The tour for Cal is giving the team its first look at the freshman duo of Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, who helped the Golden Bears to a 100-63 win over Victoria Select during the team’s first game on the trip. Both players started the game for Cal as Brown paced the team with 17 points while adding six rebounds and two steals. Rabb finished the game with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds and was 5-for-6 from the field for a strong showing of his own.
It’s also worth noting that Tyrone Wallace started at point guard and finished with 10 points, but more importantly, he had six assists to only one turnover. Jordan Mathews added 15 points and Jabari Bird pitched in 13 points off the bench. Kingsley Okoroh started at center for Cal, which meant Rabb played power forward for his moments in the game.
While it’s hard to say how this exhibition tour will translate to the actual season, it was interesting to see the lineups that head coach Cuonzo Martin used and he made frequent substitutions to see everyone on his roster get minutes. If Brown and Rabb can remain consistently productive, it makes Cal a serious threat in the Pac-12 with the return of players like Wallace, Mathews and Bird. You can view full stats of Cal’s win here.
How Jaylen Brown’s commitment made a huge impact on the finalists recruiting him
Of Brown’s final four schools in Cal, Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina, this commitment has a big impact on three of the finalists recruiting him.
You lost out on Brown, but you return arguably the best senior in college basketball next season in Caris LeVert and point guard Derrick Walton will also be back (and hopefully healthy) for 2015-16. Adding Brown would have surely helped the Wolverines, but with LeVert and Zak Irvin set to return on the wing, Michigan is already looking like a top-15 program heading into next season. They didn’t need Brown as badly as the other three programs based on returning personnel.
But how about the turnaround for Cal, and specifically, head coach Cuonzo Martin?
Martin had enough of the drama in Knoxville and bolted for the West Coast right after making the Sweet 16 last spring. Fourteen months later, Martin has landed more top-10 prospects in the Class of 2015 than recruiting juggernauts like Arizona, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina. With Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird returning to go along with Brown and local five-star big man Ivan Rabb, suddenly, Cal has a potential Pac-12 title team.
When you also factor in how Cal landed Brown, it’s even more impressive. The Golden Bears jumped into the Brown recruitment incredibly late. After taking all five of his official visits, Brown opted to pay his own way for an unofficial visit to Berkeley to see what Martin and his program had to offer. Clearly, Brown liked what he saw and the rest is now history.
Martin has proven his critics in Knoxville wrong by landing blue-chip talent at Cal. Now the pressure comes to win with those players.
For North Carolina, the loss of Brown further illustrates an already bleak recruiting picture of a proud program that can’t land blue-chip talent because of the uncertainty surrounding an NCAA investigation. The Tar Heels have arguably the No. 1 team in the country entering the 2015-16 season. They also have a J.P. Tokoto-sized hole on the wing in their starting lineup after his unexpected departure to the 2015 NBA Draft and they just missed on two five-star wings in the past week.
And North Carolina can’t whiff on the Class of 2016, either.
The top Class of 2016 power forward (Harry Giles) and point guard (Dennis Smith) both reside in North Carolina and top-ten forward Edrice “Bam” Adebayo is also an in-state product. If this current Class of 2015 recruiting trend continues, the Tar Heels are going to miss on blue-chip talent in their own state for two consecutive seasons because of the concerns of potential NCAA sanctions. Things aren’t getting any better in Chapel Hill any time soon.
And when is the last time Kentucky was involved with so many five-star prospects in the spring, only to miss out on all of them?
They ended up with none of the eight uncommitted McDonald’s All-Americans.
Now head coach John Calipari is scrambling for spring recruiting scraps.
Just this past week, Calipari landed a junior college shooter in Mychal Mulder and tried to sway a Class of 2015 three-star forward, Shaun Kirk, from signing with N.C. State. Calipari missed on Kirk like he did the Burger Boys and it leaves Kentucky with some question marks entering next season.
The Wildcats still have a tremendous class coming in, highlighted by arguably the best Class of 2015 player (Skal Labissiere) and the best point guard in the class (Isaiah Briscoe). Mulder and four-star wing Charles Matthews are not scrubs either. Kentucky’s four-man 2015 class would still be the envy of most college basketball programs in America.
But after gaming the one-and-done system for so long — culminating in four McDonald’s All-Americans joining a roster that had nine total McDonald’s All-Americans on last season’s team that started 38-0 — can Calipari ever reach the recruiting levels that he was at again?
I’m not saying Calipari can’t reach more Final Fours or win more titles at Kentucky, but no college basketball team has ever gone 38-0 and even that team fell short of the title game. Kentucky has made the Final Four in four of the past five seasons — largely with one-and-done players. This 2015 recruiting class is underwhelming compared to the past few classes, especially after seven Wildcats left early for the 2015 NBA Draft. The 2015-16 roster now also seems underwhelming by Kentucky’s recent standards and only one title came from those recent Wildcat juggernauts.
It’s not as if Kentucky wasn’t trying to get more blue-chip guys to come aboard for the 2015-16 campaign before sending them on their way to shake Adam Silver’s hand on draft night. They missed on seven All-Americans who they were in on as of late March.
Suddenly, Calipari and Kentucky’s system of landing the best one-and-done players has taken a serious hit. The Wildcats have been beaten by Duke at their own game for two consecutive recruiting classes and the Blue Devils were the ones hoisting hardware in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.
Are these spring recruiting misses merely an outlier, or the end of an era of recruiting dominance for Calipari and Kentucky? Did the platoon system Calipari used during the 2014-15 season mean that elite players in the Class of 2015 didn’t want to sacrifice minutes and shots to be apart of Kentucky’s program?
We’ll have to wait and see how things play out from here in regards to elite recruiting, but Jaylen Brown’s commitment definitely shook up college basketball at a time when the sport is usually dormant.