Tuesday, July 24, 2007

UK Basketball: Scholarships available for 2008 class

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Wildcats Thunder Football/Recruiting Analyst

One of the most interesting subtopics that has been explored has been the number of available scholarships in UK's 2008 class. Many theories have been proposed, but most of them have been a little short on explanation. This issue is one of the most obvious keys to understanding the staff's current recruiting strategy.

Therefore, I will summarize. Here are the twelve Wildcats currently on scholarship:

Seniors (2): Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford

Juniors:(0) None

Sophs (6): Jared Carter, Ramon Harris, Derrick Jasper, Jodie Meeks, Michael Porter, Perry Stevenson

Freshmen (4): Alex Legion, Pat Patterson, AJ Stewart, Michael Williams

Now, we can debate whether Jared Carter is a sophomore or a junior, but that is irrelevant to the issue of available scholarships this coming November.

And we can debate how many prospects Gillispie will sign in November, but we really cannot debate the following facts...

The NCAA allows thirteen scholarships on a D-1 roster. Unless someone gets into some kind of trouble or chooses to leave, ten current Wildcats will return on scholarship for the 2008-08 season. An additional scholarship has already been committed to Chicago prospect Deandre Liggins.

According to what my sources have told me, UK's staff will be honest with our players, but nobody will be "run-off". In fact, every reasonable effort will be made to develop the current Wildcats in Gillispie's system.

Of course, this does not guarantee anything. From time to time, every program loses players by attrition. UK is certainly no exception. Shagari Alleyne, Adam Williams, Rekalin Sims, Rajon Rondo, Kelenna Azubuike, Bernard Cote, Adam Chiles, Jason Parker, Rashad Carruth, Marvin Stone, and Nate Knight are examples of UK players leaving Lexington before their eligibility expired. It can happen at anytime.

That said, every current Wildcat has publicly announced their intention to play for UK in 2007-08. And this is where the line of discourse should be drawn IMHO, because every current Wildcat deserves the support of our fan base. Unless someone has something specific to share, speculation about someone on the way out the door is cheap. For example, talking about the potential implications of a known injury seems realistic, as long as this is done in its proper context. Frankly, I differentiate that kind of discussion from one that says "so-and-so sucks, and he will leave"....or "scholarships will be manufactured".

On this subject, I have discussed a scenario that could result in an additional scholarship coming open. Jared Carter has suffered three shoulder dislocations and undergone two surgical repairs in the last two seasons. As a physician, I know that a chronic shoulder injury with recurrent dislocations is very difficult for a baseline athlete who must keep his arms extended and his hands high all the time. For this reason alone, I know that Carter will have a very difficult time completing his D-1 eligibility. At anytime, he could decide to end his basketball career. But for now, Jared has decided to give it one more try. Will he complete the 2007-08 season? Frankly, I am inclined to doubt it, but we should give the kid credit for trying.

When a person makes a speculative statement such as....

"UK will take 4-6 commitments for 08."

....They may turn out to be right. Or maybe not. We can look at the success the poster has had with previous projections and gain some rough idea how they may be thinking.

Remember, UK could hypothetically sign three prospects in November, then more in the spring if more scholarships open up after the 2007-08 season. Or, perhaps Gillispie might sign four in November if he is sure Carter won't return for the 2008-09 season. If someone else decides to leave during October, that would certainly give Gillispie additional flexibility.

In view of Carter's shoulder problem, I suspect that Gillispie might very well squeeze four prospects into UK's next class when all the dust has finally settled. And if that happens, posters who are currently saying "4-6 signees" can come back and tell you they were right. But I must reiterate that these are not predictable events at this particular point in the summer, and nobody at UK is promoting roster attrition.

That latter issue is a very key point, because proponents of the "4-6 signings" point of view have previously lead us to believe that Gillispie will "manufacture scholarships" by encouraging current Wildcat underclassmen to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Opinions are like VCRs. Everybody has one, and everyone should enjoy theirs.

By now, most of you are getting to know Mitch Barnhart. I just hope you don't believe Mitch will ever allow scholarships to be "manufactured" at UK by running off players who were recruited to Lexington in earnest. If you believe that, you don't know Barnhart yet. This is important.

So, remember, attrition can happen at anytime. If it does, then a lot of people can claim they were right. And this basketball staff is thorough. VERY thorough. They recruit year-around. If attrition occurs, they will be ready. But there is something far more important here. UK fans need to understand how this AD operates. He doesn't "manufacture scholarships". The day that happens, my support for UK's athletics programs will be over. And I would hope that others understand that perspective. For the sake of disclosure, I actually graduated from UK. I have no motive for supporting UK's athletics programs, except that I am a UK alumnus. And, frankly, I actually DO support UK's athletics programs. I'm not talking about buying hats or attending games, either. I am talking about substantial support. I hope all of you support our Athletics Department, but I'm guessing some people who make these predictions about "manufacturing scholarships" don't.

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