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Revisiting the five myths of recruiting

The following is a post I wrote last summer on what I called the five myths of recruiting. I posted it because I wanted to help young athletes wade through the often confusing and challenging recruiting process they go through. It was a way of showing the Big Blue Nation what goes into our recruiting philosophy and another example of how we are always focusing on being a players-first program.

Just because we’ve won a national championship doesn’t mean anything has changed. Those same myths that existed a year ago are still pertinent today. Kentucky is not for everybody and it isn’t the only school where you can reach your dreams. But it is unique in a lot of ways.

As a reminder to everyone, here are the five myths of recruiting that we came up with last year, with a few updates:

Myth No. 1: “Your talent will carry you; it doesn’t really matter where you go.”

Young people need to look at what specific programs have done with players like them in the past. Have they developed their talents and improved them as players and as people? Have they helped the young men reach their full potential and truly reach their dreams?

Coaches are creatures of habit; we don’t change. We seem to play the same way with small adjustments every year. No coach will change their system for a player; more likely they will try to change the player to fit the system. In essence, you’re picking a system as well as a coach and a school. TALENT DOES MATTER but developing that talent is the crucial part of the equation.

Myth No. 2: “You can’t play at a high level and have a focus on academics too.”

Ask Brandon Knight, John Wall or Anthony Davis if you can do both. As a team we’ve won the national championship, been to the Final Four and reached the Elite Eight in the past three seasons, all while consistently meeting and exceeding the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. Parents and student-athletes should look closely at APRs and grade-point averages (we’ve had better than a 3.0 since Knight arrived on campus). We are not the only program that competes both on the court and in the classroom, but you can pick a school where both matter.

At the end of day, the young men in our program are taught as much about life after basketball as they are about basketball itself and that is done by constantly focusing on the classroom.

Myth No. 3: “You will get exposure wherever you go.”

True, there are several places where young men can showcase their talents and receive a world-class education, but what’s different here at UK is that you get what I call “The Kentucky Effect.” That means a 20-percent bump in draft position, potential shoe contracts, marketing and other facets. Sometimes it seems like our players are 20 percent taller, faster and stronger too. Again, we aren’t the only school like that, but we are the one that will have the most direct affect on that through our national TV exposure and our ability to play in the nation’s top venues and tournaments.

Myth No. 4: “You don’t want to play with the best players because everyone will be out for themselves.”

We shot plenty holes in that myth in our run to the national championship, wouldn’t you say?

The reality is you want to learn to play with the best players because at every level from here on out, that is what you will be doing. What I have found is that the teams that are a compilation of the best players – and the ones where everyone becomes their brothers’ keepers – are the ones which have the most success both together and individually.

That was proven three seasons ago when we became the first program ever to have five first-round NBA draft picks, again in 2011 when our Final Four team had four players drafted, and of course last season with the national title and a record six draft picks. We’ve had 15 players drafted over the last three years while being one of the most efficient teams in the country in both offense and defense.

Myth No. 5 “The school that has recruited me the longest is where I should go.”

Just because a school offers you first doesn’t mean it’s the right place. What happens in our program is we encourage players to explore their NBA opportunities. So what could happen is three underclassmen get chosen in the first five picks of the draft and that opens up spots that weren’t available two years earlier. It doesn’t mean that we are questioning the player’s talent, it’s that we are trying to act in the best interest of our existing players and the players we would like to be in our program. The worst scenario is a young player commits early with a school only to have the team or the player find out later that it’s not the right fit. I believe that’s why you see so many de-commitments these days.

I hope all the players that do come with us truly feel they are in a family environment. We will be patient as we were with draft picks Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller, yet we will challenge each to reach their own level of excellence. “Comfort” is a bad word in our program. All our players are challenged daily to break through their comfort zone so their talent can be truly developed.