Calipari criticizes Duke recruiting tactics after losing out on Zion Williamson

It’s basically Hall of Fame on Hall of Fame crime.

Last weekend, five-star recruit Zion Williamson chose to commit to Duke over a group of schools, including Kentucky.

Well, that’s not sitting well with coach John Calipari.

In announcing his decision, Williamson cited his relationship with Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski.

The program’s recruiting pitch includes telling prospects that going to school in Durham leaves them “set for life.”

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Call it sour grapes, but Coach Cal doesn’t buy Duke’s pitch.

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“I don’t sell, when you come here: ‘The university and the state will take care of you for the rest of your life.’ You may buy that, and I’ve got some great property and some swampland down in Florida to sell you too,” Calipari told reporters Monday. “Every one of us in this country is based on, you have to take care of your self, prepare yourself, and then when you make it you make sure you’re helping and along the way you’re bringing other people with you. That’s what we’re trying to do: Just give these guys the best opportunity. We’re not trying to say this university or state will take care of you for the rest of your life.

“There’s no socialism here. This stuff is you’ve got to go do it and we’re going to help you do it. Some like that, some don’t like that.”

Do you agree with Coach Cal's comments?

Both schools have been among the most successful when it comes to using the “one-and-done” rule, attracting players to campus for one season before sending them off to the NBA.

UK freshman Hamidou Diallo explained the difference between the two schools in 2016.

“Kentucky’s pitch was just the NBA thing,” Diallo said. “Duke’s pitch was just like, ‘If you come to Duke you’re going to be set for life.’ It’s more than just basketball.”

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Williamson detailed what struck home with him.

“It was always more than basketball with Coach K,” he said. “That basketball can stop bouncing for you at any time. If basketball was to end for me tomorrow, I would know I’m in good hands at Duke University.”

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Calipari is used to getting the players he wants, although the top three recruits in the ESPN 100 have now committed to Duke. It’s clear that this is a different position for the Wildcats.

Still, the coach says he hopes all the players find happiness elsewhere.

“I’m not wishing ill will on any of these kids; it’s about them and their families,” he said. “My concern is whomever we get here — how do we get them to be the best version of themselves, both on and off the court? How do we send them off from here — after a year, two years, three years, four years, whatever — with a basis to have success on and off the court where they can be involved in their communities and it’s not just solely basketball?”

Willamson, considered to be the best dunker in high school basketball, chose Duke over Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Clemson.

This could make for an interesting clash should the Blue Devils and Wildcats meet next season.

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Mike is an 11-time Michigan Emmy Award winner who has spent nearly 30 years working in sports media.
Mike has spent nearly 30 years in all aspects of sports media, including on-air, 10 at ESPN and another 10 at Fox Sports Detroit. He now works as a TV agent, and lives with his family in West Bloomfield, MI.
Sudbury, Massachusetts
11-time Michigan Emmy winner
Emerson College
Books Written
The Longest Year: One Family's Journey Of Life, Death, And Love/If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Tigers/If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Lions
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