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Who would you rank as the best recruiter in college basketball?


Who is the best recruiter in college basketball?

Kentucky fans certainly were not surprised that Scott Gleeson of USA Today sports ranked UK’s John Calipari No. 1.

Here’s what he wrote about Calipari: “There’s no question Calipari is the best recruiter in college basketball. Since arriving in Lexington, he’s landed a wide array of five-star recruits including John Wall, Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel. Over the past five years, Calipari and his staff have reeled in a whopping 15 five-star recruits. He affirmed his dominance atop the recruiting world with his 2013 class that could be one of the best freshmen groups since the Fab 5 in the early 1990s. The vaunted incoming class — which boasts top-10 recruits Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and James Young — will pin the Wildcats as the top team in the country heading into the season.”

He went with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Kansas’ Bill Self, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Arizona’s Sean Miller complete his top five.  He gave honorable mentions to Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Thad Matta (Ohio State), Tom Crean (Indiana), Josh Pastner (Memphis), Billy Donovan (Florida), John Beilein (Michigan).

What about Louisville coach Rick Pitino? He was not mentioned by Gleeson, which seemed a bit of a surprise given the success Pitino has had in his career and based on the 2014 recruiting class he’s already assembled.

So how would you rank the nation’s best recruiters? Would Pitino make your top 10?

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  1. hawaiibillT

    Cal is a great recruiter but its the Kentucky name that helps puts him above everyone else.

  2. Larry T Clemons

    The bringing together of these two ingredients is the World Class Success…( Peanut Butter & Chocolate ), oops, I mean,” Kentucky & Calipari “…

  3. Anonymous

    The winning combination…Calipari/his results, Kentucky’s past & present fame, BBN, and outstanding facilities-a winning hand anyway you look at it!

  4. Ira

    The Kentucky name does help, but it didn’t help with the last 2 coaches. Good classes but nowhere near what they should have been for UK.

    1. TheProfessor

      Ira, the Kentucky name did help with the last two coaches, but the baseline from which the boost occurred was not anywhere close to the starting points for Calipari, Pitino, Sutton, or Hall.

  5. Larry Pup

    John Calipari hands down. I don’t like to admit it, but Pitino surely has to be in the mix.

  6. Kokamo JOe

    Ira: I do not know of any coach in the history of College basketball that has come close to matching John Calipari. IMO, it is his emphasis “Kids First” and his success of getting players to the pros quickly that keeps these kids coming and coming and coming. I have always believed that regardless of the fineness of a ship, it is the captain that makes it go. Calipari’s success and the lack of this type of success by Sutton, Smith and Gillispie proves that.

    After WW II Adolph Rupp build the Fabulous Five with older guys who were discharged from the service plus regular recruits like Ralph Beard. He actually had all Americans sitting on the bench. Rupp could recruit and who can argue with his success, but he did not bring number one classes year after year. Nobody but Calipari has done that.

  7. Kokamo Joe

    I have to disagree, at least in some respects. Nobody has ever recruited like this at Kentucky. If Kentucky was what draws these recruits, then other coaches would have had the same success. Kentucky did help Hall, Rupp, and Pitino, but they did not recruit like Calipari. IMO, Calipari, now that he has established his brand, could go almost anywhere and recruit like crazy.

    Before Calipari players came to UK to play for both UK and whatever coach was working in Lexington. Many players stayed around for four years and graduated. None, that I remember before Calipari was one and done. There is a great difference between why kids choose to come to Kentucky then and now.. For many recruits, especially for the many Kentucky kids who played major roles for the Cats, the goal was to PLAY FOR THE CATS. The sport has changed. The NBA now gobbles up the best of college players early, many after one year. If Calipari recruits the very best, then it stands to reason that the NBA will be after them. And if you get the number one recruiting class each year, then you must place this year’s bunch so that you can get next year’s bunch. That is what is driving Calipari’s great success.

    Calipari has begun a new tradition

  8. LindaS

    Don’t like peanut butter and chocolate Larry. LOL

  9. King Ghidora

    Actually Rupp and Joe Hall came very close to doing what Cal has done. No they haven’t had #1 classes every year but how could they? Players stayed 4 years. But those guys always put a ton of talent on the floor. It was an “embarrassment of riches” as they used to say in the Joe B. days. And before that Rupp had incredible talent. The Super Kittens was his last great class. Those guys were all phenomenal. Then Hall started right off with Robey, Phillips, Givens and Lee not to mention Larry Johnson and Dan Hall. Then there was an unbelievable string of McD AA’s like Dwight Anderson, Sam Bowie, Derrick Hord, Dirk Minniefield, along with another guy who was a Parade AA, Charles Hurt. All those guys came in the 1979 season. Two years later it was Jim Master along with Mel Turpin and Dicky Beal. This was an incredible assembly of talent on one team and Hall wasn’t done. A guy named Bret Bearup came in the next season, another McD AA. The next season it was Kenny Walker and Roger Harden, both McD AA’s. The next season it was James Blackmon, also a McD AA along with Winston Bennett, another McD AA. Keep in mind that the roster for that 1984 team consisted of 8 McD AA’s on the roster. That’s pretty freaking good IMO. And there were some very high draft picks among that crowd including Bowie, who would have went even higher if not for the leg, and Kenny Walker as well as Turpin. That team was very nearly as talented as the current UK teams. Hall was a tremendous recruiter and he used the name “Kentucky” to great advantage.

