UK Recruiting

John Clay: UK wants Teague, U of L needs him

2011 point guard Teague picks UK
Marquis Teague, left, the top-rated prospect in the class of 2011-12 said Thursday he is coming to Kentucky. |Story.
2011 point guard Teague picks UK Marquis Teague, left, the top-rated prospect in the class of 2011-12 said Thursday he is coming to Kentucky. |Story.

We are 18 months from the start of the 2011-2012 college basketball season.

Not the 2010-11 season, mind you, but 2011-12.

Yet there might not be a more important day in this commonwealth's basketball future than Thursday.

This Thursday.

That's the day Marquis Teague announces where he will play college basketball in 2011.

Teague is a 6-foot-2 high school senior-to-be guard from Indianapolis. He isn't just any guard. rates Teague as the No. 2 prospect in the 2011 class, right behind Mike Gilchrist. ranks Teague as the class's best point guard prospect and fifth-best prospect overall.

To say Louisville wants Teague is a monumental understatement. Rick Pitino has a need for Teague. He has connections to Teague. He coached Teague's father, Shawn, at Boston University. He hired Shabaka Lands, a former assistant at Teague's high school, to serve as "special assistant to the head coach."

In fact, not long ago, many considered it a near foregone conclusion that Teague would wear red and black in U of L's new arena as the cornerstone of a recruiting class Pitino has already predicted could be the best in school history.

Ah, but then John Calipari does what John Calipari does. The Kentucky coach came after Marquis Teague. He came after him hard.

And now, a day before Teague's announcement, the recruit that Louisville wanted to have, absolutely had to have, could end up going to the Cardinals' archrival, at the worst possible time.

"Honestly, I think it's a toss-up," Evan Daniels, who covers college basketball recruiting for, wrote via e-mail Tuesday. "There are reasons to believe that either school could end up getting him."

But this isn't as much about either school as it is about the two head coaches at those schools. You know, the coaches who were once friends, who are now competitors and rivals and, well, not on the closest of terms.

Right now, Calipari has the upper hand. His team went 35-3 last year. It beat Louisville. It is sending possibly four one-and-doners to the NBA. One of those, John Wall, figures to be the top overall pick in the draft.

Now Calipari has inked four prospective stars for next season, including possibly the best point guard in Brandon Knight, and the sudden "now" player in Enes Kanter.

Plus, oh yeah, Calipari has already secured a commitment from the aforementioned Gilchrist, the player both Rivals and Scout put atop their list for 2011.

Louisville is in desperate need of a recruiting stop.

"Rick Pitino and his staff need this kid," Daniels said of Teague. "In fact, Teague is one of the most important prospects he's recruited since he's been at Louisville. Teague's father and uncle played for him, he's spent over two years recruiting him, and his blockbuster class in 2011 was built around Teague."

Get Teague, and Louisville's future is back in business. Forget the puzzling Elite Eight loss to Michigan State in 2009. Forget last season's struggles. Add Teague to a class expected to include top prospects Wayne Blackshear, Ryan Taylor and Zach Price, and the Cards are set to soar. Again.

But ...

If Teague pulls a blue hat from the under the podium on Thursday, it will rip the heart right out of Planet Red.

"Bottom line is, if Kentucky gets Teague, Louisville is in a little bit of trouble," Daniels said. "Now there are other talented point guard prospects out there, but none as talented and game-changing as Teague. They built their class around him and, in my opinion, can't afford to lose him to their in-state rival."

But they could.

Stay tuned, the 2011-12 season is already here.