Kentucky basketball assistant responds to 'unprofessional' comment by recruit's dad

Photo: Chris Todd, Clarion-Ledger

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – The Kentucky assistant coach accused of being unprofessional by a former recruit’s father wants the record set straight.

“In general I’ve worked for Cal for a long time, I’ve recruited a lot of players for Cal, including a lot of the guys on this team. You’d be hard-pressed to find any players we’ve ever recruited, even the ones who decided not to come to Kentucky — a player or parent — who would say that we were ever unprofessional in our recruiting,” UK assistant Tony Barbee said Thursday while cautioning he was not responding to the specific comment as NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on unsigned recruits. “The way we approach recruiting is this is about the kids and their families and what’s best for them. Not about what’s best for us. Cal’s said it a million times: Kentucky is not for everybody. It takes a special breed to want to play here.”

D.J. Jeffries, the No. 16 player in the Chosen 25 for 2019 who initially committed to Kentucky in March, announced last week he was reopening his recruitment.

Less than a day later his father, Corey Jeffries, ripped Kentucky coaches during a Memphis radio interview for the way they handled the news of DJ’s decommitment.

“They kind of shocked me,” Corey told the Jason & John Show on 92.9 FM in Memphis. “They were kind of unprofessional. So, if they come (back), they come. If they don’t, we’re fine with that too.

“They didn’t handle it the way I expected them to handle it, being professionals. I thought it would be handled better, but we’re not going to get into a mud-slinging contest with them. We’ll take the high road. That’s the way we were raised.”

In a subsequent interview with the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Corey clarified that it was Barbee, DJ’s lead recruiter, and not Calipari who was upset by the news of the decommitment. He added that the lack of a UK coach at DJ’s final AAU game in Las Vegas was the impetus for the decision.

“I hear people say that Cal and (Tony) Barbee came and sat down (before DJ committed) and talked with the Jeffries family about the commitment and about what this would mean, whether we were ready to move forward,” Corey told the radio station. “Yes, at the time we were. But they also said some things that they didn’t fulfill. If we going to be loyal to you, we expect loyalty back.”

Calipari’s thinly-veiled response to the comment before his team left Lexington for a four-game exhibition series in the Bahamas was to say he is “always looking for guys who have always dreamed of playing for Kentucky” and are also good enough to play in the program.

Jeffries is the first recruit to back out of a verbal commitment in the Calipari era, and Barbee said the staff’s track record proves finding recruits to satisfy Calipari’s criteria is not too hard.

“You’ve got a lot of guys that want to be special, that want to play in an environment and a program that values and cares about basketball,” he said. “That’s Kentucky at its heart.”

For more, visit the Courier Journal

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