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Those Murky Recruiting Waters

Brahsome posted an interesting item about William Wesley today:

‘Wes’ is nothing more the a middle aged mortgage broker; however, many consider him the most powerful man in sports. They say he works for no one so he can work for everyone. He’s involved with basketball players: prep kids, college kids and pros. Not to mention agents, shoes companies, owners and management. He can be routinely found at games across the country sitting courtside or in a luxury box.

Wesley is one of the more mysterious figures in sports. No one is quite sure exactly what he does or how he benefits from the numerous connections he's made, but his power and influence can't be denied.

And that influence matters a lot. Consider the current recruiting landscape:

"If you don't have a mentor, uncle, friend, cousin or AAU coach of some kind working for you with an elite prospect, you are just wasting your time recruiting," one high-major assistant told me recently.

Wesley is the ultimate mentor/uncle/friend/whatever. He's known Memphis coach John Calipari for two decades, and since Cal returned to the college game in 2000, Wesley has helped steer highly regarded prospects like Dajuan Wagner, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Derrick Rose, and Tyreke Evans to the Tigers:

At one point [GQ's Alex French] got Memphis coach John Calipari to acknowledge on record that Wesley is "a goodwill ambassador" for the University of Memphis program, which is common knowledge in basketball circles.

And there are a lot of good reasons why young talented players would go to Memphis -- the team is excellent, and more than almost any other, guards on that team get to create scoring opportunities off the dribble, and what top-notch guard wouldn't enjoy that?

The recent suspicion is that if Wesley befriends a young blue chip prospect, that player (like Dajuan Wagner, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Derrick Rose) has a better than average shot at selecting Calipari's Memphis program.

Wesley is also close to plenty of players who go to other schools. But Memphis is the team he openly roots for, and the team Wesley reportedly inspired to build relations with China.

Unfortunately, as Brahsome pointed out, scuttlebutt has it that Wesley has gotten involved with John Wall and Lorenzo Brown--two elite prospects being courted by NC State and, naturally, Memphis. Which means we're likely screwed.

Somewhat related, here's an interesting tidbit regarding an assistant coaching vacancy at Memphis that I found while looking around the internets:

The other assistant position will likely be filled by a veteran recruiter. One name that could emerge is Oregon assistant Kenny Payne. A native of Laurel, Miss., Payne played on Louisville's 1986 NCAA championship team with Milt Wagner and has another common friend with Calipari in basketball powerbroker William Wesley.

Through that connection, Payne has brought several elite prospects to Oregon from Detroit, another metropolitan area Memphis covets.

And here's a fun read from Pat Forde on the Payne-Wesley-Oregon connection.