As I settled down for what I presumed to be a peaceful monday night watching Kevin Federline on WWE Monday Night Raw, I received a phone call from an anonymous informant who said, “Matt, Scotty Hopson has committed to a school that is not UK.” This call surprised me and I figured it was simply a prank (I have to stop giving vagabonds like Ryan Lemond my number) and went back to yelling at the beginning of “Deal or No Deal.” But then it hit me…..I am a supposed internet journalist. I must do all that I can to attempt to track down these stories. A call to Scotty Hopson later, and the next thing you know, we have the Hopson to MSU news. Thus my attempts at rest and relaxation were once again thwarted and we had to get on the phone to learn all the news.
Also today brought the stress of the dreaded “technical difficulties” to Kentucky Sports Radio as we struggled getting Episode 11 ready for consumption. But it is now ready!!!! Download EPISODE 11 NOW and hear all the good vibes from our latest UK commitment, AJ STEWART who tells the crew why he picked Kentucky, what his visit was like and what he thinks of UK’s chances with the other recruits. Plus we talk down and dirty with MIKE DECOURSEY of the Sporting News who got into a little heated discussion with me about the Blue Devils that was fun for the entire family. And of course, we review the Blue-White Game, talk about some recruiting news and discuss our new venture onto ESPN Radio in Louisville. Good stuff all.
Three topics we need to get to…..
(1) Of course the big news of the night, you heard first on here, the commitment of Scotty Hopson to Mississippi State and Rick Stansbury. This commitment came as a big shock to me and truly caught me a bit off guard. Just two weeks ago I spoke with Hopson and he told me that UK, UT and Ohio State were the three schools on the top of his list and he mentioned Mississippi State along with a group of others later in the conversation. Plus, just a week ago he raved about the UK visit to Big Blue Madness and told me he looked forward to hearing more from Kentucky this year. One week later he is committed to Mississippi State. Lots of people will look for the reasons here. I will choose my words very carefully. There are very legitimate reasons for Scotty to go to Starkville. Four members of his AAU team already play for Miss State and the Bulldogs have been recruiting him for a long time. In addition, Scotty is a kid who loves and needs attention, and I say that as a fan of the kid personally. He is a recruit who as he put it to me needed to be “shown the love” and Stansbury and his staff are good at this aspect of recruiting.
Having said that, I admit to being skeptical of Mississippi State as a recruiting school. Privately whispers about that program are everywhere and it never ceases to amaze me how they can make happen what they make happen down there, all the while with very little on the court success to show for it. I have no reason to think anything shady went down here as I like Scotty and I think his interest in Miss State is real. Still there is more to come on this story and it is a LONG two years before he will step on campus there.
As for UK, this is a blow to the 08 efforts. Hopson will likely be the highest rated Kentucky recruit in a decade and getting him was a priority for the staff. I question whether Hopson would have been a good fit for the UK system, but his athleticism is explosive and he is a fast riser. Where did this recruitment go wrong? Well three ways that I can see. First, Hopson and his family, while in state, are not UK fans. According to folks in Hoptown, Scotty grew up a UNC and UL fan and a more interesting story is how Rick Pitino was never able to get the Cards as a major player in this affair. Plus Hopkinsville has never been kind to UK efforts as Greg Buckner, Lamont Barnes and Isiah Victor have all shown. Second, this is a kid who needs coddling and attention, traits that this staff is simply not good at giving. People can debate whether coaches should have to do such a thing or whether it is worth putting up with this type of demand, but there are kids who demand it….and Scotty was one. Third, and most importantly, even though UK is starting much earlier on recruiting than they have previously, the Cats simply arent prepared to go after kids at this early stage. I have been told from folks around Hopkinsville that Scotty’s coach begged Reggie Hanson a year ago to get involved and it never happened. Scotty heard from UK a few months ago, but by then early relationships had been formed. Identifying and contacting recruits early on, a trait that Kentucky is better at than it was a year ago and should continue to improve on with the addition of uber-organizer Shawn Finney, is still one in which the Wildcats must improve.
Either way, I wish good luck to Scotty. I have a sneaking suspicion that this recruitment may one day be revisited, but for now Miss State has the commit.
(2) In less important news, Tyrone Nash committed to Notre Dame. I will give this as much attention as it needs. I was never thrilled with our pursuit of Nash, and I am glad we lost this one. Like with Bud Mackey, I think it is for the best. Having said that, UK did put energy on this one at one time, and even though they quit caring when he chose prep school, there was a time the staff wanted him.
(3) In the day after on the Jai Lucas scene it is important to note what you havent seen….lots of reports from OSU of the amazing time he had on campus. Lucas was kind enough to grant me an interview last night, but I have seen no other report from him and no reason to think the impression I got last night was in any way incorrect. This recruitment isnt over, but remember all the praise we heard after Big Blue Madness…..the current silence is indicative of one of two things (and maybe both)…the possibility that Lucas simply wasnt as blown away at the more familiar OSU and that OSU simply doesnt care about basketball recruiting like UK……a fact that is UNDOUBTEDLY true.
(4) I was sent an article form the Solihull, England newspaper about the commitment of Mike Williams to UK. Here is the text:
A BASKETBALLER from Solihull has taken his next step on the ladder to sporting stardom in America. Ex-Lode Heath School pupil Mike Williams was featured in the Solihull News in August after being chased by nine universities looking to snap him up on their lucrative basketball scholarships.
But now the 18-year-old, whose mother Pat Oke lives in Damson Lane, will put pen-to-paper with the University of Kentucky on November 10 after receiving visits from top basketball coach Tubby Smith. Mike, who stands at 7ft, will now play for the Wildcats, one of the elite basketball programs in the country, after completing his studies at Bishop Ireton School in Virginia.
Mike’s coach at Bishop Ireton, Mark Vincent, said: “Mike is an extremely hard worker and he will develop and have a great career at the University of Kentucky. His basketball career has just begun.”
Mike, a former Yew Tree Primary School pupil, jetted to the USA to pursue his dreams at the age of 14 after being spotted by American coaches at a residential week in Chester.
I love the way British folks express things. “jetted to the USA”, “chased by nine universities” and “snap him up”….great use of language.
That is all for now. I am playing in a golf tournament tomorrow so will be away from the computer for the day. Listen to EPISODE 11 and enjoy it for all the days of your life….