For some time now, followers of UK recruiting have seen a trend developing. Almost all of the players on the Kentucky short list have some connections to each other via the AAU season. The linchpin of this recruiting strategy has been, and will continue to be, Houston point guard Jai Lucas.
Lucas recently had his in-home visit with Tubby Smith and assistant coach Reggie Hanson, and by all accounts, it went quite well.
The 5'9" Lucas -- the son of former NBA coach and player John Lucas, and brother of former Oklahoma State standout John the third -- is a saavy kid, and has professed little outward surprise at the recruiting process. His main goal? To visit the campuses on his list and get the right 'feel' for where he fits.
Lucas is one of a slew of players scheduled to visit Midnight Madness, and his presence is a big plus in Kentucky's pursuit of Patrick Patterson, the 6'8" man-child from Huntington (WVa.). Jai and Patrick have openly discussed attending college together, and Patterson's rise up the recruiting rankings coincided nicely with his playing on the same Nike Camp team as Lucas, a playmaker extraordinaire.
All credit for the 411 on Lucas here goes to Matt Jones and his boys at the KSR, who have been doing yoeman's work in following Tubby's sometimes convoluted recruiting tactics.
The biggest surprise of KSR's interview with Lucas? The name-drop of heralded Arkansas swingman and Lucas AAU pal James Anderson, an uncomitted 6'5" stud.
Anderson, Lucas, Patterson, Florida 'three' A.J. Stewart and the Morris twins from Pennsylvania were all teammates at the prestigious NBA camp this summer. All of those names except Anderson are set to attend Midnight Madness on Oct. 13. Perhaps more than in any other season, Tubby and his crew have hedged their bets on the Madness practice as a chance to wow not only a few recruits, but their entire potential haul.
It looks like Smith's idea is to ride the already latent ties between a few standout players who also happen to fit into his system instead of trying to piece together a class of unrelated prospects. It's an interesting twist, and certainly plays into Tubby's strengths as a 'father figure' more than his weaknesses as a pitchman.
Stewart is said to be favoring UK heavily, and could be the first of that talented bunch to commit, as early as Madness itself. It certainly would not hurt to have him verbally agree to join the Cats next season on the same weekend as Patterson, Lucas and the others are present. There's something to be said for timing and for kids feeling part of something special. A class of top-100 kids who all know each other and want to succeed at the next level sounds perfect for Tubby.
However, Stewart, for all his interest in the Cats, may not be the first to verbally commit. Several internet sources (yes, we know, we know ... ) state that all that is keeping 7'0" British center Mike Williams from giving the go-ahead for 2007 are pending knee issues. Should Williams, who visited a few weeks back with fellow UK mystery man Ramon Harris (Alaska), get good news on his rebuilt knee, the former 300-pounder may be the sort of 'down the road' project Tubby Smith adores, and would be a nice compliment to a stellar 'help now' class of Patterson, Lucas, Stewart and the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff).
Jones and KSR also scoop that the twins -- one a swingman, one a power forward/center -- will be joining Lucas & Co. at Midnight Madness, and that both will attend the same school, which could come down to Kentucky and Memphis, according to various sources.
So a lot going on for the Cats behind the scenes, and a lot on the line. Anyone who follows recruiting regularly knows that sure things are never sure, so disregard any 'locks' you hear for now and try to work in the realm of fact ... a dicey proposition in college recruiting.
All we know right now is Jai Lucas is a key to the Tubby Plan, even if he isn't the lone reason a Patterson or Anderson decides what to do school-wise.