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Archive for Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Woodling: Villanueva visit value vindicated

May 13, 2003

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Over at Missouri, they're wringing their hands in anticipation. Up the road at Kansas State, they're drooling like vultures.

Many men's basketball fans at Kansas University's two geographic rivals believe the Jayhawks will be nailed with NCAA recruiting violations over the wooing of Charlie Villanueva, a wishy-washy 6-foot-9 high school whizbang who can't seem to decide between a bulging wallet and a bulky book bag.

Not that you would need to consult a professor of American history to know that bank accounts traditionally talk and book bags most often walk.

As you know, Villanueva made a two-day official visit to Mount Oread last week at the behest of new KU head coach Bill Self, who had wangled an oral commitment, nothing more, out of Villanueva while at Illinois.

As it turned out, the Thursday night tornado that wreaked havoc in southwest Lawrence was the most publicized visitor to Lawrence last week, but Villanueva was a close second.

The key word is publicized.

If KU publicized Villanueva's visit, then the Jayhawks committed an NCAA violation -- a situation KSU and MU Internet rumor mongers are chirping and slurping about.

Yeah, sure. Do they think Bill Self is stupid? Do they think Self doesn't know NCAA rules when a requisite for his employment is to know them inside and out, up and down?

Kansas didn't publicize squat about Villanueva's visit. Villanueva did. On his Web site. You can find anything you want to know about Villanueva at www.charlievillanueva.org. Well, not everything. I couldn't find anything about why Villanueva isn't considering Villanova. Thus disappeared one of the great headlines of all-time: "Villanova's Villanueva Vanquishes Vandy."

Another potential Kansas violation, say the blithering boobs of fiber-optic cable, is that KU officials organized a Villanueva tryout session -- a no-no that was copiously covered by the media.

Yet the truth is the so-called tryout session was merely a pick-up game with other KU players. Sure, the informal contest lured about 500 curious spectators and two hands full of TV cameras and KU beat writers, but neither Self nor a single member of his staff was lingering anywhere inside Allen Fieldhouse, much less checking whether Villanueva could go to his right, dribble with either hand or fly to the moon on gossamer wings.

No coaches, no violation. End of story.

To tell the truth, most of this flak is coming out of Missouri where, Mizzou fans must figure, if the Quin Snyder regime appears in some cases to be operating on the edge of recruiting decorum, then Kansas must be guilty of some rules bending, too, because Snyder is the Golden Boy and he wouldn't be doing anything anyone else isn't doing.

All is fair -- perhaps college athletics oldest old saw goes -- in love, war and recruiting.

In the case of Kansas and Villanueva, it appears KU did everything on the up-and-up. Why in the world would Kansas, or any school for that matter, commit a violation with TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet covering every move?

Moreover, Janelle Martin, the KU athletic department's compliance officer, has checked every nuance of the Villanueva recruitment and found no evidence of wrong-doing.

Through all of this, Villanueva has continued to feather his nest by keeping his name in the papers almost daily. Every publicist in the world knows the more his client's name is in the paper, the more important he or she will appear in the national consciousness. Villanueva hasn't achieved rock-star status, but he may have enhanced his draftability.

What kind of a basketball player is Charlie Villanueva? Right now everybody thinks he's the greatest thing since "X2: X-Men United", and he might be. I've seen a scouting report that touts Villanueva's athleticism and skill, but cautions that he plays soft at times and lacks intensity.

That sounds a little bit like a scouting report I would have written about the young Drew Gooden when he came to Kansas. As a college freshman, Gooden was talented, athletic and clueless. Three years later, Gooden was talented, athletic and clued-in. Now he's rich, too.

I imagine Villanueva will be rich someday, too, and probably sooner than later.

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