LEXINGTON, Ky. – NCAA rules prohibit Kentucky coach John Calipari from publicly discussing specific unsigned recruits, so he was unable to respond directly Wednesday to a former commitment’s father’s description that the UK staff was “unprofessional” in handling his son’s decommitment.
But when asked how he generally handles the recruitment of a player who is already verbally committed to his program, Calipari took the chance to offer a general critique of the process and perhaps some thinly-veiled observations about class of 2019 recruit DJ Jeffries‘ decommitment.
“We’ve been so fortunate and blessed that families have trusted us with their children, but this isn’t for everybody,” Calipari said. “This is really hard. You have to want this as bad as we want you. I am always looking for guys who have always dreamed of playing for Kentucky. Then I’ve got to find out if they’re good enough, because there may be 100,000 of those but there are only three or four that are really good enough to be here to make that work.
“…Then again, you have to have a great faith in your own ability and confidence that you’re not – Like I don’t promise anybody they’ll start or play or how much you’re going to shoot the ball. I just don’t do it with anybody. But some kids need that, and that’s OK. It just wouldn’t be here.”
Jeffries, a five-star prospect according to ESPN who initially committed to Kentucky in March, announced Monday 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 UK assistant Tony 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 over the weekend 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.”
Toward the end of Calipari’s more than two-minute answer to the recruiting question, he noted the relationship he has held with several players, including former Wildcat Kyle Wiltjer, after they transferred from his program.
“I recruited the same way everywhere I’ve been,” Calipari said. “I think it’s been pretty good overall, and you know what? It’s been good for the kids. … We have kids that will leave here yet stay in touch. Like still text me, call me, ask me for advice. Kyle just invited me to his wedding.
“The way we do this they know we’re honest. Sometimes they look and say, ‘I shouldn’t have been here, I need to try this somewhere else, but I love you coach, I love what you tried.’ And we’re good with that here. We don’t take this personally. There’s no – I don’t get mad at anybody. You want to go somewhere else? I’m happy for you. Go.”