Coach's ties to Kentucky could help Cats' recruiting

October 24, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Curtis Brown knew more about Kentucky coach Tubby Smith than he did about Kentucky basketball when he came to the Bluegrass for an unofficial recruiting visit last weekend.

Brown, a 6-9 forward from Marietta (Ga.) Mount Olive Prep, knew about Smith because of the years he was head coach at Georgia.

"Coach Smith's reputation is large here and he's really adored here. Everyone loves coach Smith and the more you are around him, the more you appreciate the kind of person and coach that he is," said Mount Olive coach Garrick Respress. "Being the former head coach at Georgia, Curtis' family knew a lot about him. Curtis probably knew more about coach Smith than he did about Kentucky before his visit. But once he got to see Kentucky, it was very impressive to him as it would be to any young man.

"Basketball is so adored in Kentucky. He was surprised to go to a football game at Commonwealth Stadium and have people know who he was. It's not that kind of environment here."


The 6-9 Brown averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots per game last season. He's not been offered a scholarship by Kentucky yet.

Respress worked under coach Mike Sutton, a former Smith assistant, at Tennessee Tech. He got to know Smith's son, G.G., who was an assistant there also.

Respress says those connections could help Kentucky if it offers a scholarship to Brown, who also is being recruited heavily by Georgia, Purdue and Illinois.

"It helps to have a coach who is friends with coach Smith's son and has worked with coach Smith's assistant," Respress said. "I know what kind of situation he would be getting into at Kentucky."

Like many players, Respress said Brown would have to add weight and strength to his 220-pound frame in college. However, he expects more intensive strength training and a better diet to add 10 to 15 pounds this year.

Respress planned to recruit Brown for Tennessee Tech before he got the job at Mount Olive Prep.

"We thought he could be a program guy for us there," Respress said. "His reputation is a little bigger in this area than it is nationally. But his recruiting has kind of skyrocketed in recent weeks.

"If he plays at Kentucky, he would buy into coach Smith's system. He can take coaching, something a lot of players can't. He's a yes sir, no sir type of kid. He gives 110 percent all the time. I think he will maximize his ability playing for coach Smith."

Respress would envision Brown as a power forward at Kentucky with the possibility that he could be used occasionally at center if he gains strength.

"Coach Smith entices players to play hard and together," Respress said. "Curtis would probably tell you he could play the three (small forward), but I don't see that. What he is is a guy who can put the ball on the floor, get by bigger people and finish plays at the basket. With his ability to shoot, he stretches post players. If he develops a shot fake, he could put the ball on the floor and develop a lot of things for himself and his teammates."

Hurting: Three Kentucky basketball players missed media day Thursday.

Senior Chuck Hayes was a no-show because of a class lab assignment that he could not miss.

Sophomore Sheray Thomas had major surgery earlier this month and was not up to attending. Smith said he's finally been able to attend class and "hold food down," but he has lost weight and stamina. The coach said he assumes it will be at least January before Thomas could be back at full strength and still worries when he will be back.

Junior Brandon Stockton also missed after passing a kidney stone Wednesday. However, he's expected to resume full practice this week.

Twin towers: Smith laughed Thursday when first asked if he might use two of his centers - Randolph Morris, Shagari Alleyne and Lukasz Obrzut - in the same lineup this season. Then he said it might be possible to find two of them on the court together because of Thomas' situation.

"We would lose some mobility, but I could see us being in a game where it might happen," Smith said. "You probably would not see it if we had Sheray back, but who knows."

Smith also said that sophomore Bobby Perry, a natural small forward, would have to play more power forward with Thomas sidelined.

UK bound: Just as Kentucky freshman linebacker Wesley Woodyard predicted, one of his former high school teammates in LaGrange, Ga., has said he'll sign with Kentucky in February.

Receiver Demoreo Ford officially committed to Kentucky Friday. Kentucky is also recruiting LaGrange defensive end Braxton Kelley and linebacker Tray Blackmon, one of the nation's top rated players.

Ford's uncle, Quentin McCord, played receiver at Kentucky. However, Woodyard's influence was the biggest factor on Ford.

"I know Kentucky is the place I want to go. Wesley has told me all about it and that I can come and help them build something special," Ford, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds, said. "I've seen how much he's getting to play and he'll be somebody I know I can depend on when I get to college."

Ford's team is trying to win its second straight state title.

"That's the kind of winning mentality we need here," Woodyard said. "If I can get all of them here, it will help us. I tell them all the time I need them. I'll still be surprised if at least two of them don't end up here."

Ford joins Ohio linebacker Ben Bates as out-of-state commitments for Kentucky to go along with in-state players Curtis Pulley of Hopkinsville, Mike Schwindel of Hancock County, kicker Tim Masthay of Murray and offensive lineman Kenny Ray Turner of Trigg County.

Quote of the week: Tubby Smith: "I know our offense is not that good right now, so our defense must suck."

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