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Tuesday, November 6, 2007
A Classic Case of William Wesley


I used to blog about secretive basketball insider William Wesley nearly every day.

Any little tidbit of news, boom, it was on here, as part of my open source investigation.

Lately, though, I don't have much use for little scraps, here and there, of what the man does.

Oh, I'm as convinced as ever that he's a fascinating and extremely important part of basketball, professional sports, and more. I still want to figure out how best to explain the big picture of what the man does.

But it's no longer news to me that he's at this or that game etc. I'll spare you those kinds of details, you know? When there's something to talk about, we'll talk.

In the meantime, there are a lot of stories out there that make me think of William Wesley.

Here's the basic formula: any time I see mention of one of the players he is especially close to (the list is much longer, but certainly includes LeBron James, Richard Hamilton, Dajuan Wagner, Eddy Curry, DeSagana Diop, Allen Iverson, Tyreke Evans, and Derrick Rose) combined with a shoe company like Nike or Reebok; agent Leon Rose; someone who grew up in Camden, Cherry Hill, Chicago, or more recently Detroit or Cleveland; and/or the Memphis Tigers and John Calipari, then I tend to think "hmm."

Today there was kind of a trifecta: Derrick Rose -- who is from Chicago -- to go along with John Calipari, and Nike, all in one article. That, my friends, is a classic case of the kind of story that makes me say "hmm."

Oh, and if you kept reading, it mentioned William Wesley himself.

Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal talks about how Derrick Rose's brothers went to extraordinary lengths to keep all the recruiters, hustlers, street agents, and the like away from their brother Derrick. Wesley, however, was the the exception. Wesley has long been connected to Memphis, and roots for the team unabashedly. Calipari acknowledges, in Wolken's article, that Wesley had a role in telling the Roses about Memphis:

Because of the years Wesley spent in Chicago, he knew about Rose and ultimately became an advocate for Memphis in a recruiting battle that also included Illinois and Indiana. But Calipari said Wesley's influence in most matters -- and particularly in Rose's recruitment -- has been exaggerated to mythic proportions.

Because of Calipari's experience with Wagner and his running mate, Arthur Barclay, who was a success story for Memphis, he said it would only make sense for Wesley to recommend Memphis as a good place for Rose to play college basketball, especially if he wasn't going to play all four years.

"Derrick's not the one talking about being one-and-done," Calipari said. "But William Wesley could tell them, because of Dajuan Wagner, if I have a player who is ready to play in the NBA and has the opportunity to be a high draft pick, I'm going to tell them (to leave)."

That all makes sense, I mean, Memphis is a top program, on TV all the time. They needed a point guard. Their offense makes penetrating guards look good. They are ready to make Derrick Rose a huge star of college basketball. And Calipari did do the most difficult thing a college coach can do: let a player who could make your career waltz off to the NBA.

That explains why Derrick and his gatekeeper -- big brother Reggie Rose -- would put Memphis on the short list.

But let's back up for a second. Why would Reggie Rose let William Wesley into the rose family chamber of secrets, anyway?

Here's one guess about how Wesley got in good with the Rose family that didn't want to hear from anyone else in the recruiting game. Wesley probably didn't ask for anything. That's what everybody says his M.O. is. He's just a guy who knows Michael Jordan, LeBron James, half of the shoe industry, and everyone in college basketball, and he's willing to help people who have questions. So, no harm talking to that guy, right?

Wesley's harshest critics will imply that this is merely the latest instance in an age-old game of slick operators doing whatever it takes to get cozy with star athletes, only to profit from the association by directing the players to this or that shoe company, agent, or university in exchange for kickbacks, favors, the spotlight, or whatever. Wesley has also told people for some time that he makes money from arranging mortgages for his superstar associates.

Maybe one day we will have real evidence what line of work William Wesley is actually in.

People who believe Wesley's a runner must think Reggie Rose is crazy to have let Wesley into his inner circle. But consider this: people associated with Wesley have had a track record of not just one star player getting out of the grind, but several people around the player getting ahead, too.

For instance, a lot of NBA players have childhood friends hanging around, sharing in the players' wealth. (A la "Entourage".) But LeBron James is not just accompanied by his childhood friends. James is accompanied by his childhood friends who have worked for Nike, now run their own businesses, and/or work for the Cavaliers. That's another level of the game. That's an approach that can give more than just one person in the posse a future.

James and Rose both also followed in the footsteps of another Wesley confidant, Dajuan Wagner, in playing for AAU teams that were sponsored by Nike, but instead of being run by some coach selected by the shoe company was instead run by someone trusted by the star player. 

The trend is that it's not about buddies hanging around being useless as the stars struggle to deal with the challenges of a new high-profile life. Instead you have two or three people learning about running the business of a basketball star, running AAU teams, getting internships, learning the shoe business that will pay most of the early bills, and the like. 

If you're Reggie Rose, that's something you might want to learn about, and that's the kind of thing William Wesley can teach. (Que Gaskins, a veteran of marketing who knows Wesley and Allen Iverson well, told GQ's Alex French that Wesley is "a school without walls.")

Did Wesley give Reggie Rose some advice about how he can get ahead? Who knows. But, as Wolken writes, Rose has apparently already started getting ahead:

So Reggie Rose packed up his home and brought his family to Memphis, where he can continue to watch over his brother. He travels back to Chicago often because his work is based there.

"I've got an AAU foundation out of Chicago through Nike, and I'm a director, and I work with inner-city youth in Chicago," he said. "I'm employed by Nike through AAU basketball. Then I've got a nonprofit organization that helps out kids from the Englewood community."