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In-State "Must Gets"

Obviously, I peruse a lot of message boards and blogs, and one thing I see over and over again are peans to in-state players and determinations that some of them are "must gets" for UK.

My opinion is simple -- there is absolutely no such thing as a "must get" player, in Kentucky or elsewhere.  Back when Scotty Hopson and Darius Miller began rising up the charts, these two worthies were identified by many on message boards and blogs as players UK could not afford to lose, either to another in-state school or an out-of-state one.  Well, Hopson verballed back in the winter to Mississippi State (who has a coach, Rick Stansbury, with deep Kentucky roots), and now Darius Miller has become the standard-bearer of the "Must Get" label.

It would be great if we could get more quality in-state talent, but quite frankly, the talent level coming out of the state of Kentucky has been either way below what is available elsewhere, or Kentucky has sunk so low under the national recruiting radar that nobody is aware of how good our players are, as evidenced by Commonwealth players who burst unexpectedly onto the college basketball consciousness (i.e. Chris Lofton).

A lot of this is due to the rural nature of Kentucky, and the fact that our talent tends to get hidden from the national recruiting scene by playing for small, rural schools with little or no tie-in to the AAU circuit.  I am coming to believe that one of the reasons so much of Kentucky's talent goes unrecognized is because it gets overwhelmed by the news of players in large media markets.

When Billy Gillispie came on board with UK, he said this about the kind of players he wants to recruit:

The kinds of guys you want to look for are the tallest, fastest, best shooting, and quickest guys you can find, that is what we are going to look for.

Well.  If we find taller, quicker, faster players outside the state than what we have here, why wouldn't we recruit them first?  I can recall numerous proposals in the state legislature designed to legislate a minimum in-state presence for UK basketeball.  I would like to note (thankfully), that none of them have been signed into law.

I love our Commonwealth, and I love our high school players.  But my opinion is, there should be no "affirmative action" for Kentucky kids.  If they are competitive with the best that we are recruiting at a particular position, by all means we should try to get them first, if they want to be here.  But if they aren't or they don't, who could blame Gillispie for going after a more talented player, or one who wants to play for Kentucky, even if it means going elsewhere to get him?  I didn't hear a lot of complaints when Gillispie signed Alex Legion over Steffphon Pettigrew.

Eric Crawford of the Courier-Journal had a piece on just this issue a few days back.  In it, he opined:

You can't build the program on in-state players alone, but we've seen too often how they can overachieve for the home teams: John Pelphrey, Richie Farmer & Co.; O'Bannon; Scott Padgett; Anthony Epps.

Crawford is right that in-state players have shown a greater propensity to overachieve at UK.  In fact, I think it can be argued that our Commonwealth's players are substantially underrated by the mainstream recruiting services such as Scout and Rivals.  Players like the ones Crawford mentioned above playing for Kentucky, as well as Kentucky players playing elsewhere such as Chris Lofton (Tennessee) and Ross Neltner (Vanderbilt) have proven their evaluations out of high school to be rather lower than their play would suggest, and they aren't even motivated by having "UK" on their chest.

Bottom line - if we can get players from Kentucky that are similar in skill and size to what we are recruiting elsewhere for a given position, we should offer them scholarships if they want to be here.  But if they don't, or they are less skilled, we shouldn't.