Who’s Got Next? Illegal Benefits, Kentucky Spotlight, Shabazz Muhammad and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 27th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

Well, if you haven’t learned yet after the Kevin Ware situation or the Tony Wroten, Jr., drama, the world of college basketball recruiting is nothing without another scandal to fill headlines. It’s also nothing without a big-time commitment happening soon after a de-commitment and the recruiting world certainly can’t live without more news about top five prospects and the rippling affect of other commitments. If you haven’t been able to tell yet, a lot happened in just the past few days in the recruiting world… and we haven’t even started previewing one of the most significant AAU events that will happen all summer.

What They’re Saying

Rodney Purvis tweeted about Ryan Harrow's transfer.

  • Junior Rodney Purvis (#6) on Ryan Harrow’s transfer to Kentucky: “Harrow’s decision doesn’t change my outlook on UK at all. Unless coach tells me otherwise!”
  • Junior Kyle Anderson (#22) on Harrow transferring to the Wildcats: “Ryan Harrow not going to St. John’s keeps them on my list.”
  • Mauricio Ducuara, the head of a basketball foundation in Bogotá, on Hanner Mosquera-Perea (#23) receiving illegal benefits: “People with whom I have spoken said he has received lots of gifts [and] things. If you knew how Hanner grew up the people don’t even have shoes. Hanner came home at Christmas with iPods, iPhones, [Bose] headphones digital cameras. Things that for a kid are impossible.”
  • Baylor assistant coach Mark Morefield : “I guarantee u if he (Perea) does [commit to another school] he will be in Colombia for the spring and summer and next year. Don’t forget it.”
  • Junior Justin Anderson (#45) on why he committed to Virginia: “The Cavaliers were always my second choice behind Maryland. Also, my family lives in Virginia. After the departure of Coach [Gary] Williams and Coach [Robert] Ehsan, it just feels like the right fit.”
  • Junior Archie Goodwin (#19) on other top prospects’ effect on his recruitment: “My friends that are top players are: Rasheed Sulaimon; Shabazz Muhammad; Isaiah AustinRicardo Ledo… [and] Rodney Purvis. When it comes to colleges, we’ll talk about what the coaches told us and see if anything was said different by each other. We’ll compare them that way, but I don’t think it’ll make us decide then and there what we’re gonna do with that school.”
  • Omar Calhoun Sr., junior Omar Calhoun Jr.’s father, on Jim Calhoun potentially retiring: “We believe in UConn and it’s still going to be UConn. We still feel like Coach Calhoun is still going to have a major part still in the development in the program even if he’s not the head coach.”
  • Junior Ricardo Ledo (#9) on the current state of his recruitment: “I don’t have a list, it’s not down to four, I am wide open.”
  • Sophomore Isaiah Lewis on Kentucky and his list: “I really like Kentucky a lot. I think I can play at UK under Coach [John] Calipari and the rest of the coaching staff. I think they can do a great job of coaching me up and getting me to the next level; but I also like other schools, like UConn, Arizona, Kansas, West Virginia, Florida and Florida State right now.”

What Shabazz Muhammad is Saying

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Who’s Got Next? Top Uncommitted Prospects To Commit Soon…

Posted by Josh Paunil on May 18th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

From an important commitment Monday to an important commitment today, we’re bringing you everything you’ve missed in the past week in the world of recruiting including new developments in a top ten prospect’s recruitment, the meteoric rise of a somewhat unknown recruit, more rankings being released, a challenge issued to two powerhouse programs on Tobacco Road, and how an ACC program’s recruiting class is falling apart.

What We Learned

Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) might stay in Wichita.

Wichita State Has a Realistic Shot at Perry Ellis. Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) has long had the same list of six schools (Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, and Wichita State) that’s he interested in, but lately, it seems as though there has been some movement as to who his favorite is. The latest shift involves Wichita State after they hired assistant coach Dana Ford, who has a longstanding relationship with the Ellis family. Ford has watched Ellis play since his first middle school game and even worked out with Ellis several years ago when Ford was a Shocker intern. The WSU coaching staff also met with Ellis and his family last Wednesday and emphasized how much they wanted to keep Perry in Wichita (Ellis attends Wichita Heights HS). Some other news involving Ellis includes the fact that Minnesota is now starting to recruit him and head coach Tubby Smith called him on the phone recently. A source very close to the situation also says that they suspect Kansas and Kentucky are two of the front-runners in Ellis’ recruitment.

