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Paul Biancardi was impressed with how John Calipari was able to put together such a talented recruiting class only a few months after arriving at Kentucky a year ago.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I thought what he did lat year was brilliant and a minor miracle,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Biancardi, a former college basketball coach and now ESPNUÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s national director of recruiting. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When changing jobs it is so hard. You have to try to keep the players you have from transferring, go meet the team and hope none leave. You have to speak to recruits that were already signed and then find new recruits.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He had just got hired at Kentucky where everybody wanted to hear him talk and speak. But he came up with a tremendous class with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe and managed to keep Daniel Orton as well as get Patrick Patterson to come back. It was remarkable.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why Biancardi says heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not surprised at all with how well CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recruiting is going this year. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s signed Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter, two of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top players, along with Doron Lamb and Stacey Poole, two more top 50 players. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also got verbal commitments from two of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top juniors, Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now that he has been there a year and shown what a great coach he is on the court and the way he can develop players, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very interesting to recruits. They look at the way he coaches and develops players and they envision being in that same position where they have a chance to make an impact as a freshman like Wall and Cousins did,Ã¢â‚¬Â Biancardi said.
Biancardi says Calipari doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get enough credit for developing players like he has and that too many assume Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Wall and Cousins were so talented that CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s coaching didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help them.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You read about him, you read about the school and you read about the recruits, but you do not read about all the hours he puts in developing players. The hours on individual workouts from September to the end of the school year,Ã¢â‚¬Â Biancardi said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has year-round strength and conditioning work, video work. Those are not sexy topics to write about or read about, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the nuts and bolts of what he does daily.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Biancardi recalls how Calipari started as a camp instructor and enjoys instruction. He also thinks John Robic, a former head coach, is a valuable assistant for Calipari and that both assistants Orlando Antigua and Rod Strickland relate well to players and are good teachers.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Then nobody talks about what a good defensive coach Cal is. Look at CalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s teams and they have all been successful because they ahve a demanding defensive presence. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of the best at that,Ã¢â‚¬Â Biancardi said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He really preaches defense. He takes talented players and makes them defend. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the sign of an excellent teacher.Ã¢â‚¬Â
But thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more to Calipari that brings top talent to him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good with kids. Cal cares and they know it,Ã¢â‚¬Â Biancardi said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He cares about their development and success as well as the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s development and success. He has that rare ability to satisfy both, something not many coaches can do.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We yell at our children. But when we are teaching them, we have to sometimes be tough to make a point. Every coach yells, but the difference with CalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s players is that he knows he cares about them as much as the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s development. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a rare combination. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of many things that makes him so great.Ã¢â‚¬Â