July 16, 2008

Horn makes feelings known in teleconference

South Carolina coach Darrin Horn is a Kentucky native and a Lexington Tates Creek High School graduate.

But there's a good chance his comments on the SEC coaches' teleconference on Wednesday alienated folks on the home front.

Asked to address the National Basketball Association of Coaches June 19 recommendation that its members not offer scholarships or accept commitments from students before the end of their sophomore year, he responded with a thinly veiled shot at Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie.

Gillispie isn't the first coach to take a commitment from an eighth-grader. But when California 15-year-old Michael Avery and his father said the Wildcats' head man had offered a scholarship after seeing the youth play once and that Avery had accepted May 1, it's fair to say it touched off a controversy. The NABC was careful to say it wasn't targeting Gillispie with its statement, making its timing a remarkable coincidence.

"If the intent (of the NABC) is you see a guy one time or hear about him and don't know him at all and you offer an eighth-grader halfway across the country, then I would agree with that," Horn said.

When the NABC first announced its position, Gillispie said he would abide by it. He said something along the same lines Wednesday, but then said he would abide only to a point.

"Just like I said before when it first came out, I said I'm a company man, but I'm not going to get beat up as far as competing," Gillispie said. "You always want to try to do what a coaches organization which I have a great deal of respect for asks you to do, but you're not going to be sitting by the wayside while other people are getting ahead of you as far as competition is concerned. Interpret that however you need to."

After the NABC's called-for moratorium, Florida's Billy Donovan accepted a commitment from Austin Rivers, the 15-year-old son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Austin Rivers is a rising sophomore at Winter Park (Fla.) High School. He averaged 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Wildcats' varsity in his first season.

Donovan claimed extenuating circumstances, and though NCAA rules prohibited him from addressing Rivers specifically, it was clear about whom he was talking Wednesday.

"If you have a relationship for a long period of time, I don't think there's anything wrong with it," Donovan said. "It comes down to the families making the decisions.

"If the NABC is putting something out about younger camps where seventh- and eighth-graders are and coaches are working at these camps and projecting down the road and offering scholarships, I understand that being a problem. We have not done stuff like that. Our situation is much more based upon what we feel is in the best interest of the young man and the University of Florida by way of a relationship. You can't compare some of the situations to that one."

Horn came to Donovan's defense.

"Florida's case is a unique circumstance," Horn said. "It's a great relationship built over time. He's been watched and evaluated. To me, that's a very careful, wise thing versus something very flippant and off the cuff."

Listening to the SEC coaches, it's a controversy that won't be resolved anytime soon despite the NABC's strongly worded recommendation.

"We have enough restrictions as it is," Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury said. "If the kid wants to commit and the college is committed to that young man, why not let him commit? I think what Billy (Gillispie) has done has been good. Probably a lot of people would like to have been able to have done the same thing. I don't see the problem.

"The university has 13 scholarships to operate under. We're held accountable to that. Let us use the 13 the way we want to use them."

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo took an opposing view, in agreement with the NABC.

"I think it's a good situation to wait," he said. "For me, it's very difficult to judge kids in the ninth and 10th grades. Some are very advanced and don't get any better, or they don't grow. Some get worse. And then academically you don't have any transcript information to go by to get them into school.

"I've never offered a kid in the ninth or 10th grade. I've always offered in their junior and senior year. There's just so many changes that can occur in that period athletically and academically."

Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings sounded bemused by the whole uproar.

"I guess I'm in favor of the position of the NABC, but I have to smile when I see guys out there getting after it like that and going that young to try and get their job done," Stallings said.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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