Harrisons the latest catch for Calipari
October, 4, 2012
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com
This is starting to become routine.
Another ESPNU news conference, another NBA-bound basketball recruit -- or, in this case, two top-rated recruits -- another briefly tense moment for fans, another recruiting victory for John Calipari. It's practically clockwork.
Aaron and Andrew Harrison -- twins, backcourt mates, the top-rated shooting guard and point guard in the class of 2013, respectively, and the "best package deal in the history of college hoops recruiting," as ESPN's Dave Telep called them -- had entered the day with recruitniks essentially split on their potential choices.
Kentucky was always tough to beat, of course, but Maryland had all the connections. Earlier this week, Aaron Harrison Sr. sang the praises of Under Armour representative Chris Hightower to USA Today -- the only person he allowed direct access to his sons, he said -- for his tact throughout the recruiting process. The Harrison twins' AAU team was sponsored by the sudden grassroots power, whose founder and CEO is Maryland alumnus Kevin Plank; they wore Under Armour uniforms and Under Armour shoes. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon began recruiting the twins when he was still coaching at Texas A&M; Harrison Sr. said Turgeon was the "most upright citizen I have ever met in basketball." Maryland assistant Bino Ranson and Harrison Sr. were likewise close.
In the end, not a lick of it mattered. Not after Calipari coached the top two picks in the draft, and sent six players in on one night, and not after his players -- from Anthony Davis to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Brandon Knight to John Wall to DeMarcus Cousins to Tyreke Evans to Derrick Rose -- have utterly dominated the highest reaches of the NBA selection process for the past five years. Not with Calipari's close connections to William "Worldwide" Wesley, and rappers Jay-Z and Drake, still fresh on every recruit's mind.
Mark Cornelison/Getty ImagesCutting down the nets has only increased John Calipari's ability to entice recruits.
Not now, not mere months after Calipari cut down his first national title nets with one of the most talented teams in recent college hoops history.
"We wanted to go some place we could win," Aaron Harrison, stiff in his suit and tie, said to the ESPNU cameras. "We knew we could win as soon as we got there."
Here's a scary thought: For as well as Calipari has recruited in the past five years -- for as good as his classes (ranked No. 1 from 2009-2011, and No. 2 in 2012) have been -- he may now just be arriving at the peak of his powers. (The Harrison twins, dynamic forces each to their own, practically guarantee one of the best, if not the best, recruiting classes in 2013-14. And he still has more work left to do.)
After April, Calipari isn't merely offering the NBA and the chance to meet Jay-Z, as if that wasn't already enough. Now he has the national title. Now he has proven his hyper-accelerated one-and-done blueprint can work. Now he's shown that the best players in the country really can have it all: immediate success; national title shots; the adoration of the nation's most insane fan base; and, after all that, the end result of NBA riches. At UK, Calipari says, there is no need to trade any of it off. And he's right.
That Maryland went toe-to-toe with this monolithic machine and nearly emerged victorious counts as a victory in and of itself. Terrapins fans desperate for a rebirth under Turgeon won't like to hear that, I'm sure. But it's true.
Because right now, nobody beats Kentucky for recruits. All your stars are belong to Cal. Resistance is futile. Year in and year out, from now until Calipari decides to do something different with his life, Kentucky is going to keep getting the best players in the country, keep churning out teams that defend like crazy, and keep challenging for national titles. Like clockwork.