VAUGHT: Wondering about in-state recruiting

Is something wrong with Kentucky's in-state basketball recruiting? That's a question one has to ponder after three-in state players made verbal pledges to major out of state programs in the last week.

First, it was Scott County junior guard committing to Indiana. Second, it was South Laurel senior guard Ty Proffitt saying he would sign with Notre Dame next month. Third, it was University Heights junior forward Scotty Hopkins saying he would sign with Mississippi State. So did Kentucky make mistakes with these players? Did Kentucky not do enough to sign these players?

No and no. Or at least that is the way it appears.

Kentucky was the first school to offer Mackey a scholarship. The Wildcats had shown considerable interest and were surprised when Mackey made his decision without giving Kentucky a chance to change his mind.

Kentucky had also offered Hopson a scholarship. However, he did say last week that other schools had shown more interest in him than Kentucky had. But can you blame UK coach Tubby Smith for concentrating on Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas right now? Smith had to think he still had plenty of time to court Hopson before the 2007 signing date.

Proffitt and Hopson were both at UK's recent Big Blue Madness. Proffitt had been recruited, but knew his role likely would be as a walk-on player. He correctly made a quick decision to commit to Notre Dame when the Irish offered him a scholarship.

"This is a good opportunity and good fit for him," South Laurel coach Steve Wright said. "He didn't get quite the interest I thought he should have from a lot of other Division I schools. This kid is a unique player. He's so big for the position he plays, and he is a legitimate point guard.

"He's 6-4 1/2, strong, quick, handles the ball, shoots well and passes. He's actually a little bit of a freak with all those attributes. He's a better player than some people are giving credit for being. Notre Dame has a need for backcourt players and this is going to work out well for him and them."

In recruiting, those fits are what counts. Hopson felt a connection with Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury and liked the constant attention the Bulldogs gave him. Mackey made the same connection with new Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson.

Maybe Smith could have done more to recruit Hopson and Mackey sooner. But if in-state players who have scholarship offers from Kentucky are willing to commit to other schools this early, it tells me they were never that enamored with UK and odds are there's nothing Smith could have done in the next year to change that. But it also tells me UK may need to re-think its early recruiting philosophy and that's why having Shawn Finney on board to organize recruiting and other basketball-related matters should be a big help to UK's program in the future.

Smith said Wednesday at the SEC Media Days in Birmingham that a lot of the early commitments come because of the elite camps players want to attend, playing time and advice players receive from others.

"Someone else is advising a lot of these kids. They are not making these decisions before their junior year on their own," Smith said when asked about early recruiting. "Somebody is advising them on where to play."

But isn't it hard for anyone to predict how much playing time a player might get or where he might fit best when he has not even played a game in his junior season?

"That's why you see a lot of players renege on commitments," Smith sad. "There is more and more of that. I am not going to say it will happen with these (in-state) guys, but it does happen."

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