<
>

John Calipari promotes Joel Justus to assistant, eyes recruiting boost

Kentucky's Joel Justus will replace longtime assistant John Robic on John Calipari's staff this season, the head coach announced Friday.

Robic, who has been with Calipari for more than 20 years, will become a special assistant while Justus' move to temporary assistant -- his role during the offseason while Robic dealt with the death of his father -- will become permanent.

Calipari said the switch will allow Kentucky to build ties with underclassmen at the prep level -- Justus will focus on younger players -- who have formed early relationships with other programs, affording those schools a recruiting advantage.

Robic, who first joined Calipari's staff in the 1980s at UMass, will continue to help the staff scout and prep for opponents, but he can't recruit on the road or coach during games, per Kentucky spokeswoman Deb Moore.

"We need one guy focused on the younger guys," Calipari wrote Friday on his blog. "We became so fixated on trying to replace players each year that we weren't touching some of the younger kids and were coming in late. Because of that, just about every other program has been ahead of us on underclassmen recruiting, and it has affected some of the kids who we weren't able to touch until later in the process.

"That's my fault. I believe Joel will greatly help in that area and fills a void. Now with that said, I don't see us offering scholarships to freshmen and sophomores."

Justus joined the staff as an analytics expert two years ago. He became a special assistant last season before moving into his current role.

Kentucky will enter the 2016-17 season with ESPN.com's top-rated recruiting class. But Duke has secured that title in two of the past three years.

The Wildcats have not signed the No. 1 recruit in the country, per ESPN.com's rankings, since Nerlens Noel arrived in 2012.

Calipari said promoting Justus will help Kentucky compete for the top young talent in the coming years.

"I just don't want to be put in a position where I'm walking in on a kid for the first time having been defined for two years by four other programs who are panicked by the prospect of us getting involved," Calipari wrote. "I want to make sure we're on top of every young kid in the country, especially the ones that dream about Kentucky. That will be part of Joel's primary focus, and he's ready for it."