LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari stood on the massive stage, his Final Four-caliber team of future pros seated behind him, the words KENTUCKY EFFECT on a screen as the backdrop behind them, and the larger-than-life Kentucky coach spoke for 12 minutes about what he's done and what he plans to do.
It was more Obama than Krzyzewski.
More campaign speech than are-you-ready-for-some-basketball.
And that's because Calipari wasn't talking to you or I as much as he was talking to them -- the prospects here at Big Blue Madness both officially and unofficially, a group headlined by Class of 2012 stars Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Dajuan Coleman and Willie Cauley. They won't all attend Kentucky. At least I don't think they'll all attend Kentucky. But some of them will, and Calipari made an obvious effort to make them aware that when they enroll they'll be part of a "players-first program."
"This is a players-first program," he said. "We are here to help them reach their dreams."
That's the thing about basketball prospects these days.
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Fans have dreams of No. 1 rankings and national championships, but kids, for the most part, just want to get picked in the lottery. If they happen to make a Final Four along the way, great. But the dream is almost always the NBA. Calipari understands this as well as anybody. And he doesn't fight it. He embraces it. Which is why he stood on that massive stage in front of a capacity crowd at Rupp Arena and talked mostly about what the UK program can do for players and what those players can then turn around and do for the UK program.
That the Wildcats produced five first-round picks in 2010 was mentioned.
That is, after all, the kind of thing that gets recruits' attention.
"That had never been done before and it may never be done again," Calipari said. "Unless we do it here, of course."