Friday, April 23, 2010

Marquis Teague picks Kentucky

Rick Pitino desperately needed to win the battle for Marquis Teague's commitment. He didn't.

Instead, after years of Louisville recruiting, close ties to Pitino through his father Shawn, and a common assumption that Louisville would be his choice -- until John Calipari arrived at Kentucky and changed everything, that is -- the No. 4-ranked player in the 2011 class defied long-held consensus and selected the University of Kentucky as his collegiate basketball destination. The commonwealth's latest heated recruiting war is over, and Calipari is the victor. Again.

At his news conference (which immediately followed the NCAA's teleconference on its new rights deal; talk about overshadowing the kid's big moment) Teague gave unsurprising reasons for his choices. He told reporters he thought Kentucky was a good fit for him. He believes Calipari coaches guards well, an opinion his brother Jeff Teague, a former point guard at Wake Forest and a current NBA rookie, shared. He isn't worried about the NBA, Teague said, instead saying he wanted to win, get an education, and build a "dynasty." Alongside Michael Gilchrist, the No. 1 overall player in ESPNU's class of 2011, who has also committed to Kentucky, that dynasty is eminently plausible.

The on-court impact is simple: Teague and Gilchrist will headline another elite Kentucky team built around an insane Calipari recruiting class. Many observers will pick the Wildcats to win the 2011-2012 title before either player steps foot in Lexington. They'll be that good.

As fun as that will be to watch, the off-court intrigue might be the most interesting part of this story. For years, Teague was Rick Pitino's recruit. When John Calipari entered the equation, Teague wavered, and now Calipari has pulled off the sort of recruiting heist that will make Pitino's hair whiter than the suit he wears for home white-outs. Neither coach likes the other. Neither program, or their fan bases, get along very well. Pitino not only needed Teague to get the Cardinals back to the lofty levels they've enjoyed for much of Pitino's tenure, he needed Teague to prove that he is every bit the recruiting force and program-building monster that Calipari is.

That reputation took a major hit today. Rick Pitino is a legendary coach, and losing one recruit doesn't change that. But it does tilt the balance of power in the Commonwealth's intense basketball universe. Maybe for good.

Credits: Eamonn Brennan, ESPN

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