Jim Harris: Florida, Calipari, Show Their True Colors

If it’s not easier now to recruit against Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari, especially if he comes calling in Arkansas for some of the rising high school talent in the sophomore and junior ranks, then he simply can’t be beaten in the fight for blue-chippers; he can’t do any wrong.

Surely the tantrum he threw in Knoxville, Tenn., over the weekend — mostly over his team’s play in a 30-point loss but ostensibly over the efforts of freshman Archie Goodwin from Sylvan Hills — should give pause to any prep players thinking about being ’Cats.

For the record, Calipari said Saturday after the blowout loss to Tennessee he had a couple of players who wouldn’t take coaching. But during the game, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Calipari singled out Goodwin on the sideline and told him, “I can’t coach you.”

And that’s probably 180 degrees from the snake oil he was selling Goodwin and his parents a year and a half ago when Calipari landed the 6-6 guard.

The way it goes, Calipari convinces these prep superstars that he, and only he, possesses the coaching talent to prepare them correctly for the NBA. Never mind that his array of one-and-dones from the past several seasons are no better in the pros from a year with Calipari than they would have been playing for most any coach on any level.

It takes several seasons, not one, to mold a basketball player into not only a talent who can stand up to the rigors of the NBA, but also into a person who can stand up to life.

Take Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell, for instance. This week’s SEC Player of the Week noted how much these past two years under Coach Mike Anderson have helped him grow as a person as well as a formidable player who can score inside or shoot the 3-pointer consistently from the wing.

We haven’t yet heard Anderson utter “I can’t coach you” to any of his players — not that he has a Calipari lineup full of McDonald’s All-Americans to lead — and we won’t. Had Archie Goodwin not fallen for the salesmanship of Calipari and his posse in the fall of 2011 and instead stayed home, he wouldn’t have heard “I can’t coach you” from Anderson, but he would have been coached and developed, if he wanted it.

Part of Calipari’s frustration while watching his team ripped 88-58 by the Vols was knowing he wouldn’t have freshman shot-blocking sensation Nerlens Noel anymore this season. Noel tore a knee ligament in a weird tumble into a basketball support in the Wildcats’ loss earlier in the week at Florida. Kentucky, which lacks a true point guard or the great shooting of Calipari’s recent teams, was just beginning to show signs of coming together before Noel’s injury. While this UK group likely could not have put six games together like last year’s runaway champion ‘Cats, Calipari had to figure his team, with Noel as the defensive stopper, had a chance to make some noise in a tournament with the weakest group of title hopefuls we’ve seen.

Calipari has another five McDonald’s All-Americans coming in next year. He’ll be fine on the talent front. Archie Goodwin will go pro and nobody in the Bluegrass State will care.

Sometimes, all the talent in the world will gel and even a coach like Calipari can’t mess them up and they win it all — like last year’s Kentucky team. The players are adored by all the Wildcat fans, and their numbers are eventually raised to the rafters of Rupp Arena. But there are plenty of examples of what’s happening with Goodwin, too — if only people could see through the Coach Cal charade.

It’s hard, though. He’s a charismatic slickster. He’d make a great politician.

Click here to read our post-game commentary on the 13 point Arkansas win over Kentucky.

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Meanwhile, Florida again showed why it’s a risky pick to win it all in Atlanta in early April. The Gators collapsed at Missouri in similar fashion to the way they blew a game at Arizona early in the season.

The Gators have enough talent to mash nearly everyone on their schedule. Get them in a tight game in the last five minutes though, and they seem to fall apart. Notice how suddenly herky-jerky they became at Columbia last night when Missouri made its late run.

Only against Arkansas has Florida been completely rattled and wiped out from the start, though the Gators possessed enough shooting talent when the game was decided to make the final margin against the Hogs look more presentable (80-69).

In Tuesday night’s game at Missouri, Florida had control in the first half by 10, only to let the Tigers back to within 3 before halftime. Same story in the second half, as the Gators seemed in command with a 12-point lead under the 10-minute mark. But Florida stopped looking to Patrick Young inside and settled for jump shots.

This has been the same reason the talented Gators were sent home in back-to-back Elite Eights the past two seasons. On the verge of the Final Four, Florida resorted to all jump shots and tightened up.

No one doubts Billy Donovan’s ability to build a program capable of winning the NCAA Tournament, and he’s had enough talent to win it all twice in a row. This latest group, since the emergence of Kenny Boyton three years ago, also seems talented enough to add to the NCAA hardware but comes up short.

The senior Boynton hasn’t had to be the sole backcourt leader, and the Gators have adequately replaced Erving Walker, who is playing professionally in Italy. Florida gets plenty out of Scotty Wilbekin running the show and setting up the shooters. Yet, when Florida needed a tying 3 in the final seconds, Boynton found himself open enough and was tossing up an unusual-looking attempt from beyond the key. Even Donovan had to say, “It wasn’t what we wanted.”

