Ever since bringing in head coach John Calipari, Kentucky’s recruiting has been off the charts. While many of the Calipari-coached stars have not spent more than a year in college—John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist among them—six of the eight possible 2014 NBA Draft prospects on this year’s national runner-up Kentucky squad will return for next season.
Of course, during the recruiting process for this upcoming recruiting class, Calipari and his staff certainly could not have expected this type of unprecedented return in talent. Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Dakari Johnson make for an amazing core by itself, but the ‘Cats also have four blue-chip recruits coming in. Trey Lyles, Karl Towns Jr., Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis are each five-star recruits according to ESPN, and they are each one of the top five players at their position based on ESPN’s rankings. While many of them probably expected to start right away, there is now a log-jam for minutes at Kentucky.
Ulis, who is a speedster at 5-foot-9, has been called a perfect fit for Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense, but he will likely come in as a reserve behind Andrew Harrison. Booker is a bigger guard, similar to the Harrison twins, who can catch and shoot well. He brings a lot of the same things to the table as Aaron Harrison, but after Harrison’s big NCAA Tournament, it is unlikely that he will be usurped. Towns will battle rising junior Cauley-Stein and sophomore Johnson for time at center, and Lyles has the same issue with Marcus Lee.
In all, Poythress (2012), Andrew Harrison (2013), Aaron Harrison (2013), Johnson (2013), Lee (2013), Ulis (2014), Towns (2014), Booker (2014), and Lyles (2014) are all alumni of the prestigious McDonald’s All-American game, which is generally considered the top High School All-American game in the country. While some may think that this cause Kentucky some chemistry issues, Calipari has a great record at managing these types of talents, and if anyone can handle this type of roster, it is him.
Amazingly, the powerhouse that was built on the one-and-done, or “succeed-and-proceed”, rule seems to have broken the revolving door of All-Americans, and will have significant returning experience for the first time in Calipari’s tenure. Unless all nine of these players make an NBA jump next season, which is unlikely, this is a scary notion for the rest of the country.