Kentucky Basketball: Biggest Ups and Downs from 2015 Offseason so Far

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 27, 2015

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - AUGUST 14: Jamal Murray of Canada in action during the FIBA U17 World Championships Quarter-Final match between  Canada and Serbia at the Hamdan Sports Complex on August 14, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Francois Nel/Getty Images

As we expect to see every offseason, the Kentucky Wildcats have been extremely active throughout the basketball landscape since falling short at the Final Four in early April.

Most of the buzz around John Calipari's team has been about incoming and outgoing personnel as well as players who won't set a foot on the court for at least another 12 months. 

Although most of the news involving Kentucky has been positive, there have been some negatives to report during the offseason. 

Below we look at the biggest ups and downs from the 2015 offseason to date. 


Jamal Murray's Reclassification

Calipari's search for a dynamic scorer to partner Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe in the backcourt ended on June 24, when Canadian prospect Jamal Murray reclassified to the class of 2015 and committed to Kentucky. 

"Being able to stay a little bit closer to my parents. And then looking at the history of Kentucky [putting players in the NBA], made me want to go there even more," Murray told TSN during his announcement, per ESPN's Jeff Borzello

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - AUGUST 14: Jamal Murray  of Canada controls the ball against Slobodan Jovanovic of Serbia during the FIBA U17 World Championships Quarter-Final match between  Canada and Serbia at the Hamdan Sports Complex on August 14, 2014
Francois Nel/Getty Images

Murray's switch to the class of 2015 became more important as the summer progressed thanks to the guard's output on the international level with Canada. 

Although he won't be a part of the Canadian team that participates in the FIBA Americas Championship Olympic qualifying tournament because of his commitment, Murray gained a wealth of experience at the FIBA U17 World Championships and Pan Am Games that helped him further his game heading into his freshman season in Lexington.

Success at the NBA Draft

One of the primary factors that leads players to Kentucky is the potential to be selected high in the NBA Draft. 

Calipari had plenty to smile about in June as he watched six of the stars from the 2014-15 squad get picked by NBA franchises. Karl-Anthony Towns went to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 1 overall pick, and he was followed by Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker in the top 13. 

James Crisp/Associated Press

In the second round, Dakari Johnson and Andrew Harrison were selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns, respectively. Although Aaron Harrison did not go anywhere in the draft, he was able to link up with the Charlotte Hornets immediately after the selection process concluded. 

While it will take a few years to make judgments on how successful the seven players will be at the professional level, Calipari will revel in the fact that he was able to get so many athletes onto NBA rosters after the great run they had together. 

The Foundation Being Built for the Class of 2016 

Some may think it will be hard to replicate the talent that was on the Kentucky roster last season, but Calipari is trying to match that with his recruitment of the class of 2016, which many be seen as one of the top overall classes in quite some time.

Calipari has already brought in New Zealand's Tai Wynyard and power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones, but there is still plenty of work to do if he wants the top prospects from the class to enroll in Lexington.

The top target for the Wildcats is Harry Giles, who is the No. 1 player in the class of 2016. Kentucky is also going after Josh Jackson, Malik Monk, Dennis Smith, Jr., Miles Bridges and Kobi Simmons, all of who are stars in their own right. 

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

"The kids that I'm seeing, that we're involved with, that I feel really good about. This could be our best class ever. And that's a pretty scary statement coming from who we've been able to recruit over the last 25 years," Calipari told ESPN's Andy Katz in July. 

There is still a long way to go in the recruitment process of each individual, but if Calipari was that confident a month ago, he obviously has something big in the works. 


Malik Newman's Commitment to Mississippi State

When Malik Newman chose Mississippi State over Kentucky a few weeks after the end of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, he delivered a pair of blows to the Wildcats. 

The first blow hurt the strength of the Kentucky roster at that point in time. It would take Calipari two months to bring in Murray as the star to complete his 2015-16 squad. 

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - AUGUST 16:  Malik Newman of the United States drives the ball forward during the FIBA U17 World Championships Final match between Australia and the United States of America at the Hamdan Sports Complex on August 16, 2014 in D
Francois Nel/Getty Images

Newman also handed the Wildcats more competition in the SEC. Under new head coach Ben Howland, Mississippi State will continue to draw big-name talent, as will LSU and other up-and-coming programs. 

If the trend continues in the SEC, the Wildcats will not have an easy conference schedule in the years to come. 

Barry Rohrssen Moves on to Join Chris Mullin at St. John's

One of the minor blows dealt to the Wildcats early in the offseason was the departure of assistant coach Barry Rohrssen to St. John's. 

Losing an assistant coach and filling a void on the coaching staff can sometimes be a chore, but luckily for the Wildcats, they had a former head coach waiting in the wings to take over. 

Former UTEP and Auburn head coach Tony Barbee, who was a special assistant to the head coach last season, will take Rohrssen's spot on the bench for the 2015-16 season. 

This may not be seen as a knockout punch to the program, but it is something a major program with a ton of success does have to deal with from time to time. 


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