UK Notebook

Vilarino's dad says Calipari will regret not keeping his son

Herald-Leader Staff WriterMay 10, 2009 

When speaking to inherited signee G.J. Vilarino this spring, new Kentucky coach John Calipari noted how he preferred big guards. Vilarino, who has been listed at 5-foot-11, got the hint. He looked for another school and, fortunately at such a late date, landed at Gonzaga.

Then last week, Kentucky signed Eric Bledsoe, who was listed at 6-foot when he played in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic.

Huh?

"The bottom line is somebody tells you basically, in a nice way, you're not good enough, frankly," said Gerry Vilarino, the player's father. "You can sugarcoat it all you want. That's basically what he was saying. ... It's never good to hear that or feel that."

To continue what diplomats call a frank exchange of views, the elder Vilarino did not like his son being discarded, albeit in a sensitive way.

"I am upset," Gerry Vilarino said. "But I understand how the business works."

Vilarino knows big-time college basketball is a multi-billion-dollar business. The leafy campus settings, classrooms and sis-boom-bah make for nice window dressing.

There's precious little sentiment where the baseline meets the bottom line. Any day now we'll be reminded of that when a few holdover UK players depart to make room for prospects judged more talented.

"I always told my son: This is a business," Gerry Vilarino said. "This is big business, especially at Kentucky. I understand that. From that perspective, there's no hard feelings whatsoever."

Being dismissed as a Kentucky prospect is nothing new for Vilarino. Almost as soon as he became the first player to commit to then-coach Billy Gillispie, he heard recruiting analysts question whether he was good enough to ever play for UK.

Noting Gonzaga's top-level schedule (games next season against Duke in Madison Square Garden, Michigan State and Memphis), the elder Vilarino saw a chance for his son to show what he can do.

"He's going to get an opportunity to show (if the doubters) are right or wrong," Gerry Vilarino said. "That's what we want. ... I got a feeling he's going to prove a lot of the assessments wrong."

His son has speed and quickness, qualities that can't be taught, Gerry Vilarino said. Now 6-1, G.J. Vilarino can put muscle on his 170-pound frame as he matures.

It's touching to hear a father defend his son.

"When it's all said and done, it's going to be one of the biggest regrets Cal's going to have," Gerry Vilarino said. "Not giving him an opportunity."

Rules changes

The NCAA announced proposed rules changes for next season. Two will significantly alter college basketball.

The first is an attempt to limit the block-charge call. Secondary defenders will now be discouraged from attempting to take charges while standing under the basket.

If such contact occurs, it will automatically be called a block.

The NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Rules Committees considered using an arc in the lane like the NBA does. A defender standing inside the arc cannot get a charging call.

But the coaches did not want such an arc, said Ed Bilik, the man who interprets college basketball rules. The coaches could not agree on where the arc should be placed, he said.

Bilik suggested that such an arc might be coming in the future, but for now the area directly under the basket can serve as a first step.

Another proposed change involved what to do when "injury" prevents a fouled player from shooting free throws. We put quote marks around the word injury because of the frequency with which much better free-throw shooters substitute for the injured teammate.

If the new rule is adopted, the opposing coach will choose which player takes the free throws. The only exceptions would be for an intentional or flagrant foul. In those cases, the coach of the team fouled would pick the free-throw shooter.

NCAA spokesman Ty Halpin, coincidentally a 1996 UK graduate, said the committee considered and then rejected several options. One was the NBA rule, which does not allow the injured player to return to the game. Another option was to allow the opposing coach to pick any player from the bench. However, that could include having a player that had never played suddenly shooting critical free throws. Additionally, there could have been eligibility complications. For example, what if the player chosen to shoot free throws had been a candidate to sit out the season as a redshirt.

Ultimately, the committee decided that the opposing coach had to select from one of the four remaining players on the court at the time of the injury.

One other note: this intended restriction on sneaking a better free-throw shooter to the line was planned only for the men. This seems to suggest the women's game has a higher sense of sportsmanship.

Another proposed rule change would expand the use of replay monitors to allow officials to review a play and determine if a flagrant foul occurred.

Before being adopted, these proposed rules changes will be reviewed by the member schools and the NCAA's Playing Oversight Panel.

Dick Vitale Gala

The fourth annual Dick Vitale Gala will have a mentor-pupil flavor with the honorees being Louisville Coach Rick Pitino and Florida Coach Billy Donovan.

The gala, which will be staged on Friday in Sarasota, Fla., is a fund-raiser for the V Foundation. More than $1 million will be raised for cancer research.

Among coaching luminaries scheduled to attend are John Calipari of UK, Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Tubby Smith of Minnesota, Jay Wright of Villanova, Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh, Bruce Pearl of Tennessee and Frank Haith of Miami.

