No hedging here: Recruiting definitely more of a spectacle these daysby Javier Morales on May. 04, 2010, under Sports
Arizona and Washington have experienced unsettling recruiting developments in the last week and I am certain head coaches — directly involved or not — are outraged and dumbfounded.
Imagine how many times Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has tossed and turned the last few days thinking about what Kentucky coach John Calipari will do next in the recruitment of Portland (Ore.) Jefferson superstar Terrence Jones.
Arizona coach Sean Miller and UConn coach Jim Calhoun are faced with the reality that a promising recruit chose to attend a prep school instead of join their storied programs. If that’s not a slap to the face of what they have accomplished in their careers, it is at least a turn of a cold shoulder.
It is not as though Manhattan (N.Y.) Rice High School forward Kadeem Jack only had the option of playing for Robert Morris or William & Mary. If that was the case, spending a year in prep school to develop further and become noticed by higher profile programs is understandable. However, passing up Arizona, UConn, Miami and Arkansas for South Kent (Conn.) Prep School?
Give the kid credit for doing what he wants and wish him the best of luck — after all, it’s his life — but nothing is wrong with questioning the move. Why not redshirt at a Division I program to develop further with four years of eligibility remaining afterward instead of attending a prep school, with less competition in practice and games, and then have only three years of eligibility?
Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Frank Burlison, who has covered recruiting longer than these recruits have been alive, wrote yesterday that he has now seen everything with the bizarre Jones development.
What’s next? The recruit gathering the press, family and friends at a gym and noting that if he makes a 25-foot jump shot he’ll play for Kansas, or if he misses he’s bound for Kentucky? Don’t laugh. Anything is possible these days. ESPN might televise it with the College Gameday crew on hand.
Why hold a press conference to announce your college decision, as Jones did Friday, only to hedge a few minutes later after a reported conversation over the phone with Calipari? What purpose did Jones taking part in the press conference serve?
The preceding announcements of his Jefferson teammates that they were bound to play football at Texas Southern or basketball at Idaho were far more enriching than Jones sitting behind six college caps, not sure why he had to pick one while wearing a suit.
His teammate Terrence Ross, a Top 50 recruit according to Rivals.com, showed up wearing Washington garb with his Husky cap on sideways. That’s a 17 year old being a 17 year old. How refreshing.
Calipari says he does not put pressure on recruits who have committed elsewhere. He was quoted in the Lexington Herald-Leader as saying, “If he’s made a verbal commitment, we just lay off until the kid publicly de-commits, which has happened before. If he’s committed to a school, then I would not (contact the recruit). There’s no rule against it, there’s no law against it. I just don’t do it.”
Read between the lines: He lays off until the recruit publicly de-commits. What if the kid has not publicly de-committed, then he is fair game? Why not? There’s no rule against it. There’s no law against it.
You can bet the terms of Calipari’s rich contract that he has not given up on Jones, despite the fact that the 6-8 forward placed that Washington cap on his head and said he has wanted to be Ross’ teammate since they were in the eighth grade.
The argument can be made that Calipari is doing what he feels is best for his program. If you were in his position, would losing a 5-star, surefire prospect, sit well with you without putting up a fight first? Kentucky should expect Calipari to behave in this manner because he was hired to win national championships. You don’t win by being passive.
But a line must be drawn when a recruit has clearly made his choice in front of almost 30,000 Internet viewers, not to mention while sitting next to his mother and father, who have endured the recruiting process as much as their son. With his indecision now, the agony continues and the development becomes more of a circus. Nobody has anything to gain from that.
By all indications, Miller has a track record of not meddling with recruits who have announced they are headed elsewhere. After his hire at Arizona, Miller steered clear of Kevin Parrom, who signed a national letter of intent with Xavier. He allowed Parrom to make up his mind about gaining a release from his letter after meeting with new Xavier coach Chris Mack.
“There will never be any of that (recruiting players he left at Xavier), and it’s just a matter of us moving forward,” Miller said at his introductory press conference at Arizona last April. “We’re a long way from Cincinnati now, so I’m looking forward to moving on to that next chapter.”
Miller reportedly contacted the coaches and mentors of Phoenix North guard Daniel Bejarano and Santa Rita guard Terrell Stoglin upon his arrival in Tucson, but the conversation was along the lines of, “If your guy decides to re-open his recruitment, keep us in mind.” Bejarano was committed to Texas and Stoglin to Maryland. Nobody has indicated that Miller actively pursued these players before the prospect publicly de-committed.
As it turned out, Bejarano de-committed and Miller instantly recruited him after Bejarano reached out to him, not vice-versa. Stoglin stuck to his commitment and signed with the Terrapins despite being the hometown kid. If Calipari was the coach at Arizona, would Stoglin have similarly been left alone? That’s debatable. Coaches are different and recruit in different manners.
Which style is preferable? The kind that lets things be out of respect to the university that gained the commitment from the prospect? Or the kind that won’t give up until the prospect signs on the dotted line?
Jack essentially has committed to attend South Kent next year. If you were Miller, do you back off out of respect for the youngster and his mother? Would Calipari handle the matter the same way?
Ethically and morally, there is no doubt which approach is more correct, but these days that might not matter.