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By LARRY VAUGHT
Considering all the recruiting success heâ€™s had since he arrived at Kentucky, itâ€™s almost like UK coach John Calipari has hit a slump. What has it been, almost as month, since all he did was land Nerlens Noel, the nationâ€™s top-ranked prospect and a defensive whiz who many think could be a better defender than Anthony Davis?
Yet this five-star forward Anthony Bennett announced he would sign with Nevada-Las Vegas or Oregon, not Kentucky. Xavier transfer Mark Lyons also opted for Arizona, not Kentucky â€” even though that could turn out to be a blessing because of his temperament.
Another five-star recruit, Amile Jefferson of Philadelphia, continues to weigh his options with reports that he is favoring North Carolina State, or maybe Villanova, over Kentucky. Then there is 2013 five-star prospect Troy Williams, who has twice delayed his scheduled announcement of whether he will eventually sign with UKâ€ˆor North Carolina â€” with North Carolina the perceived leader.
Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels says it is not time for UK fans to panic or wonder if Calipari has lost his Midas touch after signing Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein in what is considered either the nationâ€™s best or No. 2 recruiting class by most.
â€œThey got four really good players, including three (Noel, Poythress and Goodwin) among the top 20 in the country,â€ said Daniels. â€œThere are going to be some misses, even for Calipari. I think UK fans are slightly spoiled with what he has accomplished. This so-called slump wonâ€™t last long.â€
Thatâ€™s being nice because Calipari has totally spoiled UK fans with his string of No. 1 recruiting classes to the point that it makes it hard to fathom that a player like Bennett, who goes to prep school in Las Vegas, might simply want to stay in Las Vegas, play where he can have more playing time or feels heâ€™s not cut out for the spotlight at UK.
â€œA lot depends on the kid and what is he looking for,â€ Daniels said. â€œAnthony Bennett has been in Las Vegas going to school. He has easy access to the UNLV campus now. Some kids love the big stage like UK with the larger fan base and like being a celebrity. Some do not. Kentucky is not for everybody even though far more like that atmosphere than donâ€™t. But all kids are not the same and some are just looking for different things.
â€œI donâ€™t see not getting him as a major deal for Kentucky. They still have the No. 1 recruiting class. They are still trying to find one or more players to add, but itâ€™s not like they donâ€™t have a lot of good players for next year.â€
Calipari could still be involved with guard Torian Graham or Wright State transfer Julius Mays, another guard. But donâ€™t forget that Calipari filled UKâ€™s top need last month when he signed Noel.
â€œNerlens is definitely that guy they needed the most,â€ Daniels said. â€œThey desperately needed his defensive presence. Willie is a great talent and will be a great player down the road, but Nerlens is ready to be that guy now. He will make an immediate major impact on the defensive end.
â€œArchie and Alex will take care of the scoring. Thatâ€™s why (UCLA spring signee) Shabazz (Muhammad) was not as important as Noel. Nerlens can dominate without scoring a point and that translates nicely into the college game. He is the No. 1 player in the country and the most dominant defensive player in the country. He is getting better offensively, too. He has a nice touch and has the tools to be good.â€
But not Davis-good offensively, at least not his freshman season. Daniels correctly noted that Davisâ€™ outside shot and hook shot were developed in high school and showcased at UK after he gained confidence midway of the season.
â€œBut he had all that in high school. Nerlens doesnâ€™t,â€ Daniels said. â€œBy the end of the year, Davis was dominating.â€ˆNerlens will take more time offensively to do that.â€
Could Noel and Cauley-Stein play together?
â€œI want to say thatâ€™s not possible, but with Calipari I am not certain it wonâ€™t happen,â€ Daniels said. â€œCauley is a talent. He just needs more time before he is called on in a full-time role. He can play 10 to 12 minutes a game. He will block shots. He runs the floor. But he still has a ways to go.â€