College Basketball: John Calipari and the 10 Best Recruiters
If you’re an aspiring college basketball coach and want to know what it takes to be an ace recruiter, then I recommend picking the brain of any of these 10 coaches.
This gaudy list consists of the 10 best in the business today when it comes to attracting the cream of the crop in terms of elite high school and prep school players.
If you take away anything from this list, it’s that the great coaches have great players on the floor more times than not (no kidding!). The coaches on this list have won a combined 13 national championships over the years.
But among these coaches, who can be considered the best? Well, before we get to the top, let’s start with No. 10.
10. Scott Drew
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With two appearances in the Elite Eight under his belt, Baylor coach Scott Drew is currently leading the Bears program through its golden age.
Much of this success is attributed to Drew’s ability to attract stellar talent to Waco. This year, Baylor has Rivals's sixth-best recruiting class.
It’s a class headlined by a top-five player in power forward Isaiah Austin. Other stud recruits who have taken the court for Baylor under Drew’s watch include Quincy Miller, Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. And unsung players like Brady Heslip, A.J. Walton and Anthony Jones have also played key roles in Baylor’s recent basketball success.
9. Sean Miller
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Arizona’s Sean Miller has only been in the desert for a couple of seasons, but he’s quickly becoming one of the game’s best recruiters.
The Wildcats boast Rivals's third-best 2012 recruiting class. It’s a class consisting of star center Kaleb Tarczewski, top-25 power forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley, and sharpshooter Gabe York.
This comes on the heels of last year’s fourth-ranked class that included the promising backcourt of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson. A few more years of reeling in impressive classes like these two, and Miller should have Arizona returning to its glory days of the 1990s.
8. Tom Crean
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Indiana basketball is back in a big way, thanks largely to the recruiting efforts of coach Tom Crean. He and his staff have gained big momentum in the recruiting game the past few seasons.
It starting with the wooing of superb center Cody Zeller to Bloomington, but it definitely hasn’t stopped there. Indiana’s 2012 class is of top-five caliber, with impressive recruits like Kevin Ferrell, Hanner Perea, Jeremy Hollowell and Ron Patterson.
And next year’s class is already shaping up to be a dandy, thanks to commitments from Devin Davis, Collin Hartman and Luke Fischer. This accumulation of talent means that the Hoosiers are poised to return to dominance very soon.
7. Ben Howland
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UCLA coach Ben Howland reminded us this spring that he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the recruiting business.
Missing the NCAA Tournament two of the past three seasons didn’t stop Howland from pulling in the nation’s second-best recruiting class in 2012. It’s a class loaded with studs, from the country’s top prospect in Las Vegas’s Shabazz Muhammad, to point-forward Kyle Anderson out of the famous St. Anthony’s in New Jersey, to Georgia big man Tony Parker.
And this isn’t the first time that Howland has convinced an elite class of players to hoop it up in Westwood. Star prospects (and NBA players) like Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday, Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison have all played for the Bruins under Howland’s watch.
6. Bill Self
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The job that Bill Self has done during his time as Kansas head coach can’t be praised enough. In a place where the expectations are as vast as the Kansas plains, Self has consistently delivered.
He’s taken the Jayhawks to two national championship games (winning one), and in addition he has led the program to a staggering eight consecutive Big 12 titles. And he’s not too shabby a recruiter, either.
Over the years, Self has received commitments from Tyshawn Taylor, the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff), Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Josh Selby, Xavier Henry and this year’s Naismith Trophy runner-up, Thomas Robinson.
This year, Self landed a commitment from five-star forward Perry Ellis. If Ellis pans out, then more Big 12 dominance (and possibly another national title run) is on the horizon for Kansas.
5. Billy Donovan
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Given how John Calipari is tearing it up in recruiting these days, it’s easy to forget that one of his SEC rival coaches—Florida’s Billy Donovan—is a pretty damn good recruiter himself.
In case you forgot, Donovan is the last coach to win back-to-back Division I national championships. That was a result of Donovan attracting the likes of Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green to Gainesville so many years ago.
These days, Donovan is still capable of attracting stellar prospects to the Swamp. Guys like Patric Young, Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton led the Gators to consecutive Elite Eight appearances the past two seasons.
4. Jim Calhoun
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Very few college coaches have had the recruiting success and longevity that UConn’s Jim Calhoun has had. Back in the 1990s, Calhoun built the foundation of the legendary Huskies program with pioneers like Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall and Richard “Rip” Hamilton.
From there, Calhoun’s recruiting prowess only grew. When you consider that studs like Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Rudy Gay, Caron Butler, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb have torn it up in Storrs over the years, it’s easy to see why Calhoun has very few peers when it comes to recruiting top-flight talent.
And it’s just as easy to see why the feisty Irishman from Boston has made four Final Four appearances and won three national titles during his Hall of Fame career with UConn.
3. Mike Krzyzewski
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There’s no doubt that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is considered one of the best recruiters in the history of college basketball.
It’s tough to turn down playing for a coach who has won four national championships and an Olympic gold medal, in addition to coaching countless All-Americans and pros like Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Using that recruiting formula, Coach K has attracted several McDonald’s All-Americans to Durham over the decades. More recently, the top player in the class of 2011, Austin Rivers, laced up for the Blue Devils.
Other elite prospects to have played for Krzyzewski recently include J.J. Reddick, Shelden Williams, Kyle Singler, Jay Williams, Shane Battier and Kyrie Irving. And this year, Duke has added two more McDonald’s All-Americans to the list in Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon.
2. Roy Williams
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You may think a statement like this is crazy, but North Carolina coach Roy Williams is arguably as astute a recruiter as the legendary Dean Smith was at Chapel Hill.
Since Williams returned to his alma mater back in 2004, the Tar Heels have consistently pulled in great recruiting classes. Elite college players like Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Williams, Kendall Marshall and John Henson all played at a high level for Williams in recent years.
This year is no different as North Carolina welcomes another top-10 class to campus, led by electrifying point guard Marcus Paige.
1. John Calipari
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There’s no doubt right now that when it comes to college basketball recruiting, it’s John Calipari’s world. We’re all just living in it.
If you need any proof of this, just look at the job he’s doing at Kentucky. Calipari and his staff just recently cemented an unprecedented fourth-straight No. 1 recruiting class.
This year’s crop is headlined by Rivals’s second-best player in the class of 2012 in New England big man Nerlens Noel. With Calipari’s knack to get so many players to the NBA and the fact that he just added his first national championship to his resume, don’t expect Calipari’s tenure atop this list to end anytime soon.