Josh Selby: Trouble in my Kentucky Paradise?

For a differing view of the Josh Selby de-commitment, please read Tru's take here.

By now, most Kentucky fans breathing oxygen are aware of the de-commitment of top-10 rated 2010 point guard Josh Selby from his verbal to Tennessee.  But if not, here's an update: Selby, a 6-2 prospect from Maryland announced for Tennessee in September of 2008, after also considering the University of Louisville.  Now, fast-forward 10 months: Selby recently attended the LeBron James Skills Academy in Cleveland/Akron, Ohio where his mother spoke with John Calipari's friend, the notorious mover-and-shaker, William Wesley.   

Sunday morning, only days after leaving Cleveland, Selby alerted the UT staff (Bruce Pearl is in Israel coaching Team USA in the Maccabiah Games, the equivalent of the Jewish Olympics) of his intention to de-commit, and also announced the decision on his Facebook page.  No, young Mr. Selby has NOT committed to Kentucky, but ...

I don't like it.  I'm in the clear minority of Kentucky fans regarding this development, but I don't like it.  Even though all the facts of the case are not evident at this point, I don't like it.  I have as much empathy for Bruce Pearl as a lion has for a gazelle, but I don't like it.  Actually, I don't care for anything which possesses an orange hue (except tangerines), but still, I don't like it.  

One may reasonably ask; why would someone as dyed-in-blue as myself not like it?  Well, the reasons are many and varying.  And they begin with ...

Tampering with Committed Athletes/The William Wesley Connection -- Editor's Note: An opposing school continuing to recruit a committed athlete is not against NCAA rules.

Do we, at this time, know for a fact that Selby was "tampered with?"  No, but a reasonable person could conclude from the timing of the de-commitment that something happened at the LeBron James event which caused Selby to reconsider his options.  And if one believes Selby's own words, that someone, or several someones were "trying to get him to de-commit," then the tampering charge seems much more likely, and much more believable.

In my opinion, a courtin' coach, or a courtin' coach's representative, whispering sweet nothings into the gullible ear of a committed recruit is akin to "coming on" to a foe's fiancée.  In my part of the world, "them's fightin' words." 

I don't care the sport; a commitment is a commitment (save an extreme circumstance).  Now, I am realistic enough to realize kids change their minds, after-all, they're kids.  But, a recruit changing his mind of his own free will is one thing, an adult with an agenda urging a kid to renege on a promise is a whole other kettle of rotten fish. 

Even more disturbing to me is that William Wesley possibly recruiting for UK, or any other NCAA school, is highly illegal according to NCAA statutes.  Maeshon Witherspoon, Selby's mother, admits to talking with Wesley at the LeBron James get-together, "I met Wes, but we really didn't talk; that's not a connection like everybody thinks."  I understand the first part of her quote, you know, about her meeting Wesley, but the second part of her remark ... well, I'm still trying to make sense of it: "... that's not a connection like everybody thinks."   What exactly does that mean?

Is Witherspoon saying that Wesley hasn't/doesn't steer players (or her son) to a certain university?  If so, technically she's right (nothing has been proved), but there seems to be a preponderance of evidence that Wesley is up to something, and it isn't housing the homeless.  Honestly, what bothers me the most about this character is; if his motives and actions are righteous, then why are he and his "friends" so secretive about their relationship?  Why can't a reporter, or anyone for that matter, get a straight answer from Wesley and his cronies about exactly what it is he does, or the nature of his many high-powered relationships?  In my opinion, secrecy = hiding something, and that's never good.

The Appearance of Impropriety

If anyone should feel paranoid about the reach of the investigative arm of the NCAA, it's Kentucky fans.  Over multiple decades we have endured a seemingly endless stream of investigations and probation in both the basketball and football programs.  We should know by now that anything resembling a UK infraction will be dissected to death by the sitting NCAA President (in this case Myles Brand) and his charges.  Which is why, if UK is involved at any level of the Selby situation, severe sanctions should be served upon the guilty parties by UK President Dr. Lee Todd, and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.

Think of it like this: UK is the convict on parole; Big Blue needs to be as clean as the preacher's sheets ... UK needs to steer clear of anything remotely inappropriate ... UK needs to behave as if it's the Mother Teresa of college athletics.  "Above reproach" should be the chant Calipari and staff recite every night as the sand man approaches. 

Slightly less irritating than the possibility of NCAA sanctions due to this type of (possible) behavior are the ever-UK-critical national media.  Already UK's name is being bandied about as a possible destination for Selby because of the presence of Wesley in Cleveland, and his association with Nike (UK is a Nike school, UT adidas), and Calipari.  I can hear the talking heads now,  "Kentucky is at it again."

Perhaps I'm overly sensitive to the criticism.  Perhaps I feel my association with UK (as a fan) somehow renders me guilty of sin whenever Kentucky crosses the not-so-imaginary line.  Whatever the reason, I do not approve of UK, or any of its athletic department representatives, behaving anything less than appropriately.  And by "appropriately" I mean NOT putting the University in the cross-hairs of the NCAA Infraction Committee by being associated with tampering with a committed recruit via an emissary.  If that is what indeed occurred.  If not, then Calipari should know that his friendship with Wesley, in this situation, certainly gives the appearance of possible impropriety.

What Comes Around Goes Around: AKA Karma

After reading the thoughts and views of many UK fans on the Selby de-commitment throughout the various Internet sites, one common theme stands out: This is payback for Bruce Pearl continuing to recruit Scotty Hopson after Hopson was committed to Mississippi State.  Which of course resulted in Hopson casting his lot with the Vols.

While those shouts of karma kickin' Pearl where it hurts the most may be true, the question UK fans should be asking themselves (if UK did actively pursue Selby) is this: Which present or future UK recruit is slated to de-commit from the 'Cats?

Simply put, what UK has possibly done is no better than what Pearl did, and while not illegal (absent the involvement of Wesley), in my mind the act is ethically bankrupt.  Period.

Kentucky Basketball: Above the Fray 

For many years I've heard much wiser UK fans than myself pontificate that Kentucky should not have to stoop to breaking the rules or behaving unethically in order to gain prized recruits.  And I'm forced to say, amen to that!

Regardless of ones allegiance, it has to be admitted that Lexington is the Mecca of college basketball: Rupp Arena, Wildcat Lodge, (and now) the Craft Center, a fanatical following, tradition and grandeur, and a guaranteed fulfilling future for any law-abiding former 'Cat.  Sure, there are North Carolina, Duke, Indiana, UCLA, Kansas, and Louisville to contend with, but Kentucky sells Kentucky.  At least that's how it should be.  And now, with a dynamic, charismatic, in-demand coach in John Calipari, there should be absolutely no valid reason for UK to lie with the dogs; to partake in anything not above-board.  

Hopefully, no one within the parameters of what is Kentucky basketball has done anything egregious.  Hopefully, Josh Selby finds a nice home in Oregon, Memphis, or Tennessee ... anywhere but UK.  And hopefully, we've heard the last of William Wesley.  After-all, we don't need such a mysterious, veiled figure doing our bidding for us.

But hey, what do I know?  It's probably nothing.

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats! 

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