LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When the game's hottest recruiter collided with its most basketball-crazy address, it created a kind of nuclear fission -- in recruiting terms.
John Calipari at UK is The Bomb. There's little debate. Like him. Hate him. Whatever. At this point, his recruiting sales pitch pretty much begins and ends with a simple recitation of recent history.
It's not that he gets everybody. It only seems that way. He has lost some big ones in recent months. Nobody thinks he's going to lose Trey Lyles, an Indianapolis power forward he needs badly, when Lyles makes his decision this afternoon. But that decision carries special import around here.
Rick Pitino knows all about John Calipari, and he knows even more about the University of Kentucky.
He has even said, straight up, nobody in college basketball is doing a better job right now of connecting with young talent.
But he rushed in where few others dare to tread seriously to join the battle for Lyles, who is scheduled to make his college choice just before 1 p.m. today and has narrowed his candidates to just two schools: Calipari's UK and Pitino's U of L.
A search of the Internet says nine out of ten recruiting gurus think Lyles is headed for UK, which has been the presumption pretty much since he pulled the plug on an IU commitment.
That Pitino worked his way into serious consideration speaks well for where he has brought the program in recent years, and to the respect he has gained from one of the nation's top players.
How could he pull the upset? When recruiting against Calipari, who not only has a well-established portfolio, but advanced pyrotechnics, you almost have to become the anti-establishment player. The pitch? Avoid the 24/7 adulation of Lexington. Live in a larger city where you might get a minute or two of privacy. Play in a newer arena. Play with guards who are going to be experienced and good. Be a focal point, not one of a half-dozen players fighting for first-round spots. And you can do it in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where you'll face the best in college basketball all season. You can go to Louisville and be on magazine covers, contend for a championship, do everything you can do at UK, without the circus.
But man, what a circus it is. Let's be honest. It's an uphill argument. Calipari has become the safe choice for recruits. Even when he is less-than-100 percent with these guys, they land in good situations. Archie Goodwin was a near miss -- but even he went in the first round. Give the man his due. You can face the best in college basketball in games, Calipari can argue, or you can go up against them every day in practice, and when the game starts, have them on the same side.
Before a decision is made, remember this.
Nobody should think less of Lyles no matter who he picks. There are good basketball reasons either way. You don't become a bad person the day you wear blue. A decision to don the red doesn't belie some defect of character.
His family has given no real indication in its public interviews over the last couple of weeks which way he's leaning.
That he'll announce on ESPNU in a live event would lead you to believe he's embraced the circus. But you never know.
Either way, let's hope fans of both sides accept his decision and don't embarrass the rest of the state.
Neither program is really hurting right now, regardless of what one recruit decides. A look up in their respective rafters confirms it.
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