John Calipari, the controversial–some say mercenary–coach of the Kentucky Wildcats promises his recruits that they can play in the NBA. He might mention college once or twice–say that the university campus is lovely and that Lexington is pretty in the springtime. But with NBA salaries moving ever skyward and college in general increasingly being considered mere preparation for the job market, Calipari is straightforward about his aims. His best player last year was a freshman named Julius Randle. Randle is playing what would be his sophomore season at Kentucky as a NBA rookie with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Randle signed a multimillion dollar deal after being drafted in the first round. It’s no longer romantic to hang around campus and play for the “love of the game.” In the NBA you can love a game that loves you back.
Last week Calipari invited 90 NBA scouts to a Kentucky-players-only scouting session/combine called simply “Kentucky Basketball Practice.” It was televised on ESPNU. The team played and did drills for two hours while the players were evaluated for professional basketball potential and aptitude. The college season–Kentucky is ranked preseason #1–hasn’t yet begun. Calipari released 45 pages of data on the players afterwards.