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Big man shuffle: Can Kenny Payne deliver Terrrence Jones to Kentucky? Will Eloy Vargas get an offer this weekend?


by Paul Jordan
Lots of rumors and speculation blasted the Bluegrass lately, but unfortunately very little real news. This whole 2010-2011 roster is becoming a tremendous puzzle for the fans and media to dissect, and it appears that a couple of those pieces are close to falling into place.

First, the only real bit of news from yesterday is that UK assistant coach Rod Strickland has been reassigned in the UK athletics department opening up an assistant coaches program. Word is that Strickland likely asked for the new position as he was not that crazy about the travel schedule required of an assistant coach and that this was a move rumored for quite a while.

Now the timing of this move is huge as it opens an assistant’s position and after the seven day posting period, the new assistant coach is expected to be Oregon assistant Kenny Payne. Is this a move to kill two birds with one stone and fill the open assistant position with one of the hottest recruiters in the country and land Terrence Jones? It could be as Payne is rumored to have close ties with Terrence Jones, as they are both from Oregon.

According to the reports, Payne is claiming he has no interest in the Kentucky job or the deal is done on Payne as an edition to the UK coaching staff. Keeping in mind that the deadline to sign a LOI is on the 19th, the timing of this move could be screaming for Terrence Jones to come on down.

Now for those naysayers that are shaking their heads and thinking that Calipari is selling his soul to bring Terrence Jones to Kentucky, you are dead wrong. Payne is one of the best recruiters in the country and there are indications that Calipari wanted to bring Payne to his staff last year when he came to Kentucky.

According to the story, Calipari was all set to bring Payne to Kentucky last year for a cool half million a year, and Mitch Barnhart even started the process of talking to Oregon to get permission to talk to Payne. However, due to a personal services contract that Payne had, Nike head Phil Knight squashed the deal and said that Payne could not leave Oregon. Whether that is true or not, and if Payne needs the blessing of Phil Knight to take a job, I do not know. But it is an interesting aspect to this story.

The most delicious part of this story would be is Payne, a former Louisville Card, takes the job with Kentucky and helps deliver the recruit that catapults UK to the number one over ranking. Et Tu Dirty Birds?

The other bit of wild speculation concerns former Gator Eloy Vargas, who will be making another visit to Kentucky this weekend. It seems that Arizona has been eliminated from Vargas’s list and that this decision is down to Seattle, Kentucky, and North Carolina. North Carolina is a very late entry into this, and let’s keep in mind that Lexington was one of Vargas’s first stop after leaving Florida. Then after that visit, Vargas enrolled in the same Dade County Community College that Orlando Antigua had recruited Darnell Dodson and Will Coleman from.

Word is that Kentucky will be offering Vargas today and that Eloy could very well be a Wildcat by this weekend. I would think that Vargas has nothing to do with Terrence Jones. Vargas has to know Jones is the number one target right now, but Eloy Vargas will be able to step right in, even if Jones comes and fill the Daniel Orton role.

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