Almost every year of the Calipari era, University of Kentucky has been in the conversation for ‘Who will be the national champion?’. John Calipari and his staff has mastered the art of molding five star recruits, and teaching them how to play within themselves and to find their role. These incoming freshmen were all most likely the leading scores and go-to players on their high school squads, so it takes a special coach and his staff to be able to mold these recruits into cohesive teammates.
Calipari, among so many of his talents, is the ability to pull in talent from across the country at all positions. With the second ranked recruiting class of 2016; Coach Cal has his work cut out for him. The incoming freshmen De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Wenyen Gabriel headline the backcourt for UK this year. Sacha Killeya-Jones and, Bam Adebayo will make up the front court. All are top 5 at their respected positions (excluding Jones), so the expectations are sky-high for the UK men’s basketball team this year.
Kentucky basketball isn’t known for retaining a majority of their players, and Coach Cal even openly acknowledges he supports the ‘1-and-done’ process if he believes the player is ready. The players that do return are expected to take on the leader role and assimilate the incoming freshmen into the routine that is college basketball. Two notable returners will be doing just that. Isaiah Briscoe, and Derek Willis will be the driving force in this team’s success. Other players like Isaac Humphries and, Dominique Hawkins who didn’t have that big of an impact on the court last year will for sure be declared leaders and people who the freshmen can turn to for advice.
Big Blue Nation
Throughout the world there are multiple different religions. America is the most religiously diverse country in the world. Religions ranging from Christianity, Catholicism and Islamic. But there’s a religion in Kentucky that is very rare in other parts of the country. Kentucky basketball is a religion to many Kentuckians and it’s a way of life. Many loyal fans will schedule their work schedule for the year around the basketball schedule and so on, so forth. Big Blue Nation are some of the craziest, but most loyal college basketball fans in the nation. And whenever a visiting team comes into Rupp, one can assume it’ll be jam packed with UK fans and a serious home-court advantage will occur.
After Calipari successfully pulled in a recruiting class that could possibly take over as the next starting 5, the depth of that team grew immensely. Derek Willis and Isaiah Briscoe headline the key players coming off the bench which also includes Tai Wynard, Isaac Humphries, and Dominique Hawkins. A player like Willis who just last year began to find himself as a player could be a key offensive threat for UK off the bench after averaging 7.7 pts and 4.0 rebounds a game just a year prior. Isaiah Briscoe, who decided to pull his name out of the NBA draft to return to Kentucky gives the bench that ‘bulldog’ mentality with his lockdown defense and driving abilities. Briscoe averaged 9.6 PPG and 5.3 RPG his freshman year as he looks to build up his draft stock with a national championship in mind as well.
Photo: Lexington Herald