Mitch McGary is Becoming a Top 2012 Talent. This time of year last year you probably didn’t know who class of 2012 power forward Mitch McGary was; well now he is one of the best players in his class. McGary has become significantly better in all parts of his game over the past 12 months and is a force to reckon with both inside and out. He is a tough, strong, big man to handle in the paint and has the ability to step out and score on the perimeter. However, the biggest reason he has received much more attention lately is because of his incessant motor and the fact that he has gotten his grades in order. Now that schools don’t have to worry about whether he will qualify or not, programs such as Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are in near-constant contact with him. He says that his recruitment is wide open and that he will likely wait until late in the process to make his decision. He also says location isn’t a factor in his choice. As of January, before top programs began taking notice of McGary, he had visited Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Marquette.

Maryland’s Recruiting Class is Falling Apart. Many people wondered what would happen to Maryland’s recruiting class when the Terps found their new coach and whether their commitments would stay with Maryland or seek releases from their letters of intent; well now we know. The Terrapins have lost every recruit in its Class of 2011 after the university granted shooting guard Nick Faust (#38), point guard Sterling Gibbs and power forward Martin Breunig releases from their signed letters of intent. To make matters even worse, just days after his release was granted, Gibbs committed to the Texas Longhorns (read more about this in the “What You Missed” section below). However the Terps still have a shot at Faust, who is now the second highest rated uncommitted prospect and still likes Maryland (Check out the “What They’re Saying” section below to find out why), and Breunig, who visited Washington Monday night. Keep in mind Faust and Gibbs are good friends so Gibbs’ commitment to Texas might push Faust away from College Park. This coaching change is also affecting Maryland’s 2012 class since small forward Justin Anderson (#45) said Sunday in a text that he isn’t sure whether he will open his recruitment back up. On the brighter side of things for Terps fans, head coach Mark Turgeon picked up Class of 2012 shooting guard Seth Allen who is a prolific scorer and can get the ball in the basket from anywhere on the court.

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Morning Five: 09.29.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 29th, 2010

  1. And so it begins…  Michigan State’s Korie Lucious will miss two to six weeks as a result of knee surgery to repair a small meniscus tear in his left wheel.  It’s a relatively minor injury that Lucious should expect to be recovered from prior to the Spartans’ home opener versus Eastern Michigan on November 12, but MSU fans have to wonder when the nagging injuries with their players will end.  It seems that over the last few years Tom Izzo’s team has often represented the walking wounded, which makes you wonder how good the two-time defending Final Four squad could be if they were ever playing at 100%.
  2. Stony Brook got terrible news earlier this week when forward and America East POY candidate Tommy Brenton dislocated his knee during workouts, an injury that may result in him missing the entire 2010-11 season.  Brenton, at only 6’5 and 210 pounds, might just be the best inch-for-inch rebounder in the nation — he averaged 8.9 RPG his freshman year and 9.6 RPG last season despite his smallish stature.  According to Ken Pomeroy’s database, he corralled over a quarter of the available defensive rebounds while on the floor last year, and you’ll note that he kept great company with many names of players much bigger than he.  Huge loss for the Seawolves if Brenton is indeed out for the year.
  3. The Eric Bledsoe saga is officially, finally and mercifully over.  Yesterday the NCAA confirmed that there is no further cause to keep the inquiry open with no new high school transcript generated for the former Kentucky guard.  Procedurally, this is the correct call — the NCAA doesn’t need to get into the business of sniffing around the transcripts of players certified by their local school boards, especially well after the fact as in this case.  But from a eyebrow-arching perspective, the whole thing smells like corruption and rot gone unpunished.  We tweeted it out on Friday, and we’ll repeat it here — had someone like Larry “Mr. Fix-It” Webster been around to change seventeen of our twenty-four recorded grades in some of our own (ahem) lesser-performing classes, those Stanford and MIT applications we so carefully drew up may not have ended up in the circular file so quickly.
  4. Fanhouse has been churning out some great original content lately, and this article looking at the Second Generation Team is no exception.  They created three teams of historical players who were second-gen guys, including such stalwarts as Jalen Rose, Mike Bibby, Kevin Love and Stephen Curry.  It was also great to see a little dap come our way based on previous criticism of their exclusion of Arkansas stud Scotty Thurman from their College Forever team; they included Thurman on this team (his father was Lavell Thurman from Grambling), and agreed with our indelible memory of the silky smooth guard as an “absolute assassin!”  Great job, fellas.
  5. You might recall a couple of weekends ago that several coaches gathered together to roast Bob Huggins in Morgantown.  One of those coaches, Duquesne’s Ron Everhart, managed to hurt himself while he was trying to spoof Huggins’ widely-reported fall the WVU coach suffered earlier this summer in Las Vegas.  It wasn’t just a strain or a pull either — he broke his toe!  We’re not sure we’ve seen a greater case of the basketball Weauxfgods pre-emptively smiting down someone in quite some time.  Here’s the video link (start at the 1:30 mark).
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Morning Five: 09.27.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 27th, 2010

