Monday, June 8, 2009

Will Barton commits to Memphis, Gary Williams loses another local stud

Since taking over the Memphis program in April, Josh Pastner has not had the easiest go of it.

First, John Calipari gutted the Tigers 2009 incoming class. Then, top 20 recruit Latavious Williams, who Pastner got to commit to Memphis, said he may be reconsidering his decision. To top it off, Shawn Taggart, who would have been the Tigers top returning scorer and a focal point of this season's offensive attack, decided not to return to Memphis for his senior season.

And need I mention this little SAT scandal?

Well, things may be turning around for Pastner as he got a commitment from consensus top 10 recruit Will Barton, a 6'6" wing from Baltimore and the top ranked shooting guard in the class of 2010.

Lake Clifton's Will Barton has committed to Memphis.
(photo credit: Baltimore Sun)

Pastner also got a commitment from Will's brother Antonio, another guard in the class of 2010.

While many assumed that it was a foregone conclusion that Will would sign with John Calipari at Kentucky, it seems that Pastner's interest in both Barton's was a deciding factor in their decision (Antonio is a three-star recruit). Barton, who commited during a visit to Memphis for the Tigers Elite camp, was scheduled to visit Kentucky next weekend, but the Wildcats staff had yet to offer a scholarship to Antonio.

There is more to this story, however, as Gary Williams lost another top-tier recruit from his own backyard. College Park, Maryland, is all of 20 minutes from Baltimore, where the Barton's hail from.

One of the more rampant internet rumors last season was that Gary Williams was on the hot seat at Maryland. He has had a string of seasons where the Terps performed below expectations for a team that reached two Final Fours and won a national title this decade. That, and a public tiff he had with his athletics department, seemed to signify that the end was near for Williams.

Williams cooled that talk momentarily as the Terps finished the year strong, making a push at the end of the season (which included a win over UNC) and eventually reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But with Greivis Vazquez possibly staying in the NBA Draft and the odds of Williams landing Lance Stephenson (Maryland is on the short list of schools he is still looking at) looking slim, losing a recruit like Will Barton (who, like Stephenson, had Maryland on his list of possible destinations) is just another strike against the fiery coach.

The DC Metro area is a hot bed of college basketball talent. Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, and Sam Young (and many, many others) all are originally from the area.

But Williams has been unable to land any of the top tier players from the region of late. While guys like Adrian Bowie (Greenbelt), Dino Gregory (Baltimore), and Sean Mosley (Baltimore) are all talented players capable of competing in the ACC, they are a far cry from being a national player of the year favorite (as Melo, Durant, and Beasley all were).

There is no question that Williams is a fantastic coach; you don't win a national title if you aren't. But great coaching only gets you so far in this day and age. The teams with the most talent, and thus the best recruiting, are the ones that put banners in the rafters.

Simply put, great coaching will win you a game (like Maryland knocking off UNC or Michigan State this past season). Solid coaching with an uber-talented roster will win titles.

Whatever the reason (some have speculated that it is the loss of assistant coaches like Billy Hahn), Gary Williams had been unable to land the star prospects in southern Maryland, and it could end up being his downfall.

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