Florida Man: Calipari reloads; Scoot Henderson; Tyrell Ward
Each week, Rivals national basketball analyst and very own Florida Man, Rob Cassidy, takes readers around the basketball and hoops recruiting world, touching on news, notes and developments.
This week, he addresses how Kentucky coach John Calipari swallowed his pride for the better of the Wildcats. He also logs in with a FutureCast for Scoot Henderson and provides the latest on four-star forward Tyrell Ward.
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CALIPARI RESETS, REBUILDS
Pride is a funny thing.
It’s omnipresent and affects nearly every human endeavor. In college basketball, it can turn you from cunning predator to quivering prey in an instant. Pride is why coaches stick with losing decisions too long and why they sometimes refuse to make difficult choices needed to right sinking ships. It’s not easy to push aside, nor is it simple to suppress. So, John Calipari’s ability to swallow it this offseason deserves an ovation.
It would have been easy for a guy with 742 wins, six Final Fours and a national title on his resume to convince himself he could fix the roster construction problems that led to last season's 9-16 disaster without a total overhaul. He could have added a couple of celebrated pieces and stressed maturity and development while continuing to blame last season on youth. Instead, the 62-year old coaching legend faced his missteps, nuked his roster and worked tirelessly to rebuild it.
Struggled shooting from distance a year ago? Fine. Just add CJ Fredrick, who shot 47 percent from 3-point range for Iowa last year, and Davidson transfer Kellan Grady, who shot better than 38 percent from deep.
Lacked consistency and playmaking from the point guard spot? Go out and get Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler, who set the Bulldogs’ single-season assist record last year while averaging a team-high 14 points per game. Then, on top of that, land five-star recruit Ty Ty Washington, the No. 3-ranked point guard in the 2021 class. That’s all before you even mention bigs Oscar Tshiebwe and Daimion Collins.
Suddenly, a team that was once projected as a frontcourt-heavy bunch boasts a backcourt most coaches would kill for. This was "Extreme Makeover: Basketball Edition," and the results, at least on paper, are startling.
Calipari gets plenty of flowers for recruiting stars. His reputation for landing one-and-done prospects is well established. But if the Wildcats find themselves in the thick of an SEC title race after looking like a bottom-dweller a year ago, his willingness to recruit based on need deserves plenty of praise as well. Burying a chunk of pride to do so may well be his greatest trick.
FUTURECAST OF THE WEEK: Scoot Henderson to the G League
This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking prediction, as recruiting against paychecks is a difficult proposition for anyone. That said, the situation is still tough for Auburn, as the Tigers are the clear leader to land five-star guard Scoot Henderson if he elects to go to college. Henderson playing a single college game is looking less likely by the day, however, as rumors about a reclassification and move to the professional ranks continue to build ahead of Henderson’s Friday announcement. If Henderson chooses a college, it’ll be Auburn, but that’s starting to feel like a long shot.
FOUR-STAR TYRELL WARD SET TO TRIM LIST
Tyrell Ward's recruitment has a ton of moving parts. Even a handful of days prior to his top-eight announcement, things continue to evolve. What seems clear now, however, is that Xavier, Georgetown and Virginia Tech are hard-charging programs to watch. Things between the four-star forward and the Musketeers have picked up steam in recent weeks, as head coach Travis Steele has built a strong relationship with not only Ward but those close to him.
So while Ward is nowhere close to making up his mind at this early juncture, the Musketeers, Hoyas and Hokies seem like locks to make the cut and to be factors in the four-star’s recruitment until the end. Ward is extremely close with new Hokies assistant Mike Jones, for whom he played in high school. Meanwhile, Xavier has an open assistant position that could be filled by a coach with ties to DC and Ward himself. What happens on that front will certainly have an effect on his recruitment. For the time being, Virginia Tech looks to be the frontrunner.