Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Don't Blame Shoe Wars For Rose's Snub Of Illinois

By Michael O'Brien, Staff Reporter
Chicago Sun-Times

College basketball recruiting is a lot like real life. More often than not, getting what you want depends on whom you know. Success is about relationships.

The soap-opera recruitment of Simeon star Derrick Rose is a perfect example.

Rose trimmed his list of schools to five Friday: DePaul, Indiana, Kansas, Memphis and UCLA.

Illinois fans immediately lit up message boards, outraged that all five schools were ''Adidas schools,'' meaning the schools' coaches have contracts with Adidas. Illinois' relationship is with Nike, leading Illini fans to believe it was a shoe-company conspiracy that kept their team from landing on Rose's list.

This might come as a surprise to Illini fans, but shoe companies don't mean anything. It's much more significant that all five coaches -- Jerry Wainwright, Kelvin Sampson, Bill Self, John Calipari and Ben Howland -- have close relationships with Reebok's Sonny Vaccaro.

''That's no secret,'' Vaccaro said. ''Those are all quality coaches at quality programs that I've known for many years.''

In the last year, Derrick's brother Reggie, who is handling his brother's recruitment, has developed a relationship with Vaccaro. It led to Derrick attending Vaccaro's ABCD Camp, sponsored by Reebok, instead of Nike's camp, where he was expected to play because his club basketball team is sponsored by Nike.

Rose has been startlingly independent when it comes to shoe companies. Simeon, his high school team, is sponsored by Nike. Meanstreets Express, his club team, is sponsored by Nike. The majority of club tournaments the team played in were Nike-sponsored. Rose attended the Reebok shoe camp and the Reebok Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. All five of his final schools are Adidas schools. Adidas owns Reebok.

That illustrates how Rose plays where and when he wants; he doesn't bow to shoe-company pressure.

He's good enough to get away with it.

Rose a true independent

''Rose has been more independent than any superstar player I've known,'' Vaccaro said. ''There is no AAU guy involved with his recruitment. That should be praised. I admire the Rose family as much as I've ever admired anyone.''

In the recent past, high-level Public League recruitments generally have been run by the high school coach or the club-team coach. Rose's is being run by his family, and the family doesn't have any shoe-company ties, which has led to that show of independence.

Rose didn't join up with an established club team; he started his own. Rose didn't go to the shoe-company camp he was expected to go to; he went to the one his friends were invited to attend.

It's obvious Vaccaro has become a significant influence on Rose's recruitment, which is only natural. No one in the Rose family has been through a game with stakes this high before.

''Illinois did not lose Derrick Rose because of any shoe-company politics or direct shoe-company war,'' said recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt, who runs Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye Report, a scouting service. ''The key is who is running the show and who is in charge of the recruiting process.''

Most local players with Division I hopes rely on a club coach with experience in recruiting. Larry Butler, Mac Irvin, Mike Weinstein, Mike Mullins, Tai Streets and Troy Johnson are the most prominent. All those men have shoe-company ties. A number of them have flipped around among shoe companies.

''What you try to do for the families is be more of a listening board for them,'' Butler said. ''I try to explain to them what the real deal is and what's not real, the things to expect in certain situations.''

Butler is a club basketball coach sponsored by Nike, but he has relationships with plenty of non-Nike coaches, including Wainwright, Self and Sampson. Butler's marquee player with the Illinois Warriors this summer, Crane forward Brandon McGee, committed to Sampson and Indiana, an Adidas school. Stories like that are the norm, not the exception.

''Antoine Walker grew up with Mac [Irvin] and Adidas,'' Butler said. ''But he ended up going to Kentucky, a Nike school. When kids from my program start looking at schools, they don't say, 'Man, I'm going to a Nike school.'''

Illini not playing 'the game'

Rose, already with an eye on the NBA, immediately has jumped to the big time and is getting advice from Vaccaro.

But it's not the shoe company the mentor works for; it's the relationships he has made through the years.

''The bottom line is, it is all about people and the relationships,'' Wainwright said. ''There's a trust factor, and people get to know you. Everything that is responsible about recruiting is because of the people involved.''

Just making Rose's list is a major victory for DePaul.

''DePaul should be commended for the fact that they have utilized the relationships that they have with the key players involved,'' Schmidt said. ''Even if they don't get Rose, it is going to help them down the road.''

The list of five-star in-state recruits Illinois has missed out on is growing: Shaun Livingston (2004, Duke); Julian Wright (2005, Kansas); Jon Scheyer (2006, Duke); Sherron Collins (2006, Kansas); and now Rose.

Weber and Illinois simply aren't playing ''the game'' the way their rivals are. They aren't building relationships with the club coaches the way Calipari and Self have. That's why Illinois isn't on Rose's list. It has nothing to do with shoe companies.



At Aug 30, 2006, 6:47:00 AM, Blogger JR said...

It's hard to say that shoe companies don't have an impact when they're hiring a kid's family member to work for them. I agree that most kids may still end up choosing a college on their own criteria, but there are lights flashing that shouldn't be ignored.

At Aug 30, 2006, 9:39:00 AM, Blogger BBR said...


One would have to be pretty naive to believe shoe companies have no influence on the kids. The influence could be as direct as a job for a family member, or as indirect as a friendship or mentorship. But this is how the rules are currently set-up at this point, unless some entity steps in to change it as some have recently suggested.


At Aug 30, 2006, 2:01:00 PM, Blogger Seitz said...

This was probably the dumbest column I've ever read. To wit:

This might come as a surprise to Illini fans, but shoe companies don't mean anything. It's much more significant that all five coaches -- Jerry Wainwright, Kelvin Sampson, Bill Self, John Calipari and Ben Howland -- have close relationships with Reebok's Sonny Vaccaro.

So shoe companies are unimportant, and the proof of that statement is in the relationships that top coaches have with a representative from a shoe company.

As much as I dislike Rick Morrissey, his article in the Trib was much better (reg. required).

The fact is, this is all about Adidas. They couldn't even list a non-Adidas school in the top 5 to makes the scent (although he has unofficials to Marquette, which I believe is Nike, and ND, another Adidas school). Roy Williams read the tea leaves and got out of the hunt a long time ago. As much as I'd love to see his talent at UCLA, it's a smokescreen. UCLA is in the race to keep the national press interested, and DePaul is in the race to keep the Chicago press interested. Reggie Rose decided his brother was going to Memphis a long time ago.

But if Rose ends up at IU, and Gordon de-commits from Illinois and follows him, Illinois may as well cut basketball. There won't be any fans left after the mass suicide.

At Aug 30, 2006, 2:36:00 PM, Blogger BBR said...

It didn't come out in his post, but here is the link to the ChiTrib Seitz references:

Chicaogo Tribune


At Aug 30, 2006, 4:50:00 PM, Blogger Seitz said...

Thanks. Not sure how that got messed up.

Also "makes the scent" should be "mask the scent".


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