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Jeff Eisenberg

Kentucky lands a pair of No. 1 recruits on the same day

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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It has been a foregone conclusion for weeks that Gatorade national player of the year Brandon Knight would don a Kentucky cap when he announced his college choice on the first day of the spring signing period.

The timing of highly touted junior Michael Gilchrist's commitment, however, is a far bigger surprise.

By persuading both Rivals.com's top-ranked recruits in the class of 2010 and 2011 to pledge to Kentucky in nationally televised announcements on the very same day, Wildcats coach John Calipari has pulled off a basketball and PR masterstroke.

On the court, Kentucky adds two potential cornerstones of future title runs. Off of it, the Wildcats' Elite Eight loss to West Virginia and the likely departure of five NBA-bound underclassmen suddenly become old news, replaced by a celebration of the imminent arrival of the program's next two stars.

Knight, a 6-foot-3 point guard who averaged 31.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for Pine Crest High School in Florida, chose Kentucky over Kansas, Syracuse, UConn and Florida. Gilchrist, a 6-foot-6 wing from Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick High School, spurned Villanova and Oregon, following through on a promise he made as early as eighth grade to attend college wherever Calipari was coaching.

"I like Coach Cal a lot, I like his staff and I like the fans there are lot," Gilchrist said. "They have a lot of energy. It's really crazy there."

Although it's certainly possible that Kentucky's incoming class won't immediately elevate the Wildcats to the heights that John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins did, it's also hard to imagine the program slipping too far. Adding Knight to a 2010 class that already includes highly touted Turkish big man Enes Kanter and forward Stacey Poole gives Kentucky three potential immediate contributors for next season, while Gilchrist provides the foundation for 2011.

Knight made his announcement Wednesday in a packed auditorium at Pine Crest. Asked which school he was selecting, the 6-foot-3 point guard paused for dramatic effect, reached into a bag underneath the table and donned a blue UK hat to a thunderous ovation from his classmates.

"I felt it was the place that had great players, great environment and just a place where I can elevate my game," Knight said. "It came down to being comfortable there when I went on my visit and feeling I could get better at Kentucky."

[Video: Dunk contest goes hilariously wrong.]

It's easy to see why Knight would be enamored with Kentucky considering Calipari's track record with elite point guards in recent years. Derrick Rose is an NBA all-star, Tyreke Evans is the favorite for rookie of the year and Wall is the leading contender to be selected No. 1 in the draft.

Then again, Knight is no lock to be one and done — whether his play next season warrants it or not. The gifted student reportedly has a 4.3 GPA and has yet to receive anything less than an A in high school.

Kentucky is still involved with a handful of other elite unsigned recruits in the class of 2010 including guard Josh Selby and forwards Terrence Jones and C.J. Leslie, so Knight will do his part to recruit them.

"There's a lot of great players out there," he said. "Whoever wants to come, I'm going to try to get them to come."

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