GIDEL: James and UK not a match

It seemed from the beginning, Kentucky was on the fast-track for Damian James out of Nacogdoches (Tx) High School.

James, a 6-foot-8, 225 pounder that averaged close to 25 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and five blocks his senior season, was seen as the perfect late season addition for Tubby Smith's basketball program after he was officially released from his letter of intent with Oklahoma last Tuesday.

The Nacogdoches (Tx.) High School star who picked the Sooners over Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M a year ago, was looking for playing time and even moreso, a better situation that what the Sooners had offered with new coach John Capel.

Kentucky, who announced the transfer of junior power forward Rekalin Sims earlier in the week, had been on the recruiting front trying diligently to land one of the super power forwards in 2007, when James became available.

To no one's surprise the rumors ran rampant, and deservedly so.

Kentucky was a player from James in the early part of his recruitment, but did not offer because of academic reasons last summer. The staff was on better forwards at the time - Brandan Wright and Deon Thompson to name a few - and recruited James as merely a backup plan.

The 2006 star forward, however, had always been enamored with Tubby Smith, and considered him in the same father-figure light that propelled him to pull the trigger and sign with former OU coach Kelvin Sampson.

Easy fit, right?

But there is more than meets the eye. James' academic troubles might hold him back from enrolling at UK in the summer, if at all, and therefore there has been a hold-up in the process.

"He just got out of his letter of intent," Nacogdoches (Tx.) HS coach Mark Richardson told "We have to move fast ... some programs are moving faster than others in this process and we have to take that into account. He has only two weeks."

The spring signing period ends May 17th.

Regardless, it is clear that the James camp didn't get the push from the Wildcats coaching staff that so many had thought was emminent. Why?

Perhaps it was James' affinity with the small forward position, a place he considered, his best fit for his style of play.

Or perhaps, knowing that the Wildcats sit in very good position for 2007 power forwards Gary Johnson and Patrick Patterson, the idea of actively pursueing someone they weren't necessarily crazy about in the first place a year ago, might have played a part in Tubby's mindset.

In the end, it goes back to the old adage of dancing with the girl that brung' 'ya. Tubby and his staff have danced with Gary Johnson and Patrick Patterson for nearly two years now and even pursuing another player of their calibar might have forced the staff to answer some hard questions with both. Questions schools like Arizona, who has decided to actively recruit James, will have to answer with Johnson.

Is two years of hard work worth a last-minute risk?

Certainly the Kentucky staff doesn't believe so. Now, the question remains, will Gary Johnson and Patrick Patterson be listening?

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