SSSSSooooo. Josh Harrellson decided to play a little cat and mouse game with us UK fans, and while we were all waiting quietly and away from our computers, he announces that he is going to be a Wildcat and faxes in his signed LOI.
What does this mean and why is it important? Well, everyone knows that UK has had difficulty recently, for whatever reason, recruiting quality big people. Yes, we got Patrick Patterson, but for several years prior to that and this year up until now, we have been unable to land anyone who could help out Patterson in the post. Today, we got one in Josh Harrellson. Harrellson is a big, thick-bodied player with developing but already serviceable skills in the post, and improving range. He has not been playing basketball for all that long, but his skill set fills a crucial need for Kentucky next season.
In a way, it is somewhat frightening to me to see Kentucky fans waiting with bated breath over a player who is only moderately ranked in the 2008 class. He is nowhere near the stud Majok is projected to be, nor Terrance Jennings, or virtually any of the other big men (outside of a couple who never got offers) that UK was recruiting. But on the other hand, the fact that his skills mesh so well with Kentucky's needs combined with the lateness of the hour in the 2008 recruiting class make this a rather huge commitment.
But before we could draw another collective breath, a genuine, 5-star stud from the 2010 class decided that he, too, would look mighty good in blue. His name is Dominique Ferguson, currently the 8th ranked player in the 2010 class, a 6'9", 210# program-changer out of Lawrence North in Indianapolis. Kentucky pried him away from the foul clutches of Traitor Rick, Thad Matta, Koach K, Billy Donovan, John Calipari, and Gillispie's nuveau riche mentor, Bill Self.
You may remember another couple of players out of Lawrence North that did pretty well, a certain Greg Oden and Mike Conley. You may also remember that one of Tubby Smith's biggest early recruits, John Stewart, went tho Lawrence North and tragically perished after collapsing in what was to be one of his last high school games. Ferguson will be Gillispie's third 5-star player recruited in 4 classes, and the 2009 class hardly counts because it is so small.
There can be no doubt that the fears and recriminations we have been reading (and perhaps, to some extent, feeling) have been misplaced and the seemingly long night is officially over for Kentucky basketball recruiting with this most recent news. Recall that in a recent post, I said that nobody is going to beat Gillispie for a recruit by out-working him. Seems like the the harder he works, the luckier he gets.
We still have questions about next year's team -- will Jasper transfer? Will we bring another guard, or stand pat with what we have? If Jasper stays, there is no real reason to recruit another guard. After having seen Liggins play in the Derby Classic, I am not concerned at all about our ability to get the ball up the court and get it in scoring position.
But I am not concerned in either case. Gillispie is showing me, every day, that he knows the shape he wants for next year's team given the constraints of scholarship and a very shallow talent pool. We got the best player available for the hole we had in our lineup, and that is all you can ask for. Convincing a genuine top talent to come at the same time is the kind of giddy bonus we all hoped we would get when Billy Gillispie was entrusted with the job of restoring the Big Blue Nation to the top of college basketball.
It hasn't left the station yet, but the Big Blue Train is gathering steam ...