College Basketball Recruiting

The trend of players choosing a college before a high school

You’re joking.

Howard Avery uttered those two words into his phone last Monday after Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie offered Avery’s son, Michael, a scholarship. Avery had called to follow up on an encounter with Gillispie at a LeBron James-sponsored tournament in Akron, Ohio, the previous weekend. NCAA rules forbade Gillispie from discussing Michael’s play with Avery at the tournament site.

Gillispie could, however, field Avery’s call two days later, after the family had returned home to Lake Sherwood, Calif., Gillispie told the proud papa that after watching Michael, a 6-foot-4 combo guard with a sweet shooting stroke, play in a pair of games with the Indiana Elite travel team, he had seen all he needed to see. Gillispie wanted Avery’s son to come to Lexington. The brevity of the evaluation didn’t cause the elder Avery to question Gillispie’s tone, though. Neither did the fact that such a momentous occasion was taking place during a phone call instead of during a campus visit.

Avery simply couldn’t believe the University of Kentucky head coach had just offered a scholarship to an eighth grader who had never set foot on campus and who still had yet to decide where he would attend high school. By now you know Michael Avery accepted that scholarship offer. When the news hit the Web shortly after Avery committed last Thursday, criticism rained on Gillispie and Avery.

The questions were pointed but predictable:

1. How could Kentucky — college basketball royalty — stoop to offering a scholarship to an eighth grader?

2. How could that child’s parents allow him to accept a scholarship offer 40 months before he can sign a Letter of Intent?

3. Will this turn into college basketball’s version of the subprime mortgage crisis with coaches (banks) trying in four or five years to excavate themselves from the wreckage of a series of bad offers (loans)?

Here are the answers:

1. Gillispie offered because he was worried someone else would beat him to the punch. In this case, “someone else” translates loosely to USC coach Tim Floyd, who accepted commitments in consecutive years from players who had yet to suit up for a high school team.

2. After three days of deliberation and discussion, Avery’s parents were quite comfortable with their son’s choice. Howard Avery — who said he wasn’t comfortable allowing his son to be interviewed for this story — will explain further in a few paragraphs.

3. Possibly, depending on how well coaches can project 13- and 14-year-olds. For the time being, get used to the early offers. “These aren’t aberrations,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said Monday night, minutes before he called Greenfield, Ohio, ninth-grader Vinny Zollo for a story about Zollo’s commitment to Kentucky. “It’s like an arms race,” Meyer said. “You’ve got to offer first.”

Sometimes early commitments pan out. Sometimes they don’t. Huntington Beach, Calif., forward Taylor King committed to UCLA prior to his freshman year at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). Two years later, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I made my decision way too early. It was too early to know what I wanted.” King eventually signed with Duke. After spending much of 2007-08 on the bench, King announced last month he would transfer to Villanova.

This guy hits it pretty much exactly as I see it.

And you’ll notice that Gillispie wasn’t the first to do this and 8th Grade is not the youngest recruiting commitment out there. But Dick Vitale and the other talking heads often open their mouths before they know all of the facts.

In sports, there is not much investigative journalism. There are a mass of pinheads who are paid to shout at the top of their lungs of the greatnress of Coach K or Duke or UNC or insert any ACC school. Sports “journalism” is a collective of arrogant loud mouthed hooligans who get paid to shout the company line and to react to scandal.

Dookie Vitale and the rest are charlatans, BABY!

Finally, one guy at CNNSI spends a little time and effort and uncovers the real story behind this rising recruiting trend.

Dick Vitale in his usual reactionary, superficial manner tells us that this was nothing more than “headline grabbing” and that it is unhealthy. Vitale is one of the worst columnists in the biz. The guy is as deep as a mustard stain on Michael Moore’s favorite t-shirt.

Dick Vitale and the rest of his cronies should learn the facts before they wail and lament the downfall of civilization or college basketball as we know it.

See also Dick Vitale is an emotional tampon.

Comments. Question? Smart remarks.

Recruiting and Kentucky Basketball

Personally, I don’t get it. Perhaps there are ulterior motives. Maybe we just have a few self righteous hypocrits who miss inept Tubby recruiting.

Smith couldn’t recruit well enough. Billy Gillispie is recruiting too much, too fast, too soon. Huh!?!

Everyone complained that UK under Smith was not getting the recruits. UK wasn’t on the radar of the Elite Recruits. Smith seemed to wait each year to the end to start his recruiting. Either he cherry picked de-commits from other schools or he was recruiting left overs in the Spring. The guys never seemed to get caught up on recruiting. I don’t know if he even tried.

His best class in his tenure was a group of guys who seemed to choose UK in spite of Smith. Rondo wanted to go to UL but Pitino chose to go after Telfair instead. Morris chose UK because it was easier than Georgia Tech. Crawford chose UK then tried to leave. Ramel Bradley was the third Guard in a class that needed a Forward. That year saw Corey Brewer go to UF because according to Smith “Brewer wasn’t big enough to play in the SEC.”  Chris Lofton chose UT that year because no one in the State of Kentucky believed that Chris could make it at the D1 level. Not the finest moment in talent evaluation for either Smith or Pitino.

Smith and his projects. Smith and his spring recruiting of Tyrone Nash and clones. Smith and his sons.

Kentucky fans complained and complained.

“Spring” forward to the present.

Billy Gillispie has UK in the mouth of top recruits all over the Nation. He’s got talented kids committing .
Patterson committed to Gillispie. Not to Smith. Darius Smith was close to committing to Illinois. Another Kentucky kid going out of State because of the ineptness of Smith and his merry band of incompetents. Gillispie and his merry band of magicians reeled Darius back in and received the commit. Liggins, if he qualifies is a serious talent. He’s brought in two highly regarded JUCOs who I’m betting are going to help in ways that no JUCO ever helped a Smith team.  Smith trolled the JUCO ranks and struck out each time.

I’d love to see Antoine Barbour under a hard working, dedicated coach like Gillispie.

Dominique Ferguson is the #8 overall Prospect from the Class of 2010. K.C. Ross Miller is a Top 25 talent. Euton is a highly regarded talent.

Vinny Zollo and Michael Avery are two talented kids who have committed to the program early. Some say too early.

This is one year of recruiting under Gillispie.

I’m sure the lack of a surprise element each Spring is going to hurt some of the recruiting blogs. So I can see their concern. Slower site. Fewer hits. That’s gonna hurt the bottom line. But I think it will eventually even out. People are going to want to follow these kids. See how their panning out. Follow their development.

Not all early recruits are going to level off talent wise or regress as in the cases of J.P. Blevins and Adam Williams. Both Avery and Zollo are taller and more talented than those two were in their Senior years of High School. I’m thinking that Zollo and Avery both could come in right now and start over either of those guys.

The recruiting landscape is changing. It’s been changing. Williams, K, Self and others have been adapting to this change all along. Smith was behind the power curve. Gillispie is bringing UK back up to speed. He’s making UK a major threat on the recruiting trail once more.

I say it’s about damn time. Before fans of any other programs start throwing stones, you might want to look at the walls of your house. Lots of glass out there.

Personally, I don’t need surprise recruiting sagas from hell…

I don’t care so much about recruiting. As long as Gillispie keeps it legal, I’m for letting him do his job. I’d rather know who is coming. I’d rather coach have the time to develop a plan of action on how to incorporate those players into his system. Recruiting is a tool to get there. It’s a means to an end, not the end itself. That is unless you are a blog or website dedicated to recruiting. Gillispie is recruiting to win Championships. It’s a take no prisoners endeavor.

Winning Championships is what should fuel BG. Bring on Number 8.

Comments, Questions, smart remarks?