With Tubby Smith and Co. making the in-home rounds to all the known basketball recruits this week and next, it was a little surprising to see a new name pop onto the radar. It was doubly surprising to most recruiting followers to find out more about the new name as well.
What's 7-foot, British used to be 300+ pounds and likes to bang down low? No, it's not a supertall Victoria Beckham, it's Mike Williams, an emerging prospect from England by way of Northern Virginia. And he's coming to a UK campus near you (or really far from you, if you're somewhere far away from Lexington).
Most internet scuttlebutt is negative, figuring that Williams is another in a recent line of giant cheerleaders (See also Shagari, Alleyne and Woo, goofy). And he may be. However, I caution the skeptics to put aside all logic and think instead of a few other names: Nazr Mohammed, Oliver Miller, Bryant Reeves.
All of these guys came in with underwhelming reps and overwhelming appetites, and all proved to be NBA caliber talents hiding in underdeveloped bodies. Will Williams be as good as those guys? Probably not. But assuming he won't because you're an expert on surfing the web for Kentucky sports news is stupid.
A more apt, and more salient, comparison for fans might be Marquis Estill, whose transformation from schalrship afterthought to dangerous low post player is, to me, one of Tubby's great unsung success stories. Had Estill not decided to turn professional a year early, much might have been different in 2004. He was that good.
As for Williams, he is your quintessential late bloomer, and despite Tubby's recent whiffs on potential big man projects (see above), let's see how the recruitment plays out before we judge.
If Smith can reel in a class of talented players, then adding a project isn't a bad thing. You can't play everyone all the time, and size is a commodity. Should UK take Williams instead of JJ Hickson, Patrick Patterson et al? Of course not, and I don't think for a second that Tubby is looking at an either/or possibility. But teams are more than the sum of Rivals' recruiting rankings. They are a meshing of sizes, skills and personalities.
Plus, Wildcat Lodge could maybe use more of the Queen's english.