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I enjoyed speaking for two hours with Beasley, whose life story is fascinating in many ways, but one particularly intriguing aspect is how the Washington D.C.-area native ended up at Kansas State, considering Beasley told me that when he first considered becoming a Wildcat: "I couldn't find Kansas on a map."
It's not that complicated, really. Beasley is the clearest high-profile example in years of a so-called package deal, in which a team hires a new staff member who takes advantage of a pre-existing relationship to help land a top recruit. It all comes back to Beasley's close ties since age 13 with
"My first question for Dalonte was, 'What is Kansas State?'" says Beasley. "I couldn't find Kansas on a map. I didn't know it was a big-time school. But then my trust kicked in. Loyalty means everything to me." When Hill was promoted to associate head coach at Kansas State in the wake of Huggins's departure for West Virginia last spring, Beasley kept his commitment to join the Wildcats.
Beasley's case is hardly the only instance of a package deal in college basketball these days. At least 10 current teams around the nation have gone the extra mile by hiring close associates of hotly contested recruits, including elite freshmen like Indiana's
Do package deals violate NCAA rules? Not unless employment is expressly conditional on a player's enrollment. (And what kind of coach would be stupid enough to spell it out like that?) But whether package deals are
"I would never consider doing it," North Carolina coach
Other coaches argue that in the cutthroat world of recruiting, you'd be a sucker not to use every legal means possible, since one of your rivals always will. "If there were no rules violated, then what's the problem?" says Memphis coach
He's certainly right about that. Former LSU coach
Twenty years later, just a few miles down the road in Manhattan, Dalonte Hill says he has no plans to depart K-State the moment Beasley leaves. Perhaps, perhaps not. But it's worth noting that package hires sometimes remain in a program longer than most pundits expect. Of the resolved package-deal examples compiled by SI.com over the past 10 years, about half of the hires were gone within one year of the players' departures. (A prime example was
But the other half was still with the same program at least five seasons after the package player was gone. That group happens to include Memphis's
Indeed, when it comes to package deals it may be wise not to make too many assumptions. In 2003, then-Tennessee coach
The rest is college basketball history: by 2005 Peterson (and Benson) had been fired in Knoxville, and Brewer was on his way to playing a starring role in back-to-back national titles for the Gators.
So-called package deals are taking place around the country as the high school and AAU coaches of recruits (as well as some relatives) are being hired by programs that may be seeking an extra edge in the recruiting process.
We were on vacation last week, so there's not a lot of topical questions in the 'Bag; make sure to send some in and I'll get to them next week.
In our "reader nomination" department, several of you responded to our call for players in recent years who've started as walk-ons for Top 25-quality teams. By far the most popular nomination was
But there were a few other nominations as well, to wit:
This week's question: Can readers name any more examples of package deals for top recruits, either player who are currently playing or those who've already committed to a school for next season or the year after?
Good question: I think the pendulum may in fact be swinging away from the teachers. One reason is probably the NBA age-minimum rule, which has brought several one-and-done players (read: firepower) to the highest levels of college basketball. This is also an area where
That said, I don't think teaching has completely disappeared in the game. Look at Georgetown's
As for our next question,
The reason more coaches forgo "junk" defenses is that the perception among the elite programs is the only teams with lesser talent and lesser coaches play anything but man-to-man. I even heard a commentator on a radio broadcast say that playing zone is admitting that your team is not good enough to go man to man. I disagree. A good diamond-and-one or triangle-and-two can really throw off a team's offensive rhythm. Especially if that team is overly dependent on one player to do the majority of the scoring or ball-handling.
We don't know if West Virginia's
"I didn't really know anything about the triangle-and-two, but Tim Floyd really helped us out a bunch," Huggins told reporters.
For any of you eagle-eyed readers, please let the 'Bag know if you see any other examples of "junk" defenses in the college ranks, and we'll mention them in a future column.
Sometimes you just have to tell a good story that comes your way. This week's comes from
Anyway, I'll let Beasley's mom tell her story, which confirms that Mayo was indeed speaking the truth when he memorably told coach Tim Floyd that he'd help with the recruiting at USC:
"I got a famous call from O.J. last year. He called me two days before signing day on my cellphone asking for Michael. I'm puzzled, because Michael's away in school. Who's calling Michael on my cellphone? He says, 'May I speak to Michael?' I say, 'He's not here. Who's calling?'"
"He says his name is like O'Jambolin or something. [Mayo's real name is Ovington J'Anthony]. He didn't say O.J. Mayo. I say, 'Who?' He says, 'O.J., O.J. Mayo.' I say, 'Hi, how you doin'? Are you goin' to Kansas State?' He says, 'No, Ms. Beasley,' which drives me nuts. My name is Smith!
"He says, 'Ms. Beasley, I'm just calling to see if we can get Michael to come out to USC.' I say, 'Oh, no, sugar, no, sweetie pie, you need to come to Kansas State.' He's like, 'Ms. Beasley, we'll look out for Michael. I'll keep an eye out for him myself.'
"I say, 'O.J., you need someone to look out for you! Why don't you just come to Kansas State? It'll be a great team.' He says, 'We'll have a great team too.' I say, 'O.J., if you were having a great team you wouldn't be calling me at the 11th hour. Call Huggs. I'm sure he'll take you.' So I called Huggs and said, 'Hey, I just offered O.J. a scholarship. You got one? Dalonte [Hill], you got a scholarship?' They said, 'No, you're the one who offered him a scholarship!
"But I like O.J. He's very marketable. He has a great smile, and he's so charismatic. He's a face for
Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Beasley's mom.
Send your questions in, and we'll get to them next week, along with our top movies of 2007 and (drumroll please) the world-renowned Your Company Name Here Magic Eight, our annual listing of the eight teams from which we guarantee the national champion will emerge.
Have a great week.