Why making UK observe a 'Kentucky Mr. Basketball quota' in recruiting could never work – Lexington Herald Leader (blog)


Some ideas are so bad, they just won’t die.

One of those is the hearty perennial that the University of Kentucky should somehow be obligated to offer a scholarship each season to the high school player chosen as the state of Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball.

These are frustrating times for UK men’s basketball backers. The Wildcats (17-8, 6-6 SEC) have lost three games in a row for the first time in the John Calipari coaching era. UK has a daunting schedule remaining, starting with Wednesday night’s visit to SEC-leading Auburn (22-3, 10-2).

This season of vexation for Cats fans comes in a year when UK boasts a roster that, for the first time since the university started awarding basketball scholarships, does not feature one recruited, in-state scholarship player.

That has sent some Wildcats fans to the social media and Internet message boards proposing that UK essentially be required to have an in-state presence on its basketball rosters by offering a scholarship each year to whoever wins Kentucky Mr. Basketball.

It is an idea that keeps coming up.

Dominique Hawkins Senior Day

Kentucky’s 2013 Mr. Basketball at Madison Central, Dominique Hawkins ended his University of Kentucky career last season as a key contributor on a team that reached the NCAA Tournament round of eight.

Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

In 2006, a Kentucky state representative proposed what she called “the Chris Lofton resolution” — named after Kentucky’s 2004 Mr. Basketball who became a college star at Tennessee after receiving no scholarship offers from UK or Louisville — that called on in-state schools to offer scholarships to “athletically and academically gifted students from Kentucky.”

While the impulse of wanting to see more Kentuckians play for Kentucky is understandable, a “Mr. Basketball quota” is an idea that could never work for many reasons.

1. It would potentially remove almost one-fourth of the UK roster from the discretionary control of the head coach.

If Kentucky were actually required to offer Mr. Basketball each year, conceivably four of the 13 men’s basketball scholarships UK is allowed each season would be awarded outside the discretion of the head coach.

Can you imagine any coach accepting that scenario?

2. It would make roster composition a nightmare.

The current UK head man has a preference for big guards. Since 2010, Kentucky Mr. Basketball has been claimed by backcourt players who stand 5-foot-10, 5-11, 6-foot, 6-2, 6-3 and 6-2 — with two undersized power forwards, 6-7 and 6-5, thrown in.

Saddling a coach who loves big guards with a roster filled by small ones would be a recipe for dysfunction.

3. It’s a hard truth, but in the 21st century Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball is rarely good enough to be a regular contributor at UK.

It’s easy to identify years when UK whiffed by not recruiting the best in-state player.

Back in the day, Tubby Smith should have offered Mason County’s Lofton a scholarship. I think the current Kentucky staff made a mistake not more ardently recruiting 2017 Mr. Basketball Taveion Hollingsworth of Paul Laurence Dunbar.

However, fact is when the Wildcats have signed Mr. Basketball in the 21st century, the return on the scholarship investment has been slight.

Of the five Kentucky Mr. Basketballs to play for UK in the 2000s, only one, ex-Mason County star Darius Miller (1,248 career points) scored more than 300 points in their Wildcats careers.

Brandon Stockton

Former Glasgow star Brandon Stockton, Kentucky’s 2002 Mr. Basketball, is one of five Mr. Basketballs to play for the University of Kentucky in the 21st century.

Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

None of this is to suggest that the “experience” of Kentucky Wildcats basketball is not better when there are homegrown players contributing to UK success.

It is.

Still, the next time you feel compelled to take to the Internet to argue that UK should be forced to implement a “Mr. Basketball quota,” do this first.

Google a list of Kentucky Mr. Basketball winners, scour the list, then ask yourself this:

Could a UK roster whose nucleus is homegrown Mr. Basketball winners succeed at the level that Kentucky Wildcats fans are accustomed to seeing?

Kentucky Mr. Basketballs at UK

The history at the University of Kentucky of men’s basketball players who won the Kentucky Mr. Basketball award as high school players:

Player

High school

Mr. Basketball year

UK career points

Dominique Hawkins

Madison Central

2013

293

Jon Hood

Madisonville

2009

46

Darius Miller

Mason Co.

2008

1,248

Brandon Stockton

Glasgow

2002

120

Josh Carrier

Bowling Green

2001

110

Richie Farmer

Clay Co.

1988

898

John Pelphrey

Paintsville

1987

1,257

Rex Chapman

Apollo

1986

1,073

Winston Bennett

Male

1983

1,399

Todd May

Virgie

1982

14

Dirk Minniefield

Lafayette

1979

1,069

Jack Givens

Bryan Station

1974

2,038

Jimmy Dan Conner

Anderson Co.

1971

1,009

Mike Casey

Shelby Co.

1966

1,535

Randy Embry

Owensboro

1961

393

Pat Doyle

North Marshall

1959

12

Billy Ray Lickert

Lafayette

1957

1,076


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