Kentucky is being blown out by Duke signing one-and-dones.
Duke passed Kentucky a few years ago signing players who want to fast track it to the NBA. The Blue Devils have had first-round draft picks in seven of the last eight seasons, a total of 13 and 12 of them freshmen.
Kentucky coach John Calipari, who started the one-and-done craze, says everyone criticized him when he was doing it, but now it’s okay because Duke is doing it. Duke isn’t just signing one-and-done players, however – they’re doing it better.
The Blue Devils have another five-star class enrolling this summer, and three of them are projected first-round draft choices. That doesn’t always come to fruition – ask Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval. But as long as players are looking for a college program to get them to the NBA the fastest, Duke is the leader in making millionaires out of teenagers.
Now Kentucky has lost a five-star recruit, 6-foot-7 D. J. Jeffries, who de-committed from the Wildcats and leaves Calipari with only one signee from the class of 2019. That means Jeffries is on his way to play for Memphis, where first-year coach Penny Hardaway was Jeffries’ AAU coach this summer. Sounds like Coach K and USA Basketball.
If Kentucky isn’t producing multiple first-round draft picks anymore, the competition is wide open. Even Carolina has one, Nassir Little, who finished high school as the No. 2 or No. 3 projected pick in the 2019 NBA draft. If Little stars as a freshman and turns pro, that would give Roy Williams his fourth one-and-done at Carolina. Compared to 16 for Duke.
Jeffries was vague as to why he was backing off Kentucky, but if you read the tea leaves, it’s easy. He already picked the Wildcats over Mississippi State and Alabama, so he’s not going to either school. Memphis, which fired future Hall of Fame coach Tubby Smith with a winning record, hired Hardaway to field better teams by bringing in better players.
Whatever the reason, whether legal or not, Jeffries will end up there and be a first-round draft pick. And then Penny will beat Kentucky for the No. 1 player in the class of 2019, 7-foot James Wiseman, who will join Jeffries in Memphis.
Looks like game on for second place behind Duke.