Because it isn’t for the name on the front of the jersey anymore. I came to this realization yesterday watching both Brandon Knight and Michael Gilchrist commit to play at UK. It hit me like a ton of bricks: as much as we, UK fans, wish that kids across the country want to come and play at Kentucky because of the tradition and fanbase and everything else that WE celebrate about the program, the fact is nearly every kid that will come to UK this season, and last season, and most recruiting classes over the past 5 or 6 years, have come because of ONE major thing and one thing only: the coach.
Keep this in mind: Brandon Knight was 6 YEARS OLD the last time Kentucky made a Final Four. Wisconsin, George Mason, Butler, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, LSU, and Ohio St (twice) have all made Final Fours since UK made one in 1998.
Let me put it another way: do you think that a big man from Alabama and a point guard from North Carolina both came to Lexington, Kentucky because they were drawn to the mass amounts of autographs they sign and the Wildcat Lodge. I think we truly know why Cousins and Wall and Bledsoe came to Kentucky: Coach Calipari and his style of play. And if you asked Daniel Orton TODAY what were the years that Kentucky won its 7 national titles, I would say he could AT MOST give you 3 of those years.
For guys like Jon Hood, I have no doubt that coming to Kentucky was a dream. But, can we now accept that the majority of players who will play at Kentucky likely had no aspirations to do so when they were high school juniors? I sure know that I can accept it, as long as the players win like they did in 2009-10. But I think some fans might be offended by this realization. Am I wrong to think this?
This is also the same reason that I don’t blame Daniel Orton for maybe/maybe not dropping out of school. I understand that Gillispie recruited him to Kentucky, but you and I both know that Calipari kept him here by telling him he could get Orton ready for the pros. And frankly, if Daniel felt that leaving school (or not) was his best option to make the pros, then I support him on it. It sucks if it hurts the UK scholarship situation (or not), but Daniel came to UK to prep for a pro career, and that’s just what he continues to do. His best interests are not in step with a UK fan’s best interest, and that’s just the reality.
This is not to say that guy like Orton, Wall, Cousins, and Bledsoe don’t come to love the program once they play here. I’m sure that all 4 guys would say that last season was one of the more enjoyable years of their lives. And the entire “environment” surrounding the program is what is a key to that experience. But, during the recruiting process, its impossible to fully show what that whole experience will be, and thus kids choose schools based on what they KNOW, and that’s the coach.
Now, like I said above, I really don’t care if kids come to Kentucky with no respect or knowledge for the history of the program, and only come to play for Cal. As a fan, I care about WINNING, and as long as the guys do that and don’t act like complete fools, I am OK with this. Us fans can celebrate all the history of the program, as we are, in the end, the ones who benefit from this history the most.
But, are you? Or do you disagree with my argument? Would you rather Cal find 4-5 guys who have an understanding of the history of Kentucky?
EVAN DANIELS OF SCOUT.COM WILL BE DOING A LIVE BLOG HERE AT 6PM TONIGHT! COME JOIN US AS WE DISCUSS THE EVENTS OF YESTERDAY AND WHERE KENTUCKY GOES FROM HERE.