On the summer’s last major stage for high school basketball, the Kentucky Wildcats again couldn’t stay out of the headlines.
During halftime of the nationally-televised Elite 24 showcase at Venice Beach, Calif., Kyle Wiltjer announced his commitment to UK. The 6-9 forward from Portland, Ore., then went on to win co-MVP of the game, scoring 20 points.
If recruiting is more than half the battle in college basketball, John Calipari is setting himself up to win a war (or at least a national championship). Going into just his second season at Kentucky, the sometimes-controversial coach has already landed three premier recruiting classes: Four of his ’09 signees were just picked in the first round of the NBA Draft (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton); the 2010 haul includes Gatorade National P.O.Y. Brandon Knight, projected Lottery pick Enes Kanter, and prep All-Americans Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb; and the list of 2011 verbal commits features a who’s who of the brand-new High School Hoop national Top 50, from Michael Gilchrist to Marquis Teague to Wiltjer to Anthony Davis.
But is it just Coach Cal’s winning personality and the allure of bluegrass tradition that is making UK the most popular place in college hoops?
Dating back to his time at Memphis, Cal has been tied to charismatic basketball power broker William Wesley, a.k.a. “Worldwide Wes,” who was rumored to play a part in steering Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose, among others, to Calipari. Now that he’s at Kentucky, the Worldwide Wes rumors understandably haven’t stopped as Cal continues getting superstars to stock his roster.
Over on High School Hoop, Jason Jordan explores whether Worldwide Wes’ influence is a reality or merely a myth. Austin Rivers, the No. 1 player in the country in the new HSH ranking, as well as Teague and Top-20 talent Tony Wroten also weigh in with their opinions on Worldwide Wes. Here’s an excerpt:
Still, the notion that Austin Rivers — whose father is Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers — would head to Lexington per Wesley’s suggestion is laughable to Rivers.
“Oh, come on now, you already know that’s not gonna happen,” said Rivers. “He’s a good guy and all, but I’m gonna sit down with the people I know the best and decide. I don’t know him that well to have him in on my decision. Guys like Michael Gilchrist have known him forever, so people make connections based off that, and I don’t know if that’s true or not. I just know that at this point, as cool a guy as he is, he couldn’t have an impact on my decision.”
Teague, a rising senior point guard at Pike H.S. (Indianapolis), said he’d “never even heard of Worldwide Wes” until after he’d already committed to Kentucky.
“So he definitely had no influence on my decision,” said Teague, another prospect who has an in-the-know support system that includes older brother Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks. “I still don’t know him. He’s supposed to be this real powerful guy. I sat down with my Dad and decided. I wasn’t gonna let anyone influence me and definitely not anyone I don’t know. I made my own decision and I went because that’s where I wanted to go.”
You can read the rest of Jason’s column HERE, as well as check out the new Top 50 and other high school recruiting news, interviews and features.