Aside from the aberration on his ledger that is the New Jersey Nets, John Calipari has managed to take the teams he has coached and build them from the ground up into a successful unit; despite the numerous players that have left his tutelage early, a Who's Who of NBA players the likes of Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, the latter two receiving the NBA's Rookie of the Year award. After stints at Massachusetts and Memphis, Calipari became the head coach at Kentucky last summer and promptly resurrected a state religion that had fallen on hard times since the dismissal of Tubby Smith, who remains the last coach to bring a national championship to Lexington, having done so in 1998. Coach Cal, as he is widely known, brought the Wildcats a trio of freshmen that led the program to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this past season, where they reached the East regional final before falling to West Virginia. One year removed from seeing prospects John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe grow into future pros, (Wall is a near-certainty to be the No. 1 overall pick in next month's NBA draft when the Washington Wizards make the selection) the 51-year-old leader has had an amazing encore to his 2009 performance, and it is arguably a better one at that.
In a stunning coup, Calipari managed to pry Terrence Jones away from Washington in the last possible moments after Jones had given the Huskies a verbal commitment, adding the 6'8" power forward from Portland to an all-star class that includes guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, as well as forwards Enes Kanter and Stacey Poole. Calipari is also waiting for center Eloy Vargas to sign his letter of intent, but the Wildcats have already added five of the top 33 recruits in the nation (according to Rivals.com) onto the hardwood at Rupp Arena. Jones is rated at No. 13, and his new mentor couldn't be happier about Kentucky's chances next season. "You can't compare this class," Calipari gushed in an interview with ESPN after being asked about Wall, Cousins and Bledsoe. "We were fortunate. We filled a lot of needs. We didn't get everyone we wanted, and we missed as many as we signed. You've got to be lucky to have kids available this late again this year."
If signing players like Jones, Knight and Lamb among others is luck, then Kentucky fans have reason to believe they just won the lottery.