Vaught's Views: Morris saga near end

May 05, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

The Randolph Morris saga is about to end - or maybe just start, depending on your perspective.

Morris is the 6-11 Atlanta high school senior who could be the next star at Kentucky or Georgia Tech. He's kept both schools guessing and waiting for months but has indicated he'll make his choice known Thursday.

Those close to Kentucky coach Tubby Smith insist that Morris will be a Cat and round out what will be Smith's best overall recruiting class since coming to the Bluegrass in 1997. The feeling is that he sees a chance to play more at Kentucky than hometown Georgia Tech, where his brother is a basketball manager.

Morris also has considered a jump to the NBA and has been projected as anywhere from a late first-round draft pick to an early second-round choice. While it seems he's rejected the idea of playing for pay next year, don't rule it out entirely. Or at least not yet.


Morris had to notice that highly-touted point guard Sebastian Telfair of New York, who had committed to Louisville, signed with an agent Tuesday, ending any doubt about whether he would play in the NBA next year. What Morris may have noticed even more, though, is that Telfair signed a six-year deal with Adidas that should be worth at least $10 million and maybe as much as $15 million depending on how well he plays in the NBA.

Telfair is only 18 years old. He's also 11 inches shorter than Morris and is not projected by most to have nearly as much pro potential as a lot of other high school seniors, including Morris. But he's been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and has received huge publicity from being the cousin of NBA player Stephon Marbury as well as from playing in New York.

Would Telfair have been a better pro player if he had played two or more years for Rick Pitino at Louisville? Absolutely. Would Telfair have made more money if he played for Louisville before going to the NBA? Maybe. Maybe not. That's why no one can blame him for taking the shoe money and guaranteed $2 million he'll get from his first NBA contract now, even though many basketball analysts rate UK signee Rajon Rondo as a better point guard than Telfair.

Morris likely would not get a lucrative shoe deal - at least not initially - if he declared for the NBA draft. That's why he's going to be much better off playing at least a year in college and then weighing his pro options.

A perfect fit for UK

He's a perfect fit for UK, too. The Cats need a center. He should move ahead of junior Bernard Cote and sophomores Lukasz Obrzut and Shagari Alleyne the day he signs. He'll provide the low-post offensive and defensive presence Kentucky lacked last year.

If he signs, it would not be surprising to see either Cote or Alleyne transfer because there's no way Smith can use four centers. Since Cote played only sparingly last year, he seems the most likely to go, and it wouldn't be shocking if his transfer, perhaps to a nearby school, comes within days of Morris' signing.

Morris has to see what Smith did for former UK centers Jamaal Magloire and Nazr Mohammed. They both now have NBA deals that have made them rich.

Morris also can see how well rookie Keith Bogans played this year for Orlando. Or how well second-year pro Tayshaun Prince is playing for Detroit.

Combine Smith's ability to groom talented players to play in the NBA with UK's need for a big man and it seems that Kentucky is easily the most logical choice for Morris to make Thursday.

Logic and recruiting seldom work

However, logic and recruiting seldom work. Wouldn't it have seemed logical that Mr. Basketball Chris Lofton of Mason County, a hotbed for UK hoops supporters, would have gone to Kentucky instead of signing with Tennessee as he did Tuesday?

If Detroit guard Joe Crawford had not gone back on his verbal commitment to Michigan, UK would not have signed him. If Louisville had gone after hometown player Rondo last fall instead of Telfair, UK might not have signed Rondo last month.

Think about all the players who have seemed on the verge of picking Kentucky the last five years and then seemed to have a last-minute change of heart.

So as much as Kentucky needs a dominating big man and as much as Morris needs to play for a coach like Smith who can refine his skills, don't put him in Kentucky blue and white just yet. Just wait until Thursday and, unless he again postpones his decision, see if he makes the most logical choice and picks UK, or whether other factors lead him elsewhere.

However, this time if logic doesn't win out, it's going to surprise me almost as much as a shoe company giving a 6-foot high school point guard up to $15 million just to wear a pair of basketball shoes.

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