I cannot get enough of the drama going on in Memphis.
A quick recap: Six of last year’s top eight players have decided to transfer out of the program. That includes both of the Lawsons — Dedric and K.J., the stars of the program — who made the decision to move to Kansas. Their father, Keelon, was once an assistant with the program, but he was demoted and taken off the road when Tubby Smith was hired, and his decision to leave the Memphis program jeopardizes whether or not Memphis will have a chance to land the top three high school talents in the city, all of whom are either a son or a nephew to Keelon.
And then there is K.J. Lawson, who tweeted “Two middle fingers as I exit” and was caught on video yelling “F— Tubby” on his way out the door.
All of this is happening at a time where Smith is trying to rebuild the program and reinvigorate the fan base.
Which brings us to last night, when Matt Stanley committed to Ouchita Baptist, a Division II school in Arkadelphia, a town in Arkansas that is probably best described as the midway point for someone driving from Texarkana to Little Rock.
Why is this random, Division II commit relevant when talking about Memphis?
Because depending on who you ask, he chose Ouachita Baptist over Memphis. According to the Stanley family, Matt had a scholarship offer, one that they have in writing. The staff will tell you that, no, there was never a scholarship offer. Both sides have obvious reasons to stick to their guns here, and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, with a healthy dose of miscommunication mixed in. Maybe Memphis offered a full-ride. Maybe they simply offered a walk-on spot with a shot to earn a full-ride and the family took that as an offer. Maybe Memphis really did pursue the kid until they were roundly clowned for trying to replace a potential all-american in Dedric Lawson with a Division II player.
But the truth doesn’t really matter at this point.
The story is out now, and no amount of backtracking or clarifying is going to change the fact that the public at-large believes that a team that recruited Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans and came within a couple of missed free throws of winning a national title just nine years ago is losing recruiting battles to Ouachita Baptist.
You can’t control the damage once it’s already done.