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Game's top recruiter may have nabbed his best class yet

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Video comments from Calipari on coachcal.com

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said it best when talking to Courier-Journal recruiting reporter Jody Demling about John Calipari's third consecutive top-ranked signing class.

Class School National rank
2011 Kentucky 1st
2010 Kentucky 1st
2009 Kentucky 1st
2008 Memphis 4th
2007 Memphis 10th
2006 Memphis 23rd
2005 Memphis 7th
2004 Memphis 9th
Kentucky Farm Bureau

"I have not seen anything like this (run of No. 1s) since I have been in the business," Meyer told Demling. "It's amazing and I guess what makes it so amazing is that it really doesn't seem that amazing. It seems like clockwork."

Ho-hum for the mad recruiting scientist, Calipari. The 2011 early signing class for the second-year Kentucky coach was just another day in the life of the game's top recruiter.

Calipari signed four five-star recruits to national letters of intent Wednesday. High school superstars Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer will all be playing basketball at the University of Kentucky next season, securing what is widely regarded as the nation's top class for the third straight year. Teague (No. 2), Gilchrist (No. 3), Davis (No. 6) and Wiltjer (No. 25) are all ranked in the Rivals.com top 25 in the class of 2011 and are consensus five-star recruits.

And yet none of us in the Commonwealth are surprised in the least.

Already one of the nation's top recruiters at Memphis, Calipari has found the perfect platform at Kentucky to recruit the nation's top players. Calipari's previous point guards own the last two NBA Rookie of the Year awards (and maybe a third on the way in the form of John Wall), and a record-setting five UK players went in the first round of the NBA Draft this past year.

When you pair those results with a program like Kentucky together, it's been a perfect, unbeatable combination for nabbing the best of the best.

"You sell results," Calipari told me in a recruiting story for Kentucky's official yearbook. "You sell what we've been able to do. When I said this is a big, big moment for Kentucky basketball, maybe the biggest when those five players were drafted in the first round for the first time in the history of the program, I stand by that statement. That's why we were able to have the kids committed this year and looking at the juniors and how this thing might roll for the next four or five years."

In that story (you can order the yearbook here or find in stores for $10), Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua admitted that kids are basically selling themselves for the chance to play at Kentucky, so much so that they don't even look at all the top-10 players in a class anymore.

Instead, the coaching staff is focused on who of the nation's top crop fits best in the system.

"There may have been one other player that I really wanted that we didn't get," Calipari said. "Short of that, we've gotten who we wanted."

In this year's class, with the nation's top frontcourt (Davis and Gilchrist), top point guard (Teague) and a lengthy sharpshooter (Wiltjer), Calipari got what he wanted. In fact, he may have nabbed his best recruiting class ever.

With the nation's second-, third- sixth- and 25th-ranked players, according to Rivals.com, Calipari has far and away the nation's best average ranking this year and best of his career.

As good as the 2010 signing class was with Enes Kanter (No. 3), Brandon Knight (No. 6), Terrence Jones (No. 13), Doron Lamb (No. 21), Stacey Poole (No. 33) and Eloy Vargas (No. 26 in the 2008 class), 2011 may be better.

Not even the 2009 star-studded class of John Wall (No. 1), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 2), Daniel Orton (No. 22), Eric Bledsoe (No. 23) and Jon Hood (No. 40) was quite as top heavy as this year's class (let's not forget that Calipari could still add a signee or two in the late period).

Now, it remains to be seen whether any of these last two classes can match what Wall and Co. did, because let's face it, last year was pretty special. But on paper, when your worst player is ranked 25th in the nation, you've pulled off one heck of a recruiting coup. Believe it or not, this class looks as good, if not better, than any class Calipari has ever hauled in.

And it's all been like clockwork.

One can almost picture Calipari on Wednesday sitting with his legs up on his desk, yawning as the faxes come in.

OK, maybe that's a stretch. But the point is, as long as Calipari is at Kentucky, this string of top-rated recruiting classes should no longer surprise anyone.

As unfair of an expectation as it is, the only thing that will surprise us is the year he doesn't get the top class.

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