John Calipari Has Built an NBA Player Factory at Kentucky

By Robbie Marbury
Mark Zerof-USATODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats once again have one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, but John Calipari and the Wildcats are looking to add to an already talented haul of incoming freshmen. Calipari already has three five-star recruits signed up for next season as well as one four-star, but on Monday night he was in attendance to watch another five-star recruit, Rashad Vaughn, return from injury to play at the HoopHall Classic — and he was not disappointed. Calipari did not lockdown an official visit from Vaughn, but all signs point to him taking a look at Kentucky before his recruiting process is done to further continue the NBA producing machine he has assembled at Kentucky

Landing Vaughn would be another big get for Cal and his Wildcat staff. With a top-five recruit at every position except small forward, Kentucky is all but set for next season. Adding Vaughn at small forward — he is listed as a shooting guard, but he stands 6-foot-6 so he could play small forward in college — would give the Wildcats a second straight season of adding five five-star recruits, one at each starting position. After getting commits from Julius Randle, James Young, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Dakari Johnson last year, it seemed as if Calipari had pulled off the impossible. But it wasn’t the impossible; it was his blueprint that he plans to use from here on out.

Adding two or three five-star recruits is nothing new in college basketball. Duke has done it, so have Kansas and North Carolina, but doing it two consecutive seasons is unheard of. It has long been the plan of Calipari to land as many of the one-and-done superstars out of the high school ranks every year. When he was at Memphis he had Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose, and since joining Kentucky in 2009 he has had 11 one-and-done players be drafted in the first-round with at least two in all four drafts. Many scoffed at this plan because no one could win with their best player only playing one year, but that is no longer the case.

When other coaches were shying away from the one-and-done players, Calipari was snatching them up. Now don’t get me wrong; no coach in America was turning down Rose, John Wall, Anthony Davis or any of the other recruits Calipari has signed. It’s just that none of those coaches were eager to sign multiple players that would be leaving after one season. Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self and others wanted to land a big-time recruit, but they also wanted players that would stay more than one year so they could “build” their program. Calipari’s strategy this entire time was to rebuild every year. If you are putting guys in the NBA, why wouldn’t the next season’s crop of future pros want to come to your school?

This season Kansas has Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden who are all going to be one-and-done players. In the past Self would be worried about having to start over, but he has two five-star recruits already signed for next season as well two more that have official visits still coming. Duke has four five-star recruits already lined up for next season with Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow all being one-and-done guys.

If Calipari doesn’t land Vaughn he will will have four five-star recruits for the second straight season. Missing on Vaughn will not hurt too badly, because another advantage of taking so many one-and-done guys is that not all of them go pro after one season. This season he brought back Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Calipari only needs one of last season’s recruits to stay another year, and he will yet again field a lineup of five-star recruits. He has built a machine that’s specific purpose is to keep pumping out NBA players.

The stigma of having one-and-done players is gone; in the six seasons since developing this blueprint, Calipari has as many NCAA Championships as any other coach, and he looks to add to his total in the near future. To quote a the famous sports movie ‘Field of Dreams,’ “If you build it, they will come.” That is what Calipari has done. He has built the machine that keeps future NBA players coming to him.

Robbie Marbury is a College Basketball writer for Follow him on Twitter @rmarbury, and add him to your network on Google+

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