Kentucky basketball: McDonald’s All-American game is their NBDL

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As I said in a previous post, Kentucky basketball has become a de facto NBA D-League team. I’m pretty sure the Wildcats could give the Fort Wayne Mad Antz of the NBDL a run for their money. If not, beat them outright.

The Kentucky basketball program has seen a record 20 signees play in the McDonald’s All-American game since John Calipari’s arrival. That’s why these days, the MCDAAG is pretty much next year’s Kentucky Wildcats freshmen class, and then the year after next year’s NBA Draft first round. It’s a pipeline/revolving/door/re-loading.

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All four of Kentucky’s 2014 signees: Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Karl Towns and Tyler Ulis were selected to the All-Star game of all prep All-Star games on Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago.

So yesterday I joined the national media Final Four coaches conference call to ask Coach Cal about his top notch recruiting. Another reporter beat me to the punch, asking him in much more fawning manner than I would have. The reporter was what Calipari’s secret is; why he’s so elite.

“Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.

“When I was at UMass, we had one McDonald’s All-American, Donte Bright.  When I was at Memphis, we may have had three over my years there.  We weren’t getting top 50 players at UMass,” Calipari said.

“We were winning, we were a terrific team.  I had to coach guys four years.  I was ecstatic.  At Memphis I was coaching them three to four years.  We were becoming a good team.”

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“Now I’m at Kentucky.  There’s a combination of the parents understanding Kentucky, what it is, and the young people only know three years.  The kids we recruit, all of us, they don’t know five years ago.  They were 12 and 11, 10.  They know the last three years.

“When John Wall and Bledsoe and Cousins and Patterson went in that draft, Orton, five first-rounders, it changed the whole direction.  The paradigm changed.  It wasn’t like we planned it.  I never thought Eric Bledsoe was one-and-done.

“No one thought that.  He didn’t play the McDonald’s game.  What about Josh Harrellson?  What about DeAndre Liggins making it?  That’s all crazy talk.”

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I put bold around that certain specific quote because it’s the most important. Yes, the paradigm shifted then for Kentucky basketball. It shifted for college basketball. It’s going to shift the NCAA. The National Collegiate Athletic Association cartel will change, because the paradigm has shown us that the romanticized myth of the scholar athlete has been put to bed. It’s all business now.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Let the Kentucky basketball players get paid. It’s a free market; let them get there’s.

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I asked the Kentucky basketball Coach if he’s going to be able to watch the MCDAAG, and will his Kentucky basketball team join him in watching the MCDAAG? After all they have a Final Four to prepare for.

“We’ll watch it.  If I can’t watch it, it will be taped,” Coach Cal said.

“We got four players in it.  We got four great, great kids.  They’re terrific basketball players.  But spend some time with them.  You’re talking about four great, great kids.
I imagine our team will watch it live because they all played in it.  They’ll want to see it.”

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent commentator on national talk radio. The former NBC Chicago and Washington Times contributor has also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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