At some point, one would think Boynton would get the picture. It seems like we’ve seen this before when those Elite Eight games came down to the wire the past two years.

Meanwhile, Missouri, which was still chafing at the way it lost at Arkansas on Saturday, turned a 31-point loss at Florida without Lawrence Bowers into a 3-point win with Bowers at home.

Arkansas (16-9, 7-5 SEC) visits Columbia on March 5. The Hogs meet what should be an angry bunch of Gators on Saturday, following a home game with Georgia on Thursday night.

Click here to read our post-game commentary on the 13 point Arkansas win over Kentucky.

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  • MamaWheat

    In regards to Archie Goodwin and Calipari. Of course his players are selfish. 98% of them are selfish because he is selfish, and he sells them on you can come to Kentucky, play 1 yr, and go pro. He is using them to get wins, and notoriety. They are using him and Kentucky to play bball, and attend school for 1 year, then go pro. How can he expect them to be unselfish when all he recruits are selfish players? I watched Archie Goodwin play as a jr., at the state finals, and I thought he was a selfish player then. He never set one screen for a teammate, he consistantly overpenetrated the lane only to get bailed out by the refs. He didn’t or couldn’t play D. He was abused by the only player on Alma’s team w/ any athletic ability. The guy put up 37 pts, and Archie attempted to guard him man-to-man the entire game. I watched him play in the McDonald’s All American game and did the same thing. So yes, Archie Goodwin is a selfish player. That’s why he went to Kentucky! He’s using Calipari to get to the pros just like Calipari is using him, but Calipari’s philosophy is backfiring on him. He’s feeling the pressure from the Kentucky faithfull who he knows will all over him if he doesn’t make it to the NCAA tourney. One day Kentucky will be sorry for hiring Calipari! Kentucky is doing a good job of covering up for him right now, but eventually they will be exposed.

    My opinion concerning bball as a whole is that it is one big meat market. Either AAU bball needs to go away or they need stiffer regulations. The majority of the AAU coaches sell the kids to college programs. AAU bball is nothing but traveling street ball w/ rodeo clown officials. It’s an absolute joke! I see most of the players at major D1 programs who have a lot of athletic ability, but lack bball knowledge, fundementals, discipline, or any concept of playing as a team. No one! I mean no one has a mid range jump shot anymore. It’s either 1 on 5, or jack up a three. So here is my solution or solutions to bringing back respect to the game of basketball. 1) Either remove AAU bball or clean it up immediately!!! 2)Remove the 3pt line from HS and or AAU, and remove it from college for at least 3 yrs. 3) NBA and NCAA initiate a rule similar to that of baseball and football. If a player signs w/ a 4yr program that player can’t go to the NBA until their jr. or redshirt soph yr. The quality of the game has suffered long enough!

    • GB&C

      Why take away the 3-point line? What’s the point? AAU has it’s pro/cons… More pos. than neg. BBall has the most skilled athletes of all sports. If you can’t catch, you can still play ftball. If you are slow, they can find a spot for you in bsball. But you would have a very difficult time w/o those skills in Bball. The AAU circuits give players needed opportunities to develop and showcase individual skills. However, those AAU teams that play together are successful even when that team may not have the most overall talent. Surely, it could be cleaned up but every AAU I know does a solid job.

    • GB&C

      Don’t you have to have a certain percentage of student-athletes that graduate or are on point to graduate in 4-5 yrs? Aren’t there rules in place if you don’t meet these standards? i.e. loss of scholarships… It seems that this one and done concept is in direct conflict with the NCAA requirments and it alone will cath-up to the UK program soon enough. Bball is a religion in Kentucky and if Coach Cal crashes that program like his previous-s then the UK faihfull will string him up…

      • MamaWheat

        Supposedly there is a rule that if the players go to the NBA it doesn’t count against them if they passed their courses. I’m not exactly sure about all the details all I know is there is some kind of loophole. I’m not saying all AAU programs, but from what I’ve gathered college coaches refer to the AAU coaches rather than the HS for recruiting players. I’ve read articles and watched documentaries that have quoted ex college coaches stating that some of the AAU coaches expect some kind of payment for sending them high profile players. I agree the players are great athletes, but the point I made was that they are not great bball players. They lack fundamentals, knowledge of the game, and a team concept. Just look at the soph recruiting class of Arkansas. There is great athletic ability there, but they lack fundamentals that they should already know. The reason for taking out the 3 pt line is because players will take better and higher % shots. Players today rely too heavily on the 3 pt shot. Believe me. Kentucky will be sorry they hired coach Cal. He is a good coach, but he’s dirty, and has left every program he’s been at w/ NCAA infractions. To my knowledge Kentucky has always ran a pretty clean program, or at least they have never been caught. Considering bball is really the only sport Kentucky excels at NCAA infractions against the bball program could be very detrimental to the university. I actually like Kentucky bball due to the way their program has been ran in the past. I was actually surprised when they hired Calipari knowing his history. I think he’s good at coaching, but I don’t respect the way he runs a program. For the Kentucky fans claiming jealousy I’m not jealous, and I hope Calipari doesn’t leave a black cloud over the bball program, but history tells me that won’t be the case.

