Pittsburgh assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen will replace Orlando Antigua on John Calipari’s coaching staff, according to a report by Rivals.com on Tuesday.
A UK spokesman told the Herald-Leader that the assistant coach opening will be posted until Friday and there are no immediate plans to make any announcement related to the vacancy.
If Rohrssen joins UK’s coaching staff, don’t expect Calipari’s success on the recruiting trail to slow down anytime soon.
The Brooklyn native is known as a formidable recruiter himself, with extensive ties to the New York City area. He was an assistant at Pittsburgh from 1999-2006 before taking the head coaching job at Manhattan, where he spent five seasons. After one year in the Portland Trail Blazers’ organization, Rohrssen returned to Pitt last season.
It’s his time with the Panthers that stamped Rohrssen as one of the country’s top recruiters.
“He has a strong reputation — especially in the Northeast — as a guy who can really recruit and a guy who really builds strong relationships,” said Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels. “He has a history of reeling in some pretty good players at Pittsburgh.”
In Rohrssen’s first stint at Pitt, he successfully recruited Levance Fields, Tyrell Biggs, Keith Benjamin, Chris Taft and Carl Krauser — all Top 100 national recruits from the New York City area. In January, the Panthers picked up a commitment from class of 2016 star Mustapha Heron — a McDonald’s All-American-caliber prospect also from just outside of New York.
Heron’s father cited Rohrssen as one of the primary reasons for picking Pitt.
UK has brought in two New York City natives — Doron Lamb and Dakari Johnson — during Calipari’s tenure, but both of those players were attending out-of-state high schools when they committed to the Cats. It’s logical to assume that the addition of Rohrssen will mean more NYC prospects on UK’s recruiting radar.
“That’s an area where he has strong connections, so I’m sure that’s an area he’s going to continue to recruit,” Daniels said. “That’s his bread and butter.”
Rohrssen’s presence could pay off immediately in that regard.
Cheick Diallo — a 6-foot-9 power forward — is considered a top-10 prospect and one of the elite defenders in the class of 2015. Kentucky has been active in his recruitment, but many observers considered Pittsburgh the favorite for his commitment, primarily because of the relationship between Diallo and Rohrssen.
Daniels said Calipari’s new hire puts UK in “great position” with Diallo, the No. 6 overall player in the Scout.com rankings.
“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” he said. “He’s a guy that Slice clearly has developed a relationship with. I’m sure that he will continue that at Kentucky. … They’ll be firmly in the mix with him.”
Daniels acknowledged that Antigua did a “tremendous job” in his five seasons as a UK assistant and the program’s top recruiter, crediting him as a big reason that the Cats were able to land so many elite prospects.
He expects Rohrssen to continue that level of success, given his track record at Pitt and the new ability to use Calipari and the “Kentucky name” in recruits’ living rooms.
“I don’t think John Calipari’s strategy — as far as recruiting goes — changes one bit,” Daniels said. “It’s the same strategy. Slice will be the one adjusting, it won’t be the other way around.”
Adjusting to UK shouldn’t be a problem.
Rohrssen spoke to the Pittsburgh Sports Report last summer when he returned to the Panthers program and was asked if Pitt needed to expand its recruiting base further south to coincide with the move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
His reply conveyed a belief that college recruiters should be prepared to go wherever they need to in order to find the best players.
“The key for success, regardless of what conference you’re in, is having good players,” he said. “To build a basketball team nowadays, your radar has to be up everywhere. Because certainly your competition’s is.
“There are numerous areas to get good players. But the common denominator in recruiting, no matter where your school is located or what conference you’re in, the common denominator is to obviously get the best players, regardless of style of play or what conference you’re in. Your plays work great when you have great players.”