This week's Starting 5 delves into Kentucky's newest point guard, the reasoning behind banning college coaches from non-scholastic workouts and wraps up the weekend that was.
UK, Ulis make long-term decisions
There's a process that happens each year: Kentucky looks for a new point guard. For John Calipari, the revolving door at the point began at Memphis and transitioned to Lexington. Calipari has targeted super-human No. 1 draft picks (Derrick Rose and John Wall) and plenty who proved to be human and went merely in the first round. Either way, the coach has been recruiting one-and-doners for more than a half decade.
Last weekend, Calipari added 5-foot-8 Chicago native Tyler Ulis from the same AAU team that produced Anthony Davis. Ulis is a bad man who deserves all the honors that are coming his way. He served up 17 assists in a summer game against Tyus Jones. He earned his UK scholarship offer even though he doesn't meet the qualifications of guys who played the position before him. Ulis is not a candidate to be one-and-done for Calipari. How'd UK come to the decision to move swiftly on Ulis?
When Emmanuel Mudiay went with Cal's friend Larry Brown at SMU, Kentucky was in a pickle. It's not in great shape with Tyus Jones and didn't seem like the landing place for the Jones/Jahlil Okafor package deal. You start looking around at the remaining point guards, project the early departure of Andrew Harrison and things start making sense. Moving on Ulis was the prudent thing for the program. Compounding the decision was the perceived lack of a one-and-doner at the point in either the 2015 or 2016 classes. Add it all up and voila -- you have UK riding with Ulis for the foreseeable future. It was a sound move, in one man's opinion.
Ulis, to me, is the kind of kid you want running your team at the college level. He's under no illusions about his standing. A potential Jordan Brand All-American, he's not John Wall. "All those guards and me, we're not the same people," Ulis said. "It's good that Cal sends a lot of players to the pros. We'll see how long it'll take me with my journey." Great answer, young man.
With no great answers in 2015, and 2016 not popping with one-and-done point guard talent, UK looked long term at a position it is used to turning over yearly. The Wildcats added a quality player in the mold of former Pac-12 POY Jerome Randle. Ulis will be good in Lexington, and Calipari will enjoy coaching him. He's easy to play with and will unpack his bags.
"It's Kentucky and it's a big stage. I feel like you have to play hard for Calipari, and he's going to make you better. You have to come every day to play because of the competition. There's no way you can't get better in that program."
Non-scholastic schools get put under the microscope
This one's a bit of a head scratcher. Since the inception of these hot beds, college coaches have dive-bombed Findlay Prep and Huntington Prep. Are they traditional in the traditional sense of what high school programs look like? No, they aren't, but they are here to stay, and they are part of a movement in which top talent is seeking out higher-level situations than their local scholastic programs can provide.
Last week, the NCAA was asked to rule on both schools and deemed them off limits to college coaches for fall practices. Since neither team is part of an association and doesn't compete for postseason championships, the NCAA ruled that college coaches could not attend practices at the schools. I have news for everyone: These places aren't outliers. They are part of a larger, nationwide movement of "non-scholastic" situations.
What makes little sense is that coaches can visit each school and do a home visit with the player but can't watch practice. They can go to games the teams participate in, but they can't watch fall workouts. Frankly, it's kind of silly. It's really silly considering that there are other high-profile programs who play by the same rules -- or lack thereof, in this case -- as Findlay and Huntington. Many teams are not involved in the chase for a state championship. As time goes on, we're moving more in the direction of basketball academies or programs that operate outside the boundaries of a state interscholastic association.
The recent NCAA rule puts a hitch in the recruitment opportunities for some kids. The high-profile kids at those schools don't need the attention, but there are others on the roster whose recruitment could use the boost that a fall open gym provides.
As much I truly believe there is value in playing for a state title and going on that journey, today's game is moving away from some traditional roles. It is what it is. If Findlay and Huntington are going to be singled out, they shouldn't be made to stand-alone. The just thing to do is for the NCAA to take a step back, look at the situations and understand that no harm came from allowing coaches on these campuses, and no one is going to cease recruiting the kids on those teams. My guess is within a few weeks more schools make their way into the ruling, and eventually the NCAA will re-word a rule that doesn't seem to be needed. Why wait?
The art of cutting bait
One of the underrated aspects of recruiting is the evaluation of the situation. An astute college coach sees beyond what's right in front of him. We're at a spot in the calendar where time and resources are precious. A program starts hearing whispers about where a prospect is leaning or when he's going to decide, and decisions have to be made. Finishing second stinks, but finishing second while pandering to a kid you have zero chance to get while letting a secondary target go elsewhere is a sin assistants often make.
"One thing I know is when to get out," a prominent head coach said. "We can't waste time."
Cutting bait is a blow to a man's ego; an admission that what might have been years of work on a player didn't work at all. However, often it's what must be done. Too often green assistants will hang in there to the bitter end, sometimes on a mission to make an impression with their head coach or often because they haven't read the situation.
In this business, word on the street often times is the word out of the player's mouth. Reading situations is vital. It's mid-September, visits are under way and coaches are traversing the country reaching out to targets. The last thing a head coach wants to do is a home visit with a player he knows he's not getting. Time is too precious; there are other recruits. Once November comes around, you don't want to be the guy who wished he'd moved on.
Elite 75: Who's next?
A large part of the fall schedule deals with exposure camps, and there are some good ones out there. Last weekend, Cedrick Canty's Elite 75 gathered in Charlotte, N.C., where 150 players in grades 9-12 took the floor. Here are some of the highlight players:
• Sophomore Kwe Parker is dunk-contest athletic. He and teammate Dennis Smith play defensive back for Trinity Christian and hadn't played much basketball this month. They each were among the five best players in the building. These are national-level recruits.
• Isiah Blackmon (2015). The combo guard out of West Charlotte is new to the scene, but he's an athlete with length.
• Sophomore Ty Graves, a point guard, flashed a mature game and an improved jumper.
• West Charlotte is home to 2015 improving forward Simeon Carter. If his season pans out, he'll be touted as one of the state's most improved players.
• Quality Education was well represented at the workout. 2106 forward Pape Ndiaye is a versatile four man, and scorer Jerelle DeBerry should be a mid-level option by mid-season.
• Look out for freshman Timmy Eggleston at St. Frances in Baltimore this year.
The weekend that was
• JaQuan Lyle told Louisville he wanted to look around. Louisville won't be an option, and the Cardinals probably won't recruit a point man until 2015, barring unusual circumstances. The Cardinals loaded up on backcourt players last year and, like we've said before, are firmly focused on the frontcourt.
• Score one for Vanderbilt. The Commodores landed one of the darlings of July, shooter Matthew Fisher-Davis. How good a shooter is he? Good enough to get the approval of Steph and Seth Curry; he dates their sister.
• Tavares Hardy left Northwestern for Georgetown in July. Last weekend, his move opened up the lines of communication with power forward Paul White, a Chicago native. He picked the Hoyas.
• Boise State hired Texas high school legend Danny Henderson. There has to be a correlation between Henderson and the Broncos going into Texas for power forward David Wacker, a legit steal at their level.
• Vince Edwards picked Purdue, giving Matt Painter a hybrid four man.