For today's top-tier male basketball players I'm sure there are dozens, if not literally hundreds of deciding factors that go into choosing a school, but for the sake of this discussion, I just want to go over which one of the above options might potentially weigh the heaviest on the shoulders of today's male basketball youth and how UK might possibly be perceived by today's top recruits at this moment in time.
Recently, in my Internet travels, I came across an interesting comment in an SI piece written by Luke Winn. The comment was made by CJ Henry while his brother was being recruited and the following quote got me thinking about what goes on in the mind of a top rated high school player when considering what school to choose. I realize that the Henry's both opted for KU anyway, and this really isn't about the Henry's specifically, but rather what they represent. Here, Henry compares Memphis with Kentucky, and the last sentence is what ultimately made me ask myself about how UK is perceived as of late:
"Kentucky doesn't have the same 'oomph' to it that Memphis did. There's more tradition at Kentucky, but what [Calipari] was building at Memphis was different. Whereas every coach views Kentucky as a major upgrade over Memphis, not every player feels the same way".
Now, I realize that CJ Henry is just one college kid and his opinion is by no means the opinion of all high school or other college players out there, but the above quote did bring to mind that his brother, Xavier, also publically mentioned Kentucky tradition and he made reference to the fact that he really didn't know much about it. Maybe this is a just a Henry family thing and it's much ado about nothing and the majority of all aspiring-to-be-NBA-bound young men think like we UK fans do -- that this is the University of Kentucky and with its outstanding fans and great basketball tradition it is to be revered?
Out of the two options listed in the title, I immediately wanted to choose "University of Kentucky" as I'm quite the sucker for tradition and I respect it immensely and more than I can articulate here, but then I thought about it some more and the fact that I now live in a place where Kentucky basketball really isn't all that big of a deal (yes, I know, the horror, right?) but, it is a reality, people. Outside the state of Kentucky the world does not revolve around UK's great tradition (or college basketball, for that matter) and so, taking that into account, the little voice in the back of my head unfortunately said, "no", it's probably not the name on the University that is drawing the players right now. By countless potential recruits' own admissions, Coach Cal as well as the offense he chooses to use is ridiculously popular with the high school players of today (not to mention it's all the rage with us and the topic of our discussions these days, too) and it certainly doesn't hurt our chances of enticing the nation's top talent and as evidenced by one of Patrick Patterson's recent comments that he also finds the DDMO fascinating and it's one of the reasons he's excited about returning, it appears that the DDMO is quite appealing to our current roster members as well.
Even though I am a very proud UK fan, I would have to say that the perception among the young recruits is probably not that UK is the beginning and the end-all of college basketball at this moment in time, but rather that Coach Cal and his DDMO is actually the main force pulling the recruits in, and to be honest, that possible perception, if it is in fact reality for today's top recruits, well, it really doesn't bother me all that much, because quite frankly, until UK regains some of its luster, it would seem that we need the top rated players more than they need the University of Kentucky, and if the DDMO is what they want, and it will eventually lead to a change on how we are perceived by some, such as the Henry's, well, I'm OK with that.
So, after abandoning my UK homer mindset for a few moments so I could think rationally -- at this moment in time my choice on how we are most likely perceived by college basketball recruits today is Calipari/DDMO U. As time marches on, hopefully it's just a matter of us winning some games, winning some conference championships, making some deep runs into the NCAA tourney and then getting some kids into the NBA, and once again the Kentucky brand will be back and we will have that "oomph" the kids are looking for and the answer to the title question of "University of Kentucky or Calipari/DDMO U?" will without a doubt be the University of Kentucky -- because after all, that's the answer that the UK homer in me wants and the answer my heart prefers.
Just for fun, I will pose the question in poll format: