Kentucky's eight-man 2013 signing class is official and the biggest whale of all is still circling John Calipari's hook.
Dominique Hawkins was the MVP of Kentucky's Sweet 16 this season
The Cats' officially added three more pieces to it's ballyhooed class on Thursday, as guard Dominique Hawkins, center Dakari Johnson and forward Julius Randle all signed their National Letter of Intent to play at UK. Those three joined the fall signing period quintet of twin guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, guard James Young and forwards Marcus Lee and Derek Willis.
After a season that saw Kentucky lose star freshman forward Nerlens Noel to injury in mid-February then stumble to a first-round NIT defeat Calipari minced no words in highlighting why he's so high on his next batch of incoming freshmen.
“The thing I like most about this group is its competitive spirit and its will to win,” Calipari said. “These guys are All-Americans and award winners, but more importantly they’re world champions, national champions and state champions. They know what it takes to win. The size and talent of the group will allow us to have tough, hard-nosed practices which will carry over to the games. I’m excited for the opportunity to coach this group.”
The class – called the best-ever by most recruiting analysts – features the top-ranked player in the 2013 class at point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center. Randle (2), Andrew Harrison (4), Aaron Harrison (6), Young (9), Johnson (11) and Lee (16) are all rated amongst the Top 20 players according to 247sports' composite rankings.
Despite its embarrassment of riches already UK could very well land the nation's top-ranked player, forward Andrew Wiggins, before the spring signing period concludes May 15. For now, the latest three to officially join the Cats further cement Calipari's prowess as a recruiter and firmly plant the favorite's tag on UK in the race for the 2014 national championship.
Here is what Calipari had to say about the three players who signed at the outset of the spring period:
on guard Dominique Hawkins (Madison Central HS; Richmond, Ky.)
“I kept hearing about Dominique from Marquis Estill and my good friend Dr. Robert Palmer,” Calipari said. “When I watched him play, lead his team, and play with a will to win and fight, I was totally sold. At the Sweet Sixteen, he made sure he got his teammates involved and was always happy with their success, but when it was time to take over the game – when it was winning time – everyone in the building knew they were going to play through Dominique, which they did, and they won. The last UK player who was named Kentucky Mr. Basketball and won a state title in the same year was Darius Miller. He went to two Final Fours, won a national title and is now playing in the NBA. My hope is Dominique will be on the same path.”
on center Dakari Johnson (Montverde Academy; Brooklyn, N.Y.)
“Dakari’s improvement over the last year and a half has been phenomenal,” Calipari said. “His ability to be a true low-post threat adds an important piece to what our team will really need. He’s patient when he gets the ball on the block and has a great understanding for how to use his size for a kid his age. Dakari is a great student and a great kid. He’s won a high school championship, a world championship with Team USA, and he said he wants to win a national championship with us and an NBA championship. That statement says a lot about the type of winner he is.”
Dakari Johnson impressed at the McDonald's All-American Game with his physicality in the paint
on forward Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy; Plano, Texas)
"Julius is another hard-working player who is a great student and person along with being a dominator on the court,” Calipari said. “He has that will to win that the players I’ve had who have become special have all had. That motor will be important to our success next year. Julius has the skill set to be an inside-outside guy for us. He has the ability to put it on the floor and beat guys off the dribble, but he’s also got the toughness, size and ability to score against bigger defenders. At the end of the day, he’s a true leader whose personal drive is off the charts.”