On a stifling 110° day in Las Vegas last Friday, Kentucky's John Calipari and Louisville's Rick Pitino sat a few hundred feet apart in the bleachers at Rancho High during the Adidas Super 64 basketball tournament, one of the biggest recruiting events of the summer. The notoriously chilly relationship between the two coaches provided a welcome respite during the dog days of summer recruiting, but their presence signified yet another heated battle—this time for Quincy Miller, a 6'8" senior-to-be who was in Vegas playing for his North Carolina--based program, D-One Sports.
A lithe, highly-skilled small forward in the Kevin Durant mold, Miller shone for Team USA at the under-18 FIBA Americas championships last month in San Antonio, where he was the squad's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer and hit the game-winning three-pointer in the final against Brazil. He recently narrowed his college list to about a half-dozen schools (Baylor, Wake Forest and Syracuse are also among them), but he is feeling the intensity of being courted by two of the nation's best—and most polarizing—coaches.
"It's a great rivalry because they're always going after each other," Miller says. "I'm trying to enjoy all of this while it lasts."
Miller, who is ranked No. 2 in the class of 2011 by Rivals.com, was not seriously considering Louisville until late June, when Pitino hired as his assistant Tim Fuller, a former Wake Forest player and coach who has a close relationship with D-One's founder, Brian Clifton.
But D-One is the program that produced John Wall, the Wildcats' star point guard last season. It is unclear how much this helps Kentucky, however, since there is basically no contact between Calipari and Brian Clifton or his brother, Dwon, who was an assistant at Baylor last year and now works for Wall's agent, Dan Fagan. The Cliftons and Calipari were never close to begin with, and one person involved in Miller's recruiting says, "That relationship is over."
Brian Clifton, who started a management company (with Wall as his sole client) and is no longer involved in D-One's day-to-day operations, insists there is "absolutely no animosity" between him and Calipari. Even if there were, he says, it wouldn't affect Miller's decision. "I don't tell our kids where to go to school, because if it doesn't work out, I don't want them blaming me," Clifton says.
Miller says he'll make his choice after he takes his official visits in the fall. "It's going to be a hard decision" he says. "I'm a smart kid, though. When the time comes, I'll know what to do."
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