Kentucky builds palace for players

The recruiting war within college basketball is always contentious.

Just last week, Roy Williams topped John Calipari when he displayed a collection of 31 championship rings during an in-home visit with top 2013 recruit Julius Randle, according to USA Today’s Jason Jordan. Calipari brought one national title ring to his home visit with Randle.

But Calipari is a relentless and versatile recruiter.

You like hip-hop, kid? Well, Drake is in the front row. Next to Jay-Z. Want to go pro? Well, we’ve sent six guys to the NBA. This year.

He’s always selling. He’s always promoting. And he’s blunt about the prep-to-pro path he encourages his best players to take.

His latest recruiting endeavor is equally emphatic and strategic.

Through his personal website, CoachCal.com, Calipari offers the first public tour of the team’s new dorm.

And once you watch it, you’ll acknowledge that it’s hard out here for a Wildcat. Not really.

This is not a dormitory. It’s a palace.

Calipari starts the tour of the new Wildcat Coal Lodge by following freshman Alex Poythress into the building as he begins to tell viewers -- and rivals, of course -- why this new facility is better than your favorite’s team’s living quarters.

Toward the start of the video, he points to a plaque near the entrance that shows a picture of some Kentucky miners he once visited. He says they taught him about team because they told him that they go into the mine together and come up together. He probably spent the most time with the tallest miners and inquired about their children's basketball exploits.

I’ll let you view the montage (accompanied by Jay-Z/Kanye West instrumentals) and judge for yourself, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Calipari says the building has great security because a woman named Betsy -- the team’s “aunt” -- monitors the cameras throughout the building, and potential threats “can’t get by her” at the front desk. I’m assuming she also knows jiu-jitsu.

  • Calipari goes to the trophy case that features the program’s eight national titles. And then he adds, “Over here in this entry, we have national championship trophies. … You may look down there but they got a space for another one. I don’t know why they do … I guess they try to hint about it here at the University of Kentucky.” He mentions the school’s emphasis on national titles quite often because “what they talk about is national championships” at Kentucky.

  • We also learn that young people don’t like couches these days. “They want to sit on recliners.” They also want to drive Porsches. Do they get those, too? Calipari also says the players are on their “Gameboys.” I doubt it. Unless this video was actually shot in 1993.

  • Cal fist-bumps the dorm’s resident chef, Chris Cain, in the team lounge about eight times. According to Calipari, Cain can cook anything. The exchange goes like this. Calipari: “Can I get a grilled cheese?” Cain: “Yes, sir.” Fist-bump. The cycle repeats about five more times as Calipari names his favorite foods. Meanwhile, Cain is probably thinking, “You can get whatever you want as long as you pay me. That’s what I do. I’m a chef.”

  • The bathrooms in the players’ dorm are built for big guys. “The sink is kind of high. But everything in here is for 7-footers,” Calipari says. John Wall would have needed a phonebook to use those sinks.

If that’s not enough, there’s a video with bonus footage that didn’t make the final cut. The DVD will probably include outtakes.

The new dorm is built next to the squad’s academic support center and practice facility. And it showcases the differences between the haves and the have-nots in college basketball.

While some assume the scales are tipped in favor of elite programs due to under-the-table maneuvering, the availability of resources is a crucial selling point that really gives those schools an edge.

Kentucky just built another multimillion-dollar facility mostly to accommodate its basketball squad. It’s another way to set those athletes apart from the rest of the student body. And that exclusivity caters to former prep stars who are used to special treatment.

But it also makes you wonder how the bulk of the college basketball world will ever compete with the seven or eight programs that devote that level of resources to the sport. The answer is it won't.