Even as I take some time to recharge the batteries and have a moment to read and work on my Spanish – “Hola!” – recruiting always seems to seep into my mind. What I’ve been thinking about lately is what are all these young people going to hear that is more myth than anything else? What message can I give that can help young athletes wade through the often confusing and challenging process they will go through?
I’ve said it before, Kentucky is not for everybody and Kentucky isn’t the only school where you can reach your dreams. But it is unique in a lot of ways.
Here are a few myths that I’ve thought about during this down time and I wanted to share these with the Big Blue Nation as a way of having you understand some of what goes into our recruiting philosophy and another example of how we are always focusing on being a players first program.
Myth #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 or John Wall if you can do both. As a team we’ve been to an Elite 8 and a Final Four in the past two seasons and this past Spring our program’s APR was right alongside Vanderbilt’s atop the SEC’s APR standings. Parents and student-athletes should look closely at APRs and GPAs (our team GPA for last semester was a 3.14). 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.”
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 two seasons ago when we became the first program ever to have five first round NBA draft picks. Again this past season, our Final Four team had four players drafted and with those nine NBA Draft picks we were 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 and DeAndre Liggins, 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.
I hope this gives you an idea what is racing through my re-energized mind as my feet are toes up in the sand. I hope all the Big Blue Nation puts down the game tapes, scouting reports and recruiting information this holiday weekend and thinks back on how fun these two years have been. Go Cats! Adios!