John Calipari has had success at the helm of Kentucky basketball recruiting. His recruiting strategy, however, needs a slight tweak.
To put it simply, Calipari does not want to have another year like 2012-13. He even said so in an interview after the Robert Morris game on Mar. 19.
Last season, as we can all recall, was a wreck. It was not a catastrophe (Kentucky won 21 games. It could have been worse), and an injury to Nerlens Noel was a huge factor in the Wildcats' missing the NCAA tournament.
But Kentucky had high expectations, even though there were no experienced players on the team. The expectations were similar to Calipari's first three years in Lexington.
The difference? In his first three years, Calipari had veterans to mix with his usual influx of fabulous freshmen.
That is where a tweak in Calipari's recruiting strategy will pay off, and we are already seeing that tweak in the 2013 recruiting class.
Calipari needs to recruit more multi-year players.
To be fair, some players that were expected to stay for more than one season matured into first-round picks or left early. Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and Stacey Poole were all expected to stick around longer than they did.
But this year, the class is different. Some players are expected to stay in Lexington for at least two years (Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson). Derek Willis appears to be a three-or-four year player.
Dominique Hawkins is another player that will likely stay in Lexington for more than two years... If Kentucky extends a scholarship offer his way.
These players represent the change in Calipari's recruiting style.
Adding players that will stick around is vital in college basketball. In his first three years in Lexington, Calipari had veterans. Patrick Patterson, Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller were all experienced players that had the intangibles (effort, pride, hustle, etc.) that the 2012-13 team lacked.
While Hawkins and Willis aren't guaranteed to have the same intangibles when they hit the college game, Calipari has time to mold them in his system.
That is why Calipari will need to shift his recruiting strategy going forward. Multi-year players allow the program to be sustainable.
In previous years, Calipari was rolling the dice with player commitments. Imagine the 2010-11 season if Brandon Knight chose Florida. Imagine the 2012-13 season with Nerlens Noel at Georgetown.
Now, there will be a fallback plan, should Kentucky miss out on elite recruits in the future. More importantly, these players provide experience and can help star freshmen in their transition to the college game.