John Calipari

Kentucky phenoms choose 2013-14 preparation over other possibilities


As a recruiting class that has been hailed by some as the best in the history of college basketball, Kentucky’s incoming freshmen will receive a lot of attention throughout the 2013-14 campaign.

And with the skills that players such as Julius Randle, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young possess a number of opportunities in basketball will arise.

With all being eligible (age-wise; not a lock that all would have received an invitation) to try out for the USA’s Under-19 team that will play in the U19 World Championships this summer that could have been a possibility for them.

But none will take part, and the group is choosing to get right to work as they look to hang a ninth national championship banner in Rupp Arena according to head coach John Calipari.

“Most of it is, they didn’t want to play. I’m not forcing kids to do anything,” Calipari told Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News. “I think the reason they all turned it down is, they want to get started.”

While there is the argument that it would be best for USA Basketball to have all of its top prospects trying out for the team, there’s also the argument that if they aren’t fully invested in playing there’s no reason for the players to participate.

In addition to the five freshmen devoting their summer to preparing for the upcoming season, sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein has decided to not try out for the team that will represent the US in the World University Games.

Calipari said center Willie Cauley-Stein was invited to try out for USA Basketball this summer; Cauley-Stein is eligible for the World University Games. But Cauley-Stein said he preferred not to go and asked if it that would be OK. He said Randle took the same approach.

“Willie said, ‘This is not the summer for me to do this stuff. I just can’t wait to get back. I want to get prepared,’ ” Calipari said. “I’m happy they’re thinking in those terms. They know the spotlight’s on them.”

For this group working towards a national title (and some have even brought out the 40-0 talk) is the priority. And if they’re as talented as many project them to be, there will be other opportunities to represent their country down the line.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?