Feb. 19, 2018
Has the One-and-Done Finally Bit Kentucky?
Without question they are one of the blue-bloods of college basketball. It always has been and always will be. And we can say a lot about John Calipari. He IS a great coach. And Kentucky is always front & center of the SEC with basketball.
Those are just the basic facts.
But with greatness comes scrutiny. And Calipari and Kentucky have gotten that over the years.
Of course, I'm talking of the one-and-done bit that most Kentucky players do when they go to Leton. It's one year and they're gone.
Before you think this is a post blasting on Calipari, I am not trying to do that under any circumstance. It is just more of what happens though when the drive of the players is really the ultimate factor of why the Wildcats have been struggling in 2017-2018 when you do have to consider the Wildcats an actual "bubble" team at this point.
"But Kentucky under Calipari has always been a school with one-and-done players and garnered plenty of great success!" -Big Blue fans will say.
Yes, but it is always a mix. You do have the Wildcats with those juniors and seniors that typically stick it out and become the leaders/role players/role models on the team. You had the likes of Darius Miller showing the likes of Doron Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, etc. on how to play team ball. You saw later on upperclassmen Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress to show the likes of Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns because they knew that constantly winning would help out everybody's cause for the next level, the NBA.
But that is a key problem right now on the Wildcats this year. There are too many 1st and even 2nd year players who believe that they will be walking up on a stage, putting on a new hat by Nike, and having your hand shook by Adam Silver telling you "Welcome to the NBA!" The short-term goal for the Wildcats players has gotten lost from that. In a year where the SEC is pretty tough with the likes of Auburn, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and even Alabama, Kentucky is finding themselves in a very odd position: a middle-tier conference basketball team. Seeing the Wildcats play, there isn't that same chemistry/fluidity/flow that we saw when Cauley-Stein and Towns were there or even before that. They're all trying to play their style of games and it is not working.
What stings is that the Wildcats major contributors are all freshmen and a "couple" of sophomores. There is no junior that is making a large contribution and forget any seniors. There is no leadership on the team right now to tell them what they need to do. As good as Calipari is, he cannot be on the court to tell them during a game what is going on. Plus, you need that player to get in the faces of the others if they are hurting the squad. And there just isn't.
But I think we are ultimately seeing what happens when a school like Kentucky is becoming a one-and-done school or an AAU Team, college version after a while. The players are leaving far too early and with it, you are missing those key guys that could show the new incoming freshmen the ropes of how to be a college basketball player. And right now that's where Kentucky is at. A group of individuals trying to get theirs. And honestly, you are possibly starting to see that at Duke this year with them becoming more of a one-and-done crew is that there is a lack of leadership and the Blue Devils are not as dominant as they've been or expected to be this year.
My good friend (well, "cousin-in-law"), who coaches high school basketball, is a die-hard Kentucky fan. He & I went to a Kentucky/Alabama game back 2 years ago in Tuscaloosa. During warm-ups, I remembered him saying something that I still wouldn't forget: he said that if there is ONE complaint he had with Calipari is that he is way too hands-off with his young guys in making their decisions to jump to the NBA. And I agree with him 100%.
The one thing that I think Calipari HAS to start doing so Kentucky doesn't fall back on a more permanent basis is he needs to have a sit-down with his freshmen and sophomores and say, "look, I know you want to go to the NBA and you have all the potential in the world to succeed, but you are not ready for that level yet. Your best bet is to stay." Calipari wants to win just like any other coach. But great coaches have to adapt and change styles sometimes. And if it is his view that he needs to not "interfere" with players decisions, then he will need to find a way around it, but right now, the one-and-done thing at Kentucky is boiling over too much. And it doesn't matter if you have the 5 best recruits in the nation on your team, if there is no leadership or team play, then maybe the Wildcats are going to be a one-and-done team......in the SEC tournament. And then maybe a one-and-done.....in the NIT.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat