Vaught's Views: Cats must continue to wait on Morris' decision

April 16, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

As nerve-wracking as the NCAA Tournament must be for coaches, recruiting has to be worse - far worse.

At least Tubby Smith only had to suffer for about two hours when Kentucky was upset by Alabama-Birmingham in the second round of the NCAA. That's nothing compared with the timeline for recruiting Atlanta center Randolph Morris.

The national signing period opened Wednesday without Morris making any move to indicate whether he would sign with Kentucky or hometown Georgia Tech, or maybe even make himself eligible for the NBA draft, a move his father finally indicated Thursday would not happen.

Of course, two other players who have verbally committed to UK - guards Rajon Rondo and Joe Crawford - did not sign either. But that's only because each has scheduled a special signing ceremony, not because of any change of heart about becoming Wildcats.


Kentucky needs Morris. Kentucky was forced to play undersized Erik Daniels in the middle last season and despite its 27-5 finish, the Cats suffered at times because of Daniels' lack of size and power.

There's no dominant center waiting to take Daniels' spot, either. Freshmen Lukasz Obrzut and Shagari Alleyne would have to make huge improvements to become significant contributors. So would sophomore Bernard Cote.

Freshman Sheray Thomas played well late in the season, but he also lacks the size to be an intimidating defensive presence or consistent low-post scorer.

He has size and physical tools

That's why Kentucky needs Morris, who is considered one of the nation's top recruits. He also would need time to develop, but he has the size and physical tools that former UK centers Jamaal Magloire, Nazr Mohammed and Marquis Estill had.

Still, all Smith can do is wait. And wait. And wait.

Morris' family has indicated it could be two weeks or more before he makes his plans known.

However, at least Smith has started working out room on his roster if Morris does decide to come to Kentucky.

Before Thursday, Kentucky had 14 players slated to be on scholarship next season. That's one over the NCAA limit.

Then there is the 5/8 rule that limits teams to signing no more than five players in one year or eight in a two-year period. Since UK had four scholarship freshmen last season, the rule would seem to make it clear that the Cats can add only four scholarship players next season.

Western Kentucky transfer Patrick Sparks has been promised a scholarship. West Virginia prepster Adam Williams signed with UK in November. Add Rondo and Crawford and that makes four this year and eight in two years.

How does UK get by the 5/8 rule if it is not rescinded by college presidents later this month? How does Kentucky get down to the 13-scholarship limit whether Morris commits or not?

Williams will attend prep school

Smith got down to the 13-scholarship limit and dealt with the 5-8 rule when he convinced Williams to attend prep school next year rather than coming to Kentucky. The 6-5 Williams would join UK for the 2005-2006 season.

Smith had indicated for months that he would not ask Williams to make that move. However, that apparently changed this week.

Of course, if Morris commits, then UK again would have 14 players scheduled to be on scholarship and would not meet the 5/8 criteria.

Rumors have been rampant about a player, or two, transferring. Then there was junior Josh Carrier's offer during the NCAA tourney to consider becoming a walk-on player next season to free up a scholarship.

Smith obviously has offered no insights on what he'll do if Morris signs. His standard comment has always been that numbers have a way of working out - and they usually do as shown by Williams' decision.

Still, nothing more is going to be worked out until after Morris makes his decision and there's no way to know when that will be or what the choice is going to be.

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