By now everybody with internet access has heard the news that the Badgers missed out on 5-star big man Diamond Stone, as he committed to Maryland last night. Obviously immediately after he announced his decision on Twitter the rumors started flying about why he’s not coming to UW, but everything has been entirely speculation. This won’t be.
Before I get too far into this, let me say ahead of time that I’m not writing this out of bitterness. Obviously I’m disappointed and pissed off that he’s not gonna be a Badger, but I’m not mad at him because of it. He’s a great player. He’ll be great at Maryland, and he’ll play in the NBA. Diamond Stone is just an 18-year-old kid deciding where to go to college, and he doesn’t owe UW anything just because he was born in Wisconsin. I’m just writing this because I know some details about the story, and because the wrong people have ended up taking the fall from this situation. So here’s what the “sources” and “insiders” weren’t talking about when it comes to one of the most hyped recruits to ever come out of Wisconsin not becoming a Badger…
Diamond Stone verbally committed to UW in November. Obviously that never became public knowledge so people will say it’s not true when they read this, but believe it or not, sometimes there’s some stuff that goes on behind the scenes in college sports that beat writers don’t know about (and I’m sure there’s plenty of the story that I don’t know, too. This is just the part that I’ve been told.) Diamond’s dad called Coach Ryan’s house and used the phrase “You might want to sit down for this” like he was about to announce the second coming of Jesus Christ. His dad then put Diamond on the phone, and he told Coach that he wanted to be a Badger. The problem was, both parties knew all along he didn’t have the grades/ACT score to get into the University at the time. I know this because Coach’s daughter Brenna answered the phone and was right there when it happened, and she’s a close friend of mine.
(No idea how she isn’t a Twitter sensation, by the way. If you’re looking for some entertainment, I recommend the follow.)
I’m not writing this to make fun of the guy or call him stupid – A lot of people don’t get into Madison. They just usually end up going to Minnesota, not Maryland. Hell, it’s common knowledge that Gary Andersen left Wisconsin because he couldn’t get his recruits into school (and because he’s a pussy). This isn’t a new issue for UW coaching staffs to deal with, but it’s a pretty important part of the real story. I know I’m not the first one saying Diamond Stone had a low ACT score because that’s been going around Twitter forever, I’m just confirming it. So, because he wasn’t admitted to the University yet, he decided to wait for a while before giving a half hour warning on Twitter to announce his commitment to the Badgers, instead of doing it right then.
At that point he still had time to improve his scores and be admitted, so he kept pushing back his public commitment because he didn’t want to end up getting denied and then have to face the embarrassment of decommitting – and rightfully so. Who would want to make that announcement? I can’t blame the guy. The decision eventually came down from UW that he was not admitted, so last night he announced that he’s going to Maryland – his second choice. (To be fair, I’m not blaming UW, either. I’ve already said I’m glad we have a standard for student athletes. It’s just frustrating.)
But the most frustrating part of the situation is that it makes it look like the program and our coaching staff made a mistake by not getting one of the biggest recruits in America when he grew up right in our backyard. The same thing happened when Vander Blue committed to Marquette. He was committed to UW and then ended up not getting into school, but the public perception is that these guys snubbed the Badgers, which just isn’t the case. It’s billed as a shortcoming of Wisconsin basketball, when in all actuality the mistake was not on their part.
People always jump to a kid’s defense when Twitter trolls talk bad about a guy like Diamond Stone for making his college decision, but nobody ever backs up the coaches who do the recruiting. It’s assumed that missing on a big time recruit is a failure on the part of the coaching staff. People call for their jobs or say recruiting at Wisconsin needs to change, but the fact is that they had no control in the matter. This is far from the first time this has happened, it’s just the one that got the most attention because Diamond is a complete monster. That’s what actually pissed me off about this situation. They’re the ones that end up looking bad, and recruiting is very literally part of their livelihood – but they can’t say anything about it. We have some great coaches and they’re a huge reason Wisconsin is playing to go to back-t0-back Final Fours in a few hours – But when stuff like this happens, they take the brunt of it because a lot of people don’t know the real story. It’s like at the end of the Dark Knight when Harvey Dent is the one who ends up becoming the hero and Batman has to take the fall. You either die a hero, or you coach long enough to see yourself become the enemy because a kid’s PPG is higher than his ACT.