If it weren’t for Rick Pitino, Jesus Shuttlesworth would have been a Kentucky Wildcat.
In his autobiography ‘From the Outside: My Journey Through Life and the Game I Love’ released back in March, NBA shooting legend Ray Allen said his college decision came down to Kentucky and Connecticut, but one final visit to Lexington during Big Blue Madness sealed the fate of the Cats… in the wrong direction.
Why? Because Pitino wouldn’t even talk to the future NBA all-time leader in three-point field goals.
On the visit, Kentucky legend Jamal Mashburn took Allen and his roommate Derron Sheffer out to lunch at a restaurant owned by Pitino. During the meeting, the former UK head coach was sitting just a few tables away, but didn’t say a word to the prized recruit.
“[Coach Pitino] happened to be there that afternoon, sitting with some friends a few tables away,” Allen said. “Perfect, I figured, he’ll stop by for a few minutes to say hello, and I’ll learn more to help me make my decision. Only he didn’t stop by. He waved, and that was it. Coach [Jim] Calhoun would never have ignored us. He and I, in fact, enjoyed several meals together on my visit to Storrs.”
In fact, Allen said Pitino’s approach proved he wasn’t valued as a recruit at all. Instead, the future Hall of Famer wanted to go somewhere “where it’s clear somebody wants you to be an essential part of what they’re doing.”
It’s not the first time Allen has talked about his recruiting process and Pitino’s lack of dedication during it.
“Pitino, he’s so high on a pedestal,” Allen said in a past interview at UCONN when asked about Kentucky. “He does everything and talks about himself. It’s “I” before his players or the team. He’s always talking about himself and what he has.”
He also told the same story about Pitino’s restaurant and the Kentucky head coach not paying him any attention while visiting.
“He had a restaurant… Jamal Mashburn was taking me around on my visit and I went in there and Rick Pitino, he sat with his friends on the other side of the bar. Me and Derron joke about it; we said if it were Coach Calhoun, he would be sitting down at the table and getting our food for us because he really wanted us.”
You can see the full interview here:
Could you imagine the UK Alumni Game with arguably the greatest shooter of all time participating? Allen’s jersey hanging in the rafters?
Thanks again, Rick.