Apparently, the press has decided that the conspiracy theories surrounding Selby's decommitment from Tennessee are true. I say that because there have been many recent articles repeating the connection between William Wesley and Nike, along with the fact that Kentucky is a Nike school, as de-facto proof that those dots are somehow connected.
It has become so bad that Selby's mother did not allow press interviews of her son at least at some point during the recent Las Vegas tournament, and she is clearly angry. She claims (subscription required) that the press is, "taking [her] words and twisting them" after she and/or Josh give interviews. In another sign that both the press and coaches around the country have bought in to the conspiracy theories about Wesley and Nike, coaches seem almost universally sympathetic to Bruce Pearl, who has a reputation as an abrasive personality (imagine that!) and, if you believe what you read, is not exactly beloved among the denizens of the coaching profession.
It is also incredibly easy, unfortunately, to make an argument that something did go on, and that Selby's mother is simply lying through her teeth. That's what you have to believe, you know. You cannot take her at her word, or consider her or her son as anything other than bald-faced, deliberate liars if you believe Wesley influenced her or Josh, because she and he have both explicitly, unambiguously and repeatedly denied that accusation. Yet it seems that all these media reporters and everyone not a Wildcat fan does in fact consider both her and Josh a liar. No wonder she is tired of speaking to the media -- they don't believe her anyway.
So what's the latest? Well, Gary Parrish had this blog a couple of days back, in which he quotes an anonymous "high-major coach" thus:
"That kid was committed to Tennessee for almost a year, then he goes to a Nike event, the mom talks with Wes, the kid decommits from an 'Adidas' school, and now he's looking at Kentucky," said one high-major coach, noting the timeline of the developments as well as UT's apparel contract with Adidas. "Come on, man. That's messed up. I mean, that's just messed up."
My question is, why is this "high-major coach" unnamed? Is he afraid of Wesley, or afraid Nike will drop his school if he gives credibility to this nefarious Nike plot to take over the basketball world? Or does he fear the wrath of Coach Cal, maybe that he will put a "contract" out on him? It's all just so deliciously unattributed and cloak-and-dagger. It just fits so nicely into the narrative that Calipari's proximity to prior NCAA violations really wasn't innocent like the NCAA said, his association with Wesley is truly unsavory, and he is really some kind of rogue coach in the mold of Kelvin Sampson or Jerry Tarkanian.
It isn't hard to see why Selby's mother is so upset. It doesn't matter how many times she or her son denies the connection, the press finds a way to fit it into their narrative of "something untoward happened" and discount her claims as though she were only doing so to hide this nefarious, evil plot. Witness Dana O'Neil of ESPN:
"Why would I talk about a man who has nothing to do with my son?" [Selby's Mother, Maeshon Witherspoon] said.
Except that a source close to Wesley told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that Witherspoon actually walked up to Wesley and asked whether he was "Worldwide Wes."
Oh, my! Can you believe that she did that? Clearly, that means something was up, right? Well, not exactly, but I think you get why Witherspoon is tired of talking to the media. Her characterizations of the conversation are essentially being "poo-pooed," and one-upped by unnamed sources and unnamed "high major coaches."
It's frustrating to be a Kentucky fan and have to put up with this crap. First of all, there is no credible evidence whatever that anything nefarious is going on -- just a bunch of events that allow the suspicious to construct a theory that fits the available facts.
The problem is, apparently, that if you believe the conspiracy theory, you will reject any other evidence (and anyone providing it) that doesn't support it. This has become a story almost political in scope, with partisans on both sides of the argument rejecting arguments that auger against their pet theory, regardless of their force. Wesley has been tried and convicted by the media citing unnamed sources, and now the media are dying to rip apart the caricature of him they have created, while the real William Wesley is watching from a safe distance, probably with considerable amusement.
In the end, all this brouhaha can only help Wesley. His reputation gets enhanced with every pixel darkened about how "connected" he is, and the press, who has been trying for years to get dirt on Wesley, is busily setting itself up for allegations that they are maliciously tearing at the reputation of people who don't kowtow to their demands for information. Why does Wesley keep himself so private? We don't know, but most in the media will assure you that because he is "hiding something." If so, he should work for the CIA, because he is certainly better at keeping secrets than they are.
I know what you're thinking -- "C'mon, Tru, where is your proof that the media is doing all that?" Witness this latest blog from Parrish:
The main reason, it seems, is because Witherspoon acknowledged to CBSSports.com that she met with Calipari's close friend William Wesley during the LeBron James Skills Academy earlier this month, roughly two weeks before Selby decommitted from Tennessee. In fairness, Witherspoon has downplayed the significance of the meeting and insisted that it had nothing to do with the decommitment. But most coaches familiar with the business of recruiting are skeptical that this is all just a big coincidence. And then there's Tennessee assistant Tony Jones, who supplied a vague but telling quote to the Knoxville News Sentinel .
"I'm not going to comment on any specific player, because I am not allowed to do that," Jones told the paper. "I'll just say something smells right now." [Emphasis mine]
Heh. The account that Witherspoon has given of that "meeting" was that it was a brief conversation. Parrish makes it sound like Witherspoon and he sat down in private and discussed his son's future, and then adds in Tony Jones' comment as though it proved there was more to it than Witherspoon claimed. It does not, of course. This is a deliberate attempt by Parrish to deceive people into believing what he believes by treating Selby's mother as a co-conspirator in a foul plot.
Folks, this is unethical, and what I mean is the way that the press is treating this situation. It is unfairly calling into question the reputations and veracity of Wesley, Calipari, Maeshon Witherspoon and Josh Selby himself. While Selby's decommitment from Tennessee is ethically problematic, it is nothing compared with the rumor-mongering and deliberately inaccurate impressions that the press is attempting to leave with everyone, and that includes Dana O'Neil. Even though she quotes an unnamed "source close to Wesley" as claiming that Wesley is being unfairly blamed for Selby's decommitment, it is clear from the rest of her article that she is trying to impute that very thing to him, or at least give that possibility most of the benefit of the doubt.
The only exception to this so far seems to be The Loathsome Troll Jeff Goodman, who, to his immense credit, is reporting the facts as they are, and if he is buying into the "William Wesley got Selby to decommit for his, or Calipari's nefarious purposes," he decently keeps it to himself. If Goodman keeps this up, I may have to abandon his nickname and forgive him his egregious prior comments.
Welcome to The Days of Our Wildcats. It will only get worse, but in the end, it will probably be worth it when we are looking down our noses at the rest of college basketball, and laughing heartily at rivals, UK and Calipari detractors while they console themselves with conspiracy theories and drown themselves in tears and sour grapes.
And I will enjoy that very much.