    The Rupp teams should speak for themselves. The Runts, Issel Pratt and Casey, the Super Kittens, the Fiddlin’ Five, etc. etc. etc.. The guy didn’t really have to recruit. Players came to him wanting to play for the Cats and I’m talking great players.

    And you’re dead wrong about Sutton not putting together any good teams. He had the misfortune of battling the newly formed ESPN propaganda machine. They started out as a regional sports network and they have supported that same region all along. It won’t be hard to guess the region either.

    But Sutton signed a list of players like Chapman, Ed Davender, Mills, Richard Madison, LeRon Ellis, Manuel, Cedric Jenkins, and Shawn Kemp who were all McD AA players. There was to be more but the NCAA came down on the Cats mostly because they wanted to end the spectre of UK signing more talent than any other team in the country. They thought it was over when Hall retired but suddenly here comes Sutton signing a super team. I will go to my grave believing that was the reason for the “investigation’ and the sanctions. All it did was make UK even stronger in the long run though. BTW Sutton also signed players like Miller and Lock who were Parade AA’s at the time. If you count them up that’s 8 McD AA’s that would have been on the roster if not for the NCAA and a stolen necklace. The proof the NCAA used to condemn UK was laughable and only being sold out by the UK president, David Roselle, made the Cats a vulnerable target. Roselle landed the highest paying university president job in the country right after that. It was in the coveted NE corridor too and a “prestige” institution at that. What a scam. He sold out the Cats period.

    I’d say Orlando Smith started out signing great players too. Bogans and Prince were his first two great players. Marvin Stone was an early recruit too. All were considered great prospects and were McD AA’s. Estill was considered a good player as was John Stewart who was the saddest case of any UK recruit ever. Then came Jason Parker, another McD AA along with Cliff Hawkins, a Parade AA. That should have given UK a tremendous nucleus for a team but certain influences caused the team to become known as “Team Turmoil” and it was all downhill from there until Cal came along. Still there were great, great players along the way like Rondo, Patterson, Miller and Crawford (all McD AA) and Hayes (a Parade AA). But the spiral kept going down and the talent wasn’t coming until Cal opened the floodgate.

    I know it seemed like he brought in players like never before but that’s really not true. What he did that was different was bring in players every year. Other coaches didn’t need to do that though. Cal brought in 2 McD AA’s his first year along with other significant talent but not considered top level talent. The second year he brought in 3 McD AA’s. That’s not all that different from what Joe Hall was able to do. His third year it was 4 and his 4th year it was 6 plus a Parade AA. The last year was of course the best ever for any team. But the other years were not all that different from the way Hall brought in players. Sure Hall didn’t do it every year but he didn’t need to. It’s speculation whether he could have done it or not. He seemed to be able to keep a full roster of great players and that’s what really counts IMO. Of course Hall never matched the haul of this roster. No one has. IMO Cal has proven himself to be one incredible recruiter. But aside from doing it every year (which other coached didn’t need to do and of course some couldn’t do) the only real difference year was this team coming in. But let’s look at this. There will be 8 McD AA’s on this team. Hall had that many in 1984. That seems significant to me. And he got the very top players too. Bowie and Walker were both top of the board players. He also trained players like Turpin to be as good as they get. He had talent like Dicky Beal that just can’t be matched very often ( he was the fastest player I’ve ever seen except maybe for Dwight Anderson – who was also signed by Hall but was kicked off the team for violating team rules). Both Beal and Bowie had serious injuries unfortunately and it slowed both of them down. If not then it could well be that the 1984 team could be considered among the very best of all time. Bowie, Beal, Blackmon, Walker, Bennett, Harden, Bearup, Master, and some other good players. That was an incredible collection of talent. Bowie was 7’2″ and could run the floor like a guard and shoot from outside (#6 all time UK rebounder), Beal was blazingly fast and shot 57% from the floor (that’s right – 57%), Turpin who shot 60% from the floor and was half of the twin towers lineup, Kenny Walker (#8 all time UK rebounder) who could jump out of the gym, Harden who is #3 on the all time UK assists chart, Jim Master who would have been a deadly 3 point shooter if they had a 3 point line at the time, Bennett (#11 all time rebounder) and that’s a long way from being all. Turpin and Bowie are #2 and #3 on the all time blocked shots list, Walker was #15. Kenny Walker #1 all time free throws, Bennett is #6. Bowie is #17. Walker #2 all time scorer just 58 points behind Issel. Turpin is #16 and Bennett #22. Bowie is the #8 all time rebounder, Bennett is #11, Turpin is #21. Beal is #15 on assists.

    I’d say this is a description of a mighty good team and at least as talented as some of the current teams. Cal is a great recruiter and IMO he is the best. But Hall, Rupp, & Pitino were not that far behind. Rupp built the tradition. Everyone else has cashed in on it to one degree or another.

  10. UKFAN197TONE

    McDonald’s had teams back in ’84?

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