Who's No. 1?
In recruiting, Kentucky is, thanks to three McDonald's All-Americans
Early this month, after Kentucky coach Tubby Smith spent yet another dinner with friends despairing about his team's second-round loss to UAB in the NCAA tournament, his wife, Donna, told him to get over it already. It was time to look toward the future, one that now includes three McDonald's All-Americans, whom Smith bagged during the spring signing period. That haul was astounding in an era when most elite high school seniors ink their letters of intent during the fall signing period. Of recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons's top 100 players, for example, 88 committed last fall.
The jewel of the nation's top recruiting class is 7-foot center Randolph Morris, who nearly entered the NBA draft before choosing Kentucky over Georgia Tech. (Morris, however, didn't endear himself to Wildcats fans by saying he chose Kentucky in part because the school isn't as rigorous academically as Georgia Tech.) "Randolph needs to trim down a little bit, but he's got great hands and footwork," Smith says.
Smith's biggest needs, though, were in the backcourt, where he lost guards Cliff Hawkins and Gerald Fitch, the ' Cats' top scorer in 2003-04. Among the players filling those voids will be the other two spring signees, 6'4" Joe Crawford and 6'1" Rajon Rondo, who will vie for starting jobs with 6'1" Ramel Bradley, a fall signee, and sharpshooting Patrick Sparks, who sat out last season after transferring from Western Kentucky.
The signing of Rondo was especially sweet for Wildcats fans because the point guard had originally wanted to play for Louisville. The first choice of Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, though, was point guard Sebastian Telfair, who signed with Louisville in the fall but entered the NBA draft on May 6. Pitino unsuccessfully tried to persuade Rondo to wait out Telfair's decision before committing to Kentucky and remains skeptical that Rondo made the right choice, citing a possible Wildcats logjam at point guard.
Smith isn't concerned about chemistry problems. "We don't have a star system," he says. "I don't worry about keeping those guys happy. It's their job to keep me happy."
Monty Leaves Stanford
Changes for The Cardinal
When coach Mike Montgomery bolted for the Golden State Warriors last week, Stanford players and assistants were left in the lurch on a critical recruiting weekend. "As a player talking to a recruit, it's hard to say, This is how it's going to be,' because we don't know how it's going to be,' " said senior Joe Kirchofer on Friday.
AD Ted Leland moved quickly to find a replacement On Sunday and Monday he interviewed former Cardinal assistant Trent Johnson, who led Nevada to this year's Sweet 16, and a source told SI that Johnson would be named coach on Tuesday. While on the Stanford staff from 1996 to '99, Johnson helped shape the '97-98 Final Four team and was instrumental in recruiting Casey Jacobsen and Justin Davis. The swift hiring should keep the Cardinal in the running for prize recruits Bobby Frasor, a 6'3" guard from Chicago; 6'7" forward Lawrence Hill of Glendale, Ariz.; and Anthony Goods, a 6'3" guard from Corona, Calif.