Recruiting Makes For Strange Bedfellows: Kentucky v. WashingtonPosted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2010
You’d be hard pressed to find two major state research universities with as little in common as the Seattle-based University of Washington and the Lexington-based University of Kentucky. UW is an urban university located in the gorgeous setting of the wet and wild Pacific Northwest, filled with faculty and students who intravenously inject java into their arms and generally fall on the crunchier side of the political spectrum. UK, on the other hand, is a suburban school located in the heart of America’s unparalleled horse country, just as proud of its southern hospitality and bourbon as its staid conservativism. To call these two schools separated by 2,450 miles burgeoning rivals on the basketball court seems as weird as offering Florida v. Minnesota or Arizona v. Rutgers as reasonable comparisons.
Yet over the last few months, the two basketball programs have made up for their lack of on-court rivalry (Kentucky leads the all-time series 1-0) with one in the hideaway gyms and family rooms of blue-chip prospects. The long arm of UK coach John Calipari’s recruiting prowess has collided squarely with the growing hotbed of talent residing in the upper left corner of the country, resulting in several high-profile head-to-head battles over recruits and most notably impacting Lorenzo Romar’s UW program. The latest in that string of faceoffs has come in recent weeks over the services of Seattle guard Tony Wroten, Jr., a 6’5 lefty guard and rising senior who missed all of last year due to a football-related knee injury, yet whom most scouts believe has top ten talent.
Wroten (@ToneTone13) is a Twitter phenomenon, playing up his ongoing recruitment with re-tweets of others’ speculation, but despite a recent statement that all the schools on his list have an equal chance for his services, the smart money suggests that he’s down to his hometown school and the lure of the bluegrass. Part of the reason for this is that he’s good friends with two other UK commitments in the Class of 2011 — top ten prospects Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague — but seeing John Wall and Eric Bledsoe coexist and excel in UK’s dribble-drive offense last season is another big carrot. Nevertheless, the pressure is on Romar to hang onto a local product who grew up playing pickup ball on the Washington campus and who is the second cousin of former Husky star Nate Robinson, especially in light of the fact that only a few months ago Calipari recruited two players to Kentucky — Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones — after both had verbally committed to play in Seattle. In many UW circles, Wroten is a must-get for Romar.
After losing out on two big-time prospects and potentially a third to Kentucky, Washington fans are in no mood for another sucker-punch to the gut from Calipari on the recruiting trail, but there could be an opportunity for Husky supporters to exact revenge where it really counts — on the basketball court. Both teams are participants in the 2010 Maui Invitational this coming November, and although the brackets are not yet set, we have to believe that ESPN and the Maui officials will bend over backwards to make a UK-UW game happen. Washington guard Isaiah Thomas is apparently ready for it, as he has already gotten snippy with his comment over the weekend that Kentucky fans (along with regional rival Oregon) are “both kinda stupid.” Regardless of whether Wroten eventually commits to UK or UW later this summer or fall, the heat in this bizarre intersectional rivalry stands to increase and we as the impartial onlookers will just sit back and enjoy it.