It’s easy to criticize John Calipari. Two vacated Final Four runs will forever mark him as a dirty coach in the minds of many opposing fans and certain members of the media. And his latest move is certain to draw criticism as well, but it should be welcome news in a sport that needs more positive headlines, especially this time of year.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Calipari will host a two-day NBA scouting combine in Lexington on Oct. 11 and 12 so that teams can get a good look at the Wildcats' loaded roster. For Calipari, the benefits are obvious. He has always recruited kids based on the idea that Kentucky is the most sought-after team from an NBA perspective. And now he’ll have proof. As one NBA executive told Yahoo, "We're just there as B-roll for his recruiting videos."
The Wildcats have five players on this season's roster who are ranked among the top 30 NBA prospects by Draft Express: Freshman center Karl Towns (No. 3), junior center Willie Cauley-Stein (No. 10), sophomore center Dakari Johnson (No. 21), sophomore guard Andrew Harrison (No. 28) and sophomore forward Marcus Lee (No. 30). Three other players -- sophomore guard Aaron Harrison, freshman guard Devin Booker and freshman center Trey Liles -- are also likely to be on NBA scouts' radars this season.
Now Calipari can tell recruits that, even if they don’t get playing time right away, they’ll still get up-close attention from NBA teams in October. He’ll also be able to avoid the distraction of NBA scouts constantly descending onto his practices.
Hopefully, this move paves the way for a football-like model of Pro Days at campuses across the nation. Although college football’s season is actually shorter than college basketball’s, it gets much more media attention – and not just because football is a more popular sport in the United Sates. College football’s offseason schedule has more spread-out media events, from February’s National Signing Day to spring practices – which are often open to fans and media – to late-summer media days. College basketball falls essentially silent from May to October. If more teams adopted this model and moved their dates up to say, September, the college basketball offseason would attract more attention from NBA fans particularly, who sometimes don’t start focusing on college hoops until February or March.
Many will still question Calipari’s motivations here. And certainly there will be some benefits for him in recruiting and in increasing his familiarity and improving his reputation with NBA teams. But it’s good for the sport. And it’s good for his players. And if it’s good for Calipari, too, then good for him. This is a smart idea and could become a welcome addition to the college basketball calendar.