In today’s pre-Final Four press conference featuring Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari, one of the many questions the college basketball world longed to hear answer to was Calipari’s stance on “one-and-done.” The answer Calipari gave concerning the matter was one that made much more sense, given the success he has had with the glorified freshmen during his time in the bluegrass.
“Succeed and proceed.” It’s a statement that is sure to be found on shirts, posters and anything else Kentucky fans can get their hands on. In Calipari’s first four seasons, an Elite Eight, Final Four and National Championship proved the dominance that had been reinstated at the University of Kentucky. The lone unsuccessful season came by way of a first-round NIT loss to George Mason, but if the highly touted freshman Nerlens Noel was able to complete the season, things could have ended much differently.
But that’s my point exactly. Calipari has built a nearly untouchable basketball empire in Lexington that has been shouldered by 18 and 19 year olds who bolt to the NBA at their first opportunity. In all, Calipari has coached 11 “one-and-done” players. This upcoming draft will prove to have a couple more names added to this list. But outside out last season’s disappointing ending, the freshmen Calipari has coached have done exactly that – succeed and proceed.
The saying resonates with what is important surrounding the Kentucky basketball program. Succeed. Kentucky has become the gold standard for college basketball, and when you put on that blue and white jersey, nothing less than success is accepted. Proceed. With the talent Calipari has recruited to Kentucky over the years, people expect the top high school players to stay only one year, play on some of the biggest stages in college basketball and proceed to the NBA. Kentucky has just become the key destination to make that possible.
This season’s storied team shouldn’t be any different. Making the Final Four itself is a success, although this team has dreams of their ninth National Championship banner. Once you accomplish the highest level of success, you move on to the next challenge in life. This is what Calipari has emphasized as the head coach of the Wildcats. Succeed and proceed.