When Larry Brown was hired as the head coach at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in 2012, the marriage between the school and the once-super star coach seemed a tad bit absurd. Brown had long since left the college game for the bigger pond waters of the NBA. Brown’s last college head coaching gig was in 1988 with the Kansas Jayhawks. His departure from college led to a string of NBA coaching jobs: San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and the Charlotte Bobcats (2008-2010). After a brief hiatus from coaching, Brown “shocked the world” when he decided to pack his bags for a school not known for having a rich basketball tradition located in Dallas, Texas. A big name coach such as Larry Brown didn’t seem to be a likely candidate for a place like SMU, yet somehow the two were brought together.
But would Larry Brown be able to actually attract the kind of talent to SMU that he would need to make a big splash in the college realm? Recruiting is such a big part of the game. Almost immediately, Brown began to convince a few big named recruits to at least consider SMU– many even making visits. SMU started to randomly find its way into the “Final 3” or “Final 5” for some of the big time prospects with 4 and 5 stars next to their names. Even though SMU was trying to become a serious player with the big dogs in recruiting such as Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, etc… SMU usually was the Bridesmaid and never the Bride. Brown had a disappointing first season on the court, with his SMU team only winning 15 games. Even without the results on the court, Brown managed to put together the 14th best recruiting class in the country though heading into this year, and perhaps that should have been a sign of things to come.
Larry Brown to SMU once “shocked the world,” and the reason I bring him up again tonight is because tomorrow… Brown might be a key component in another “shock the world” moment. More on that coming below…
And now on to the news and views from the first day of the new KSR site re-design…
—- Although we are getting ready to gear up for the start of college football, college basketball took the forefront late this evening as a few chips appear to be ready to fall for the 2014 recruiting class. Earlier this evening, Emmanuel Mudiay, the top ranked point guard in the class of 2014 (who also happens to be one of Calipari’s most coveted players in the class) let it be known that he will announce his college decision tomorrow night on ESPNU at the Elite 24 game. While ESPNU and Kentucky have a pleasant history with announcements and kids picking the Cats, this is one that doesn’t look good for Cal and company.
Up until the last few days, Kentucky has long been considered the frontrunner for Mudiay’s services. The lengthy point guard’s game has drawn comparisons to John Wall, and Mudiay and Calipari’s styles would be a match made in heaven. Mudiay was set to take his visit to Kentucky in the near future, so the news of an earlier than expected announcement before that visit doesn’t bode well for Kentucky being the destination of choice.
Larry Brown and SMU clearly put on the full court press late for Mudiay, who has spent a lot of time on SMU’s campus due to the fact that the school is practically in his backyard. Geographically, SMU has always held the edge, but only recently have some other signs pointed in favor of SMU:
1) The Tweet heard ’round the internet
2) The Tyler Ulis offer
Tyler Ulis is a very talented point guard in the class of 2014. With that said, he doesn’t fit the usual “Calipari mold” at only 5’9. The timing of the offer coming around the same time as Mudiay’s tweet, and just before Mudiay’s surprise early announcement… can’t be just a coincidence. Ulis appears to be Calipari’s second favorite option for the point guard position in the class of 2014 assuming he doesn’t get Mudiay or Tyus Jones. Josh Perkins was also on the table and waiting for an offer from the Cats, but the offer never came. If Calipari knows what it sounds like he knows (that Mudiay will likely be picking SMU tomorrow), the timing of the Ulis offer now makes more sense.
3) The early announcement
Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to take an official visit to Lexington. With the decision to announce tomorrow, before taking the visit, it seems unlikely that Mudiay will wind up picking the Cats. If Kentucky was that much in the picture, he likely would have waited to make the final decision until after the visit.
With all of that said, Mudiay could certainly shock the world in the other direction now that everyone is starting to lean toward SMU. All signs are pointing to SMU though at this point. Mudiay will decide tomorrow between SMU, Kentucky, Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State.
—- Evan Daniels of FOX is one of KSR’s most trusted opinions when it comes to college basketball recruiting. Daniels tweeted this out in response to Mudiay’s announcement of a decision tomorrow:
“I think Mudiay could surprise some folks tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him stay close to home. SMU in backyard.”
