LEXINGTON, Ky. — OK, Kentucky basketball fans, it’s time to decide if you really meant it. All those times so many of you said you just wished John Calipari would sprinkle in a few good-but-not-one-and-done recruits so that the Wildcats might have a little experience to mix in with these freshman superstars?
Well, here it comes: Tuesday afternoon, Kentucky is almost certainly going to land 4-star shooting guard Tyler Herro, a one-time Wisconsin commitment who is really good but not straight-to-the-NBA good. He should stick around a while.
Remember that when you bemoan the fact that the Cats haven’t signed the No. 1 overall recruit since Nerlens Noel in 2012 and Duke got yet another one — R.J. Barrett — over Kentucky just last week. Remember, you want guys like Tyler Herro.
And that isn’t meant to be condescending. It’s true. There are those among you in the Big Blue Nation who will no doubt be disappointed when the Wildcats exit the early signing period on Wednesday having only inked the No. 8, 14 and 36 (Herro) prospects in the Class of 2018.
But really, that’s kind of perfect. You can worry about whether No. 2 overall Zion Williamson, the most exciting player in the class, is going to spurn UK in favor of Duke, Kansas or (gasp) home-state Clemson. You could fret over the possibility Calipari won’t sign an elite big man in this class — not that there are many options in a down year for large basketball-playing high school seniors.
Or you could celebrate the fact that Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro is the best group of backcourt commitments to any one program in America at the moment. And that it’s a nice mix of skill sets. And that really none of them, but especially Herro, is a lock to leave for the NBA after just one year.
Oh, and current Kentucky freshman guards Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might well be back for a second season. It would be a surprise if at least one of them isn’t.
Which is to say, the Wildcats’ backcourt should be loaded in 2018-19, and what is that thing we always hear in March? Guard play rules in the NCAA Tournament. Experience, too.
Things are setting up for Kentucky to have good guard play and a measure of experience in the backcourt, next season and beyond. Herro is, in theory, exactly the kind of player for which fans who’ve grown weary of the constant one-and-done churn have been clamoring.
Yes, Calipari and the Cats need to solve the riddle of why top-five recruits have been picking other schools more often than not lately — and how Duke just keeps loading up on them — but if the byproduct in the meantime is a few more Tyler Herros (or Dominique Hawkins), maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
And one other thing, to those who seem to be utterly disgusted by 4-star quarterback Jarren Williams after he decommitted from Kentucky football for a second time this weekend and seems likely to choose Miami (or Ohio State or Alabama or Auburn): The Wildcats benefit from the same phenomenon every year in basketball.
This is just the way it works. Do you think Wisconsin expended far more time and energy recruiting Herro, a Milwaukee native, than Kentucky? Are you aware of how long Iowa and Michigan State pursued Tyler Ulis, only to have Calipari swoop once he finally deemed the little man good enough for Kentucky?
It stinks to be on the wrong end of that, like Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow are now in football, but how can you blame a teenager for choosing established tradition and the biggest stage? You can’t and shouldn’t.
That choice is the reason Calipari and the Cats are about to sign a multi-year player about whom even old-school basketball fans can get excited.