College Basketball Analysis: Rick Pitino, Ryan Taylor and Louisville

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With the news that former 2011 UofL commit Ryan Taylor will be taking a look at Kansas and IU, some Cardinal fans are voicing their displeasure about Rick Pitino’s handling of the Taylor situation.

In a nutshell, Taylor, a 6-6 wing originally from Indianapolis, committed to Louisville quite some time ago and eventually moved here to play his senior season at Western high school where he put up very strong numbers. However, due to Taylor’s questionable academic standing, he has not been part of Louisville’s recruiting plan for awhile. Taylor took the ACT again this past weekend with the hopes of becoming eligible for the upcoming season.

The issue amongst UofL fans is the potential for this to be another Chris Lofton, Shelvin Mack, or Rajon Rondo situation in which a kid seemingly from Louisville’s backyard gets away from the Cards and tears it up elsewhere. I understand the worry, but I do not put this in those categories. First, I don’t believe you can compare Taylor and Rondo because Rondo was a difference maker right from the jump. Ryan Taylor is not. Rondo was a McDonald’s All-American with elite skills. Taylor is rated outside the top 100 and while he could turn into a fine player down the road, he is not at the level Rondo was coming out of high school.

Second and maybe more important, Ryan Taylor is a legitimate academic risk. It’s already June and many recruits are already on the campus of their college destination. Taylor still does not know if he’s eligible yet. If Rick Pitino were to wait around for Taylor to get his grades in order, only to have him fail to qualify, particularly on the heels of the Justin Coleman saga, what kind of heat would Rick be taking right now?

I totally understand not wanting another local kid to leave the state and go elsewhere, but may I remind you the ones I mentioned above did not exactly come back to kill Louisville. Lofton put up huge numbers at Tennessee, but the Cards defeated the Vols every time they played, culminating in a 79-60 public beatdown in the Sweet Sixteen. Rondo is a phenomenal NBA player, but his Kentucky teams did not accomplish more than UofL during that time. In Rondo’s two years at UK, he went Elite Eight, then a second round exit. You could argue Shelvin Mack was the most “harmful” recruit that got away because all he did was lead Butler to back to back National Title games, but he hardly did that on his own.

The point is not would Mack, Lofton, or Rondo have made Louisville better. Without question they would. The point is just because a player “gets away”, it does not come back to hurt Louisville as much as people think. Yes, they had great careers, but did Louisville suffer as a direct result of not taking those guys? I would argue no, but we can agree to disagree.

Back to Taylor.

The thing that separates his situation from the others I talked about is his shaky academic status. Several recruiting analysts do not believe he will qualify and if that’s the case and Louisville waited around for the final verdict, they would have screwed themselves out of taking another player. Many UofL fans are excited about the potential of Angel Nunez, particularly after his performance in the Derby Festival game, but would Louisville have been able to take him if they were holding a spot for Taylor?

Waiting on the grades of a superstar top 10 recruit is one thing, but holding yourself hostage awaiting word on the grades of a guy who is rated 30-40th at his position is not smart. Again, I acknowledge Ryan Taylor put up great numbers at Western and could become a fine college player, but Rick Pitino did the right thing by moving on.


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