Top 5 prospect Chris Livingston commits to Kentucky - UK officially back to being a recruiting power
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
It's good to be John Calipari.
Well, it's never not been good to be John Calipari in the last decade or so.
But it's been especially good these last few weeks.
That's because for the second time in 10 days, the Wildcats have picked up a commitment from a consensus Top 5 prospect in the national rankings. After receiving a commitment from guard Shaedon Sharpe a few days ago, Calipari and his new look staff (which we'll get to in a minute) did it again, this time receiving a commit from the No. 5 player in America, wing Chris Livingston.
Say it with me now: If there was ever any doubt, Kentucky is officially back to being the premiere recruiting power in college hoops.
Before we get to that, first, a little about Livingston. He's a powerfully built 6'6 wing, the kind of kid that might only be 17-years-old, but has the body of a guy four or five years older. Originally from Akron, Ohio, he will play this year at Oak Hill Academy, but has the size and make-up of a modern day NBA wing. In college, he should even be able to slide out and play a small ball four if necessary, should Kentucky want to tinker with lineups next season.
Like Sharpe, he should be able to step in and have an immediate impact on the Wildcats 2021-2022 season.
But more than anything though, Livingston's commitment - coupled with Sharpe's and a few others that might be to come here in the next few weeks - have officially re-established one thing: Kentucky is back to being the recruiting power in college hoops.
To be clear, it's not like they ever fell far. John Calipari has said as much in recent days and it was just two recruiting cycles in 2020 that they signed the No. 1 class in America. At the same time, as the recruiting landscape has changed, they haven't been able to keep up and sign the true difference-makers that are needed to win at the highest level (at least if you're going to count on freshmen).
Some of it was out of Kentucky's control, as the Wildcats finished second to Oklahoma State for Cade Cunningham, after the Pokes signed Cunningham's brother as an assistant coach. Same with James Wiseman who was forever a Kentucky lean until Penny Hardaway was hired at Memphis. Some of it was falling just short, like losing Anthony Edwards to the hometown Georgia Bulldogs or Zion Williamson to Duke, the No. 1 overall picks in the 2020 and 2019 drafts respectively, both of which had Kentucky in their final few schools.
But whatever it was, Kentucky just wasn't getting the true game-changers that you need in college basketball. There was a lot of "really good" in Kentucky's class, but nothing like the elite players that dotted those early recruiting classes, when the Wildcats produced three No. 1 picks in Calipari's first six years at the school (John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony Towns) from 2010 to 2015.
As I've said many times before, in the same way that there is a big gap between getting the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and the No. 13 pick, there is a big difference between signing the No. 1 high school player in America, and even a fringe Top 10 guy.
The No. 1 guy is almost always a college superstar you can build around - Cade Cunningham, Zion Williamson etc. Once you get past No. 3, 4 and 5 though, the rest are still good. But need to be complimentary pieces, not the foundation of your class.
That's also what has made this latest recruiting run, and really, everything over the last few months that much more impressive for Kentucky. Following last season - which, in case you've forgotten, was a 9-15 debacle - Calipari vowed to change just about everything within the program. He promised to recruit better players, update his style of play, hit the portal harder, and revamp his staff.
Well in doing that part (fixing his staff), he brought in two of the most well-respected recruiters in college basketball, Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman, both of whom were previously at Illinois. From there, the staff - including fellow assistant Jai Lucas got to work, with one simple edict: Get Kentucky back to recruiting the kinds of players they did in the early part of this decade, when they made four Final Fours from 2011 to 2015 and won a national title along the way.
Fast-forward to these last few days and they have locked up Sharpe in the backcourt, and now they have Livingston on the wing. They also have Skyy Clark, a guard who is ranked in the Top 20 nationally committed as well.
And the crazy thing is, they aren't done yet.
Along with the No. 1 and No. 5 players in America (Sharpe and Livingston) they are also believed to be the favorite for the No. 2 player in the country, center Derek Lively II, as well as the No. 7 player in the country Cason Wallace. The No. 10 player in the country Adem Bona is also seen as a Kentucky lean, pending on how Lively's recruitment shakes out.
While it's early, we're talking four or potentially five of the Top 10 players in this class, and possibly six players in the Top 20 overall.
There's a reason that Kentucky fans are calling 2021-2022 "The Revenge Tour."
This new look staff is well on its way to delivering on that promise.