I never feel good about a decision when Daniels predicts the move to go the other way…
—- Adam Zagoria is leaning the same way as many others on Mudiay’s decision. He tweeted this out earlier this evening:
“I interviewed Emmanuel Mudiay yesterday at Elite 24 and he is very high on SMU coach Larry Brown. Wouldn’t shock me if he went there.”
—- Larry Brown might have finally ditched the Bridesmaid’s dress and landed one of THE TOP recruits in the country, instead of just being one of the final schools listed. Will this be a one-hit wonder for Brown, or would Mudiay picking SMU on the heels of a 14th ranked 2013 recruiting class for Brown signal a new big player in the recruiting scene? Brown is 77 years old, but maybe he’s got a little fight left in him still. Calipari doesn’t doesn’t lose many battles like these… But prepare yourselves accordingly tomorrow. —- Where does Kentucky go from here if they miss on Mudiay and potentially Tyus Jones as well? Those are the two top rated point guards in the class of 2014. Calipari and his staff appear to be putting their eggs in the basket of Tyler Ulis now, a pint-sized but talented 4-star point guard out of Chicago Heights, Illinois. Keep an eye on things as they will likely heat up even more between Ulis and Kentucky over the next few weeks. —- Even though the news doesn’t appear to be good for Mudiay, one future visitor spoke highly about Kentucky to the Courier-Journal’s Steve Jones. Devin Booker, a 4-star shooting guard with a Kentucky offer had the following words to say about his excitement and anticipation for his upcoming visit, “I’ve heard Rupp’s atmosphere is really unbelievable and you can’t really describe it with words.” Booker went on to talk about some of the other star players he will be visiting with while in Lexington. Booker referred to Kentucky as a place where they “build dynasties.”
You know what place they don’t say that about? SMU. Ever.
—- Don’t be too sad though about the potential pending bad news. Allow this amazing picture of Willie Cauley-Stein cheer you up before we move on to some football news…
—- The best news of the day came from Kentucky’s football practice where Za’Darius Smith returned to action after missing time with a high ankle sprain. The boot is no longer, and Smith practiced with the team today. Smith says he feels 100%, which is a huge relief for Kentucky as they begin preparations for Western Kentucky. Mark Stoops was also pleased with Smith today in practice, calling his performance “really good.” Kentucky would have sorely missed Smith if he hadn’t returned in time for WKU. Hopefully this will be the last setback for Smith before the first game. —- Speaking of the WKU game, Kentucky has finally turned all of its attention toward preparing for the season opener. Whereas Kentucky spent the beginning of fall camp working on themselves, the tables have turned and the focus now shifts to the opponent. Stoops was pleased with the first day of prep practice, “I thought it was a very good day. It was the first time we went through this format, where we go scouts and then we go against each other for part of the period. So overall, very pleased.”
Stoops mentioned one player in particular for WKU who will garner much of Kentucky’s attention: running back Antonio Andrews. “You look at No. 5 and you just see an absolutely fantastic football player. He’s a very good player, does everything for them, and he deserves all the accolades he’s been getting.” Kentucky’s first priority defensively will likely be figuring out which strategy will best neutralize Andrews, who is WKU’s biggest weapon.
—- Two defensive tackles announced their transfers out of Lexington on Friday. Patrick Grafree will play for Eastern Kentucky this fall and Thomas Chapman will suit up at Murray State. Best of luck to both of those guys, victims of getting lost behind the new level of talent Stoops is bringing in on the defensive line. —- Kentucky football also lost Rashad Cunningham, at least for this season. The sophomore wide receiver was declared academically ineligible
—- Oh hey, how do you like the site re-design?
And last but not least, once again… we offer our condolences to the family of R.J. Corman, who passed away after a decade-long battle with cancer. One of his daughters is a dear friend of mine and I know how much he not only meant to her, but to the community of Nicholasville. R.J. Corman once stuck his neck out for a close friend in a time of great need, when he certainly did not have to do so. I know that I am just one of hundreds and hundreds of people who have had a similar experience with a man who was always quick to lend a hand for a cause he believed in, or a person he believed in. Thoughts and prayers to the Corman family.