Big Blue Nation, I want you to think about what I’m about to say. I’m hearing all the accolades of an incoming recruiting class being the “best ever in the history of the game.” Come on, folks! Why would we do that to this new group of kids?
Let’s just think about the last four years. Our first freshman class helped us win 35 games with a chance to win the national title at the end of the year. We were No. 1 in the country, and those freshmen went No. 1, No. 5, No. 18 and No. 29 in the NBA Draft.
Think about the next year. We had a Final Four run at the end of the year and we were playing as well as any team in the country with freshman guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb and a freshman forward in Terrence Jones. Brandon and Enes Kanter went No. 3 and No. 8 in the draft that year, and Terrence and Doron went 18 and 42 the following year.
Did everyone already forget what last year’s class did? We had some great veteran leaders in Doron, Terrence and Darius Miller, but we don’t win 38 games and a national championship without those freshmen. We were the first team ever to have two players go 1-2 in the NBA Draft, and both of those guys were freshmen. Marquis Teague also went 29th in that draft as a freshman.
This year’s painting isn’t quite done, and who knows where it’s going to go. The issue with this team is it’s taken us time to get to the effort level and the togetherness as a team that it takes to really see how special this group could be.
With that being said, you can’t say that next year’s class is the best ever before they’ve even gotten here. We’re not even done yet. We may still sign another kid or two, but that’s not the point. Let them get here, let them figure out how hard they have to work and then let them figure out how together they’re going to have to be – how they’re truly going to have to be their brother’s keeper.
Like every team I’ve had, they are going to have to learn how to play more for their team than for themselves, yet they’re going to have to break comfort barriers that they’ve accepted their whole lives. Every game will be the other team’s Super Bowl.
This year’s team hasn’t figured that out yet. It just goes to show you that having talented kids and preseason accolades means nothing. It guarantees you nothing. We were ranked No. 3 in the country this year, which I thought was ridiculous. I thought everyone that ranked us that high needed to be drug tested. My hope was and still is that we would be one of those teams at the end of the year, but not at the beginning.
Ultimately, next year’s class will be judged on results. I may have a different viewpoint on that, but that’s just the way it is. They can’t be deemed anything until they get here and play. If you look at the best classes of all-time, it’s about what they accomplished. Yeah, they came in with high standards, but there have been a lot of classes that have been labeled No. 1 that didn’t pan out.
We don’t know how good this class will be until we see what it accomplishes. That’s going to take time, hard work and coming together. They’re also going to need next year’s returners to show them the way. We won’t achieve our goals if we put it all on a bunch of 17- and 18-year-old kids. We will need everybody, just like we do this year.
In the end, what I’m saying is to preordain a group of players isn’t fair to them. Let them pave their own way like every other group I’ve recruited over the years. It’s doesn’t mean I’m not excited to coach next year’s class or that they’re not going to be any good, but to say they are the best ever, that’s not fair to them or anyone else.