Kentucky’s Recruiting Monopoly: Blame our Culture, not just Calipari

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Kentucky pledges of today’s time are lemmings reluctant to carve out their own legacy and afraid to take a chance at a lesser school where national acclaim is not assured. They think the glitz and the pomp of these sensationalized ESPNU signing day specials somehow render their cookie cutter decisions less banal. It doesn’t work that way.

The modern top-five recruit targeted by Kentucky wants needs guarantees—guarantees of immediate playing time, lenient academic demands and full-fledged pampering. They prefer the easygoing player’s coach and covet the path of least resistance to the NBA.

Andrew and Aaron Harrison, for example, are not worried about being coached up or dressed down. They don’t care about tough love, team GPA track records or best positioning themselves for a long-term career after college. The twins, like most modern recruits mesmerized by the Calipari call, only care about having immediate success spoon-fed to them. Their family, coaches, handlers and closest supporters: too glitter-eyed to see the bigger picture.

Don’t waste all your barbs on Calipari for perfecting what dozens, maybe hundreds, of Division 1 coaches wish they could pull off too. This falls on the shoulders of the short-sighted teenage minions and their closest friends and family who think the only way—or certainly, at least, the easiest way—to engineer a legacy is by playing for Cal at UK.

Whatever happened to the true competitors, the days when you had to beat the best to be the best? What is the appeal to being the next pawn in a system that spits you out and replaces you with the next hottest commodity?

Any true, self-respecting competitor who wishes to differentiate himself as much as possible would never (emphasis on never) follow the herd. The ultimate competitor confident in his ability is a bell cow, one who forges his own, hand-crafted legacy without conforming to trendy fads.

At SMU (or Maryland, for that matter), Andrew and Aaron Harrison would have been larger than life, their collegiate accomplishments so much more impressive given the school’s flagging reputation on the hardwood. At Kentucky, the twins are expendable. They’ll be recycled at the end of their freshman seasons and replaced with the next top high school stars.

Newsflash: The Harrison twins were going to be lottery picks anywhere. They can compete for a national title at dozens of high-major programs (Maryland included) not limited to the Bluegrass State. The NBA draft is all about the player, not the outfit. If Weber State can produce a top-six draft pick, one who wasn’t highly touted coming out of high school no less, the Harrison twins can be lottery picks regardless of where they attend school.

Scouts, unlike casual fans, don’t confuse visibility with ability.

Since Calipari has arrived in Lexington, only CJ Leslie and Shabazz Muhammad—both coveted Kentucky targets—have had the courage to tell him no. And that trend will continue at even starker degrees in this new age of the spoiled, over-glorified high school recruit.

Blame Coach Cal all you want for exploiting a badly broken system, but it’s the thoughtless kids and their handlers who enable his scheme to flourish. If reform in college basketball recruiting is in store, prized recruits with open minds and more originality must lead the way.

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