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The Recruiting Elephant in the Room

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The air throughout the Ville smells like Cardinal Spirit.

Fans who had jumped ship are returning. Acolytes who never left are energized again like the halcyon days.

Here we are now, entertain us.

The focus is turning by any observation to recruiting generally, to one legacy, albeit a generation removed, specifically.

Like his father before him, one DJ Wagner, Camden HS Class of ‘23, is viewed by many as the Second Coming. (At least the Third, or Next. Westley Unseld was obviously First. Darrell Griffith, the Second.)

More reasonable minds understand, as great a baller as Milt’s grandson may be, he probably is not transformational for the U of L program. Other than, as any *****, Top 20 recruit would be for this once proud program to get back to where it once belonged.

We’re not talking a Danny Manning here. Unless he maybe happens to be a Carmelo Anthony.

* * * * *

So, I ask all who might be obsessed with this consideration to gather round, and allow me to once again tell the informational tale of one Winford Gladstone Boynes III.

We are talking mid 70s here. The Cardinals, under Denny Crum have made it to a couple of Final Fours already. The program is obviously on the rise. So, too its national prominence.

Recruiting obsessiveness is not yet part of fandom. I distinctly remember how I learned that Junior Bridgeman and Allen Murphy would be Cards. In a little two paragraph blurb on a back page of the C-J sports section.

Then there was my friend, Cardinal diehard and fellow hoopaholic Ernie Allen, who somehow kept up with all that stuff.

I ran into him on Jefferson Street outside what was then Citizens Fidelity Tower. Our conversation as always immediately started with U of L hoops.

“Winford Boynes,” he said, “we have to get Winford Boynes.”

The HS A-A was from Oklahoma City. He ended up playing for the San Francisco Dons, and becoming a 1st round draft pick of the NJ Nets.

University of Louisville basketball survived.

University of Louisville thrived.

Those who have been at this for awhile remember how in the aftermath of the Cards first title, one Vern Fleming was the gotta have, next great Cardinal guard. He seemed a lock to wear Red & Black.

Which he did. Except it was Georgia’s not U of L’s.

More recently, we recall the Fab Melo deal. The gotta have pivot was a lock to be a Cardinal. Until signing day, when he chose the Orange. U of L settled for Gorgui Dieng.

You’ve heard these stories from me before.

* * * * *

Which brings me to this bit of experience, strength and hope for the Cardinal faithful.

Take a deep breath.

Getting young Mr. Wagner to matriculate on the Belknap Campus would be boffo.

But it is far far far from absolutely necessary for the re-elevation of U of L hoops. There’s plenty of talent out there.

The future is bright. One hopes, shades shall be necessary.

* * * * *

I’ll conclude this little admonition with a conversation I had Monday evening, with a fellow who knows the ins and outs of NCAA regs in significantly more detail and nuance than I do.

Such that, a few years back, he considered giving up practicing law to enter the field of college athletic compliance.

We talked about the Milt/ DJ scenario.

According to this barrister, and I have no reason to doubt him for a nanosecond but I personally have no expertise, here’s how U of L can and cannot recruit DJ Wagner.

If Milt Wagner does not become part of the program in any capacity, the Cards can seek DJ Wagner’s services.

If Milt Wagner becomes an assistant coach, the Cards can seek the youngster’s services.

But, if Milt Wagner takes any other position with U of L — say, Director of Basketball Operations — his grandson would be out of bounds.

Again, this is second hand knowledge, but comes from someone who knows these things.

* * * * *

Again, deep breath.

Now’s the time to get the staff filled out, and fashion a squad for the ‘22-’23 campaign.

As for DJ Wagner, que sera que sera, whatever will be will be.

— c d kaplan