At the same time that Ramon was breaking Welsh's heart, Robinson enrolled at Prince Avenue Prep in Pickens, S. C., and got on the path to academic eligibility. "Are you going to come and recruit my guy now?" Brewer asked Seymore during a phone conversation. His answer was still "maybe." He needed to sell Robinson to Welsh, who hadn't seen him play. Seymore made Welsh a highlight tape culled from some of Robinson's summer games.
Welsh was sitting on the blue leather couch in his office in early October and popped in the tape just as Ryan Gomes walked into the room. Gomes sat next to Welsh and watched only a few seconds before blurting out, "That's Ice." Gomes had seen Robinson play against his old AAU team in a tournament at Penn State in the summer. "That kid can play," Gomes said. "He could help us."
Welsh needed no further endorsements. Robinson visited the campus with his uncle a few weeks later, watched Gomes play in an exhibition game, then orally committed in a hotel room afterward. "Let's dance," he told Seymore. "I'm going to help you all get to the dance."
With White, Hanke, Ivory and Robinson set to sign letters of intent in November, Welsh felt confident enough to try to steal a recruit from one of the glamour programs. The attempt had an unintended by-product. Arizona had the inside track on forward Jesus Verdejo out of the Winchendon (Mass.) School, yet Welsh and Seymore drove to Winchendon in late September to meet with him and, they hoped, keep him on the East Coast. But during his game, Welsh couldn't stop talking about one of Verdejo's teammates, an emotional (sometimes overly so) but skilled 6'3" guard.
After the game, Welsh spoke with Verdejo for 15 minutes, then spent 45 minutes with the guard, Robert McKiver, who started naming past Providence players even DeMeo didn't know. DeMeo handed McKiver his card and said he'd keep in touch. During the 90-minute drive back to Providence, Welsh talked endlessly about McKiver's toughness. "This is a kid who is not going to be afraid to go into Louisville and beat Rick Pitino in front of a sellout crowd, or Cincinnati with Bob Huggins on the sidelines," said Welsh, already thinking about two premier rivals who'd be joining the reconfigured Big East in 2005-06.
McKiver, nicknamed Fluff, had committed to Georgetown as a sophomore at Archbishop Carroll in D.C. But rumors of a bad attitude and poor play after he started hopscotching from one school to another (from Redan H.S. in Stone Mountain, Ga., to Archbishop Carroll to James Hillhouse High in New Haven before landing at Winchendon) scared off the Hoyas. DeMeo had been watching McKiver for more a year (and had him on the original Friar 40); he, too, had been worried about McKiver's rumored hotheadedness. But after Welsh showed strong interest, DeMeo started calling around. He was looking for red flags--fights, problems with girls, arrests--but couldn't find anything damning.
In early December, McKiver, worried that an ankle injury would cripple his chances of landing a scholarship, started ringing DeMeo's cellphone every other day, often leaving just short messages on his voice mail.
Monday: "Coach, I want to be a Friar."
Wednesday: "Coach, offer me a scholarship."
Friday: "Coach, I'm good off the court. I know I am emotional but I am working on it. I WANT to be a FRIIIIIIAR!"