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Kentucky adds No. 1 center in 2013 class in Dakari Johnson


Kentucky’s fabulous 2013 recruiting class got even better Saturday night when Dakari Johnson, the top-ranked center in the 2013 class, gave his verbal commitment to the Wildcats. He’s the fifth top 20 recruit in Kentucky’s 2013 class.

“They were just honest people from the get-go,” Johnson said during his announcement on ESPN. “They told me that this wasn’t the place to come if I were selfish, if I wanted the ball all the time or if I didn’t want to work hard. I want to work hard, I want to get pushed. I want that pressure on me because that makes me a better player.”

The 6-10, 250-pound Johnson, who briefly played at Sayre High School in Lexington, is a solid scorer inside who calls himself a “hard worker” on the court.

“A presence in the post on the defensive end and the offensive end. I’m a great teammate, too. … I’m a good person on and off the court,” Johnson, a consensus top 15 recruit, said when asked to describe himself.Kentucky coach John Calipari now has  commitments from Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, James Young,Marcus Lee and Derek Willis (according to Rivals.com). All but Willis are top 20 recruits and the Harrisons and Young are all top 10.And don’t forget that Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, the top two ranked players in the 2013 class, still are high on UK.

Johnson said he wasn’t worried about current UK centers Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein do about the NBA draft after this season.

“I talked to Coach Cal and it wouldn’t matter to me,” Johnson told SportsNet New York last week. “Even if they stayed, they would push me harder in practice and I would just be better developed going against those guys every day.”

Johnson played one year with former UK standout Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a freshman at St. Patrick High in New Jersey, and the two players still talk. He also considers Young a “good friend” who has been encouraging him to commit to UK.


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  1. Kokamo Joe

    Amazing. The tide continues to roll in…..and out. Of course Johnson does not have to worry about Noel and Cauley-Stein because they will be gone. And Johnson will be gone after one year because Towns has already committed for 2014.

    Calipari will continue to schedule light in order to get his freshmen to bond and develop swagger. When they finish with the SEC each future team will be groomed to go deep in the NCAA tournament. NO COACH AND NO PROGRAM WILL BE ABLE TO COMPETE WITH UK AND CALIPARI YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT, AND THAT INCLUDES UL. At present UL is the only non SEC program that UK plays on a home and home basis. If UL continues to schedule us I expect Calipari to dominate Pitino and UL as far as the one and dones continue. The SEC will continue to be a UK playpen.

    Calipari will pick an occasional Kentucky kid such as the Willis youngster, but they will be wall paper….a kid to give a little Kentucky flavor with little or no playing time. This state does not develop the type of players that UK is now getting.

    Calipari has been lucky with injuries. That is the greatest danger of his system. He will have a rotation of 6 or 7 players and if a blown knee or torn shoulder sidelines even one of his players he will have no bench. Calipari also has been lucky with fouls. His players seldom get into serious foul trouble.

    And Calipari is not done yet! Look for Wiggins to commit. And look for Calipari to begin bringing the 2014 class in to help Towns. He will have a ton to replace after next year.

    1. King Ghidora

      I’m not so sure about the injury thing being a weak spot. His first year at UK he had a couple of experienced players coming off the bench who rarely got to play but actually had shown a good bit of promise in earlier years. No they weren’t the caliber of players Cal brings in but they were good enough. I’m talking about Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson. Both had proven they could compete in the SEC and do pretty well. Second year they had to contend with a lost prospect and Cal developed a bench warmer into an NBA caliber player in Jorts. I’m not so sure he couldn ‘t do that about every year. Last year there were bench players that could have made it. Polson has proven that and Vargas had talent. No Cal doesn’t like to go deep down the bench for players but that doesn’t mean he can’t. Rupp was the same way although Rupp did have more players. They had to stay 4 years in those days. I think Cal has been surprised at just how well some of his players developed too. I think he expected more of them to return for subsequent years. Who would have dreamed both Orton and Bledsoe would have gone pro after one year? Those guys could have still been playing at UK and certain programs that value their own wins over the future of the kids would have talked them into staying. Then look at Orton and tell me it would have been a good idea to talk him into staying. Instead of getting injured as a college kid he got injured as a pro with a few million in his bank account. Cal did the right thing not pressuring them to stay but that is the kind of thing that leads to a shallow bench.

      And then there’s next year. Great players will almost certainly be riding the pines next year. I see no way around it. It will look a lot like 1996 only with better players.

      Cal is doing fine IMO. I think he would like to have a deeper bench too but I don’t think he’s willing to ask a kid to risk his future just so he can have that deeper bench. And thinking like that draws recruits to UK. They “know” Cal has their best interests in mind. You can’t fake that and all the huffing and puffing about how UK’s players don’t get an education is pure bull spouted from fans of teams (and coaches) that are jealous of what Cal has done. Cal is the guy doing it right and the recruits know it. That’s why they come to Lexington to play.

