Sometimes, persistence is rewarded. After sending an all-out full court press after ESPN’s #1 player in the nation, Austin Rivers, which included having assistant Chris Collins do everything but dry-hump Rivers’ leg between timeouts a drool-fest in Orlando last summer, Duke finally got a commitment from Rivers. This, of course, is not official yet and only based on those always seductive “sources”, but the folks at ESPN seem fairly confident and have indicated that Rivers has not only made his decision, but he’s also cancelled visits to North Carolina and Kansas and let coaches at all three schools know of his decision. The shooting (and shooting and shooting and shooting) guard son of Doc Rivers, who famously committed to the in-state Florida Gators over two years ago, re-opened his recruitment in April of this year.
In the short term, it’s a win-win for both Rivers and the Blue Devils. Though I think his game could be better showcased in Donovan’s pick and roll offense, Coach Ratface certainly has a strong history of getting the most out of his shooters. Rivers gets a good offense and Duke gets one heck of a player. But, more interestingly, Coach K gets another free pass for what started out as a desperation move, along with recruiting JuCo players and reclassifying Andre Dawkins, to save what was a stagnant and slowly sinking ship in Durham. Sure, there’s no rule broken in stalking recruiting a player whose given a commitment to another school, just like there’s no law against sleeping with someone’s girlfriend. But, there’s a code you’d expect most to obey, especially those that are so prominently paraded around as examples of what is so fantastic and wholesome about college sports. It’s the code that Kentucky’s current coach, painted as the dark angel of college basketball, has stated publicly that he follows wholeheartedly. Even Kentucky’s last coach, the dark angel of last call, abided by the rules. But, maybe that’s just one thing we don’t understand about the code. Maybe it’s only meant to be followed by those who are followed by the people with notebooks and tape recorders trumpeting its nobility.
Could you imagine what the Pete Thamel’s of the world would be saying about Kentucky (or even anyone besides Duke) had they spent a year allowing their assistants to pressure and target a teenager so hard, they’d have to register online in some states? Or, on a more subtle note, what if they saw that the front page of UKAthletics.com teased a story about a current Cat with a picture of a top recruit framed just as prominently (above) when there are far more related pictures (trust me) readily available? Either I’m on a Mel Gibson-sized conspiracy theory here or there’s a strange exemption for Coach K.
But, on the bright side, Donovan just got jobbed again. Enjoy it, Billy.