    • Name

      Why wouldn’t any blue chip high school basketball player want to attend Kentucky? It’s not selfish to want to play for the school that offers you the best and quickest opportunity to get to the NBA! Every student attends a university for one reason; so they can start their career and earn the most money possible! When you are blessed with the gift of basketball skills, why not go to a school/program that can enhance those skills and give you the exposure that gives you an edge??
      As for coach Cal; Kentucky is fortunate to have him! It seems to me that Arkansas fans may be jealous! Kentucky is not covering up anything! If you knew anything about the commonwealth, you would know that we love our brand of basketball, and that our pride overflows with the success of our history! We have 8 national championships! Coach Cal is working to bring us our 9th!
      As for selfish players; they are NOT coach able! Every NCAA coach wants talent, and they wouldn’t be a good coach if they didn’t believe that they could get the most out of every recruit. Kentucky’s coaching staff breaks down players, so that they play as a team; always looking to make his teammates better. If a player has trouble buying into that, then he is exposed as a cancer to that team! You can’t explained it any better than by simply watching last years Kentucky team! It is the selfish players fault when he becomes uncoachable and chooses to play for himself! Kentucky is doing it right!
      Go Big Blue!

      • MamaWheat

        You just don’t get it. As I stated I’ve always liked Kentucky bbal, but do not like how Calipari runs his programs. I assure you I’m not the least bit jealous of Kentucky. I have always admired how Kentucky ran their bball program in the past. How can you look at Calipari’s past and not be the least bit concerned that he will not do to Kentucky what he’s done everywhere else? Calipari does not do it the right way! Yes, he’s taking advantage of a flawed system. I admit he coaches players hard, and until this year has been able to get them to play as a team. The majority of bball players today,especially the so called “blue chip” players are selfish. Just look at the college game as a whole. Most major D1 schools I see play make me want to puke because they don’t play team ball, including Arkansas. Calipari doesn’t develop his players off the court because he’s only concerned with winning for his own selfish motives. I assure you he has no loyalty to Kentucky! He will leave Kentucky with NCAA sanctions, and bolt just like he’s done everywhere else. We’ll see what tune you’re singing when that happens! Don’t forget Arkansas fans had a football coach with a shady past, and were blinded by the success until the unevitable happened. Just warning Kentucky fans!

      • michael

        GO CATS

    • JFor

      “Of course his players are selfish… ”

      Someone must not have watched the teams that made it to the Final Four that he coached the last two years. More balanced scoring that say — the Hogs or almost any team in the country. In fact, if you find a team that was more of a TEAM than last year’s UK team I would be impressed. Sure, that group of kids was special and not this year’s group.

      This year they lack a veteran to help show them how to buy into a system. Anyone who says that Calipari recruits selfish players hasn’t followed his coaching career. His teams almost always end up in the top of the defense rankings. Selfish players don’t play good team defense.

    • I just love to read some of the UK haters that they think thay know what is going on with UK …..love you haters…..bunch of dummy’s

    • shea

      Calipari won a championship in his 3rd season as a head coach at kentucky. You don’t win a championship with selfish players. He lost his ENTIRE starting squad last year. What other coach has had to deal with that? What do you mean by “kentucky is covering for him”?

  • Gregg

    As a Razorback fan I dont want Archie Goodwin. I dont want Altee Tenpenny. I dont want Rotnei Clarke. If you are not 100% committed to being a Razorback, then there is no place for you here. I dont care if you are a ten-star or a no-star.

  • Ashley

    This article is based on speculations and what ifs that cant be answered unless things recruiting wise would have gone differently. As for coaches, they have all experienced difficulties coaching players at some point or another, and yes have even refered to them as hard to coach because they werent listening to them or buying into the system. Why is this treated like its a phenomenon newly discovered? Is it because it Kentucky? Until the rule is either changed by the NBA or the NCAA there will always be kids playing for college programs only because they cant skip straight to the NBA. This doesnt just happen at Kentucky. It seems Calipari gets chastised because he goes after the best athletes he can get, I thought that was the goal in recruiting, and to say its not about winning games or going to tournaments is rediculous. Why keep score or have tournaments if thats not what its about? In closing, it is also rediculous to classify one and done athletes as selfish, last years Kentucky team, since were focused on Kentucky, could be easily argued as the most uselfish team in the nation.

    • Togopalazzi

      Well said Ashley. Without question you know more basketball than a wannabe writer Harris and these envious Hog fans. Keep up the good work.

    • michael

      Ashley……You are right……

  • Mike

    It’s great to be hated again. If this columnist had a clue he would see that Calipari has mad an elite 8, Final Four and won it all. If that’s the work of someone who can’t coach what’s your program’s excuse?

  • GT

    And how many championships has Arkansas won in the past two years? Jealous are we?