All-Decade: Best recruiters
Who was the best recruiter of this past decade? The names of John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski immediately come to mind as both have mastered the one-and-done approach and that has equated to 68 five-star commitments between the two over the past 10 years. A gulf divides those two coaches and the rest of this list, which includes some future Hall-of-Famers and a few that have changed employers over the years.
1: John Calipari, Kentucky
It is John Calipari then practically everybody else. The Kentucky boss brought the one-and-done approach into the mainstream at UK, and while it was frowned upon at first it has now become commonplace. Over the past 10 years, Calipari has landed a whopping 41 five-star prospects, 13 four-star prospects and has enrolled at least two five-star recruits every single fall. Whether it is Anthony Davis, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, Karl Anthony-Towns or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Calipari has turned high school talent into NBA superstars. Those one-time UK standouts have evolved into 21 lottery picks, 28 first-rounders, nine second-rounders and three that have gone on to be the first-overall selection. Calipari is this decade’s best recruiter.
2. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
While Calipari dominated the decade and was the clear No. 1 throughout the early portion of it, Coach K closed the gap with a tremendous recruiting run of his own over the past five years. It started with the 2014 class that brought Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow to Durham. It made the recruitment of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard that much easier. The Blue Devils won two national titles this decade, thanks to at least one five-star every recruiting class, which has coincided with 27 five-stars in all and 14 four-stars. It all adds up to two first-overall NBA Draft selections, 13 lottery picks, 20 first-rounders and four second-rounders. The Blue Devils are still rolling in the talent acquisition department heading into the 2020s.
3. Bill Self, Kansas
Kansas didn’t begin the 2010s on a high note when it came to landing top 25 talent, but the ball got rolling in a major way with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Securing 15 five-star recruits and 18 four-stars, Wiggins was one of three No. 1 overall pickups Bill Self’s this decade, which turned out to be his lone No.1 overall NBA Draft selection. Self produced nine lottery picks in all, 10 first-rounders and seven second-round draft selections. Self found his greatest success with more lightly recruited prospects in the mold of Devonte Graham and Frank Mason, players that turned into key building blocks for his success in Lawrence.
4. Sean Miller, Arizona
Sean Miller slides into the fourth overall spot. He began by enrolling the best talent from the West before then going national with his recruiting approach and then even throwing an international standout, Lauri Markkanen, into the mix. Miller's list of NBA standouts is not great, but a Markkanen, Aaron Gordon and Allonzo Trier alumni list is still not bad.
Miller has one first overall NBA Draft selection to his name, Deandre Ayton, along with five lottery selections, seven first-rounders and three second-rounders. Miller has also enrolled more five-stars (19) than four-stars (15) and should have a slew of early NBA enrollees after this season in the form of Nico Mannion, Josh Green and potentially Zeke Nnaji.
5. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Even with all of the talk that has surrounded North Carolina and its recruiting downfalls of late, Roy Williams still found his way into the top 5. Although he failed to land a top-ranked prospect over the past 10 years, and has not seen one of his Tar Heel standouts called first by David Stern or Adam Silver on NBA Draft night, he has enrolled 16 four-stars and 12 five-star prospects in the past 10 years. That talent resulted in six lottery picks, 13 first-round selections and two other second-rounders. Williams' career in Chapel Hill might be over by the time the next decade rolls around, but he is heading into it the new decade with one of his best classes ever assembled, boasting three five-stars and five top-65 commitments.
6. Steve Alford, New Mexico and UCLA
When one thinks of Steve Alford, the term "master recruiter" might not immediately come to mind. But whether it was at New Mexico, where he uncovered the abilities of Tony Snell, or at UCLA, which was led by the Lonzo Ball Show - Alford found a way get it done on the recruiting front.
He began the decade at the Mountain West program before moving over to Westwood in 2013. Throughout, he enrolled eight five-star recruits, all coming at UCLA, and 13 other four-stars. While March success didn’t follow, it did lead to high selections in the NBA Draft for his standouts, which included two lottery picks, eight first-round selections and five second-rounders.
7. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Tom Izzo is primarily known for his ability to develop talent in East Lansing, but don’t shortchange his recruiting prowess. Over the past 10 years, the Spartans have enrolled six five-stars and a group of 17 four-star prospects. Michigan State is responsible for three NBA lottery picks, six first-round selections and two other second-rounders - the best being Draymond Green.
The Spartans have remained a top landing spot for the very best in the state (and for some outside of it), and should produce another group of pro selections, including Cassius Winston, after this season.
8. Tom Crean, Indiana and Georgia
A surprise? Maybe not. Tom Crean began the decade as Indiana's head coach, and he did a phenomenal job of shutting the state’s borders and enrolling the best that the Hoosier State had to provide. Whether it was Cody Zeller or Yogi Ferrell, or stepping outside of the state for Victor Oladipo, Noah Vonleh and Thomas Bryant, recruiting wins were not in short supply for Crean at Indiana.
He then moved on to Georgia, where he celebrated the commitment of the nation’s top scoring guard last year, Anthony Edwards. Add it all up and Crean has secured five five-stars and 17 four-star recruits. Three lottery selections have been selected from a Crean-coached program, along with two more second-round selections.
9. Rick Pitino, Louisville
Despite only coaching from 2011 to 2017, Rick Pitino finds his place among the top-10 best recruiters of the past decade. Pitino really didn’t get going on the recruiting trail until the middle portion of his tenure, but his victories added up quickly. A group of 20 four-stars and three five-stars helped lead the Cardinals to a number of deep runs in March. His lone lottery pick wasn’t thought to be that big of a recruiting win at the time, but Donovan Mitchell has become the best NBA prospect Pitino coached at Louisville. Two other first-rounders played under the tutelage of Pitino, along with five second-round selections.
10. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Florida State isn’t often thought of as a recruiting monster, but that is exactly what Leonard Hamilton has created in Tallahassee. The Seminoles have landed four five-star prospects this decade, all occurring within the past five years. Scottie Barnes is Hamilton’s latest recruiting win, following Jonathan Isaac, who is the FSU head coach’s lone NBA lottery selection, Dwayne Bacon and Patrick Williams. Four first-round draft selections and five second-rounders have come from FSU in recent years, the most recent being Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele. Hamilton’s reign may be complete by the time the latter 2020s arrive but more pro prospects are set to exit the program, including the aforementioned Williams and Devin Vassell.