Building an Empire
Every kid growing up is told to dream big and that nothing is impossible. Kids all over the world are playing sports with the intention to make it to the professional level one day and become a superstar. But a dream can only take you so far if you don’t have the ability and the ambition to make it to the top. Dreams start to become more full circle when you reach the high school level and you can start to see who the men are and who the boys are. In the game of basketball, one man can change the outcome of an entire game, so when you have a top recruit in basketball the amount of dominance that one kid can have is immeasurable. At this point the dream that every kid had growing up starts to become a reality. With the NCAA implementing the new rule prohibiting high school basketball players to go straight from high school to the pros, top recruits are trying to find the quickest most successful way to get to the league. This is where John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats come in to play.
Big Blue Nation has always been one of the most respected programs in the country when it comes to college basketball, and when Coach Calipari arrived on the scene with his slicked back hair, things did not change one bit. A contract that was signed on March 31, 2009 for $34 million by Calipari gave him the reins to take over Big Blue Nation and put them at the top where they had been in past history. Bringing on names like Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and the number one recruit in the nation John Wall, Calipari got off to a very hot start. This gang of Wildcats made to the Elite 8 and finished with an overall record of 35-3. In the offseason Coach Cal was back on the recruiting trail reeling in top point guard in the 2010 class Brandon Knight who would be surrounded by two more 5-star recruits in Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. A loss in the Final Four to eventual champion Connecticut sent the 2010-11 Wildcats home with a 29-9 record. In Calipari’s first two seasons he recorded a 64-12 record with an appearance in both the Elite 8 and the Final Four. These are two accomplishments that a lot of coaches would dream of reaching, but Calipari was brought to Kentucky to win national championships. So once again it was back to the recruiting trail to bring in top notch talent. In his third recruiting season Calipari brought home the number one recruiting class in the nation with names like Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Kyle Wiltjer. Not to mention that Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb were still lingering around the halls of Kentucky as well. Obviously, this season for Calipari would be the one with the most pressure surmounted upon it. Pressure didn’t seem to bother this group one bit because they went on to set a single season NCAA record with 38 regular season wins and brought home Kentucky’s 8th National Championship. The championship led to a contract extension for John Calipari and more expectations for Big Blue Nation on the hard wood. All those kids that had dreams of making it to the NBA when they were growing up have all given themselves a chance under Calipari considering that he has now put 28 players in the National Basketball Association, 17 of which have been first round draft picks. Winning games is what it’s all about, but down in Big Blue Nation you get the feeling that Calipari is slowly but surely building a college basketball empire.