Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seth Davis Criticizes John Calipari and Others

Seth Davis of SI.com has published an article that is very critical of Kentucky head coach John Calipari and several others, including new Florida International coach Isiah Thomas. Davis feels that Calipari and others are being unfair to student athletes when they are involved in such practices as over-recruiting, "ushering" players out the door and forcing players to stay. Here are some of his comments on Calipari:

Calipari took the art of running off players to new heights this spring. Shortly after taking over for Billy Gillispie, Calipari brought in three of the nation's top unsigned high school seniors: guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, and power forward DeMarcus Cousins. Calipari also got some good news when 6-9 junior forward Patrick Patterson decided to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school.

Problem was, that left Calipari with four more players than he had scholarships to give -- and he would have been five over the limit if senior guard Jodie Meeks had not decided to remain in the NBA draft. Calipari had an opportunity to watch the players he inherited go through a half-dozen workouts in Lexington before deciding how he was going to whittle his roster. In late May, the school announced that three scholarship players, who just happened to be end-of-the-bench reserves, would not be returning next season. No decision has been made yet who will be the fourth player to forfeit his scholarship.

"There wasn't any secret. All the players knew we were over on scholarships and that people were going to have to leave when [Calipari] came in," said junior forward A.J. Stewart, who is one of the three players leaving the team. "Those workouts were like a tryout. If you wanted to stay on the team, you'd better play well. If he gave me the option to stay, I would have taken it, because I'm confident I could take somebody's spot. I didn't want to go anywhere."

To be sure, Stewart deeply hurt his cause by skipping so many classes as a sophomore that the university suspended him for the first 10 games next season. Then again, players return from such suspensions all the time -- if they're good enough.

I asked Stewart what he thought his situation would be if had scored 20 points per game last season instead of 2.0. He laughed and replied, "I think I'd still be wearing blue. But I can't really be upset about it. It's a business. This kind of thing happens all the time."

Not surprisingly, Calipari takes umbrage at the suggestion that he is running off players at Kentucky. "There are guys here who are just not going to be able to play the way we play, and they're better suited to go somewhere else," Calipari said. "I don't want a kid who thinks he can be a professional not playing in February and looking at me like I'm screwing him. If you know kids are not going to play, you tell them."

To be fair, sometimes players' scholarships are withdrawn because of academic reasons or failed drug tests, but because of federal privacy guidelines a school is not allowed to disclose that information. And let's face it, the reason Gillispie was fired in the first place was because his players weren't good enough. Calipari also points out that he has never refused to grant a release to a player who requested a transfer. "I would never hold a kid back who wanted to leave," he said. "If a kid doesn't choose to play for me, I'm fine with that."

Complete Article from SI.com

My Thoughts: This is a very well-written article by Davis and I recommend that everyone check it out. He has some valid points that support the outcry of many who feel that players like Stewart were treated unfairly. While it is unfortunate in many circumstances, this is a part of college basketball. Players are "nudged" out the back door all the time and while it is not always a pretty scene, it is what it is.

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