UK recruits take wait-and-see approach

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2009 

Billy Gillispie's dismissal as Kentucky's basketball coach on Friday drew similar reactions from the Cats' recruits and their families.

They're disappointed but not surprised that Gillispie was fired, and they're now in wait-and-see mode as UK searches for a new coach.

Recruits Jon Hood of Madisonville, Daniel Orton of Oklahoma City and G.J. Vilarino of McKinney, Texas, who make up UK's 2009 recruiting class, have already signed with the Cats. Junior college guard Konner Tucker has committed to the Cats for 2009.

Brian Hood, Jon's father, said he and his son had talked for a few days about the possibility of Gillispie being fired.

"There's really nothing to say until his replacement is named," Brian Hood said.

When Larry Orton was asked if his son was still firmly committed to UK, he said, "We've just gotta wait and see what happens. There's nothing else you can do."

Gerry Vilarino, G.J.'s dad, said rumors about Gillispie's job security dulled the impact of Friday's firing, but not the "sadness we feel because we'd developed a relationship with Coach G's staff. They've become part of the family, so when something bad happens to them, we feel it.

"Unfortunately, these things are part of the basketball game."

But G.J.'s dad said his son is still committed to the Cats.

"He's grown so close to the UK program over the last few years. I'd be surprised if G.J. would want to be anything but a Wildcat."

The father of point guard K.C. Ross-Miller, who is in the Class of 2010, said his son's status as a UK recruit is tenuous.

"It depends on who's coming in as coach, and whether or not they want K.C.," Tim Miller said. "As of today, we're open. We can't say we're committed (to UK) because we don't know who the coach is.

"K.C. still wants to go to Kentucky if the situation is right. But if (the new coach) brings in some top point guard who'll be there the next four years, there's no reason for K.C. to be there."

Miller is in the same recruiting class as Dominique Ferguson of Indianapolis and Dakotah Euton of Scott County. Neither of them could be reached for comment.

Vinny Zollo of Clark County, who is in the Class of 2011, said that while Gillispie's dismissal was "very upsetting," he is in a favorable situation as a recruit.

"The advantage is mine," Zollo said. "Being an underclassman, I have a lot of time before I sign anything.

"I need to sit back and consider my options. There's no rush. We'll see what happens with a new coach, and go from there."

That's the same approach Michael Avery and his family will take.

Avery, who is from Lake Sherwood, Calif., drew national attention last spring when as an eighth-grader he accepted a scholarship offer from Gillispie.

"Michael has an advantage of being young enough, in the Class of 2012, that he's got plenty of time," said his father, Howard Avery.

"We have a commitment from (UK), and they have one from us. We'll certainly go through a process where we meet and talk with the athletic director and whoever the new coach is.

"At the end of the day you want to be someplace where you're wanted, and someplace you want to be."

As for Gillispie's successor, Gerry Vilarino said, "I'm assuming it being Kentucky, they'll find the right guy who'll get the program to where everybody in Kentucky wants it to be — the best program in the country."

Tim Miller said he hopes the next UK coach plays a trapping, pressing style.

"What I was seeing the last couple years wasn't Kentucky basketball," Miller said. "It looked more like Texas A&M basketball.

"That's nothing negative against Coach Gillispie. He just didn't have the personnel up there to run it."

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