College basketball's July recruiting period represents the sleaziest string of days for a sport that seems to be growing more and more scandalous each calendar year. It isn't the time you expect to hear comments like the following one made yesterday by Rick Pitino:
"With only one or two spots, we have to focus in on what we’re doing and get the right guys. We can’t make any mistakes, so that’s why it’s so important. We’re looking at attitude almost as much as basketball this year, making sure the young man really wants to be a Louisville Cardinal."
It's a statement that's almost as disingenuous as it is refreshing - Pitino would welcome Shabazz Muhammad with open arms if the nation's No. 1 prospect signed his letter of intent wearing a Kentucky sweatshirt - but it's also a movement that Louisville fans can and should get behind.
Four months ago, before John Calipari ever described his recent propensity for getting players into the NBA as "The Kentucky Effect," we were talking about "The Preston Effect."
And that's why what he did, especially in his final season, is so important. Look at this quote from Knowles on the day before his Senior Night game against Providence:
"As long as we win, I couldn't care less; my average can go down to four points and zero rebounds. As long as we win, I don't care."
The man has established himself as a teaching tool for years to come.
Pitino will always be able to talk about the two-star recruit who encouraged teammates to put egos aside for the betterment of the team (one which featured zero NBA-ready talent), and the remarkable results that followed. Perhaps more importantly, the current underclassmen have a model by which to self-govern the blue chip talent and egos about to hit the program.
"The Preston Effect" is essentially the "Good Morning Miss Bliss" to the "Saved by the Bell" that is "Louisville First."
Louisville fans have been forced to deal Morehead State taunts ever since March 17, but the reality is that the game was a fluke; a string of bad breaks for a team that had the potential to beat any other in the tournament. Lest we forget that Kentucky - the program whose fans have been the dealers of the vast majority of these taunts - was one made Princeton shot away from being subjected to an equally disgraceful exit.
The point is this: the "playing for the name on the front of the jersey" mentality can work, even in major college basketball. No one for VCU or Butler was thinking about their NBA Draft stock when they laced it up in the first round last March.
Whether or not "Louisville First" is merely a contrivance to distance us from the basketball academy centered in Lexington, it's a philosophy and a message that Cardinal fans should support.