LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky coach John Calipari isn't wasting
any time trying to fill the massive holes in his roster after
freshmen All-Americans John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins opted to
leave for the NBA.
Calipari spent Thursday in Virginia and North Carolina. He will
split time this weekend between the West Coast and New York City in
efforts to restock a team decimated by early defections to the
Wall, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, and
Cousins, the SEC Freshman of the Year, were among five Wildcats who
declared for the NBA Draft on Wednesday. The quintet also includes
junior forward Patrick Patterson, freshman center Daniel Orton and
freshman guard Eric Bledsoe.
The group combined for 57.7 points a game and comprised the
backbone of a team that went 35-3 and won the SEC regular-season
and conference tournament titles before falling to West Virginia in
the NCAA regional finals.
Calipari bristled at the notion that inexperience cost Kentucky
- which started three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior - a shot
at the title. He pointed out that only Wall and Patterson were
considered surefire NBA picks when the season began while Cousins,
Bledsoe and Orton played their way into the draft.
"I'm going to keep recruiting the best players I can find," he
said in an audio post on lexy.com.
He'll have to do it again to keep the Wildcats competitive, a
task he'll eagerly tackle every year if it means he can produce
The Wildcats will bring in seven or eight freshmen next fall,
including forward Stacey Poole Jr. and center Enes Kanter. Kentucky
is also in the mix for high-profile guard Brandon Knight. Though
it's unlikely he'll face a scenario next year where four freshman
jump to the NBA, he won't try to keep underclassmen on campus if he
believes they have a legitimate shot at competing at the next
"If they have a chance to leave, I will encourage them like I
did these five," Calipari said. "I will encourage them to do it.
I'm not going to try and convince them, but I will help them be
Calipari took a brief break from recruiting on Friday morning to
sign 1,200 commemorative bottles of Maker's Mark bourbon at
Keeneland Race Course. The special bottles are covered in blue wax
and feature a white silhouette of Calipari's face.
There were 24,000 bottles made, and additional orders for empty
bottles are being accepted. Proceeds will benefit the UK Symphony
Orchestra and the School of Music's outreach program.
"I'm in the middle of recruiting, I know people would like me
to sign bottles for five hours," Calipari said in between
signatures. "But for people to wait outside from three in the
morning, then it's like 'OK, let me spend a couple hours here, sign
some bottles and do the thing they need me to do."
What the fans would like him to do is find a way to duplicate
the success he enjoyed in his first year at one of the most
demanding jobs in the country. He says he's trying.
"Let's keep the bar raised," he said.