  1. You may have missed this news during a busy football weekend, but the Birmingham (Alabama) School Board decided late Friday to not change former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe’s official transcript despite an independent law firm’s finding that justifications for grade changes thereon were “not credible.”  We covered this on Friday night, and people are generally falling into two camps.  On one side is the “Really?  WTF?” camp, as articulated by Gary Parrish in his piece on the matter; while on the other side, we have giddy UK fans who seem to believe that they got over on the NCAA, New York Times, jealous Calipari-haters and the liberal media, depending on whom you ask.  This ordeal is probably dead with respect to the NCAA and Kentucky, but Tom Arenberg of the Birmingham News believes that Birmingham schools should seek more answers with respect to what happened here, while we’re left wondering why we didn’t buddy up to a couple of amenable teachers in high school right before our applications to Stanford and MIT went into the mail.
  2. California’s 7’3 center Max Zhang will not be enrolled at Berkeley for the fall semester, as he is staying in his native China to play in the Asia Games this November.  He could be back for the spring semester, though, just in time for Pac-10 play and definitely needed after a mass exodus of players from Mike Montgomery’s team this offseason.  He only averaged 3/2 in his sophomore season for the Bears, but with a nice shooting touch and scouts keeping a watchful eye on his development, there is a sense that he is ready to break out and could one day play professionally.
  3. Kansas center Jeff Withey is on the shelf after breaking his right foot during individual workouts last week.  Withey played sparingly as a freshman last season in Lawrence, but he was a four-star recruit out of San Diego and is expected to get considerably more run this season.  He’ll be out four to six weeks, which will unfortunately somewhat hinder his development, as practice officially begins in less than three weeks.
  4. Late last week John Calipari stated to reporters that he thought Enes Kanter was going to be eligible to play for him this coming season.  Gary Parrish seems to think that Calipari has convinced himself of such a fiction, although he’s quick to say that he doesn’t have any proof to the contrary either (sounds a lot like #1).  Turns out that very few coaches Parrish knows and has talked to about this ever thought that Kanter would be eligible to play college ball (even before Kanter signed with UK).  That seems reasonable enough to us.
  5. What do you guys think — will UNC bounce back strong this year after a disastrous (for them) 20-17 NIT season?  Some of the problems the Heels had last year, such as spotty point guard play and a lot of tall but soft players inside, are still there.  Adding a superstar like Harrison Barnes to the lineup won’t solve those specific issues.  Will Roy Williams have the magic touch to get his team back to the NCAA Tournament as he’s done in every season he’s coached but one?  The smart money is that he’ll find a way, but unless Larry Drew II and/or Dexter Strickland suddenly transform into  reasonable facsimiles of Ed Cota, Ray Felton or Ty Lawson, we’re not sure that this team is any better than a borderline top 25 team.  Are we wrong?
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The Bledsoe Ordeal Is Over

Posted by jstevrtc on September 25th, 2010

Earlier today the independent law firm investigating the question of Eric Bledsoe’s eligibility at Kentucky last season turned in its final report on the issue. By this time, you likely know why this was being done; Bledsoe’s high school transcript said he got two As in a pair of classes, but the grade reports said that he got a C and a B, and the improvement put him over the top in terms of eligibility to play basketball at UK. You can see the report here, but here’s what you really need to know: the Birmingham school board isn’t issuing Bledsoe a revised high school transcript, which means he keeps the As in those classes. Which means Bledsoe was and will always be considered eligible to have played at Kentucky.

