It comes as no surprise to me that John Calipari has been in the news recently regarding recruiting. Recruiting is how Calipari has made a name for himself and how he has become one of the best coaches to have never won a National Championship. Year in and year out, blue chip athletes gravitate towards Calipari and his program because they want to win and that is what his teams do, except win big games. This year, a top-ten recruit out of Portland, Terrence Jones, chose to play for Calipari at Kentucky after verbally agreeing to play for Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies. The fiasco is not because he chose to play for Kentucky, it is that Calipari continued to recruit Jones after his verbal agreement.
There is an unwritten rule among collegiate coaches that you are not supposed to recruit another player that has already verbally agreed to another school unless the player first makes contact. That is what Calipari claims to have taken place. Calipari has said that Jones contacted him after the press conference, in which he chose Washington, was finished. Supposedly, Jones told him that he was pressured into making the decision because he didn’t want to upset his friends and family. That is definitely understandable because as a young person, you always want to please people and never disappoint, but unfortunately that is what he did. I don’t think this would have been a big deal had Calipari not been involved. Calipari has been known for his shadiness and, in my opinion, I think there is a lot more to this than what Jones and Calipari are portraying.
John Calipari joined 95.5 The Fan in Portland to talk about his thoughts on Terrence Jones choosing to play at Kentucky, how he feels about people saying that he shouldn’t have recruited a kid that has already made a verbal commitment to another school, and his thoughts on the reports that he is being linked to LeBron James and possibly jumping to the NBA.
His thoughts on Terrence Jones choosing to play at Kentucky:
“First of all, I was relieved like ‘Wow! We finally got this done.’ You are talking about as a player and as a person. One, he is a great kid but he is a young kid and this process it was tough for him. I know what he thought of the Washington program and their staff, players and teammates that were going there. This was hard for a young man like Terrence but you are talking about a 6’9’’ unique player. You guys have all seen him and the people that have watched him. Basically he is like a 6’9’’ point guard. The way we play with the dribble-drive, it puts him in those spots where he is a playmaker. Forget about his size. He is a perimeter player. There will be times where he can take the inside. He can take the outside. He can make plays. I just thought that he was one of the hidden gems when I saw him in the summer. I went ‘Oh my gosh! Who is this guy?’ So I am really excited.”
What the rollercoaster was like trying to sign Terrence Jones:
“Well we thought that he was coming with us and when he said ‘Washington’ we were like ‘what just happened?’ That was the first thing. Then he called about an hour later and said ‘Cal, I made a mistake. I don’t know what I was doing.’ That is when the thing went like ‘You what?’ So we talked to him and said that we are going to do whatever you want. I am holding your scholarship. At one point I said, ‘Look, if you want to go to Washington then go to Washington, and if you want to come with us, come with us. Just make a decision so that we can all move on.’ But I felt bad for him to be honest with you. Because he is 6’9’’ everybody thinks that this guy is a grown man. They have emotions and they still, the peer pressure wanting to please everybody. Terrence is a pleaser. He is not one to be confrontational. He is not one that… He is a pleaser. He wanted to please me, he wanted to please Lorenzo, wanted to please his teammates. That is what he is. But I will tell you what…I think that we have got a player that fits as well as anybody that I have ever recruited. Who, what I hope is the people of Portland, when they see him they will say that we knew that he was good but we didn’t know that he was this good. I would tell you that our plan right now is to come and play in the Rose Garden in November of next season. So the beginning of the season we will bring our team out to Portland to play for a game in the Rose Garden. We are playing in Hawaii so on the way to Hawaii we will stop in Portland and play and let all of their fans and his fans get a chance to see him in a setting with us…”
How he feels about people saying that he shouldn’t have recruited a kid that has already made a verbal commitment to another school:
“Well I agree with that. I agree, but when the young man calls you and says that I made a mistake, ‘Coach, I want to reconsider this’ it changed everything. If he had committed to Washington and that was the end of it then we wouldn’t have done anything. But this was a unique situation now. I have never been in anything like this where within an hour… I didn’t see the press conference but I had people tell me that at the time they looked at it and said, ‘Wow’ and then after he went with his parents. But I didn’t see it all. I mean I didn’t watch it, but it was unique. I don’t mind that Washington fans are upset and upset with me. That is part of what we do here but the reality is that I think, Lorenzo knows and their staff knows this was not our doing. I mean it was this young man and at the end of the day it is about him. It is about him reaching his dreams. It is about him making a decision that was best for him not for fans and teammates. It is about what is best for Terrence Jones and being selfish in that. I think at the end of the day that is what he tried to do.”
His thoughts on the reports that he is being linked to LeBron James and possibly jumping to the NBA:
“Hopefully my name is being brought up because we have five people in the Draft and playing well and doing things in Chicago. From DeMarcus to John Wall to Eric Bledsoe to Daniel Orton, all freshman, into Patrick Patterson. That stuff, what I said before, can’t stop all the speculation and rumors and innuendo. What I have said is that I am going to be coaching at Kentucky and I will be at Kentucky next year. I am not out looking for jobs. I have got in my opinion the best job in the country. Now it is not easy but when you talk about coaching basketball and what you want to do and all of the support that you need. You know it is Kentucky. We are number one in attendance, in the country. Our radio show post-game has 9,000 people. So our radio show ranks in the top thirty in attendance vs. other people’s games. I mean it is crazy. We are on national television just about every game. We are on CBS five times and the other games are on ABC and ESPN. I mean all of the things that you are looking for. We are in the SEC. We have a very, very tough league. I mean I can’t stop the speculation. LeBron and I are friends. That is what we are, but I have other players in the league that I have coached, I mean eight or ten of them. So I don’t know all of a sudden this became LeBron and Cal, and how that started. But obviously I am not going to answer everything that is thrown, and all of the speculation. I just said that ‘Hey, I am going to be at Kentucky.’”