Cal does it again: UK signs five highly touted players for 2013

Just when you think John Calipari’s recruiting can’t get any better, he hauls in one of the greatest classes of all-time.

Already touted as the best signing class for next year by every major recruiting service, John Calipari announced five players for his 2013 class during the early signing period on Thursday. Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Fort Bend, Texas), James Young (Rochester Hills, Mich.), Marcus Lee (Antioch, Calif.), and Derek Willis (Mt. Washington, Ky.) have all signed national letters of intent to play basketball at the University of Kentucky, starting in the 2013-14 season.

Four of the five-man recruiting class are regarded as consensus top-40 players, and three of them are rated in the major recruiting services’ top 10.

The class is highlighted by the Harrison twins, two 6-foot-5, 205-pound guards who are regarded as some of the most complete basketball players out of high school over the last decade.

“In my estimation, this is the most talented set of twins to ever enter college basketball,” said Dave Telep, an ESPN recruiting analyst.  “They have the ability to change the landscape, not only of a team and a league, but also inject themselves potentially into a national championship race. In the grand scheme of things, John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats have had some big heat checks on the recruiting trail lately, maybe none bigger than this one with the Harrison twins.”

If Calipari can notch another signee or two in the spring signing period, it could be the greatest recruiting class of all-time. Either way, it looks like Coach Cal is well on his way to his fifth straight top-ranked recruiting class.

Check below for a recap of each player, including a bio blast, quote from Cal and video highlights.

Andrew Harrison

  • 6-foot-5, 205-pound point guard from Fort Bend, Texas
  • Ranked No. 3 overall by ESPN and Scout and No. 5 by Rivals
  • Consensus No. 1 point guard
  • Averaged 12.5 points, 6.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals as a junior at Travis High School
  • Led team to 36-4 record and a trip to the Class 5A state championship game last season
  • Named to Preseason American Family Insurance ALL-USA Team
  • Committed with twin brother on Oct. 4
  • Along with brother, first signee from Texas since Jeff Brassow (1989-94)
  • Twitter:

Why Andrew Harrison chose the Cats

I think Coach Calipari presented a challenge for us. He just told (Aaron Harrison and I) from day one it was going to be hard, it was going to be tough and he was going to push us every day. That’s what we really wanted to hear. We just want to become better players.”

He has a lot of high draft picks as point guard. I just want to get there first and I just want to become better every day. I’m not looking to that yet. I just want to get there on campus and show them what I can do.” 

Cal says 

Andrew comes in ready to play physically at the point-guard position. He’s a driver, slasher and playmaker with great size. He and his brother Aaron have the ability to be great on-ball defenders.”

What they’re saying about Andrew Harrison

He just crushes opponents because he’s so physically strong. When he gets in the lane he can handle the bump. He seeks out the contact; in fact he creates it at times. He still plays with his head up and his eyes up. He can score the basketball when he gets into the lane or he can distribute. I like the way he runs the team. He’s not a shot-happy point guard, but when he wants to score the basketball, he knows how to do that.” – Paul Biancardi, ESPN
He makes guys uncomfortable on the floor. You’re nervous because you have to guard him behind the 3-point line. And then you see the physical presence. I’ve seen this kid intimidate other players ad nauseum. He’s a real problem for guys to defend, and when you have swagger, you have confidence and you have the scoring ability and the range to back that up, you’re a beast.” – Dave Telep, ESPN

Video highlights

Aaron Harrison

  • 6-foot-5, 205-pound shooting guard from Fort Bend, Texas
  • Ranked No. 4 overall by Rivals and Scout and No. 5 by ESPN
  • Consensus No. 1 shooting guard
  • Averaged 18.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.6 steals as a junior at Travis High School
  • Led team to 36-4 record and 5A state championship game in 2011-12
  • Older of the twins by one minute
  • Twitter:

Why Aaron Harrison chose the Cats

(Andrew and I) just sat down one night and just decided we wanted to go somewhere that we wanted to win and knew we could win as soon as we got there.”

Everyone knows who you are when you walk in the gym. It’s a great feeling.” 

Cal says 

Aaron is more of a scoring guard who can make shots and make plays at the rim. He can also play some point in a pinch. Like his brother, Andrew, he has the ability to physically dominate the opponent.”