Even Bledsoe Might Not Know What Really Happened In This Business.

The whole ordeal should serve as a reminder that, in any investigation, it’s not what happened that matters. What matters is what you can prove.

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Morning Five: 09.15.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 15th, 2010

  1. If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin‘ is a quote that’s tossed around a lot in the NCAA, but it may have come to an offseason head yesterday as no fewer than three separate reports came out in the world of college basketball that has us wondering… is anybody clean anymore?  Anybody at all?  Or has the sport been so dirty for so long that now that the NCAA actually has an investigative arm with some sharp teeth and halogen flashlight, we’re finally seeing all the roaches scurrying around underneath the mat?
  2. The biggest news was that another allegation came to light with respect to Tennesssee’s Bruce Pearl, merely four days after he begged forgiveness in front of the world for misleading NCAA investigators in their investigation into his recruiting practices.  CBSSports.com reported on Tuesday that Pearl initially told the NCAA that he never hosted recruits Josh Selby (currently at Kansas) and Aaron Craft (currently at Ohio State) at his home during their junior-year visits to Knoxville, but apparently the NCAA had in its possession a rather probative piece of evidence — a photo of Craft standing with Pearl in the coach’s living room.  If that’s not a smoking firearm from hypocrisyville, we’re not sure what is.  Pearl owned up to it in a second interview with investigators, but if this is the misleading piece of information that he was referring to last week, but we openly wonder why he wouldn’t have been more forthright about it then.  The final question on everyone’s minds, though — how did Jimmy Collins sneak inside the Pearl household sight unseen with a digital camera?
  3. Moving down a state to Alabama, another report that came out on Tuesday from the Birmingham News revealed that there may have been tomfoolery going on with respect to former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe’s high school transcript.  We already know that the NYT’s Pete Thamel unearthed suspicious circumstances back in May in Bledsoe’s academic career, but yesterday’s news suggests that the suspicious circumstances may have risen to the level of grade-fixing so that Bledsoe would be eligible to play college ball.  If the NCAA finds that Bledsoe was never eligible and Kentucky is held to the same standard of strict liability that it held Memphis to in the Derrick Rose scandal, then UK’s 35 wins in 2009-10 could be completely erased from the record books.  Thamel anonymously spoke to three compliance officers in light of this latest information, and all three thought that was a realistic possibility.
  4. And next, we move out west to Oregon, where new head coach Dana Altman may have walked into a situation in Eugene quite a bit more complicated than he bargained for.  According to OregonLive.com, recently-departed center Michael Dunigan and at least four other former players may have been involved in receiving improper benefits over the last two seasons at the school.  This is especially hilarious considering just how bad the Ducks have been during that period, but we’re sure that the NCAA is already involved and has the 2-0 and rather dominant-looking football program feeling a little nervous.
  5. Whew.  What a Tuesday.  Well, we may disagree with incoming NCAA president Mark Emmert in other ways, but at least he’s already talking tough about levying harsh penalties on cheaters.  And finally, we’re actually talking about big-time schools in big-time conferences with slaughterhouses full of cash cows at their disposal.  The game is only at its greatest when the playing field is level, and there’s no way to approximate that when the moneyed schools can do whatever they want with reckless abandon.  This could be Emmert’s greatest accomplishment if he has the will and buy-in to do so.
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Bledsoe, Kentucky, And The NCAA’s “Strict Liability”

Posted by jstevrtc on September 14th, 2010

The online arm of the Birmingham News, AL.com, reported earlier today that former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe’s official high school transcript and the “grade reports” from two of his Algebra III courses showed differing final grades. Specifically, the transcript states that he earned a grade of A in both sections of two nine-week long Algebra III courses, but the grade reports from those sections of the course show that Bledsoe was credited with a C in the first section and a B in the second. The reason this is a problem is, as the AL.com article explains, if you calculate Bledsoe’s GPA using the grades on his official transcript (the A’s), you get a 2.5, which makes him NCAA-eligible. If you calculate it with the C and B from the grade reports, Bledsoe’s GPA comes out to a 2.4375 — just short of the minimum score required for qualification.

If this grade discrepancy is true, the NCAA will want to know who knew about it, and when.

