Aug. 17, 2005
When you talk about Kentucky basketball these days, the biggest topic is still Randolph Morris' future. Remember, the big man declared for the NBA draft after his freshman year -- but went undrafted.
Everyone is wondering if he'll be back in the Big Blue uniform. Morris reportedly didn't sign with an agent, but there's still a question about that, so the NCAA must determine if he is eligible for reinstatement (a little-used option for early-entries who aren't drafted). If the NCAA rules that Morris had an oral or written agreement with an agent, his college career would be done.
But even if the NCAA allows him to return, he still could face a suspension, possibly as many as nine games. The NCAA must determine how Morris paid for his trips to the predraft workouts.
|Randolph Morris averaged almost a triple-double as a senior at Landmark Christian School in Georgia. As a freshman at Kentucky, his numbers weren't quite as impressive.|
Clearly, the young man made a mistake, and he has been maligned big-time. Morris did not listen to the right people and gave in to false visions of grandeur.
As a freshman, he averaged only 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Too many players believe they will go late in the first round and lock up that guaranteed first-round contract in the NBA.
Instead, Morris went through the first two rounds without hearing his name. Former Kentucky basketball star Rex Chapman, now widely respected for his NBA personnel role, wrote a critique of the Wildcats center, saying he should pull his name out because he would go undrafted.
Chapman was right on the money.
Hopefully, for Kentucky's sake and for the good of college basketball, Morris will be allowed to return ... stay tuned.
The Wildcats really could use Morris up-front because the schedule is not easy. Yes, there are a few cupcake opponents, and every team has those. But take a look at the tougher teams coach Tubby Smith will be facing, surf-and-turf games like Louisville, North Carolina, Indiana and Kansas -- plus a trip to the Guardians Classic where Texas, West Virginia and Iowa are likely to set up an incredible final four in that event.
Tubby will have his team ready for the SEC by preparing against that rugged nonleague schedule. He always has them prepared for league play and beyond.
The Kentucky backcourt will be among the best in the nation, with Rajon Rondo and Patrick Sparks teaming up. Rondo should improve his free-throw shooting while gaining confidence given his international experience this summer.
Sparks is capable of making big-time 3s. Plus, Joe Crawford should have a bigger impact as he steps in for Kelenna Azubuike, who entered the draft after his junior year and also went undrafted. (Azubuike signed with an agent.)
Whatever happens with Morris, watch out for Kentucky, baby! The Wildcats know how to win, and this team has potential. The program has the most passionate fans in the game, and Rupp Arena is one of the special venues in America.
For his sake, let's hope Morris has the opportunity to develop into the player that many anticipated.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.