Vaught's Views: It's official - Morris will now be a Cat

May 07, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Adding Atlanta center Randolph Morris not only should give Kentucky coach Tubby Smith the nation's top recruiting class, but it may also pay early dividends on next year's recruiting.

Morris finally confirmed Thursday what Kentucky fans had been hoping to hear for weeks. He teased a press conference audience by first saying he was declaring for the NBA draft before saying he was joking. Then he talked about the pluses of playing for hometown Georgia Tech before saying he was going to be a Cat.

He's the final piece of a brilliant recruiting class for Smith. He's a 6-11 inside presence that Kentucky desperately needed for next year to go along with perimeter players Rajon Rondo, Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley in Smith's recruiting class.

Don't forget, too, that Western Kentucky transfer Patrick Sparks also becomes eligible after dazzling UK teammates with his play in practice last year or that receiver Lonnell Dewalt could turn into a valuable reserve when he joins the team after football season ends.


The added bonus from Morris' decision could be the impact it has on Missouri high school standout Tyler Hansbrough. He's also made visits to Kentucky, North Carolina and Missouri. He's visiting Kansas, the fourth school on his final list, this weekend.

He said Thursday night that Smith told him "four or five days ago" that Morris was going to sign with Kentucky and that the coach was "excited" about the Wildcats' future.

"That kind of gets me more excited"

"That kind of gets me more excited," Hansbrough, one of the nation's highly ranked juniors, said. "They are bringing in some really good players. Randolph is more of a center and me, I am a forward. If I go there, we could really fit well together, especially with (Kelenna) Azubuike and some other guys they already have. Kentucky could really be special."

He knows Rondo and Crawford were both All-American players along with Morris. He knows Rondo, Crawford and Bradley are all quality perimeter players and that the five of them could provide a strong nucleus for future teams. He also realizes that UK loses power forward Chuck Hayes to graduation after this year and needs a forward to replace him for the 2005-2006 season.

While Hansbrough is not ready to commit to Kentucky just because Morris will be there, he did indicate that his decision might come earlier now. He already had indicated that he could pick his college by mid-July. Now that decision come could even sooner.

"It really could make me decide quicker. I think you have to look at who you are going to be playing with in college. That makes a big difference, and Kentucky certainly has had a great recruiting class," Hansbrough said. "I've seen Crawford and Rondo play. They are both good. I know how good Morris is. You have to look at who's going to be there and those guys are impressive.

"Having Morris won't make me pick Kentucky, but it can only enhance Kentucky's chances. That's why I think my decision might come a little earlier now, especially since I am taking my last visit this weekend. I really don't think I have a bad choice among my final four schools, but Kentucky does look awfully attractive now."

Morris was the marquee recruit Kentucky needed

It should. Morris was the marquee recruit Kentucky needed to position itself as a national championship contender next season.

His recruitment has been a bit bizarre. He said Thursday he made his decision a month ago, but still had not told Georgia Tech coaches that he was going to UK and said he just didn't feel "comfortable" about going to Tech. He also would not commit to more than one year at UK and several NBA teams continue to indicate they might be interested in Morris for this year's draft. If he learned he might be a first-round draft pick in the next few days, he could still declare for the draft before Tuesday. While that's unlikely, it's not impossible.

Of course, if the NCAA had not abolished the 5/8 rule that limited teams to signing no more than eight players in a two-year period, Morris could not be a Cat. Even with that, if Bernard Cote had not decided to transfer, Kentucky would still have been over the 13-scholarship limit with Morris' arrival.

Once again, though, it all worked out, and Kentucky has a much better option in the middle than it would have with only sophomores Lukasz Obrzut and Shagari Alleyne going into next season thanks to Morris' decision.

And if adding Morris carries the weight it seems to with Hansbrough, then the Cats could be adding another marquee recruit within months of completing the nation's best recruiting class this year.|3/16/04|***

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