Other sports stars expected are Super Bowl quarterback Doug Williams and Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger.

During the Friday gala, the honorees for 2010 will be announced. They are Charles Barkley, Tony Dungy and Izzo.

Royal treatment

When he signed with Kentucky last week, point guard prospect Eric Bledsoe recalled how well he had been treated on an official visit to Memphis.

"I was treated like I was O.J. Mayo," he said.

A high school basketball star in Alabama apparently doesn't rate star treatment. His coach at Parker High in Birmingham, Maurice Ford, said that Bledsoe cited the love of basketball in Kentucky as a reason for signing with UK.

Coincidentally, columnist Ray Melick of the Birmingham News noted that several Kentucky fans called his office to ask if there would be a podcast of the Bledsoe announcement.

Melick then playfully suggested the best reply: "No. The kid doesn't play football."

Money market

Kentucky is paying John Calipari $3.65 million per season. The SEC's other new coaches, Anthony Grant at Alabama and Mark Fox at Georgia, will make $1.8 million and $1.3 million, respectively, each season. All three salaries are substantially higher than what their predecessors received.

"It's probably a sign of the times," Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "These things hardly ever go down. They just keep going up.

"Certainly, it's a staggering number that Calipari got. I guess the tough economic times aren't hitting the Bluegrass as hard."

By the way, Pelphrey received $795,000 in compensation this past season.

Money market II

Here's another set of salaries to compare to what UK will pay John Calipari's assistants.

UCLA paid assistants Donny Daniels and Scott Duncan $200,000 and $166,000, respectively. Another assistant, Scott Garson, was paid somewhere between those salaries, spokesman Ryan Finney said.

Calipari's assistants, John Robic and Orlando Antigua, will receive $220,000 and $200,000. That compares favorably to the two highest-paid Billy Gillispie assistants, Glynn Cyprien ($200,000) and Tracy Webster ($180,000).

When asked about the new salaries, Deputy Director of Athletics Rob Mullens cited marketplace forces.

While UK is paying more than UCLA, North Carolina paid its assistants $303,000 (Joe Holladay), $277,000 (Steve Robinson) and $143,500 (C.B. McGrath). Jerod Haase, the director of basketball operations, made $143,500.

Wall to UK?

Bob Gibbons, one of the deans of recruiting analysis, all but predicts Kentucky will add celebrated point guard John Wall to a 2009-10 roster now brimming with talent.

"I'd be shocked if they don't get him," Gibbons said Friday.

Gibbons distanced himself from earlier comments attributed to him by the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer in which he suggested a misdemeanor breaking and entering citation could raise questions about Wall.

"This creates a little red circle around John," Gibbons said, according to the News & Observer. "It creates more doubt.

"When you add this to borderline academics and the probability that he may play only one year — and will he play for the good of his college team or for his NBA Draft status? — and there is a little bit more uncertainty. The misdemeanor may bother some schools more than others."

In a follow-up phone call, Gibbons said he wondered if the citation might impact the recruiting efforts of Duke and North Carolina State.

But Gibbons suggested the incident could play in Kentucky's favor if Wall felt the need to get away from the Raleigh-Durham area.

How good is Wall? Gibbons likened him to Brandon Jennings, a probable lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft. Only Wall is bigger.

"He needs to work on his shooting," Gibbons said of Wall. "But he's so hard to stop. He just blazes by people to the hoop."

Because of John Calipari, Memphis had been considered the favorite for Wall. With Calipari now at UK, Wall may follow.

"Derrick Rose was his role model," Gibbons said in reference to the one-and-done star at Memphis in 2007-08. "Cal sold him on 'we can train you like Derrick Rose and get you ready for the league.' "

Cal State

What UK is calling The John Calipari Basketball School will be in session on campus this June and July.

Father-Son sessions will be June 5-6 and 19-20.

Overnight/day sessions will be June 21-24, July 19-22 and July 26-29. Former UK stars Tony Delk and Scott Padgett will showcase their skills.

To register or get more information, fans can go to www.ukathletics.com/camps and click on Men's Basketball and The John Calipari Basketball School.

Attention Marshall alums

Marshall athletic officials will be in Lexington on May 18 for a golf outing with alums.

The event will be at the Andover Country Club. The golf will begin at 1 p.m.

Tickets are $135, which includes golf, lunch and dinner. Also available is a dinner-only ticket for $35.

Marshall's head coaches in football and basketball, plus Athletics Director Bob Marcum, are expected to attend.

Make reservations by calling 1-866-443-7310 or (859) 523-0603.

Happy birthday

To former UK guard J.P. Blevins. He turned 30 on Friday.

Jerry Tipton covers UK basketball for the Herald-Leader. This article contains his opinions and observations. Reach him at jtipton@herald-leader.com.

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