Some ideas are so bad, they just won’t die.
One of those is the hearty perennial that the University of Kentucky should somehow be obligated to offer a scholarship each season to the high school player chosen as the state of Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball.
These are frustrating times for UK men’s basketball backers. The Wildcats (17-8, 6-6 SEC) have lost three games in a row for the first time in the John Calipari coaching era. UK has a daunting schedule remaining, starting with Wednesday night’s visit to SEC-leading Auburn (22-3, 10-2).
This season of vexation for Cats fans comes in a year when UK boasts a roster that, for the first time since the university started awarding basketball scholarships, does not feature one recruited, in-state scholarship player.
That has sent some Wildcats fans to the social media and Internet message boards proposing that UK essentially be required to have an in-state presence on its basketball rosters by offering a scholarship each year to whoever wins Kentucky Mr. Basketball.
It is an idea that keeps coming up.
In 2006, a Kentucky state representative proposed what she called “the Chris Lofton resolution” — named after Kentucky’s 2004 Mr. Basketball who became a college star at Tennessee after receiving no scholarship offers from UK or Louisville — that called on in-state schools to offer scholarships to “athletically and academically gifted students from Kentucky.”
While the impulse of wanting to see more Kentuckians play for Kentucky is understandable, a “Mr. Basketball quota” is an idea that could never work for many reasons.
1. It would potentially remove almost one-fourth of the UK roster from the discretionary control of the head coach.
If Kentucky were actually required to offer Mr. Basketball each year, conceivably four of the 13 men’s basketball scholarships UK is allowed each season would be awarded outside the discretion of the head coach.
Can you imagine any coach accepting that scenario?
2. It would make roster composition a nightmare.
The current UK head man has a preference for big guards. Since 2010, Kentucky Mr. Basketball has been claimed by backcourt players who stand 5-foot-10, 5-11, 6-foot, 6-2, 6-3 and 6-2 — with two undersized power forwards, 6-7 and 6-5, thrown in.
Saddling a coach who loves big guards with a roster filled by small ones would be a recipe for dysfunction.
3. It’s a hard truth, but in the 21st century Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball is rarely good enough to be a regular contributor at UK.
It’s easy to identify years when UK whiffed by not recruiting the best in-state player.
Back in the day, Tubby Smith should have offered Mason County’s Lofton a scholarship. I think the current Kentucky staff made a mistake not more ardently recruiting 2017 Mr. Basketball Taveion Hollingsworth of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
However, fact is when the Wildcats have signed Mr. Basketball in the 21st century, the return on the scholarship investment has been slight.
Of the five Kentucky Mr. Basketballs to play for UK in the 2000s, only one, ex-Mason County star Darius Miller (1,248 career points) scored more than 300 points in their Wildcats careers.
None of this is to suggest that the “experience” of Kentucky Wildcats basketball is not better when there are homegrown players contributing to UK success.
Still, the next time you feel compelled to take to the Internet to argue that UK should be forced to implement a “Mr. Basketball quota,” do this first.
Google a list of Kentucky Mr. Basketball winners, scour the list, then ask yourself this:
Could a UK roster whose nucleus is homegrown Mr. Basketball winners succeed at the level that Kentucky Wildcats fans are accustomed to seeing?
Kentucky Mr. Basketballs at UK
The history at the University of Kentucky of men’s basketball players who won the Kentucky Mr. Basketball award as high school players:
Mr. Basketball year
UK career points
Jimmy Dan Conner
Billy Ray Lickert
Compiled by Mark Story