years, and Kentucky is coming off a Final Four appearance and is among the favorites to win this year's national title.

"[Recruits are attracted to Calipari] because kids get an opportunity to go play at Kentucky, and the way he's prepared kids for the NBA," said Mac Irvin Fire club coach Mike Irvin, who coaches Parker and Okafor. "That's every kid's dream. He does a hell of a job getting players ready for the NBA."

Sonny Parker, Jabari's father, also believed Calipari benefits from being sort of a basketball celebrity. He attracted plenty of attention at UIC on Thursday.

"He is a signature name -- Coach Cal, Coach K," Sonny Parker said. "They've been exposed to him a lot. He has a certain kind of persona about him. Everybody knows he was there. He gets that to his advantage."

Of course, Calipari showing up in Chicago doesn't automatically translate to Parker and Okafor committing to Kentucky.

"When you have players like Jabari, Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose, they want to be recruited by all the top teams," Sonny Parker said. "Everybody's got to put their work in. You hear it when they say they're out-working each other to get a certain player. That's the thing they got to do."
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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