There is no doubt that there has been a strong injection of excitement in the University of Kentucky basketball program. Every person I have spoken with over the last few days has applauded the hire of Billy Gillispie and virtually everyone has the same message: “this is starting to be fun again.” Nowhere is this sentiment more true than in the area of recruiting. As many of you know, recruiting is the lifeblood of this blog and I have gone from a few years ago, when I hated recruiting and tried to ignore all talk about it, to actually enjoying this part of the program almost as much as the games.
And with that, one thing is abundantly clear. Recruiting is going to be A LOT more fun in the Gillispie era. When Tubby Smith did recruiting, it was sort of a mixed bag to follow. While Smith often ended up with good players, the process never seemed to make sense and it was unclear what direction the staff was choosing to go on a given basis (and at times it wasnt clear if they even had a direction at all). In 72 hours, it has already become clear that recruiting under Gillispie may be a full time job to cover. Coach Clyde (as he will be known forever on this blog, beginning today) has had a whirlwind three days, that has included multiple text messages, phone calls and an assortment of organization, planned to pick up the pieces of what is left of the 07 class. And after all of this….what do we know?
(1) Well as our poll to the right shows, the UK fans tend to believe that Patrick Patterson is still the queen bee for UK in the 07 class. And Coach Clyde knows that as well. He put in his first call to Patterson on Friday night and has had multiple contacts over the weekend. There have been reports of a meeting between the two, although I have gotten no confirmation of this and view all of the “airplane reports” skeptically. What I do know is that Coach Clyde has entered the game. Patterson’s mother was quoted today as saying he will likely wait until mid-May to make a decision. Considering the fact that one national recruiting analyst told me on Friday that he thought Patterson would commit to Florida this weekend, this can only be good news for Kentucky. The day Tubby Smith left, I thought UK had ZERO chance to get Patterson. Now I think they are still in the game…..that is a good three days for Coach Clyde.
(2) Where UK picked up immensely in the last three days is in the recruitment of Jai Lucas. I was told by a Texas reporter that Gillispie understood the “subtleties of recruiting as well as anyone.” This is a very underrated, but important part of building a program. What great recruiters like Billy Donovan understand is that part of building a class is getting to know the AAU guys, knowing who pushes the buttons for each kid and what is important to getting each kids’ ear. Coach Clyde gets this…..and he understands that at its core, Jai Lucas controls the rest of the 07 class. Get Jai now….or in the next couple of weeks, and you have the BEST recruiter for Patterson on your side. Jai told me on Saturday that Gillispie told him exactly how he wants to use him and how he can “help build the future” of the program. Music to a guy like Jai’s ears. I have heard that Coach Clyde went to Houston this weekend…..but I dont know that for sure. But if he did, an even better performance. If Coach Clyde gets Jai in the next couple of weeks…..something that is possible…..well that is a great sign for the future.
(3) Where we will really see the greatness of Coach Clyde is how he will pull together the rest of the class. I have been told that it could be jucos, transfers or kids we dont even know that could be part of the final process. But if that is to happen, it needs to be done by an organized coach…..and that may be Coach Clyde’s biggest strength. The same Texas analyst told me that “Gillispie knows every kid in America, his coach, AAU coach, mother, father, best friend and girlfriend.” When you interview these kids like I do, you realize that this is invaluable knowledge….and all I can say is “its about time.”
(4) And then there is 2008. Right now all the talk about 08 is pure speculation. We dont know who Coach Clyde will target and it is hard to make a list at this point. Draymond Green has decommitted, Kenny Frease is now at Xavier and thus all of our previous work is sort of down the drain. But it is about to get good……I have a feeling that UK is about to be on the list of players who were never even considering the Cats….and in some cases, had never even heard from them. Expect Coach Clyde to cast a wide net and for there to be more names bantered about than ever before….and that excites me.
This is an exciting time for UK basketball and will be an exciting couple of weeks for those of us who follow recruiting. It would be easy to just assume that now that the Cats have a coach, the next few months are the offseason……but as much as any year in recent memory, this offseason will be exciting. We will learn what kind of recruiter Coach Clyde is, who he targets and who he gets. I am looking forward to it, and as always…..we will be on top of it.
Vote on our poll on the right….if you want, be happy that Mark Turgeon got hired by Texas A&M (Mosley and I both liked him when we went to the Bradley-Wichita State game this year)join the The Sports Mob Myspace site for future news about the show, and check back in for news as we get it. Its going to be fun around here for some time…..get ready
And look for Mitch Barnhart and Coach Clyde interviews on the Mob in the next two weeks……