In a deeply-saddening feature written by the former New York Times and newly-hired Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel, high school basketball legend Jonathan Hargett admitted that Arizona and coach Lute Olson refused to break NCAA rules to fly him out on a recruiting visit.
Hargett, who is nearing the end of a five-year prison sentence, told the NY Times that he wanted to go to Arizona. But the Wildcats and their staff didn't offer to fill a request to pay for a trip for he and his mother.
Hargett wanted to go to Arizona. The Wildcats won the national title in 1997 and had recently had a string of star guards like Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry on their roster. Coach Lute Olson made two trips to watch Hargett in high school, but the Wildcats could not get Hargett to visit their campus. He said that Arizona refused to break N.C.A.A. rules and fly out his mother for a recruiting trip.
But West Virginia put together a more intriguing package for the Hargett family. Mike Hargett's wife, Joy, said that West Virginia planned on hiring her husband for a low-level staff position, which was allowable under N.C.A.A. rules. Mike Hargett had worked for the West Virginia assistant Chris Cheeks at a Richmond high school years before. Jonathan Hargett did not want to go to West Virginia, but he said that he was offered $20,000 a year to go there and that he committed at Mike's urging.
You really should put 10 minutes of your time aside to read Thamel's fascinating feature. Hargett, who made his name on the courts in Richmond, Va., was supposedly the next Allen Iverson, and his teammates that range from Amar'e Stoudemire to Carmelo Anthony all knew he was on their talent level.
He was arrested and charged with drug possession with intent to sell and has since become an afterthought in the basketball world. Still, his legend still lingers in the minds of some of the best players on the planet.