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Apr. 22 2009 - 6:37 pm | 68 views | 2 recommendations | 8 comments

Did Coach Cal plan on leaving Memphis? [Updated]

Please follow me, recruit!

The stampede of recruits heading away from Memphis has shed an unkind light on how John Calipari handles recruiting and the National Letter of Intent (NLI) process.

NLIs were designed to simplify collegiate recruiting. In 1964, the NLI program was created to provide a formalized time-frame for the recruiting process. The idea is simple, the recruit gets wooed by coaches for a specified period of time and then can declare, through an NLI, his or her intention to attend a certain college.

The NLI essentially functions as a contract  – once the declaration is made, other coaches are not allowed to contact the recruit and the recruit cannot change his or her mind….unless the recruit and the school agree to include a clause which gives the recruit the opportunity to void the NLI if their is a head coaching change. While athletic departments tend to frown upon the inclusion of this clause, top recruits often demand the security of knowing that they have the freedom to leave if their coach is fired or quits.

When John Calipari decided to ditch Memphis and head to the blue pastures of Lexington, Kentucky, to coach the UK Wildcats, the stellar class of recruits he had gathered for next year were suddenly put into flux. Sure enough, even though Calipari said he hoped that recruits who had committed to Memphis would go to Memphis, his top recruits are following him.

DeMarcus Cousins, rated the #2 center in the 2009 recruiting class by Scout.com, has already decided to switch to Kentucky, and tomorrow another recruit, Xavier Henry, is set to announce whether he will follow suit.

Henry, Scout.com’s top-ranked guard, recently shed some light on Calipari’s true feelings towards Memphis. Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated, reports that Henry says he “didn’t have the idea to put the [clause] in there, Coach Cal did it for us.”

Henry’s Letter of Intent was submitted long before Kentucky had a coaching vacancy, so was Calipari recruiting for Memphis or himself?

[UPDATE - 7:47] Calipari’s plan may have backfired. Several news sources are reporting that Xavier Henry has chosen to attend Kansas, his parents’ alma mater, instead of Kentucky. It should be noted that Henry’s brother, C.J., who played for Memphis this past season, will be transferring to whichever school Xavier ends up at. C.J. will not have to miss a season after transferring, because he is not under scholarship at Memphis.

The Henrys will hold a press conference to officially announce their decision at 11:15 am.

[UPDATE - 12:30] An oral agreement with Kansas has been confirmed.


3 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 8 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    Bottom line? Basketball recruits go where they get the best package: car, dorm, girls, no school work, air time (TV, not jump shot), etc. Calipari’s move is a low-life one nevertheless. If he were going to Louisville, I would forgive him, however.

  2. collapse expand

    A college coach doing something moderately unscrupulous? Say it ain’t so, Katesy!

  3. collapse expand

    whoops…what you failed to mention in your story is the latest news that since Xavier’s mom wanted her boys to stay close to home and go to her alma mater, Coach Cal (during their last meeting) told the Henry brothers father Carl (whom he coached as an assistant at Kansas in the late 80’s) that it would be best if the kids went to KU…a fact confirmed by both Xavier and his father…hmm..doesn’t sound so “low” to me…Xavier wanted to play for coach Cal, but chose to stay closer to home…pure and simple…so far no player who signed a national LOI for Memphis has switched to UK (DeMarcus Cousins had only given a verbal to Memphis…and this was after he had verballed to Alabama Birmingham-thus he was free to sign with whomever he pleased as a verbal is non-binding.) Now there is some speculation that Darnell Dodson has asked for and been granted his release from his Memphis LOI…but there are two factors here…Coach Calipari cannot contact any recruit who is still under another schools LOI (as your story pointed out) without severe NCAA penalties…thus if Memphis wanted to keep Dodson, all they would have to do is say no… not releasing you..so these ASSUMPTIONS that coach Cal is pleading for these kids to jump ship and follow him are nothing more than supposition and baseless…if a kid chooses to ask for a release he can ask…doesn’t mean it will be granted by that institution…I hope this isn’t some attack and would hope that your misinformation comes from being just ill-informed on the subject.

  4. collapse expand

    just to follow up…

    Nolan Dennis LOI Memphis-asked out of LOI and committed to BAYLOR

    Xavier Henry LOI Memphis-asked out of LOI and committed to KANSAS (with a slight nudge from Coach Cal-per Carl Henry)

    DeMarcus Cousins Verbal-Signed LOI w/ KENTUCKY

    Will Coleman LOI Memphis-staying at MEMPHIS

    Darnell Dodson LOI Memphis-asked out of LOI and will be announcing KENTUCKY is his destination (as he cannot sign another LOI–nor can Dennis or Henry)

    John Wall- Still undecided (and was undecided when Calipari left Memphis)

    So apparently, if Coach Cal were pleading with his monster recruiting class to follow him, why have 2 gone someplace other than Kentucky with 1 staying at Memphis…?? If he were the “slime” that is being hinted at, wouldn’t all of them ended up at UK? Really…if UK could provide recruits with all of those perks that one of your posters described, UK’s recruiting classes would be #1 every year…tsk tsk…shoddy gentlemen…

    • collapse expand

      Fincity – Thanks for the comments.

      First, let’s be clear, Nolan Dennis did not “ask out.” He also had the coach clause in his letter. Second, where the players go instead of Memphis is not very pertinent to this particular discussion (note: at no point did I say Calipari was “pleading” with these players, Gillispie had a good looking class of recruits coming in, and UK would have been a good team with or without Calipari’s guys). The point is that it was Calipari’s idea for at least one of these players to have this clause included in his letter. You don’t think it occurred to Calipari before he suggested the clause, that it would be useful for him if he switched jobs?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        my understanding is that Cal puts that clause (and has for several years) so that if something were to happen (and yes the possibility of him leaving for someplace else was plausible…hell, it happened) so he would have the recruit protected from going to a school where the only draw for the recruit was the head coach…(perhaps it was your choice of pictures for the pleading issue)…but at no time did Cal tell his players to follow him…UK is very touchy about rules violations (see Eddie Sutton) and don’t ever want to live through that nightmare again…I find it interesting though, that Cal actually stated to Carl Henry that Xavier and CJ would be better off not upsetting their mother and going to Kansas…plus, one of my favorite Cal quotes is “if the kid wants to help my family, he’ll stay at school, if the kid wants to help his family, he’ll go to the NBA..” even at his first year at a new school HUNGRY for success, he told our two best players to test the NBA waters because it would be best for them… so far his actions have proven to me his quality as a person moreso than the assumptions and heresay prompted by those who offer negative opinions of the man…just my opinion though…

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    When I was fifteen, my baseball coach condemned me to a stands-bound life. "Graham, you're a pretty good fielder," he said. "But unfortunately it's easier to teach kids how to field than it is to show them how to hit." Stung by this unceremonious end to my baseball career, I trained my crosshairs on his breed. Over time, I have come to realize that he isn't unique, American sports are full of coaches just like him....

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