What they’re saying about Aaron Harrison

I think he samples from a whole bunch of guys. Maybe the size of a Joe Johnson, the versatility of a Brandon Roy, a guy who can score in different ways like Ben Gordon, who had the development of his 3-point game.”  – Dave Telep, ESPN

They’re going to be game-changers in college basketball. Their no-nonsense approach to the game separates them from their peers. It’s actually refreshing. They beat you with substance, not so much with style.” – Paul Biancardi, ESPN

Video highlights

James Young

  • 6-foot-6, 200-pound guard out of Rochester Hills, Mich.
  • Ranked No. 6 overall by ESPN and No. 10 by Rivals and Scout
  • Rated the second-best shooting guard by Rivals and ESPN and the third-best small forward by Scout
  • Averaged 25.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals as a junior for Troy High School
  • All-State First Team by the Associated Press, Detroit News and Detroit Free Press as a junior
  • Will play for Rochester High School as a senior
  • Twitter:

Why Young chose the Cats

Kentucky has always been my dream school. I’ve always dreamed of going to that school, and once I went up there to go visit, I just fell in love with the place. It’s a great atmosphere, great coaching, great facility and great basketball history behind it. I just love it.”

I’m not just looking for the NBA. I’m just there for the education; there to get a national championship.” – Young

Cal says

James is a long, athletic and skilled wing. He’s a lefty who can shoot it and get in transition. You can throw it ahead to him and he can make basketball plays. He rebounds the ball for his position as well anyone in the class.”

What they’re saying about Young

Everybody thinks they can score. Not everybody is 6-6, left-handed, versatile and can actually be an alpha dog and can score the basketball in a major college program. James Young comes in and he assumes a role like that and solves some needs for you in terms of turning the scoreboard.”  – Dave Telep, ESPN

He can score the basketball in a variety ways. He’s very good at shooting 3s off the dribble, off the catch. When he’s not making shots, he can slash his way to the basket, find the rim, create points. (He’s) 80 percent from the foul line, and he’s a good passer.” – Paul Biancardi, ESPN

Video highlights

Marcus Lee

  • 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward from Antioch, Calif.
  • Ranked No. 17 overall by Rivals, No. 30 by ESPN and No. 40 by Scout
  • Regarded as a top-10 forward/center
  • Averaged 13.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 9.1 blocks, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals as a junior
  • Led his high school’s volleyball team to a 37-4 record as a junior
  • Twitter:

Why Lee chose the Cats

“Everyone made me feel like I was part of their family. Being far away from home, that was important. The coaches treated me like I was their son.”

Kentucky is a defensive-minded team, and that’s what I do best. I am not the biggest or strongest guy in the world, so the faster pace of the game fits me.”

Cal says

Marcus Lee is a long, agile, quick-bounce, quick-twitch, 6-9 forward. He gets to the basket, he’s a terrific shot-blocker and he can rebound above the rim. Marcus has unlimited upside because he’s going to get stronger and he’s going to improve his skill around the basket. His speed, quickness, jumping ability and length set him apart.”

What they’re saying about Lee

First and foremost he can guard the rim. He has excellent bounce, plenty of length and athletic ability to die for. The guy runs the floor like a gazelle, and he’s only going to get better. Guys tend to play hard for Calipari, and harnessing Lee’s raw potential is next up on the docket.” – Dave Telep, ESPN

Potential, upside — whatever you want to call it, Lee is laced with it. This is a kid whose body could explode under the tutelage of a strength-and-conditioning coach. He has the physical attributes that will excite pro teams down the road. With reasonable development and controlled expectations, Lee has strong projections.”  – Dave Telep, ESPN

Video highlights

Derek Willis

  • 6-foot-9, 195-pound forward from Mt. Washington, Ky.
  • Rated the No. 25 power forward by Rivals, No. 27 by Scout and No. 37 by ESPN
  • Averaged 18.0 points and 9.3 rebounds as a junior at Bullitt East High School
  • Led team to Kentucky’s Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena
  • First commit of the 2013 class
  • Twitter:

Why Willis chose the Cats

I had a great relationship with Coach Cal. I feel like I can play multiple positions for him.”

What stood out about Kentucky is the best players in the nation play there so I wanted to join them.”

Cal says

Derek is a very skilled, 6-9 big man who is learning to play through bumps, which is going to elevate his game. He’s a long-armed basketball player who can get his hands on balls and really pass. Like Marcus, he has a tremendous upside because he’s going to get stronger and be able to play more physical and really use his size and his shot-making ability to spread the court for us.”

What they’re saying about Willis

Willis is a fantastic shooter out to 20 feet and also has the skills to handle the ball comfortably on the perimeter. Great size and skills. Can be put in different spots on the floor, but will certainly make defenses close out, thus creating more space on the floor for others. When he makes the strength coach his best friend, he will blossom.” – Paul Biancardi, ESPN

Video highlights