Vaught's Views: Mills says lessons of 'Team Turmoil' learned well

July 18, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Remember a few years back when Kentucky went into the season thinking it had a talented team that could play with any team and ended the season in disarray known as "Team Turmoil?"

A team that had Tayshaun Prince, one of the stars of the NBA Finals, and Keith Bogans, a solid NBA rookie last year, as well as highly-touted Marvin Stone and Rashaad Carruth along with Gerald Fitch, Erik Daniels and Chuck Hayes never had a chance to win a national title because of internal woes.

That experience caused Kentucky coach Tubby Smith to alter his recruiting. He started evaluating character as much as talent.

"Coach Smith said something a few years ago which was a brilliant statement and such a wise thing to do," said former UK player Cameron Mills, who held his annual basketball camp at Boyle County High School last week. "After Team Turmoil, a lot of people were coming up to him and saying, 'Tubby Smith would be good for this kid or that kid.' His comment was, 'After what happened with that team and some players, my attitude is I am not going to recruit any guys I'll be good for. I am going to recruit guys that will be good for me.'


"I thought that made a lot of sense, and it seems to be what he's done. He's just as worried about your character and what kind of person you are as he is what kind of talent you have. He's just as concerned with what you bring off the court as he is what you add on the court."

Not every coach thinks like that. But if Mills is right and Smith correctly evaluated his incoming freshman class, then the Wildcats could have something special.

Smith recruited three McDonald's All-Americans - guards Joe Crawford and Rajon Rondo and center Randolph Morris. His other recruit, guard Ramel Bradley, was ranked among the nation's top 50 recruits by some recruiting analysts.

Obviously they have talent. But are they really good guys or are they going to be spoiled stars used to having everyone cater to them?

"Even though I have not spent a lot of time with them yet, I think they are good guys," Mills said. "They are all very cordial. A lot of times kids come in not with a certain arrogance, but with shyness and kind of keep to themselves.

The more friendly they get with people, the more they come out of their shell and get more comfortable with their teammates. But these guys already seem to be fitting in well."

But even if they are, couldn't chemistry be a problem? They all expect to play significant minutes. However, so do Chuck Hayes, Kelenna Azubuike, Patrick Sparks, Sheray Thomas, Bobby Perry, Lukasz Obrzut and others.

"It could be hard, but that's a problem you like to have," Mills said. "To have so much talent that one of your problems is getting enough playing time for everybody to keep them happy is not a bad thing.

"I think coach Smith can handle it. He's certainly handled a lot of talent before. The best situation to have is having seven, eight or nine players getting 20 to 22 minutes a game. That way the opposing team tires out before you do and can't prepare for all you throw at it."

So the freshmen could make immediate impacts?

"I don't think anyone is totally prepared for the leap you have to go through conditioning-wise when you go from high school to college," Mills said. "In high school you are guarding guys that are good, but not great. Now every night you are guarding great players with ridiculous quickness and speed.

"The biggest problem the freshmen will have if there is an even keel as far as talent goes at certain positions, then they are probably going to have to spend more time sitting out. Even though ability-wise they will be fine, maturity-wise when you get into the game as a freshman it's just a different deal."

Then again, maybe these freshmen are going to be a "different deal" and show they have the talent, and character, to make the early impact so may Big Blue fans are hoping they can.

Central Kentucky News Articles