Whew. When I went to bed last night, smug and happy after writing a sarcastic piece mocking The Sweaty One (one of my favorite pastimes), little did I know that Ken was going to rise up and smite my perfectly irreverent commentary with a rather serious one expressing concerns over UK's possible involvement with Josh Selby, who recently decommitted from Tennessee.
Ken calls the timing of Selby's decommitment into question because of a reported conversation between Selby and William Wesley (aka "Worldwide Wes" or "Wes"), the highly secretive but also well-connected friend of many college coaches, including John Calipari. Naturally, the Tennessee media and blogs jumped on that story to connect the dots straight back to Coach Cal, and other purveyors of opinion such as The Big Lead posted more commentary connecting the supposed dots and bemoaning the filthiness of it all.
I think it's time to introduce a little reality into this wonderful fodder for speculation and hand-wringing by those UK fans (and other alleged college basketball "fans") so deeply concerned about this whole Calipari-Wesley connection. It is perfectly understandable for Kentucky fans, particularly ones who have suffered through NCAA sanctions, to see a return to ignomity hiding behind every rock, and whenever William Wesley is mentioned in a way that, however remotely, connects him to UK, some fans run for cover under platitudes of "Woe is us, we knew this would happen." Well, now for the reality. Read on ...
The reality is, UK has stated, according to Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, that John Calipari has not been in contact with Josh Selby since he committed to Tennessee. That is unsurprising, since it is generally the policy of basketball coaches not to recruit verbally committed athletes, unlike their, "all's fair in love and recruiting," football brethren. There is no reason for anyone to dispute this claim, unless they are predisposed to believe everything negative about Calipari and UK. Marc Maggard has also informed me by email that Selby had been thinking about decommitting for some time, and this is backed up by some commentary on his forums (free membership required). Marc also said that the style of offense Bruce Pearl runs had a lot to do with Selby's decision. I can't verify that independently, I can only say that it makes sense to me.
The second reality is in response to this from Ken's blog:
Honestly, what bothers me the most about [William Wesley] is; if his motives and actions are righteous, then why are he and his "friends" so secretive about their relationship? Why can't a reporter, or anyone for that matter, get a straight answer from Wesley and his cronies about exactly what it is he does, or the nature of his many high-powered relationships? Secrecy = hiding something, and that's never good.
The reality here is that this is a leap of logic that skips over several critical steps. In today's world, there are a lot of people who legitimately do not want the media crawling all over their lives -- God knows I wouldn't if I were in demand. William Wesley may well be one of them. We know from previous discussions that Wesley has not been found to be involved in any wrongdoing, and while that is not automatically vindicating, I believe that it is unreasonable to impute nefarious motives to Wesley just because he doesn't grant media interviews. Show me what he has done wrong, and I will revise this opinion. But a presumption of innocence, even if it is only a legal standard and not really applicable to public opinion, is deeply seated in the American way of life. I think denying that to Wesley is unfair and hypercritical.
So in the end, we are left with a scatter-plot of dots and a way too obvious, facile, connection. But in spite of that, the reality is that Selby is most likely to have decommitted from Tennessee purely for his own reasons, not because of any illegal recruiting or back-channel, gray-area elbow-rubbing. I think we should all recognize that as the high probability, and not consign Calipari and Wesley to the gutter so many others seem to be happy to toss them into without any credible evidence.
In the final analysis, seeing a snake under every rock just paralyzes you with fear. I think we should release that fear, and plunge boldly ahead without all the hand-wringing and worry-worting.