Kentucky is not for everybody. This is why.
There is an article today in Vegas Seven about Anthony Bennett and the current state of his recruiting. It doesn't really add anything to what we already know, or think we know, about Bennett, but it does give a bit of background that may provide some further tea leaves to read:
"People don’t know that I’m a shy guy," he says. "I don’t really like talking, I like keeping to myself. I have a small circle, and I don’t really talk to anybody outside of it. It’s a hard decision. After all of these [all-star] games and stuff, I finally have time to think about this now."
Shyness, if that really is his personality, is not necessarily an impediment to playing at Kentucky, but you do have to wonder, if that's so, how he will take to the 24-7-365 nature of Kentucky basketball? As John Calipari is so fond of saying, Kentucky is not for everybody.
I get the impression, though, that Bennett would have the right mindset to play here, shyness notwithstanding. He comes off as disinterested in the kind of self-promotion and bravado that so many players at the elite level seem to revel in. Bennett seems like he possess kind of team-first attitude that John Calipari values in high-skill players.
I confess, though, to wondering how his personality will fit in with the rest of UK's players. It's great not to have to come into a situation and be "the man," if you're really not comfortable in that role, and given his comment above, Kentucky would seem to fill that bill rather nicely compared to all the other programs on his list. If he is more content just being "one of the guys," at UK he can certainly be that from a team standpoint.
However, there is another burden to playing for Kentucky -- that of our rabid fan base. That does not fit in quite as well with a reticent personality that dislikes exposure. For good or ill, at Kentucky, you get exposed to a lot.
As self-aware as Bennett seems to be, he has to know that at his level of skill, he'll have to learn how to deal with the public sooner or later, and there is no better place to learn that than at Kentucky. No pro team in existence garners more passionate fan support, and if you can learn to be comfortable under the microscope of LexVegas, then you are very well prepared for the attention of the professional game.
In the end, we have no idea what factors will go into Bennett's decision. Typically, young guys make this decision more from the heart than the head, and that probably gives UNLV or Florida an edge, if that's true in Bennett's case. My thinking there is that Kentucky has a lot of moving parts that the other two really don't have. Las Vegas is familiar territory where Bennett, his family and friends have some roots. is different, but the way Billy Donovan runs his program seems to me to be a more reflexively comfortable environment with lower expectations and far less fan engagement, while still offering high-level basketball and a chance at a deep tournament run. I honestly don't see Oregon as an actual player for his services, and if Bennett goes there, I'll be shocked.
Kentucky is not for everybody. But when you leave this place, after one year or four, there are no surprises left. You know what to expect, you have played with and against the best, and you are ready. That's the head part.
So will Bennett use his heart, or his head? Stay tuned.