Tubby's recruiting doesn't look so bad now

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistFebruary 17, 2009 

What I know: Tubby Smith took a lot of heat in his latter years at Kentucky — some from me — for sub-standard recruiting.

What I think: A lot of that criticism was justified, especially the charges that UK was too often out-worked. But it should also be apparent now that Tubby left more talent in Lexington when he departed for Minnesota than many believed.

Look at how well Jodie Meeks is now playing. Recall how strong were the performances of Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford down the stretch last season.

Smith left solid complementary talents like Perry Stevenson and Derrick Jasper on the UK roster.

He also laid a strong recruiting foundation with Patrick Patterson; then, to his credit, Billy Gillispie closed the deal.

Had Kentucky been fully healthy a year ago, I think UK would have contended for the SEC title and been at least an NCAA round of 16 team.

This season, if Jasper had 1.) been healthy; 2.) not transferred to UNLV, I believe he would have solved many of Kentucky's ball-handling issues and the Cats would be ranked in the nation's top 10.

All of which is why those who continue, even now, to blame Tubby and his recruiting when things go wrong for Kentucky basketball need to put a sock in it.

What I know: The regular Tuesday night ESPN announcing crew of Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and, yes, Jeannine Edwards, are slated to work the Kentucky-Vanderbilt game from Nashville this evening.

What I think: For the first time in the history of televised college basketball, there may be more interest in which coach will be interviewed at halftime than in an actual major-college game.

From a public relations standpoint, Gillispie hasn't done himself any favors with his seeming condescension toward Edwards during the halftime interviews at Mississippi and in last week's game against Florida.

Still, as a result of those interviews, I'd guess the name recognition of Jeannine Edwards in the commonwealth of Kentucky has gone up about 90 percent this winter.

What I know: From Dick Vitale to a Georgia fan holding a sign in the stands during the Bulldogs' upset win over Florida on Saturday, people continue to promote Bobby Knight for the vacant Dawgs' head coaching position.

What I think: It might be possible for Georgia to make a worse hire than Knight — but it wouldn't be easy.

There is a reason The General lost in double figures five times in his final six years at Indiana and in five of his six full seasons at Texas Tech.

Top recruits will not play for a coach that uses Knight's old-school, heavy-handed motivational techniques.

(It will be interesting to see if Billy Gillispie — whose motivational mind games with players and irregular substitution patterns sometimes resemble Knight's — runs into recruiting difficulties at UK.)

The state of Georgia is rich with high school talent (hello, Jodie Meeks). Keep enough of that at home, and UGa. can be a major basketball player.

Which is why the Dawgs need to hire a young, up-and-comer (Anthony Grant? Scott Drew?) who plays an exciting style of basketball and who can relate to the modern player.

What I know: Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he did not hit Brian Vickers on purpose when he turned the No. 83 Toyota to set off a 10-car melee on lap 124 of the Daytona 500.

What I think: Earnhardt Jr. has never been a dirty nor careless driver, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt when he says he did not intentionally plow into the left quarter panel of Vickers' car.

However, the incident was clearly Junior's fault.

In his first TV interview after the rain delay that ultimately ended the 500, Earnhardt Jr. appeared not to know that the reason Vickers threw such an aggressive block when the No. 88 car tried to pass was because he, like Junior, was one lap down and trying to stay in position for the "lucky dog" free pass.

On a day when the Crown Prince completely missed his pit box on one stop, then got a one-lap penalty for pitting outside the box on another, you wonder where Earnhardt Jr.'s head was.

This was only the most important race of the season.

What I know: Many say that Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth is boring.

What I think: I like to see the quiet guys who don't go out of their way to call attention to themselves make good.

So I wasn't sad when Kenseth became both the rain man and the reign man at Daytona.

Reach Mark Story at 231-3230 or (800) 950-6397, Ext. 3230, or at mstory@herald-leader.com. Your e-mail could appear on the blog Read Mark Story's E-mail at Kentucky.com.

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