Over the course of his five seasons at Kentucky, head coach John Calipari has turned Lexington into one of the nation’s premiere locales for a one-year stopover for elite prospects en route to the riches of the NBA’s lottery.
Calipari knows this, and if there is anything that he can do well, it’s showcase the strengths of his program on a national level to the players that he is trying to recruit.
Tuesday’s news is yet another example of that. According to a report from Yahoo Sports, Calipari is in the process of finalizing a two-day scouting combine on October 11th and 12th in which his team, which could have as many as ten future NBA players on the roster, will run through drills and 5-on-5 action in front of scouts and front office types from all 30 NBA teams.
The details, from Adrian Wojnarowski:
Calipari has invited officials of the 30 NBA teams to send personnel to Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 11-12 to watch his players do everything from run full-court five-on-five and NBA-style pick-and-roll sets to individual skill work.
After the combine, Calipari plans to shut out NBA executives and scouts from his practices for several weeks – perhaps even months – into the season, league sources told Yahoo Sports. This way, Calipari can avoid the distractions that a constant parade of NBA scouts can present to so many talented young players in the practice gym.
This is a brilliant move by Calipari, who time and again proves that he is one of the most innovative recruiters in the country.
If he is really going to close down practice to NBA scouts for a large chunk of the season after the Kentucky Combine, than that means that every NBA team is going to send at least one member of their scouting department to Lexington for those two days. If that’s the only look that they will get at potential first rounders Karl Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Marcus Lee and Trey Lyles in anything other than game action for an extended period of time, they’ll need to be there.
Cal knows this. And he also knows that this is the perfect way to market his program to elite players in the 2015 and 2016 classes that have not committed to a school. Come to Kentucky, where we practice in front of every NBA team. Don’t be surprised to see the Wildcats with a large number of recruits on campus that weekend. As one NBA executive told Yahoo, “We’re just there as B-roll for his recruiting videos.”
Because this is not going to be an ideal setting for scouting. It will be a nice chance to see how these kids practice, how hard they work when the bright lights of ESPN aren’t shining down on them, but it goes without saying that for freshmen and, to a lesser degree, sophomores, the player that they are in October is very different from the player that they are come February or March or next June’s draft.
In other words, there’s value for scouts to be able to watch a practice in October, but there’s more value to scouts if they can pop in — unannounced and without the hype that surrounds a two-day combine — a few of times a month throughout the season.
But that doesn’t look or sound as cool as this headline does: “Kentucky is hosting their very own two-day NBA scout combine”.