If you run into Billy Gillispie anytme soon make sure you have plenty of Aloe, because he's hotter than ol' George's two-dollar pistol. Wildfires are jealous.
With the announcements of the signing of JUCO center 6'9" Josh Harrellson, and the verbal committment of 2010 Top 10 player, 6'9" forward Dominique Ferguson, Gillispie has officially sold me on his reported legendary recruiting prowess. His willingness to work the recruiting trail with the diligence of a lion stalking a limping gazelle is quite impressive. This guy just doesn't preach hard work and determination to his team, he puts into practice his sermons at every opportunity.
In actuality, Gillispie's double-dip was a double-dip PLUS a half-dip with the the pronouncement from Madisonville North-Hopkins junior Jon Hood that UK leads for his services. Keep in mind that the usual suspects are all after the super-athletic 6'6" guard, but he intends to announce before the end of the summer. The seamhead in me calls that a 7th inning lead for the 'Cats. Closing out the deal is always difficult with the heavy hitters coming up, but Gillispie's smoke has been blowing them away.
Since Gillispie's hiring on April 6, 2007 he has put together a list of recruits that has no rival throughout the country. The following have either orally committed, or signed LOI's with UK since April 2007 (Alex Legion not included):
Patrick Patterson- '07
DeAndre Liggins- '08
Darius Miller- '08
Josh Harrellson- '08 (3 years of eligibility)
Kevin Galloway- '08 (2 years of eligibility)
GJ Vilarino- '09
Dakotah Euton- '10
KC Ross-Miller- '10
Dominique Ferguson- '10
By my inconsiderable math skills I concluded; that is 9 players in a little over 12 months ... he's bringin' the heat. He's announcing his presence with authority.
Of course none of these players have played one minute for UK (except that guy Patterson), but optimism is certainly justified, and may be a pre-requisite for gaining entrance into Rupp Arena next season. Outside of a strong showing in the SEC this past year, UK fans have not had much use for optimism over the last few years. That's a changin' though. Considering the above list is full of top-tier talent, I think it is safe to write that the future is looking Elle McPherson good (for the non-super model fans, that's pretty darn good).
Even more exciting is the fact that Gillispie and his crew of hard hats are probably not finished with the '08 class. Paul McCoy signing with UK is still a distinct possibility. The Oregon point guard is deciding between UK and Virginia (with the signing of Harrellson, I don't see an offer forthcoming for Maurice Sutton). Considering the future home of Derrick Jasper is still being determined, and Liggins is awaiting his all-important test score, the inking of McCoy may prove to be just as important as the Harrellson signing.
On to the new guys:
Josh Harrellson: to me this young man seems like the personification of Gillispie as a player. He comes from an "underdog" background as Gillispie did. He has clawed his way to the top of the basketball universe through hard work and diligence. And he has accomplished this great feat in a very short period of time (Harrellson has only played organized basketball for 5 years). Consider this quote Harrellson gave Jody Demling: "I have improved a lot and I just kept going on to the gym and practicing." And this, " Coach (Billy Gillispie) plans on me to come in and start. If I don't start, it'll be my fault." Hard work, perseverence, accountability; traits our coach possesses, and from all evidence the type of player he wants to go into battle with.
Dominique Ferguson verballing to UK comes as a surprise to me, but evidently not UK's staff. The 6'9" 200 lb. forward out of acclaimed North Lawrence High School attended one of the elite summer camps at UK last year. The University made quite an impression based on what he told Jody Demling: "I loved everything about the whole school." He loved it so much that he returned to Lexington for his spring break just a short time ago and had this to say, " When I went on the visit I just really liked what I saw and I had a great time. I wanted to play in front of 24,000 fans every night. I knew when I was there that I wanted to play for Kentucky." Don't you just love 'em?
Ferguson, who is only a sophomore, is rated very high in his class (8th by Scout), and based on what others have written his upside is unlimited. I think I can safely forecast many new 'Cat fan "hits" on the Indianapolis Star web-site over the next two years.
So big-time congratulations all around. I'm happy for Gillispie and his staff, and I'm happy for UK fans everywhere. We've been waiting on this type of day for quite some time. Enjoy responsibly.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!