GAINESVILLE -- Patrick Patterson. John Wall. Eric Bledsoe. Brandon Knight: Anyone see a pattern here?
They were all elite recruits. They all considered going to Florida. They all chose Kentucky. OK, Wall probably didn't even consider UF, but you get the point. Kentucky has dominated Florida both on the recruiting trail and the court for the last three years. Bottom line: There is a perception that Kentucky has more to offer the game's best players.
Knight of Fort Lauderdale is the most recent super recruit to choose UK over UF. He announced his decision on Wednesday. This latest example of Kentucky's recruiting superiority especially hurts for UF fans because Knight is a homegrown player and two-time Gatorade national player of the year.
"On my trip to Kentucky, I couldn't believe the amount of support the players got from fans," Knight said on Wednesday. "People were shouting my name."
Florida has a respectable basketball following but it's nothing compared to Kentucky. In Kentucky, the fans are crazy about their basketball the way Florida fans are crazy about their football. Only, Kentucky basketball might have a bigger following. Let's not be naive here, though. Fan support is not why Knight chose Kentucky over Florida.
Here's an interesting quote from Knight's high school coach that might shed a little light on Knight's decision.
"I hope he is happy," Fort Lauderdale coach David Beckerman said on Wednesday. "I'm sure this decision that was made between him and his parents is one that will make him achieve the goals and objectives that he is looking to meet."
I hope he is happy. That's an interesting thing for a high school coach to say on the day his star basketball player committed to Kentucky. It implies, obviously, that Knight might not be happy. To fully understand the quote, you must fully understand the man who said it. Pine Crest's Beckerman is a man who coaches high school basketball for two reasons: One, he truly loves the game and, two, he wants to make a difference in young people's lives. It's what makes him happy. He does it for free and literally travels thousands of miles to do it. Beckerman founded Starter Sportswear. He's a semi-retired snowbird who lives half the year Guilford, Conn.
The sentiment among those who covered Knight for several years is that Wednesday's choice to play for Kentucky was made for reasons other than the Wildcats' rabid fan base. Exposure, creating the Brandon Knight brand, getting ready for the NBA, making money: Those are the reasons. Nothing wrong them, of course.
Here's another interesting quote from Beckerman, taken from the New Haven (Conn.) Register in December: "There's a lot of things involved [in Knight's recruitment]. Someone says, 'Do you want to be John Wall's replacement?' Another one says, 'Is Kemba Walker going to be back?' And this one says, 'What will the team you're going to play with be like? Are you going to be playing with enough good players to get you in the national spotlight at the Final Four?'"
We reported last summer that Knight wasn't coming to Florida. At the time, we reported that his handlers didn't want him following Kenny Boynton Jr. to Gainesville. To be frank, those in the know said that Knight's father didn't want his son having to share the spotlight with Boynton. Never mind that a Knight-Boynton backcourt combo would have been the quickest way for both players to reach the Final Four.
Knight will now be playing against Boynton, his old buddy from AAU, but Knight will be playing against more than that at Kentucky. He'll be playing against UK's memory of John Wall. Good luck.