More to Calipari’s exit than money

April 1, 2009, 10:33 AM HST · Updated April 1, 11:55 AM
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Call me naïve, if you will, but I really think that it wasn’t just about the money for John Calipari in his decision to leave a highly successful program in Memphis to take over the basketball coaching job.

Oh, he’ll get a huge chunk of green for accepting the job in the basketball-crazy Bluegrass State.  As in an eight-year deal that includes $31.65 million, plus incentives and a $2.5 million signing bonus.

In the end, it was the challenge of coaching for college basketball’s winningest program and competing in a power conference that most attracted to Kentucky.

Although Tyreke Evans, the nation’s best freshman, will likely leave for the NBA, Memphis still has a talented core.  Don’t put too much stock on reports the other kids will follow Calipari to Kentucky, because those players would have to sit out a season if they opted to transfer.

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The real impact for Memphis is in the players that will not be coming into the program and are now likely to sign with Kentucky, instead.

Four of the nation’s top 10 prep prospects were interested in coming to Memphis, including top-rated 6-6 wingman Xavier Henry and 6-11 center DeMarcus Cousins, as well as point guard John Wall and 6-5 shooting guard Nolan Dennis.

Add them to a roster featuring two of the SEC’s best players in guard Jodie Meeks and forward Patrick Patterson, and Kentucky could make making a quick return to the nation’s elite.  Patterson plans to return for his junior season, while Meeks – named a second-team All-America — is still considering his pro options.

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