Tomorrow Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com is releasing an article that will detail the extent that World Wide Wes is a power broker in college basketball. At this point we don’t know what his conclusion will be, but we certainly know what those fans of other teams hope it will be. For them, the easiest way to explain the success John Calipari and the University of Kentucky have had over the last few years is very simple. Say that Calipari cheats to get players and when UK gets recruits, just note without fact that it must be because World Wide Wes “steered” them there. No attention is paid to Calipari’s unbelievable record putting players in the Draft, the success he has had on the court over the last 5 years or even the history/tradition/fanbase of Kentucky basketball. Instead, it is World Wide Wes, plain and simple.
But is this true? Well Gary Parrish’s colleague Jeff Goodman didn’t think so a couple of years ago. In this article on Fox Sports two years ago, Goodman downplayed the influence of WWW. At that time, there was some talk that World Wide Wes could help influence Lebron James to play for a certain team, and Goodman said that was ludicrous. He noted that “sure, World Wide Wes – or Uncle Wes as some refer to him – has some power, some “juice” as it’s called in recruiting circles when college coaches attempt to determine who has influence with a particular recruit.” But Goodman was also quick to note that such influence was way overblown. He acknowledged that Wes didn’t have enough “juice” to get Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans or John Wall to sign with his agent friend Leon Rose and he said without hesitation, “Wesley has become a farce.” The entire point of the column was to dispel the notion of Wes as a power broker and even to acknowledge that when Wes has close friends (one of which was mentioned as current UK assistant Kenny Payne), those coaches get talent but “not anything out of the ordinary.”
So how about now? Well we shall see tomorrow. Parrish and CBS have talked to over 100 coaches this offseason and presumably they will be the folks talking about Wes’s influence, or lack thereof. In all the previous CBS articles, the coaches have spoken anonymously and I would guess that most will do so in this article as well. Since Wes is speculated to know nearly every coach, presumably many people talking about him, also have relationships with him. And some of those that likely say negative things (which clearly will happen, or else why write the article) may be those who have seen that relationship deteriorate over the years (like Rick Pitino for instance).
But what will be most interesting to me is to see whether Parrish and CBS now come to a different conclusion than Goodman reached just two years ago. Then, Wesley was an interesting figure with some influence, but as Goodman noted, “that still doesn’t mean he’s got any ‘juice’.” Is that still the case? Or will Goodman’s colleague come to a different conclusion after watching Kentucky and Calipari win a championship and contend for a title in all three of his seasons. I guess we will just have to see.
I am looking forward to reading the article, especially in the context of the one just 24 months prior. It is always interesting to see how consistent opinions remain.