William Wesley, Tyreke Evans, John Calipari, and Memphis
Last June, GQ's Alex French published an excellent article about William Wesley. French had been working on it for ages, and got a ton of interesting first-hand information.
At one point he got Memphis coach John Calipari to acknowledge on record that Wesley is "a goodwill ambassador" for the University of Memphis program, which is common knowledge in basketball circles.
And there are a lot of good reasons why young talented players would go to Memphis -- the team is excellent, and more than almost any other, guards on that team get to create scoring opportunities off the dribble, and what top-notch guard wouldn't enjoy that?
The recent suspicion is that if Wesley befriends a young blue chip prospect, that player (like Dajuan Wagner, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Derrick Rose) has a better than average shot at selecting Calipari's Memphis program.
Wesley is also close to plenty of players who go to other schools. But Memphis is the team he openly roots for, and the team Wesley reportedly inspired to build relations with China.
The relationship between Wesley and Calipari has been a hot topic in college basketball circles for some time. There are whispers about Wesley's tight relationships with NBA agents and sneaker companies. Even in the comments of TrueHoop, and among others in the recruiting game, various improprieties have long been imagined. But if the whisper campaign is fueled by anything more than jealousy, I have yet to see the evidence.
Anyway, whatever is happening is apparently happening again.
Several months ago, French witnessed Wesley bonding with the family of top Philadelphia-area high-schooler Tyreke Evans.
In addition to Rose, another of Wes's "nephews is showcasing his talents this afternoon: Tyreke Evans, Reggie Evans's brother. Scouting service Rivals.com ranks Evans among the best juniors in the country. It's easy to see why: Even when he's warming up, Tyreke has a stunning array of pull-up jumpers and fallaway jumpers and leaners and floaters. At one point, Tyreke stops to show Wes some love. By the fall, Tyreke will decide on a college, maybe UNC, U Conn, Louisville, Villanova, or Memphis.
Tyreke was 12 when Que Gaskins took notice of him at a basketball tournament. His coach hardly let him play, so Que and Allen Iverson started an AAU team called the Raiders. And Tyreke was the star. When his brother Reggie started believing the hype that Tyreke was NBA material, Que reached out to Wes: "They had so many people coming at them, and they were so green. They needed somebody who had the wisdom, a surrogate uncle who wouldn't have any vested interest in seeing Tyreke succeed or fail-would just do it out of love. Wes said to Que, "Send him to me. You know Uncle Wes got it.
"I like to call Wes a school without walls," Que says. He describes Wes connecting young players with their role models, guys like A.I. and LeBron. "They've already gone down that path. They've already made a lot of the mistakes that a kid like Tyreke is going to make. He gets the truth directly from their mouth. What kid wouldn't be motivated? What kid wouldn't want to work hard?
Tyreke dominates the second half of the game, finishing with thirty-three points and six assists. It's a good day for Wes's nephews, and there are better days to come. Chances are good that a year from now, after one season at Memphis, Derrick Rose will be an NBA lottery pick. And a year after that, Tyreke Evans will follow suit. For now, though, Tyreke stands at center court, gripping his MVP plaque, trying not to blink at the flashbulbs. Wes stands five feet out on the court in a circle of people. A few feet away, Reggie Evans stands on the Garden floor, too, with his hands in his pockets, taking in the moment. Wes drapes an arm over Reggie's shoulder and pulls him closer. I think I can read Wes's lips: "Come here. There's somebody I want you to meet."
That scene was several months ago. Today, in the Philadelphia Daily News, Joseph Santoliquito writes about Evans:
Be interesting to see where Evans lands.
He has visited Villanova, Seton Hall, Connecticut and Louisville, and has visits scheduled to Texas on Nov. 2 and Memphis in mid-November. Evans has said Villanova and Louisville are among his favorites, but Memphis is becoming a strong dark horse.
That's what could throw Evans' plans slightly off.
"I'm still looking to make my choice sometime in November," Evans said. "If I'm able to make it then, I will. But things are a little harder now. Villanova and Louisville are still high on my list. But I also liked Seton Hall a lot when I visited there. I like the school, and I like what they're doing there."
Evans, however, likes Memphis coach John Calipari.
"I like the way coach Calipari runs his offense," Evans said. "That's why Memphis is in the picture. I'm still looking hard at the same list I had before. But now Memphis is certainly in the picture. I like how the guards move in their offense. I also like how they get into the NCAA Tournament every year. I can see fitting into coach Calipari's system. They give their guards a chance to drive the ball."