Who's Winning the John Calipari vs. Bill Self Recruiting Battle?
Losing out on Andrew Wiggins wasn't exactly Derrick Rose bricking some free throws and Mario Chalmers offering one of the best stomach-punch shots in the history of the tournament, but it was one of the few moments in recent memory when John Calipari didn't get what he wanted.
Once again, on the other end was Bill Self.
No one is crying for Calipari. Both he and Self got to puff their chests on Tuesday. Self landed Wiggins, one of the most prized prospects of all time, and his class is the best he's ever had at Kansas. Calipari's class, which includes a few players Self coveted, is still perceived as better.
This is not the first time that Self and Calipari have gone head-to-head for a recruit, and it certainly will not be the last.
It's obvious why it happens. Self and Calipari are the two best recruiters in the game right now. They coach at two of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball, and high-profile recruits want to play at prestigious basketball schools.
But there's more to it than that. Both coaches seem to like the same kind of players, and there's a history of some high-profile battles.
From a strictly basketball perspective, history will look back at them as connected in this era. Self won his first national championship over Calipari. Calipari won his first over Self. They both were grad assistants at Kansas under Larry Brown.
From a recruiting perspective, the insiders who follow that side of the sport will be telling stories down the road of the battles between the two men.
If you're keeping score at home, Self is making a strong comeback with his latest victory.
These are the players who have seriously considered playing for Calipari or Self and then ended up signing with one of the two coaches.
|Bill Self Recruits||John Calipari Recruits|
|Andrew Wiggins||Julius Randle|
|Perry Ellis||James Young|
|Josh Selby||*Archie Goodwin|
|Thomas Robinson||Kyle Wiltjer|
|Xavier Henry||Doron Lamb|
|Marcus Morris||Brandon Knight|
|Markieff Morris||Terrence Jones|
*Goodwin is the only player Calipari recruited on this list who did not have Kansas as a finalist, but he eliminated Kansas late, according to this ESPN.com story.
Self and Calipari have not expressed any friction publicly, but it would be understandable if there's some there, which could have started with the Morris twins.
The twins committed to Calipari at Memphis, then decommitted, then committed again and then decommitted again. Or something like that. It was like a teenage relationship. It is all explained here in this story in The Commercial Appeal. Eventually, the twins signed with Kansas in October of 2008.
Xavier Henry was also Memphis-bound at one time. This was a loss that had to sting for Self. Henry's parents both played basketball at Kansas.
Then Calipari left for Kentucky, and unlike DeMarcus Cousins, Henry choose not to follow Calipari and wound up signing at Kansas, where his brother transferred after spending one year at Memphis. Calipari won most of the battles that followed.
For Self, it had to sting to lose out on Daniel Orton, Terrence Jones, Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Randle. Kansas has done well developing big men, and all four would have fit well in KU's system.
Calipari has won the numbers game, but it's not really fair to strictly stop there. Since both will continue to go against each other regularly—they're both in the mix for the top three recruits in Rivals.com's 2014 class—they should be keeping another kind of scorecard: How the players who wound up at their schools have performed.
I came up with a system for how to score player performance in this battle. This is the scoring system.
|All-League (2nd or 3rd team)||1|
|All-American (2nd or 3rd team)||4|
Here's the scorecard:
|Bill Self||John Calipari|
Self benefited the most from both Marcus Morris and Thomas Robinson staying school for three years. Perry Ellis could be the next player in Self's system to thrive his sophomore and junior year.
Who is the better recruiter?
Usually when a big-time prospect has stuck around for Calipari past his sophomore year, such as Wiltjer, the reward has not been as great.
Calipari has had more success with the one-and-done or two-and-done players. Both Doron Lamb and Jones were major contributors on Kentucky's championship team. John Wall was a first-team All-American and the SEC player of the year in his one season at Kentucky. Brandon Knight helped lead the Wildcats to the Final Four.
Self has not had as much luck with the one-and-done crew. Selby never really had much of an impact in his one year at Kansas. Henry was an honorable mention All-Big 12 player, but he's been a bust in the league. Ben McLemore, who wasn't recruited by UK, will be viewed as Self's first great one-and-done success.
Who is better at developing talent?
It's not as though Calipari's one-and-dones have always thrived, as Daniel Orton and Archie Goodwin came and went without accomplishing much in their one year in Lexington.
The battle continues next season, which could give both coaches plenty of ammo in the recruiting battles in the 2014 class. Calipari could even the score with Randle, who Kansas really wanted, or Wiggins could give Self a feather in his cap.
The real winner will be whichever coach gets his second national title first. And you know what would be great? KU and UK in the 2013-14 final with Wiggins and Randle squaring off in the final seconds for the win. Bragging rights to the winner.
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