John Calipari showed again he's the man to beat in basketball recruiting on Wednesday as four five-star prospects officially signed with Kentucky for the 2011 class.
UK confirmed Wednesday - the first day of college basketball early signing period - that it had received national letters of intent from point guard Marquis Teague of Indianapolis, small forward Mike Gilchrist of Somerdale, N.J., power forward Anthony Davis of Chicago and power forward Kyle Wiltjer of Portland, Ore.
Their signatures all but guarantee Calipari will have the nation's No. 1 recruiting class for the third consecutive year.
"These are not just terrific basketball players, but they're terrific students and terrific people as well," Calipari said in a release. "Most importantly, they all have an unbelievable attitude about winning; they all wanted to play together knowing they're going to have to sacrifice a little bit of their game for their teammates. With this group, it adds to what we already have within our program. These are four of the best, which is what we want to recruit here."
Teague, dynamic point guard from Pike High School who is ranked as the nation's No. 2 senior overall gives Calipari another elite point guard in the line of Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight.
"Marquis is not just quick, but quick with the ball," Calipari said. "He also has an unbelievably fierce desire to win. He played on the U17 team with (Gilchrist) and when they stepped into the game together, games changed."
At a signing ceremony at his school, Teague said he and the other signees will work hard to live up to the expectations of being the nation's No. 1 class.
"That's special, but we still have to come in and perform and work hard every day," he said. "You know they're expecting a lot out of us, so we're still going to have to come compete every night."
Gilchrist, an elite defender and aggressive scorer known for his effort on the court, has been long considered one of the best players in his class. The star of powerhouse St. Patrick High School signed with UK on Wednesday hours after learning his uncle had died, according to his mother, Cindy Richardson.
"Michael signed his letter in front of about 300 family members and friends. It was beautiful. It was a bittersweet moment, but, yes, he did sign," she said.
Calipari said in his online video that he considered Gilchrist like family.
The player was famously quoted in a newspaper article as an eighth-grader saying he would one day play for Calipari. On Wednesday it became official for the player now ranked the No. 3 prospect in the country.
"When you look up the definition of 'warrior' in the dictionary, there is a picture of Michael there," the coach said. "No one plays harder or is more competitive. He has a tremendous burning desire to win, that will drive practice and elevate everyone within the program."
Davis, who is 6-10 and 200 pounds, averaged 30 pounds and 12 rebounds last season for Perspectives Charter School. A former shooting guard, he benefited from growing seven inches in one year while retaining the ballhandling and shooting skills of a guard.
Davis was an unranked prospects until April, when he began a dominating run on the AAU circuit and climbed to the nation's No. 6 ranking by Rivals.com
"He came out of nowhere," Calipari said in a video on CoachCal.com. "Reminds me of a young man I had back in the 1990s named Marcus Camby, who grew from 6-3 to 6-9 overnight, within a year. Both of them went from, 'Who is this guy? I've never heard of him.'
"(Davis) is 6-10, probably going to be 6-11, plays like a .. guard. Physically he needs to catch up a little, but he has unbelievable skills, the ability to shoot, the ability to pass. And I'll tell you what he gives us, a shot-blocker extraordinaire.
Wiltjer, the multiskilled forward for back-to-back defending state champion Jesuit High School, signed at a ceremony at his school, his dad, Greg Wiltjer said.
"It feels good as a parent knowing that he's going to college and a storied program," Greg Wiltjer said. " … We know Kyle is going to a great program and will be part of a great recruiting class, and we're really happy for him.
Wiltjer, who is 6-9 and 225 pounds and ranked the No. 25 senior by Rivals, will be an inside-outside threat for the Cats. He's an excellent three-point shooter, but he also has an array of post fakes, hook shots and up-and-under moves.
"Kyle gives us the size that we need because the bigger and longer we are, the better we are," said Calipari. "He's a young man that knew who we were getting here and he said, 'I want to play with the best. I want to be coached in a way that elevates my game. I'm not afraid of the challenge because I'm going to work hard.'"
The coach added: "There is no one like him at his size."
Calipari said on CoachCal.com that UK isn't done recruiting for the 2011 class and that "we may sign one or two more because we never know what's going to happen with this year's team."
The Cats currently have 10 scholarship players, including senior Josh Harrellson and multiple underclassmen who are considered possible NBA draft entrants.