The fruits of his labor have helped the Wildcats annually make deep postseason runs, including taking home the 2012 NCAA Championship, behind the efforts of top tier recruits like Anthony Davis, John Wall, Julius Randle, and DeMarcus Cousins.
Fresh off making yet another Final Four run, finishing the ’14-’15 season with a remarkable 38-1 record, Kentucky once again has attempted to reload with the likes of top 10 rated high school recruits Skal Labisierre and Isaiah Briscoe, 4 star shooting guard Charles Mathews, and transfer Mychal Mulder for next season.
Ultimately some returning talents like Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis, Derrek Willis, Alex Poythress, and Dominique Hawkins will be relied upon heavily next season.
But with upwards of 7 players leaving for the 2015 NBA Draft, Coach Cal and his staff have unexpectantly missed on a couple of top tier recruits like Brandon Ingram(Duke), Jaylen Brown(Cal), Cheick Diallo(Kansas), Steven Zimmerman(UNLV), and Malik Newman(Mississippi State).
It’s not Big Blue Nation’s style to go into full out “panic mode”, but some UK faithful have to at least be concerned the several elite recuits went elsewhere rather than play under the bright lights at Kentucky.
But not to fear Wildcat fans as several elite recruits are still mulling over their future college plans, most noticeably former Michigan State commit Caleb Swanigan, a bruising 5 star, 6’8 power forward that was a McDonald’s All American and star participant in the 2015 Nike Hoops Summit. His reported 270 pounds of bulk could provide an immediate need up front for the Wildcats as both Labisierre and Lee are uber talented but lack the size to bang against bigger players.
Swanigan decommitted from Michigan State in early May and has been reportedly leaning towards either Cal, Purdue, or Kentucky, but Calipari is supposedly putting on the “full court press” in an attempt to lure the talented big man to Lexington for next season.
Another intriguing option is the enigmatic Canadian born 7 foot forward/center Thon Maker, who has been a YouTube sensation since the 8th grade. Maker is a rare talent in that he has both size and the ability to handle the rock and play like a guard, despite his still rather thin frame. Maker remains one of the top recruits in the 2016 Class, but has been flirting with reclassifying to the 2015 Class, or even playing overseas for a season before becoming eligible for the 2016 NBA Draft.
Another Canadian prospect, 6’5 combo guard Jamal Murray, who surprised everyone by dropping 30 points and 6 assists on some of Team USA’s top players in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit Game, is reportedly visiting the Kentucky campus on Tuesday. The electric guard plays for CIA Bounce, Canada’s top AAU club, and has been described as the best scoring guard in Canada. He also currently is listed in the 2016 recruiting class but could decide to reclassify to 2015 and play right away. UK and Oregon are the favorites for Murray.
Kentucky has also been connected in rumors surrounding 7’1 Greek center Georgios Papagiannis, who played last year for a high school in Pennsylvania before returning to Greece this past season to compete with a professional team. Papagiannis is still only 17 years old and has been on the NCAA and NBA radar since 2013 when he debuted in the Jordan Brand International Game.
With or without any more commits for the 2015 Class, Kentucky will once again be a formidable team, but considering his track record, I wouldn’t count Coach Cal out when it comes to convincing top tier recruits to come to Lexington.
Allen Moll has been a lifelong NBA and NCAA College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously, and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen has also provided content to Bleacherreport.com, Upperdeckblog.com, Cleveland.com, CSN Philly.com, Buckets Magazine, Balltribe.com, in addition to being a tenured NBA and NCAA columnist for TheHoopDoctors.com.