This allegation evidently comes ahead of a report that’s supposed to surface soon from an independent law firm hired by the Birmingham school system to investigate Bledsoe’s eligibility, and specifically the documentation of his academic performance at two high schools in the area. We’ll obviously have a lot to say about that when it appears. For now, though, we feel this new information brings up a few interesting questions:

  1. What is a “grade report?”
  2. How and when could there be a discrepancy?
  3. Is Kentucky (or any other school) expected to go beyond looking at official school transcripts of players when assessing their eligibility, and should the school be punished if information later emerges that implicates the player?

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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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Is Calipari’s Three-Year Recruiting Run the Best Ever?

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

An interesting question came up among the Twitterati over the weekend when it was learned that Rivals #8 (and rising) recruit in the Class of 2011, Anthony Davishad formally committed to Kentucky.  Davis’ commitment marks the third top ten recruit in that class to have committed to John Calipari’s Wildcats, and the seventh in the 2009-11 recruiting cycles, a ridiculous feat. 

  • John Wall (#2, 2009)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (#3 , 2009)
  • Brandon Knight (#4, 2010)
  • Enes Kanter (#7, 2010)
  • Michael Gilchrist (#1, 2011)
  • Marquis Teague (#5, 2011)
  • Anthony Davis (#8, 2011)

Throw in a few other high-level recruits such as Daniel Orton (#19, 2009), Eric Bledsoe (#52, 2009), Terrence Jones (#11, 2010), Doron Lamb (#26, 2010), and an unnamed superstar or two to be named later (Quincy MillerLeBryan Nash?), and suddenly there is a realization that we could be in the midst of the single greatest run of recruiting prowess since the Wizard of Westwood had every blue-chipper from coast to coast lining up to play for him.

Calipari Continues to Rack Up Blue-Chippers (LHL/M. Cornelison)

This is what Calipari was referring to when he infamously said on draft night in June that having five UK players selected was the greatest night in the program’s history.  It’s all marketing.  As Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue notes when referring to Anthony Davis’ quotes about the commitment, Calipari isn’t selling the Wildcat program of all hoops-all the time as much as the dream; the dream, of course, being a fast-track to the League. 

But notice what is not mentioned — Kentucky tradition, the facilities at UK, playing in front of 24,000 every game, being on TV all the time — none of these things are mentioned.  Recruiting has changed.  Calipari has taken the NBA one-and-done rule and used it like the Pied Piper, tempting players to Kentucky not with cash to families or under-the-table deals, but with a short path to all the riches they desire.

Whether you believe the last sentence or not, the truth remains that players are beelining for Lexington, which brings us to the point of this article.  We have to dig pretty deep in our memory banks to remember a recruiting run that even begins to approach this concentration of elite talent.  Granted, there’s a bit of an apples/oranges confounder here — much of the reason that Calipari can load up on talent every single year is because there’s a reasonable expectation that the previous year’s competition for minutes will be gone (see: Wall begets Knight begets Teague, for example).  Still, we’ve come up with one strong comparison in the modern era (we hope you add your own in the comments below): Duke 1997-99.  As a brief aside, UNC from 1990-93, Michigan from 1991-94 and Duke from 1999-2002 were also very strong periods of recruiting at those schools, but over four recruiting cycles rather than three. 

Duke 1997-99 (recruited by Mike Krzyzewski)

  • Elton Brand (#1, 1997)
  • Chris Burgess (#7, 1997)
  • Shane Battier (#8, 1997)
  • William Avery (#14, 1997)
  • Corey Maggette (#16, 1998)
  • Jason Williams (#3, 1999)
  • Carlos Boozer (#8, 1999)
  • Casey Sanders (#16, 1999)
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (#26, 1999)

The recruiting rankings alone are nasty, but when you consider the actual accomplishments of this group, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Six lottery picks, three NPOYs, two title game appearances and a national championship (2001).  In two of the years where they didn’t cut the nets down, (1999 and 2002), Duke was the prohibitive favorite to win the title (finishing #1 in the final AP poll every year from 1999-2002) in large part because they had more talent than anybody else.  They actually won it all in 2001, but we’re still trying to figure out how Jim Calhoun’s vastly underrated (but also undermanned) Huskies were able to slay the Duke dragon in 1999 (oh, right, Trajan Langdon).  It was an amazing run of talent acquisition, and we haven’t seen anything like it for at least a decade.

