I spent yesterday at the Marshall County HoopFest and will spend the next couple of days posting a lot of the information I attained here on the blog. Check back in frequently as I had conversations with ten of the best players in America and many recruting experts. I do want to start however with two conversations that I am sure will be valuable to Kentucky fans, especially in light of yesterday’s loss. After their games yesterday, I spoke with Brandon Wright (who in the two contests I have seen him play has looked a bit, not a lot but a bit, disappointing) and Thaddeus Young (who is as good as advertised, if not better) about what was the deciding factor in their decision-making. What I found is what I had expected….recruiting is different for every kid and often what we think happened, may or may not have happened.
When asked about what was the deciding factor in his decision to pick Georgia Tech over Kentucky, Thaddeus Young was clear. “To be honest with you,” Young said, “it came down to one thing. I thought to myself if I have to spend more than one year in a place, where do I want to be? And I am a city boy and there is lots more for me to do in Atlanta than in Lexington.” I pressed Young about style of play and conference affiliation, but he was adament that this had nothing to do with it. “I know Kentucky pushes the ball and I love Coach Smith. But Atlanta is more my speed than being out in the country.”
Brandon Wright gave a different story. When I asked him the deciding factors, he gave two. “Basically it came down to style of play and friends. I want to go to a place that pushes the ball and does not run a set offense. UNC does that more than the other three schools I was looking at. Plus I have good friends going there in Lawson and Ellington. When you combine those factors, that is where I wanted to go.” I asked him about the conversation I had with him and his mother a week before his UNC visit, where they suggested that they may not take the UNC visit, and he had an interesting comment. “We thought about that, but once I was there, I knew it was for me. Before I went they may not have been my top choice, but afterwards they were.”
When it comes to Wright, I have the sneaking suspicion that UK may have never been as close as many of us believed. One national recruiting expert (one of the big three) said he was convinced that Kentucky came in fourth behind Duke and Vandy in the race. In talking to Wright, I get the feeling that this is probably true. He spoke about how much he loved the three UNC-Duke games he attended and the atmosphere in the ACC.
What is my conclusion on all of this? Well some of it affirms what many of us believe….style of play matters and UNC and DUke have huge advantages in terms of exposure. However some doesnt. Young was clear to me that he loved UK’s style of play and that it was all about where he wanted to live. Recruiting is odd and these two guys showcase that. I will say this. I think Wright, who was watched by Roy Williams sitting with Bob Huggins last night, will struggle initially in college but ultimately be a three to four year very good player. Young is a beast and will enjoy his one year at Georgia Tech. In the interim, I asked the same recruiting guy, of these two and Perry Stevenson, who would you rather have? His answer was, “first I want Young because he is a difference maker. After that it is close as Wright has more upside than Stevenson, but also has dreams of a quick move to the NBA. Stevenson will be in college for four years and will be a contributor all four. I probably want Wright, but it is important that you convince him to be patient because he wont be a star at first.”
There you go. More to come later.