LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The best high school basketball player in America should be a recruiting tug of war between John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski.
Do you want to be the next Zion Williamson or the next Anthony Davis?
Do you prefer playing for a coach who has won 5 national championships or the guy with 52 NBA Draft picks over his 3-decade coaching career?
Rupp Arena or Cameron Indoor Stadium, the ACC or SEC, a sizzling rivalry game against North Carolina or one against Louisville?
What if I told you the answer was neither?
The best high school prospect since Zion Williamson made his college decision Monday. Chet Holmgren of Minneapolis was not discouraged by the stinging left jab Baylor delivered in the 2021 NCAA championship game.
He picked Gonzaga.
“It was their consistent approach, how versatile they are on the court and their offensive style," Holmgren told his hometown Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
"They take their talent and tweak their system based on their personnel. They know how to put it all together."
Neither Duke nor Kentucky made Holmgren’s final 7 schools. The news that a 7-foot prospect likely to be a one-and-done phenom picked Gonzaga was still a jarring reminder of a tilt in the recruiting landscape.
After landing 25 prospects ranked in the Top 10 nationally by 247Sports in his first dozen seasons at Kentucky, Calipari is likely to welcome his first class without any Top 10 players to Lexington next season.
With a pair of solid transfers, Calipari appears to be listening to the suggestions that Kentucky needs to get older. But the coaching grapevine has also buzzed with talk of former Calipari assistant coach Orlando Antigua leaving Illinois to return to UK.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga has officially transitioned from the nice little program in Spokane, Washington that typically underachieves in the NCAA Tournament to a legitimate heavyweight with a pair of Top 10 commitments in the Class of 2021.
Holmgren will team with Hunter Sallis, a 6-5 guard from Omaha, Nebraska, who said, “No,” to Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA to say, “Yes,” to Mark Few of Gonzaga.
As the No. 6 ranked prospect in the 2021 class, Sallis was briefly the highest-ranked player ever landed by the Bulldogs. He followed Jalen Suggs, who became Gonzaga’s first 5-star prospect when he committed a year ago and led the Zags to their NCAA title game defeat against Baylor two weeks ago.
Holmgren’s decision, leaves one uncommitted Top 10 player in the 2021 class — Patrick Baldwin Jr, a 6-9 forward from suburban Milwaukee.
Although Baldwin has UK and Duke on his list of 10 finalists, insiders predict he is likely to choose Duke, Georgetown or Wisconsin-Milwaukee (where his father is the head coach).
If Baldwin does not pick Kentucky, the record will show a first for Calipari’s 13 recruiting classes in Lexington:
It will be his first class without a single player ranked in the Top 10 by 247Sports.com.
According to the rankings, Calipari landed at least 2 Top 10 prospects in his first 5 UK recruiting classes, starting with his John Wall (No. 2)/DeMarcus Cousins (No. 3) introductory class in 2009.
Calipari set the standard in 2013 with a fistful of Top 10 commitments — Julius Randle (No. 2); Andrew Harrison (No. 5); Aaron Harrison (No. 6); James Young (No. 9) and Dakari Johnson (No. 10).
A roll call of those names is a reminder there is little reason for furrowed brows. Although that group rallied late in their freshmen seasons and advanced to the NCAA title game, only Randle developed into a spectacular player.
The entire Top 10 mystique took another hit at Kentucky last winter. Calipari’s 2020 recruiting class featured a pair of Top 10 prospects — B.J. Boston (No. 5) and Terrence Clarke (No. 8).
Despite their presence (and considerable playing time for Boston), Kentucky could not avoid a 9-16 season and missed the NCAA Tournament.
Even without a Top 10 guy, Kentucky’s 2021 class is ranked No. 7 by 247Sports, led by forward Daimion Collins, the No. 11 player in the rankings.
Calipari has continued his aggressive push into the transfer market, adding Kellan Grady, a 2,000-point scorer at Davidson, as well as Oscar Tshiebwe, a ferocious rebounder during his time at West Virginia.
Odds are Kentucky is not finished — in the high school (point guard TyTy Washington) or transfer (Iowa guard C.J. Fredrick or Marcus Carr of Minnesota) markets.
But for at least one season, the recruiting scoreboard has tilted. Gonzaga will welcome a pair of Top 10 recruits. Auburn and Alabama each signed one. Kentucky does not have any.
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