On Tuesday, the latest twist in the Charles Bassey to Western Kentucky saga unfolded. Although I’m not so sure you could call it a “twist” as much as an inevitability.
That’s because in what has been expected for a long time, Western Kentucky went ahead and hired Hennssy Auriantal, Bassey’s guardian, as an assistant coach. Understand that from the time that Bassey – a five-star player, ranked among the top high school prospects in the country – decided to reclassify and commit to Western – something like this felt inevitable. It wasn’t certain, but you could feel it coming. Like Rick Pitino swearing “I’ll never do another interview again” – only to do an interview a few minutes after that, this one seemed like an absolute certainty.
Of course as soon as the news became official, you know what happened next: The Twitter mob came out and attacked Western Kentucky. We got the typical “never bet against Rick Stansbury in recruiting” tweets from many. Others called the move everything ranging from sketchy to unethical to immoral.
But while this move feels grimy on the surface (and well, it is), it’s important to remember one important thing: Hiring Bassey’s guardian is completely legal under NCAA rules. It might not feel right, but that act alone doesn’t constitute any NCAA violations. And if anything, we should probably give Stansbury a little credit here. If all it took to get Bassey was to hire Auriantal, good for Western Kentucky for pulling it off. All 350+ Division I programs could have done the same thing. They all could have made the hire and landed a potentially program-changing, five-star recruit. Why should we be mad at Stansbury for actually pulling it off?
Now to be clear (and in defense of those other 350+ Division I teams) there are of course other reasons to question the legitimacy of Bassey’s recruitment. Let’s also get another thing clear: This isn’t me picking on an 18-year-old kid. These are simple facts that have been reported through the media.
Can't lie, I love this. Western Kentucky gets their five-star kid and it's all completely above board. I hope this ends the dumb "never bet against Rick Stansbury in recruiting" narrative once and for all – this is something every program in America could have done if they wanted https://t.co/drNEntptUM
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) July 3, 2018
For starters, questions have surrounded Bassey since he left his first high school in Texas, and the local media in Kentucky have done an incredible job of looking into the credentials of Bassey’s new high school, Aspire Academy (which ran in conjunction with DeSales High School in Louisville). Add in the fact that Bassey was able to graduate a year early by reclassifying and that even Aspire Academy admitted that they had no idea whether or not he has a degree from the school, and it’s understandable why some are questioning the merits of the Bassey-to-Western Kentucky thing. Especially when you remember that no major college basketball powers seriously recruited Bassey outside of Western Kentucky, even despite the fact that he was a Top 10 recruit and played within driving distance of several schools that in theory should have been recruiting him (Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana).
Again, it’s OK to be skeptical. But again, if all we’re talking about is Western Kentucky choosing to hire Bassey’s guardian as an assistant coach? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
As a matter of fact, it’s actually more common than you might think. Remember, both Missouri and Washington hired Michael Porter Jr.’s dad in the last two years, with the hopes of landing his two sons (Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay). USC recently hired a guy named Eric Mobley, whose younger son is the No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2020 and older son is a Top 15 prospect in the class of 2019. Again, nothing wrong there. Just like there was nothing wrong with Memphis hiring a guy named Keelon Lawson to land his two sons a few years ago (a pair of players who have since transferred to Kansas) or when Bill Self hired Mario Chalmers’ dad to bring along his son. Heck, if you want to go historic, Larry Brown hired Danny Manning’s dad back in the early 1980’s to land Danny Manning, who eventually led the Jayhawks to the 1988 national championship. Think Brown regrets making that move? I bet not.
Put simply, hiring people to land star recruits is a practice as old as time. Understand that as long as coaches get hired and fired based on how many games they win, they will always do whatever they can within the rules (and sometimes outside the rules) to get players. That includes hiring parents, guardians and AAU and high school coaches if it helps them get star players. Heck, the NCAA even tried to step in and slow down the practice, by putting in a new rule a few years ago that said that if a school is going to hire a parent or guardian to land a recruit, they have to hire them as a true assistant coach (as opposed to a non-sense operations position). And you know what? It hasn’t slowed up the practice at all.
That’s also why the more I dig into the Bassey situation, the more angry I’ve become with the media coverage. For one, the media is smearing the name of an 18-year-old kid and his guardian (even if it is fair to raise other questions about eligibility etc.). Furthermore, why is it OK for Missouri, Washington or Kansas to hire someone affiliated with a big-time recruit, but not Western Kentucky? Because it’s Western Kentucky and they’re not supposed to get a player of Bassey’s caliber? Get out of here.
At the end of the day, every Division I program had a chance to hire Auriantal and every Division I program had a chance to land Bassey because of it. Western Kentucky is the one who actually got it done.
Therefore, go ahead and dislike the move by Bassey, Auriantal and Western Kentucky.
But just remember: They didn’t actually do anything wrong.