September 30, 2010
John Pelphrey has gotten it done on the recruiting trail — now he must win big to save his job.
Arkansas fans have been less than thrilled with what the former Kentucky guard — and 1987 Mr. Basketball in the Bluegrass State — has been able to do in three years in Fayetteville. And while the news of Rashad "Ky" Madden's (love how his name also conjures Kentucky imagery) verbal committment to Pelphrey's team will bring a positive vibe around the program, it will also mean Pelphrey can't merely win 20 games, flirt with the bubble and keep his gig.
Pelphrey (right) is 51-47 since he started coaching the Razorbacks in 2007. He's gone 18-30 in a relatively quaggy SEC.
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com points out Pelphrey had not received a commitment from a kid in the top 60 of any recruiting class.
Until this year.
Somehow (and we can keep faith for now this was done on the up and up), Pelphrey and his staff have bucked the trend of underwhelming recruiting classes at Arkansas. Madden is the second four-star player to commit this year. Hunter Mickelson is the other. Point guard B.J. Young is the prized five-star recruit who makes this all worth writing about.
Pelphrey's saved his job, probably, for another 20 months. But as he raises hope, the stakes for him are lifted even higher.
Aaron Ross is a three-star player who rounds out this tremendous class, and Hogs fans should be thrilled with the prospect of a turnaround. No denying news like this is what makes being a college basketball fan tolerable between the months of May and September.
So now 2010-11 has become a holding pattern year. Parrish was right in writing how this class means Pelphrey is coming back in 2011-12, despite the record his team puts up this season.
When the team rankings get adjusted in the coming weeks at Rivals.com, expect Arkansas to take a big leap. Pelphrey must mimic that leap down the road, or else this coup will be the double-edged sword that he'll carry out of Fayetteville and to the next job he takes. Every fan loves a coach who can recruit big.
Nearly every fan hates a coach who can recruit big and never deliver corresponding on-court results.
Pelphrey has his first — and best — chance to show how he can handle coaching big-time recruits alongside big-time expectations. If he fails, it could be years before he gets another chance like it.
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