Vaught's Views: Rich now UK's top prospect

October 01, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Recruiting is a vital part of any college coach's success, but it certainly must be a frustrating process even for the nation's elite coaches.

Sometimes a coach can mold players into a team that is actually better than the individual talent would indicate - remember last year's University of Kentucky basketball team. Or sometimes a coach can recruit such a talented team that it overpowers most opponents - remember the 1996 national championship UK team.

However, the better a coach recruits, the better his team is going to be in most cases.

The problem is that there is nothing certain about recruiting. A coach can finish second for three of the nation's elite players, but that means his recruiting class likely will be filled with second-line recruits.

Just a few weeks ago it looked like Kentucky coach Tubby Smith was in position for a banner recruiting season, especially with backcourt players. Kentucky got a verbal commitment from West Virginia guard Adam Williams over a year ago and already had added Western Kentucky transfer Patrick Sparks.


Joe Crawford of Michigan, Jason Rich of Florida, Russell Robinson of New York, Ramel Bradley of New York and Zam Frederick of South Carolina, all highly-touted players, have had Kentucky high on their recruiting lists.

Then Crawford canceled a scheduled visit, saying he preferred to make it later this month. Next Frederick called off his visit and likely will officially commit to Georgia Tech this week. A few days later Robinson, a former teammate of UK freshman Shagari Alleyne, committed to Kansas. More and more it looks like Crawford will re-commit to the University of Michigan.

That basically leaves Rich, a 6-3 guard from Orlando, as Kentucky's best hope to added another backcourt player. He visited UK last weekend and apparently liked everything about his visit from the facilities to playing a pickup game against former Cats Tayshaun Prince and Nazr Mohammed to the coaching staff.

But he did not verbally commit to UK as many expected.

He had already made visits to Florida State and Southern Cal. It's doubtful that he will go across the nation and play at USC. That leaves Florida State for the Cats to beat for the talented guard who made a big impression with his play during the summer.

Not only could Smith use another talented backcourt player, but it would help enhance UK's national recruiting reputation. Smith has a solid freshman class, but one not stockpiled with blue-chip prospects.

The Kentucky coach and his staff seemed to work harder than ever this summer to make more inroads nationally and pinpointed the nation's elite guards as the top recruiting targets. The Cats probably could have secured a commitment from Chris Lofton of Mason County, but the decision was made that better players - or players that better fit UK's system - were available.

Nothing wrong with that analysis as long as at least one of those perceived better players signs with Kentucky.

That's why Rich suddenly becomes so important. He's the nation's 28th-ranked player by, he's still interested in Kentucky and he's a player Smith now needs to solidify his recruiting class.

Larry Vaught can be reached at

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