Joseph: Recruit or Leverage?

John Calipari's a smart guy. He knows when he shows up in Las Vegas this time of the year it's going to cause a stir. So, was his trip to see Cory Joseph an attempt to get involved with the guard or merely a way to leverage his other recruits?

John Calipari recently chartered UK air and landed near McCarron Airport in Las Vegas. If you follow Kentucky men's basketball recruiting, a few obvious questions arise: Does this mean the Wildcats aren't getting Brandon Knight? Is Cory Joseph going to going to Kentucky? Is Kentucky going to get Joseph and Knight?

Let's delve into the potential backcourt of Kentucky basketball and offer some plausible explanations for Calipari's visit to Findlay Prep, the home of unsigned point guard Cory Joseph.

Kentucky is in the market for a new point guard. It may be the only school that loses two point guards to the NBA Draft this spring. UK is heavily involved with Brandon Knight, the nation's best, unsigned player. It is set to host No. 10 Josh Selby in a few weeks. Calipari is also chasing Doron Lamb, a guy who may find himself being recruited to Lexington as a combo.

Now, the Wildcats are reaching out to Cory Joseph, who only days ago told Scout.com that Connecticut, Minnesota, Texas, UNLV and Villanova were his finalists. In an interesting twist, Joseph does have one official visit left. Hmm.

The decision to see Joseph accomplishes many things for Calipari and the Wildcats. First, it's a clear attempt (albeit a late one) to throw their name into the mix with Joseph. Let's face it; Calipari's point guard lineage of the last decade trumps everyone else (Wagner, Washington, Rose, Evans, Wall, Bledsoe). The pitch to Joseph is obvious: playing time for a title contender with the chance to be tutored at a high level. It makes sense but it is only part of the equation.

Findlay Prep is home to Nick Johnson, one of the nation's top junior combo guards. Johnson is a reasonable target for the Wildcats; his Uncle Dennis was a former Boston Celtic. An additional bonus to this visit is face time with Winston Sheppard, a 2012 combo forward who is part of the Findlay stable. Kentucky wasn't exactly wasting time while tossing out the option to Joseph.

But there's more to this trip and to this story. During the West Coast swing, Calipari swung out to California where he reportedly did homework on recently de-committed Turk Enes Kanter.

So, during his West Coast trip, Calipari saw four potential prospects that we know of, including one of the nation's best, unsigned seniors. Even if UK doesn't elbow its way into the mix for Joseph, it tried and worked on other recruits in the process. And the biggest byproduct of the visit to Cory Joseph may be an intangible. While some may interpret the visit to see him as a panic reaction to potentially losing ground in the Knight sweepstakes, we have another take.

What if part of John Calipari's westward visit was to create leverage for his Kentucky program? Should Knight make it to the state championship, his season would end March 5. From what we have gathered, he'll decide relatively quickly after the season. Between Selby, Joseph, Knight and, to a degree, Ray McCallum (he has fewer common schools than the others), the recruits are holding the trump cards over the coaches.

There has been little urgency among the very best players to announce their decisions. Calipari knows he is going to experience heavy personnel losses after this season. He's got to have players for next year and things will escalate in the spring. By visiting Joseph, he has let it be known that he is now involved with virtually all of the elite prospects on the board. If Calipari can get Joseph lined up for a visit, it just may tip one of the other guys in his favor.

No matter how cool the high school kids play it, if they've got a school in mind (and at this point they definitely should), there's a good chance they won't want to miss out on an opportunity like this one. Joseph could be a Kentucky recruit or he could be leverage for the rest of Kentucky's recruits.


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