June 15, 2024

John Calipari Talks New Roster ‘Formula’ at Arkansas, Lessons Learned from Kentucky | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS - APRIL 10: New head coach John Calipari of the Arkansas Razorbacks is introduced to the fans and the media at Bud Walton Arena on April 10, 2024 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Arkansas men’s basketball head coach John Calipari routinely brought in the top freshmen classes in the country during his time at Kentucky (2009-2024), but he admitted that a new “formula” is needed to win today.

“We’re not going to take six, seven freshmen now,” Calipari said Wednesday at the SEC meetings in Destin, Florida, per ESPN’s Pete Thamel. “It’ll be three or four. Hopefully retain a few, get a couple transfers, and that is the formula.”

Calipari then said with a smirk: “Now that may not work. And then you’ll say, ‘Well, you said … ‘ Well, I changed my mind. I didn’t like how it looked.”

Calipari found a lot of success at Kentucky, winning six SEC tournaments, making four Final Fours and winning one national title. However, Calipari’s teams won just one NCAA tournament game combined over his last four seasons. Kentucky also notably lost to No. 15 Saint Peter’s in 2022 and No. 14 Oakland in 2024 in the first round.

Now Calipari says that he’s learned a lesson that he’ll take with him to Arkansas:

“The lesson was you can’t do this now with seven freshmen. You just can’t. You’re going to hit a team that’s 25 years old on average, one was 26, and that team is physically going to get you, and so now we have a couple transfers that are older, some kids that transferred from Kentucky that went through it, and they’re a year older, and some freshmen.”

Those age numbers are likely a bit high, but Kentucky still trotted out very young teams during Calipari’s time. The Wildcats also saw great turnover during his tenure, with many of those star freshmen jumping to the NBA after just one year.

Calipari is clearly taking a different approach based on his 2024 class, which is ranked sixth on the 247Sports composite ranking. Unsurprisingly, Calipari is bringing in three 4-star prospects ranked in the top 25 (Boogie Fland, Karter Knox, Billy Richmond).

But some experienced transfers who have found collegiate success are headed to Arkansas via transfer, including Tennessee big man Jonas Aidoo and FAU guard Johnell Davis.

It’ll be interesting to see how Calipari fares at Arkansas, but on paper, he’s assembled a talented roster with a good mix of youth and experience to start.