      What’s Cal supposed to do? Recruit guys and tell them not to ever expect to play unless there is an injury? I don’t think he’s willing to do that. It’s not right for those kids. They should go where they can play and develop their game and maybe they will get that pro money too.

      1. Kokamo Joe

        Calipari has a system and it is working well. He brings these super stars to UK because he has a history of getting them in and out as fast as possible. Without that hook he would not be getting the number one recruiting class each year. For instance; Harrow is our point guard this year. He may develop enough that he can join the other four who will be leaving, but that is doubtful. The Harrison twins are not going to sit on the bench, so that means that if Harrow stays, he will become a role player. And Calipari’s role players seldom play even in blowout games.

        How can one dispute the system? One could say that Calipari should recruit role players, develop them, and allow them to play enough to develop experience and leadership. That way he would have some upperclassmen who could provide leadership. But that is not the way his system works. He plays his best 6 or 7 players and unless some one gets hurt, his super stars are going to be on the floor right up to the final seconds of even blow out games. Our recruits do not come here to “ride the pine.”

        1. King Ghidora

          “Should” recruit role players? Why? I’m sure he will sign decent players if they want to play but to actively recruit them? That’s giving up valuable scholarships and if Cal has proven anything this year it’s that he needs all of those he can get. To ask someone to come to UK and play knowing they have a small chance of playing isn’t a good idea IMO. Yes he can recruit the token Kentucky player now and then but not often. This team is made up of super stars and anyone going there expecting a ring side seat for all the fun is just wasting his time. It may come down to him being asked to leave. That would be bad. I’d rather see him save the scholarships for the Wiggins and Randle type players. If a bunch of Cats stick around this year where will the scholarships come from for those last to sign? It’s a risky deal to give up scholarships then be short when a Wiggins decides he wants to play.

          I think Cal knows what he is doing more than anyone in the history of the sport. I’m not about to criticize anything he’s doing because he clearly knows more about the situation than I do. How can we argue with his success? He’s got a free reign IMO and if anyone ever deserved one he does.

  2. LindaS

    I saw his pic last night, he is one big dude! Physically looking he reminds me of the type of player Nolan Ryan use to recruit. Can you imagine what this young man is going to do after Cal and Rock Oliver get done with him? WHOA! Excitement building for two programs next year but we need to finish this one first. Can’t overlook what we have this year! Livin’ Blue & Lovin’ It!

    1. Kokamo Joe

      Re: One big dude.

      Johnson is another of those super stars who have “reclassified” or skipped their senior year of high school. Noel did it. Johnson will do it. Future Cat Towns will do it. Johnson is no typical high school boy. He is a 6-10, 250 pound man. I don’t know about these players, but it is becoming common for kids with potential or even if their parents think they have potential to repeat the 7th or 8th grade. Perhaps that is why so many of these man children “reclassify.” For the most part our type of recruit does not go to a regular high school. Between the AAU experience and the high powered basketball factory that they attend they come to UK much more developed than kids at other universities.

      1. LindaS

        Dang, Kokamo Joe, I just thought it was better nutrition and they were getting more sleep!

  3. Karen Sprinkle

    Wow! Is it greedy to hope that we add one (or two) more players to this outrageous class? I am so looking forward to the beginning of SEC play Thursday, so this team can demonstrate what they have learned at Camp Cal.

  4. King Ghidora

    And the beat goes on! Amazing stuff. Once in a lifetime stuff. Once in the history of basketball stuff. It will never be topped unless Cal does it. I’ve learned to never say never when he’s involved. But mere mortals can forget ever besting this group of players. I hate to say this but anything less than being undefeated might be a let down but I’ll be happy with a national championship. :) Actually I’ll be happy just to watch a team of this caliber play.

    UK has always been said to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent. This is the first time I have even thought it might be true. I fully expect Randle to join this team and only Wiggins parents give me pause to think he might not be a Cat. But if he values his future he should be and I think he will. So put those two on my expected version of this recruiting class and we will see a team that Wooden never came anywhere near equaling.

    Way to go Cal and the assistants Antigua, Payne and Robie. All I can say is “WOW”.

    1. Larry T Clemons

      King you nailed it ! ” Historic “….


    I could be wrong, but the HUGE DUDE that left UCLA for G’town could have helped make Johnson’s decision that much easier.

  6. David

    Keeping my fingers crossed for 1 or 2 of the three left out there. Looking like a good chance of a final 4 run in 2014


    Dakari is a real nice pickup…great attitude, intelligent, and while not the leaper that Noel and WCS are, a better offensive skilled, back to basket player. This is truly the golden era of basketball at Kentucky!

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