Cal Has Cats Back On Top

What John Calipari is doing in Kentucky is impressive. For the third year in a row he brought in the nation's top recruiting class. Why do the top players want to play for him?

Kentucky is cool again. In fact, the Wildcats are nearly as cool as they were in the late '90s when Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith raised banners in Lexington.

After a couple of subpar years by Kentucky's standards, John Calipari jolted the program back into the national spotlight by recruiting four eventual first-round picks and helping the ‘Cats reach the Elite Eight.

Signing Week Coverage
* Drama In 2011
* Six Impact Performers
* Signing Day Blog
* Top 25 Class Rankings
* Signing Day Superlatives
* Cal Has Cats Back On Top
* Protecting Home Turf
* Grading The New Coaches
* No. 1 SEC
* No. 2 Big East
* No. 3 ACC
* No. 4 Big Ten
* No. 5 Big 12
* No. 6 PAC-10
* 2011 Rankings
* 2012 Rankings
* National Message Board

But he didn't stop there. Last year he signed the top-rated recruiting class and now he's done it again.

On Wednesday, the first day 2011 prospects could sign their national letters of intent, Calipari received the official word from four of the nation's finest high school basketball players.

Each of his four recruits rank among's top 20, with Anthony Davis checking in at No. 1 in the country.

So what's Calipari's secret? Why do so many elite level prospects want to play for the guy?

The answer is simple and easy. Calipari is the sexy pick, he plays an up-and-down and fun style of play, he's a player's coach and, most important, he gets players to the NBA.

And let's not be naïve, the NBA is by far the biggest reason he's had so much recruiting success.

Calipari's highly regarded 2011 commitments admitted it.

Kyle Wiltjer, a 6-foot-9 post prospect who ranks among the top 20 players nationally, bought into the idea of playing for Calipari at Kentucky before ever seeing their campus.

"I definitely looked at that when I was making my decision," Wiltjer told "I'm just going into it with an open mind. I picked the program because there are three other great players and I want to push myself everyday in practice."

"That was big for me," he added. "I think that'll push me to get to the next level, and I know that's a dream of mine to one day play in the NBA. I want to do whatever I can to make that happen."

Marquis Teague, the top-rated point guard in the 2011 class, agreed. When he announced for Kentucky, he factored in Calipari's recent success with Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose and John Wall.

"That's our dream," Teague said. "We want to go to the NBA. I feel like he knows how to develop players, make them better, and get them ready. That's the main reason I wanted to play for him because I know he's going to develop my game and he's going to teach me everything I need to know to be a point guard."'s top-ranked prospect, Anthony Davis, didn't differ, either.

"He develops NBA players," the 6-9 power forward said. "That's mainly all of our goals -- to play in the NBA one day. He will try and make us get to the NBA and make us work as hard as we can so we can make it to the next level."

"I just want to go to the NBA," Davis added. "That's my dream. I know I can do that under Cal. Whether it's one year, two years, three years or four years, as long as I get there I'm fine with that."

But before they get to the NBA, Kentucky will have these guys for at least one year.

And with the amount of talent he's compiling, they're going to win. That's what has Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick standout Michael Gilchrist so excited.

"I can't wait to play for the fan base and to play for us," Gilchrist,'s No. 5 prospect, said. "I'm just trying to win."

Davis, Teague and Wiltjer want to win too, and during their official visits on Midnight Madness weekend, they talked about the possibility of leading Kentucky to a national championship.

"He brings in great talent every single year," Teague said of Calipari. "Everybody wants to be on a winning team and play with the best players, and that's what Kentucky has now."

"They all want to play as a team and they don't care how many points they can score," Davis said of his future teammates. "All of us are alike, and if we all come in like that it should be easy to win a national championship."

Winning championships is never easy. But the talent will be there for Kentucky to be in the conversation.

For now, this class will go down as the best in the nation. But the players know their legacy will be defined by their ability to get Calipari his first national title and whether they make their NBA dreams come true. <a href="" target="_new" title="">Scout: Kentucky's new Cats</a>

Scout Hoops Top Stories