BOZICH | WKU, Stansbury, Bassey have college basketball world buzzing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The third-ranked college football recruit for the 2019 class, according to rivals.com, is Theo Wease. He is a full-sized (6 feet 3, 205 pounds) receiver from Allen, Texas.

Rivals reported that Wease had scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, Texas USC and other prime timers.

Wease committed to Oklahoma April 13.

Nobody would be surprised if Wease became the next great Oklahoma receiver. Boomer Sooner.

But imagine this scenario: What if Wease made a more unlikely college choice. Like … Troy.

Not the USC men of Troy The Troy Trojans of Sun Belt Conference fame.

Wease would never do that. Why Troy?

Because Troy finished last season ranked 66th in Jeff Sagarin's college football computer power rankings.

Why would the third-ranked player in America commit to a program ranked 66th in the nation?

I'm glad you asked because that's a question folks in college basketball asked after Charles Bassey, the No. 3 player in Rivals' Class of 2019, announced Wednesday he will play basketball at Western Kentucky next season.

The same WKU program that, like Troy, was ranked No. 66 in its sport by Sagarin last winter.

For coach Rick Stansbury, his program and the fervent Hilltoppers' fan base, Bassey's decision inspired extra-strength hyperventilation, especially after the player sweetened the news. Bassey told Evan Daniels of 247Sports that his credentials from Aspire Academy in Louisville are in order, and that he has enrolled at WKU and will play next season.

Outside Bowling Green, the reaction was a tad different, the way it would have been if Theo Wease announced plans to catch passes at Troy.

Sort of the way people would have reacted if Western had signed Cameron Reddish (Duke), DeAndre Ayton (Arizona), Jayson Tatum (Duke), Jaylen Brown (California) and Stanley Johnson (Arizona), the last five college basketball prospects ranked third in their recruiting classes by Rivals.

Expectations are up at Western, but eyebrows are up around college basketball. Recruiting outliers get people talking. Always have. Always will.

"Of course people are talking about it," one college basketball coach said. "It's interesting."

"When the kid moved (from San Antonio to Louisville) last summer, most people thought he was going to Louisville," another college coach said. "The situation changed -- for a lot of reasons.

"There were a lot of stipulations in the recruiting him. We were told that he's a big kid (6-10, 225) who wants to play on the perimeter. He doesn't want to be an inside guy. He wants to be a pick-and-pop guy to get ready for the NBA."

"Look at the list of schools that were really involved with him," the first coach said. "It's not the usual list you see with a kid ranked third in the country."

According to Rivals, the nine other schools associated with Bassey were Baylor, California, Creighton, Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Washington.

No Duke. No Kentucky. No North Carolina. No Villanova. No Michigan State.

"I watched him play last season and I don't believe he's a top five player," said former Louisville assistant coach Jerry Eaves.

"He's a good player. But not top five. Excellent shooter. Plays hard. But he has no defensive presence around the rim and he's not an explosive athlete."

But that's a digression, interesting background. It is not the reason that the college basketball grapevine crackled Wednesday night: WKU received a commitment from a guy who was ranked third in the Class of 2019 by 247Sports.

Western has absolutely had its share of great players, great coaches and great teams.

The Hilltoppers have not signed the third-ranked player in America, at least not in the modern era of recruiting analysis and scrutiny.

Those guys go to programs like the one I mentioned with Tatum and Ayton.

What's changed?

New league? New coach? New mojo?

Western moved into Conference USA for the 2014-15 season. CUSA is a sexier league than WKU's old home in the Sun Belt, but it's not known as a destination for Top 5 or even Top 25 recruits.

Stansbury is a solid coach, but there's not much on his resume from Mississippi State that scream he's the guy who can get you to the Sweet Sixteen or NBA Draft Lottery.

Fourteen seasons in Starkville. Six NCAA Tournament appearances without a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Six NBA players, probably topped by Jarvis Varnado. The highest-profile recruit of his time at MSU was Renardo Sidney -- and that ended remarkably well. 

According to Rivals, Bassey became only the second Top 25 basketball recruit to commit to a CUSA program in at least the last five years. Hmm.

The first was Mitchell Robinson. He also committed to the Hilltoppers. It was last year.

Robinson finished his WKU career 2,258 points shy of Courtney Lee and Jim McDaniels on the school's all-time scoring list after reneging on his commitment. Robinson returned home, sat out last season and prepared for the NBA Draft.

Stansbury showed he is not concerned what the college basketball grapevine is saying. He doubled down on his recruitment of Robinson by signing Bassey.

Nor was Stansbury deterred by the string of messy stories reported by the San Antonio Express News that surrounded Bassey and his guardian/coach Hennssy Auriantal prior from their departure from St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio to Louisville.

According to the newspaper, Auriantal was dismissed by St. Anthony last July 7 about a week after the Express News wrote an extensive story about how Bassey arrived at the school.

The school was ruled ineligible to compete in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools for the 2016-17 season. They competed that season in the Texas Christian Athletic League before moving to Louisville where Aspire played a private school schedule. Lots of noise.

"Just more stuff than we wanted to get involved with," one college coach said.

Stansbury and WKU got involved -- and got Charles Bassey. And college basketball will be watching.

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Sports Reporter