Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie knows the recruiting trail can lead to success or failure. He also knows that having Kentucky inscribed on his attire means future recruits can identify with the school's rich tradition on the hardwood.
"Kentucky is used to getting great players," he said. "It's a long list of McDonald's All-Americans and a long list of consensus All-Americans and those kinds of things. I'm excited about our incoming guys and our returning guys." During his first two months on the job, Gillispie and his staff snagged Alex Legion and signed heralded prospect Patrick Patterson. Not bad for a staff that had to make up a year's worth of recruiting in a matter of weeks and not months.
The finished product reveals that Kentucky is back on the national recruiting picture. Not that the Wildcats haven't been on the national stage during the past couple of years, the program wasn't getting players ranked in the upper echelon among most recruiting circles.
All in all, Gillispie said his first class filled some needs on the roster he inherited when he took over for former coach Tubby Smith.
"I think we're starting to get our roster closer to being complete and I think we've added some key pieces that (are) going to help us in the future," he said. "I know that as a new coach coming into a situation, when you add players like we were able to add in the spring especially in about a four- or five-week period, I think it definitely helps you not only for now, but for the future as well."
"You get a chance when you play a game to go toe-to-toe," he said. "You don't really have encounters, competitions or any of those kinds of things in recruiting. You look forward to competing, but we have unbelievable respect for those guys."
Consider Gillispie as one of the coaches who have paid close attention to the success the Gators have enjoyed during the past two years. Florida and former UK assistant Billy Donovan have been successful at taking over as the top team in the SEC East, but Gillispie would like to change the trend.
"They've been beating us pretty good lately," he said. "We'll try to change it was we go. We have great respect for them and we have great respect for everyone. They've won two national titles in a row and man alive, and I really respect everything that they've done. They have great players; great coaches and they've developed a great program. They're at the top of the league and we're going to try and compete as hard as we can every time we get a chance."
Gillispie said his teams will respect the opponent both on the court and knows that his staff will have to exercise the same amount of ability to compete when it comes to trying to build the program with top-notch talent.
"We'll respect everyone and everything, but we're not going to fear just a whole lot," he said. "We're going to swing and miss a lot. We're going to step up to the plate in recruiting and we're going to swing and miss. We're going to hit some home runs. I'm not afraid to fail, I don't think those guys (Patterson and Legion) are either." Gillispie added that one key to being able to compete with the likes of Florida and others is by simply overcoming the bad with the good.
"Basketball is a game of habits. You either have good habits or you have bad habits. You try to have eliminated the bad habits (and) you try to expand on the good habits."