By LARRY VAUGHT
Often I try to ask recruits’ parents what they liked — or didn’t like — about a school’s recruiting pitch. I was not surprised by what Tyrone and Denyse Maxey, the parents of Kentucky basketball signee Tyrese Maxey, told me about UK coach John Calipari.
Or at least I wasn’t at first.
“Basically Cal is telling the truth as opposed to some other places. The track record he has with guards was a big thing about helping Tyrese eventually go to the NBA,” Tyrone Maxey said.
The UK signee’s father said one other thing impressed him. Calipari has sent point guards Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, DeAaron Fox and others to the NBA but he’s also sent big men Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and others to the NBA, too.
“He’s produced pros at every position,” Tyrone Maxey, a former SMU assistant coach, said. “That was very intriguing to us. He is real and his track record with players is really, really good.”
Tyrese Maxey’s mother, Denyse, said she felt Calipari was sincere with the family.
“For me to even consider letting my 17 year old go to Cal is huge. I am such a Mama Bear. I felt like Cal would take care of him,” Denyse Maxey said. “He never lied. He is not always going to be easy on him. He didn’t make the promises or say some of things other coaches did to make us feel good.
“In our opinion, he was honest. He said he would be hard on him and get on his behind and that he would hit a brick wall from time to time. That is kind of person I want to grow my son into the next stage of life. I do not just want my son to grow as player but also grow as a man. We just felt comfortable with Cal.”
Again, no real surprise with all of that. However, what Tyrone Maxey told me next did take me a bit by surprise even if it probably should not have.
“One thing that really impressed us by getting to know Cal was that we did not know that all these five-star athletes don’t just go play and do nothing but think about getting to the league,” Tyrone Maxey said. “I was impressed with his demands for servanthood that he places on kids.
“I didn’t know that until the recruiting process got going. His whole philosophy is God has given you a gift and you have to gift back and that really resonated with us. That is big time. I don’t know if everybody knows about that outside of Kentucky. His kids really embrace doing community work and I liked that.”
Indeed they do. Just consider:
— Devin Booker just announced he would give $2.5 million over the next five years to a group of five non-profit organizations and give them each $100,000 to help Arizona kids and families in need.
— John Wall once donated $400,000 to a charity that helped families of homeless children.
— Anthony Davis started AD’s Flight Academy that hosts monthly events for youth groups and regularly buys tickets for underprivileged children to attend Pelicans games.
— Karl-Anthony Towns donated a new car to charity in honor of coach Flip Saunders picking him in the draft. He’s also donated $10,000 to House of Charities in Minneapolis and has worked serving Thanksgiving meals to those in need.
I asked Calipari if I underestimated the impact his charitable endeavors involving his players had on recruiting.
“I don’t know. I would hope that they are looking at that we are not just here to teach them basketball,” Calipari said. “I would hope they would look at that. My guess is they (recruits) are being told by others that all they (UK coaches) care about is basketball and the NBA and they don’t do anything for you.
“If they look into it, they know that is not true. We are just trying to make sure we are teaching more than basketball and at the end they become better people which means they become better players which means they become more caring and conscious of people around them.”