Every kid chooses his school for many different reasons, or even one single reason -- playing time, nice peripherals, hot coeds or the chemical engineering program, whatever -- and for every one that got away, there's three you never saw coming. And then there's two more you hated when you saw them for the first time, but who you up naming the dog after.
For these reasons, I don't often lament "what if ..." when it comes to recruiting. I mean, what if Rashad Carruth wasn't a jackass (and he was a jackass)? You don't even want to go there, really.
But I'll admit that the kid who could have made this current team not only not the mess we've loved to hate for three months, but who could have changed the whole structure of the season is playing in Tarheel blue. Tyler Hansbrough, the 6'9" Mark Madsen clone who says nothing and simply wills his way to buckets, drives me insane. Because he should have been a Wildcat, and we all know why is isn't.
Hansbrough isn't a thoroughbred, not in the vernacular of pro scouts. He's an effort guy, your Eduardo Najera or Madsen or, if he can be, Karl Malone of the court. Everyone hates playing against that guy -- hell, Malone is my least favorite pro player of all time -- but you know he's the guy you cannont stop. And it drives you to new depths.
With Missouri as a late safety net, Poplar Bluff's own called the Carolina number before ours, and while fans may be split on exactly their theories why (mine is aliens, by the way), all know it had to do with playing time/exposure.
Tubby Smith's teams runs their best like a well-oiled machine. A machine with a dozen interchangeable parts, whose faces and exterior are immaterial to the goal -- and that, to many, is the poetry of basketball.
But it can be a tough sell. The kids who want that sort of structure often find once they're in it that the AAU chain of command is no longer valid. It's not even a chain anymore. And those who surrender to the truth, to Tubby's truth anyway, usually find that the system is only a well-oiled machine once the parts agree to work. All the oil in the world can't keep a suped-up Taurus from besting a broken Jaguar, you know.
I still believe that nearly every UK player has that moment, that transcendant team moment where it all comes together. We've seen Preston LeMaster's and Brandon Stockton's, and I still think that Ravi Moss' may lie in wait for that direst of dire tournament situation, but if they stay we will see Adam Williams' and Jared Carter's, too. Even if it against Bowling Green.
But we don't have this kid at that position. and while watching Hansbrough tear apart Duke at Cameron wasn't a look into the professional scout's dreamworld. It was, rather, a look at the Kentucky low-post nightmare for much of the year. One that would have been markedly different with some intensity, raw talent and thoroughly tapped will.
Perry Stevenson, the shot-blocking wunderkind coming in next fall for the Cats, will be a Godsend, I think. I targeted him early in the process and was glad when he committed. But he's a different player, with different strengths and weaknesses.
But this team missed (misses?) Hansbrough's sheer conojes, with Randolph Morris' possible excpetion. Plus, any kid who can rip out the heart of Duke's Senior Night has some major props with me.
And that's why this kid is bugs me.