Cliff Alexander is one of the most sought-after recruits in the country.
A 6-foot-8 forward, Alexander is as explosive and powerful as anyone in the Class of 2014. When he dunks, you feel sorry for the rim. When he blocks a shot, he leaves a dent in the basketball. He can scratch his knees without bending over, which, when combined with his leaping ability, makes him an ideal target for penetrating guards to throw alley-oops too.
In simpler terms, he seems like he’d be a perfect match for Kentucky, teaming up with fellow Chicago native Tyler Ulis, who will carve himself out an excellent career in Lexington simply by getting into the lane and putting lobs near the rim.
But that won’t happen, as Alexander chopped Kentucky off of his list.
“They just stopped communicating with me,” Alexander told Scott Powers of ESPN. “It’s surprising. I haven’t talked to [Kentucky coach John Calipari] in I don’t know how long. I’m somewhat [disappointed,] but hey it’s a business. You do what you have to do.”
On the surface, this seems concerning. Kentucky stopped recruiting a top five recruit that would be a perfect fit in their front court? After they missed out on Emmanuel Mudiay, and while they seem to be trailing for Jahlil Okafor, Stanley Johnson and Tyus Jones?
Well, it’s not as big of a deal as it may seem. Kentucky’s already loaded in the front court. They should get two or three guys back from this year’s team, Karl Towns has already committed and Kentucky is still going after Trey Lyles and Myles Turner. If anything, the decision to back off Alexander could be read as Kentucky feeling good about their chances with Lyles and/or Turner.
Where they need to spend their time is recruiting wings. Johnson, Justise Winslow, Kelly Oubre, James Blackmon, Devin Booker. There’s a chance that Kentucky’s entire perimeter attack — both of the Harrisons and James Young — will be off to the NBA after this season, which means that the only back court player the Wildcats would have next season is Tyler Ulis.
Kentucky will put a class together, and it will be one strong enough to keep them in the picture as a Final Four contender in 2014-2015. They will get their guys. Missing out on Mudiay, and potentially Jones, hurt, but backing off Alexander isn’t a sign that John Calipari has lost his touch.