Hood wants to be a Cat, bring Wall along for the ride

mmaloney@herald-leader.comApril 1, 2009 

Upon learning Tuesday that John Calipari will be Kentucky's next basketball coach, an immediate concern was how recruits would react.

"I would like to stay on, stay at UK," said Madisonville small forward Jon Hood, who will be honored as Mr. Basketball in Kentucky on Wednesday. "I could really fit in with Coach Calipari's system that he ran at Memphis. I researched it a little bit. It's just all long, rangy guys that can get out and run, and like to finish."

When he learned that Calipari was the choice, Hood contacted 6-foot-4 John Wall. The Raleigh, N.C., senior is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2009. Wall listed Memphis, formerly coached by Calipari, as his top collegiate choice even after visiting Duke last weekend. He's also considering Baylor, North Carolina State, Kansas and Miami.

"Me and John were real close over the summer. We played against each other a few times, exchanged phone numbers, kept up with each other," Hood said. "I talked to him some, not a lot. But I kind of urged him. ... I said, 'Hey, buddy, why don't you come over to the Bluegrass and play with us?'

"He said, 'I don't know. We'll have to see. I'm still going to look, see what happens."

UK's other recruits for next season are Daniel Orton of Oklahoma City and G.J. Vilarino of McKinney, Texas, both of whom have signed letters of intent. Konner Tucker, a point guard from Fort Worth, Texas, has made an oral commitment to UK.

Orton, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound center, could not be reached by the Herald-Leader on Tuesday. Vilarino's father, Gerry, said G.J. will wait and see.

"Our commitment (to UK) has been strong all the way, and that's always going to be that way," Gerry Vilarino said. "I just want to make sure that (Calipari) feels the same way. We're not going to, under any circumstance, push anybody on him. He's got to feel good about having G.J. there."

Tucker's coach at Lon Morris College in Texas, Dale Dotson, learned of Calipari's hiring from Tucker. Tucker's reaction?

"I was with him about 10 minutes ago, and you know as much as I do," Dotson said. "Konner doesn't say much."

According to Dotson, the conversation with Tucker went something like this:

Tucker: "Coach, they hired Calipari today."

Dotson: "Really."

Tucker: "Yeah."

Dotson: "That surprises me."

Tucker then headed for the cafeteria.

UK's recruiting class of 2010 includes Scott County's Dakotah Euton, Dominique Ferguson of Indianapolis and K.C. Ross-Miller of Dallas.

Clark County's Vinny Zollo committed for 2011, and Michael Avery of Lake Sherwood, Calif., for 2012.

"He's known for a good program in Memphis," Zollo said of Calipari. "I don't have much of a reaction because I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet. It's just going to be one of those things where I've got to meet with him and see where we stand."

Avery still wants to play at UK, said his father, Howard.

"I love Kentucky, Michael loves Kentucky. And that's why we committed, because we love Kentucky," Howard Avery said. "But we also want a coach that wants us to be there. So we need to find out and talk to the coach, talk to the administration and, ultimately, make a decision as to what we want to do."

Hood and Howard Avery both noted they had mixed emotions about Billy Gillispie no longer being the coach.

"I was really close with the past coaches. It's a very unfortunate thing," Hood said. "But I think they got the right guy (in Calipari). I think this was good."

Said Howard Avery: "It's a terrific choice. ... I know that Billy Gillispie was terrific, too. It looks like Kentucky just hires the best."

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