John Calipari’s one-and-done style of recruiting hasn’t sat well with certain people, that’s definitely already known.
What we haven’t heard is someone around the Kentucky program say that. Well, looks like you can throw one former Kentucky great in there now. It’s Jeff Sheppard.
Sheppard spent five years at UK (redshirted in 1996-97) and was with the program through three Final Fours. He won two national titles and was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1998 Final Four when the Wildcats beat Utah for the title.
Sheppard spoke to a crowd at a Kentucky-centric convention in Franklin, Ohio recently. And according to The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy, Sheppard isn’t an advocate on the way Calipari runs the program, as it pertains to some players’ stay at Kentucky.
“Those players, you want to follow them. You want to see them develop. You want to see them get stronger and work on their jumpshot,” Sheppard said during his address. “All those things that traditionally you have been able to follow, you’ve been able to talk about, you’ve been able to get excited—has now changed. And I don’t like it. I don’t think the Kentucky fan, overall, likes it.“We’ve had to accept it, and its working because we’re winning, and we’re winning national championships. Or at least one. And so it’s the way that it is.”
Nothing Sheppard said was particularly harsh. He doesn’t agree with the way things are run, but he lives with it. It’s a matter of opinion, which we’re all entitled to. He understands it’s Calipari’s program and he can run it how he sees fit.
Most of what Sheppard’s complaint seems to be that he doesn’t like that most of the marquee players stay in a Kentucky uniform for very long — although this past season may be somewhat of an exception, with Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein coming back. And as he alludes to below, Cal has been to two Final Fours and won a national title in his four seasons as head coach, so you can’t argue with the results. And Sheppard knows that.
“The last thing I want to do is take away from the run that coach Calipari has put together over the last several years,” Sheppard said. “It’s been phenomenal. I personally think there’s maybe a little too much emphasis first-round draft picks. I’d rather be celebrating national championships.”
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten