Say it aint so, Joe?

When Kentucky coach Tubby Smith spoke publically on the decision to grant Joe Crawford's release, you couldn't help but notice the large "thud" heard from the crowd of Wildcat faithful listening in.

The Detroit (Mich.) native was expected to be the next Jamal Mashburn - the face of the future of UK Basketball and the overall changing of the guard at UK - when he arrived on campus this summer. Almost as quickly as those dreams became a realization, they fell.

Today, they have made them fall even further.

Kentucky has granted an unconditional release to unhappy freshman guard Joe Crawford. However, UK stated today, they will not waive the Michigan native's national letter-of-intent at this time, instead hoping the conditions of the new rule make Crawford wait until after the season.

The new rule put into place by the NCAA this past year makes an incoming freshmen letter-of-intent agreement bound through the first year.

Suddenly, UK and Joe Crawford are at an awkward crossroad. Will Joe return to UK and play? Will UK even allow Joe back?

With an encore of tremendous freshmen heading to UK this past year, Crawford thought that his reputation and his fabulous play was worth more then it really was. He expected to start almost immediately because of what he did in the Michigan high school ranks and his McDonald's All-American status.

That's right; in a year where Kentucky brought in three Big Mac's, the former Renaissance High School star thought his buns were super sized almost from the on-set.

His play, though, dictated nothing more then that of a nugget. Through 12 games, Crawford is 6th on the team in minutes, playing more then senior guard Josh Carrier, ultra productive Ravi Moss and super freshmen co-pilot Ramel Bradley. Despite his lack of productivity, Coach Tubby Smith continued to play Crawford, possibly because he sensed the displeasure early on.

His friendship with Oregon freshmen Malik Hairston made the situation worse. After spurning the greater Midwest United States by picking Oregon for his collegiate destination and managing to put at least one school on probation, Crawford watched and listened as his former high school teammate started and starred for the Ducks almost immediately.

I've got news for you Joe - this aint Oregon.

The expectations at Kentucky far exceed those experienced by Hairston and the production the freshmen guard's given the 'Cats, has been a far cry from those Malik has put up at Oregon.

In 12 games, Hairston has averaged 12.7 points a game for the 10-2 Ducks. The 6-foot-7 swing man is ninth in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage. Joe Crawford isn't ninth on the Wildcats team in field goal percentage.

That's right. Despite the minutes, or in Crawford's estimation "lack there of," only trigger happy freshmen Bradley, Carrier and Bobby Perry shoot a worse percentage from the field this season and only Perry and Moss have a worse assist-turnover ratio.

Not to be outdone, he does hold the flag for the worst three point and free-throw shooter on the squad - numbers Hairston can't claim at Oregon.

If Crawford does deserve to play more, he certainly has not given much argument as to why. I sure hope whatever happens, be it this season or the next, Crawford learns to understand his role as a member of the team.


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