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April 12, 2012 at 3:09 PM

The ugly side of big-time recruiting

Somebody once likened Signing Day to Christmas, which is an apt analogy for some college basketball coaches and fans when a five-star recruit chooses their school.
But there’s a seamy unberbelly to recruiting that gets lost amidst the pomp and circumstance of signing ceremonies and nationally televised announcements.
Consider these three Pac-12 stories.
Shabazz Muhammad, who is considered the No. 1 shooting guard and the second overall prospect by ESPN, chose UCLA over Kentucky and Duke. Some believe his ties to Adidas played a decisive role in his decision. The shoe company sponsors Muhammad’s AAU team and endorses his tennis-playing sister. UCLA is also an Adidas school. No one should be shocked when Muhammad signs with Adidas next year when he opts for the NBA draft after one season with the Bruins. And don’t feel bad for Nike and Kentucky because they win most of these recruiting battles. It’s interesting to note when Muhammad made his decision he wore a Nike sweat shirt.
Josh Hearlihy signed a binding letter of intent last November to play basketball at Utah. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Utes want to separate ties with the 6-7 forward presumably because he’s a medical risk. Hearlihy missed 14 games last season because of a non-surgical treatment for a condition related to growing too quickly. He returned for the final six games. Apparently Utah doesn’t believe he’ll be able to help them and asked him not to show up on campus.
“Given the situation at Utah, I’m concerned about putting myself in an environment where I’m not wanted,” Hearlihy said in a statement released by his high school. “It is still my dream to play college basketball and I will continue to work hard every day to make that dream a reality.”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak told a Salt Lake radio station Hearlihy is also expected to have knee surgery.
“It just was a big red flag when he had a hard time getting through his senior year,” Krystowiak said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “It’s a crossover between trying to do the right thing between in terms of the commitment and the signed scholarship and also trying to do the right thing for your program.”
The situation would be understandable if Hearlihy and Utah had some type of agreement before he signed that would allow either side to void the letter of intent. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Utah’s actions are even more disturbing when you consider six Utes have left the program since Krystkowiak was hired last year. It’s unknown whether he played a role in pushing them out the door or whether they left on their own volition.
The Utes are searching for some stability after 19 players have left the program in the past three years. That’s an astonishing number. Granted there’s been a coaching change during that period, but you’d be hard pressed to find that type of turnover at any other school.
In Hearlihy’s case it seems certain he wanted to be a Ute, but Utah didn’t want him.
— Arizona made news on Signing Day when it announced freshman point guard Josiah Turner is transferring and junior center Kyryl Natyazhko is turning pro.
Turner highlights the dangers of high expectations. A year ago, he was arguably the most celebrated recruit in the Pac-12. The 6-3, 195-pounder was a five-star prospect and rated the No. 2 point guard in the country. Many believed he would be a one-and-done player for the Wildcats. Turns out Turner did spend just one season at Arizona, but he failed to live up to the recruiting hype. He was suspended twice, yo-yoed in and out of the starting lineup and averaged 6.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
For the second straight year, Arizona parted ways with its starting point guard. Last year, Lamont ‘MoMo’ Jones transferred to Iona. Since coach Sean Miller took over two years ago, eight players have left the program.

— Washington received Mark McLaughlin’s letter of intent and the former Tacoma Community College star is officially a Husky. In a statement released by the school Coach Lorenzo Romar said: “Mark is somebody that we have known for a long time. We have always been impressed with his ability to score, but he is a complete offensive player. With what we lost this year and what we will lose next year, he will be a great addition to help offset those losses.”
— McLaughlin also spoke with KJR-AM radio today. The interview is below.
Bud Withers opines on Tony Wroten Jr., who is not enrolled in spring classes and spent about six month in classes at Washington, not including the summer bridge program.
— Withers also takes a look inside the Pac-12 officiating changes.
— Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen notes Washington has a recruiting advantage over Arizona because the Huskies are located in a basketball fertile area whereas the Wildcats are forced to recruit nationally.
— On its subscriber insider-site, ESPN asked its seven recruiting analysts where Anthony Bennett is going. Three picked Florida, two picked Kentucky while Oregon and UNLV received a vote. No one predicted the 6-8 Canadian forward would choose Washington.
Jabari Parker, a 2013 recruit who is considering UW, was named the 2011-12 Gatorade National Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year. He’s the fourth non-senior to in the award joining LeBron James, Greg Oden and Brandon Knight.
Shabazz Muhammad is arguably the most important UCLA recruit since Kevin Love. The Bruins landed Kyle Anderson, who is considered a top four prospect, and they’re hoping to sign Tony Parker. The 6-8 forward from Georgia has Duke and Kansas on his list, but UCLA hired his former AAU coach last year.
— The pressure is on UCLA coach Ben Howland. LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke writes: “The pressure will not be on the players, as Muhammad and Anderson will barely stick around long enough for us to learn their names. … All the heat will instead be on a coach who wants to stick around for a few more years. After a couple of lousy seasons with enough locker-room unrest that a national magazine wrote a story about it, Howland needs to prove again he not only can recruit touted players, but can also coach them.”
— Former Duquesne point guard T.J. McConnell, the Atlantic 10’s Rookie of the Year last season, is transferring to Arizona.
— Colorado added to its top 25 class when it signed Eli Stalzer, 6-3 point guard from Los Angeles.
USC signed Brendyn Taylor, a 6-2 point guard from Los Angeles. He joins a 2012 class that includes J.T. Terrell, a guard from Peninsula College in Washington, and Serbian forward Strahinja Gavrilovic.
Lazeric Jones and the Wear twins were the big winners last night at UCLA’s award banquet. Jones was a two-time honoree and was named the team’s MVP.
— In its 2011-12 season wrap-up release, the Pac-12 highlights the conference had a 17-8 postseason record, which is the most wins in league history. However, only one of those victories was in the NCAA tournament.
— Former Oregon coach Ernie Kent denies reports that he was offered the Colorado State job.
— In her first public comments since being fired last month, former Arizona State athletic directory Lisa Love said she understands why the school replaced her with Steve Patterson.
Major shakeup in the NCAA hierarchy. President Mark Emmert replaced vice president Greg Shaheen with Mark Lewis, who had been the president at Jet Set Sports, a hospitality and event company based in New Jersey. Shaheen was a pivotal figure when the NCAA secured a 14-year, $11 billion agreement with CBS and Turner Sports for the TV rights to the men’s basketball tournament.

Comments | Topics: Mark McLaughlin, top 25, UCLA


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