Duke Had Three NPOYs in Four Seasons (SI)

Therein lies the rub.  With boatloads of talent comes expectations, and winning the press conference is great for tone-setting, but getting to and winning Final Fours is what matters most in Lexington.  Again, the Duke era was different in that with the exception of Corey Maggette in 1999, Coach K did not lose any players as 1-and-dones; but that won’t deter the vultures from ripping Calipari if he continues to sign elite talent without bringing back the accompanying hardware to support it.  The biggest case in point of this thinking is how Michigan’s Fab Five class of 1991 is often considered a failure for merely going to two straight NCAA championship games and losing.  It remains to be seen how this era of Kentucky basketball will play out (so far, one Elite Eight appearance), but we already know that the level of recruiting enjoyed by Calipari in his first three classes there rivals anything experienced in the modern era.  Coach K’s classes from 1997-99 set the bar very high — it’s now up to the individual players — from Knight/Kanter/Jones to Gilchrist/Teague/Davis – to match or exceed their accomplishments.   

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Chicago Sun-Times Calls Out UK And Anthony Davis (Then Backs Away)

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2010

It seems like we have an Anthony Davis post almost every other day, but it also seems like the power forward from Chicago has managed to keep himself in the news for the past two weeks. Just one day after Davis announced that he had made his college decision, but was not going to announce it to the world just yet (something that we viewed with a weary eye at the time), the Chicago Sun-Times published a story about the quasi-announcement, but also threw in a rumor about the Davis commitment reportedly being up for sale. While some may consider the current form — which, at the time of this post, includes a few sentences about the possibility that a cash payment may have been involved in the recruitment of Davis — to be both meritless and tactless the major issue comes from the originally posted story (posted as a picture after the jump), which included the following passage:

The rumors/sources that have Davis choosing Kentucky are also alleging that the commitment cost over $200,000. Davis Sr. has flat out denied everything.

On one hand, the paper and the author technically (and likely legally, although Kentucky apparently does not agree) did nothing wrong as he only stated what an anonymous source had said, and the journalistic “code of ethics” compels him not to reveal his sources. He also allowed the Davis family to refute the rumor. That same journalistic “code of ethics,” however, also calls on O’Brien to verify wildly inflammatory statements or at least vet the source and accusation. After the LeBron-Markazi incident that lit the blogosphere on fire over the past few weeks, we can’t say for certain what the reason was for the re-edit although it is curious that the Sun-Times did so without even mentioning it (like Kentucky fans will ever let them forget it). Given that the Sun-Times pulled out the previously stated passage and left the rest of the piece intact, it seems reasonable to believe that its editors felt uncomfortable with O’Brien’s defense of that particular part of the accusation. As Michael DeCourcy noted, if the accusation had any merit it would be the headline of a national story, not something that was buried in a local story — even if the local paper is widely read.

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2010 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

After another summer of loud belly-aching, moaning and groaning about how the NBA’s one-and-done rule is methodically destroying college basketball as we know it, we’re left with the fact that, in reality, only eleven players from the prep class of 2009 found their way into the 2010 NBA Draft pool.  As it turns out, approximately 90% of the RSCI Top 100 players from last year’s freshman class will return to play another season of college basketball in 2010-11.  And this is not unusual.  In the four NBA Drafts where one-and-doners were forced to attend at least one year of college (2007-10), there have been a total of 35 such players, or around nine per season.  There are obvious problems with the NBA’s one-year rule that we won’t get into here, but we shouldn’t be losing our heads over what amounts to a handful of players each season.

And what about those players — how did it go for them?  We can safely presume that if you’re good enough to be one-and-done, a year in college probably worked out well enough for you (ahem, Tommy Mason-Griffin excepted).  But we’re more interested in the schools.  How did recruiting and ultimately matriculating a one-and-done player work out for those institutions?  Put in real terms, was bringing a player like Derrick Favors on campus at Georgia Tech for one year worthwhile?  What about Calipari’s den of young Cats?  You may recall that we did this school-centric analysis in each of the last three summers (2007, 2008, and 2009), and the basic conclusion that we’ve found is that one-and-done players have generally benefited their schools in the two areas that matter most: 1) wins; and 2) marketability.  Let’s take a closer look at this year’s group.

