Vaught's Views: Smith will make scholarship numbers work

February 10, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Trying to figure out how Kentucky will solve its scholarship problem for next season is as difficult as finding a way to score against coach Tubby Smith's defense.

NCAA rules allow teams to have 13 scholarship players. Kentucky currently has four freshmen, three sophomores and two juniors on scholarship who should take up nine scholarships on next year's team.

Western Kentucky transfer Patrick Sparks is paying his own way at Kentucky this year, but he's scheduled to go on scholarship for the next two years. That's 10 scholarships for the 2004-2005 season.

Smith signed two players - Adam Williams and Ramel Bradley - in November. That's 12 scholarship players for next year. Smith also recently got commitments from two more players - Rajon Rondo and Joe Crawford - who will sign in April. That's 14 scholarships.


And Kentucky is still pursuing a center to add to next year's team. That would be a 15th scholarship.

Forget about whether the 5/8 rule that limits teams to signing no more than five players in one year and eight in a two-year period is rescinded or not. Apparently Kentucky is so sure that rule will be changed in April that Smith is not even worried about sticking to any 5/8 limitation.

But there's no way the 13-scholarship limit will change for next year and that is what makes Smith's recruiting so intriguing.

Rumors abound about how the Cats might solve their scholarship problem.

One has Sparks agreeing to remain a walk-on player because he's an in-state player with a family that can afford UK's tuition. The theory is he would take a financial hit to help the Wildcats.

Of course, that's news to Sparks.

"From what I've heard from coach Smith, I am comfortable with what I've talked to him about," Sparks said. "It (going on scholarship) is really not my concern. We are all on the same page. I sit out one year and play for two."

On scholarship?

"I will have one next year as far as I know. That was the deal," Sparks said. "Nothing has changed from my side."

Another popular theory is Stockton will leave

Since Sparks, Rondo, Bradley and even Crawford are all considered potential point guard replacements for Cliff Hawkins, another popular theory is that sophomore point guard Brandon Stockton will leave. He's played only sparingly this year and many are speculating that he'll leave because of the increasing competition. That would leave a scholarship open for someone else.

Apparently that talk is news to Stockton, too.

"The transfer talk does surprise me sometimes, but those are just rumors. Those questions come up and you just have to answer the way you feel," Stockton said. "I answer truthfully. I am not thinking about transferring. I am happy here."

Stockton has no complaints about the abundance of new backcourt players Smith has signed to offset the loss of Hawkins, Gerald Fitch and Antwain Barbour next year.

"Their job is to sign players and keep signing players. They are going to still be signing players when I am gone," Stockton said. "I understand that. They have to recruit the best players they can. That's how you win."

Stockton says he's always had people doubt his ability because of his size, but he's never let that make him quit or walk away.

"The more people doubt me, the more I want to succeed. It has been that way all my life," Stockton said. "I still have two more years left here. That's a lot of games ahead of me, and there's no way I'm going to walk away from that opportunity and challenge."

If anything, both Sparks and Stockton sound eager to play with the incoming recruits.

"It's always good to have a lot of guards on your team," Sparks said. "Having depth at the one through three positions is good for any team. You can't have too many good perimeter players."

"I am not worried about guys coming in. They are going to be my teammates," Stockton said. "I am not going to worry about them taking my spot, or me taking their spot. We are going to be on the same team."

But how will Smith solve the potential scholarship numbers problem? Maybe some other player will transfer. Maybe a player will go on another type of allowable financial aid.

Somehow Smith will make it work. It might take some creative thinking similar to the innovative ways his teams continue to win close games, but Smith will find a way to make the numbers work even if most of us have no idea how he'll do it.

Central Kentucky News Articles