Vaught's Views: Real 'Madness' for Smith concerns recruiting

October 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

The Kentucky-Louisville basketball game is still over two months away, but Rick Pitino and the Cardinals already appear to have an edge over the Wildcats.

Granted, that edge won't impact the Dec. 27 game, but it certainly may have a big bearing on future UK-Louisville games.

Pitino added a blue-chip recruit Thursday when New York point guard Sebastian Telfair verbally committed to Louisville. He picked the Cardinals over the NBA and, barring a change of heart in the spring before the NBA draft, he could be part of the nation's top-ranked recruiting class this year.

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith will unveil his 2003-2004 team tonight at Big Blue Madness. However, the UK coach's focus should be on high-profile recruits Joe Crawford of Detroit, Ramel Bradley of New York and Randolph Morris of Palmetto, Ga.


Guard Adam Williams of West Virginia also will be making an official visit, but he verbally committed to UK over a year ago. He's not considered a blue-chip recruit. Of course, Kentucky senior guard Gerald Fitch wasn't four years ago, either, and now he's a preseason all-Southeastern Conference pick.

Smith needs to land a premier recruit

Smith needs to land a premier recruit, something he did not do last year and has failed to do this year. He's recruited highly touted players like Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans and Chuck Hayes, but the highly ranked recruits have been few and far between for Smith recently.

Pitino hasn't had that trouble since coming to Louisville. He's put together a banner class already this year, and he's not ready to concede Morris, a 6-10 center, to UK or Georgia Tech.

Crawford, a guard, originally committed to Michigan before deciding to look at other schools. That's basically what UK sophomore Kelenna Azubuike did two years ago when he committed to Oklahoma before signing with Kentucky.

Bradley, another guard, has been rumored to have UK at the top of his list for several weeks. However, he's held off making a commitment.

Morris and Crawford are both considered top 20 recruits and would make UK's recruiting class, which will also include transfer Patrick Sparks. Bradley is not as highly rated, but he's also highly regarded.

A few months ago it looked like Kentucky would have a recruiting class that would equal Louisville, or anyone else. Then high-profile recruits that had the Cats high on their list started picking other schools.

The most recent was Florida guard Jason Rich, who chose Florida State over Kentucky. Florida State?

He was thought to be leaning to Kentucky when he made his visit, but he left without making a commitment and apparently decided a chance to play early at Florida State meant more than Kentucky's tradition of winning seasons.

Smith has two scholarships left for his 2004 recruiting class. If he can pull two commitments out of Crawford, Bradley and Morris it will be a successful recruiting year. If not, then more questions are going to come about UK's recruiting woes, especially with the success Pitino is having at Louisville.

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