2010 One-and-Dones

Kentucky – Well Worth It. Say what you want about the meltdown of Calipari’s Cats in the Elite Eight against a tougher, more experienced West Virginia team, but the fact that Kentucky brought in the #1 recruiting class of 2009 and delivered on the implied promise that Cal’s system develops NBA draft picks is why his cadre of one-and-dones (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton) was well worth it.  And here’s the what behind the why: four five-star prospects arrive in Lexington next year (Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones) and two more are signed on for 2011 (Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) with several others lurking in the wings.  Not every one of these players will become a one-and-doner, so eventually Calipari will be able to season some experienced talent around his annual lottery pick arrivals (see: 2008 Memphis) to give himself a great chance to win that elusive national title.  As far as the difference in Q rating from the Gillispie era to now, it’s like that $22M/year Tiger Woods lost in endorsements since last November somehow ended up in Lexington as gold-plated streets.  UK has become the program du jour for the young, moneyed and hip, and when the head coach infamously stated that this year’s NBA Draft night was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he’s referring to marketability.  The pitch: come to Lexington, play a fun style of uptempo basketball, win 30-35 games, market your brand on television through our deals with CBS and ESPN, have a shot to win a title, meet celebrities such as LeBron James and Drake, and end up shaking David Stern’s hand in a year or two…  not exactly fraught with hard decisions.  If Calipari can keep his program in the headlines for the right reasons, this class will be looked at as the tipping point for a whole new era of Kentucky basketball.  Definitely well worth it.

John Wall Was Only the First of Many Cats to Meet Stern

Marshall – Well Worth It. If you recruit a player who wasn’t even ranked in the RSCI top 100 and he ends up dominating your league as a freshman center to the point of becoming the Conference USA defensive POY and leading the nation in blocked shots, it was well worth it.  Hassan Whiteside’s one year in Huntington led the Thundering Herd to its best season in over two decades, culminating in a fourth-place finish in CUSA, big late-season wins over UAB and Tulsa, and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIT.  For a program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1987, any postseason appearance is a great year, and Whiteside’s patrolling of the paint had no small part in it.  The unfortunate part of Whiteside’s meteoric rise is that the Herd had such a good season that as a result it also lost its head coach Donnie Jones, which may impact the long-term marketability aspect of Whiteside’s year there.  Nevertheless, we doubt anyone at Marshall regrets the year that both Whiteside and Jones resided in Huntington together, so we think that this was a huge boost for a mid-major program not used to having such players around.

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Morning Five: 07.22.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

  1. It’s not every day you wake up to a Twitter argument about John Wall’s grades (Eric Bledsoe’s were notably not discussed), but that’s what happened to Mike DeCourcy yesterday after writing the following tweet before bed Tuesday night:  Tsnmike: So all the people squawking about one-and-dones not going to class in spring — how does that reconcile with John Wall on SEC honor roll? DeCourcy was attacked on several fronts but the most compelling line of inquiry was whether Wall academically represents the ‘typical’ one-and-doner.  Those guys get up way too early for us to have joined the conversation in real time, but our uneducated sense is that Wall is an exception and the one-and-doners are probably no different than any other athlete who decides to leave school early.
  2. The best piece on Dean Smith’s current condition that we have seen is by Joe Posnanski over at SI.  The piece about Brian Reese potentially blowing a trip to the Final Four by not following Smith’s precise orders is phenomenal.  Read it.
  3. While we’re discussing Tobacco Road legends, we should mention this article by Dan Wiederer who discusses all the Duke fingerprints that are on the US national teams this summer.  A great point by Coach K when he notes that many of the top high school prospects chose to play for the national teams rather than AAU ball, a development that will undoubtedly mature their games in ways they could not imagine on the summer circuit.
  4. Former Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to the charge that he shoplifted a $1,395 Ralph Lauren bag from the Mall at Short Hills in Essex County, New Jersey.  We’d like to say that at least he has good taste, but, uh, well…
  5. Andy Katz reports that the NCAA’s top official, John Adams, has spent much of the last month meeting with the four Final Four head coaches and listening to feedback as to how to improve his teams of zebras.  We think Katz hits on the correct point in his piece when he points out that Adams only has limited control of officials, more specifically only during the NCAA Tournament.  If any real change is to occur, he needs to get the leagues on board with it so that a foul in the Big Ten is the same thing as one in the ACC.
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