Perhaps the best example to date of Kentucky basketball's ever-expanding brand under John Calipari is the recruitment of five-star California forward Aaron Gordon.
A year ago at this time, the Wildcats were not a factor in the five-star prospect's recruitment.
Six months ago, UK was on the outside looking in.
Three months ago, a possible darkhorse.
Today? The national champions are in line for an official visit.
"Kentucky's program speaks for itself," said Mark Oliver, who coaches Gordon on the AAU club Oakland Soldiers. "What they've done in the last four years is something that any young player would have to pay attention to. When they started showing more Aaron more attention, I think his curiosity in their program started to grow."
For months, the 6-foot-8, 212-pound forward has been considered a strong "lean" to Pac-12 programs like Arizona and Washington. Depending on whom you ask, he may still be, especially in regard to Lorenzo Romar's Huskies.
During the Nike EYBL event this spring in Minneapolis, he told a group of reporters that it would be very unlikely for him to venture off the West Coast, but that stance may be gradually softening.
Gordon, who is ranked No. 5 in the Class of 2013 by Scout, recently participated in the Under Armour Elite 24 in Los Angeles. He earned player of the game honors by scoring 25 points and grabbing six rebounds in the all-star event that also included UK targets like twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Julius Randle.
During the Elite 24, Gordon told reporters that he was considering official visits to UK, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Kansas, as well as an unofficial visit to Cal this fall.
"The closer he gets to that decision, I think the more open-minded he has become," Oliver said. "He's kind of opened up a lot more to find the best fit for him. He wants to gather as much information as possible. His parents have helped encourage it. They understand because they've got a daughter playing at Harvard, so location isn't a big factor for them. I don't see location being the main factor for Aaron."
Oliver said Gordon has an in-home visit with Calipari coming up soon. At that point, they will probably finalize plans for a trip to Lexington.
Asked to describe what he's seen in Gordon's development over the last year, Oliver said: "We've known for a long time that he had a chance to be a real special player. His brother (former UCLA and New Mexico star Drew Gordon) came up through the Soldiers program, and Aaron was always around when he was younger. At that time, he was a point guard, so he's got all of these guard skills in the body of a power forward. And the motor. That's probably the biggest thing people talk about when it comes to him. He's got a great motor. He plays extremely hard. He'll outwork you in the game or in practice. He's a gym rat who keeps getting better and better."
UK growing on Gordon?
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