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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Kentucky Will Get The Last Laugh

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxThe nation had fun at Kentucky’s expense on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats, less than a year removed from winning the NCAA tournament, had just lost on the road to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

“Kentucky lost to a guy named Bob Morris?” opposing fans joked.

Another popular jab at the Wildcats: “One and done has a new meaning in Lexington.”

Fans had several other responses that were clever and witty as they took joy in watching Kentucky and coach John Calipari deal with embarrassment on a national stage.

Calipari has established his ability to bring in the nation’s top talent every year, only to see many of them stay in college for one season before opting for the NBA. The Wildcats are getting what they deserve for gambling on their roster each year, fans thought.

But that will change next year. Kentucky has the nation’s top signing class and it’s about to get better.

Forward Julius Randle from Dallas, Texas, announced his commitment to Kentucky on Wednesday. Randle is the sixth five-star prospect to join Kentucky’s 2013 class, giving the Wildcats what many analysts are calling the best recruiting class ever.

Of course, that’s on paper. Kentucky’s class won’t receive full credit until it has success on the court.

“Our class isn’t going to be judged until you see how we play in college,” Randle told reporters following his announcement. “And our goal is to win it, go undefeated, whatever we want to do. Once we do that, then you can judge our class. But right now, we’re just great recruits.”

Randle’s correct. His class hasn’t accomplished anything in college, which will lead to debates over whether this is an Anthony Davis-type class or just another 2012 class full of disappointment.

Expect the former. Randle is only the latest addition to a class that already featured twin brother guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison from Richmond, Texas, center Dakari Johnson from Brooklyn, N.Y., and forward James Young from Rochester, Mich.

Kentucky has six McDonald’s All-Americans for the first time ever. The Wildcats have the nation’s top-rated point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center. And they will join a roster that’s expected to include at least a player or two from last year’s class (Nerlens Noel is the only player sure to leave).

How good is Kentucky’s class? It can’t be compared to other classes around the nation. It has to be matched up against the all-time greats, according to Dave Telep of ESPN Insider.

“We’re not comparing Kentucky’s recruiting class to No. 2 Memphis or No. 3 Kansas anymore,” Telep wrote. “Really what we’re talking about here is UK 2013 versus Michigan 1991, the ‘Fab Five.’”

And with that comparison will come greater expectations. That’s expected though as Kentucky continues to out-class its competition when it comes to recruiting.

Randle could have chosen any other school but decided to sign up with what he sees as the best players in the country.

“I felt like this was the best situation for me at the end of the day,” Randle said.

And Kentucky will again be one of the nation’s top title contenders at the beginning of next season.


Louisiana lineman chooses Florida

Florida  continued its strong start to the 2014 recruiting class by landing a commitment from offensive lineman Joseph Paul from New Orleans. He chose the Gators over offers from Texas A&M, Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas.

Paul decided to pick Florida after taking an unofficial visit to Gainesville last weekend.

“I prayed and I asked God to give me a sign and when I woke up (Tuesday) morning I was thinking about Florida and I took that as my sign,” Paul told ESPN RecruitingNation. “I felt real good when I want there — it felt like home.”

Paul gives Florida seven commitments for the class of 2014. He’s the third offensive lineman to join the class.


Ole Miss continues to impress

Offensive lineman Andy Bauer from St. Louis, Mo., is the latest highly-touted player to choose Ole Miss.

Bauer committed to the Rebels after initially giving his pledge to in-state Missouri. He’s the seventh commitment for Ole Miss’ 2014 class, showing the Rebels still have momentum following a strong 2013 class.

“There is something special in doing something new and fresh,” Bauer told 247Sports, “and I feel with the recruits they’re bringing in and with the atmosphere they have down there it felt like the right for me. I talked to my family about it and I’m going to Mississippi.”

Running back Racean Thomas from Oxford (Ala.) High School is another highly-touted prospect to show interest in Ole Miss. The competition for Thomas will be tough, however.

Thomas released his top six earlier this week: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Oregon.


Bielema adjusting to SEC recruiting

The ability to recruit has been the biggest question about Bret Bielema, who arrived in Arkansas in December after a successful seven-year run as Wisconsin’s head coach.

He helped quiet some doubters when he signed running back Alex Collins from Plantation, Fla., last month. But it will take more than a talented skill position player to prove Bielema can recruit against schools like Alabama, Auburn and LSU each year.

Bielema knows that, which led him to hire a staff he believes can recruit against the nation’s top coaches.

“I think this is the first time I can say that all nine of my assistants are detail guys and they love to recruit,” Bielema told ESPN. “That’s going to pay dividends, and they all have a vast amount of experience. We’ve got NFL. We’ve got SEC. We’ve got every type of conference known to man.”

One of those assistants is Randy Shannon, who has played and coached at Miami and has plenty of experience recruiting the state of Florida. Fans hope more prospects like Collins will sign up with Arkansas.

But recruiting Florida is difficult. Every school in the nation goes there looking for talent. So where else will Arkansas go? Try Texas, which Bielema has assigned six assistants to cover.

“We have to be more than competitive in North Texas and East Texas for us to have a chance here at Arkansas,” Bielema said. “We play Texas A&M for the next 10 years in Dallas. That has to be a big, big area of emphasis for us.”




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