Vaught's Views: South Carolina Recruit's Family Could Tell Kentucky Coaches Were “Genuine”
Tony Geiger, right, and his wife, Ramona, liked the way Kentucky coaches talked about more than football with their son, Jalen, before his commitment. His sister, Ja'nia, also is all in with Kentucky. (Photo Contributed)
Kentucky freshman defensive back Jalen Geiger’s parents spent close to a combined 50 years in the military, lived in four continents and learned to judge character pretty well.
That’s why what Tony Geiger, the UK freshman’s father, says about Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow and other UK coaches is so significant.
“We met a lot of coaches during Jalen’s recruiting journey but what stuck out to me about Vince, coach (Mark) Stoops and the other UK coaches is that they were so genuine. It can be overused but you could tell they care about more about him outside of football than most schools. We talked more about life than my son’s speed, vertical, flipping hips in coverage. That’s very important to all of us in our family.”
Tony Geiger understands that coaches are going to often tell recruits and their parents what they want to hear. Marrow didn’t do that. That’s why 30 days after Jalen Geiger was offered a UK scholarship in April of his junior year he verbally committed to Kentucky. He was ranked as the No. 2 cornerback in South Carolina and had 20 other scholarship offers but immediately shut his recruitment down.
“Obviously there is an inherent risk in shutting it all down but we trusted coach Stoops and Vince to hold to their word and they did,” Tony Geiger said. “After he signed, he was legally part of BBN. They could easily then have just focused on the 2020 class but they continued to build a relationship with him. To this day Vince has kept his word about everything he told us. I am a combat veteran and I am big on integrity and that manifests itself in loyalty. Vince came to one of Jalen’s games on a Friday night when Kentucky had a game at Tennessee the next day. Those little nuggets became cumulative and just shows how Kentucky goes above and beyond what other schools do.”
This Saturday Kentucky will try to beat South Carolina for a sixth straight year under Stoops – and avoid an 0-3 SEC start. The Geigers live in Columbia and even if Jalen Geiger is not on the travel team — he likely will be redshirted this year — the family is going to be all-in with UK just like it has been since his commitment.
“We have redecorated everything down here. We obviously know about the success Kentucky has had against South Carolina and are praying it will continue,” Tony Geiger said. “I walk through town and this UK hat I wear every day garners respect here now. South Carolina fans can respect what the Kentucky program has done and the direction the program is going. Jalens has friends he trained with and played with since elementary school now on the Gamecocks.”
Tony Geiger had a Kentucky connection. He was born and raised in Ohio — his wife is from Tennessee — and knew former UK defensive back Maurice Douglas. He saw that Moses Douglas, Maurice’s son, committed to Kentucky and knew it had to be because of “what Kentucky meant to him and not because his dad went there, so that spoke volumes to us.”
The Geiger family began to do more research on Kentucky football. During Jalen Geiger’s spring break of his junior year, the family went on a road trip to visit schools. That included a stop at Springfield (Ohio) High School where Maurice Douglas coached. The families talked about Kentucky football and Maurice Douglas sent Jalen’s highlight tape to UK.
The next day he was offered a scholarship and UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow asked if they were still in Ohio. When they told him yes, Marrow said UK was having a scrimmage they could attend if they wanted.
“Four hours later we were at the scrimmage,” Tony Geiger said. “He had just been offered by North Carolina and Rutgers. We were prepared to go to Cincinnati and fly to Rutgers and then back to Chapel Hill. A day later we were at Kentucky shaking hands with Mark Stoops and it was kind of like love at first sight. We had seen enough schools to see Kentucky was special and knew academically what Kentucky was about. He then committed to UK on Mother’s Day (in May) and shut his recruitment down.”
Tony Geiger attended a Kentucky football game in the 1980’s and he initially planned to move his family to Louisville when he retired. His first job had been at Ft. Knox, so he was going to buy a house and live in Louisville but decided Columbia — where Jalen was raised except for four years in South Korea — was a “nice place to raise a family” and stayed in South Carolina.
Even though Jalen will likely be redshirted this year, the family has no regrets about his decision to play at Kentucky.
“He is very cultured. He is pretty well traveled for an 18 year old kid,” his father said. “He’s more resilient than the average 18 year old. He may have had some moments about being away from home, but he is really thriving.
“We have seen the growth in him faster than what I anticipated since he got there June 1. His body looks great. He has really m matured. He has embraced the challenge and is excited to have a chance to help sustain what UK built last year.
“We are abundantly blessed and grateful to coach Stoops. It means a lot to us that they have allowed us to be part of Big Blue Nation and we couldn’t be happier or prouder.”
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California point guard Devin Askew could make his college choice in October but told Rivals.com recruiting writer Krysten Peek that he still intends to stay in the 2021 recruiting class and not reclassify so he could stay at Mater Dei High School with his friends for another year.
“But you never know. Kids change their mind on a daily basis,” Peek said.
The 6-2, 195-pound five-star guard explained to Peek that he likes Kentucky coach John Calipari knowing what goals players like. He also said the perception that UK is just a one-and-done school is not wrong and pointed out P.J. Washington, Tyler Ulis, Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans as players who have stayed more than a year.
“They are all still in a great position right now,” Askew said. “Kentucky is a place where they are also going to develop you and you leave when you are ready. Your goal is obviously to win games in college but also there is the personal side to put your name out there and get you to the next step that all the players want.
“When you are on that type team the goal is for all five (players) to get out and go chase your dream. We are all together and it feels like a brotherhood. That is what I love about it and coach cal is a great guy and knows what he is doing.”
Askew also noted how Memphis coach Penny Hardaway and his staff look out for players outside of basketball, too. Gonzaga has been to see him three times. Louisville also impressed him on a visit when he says over 1,000 people were at an open practice.
“It (Louisville) is a basketball school for sure. Great coach, great teammates, great organization,” Askew said about Louisville.
Askew, who was on the 2019 USA Basketball 3x3 under 18 national championship team, said he wasn’t worried about picking a school with great fan support because most schools have that.
“Just looking to try to take care of my body and what they (schools) do to take care of your body and what they do to help your body last,” Askew said. “Whatever they do to keep your body healthy, that’s where I want to go.”
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Kentucky’s Pro Day for NBA personnel to evaluate coach John Calipari’s current team will be Oct. 6 and that may provide some insights into the coach’s plans for freshman Dontaie Allen this season.
The Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Pendleton County averaged 42.9 points in his first 11 games last season before a torn ACL in December ended his prep career (he had 3,225 points, 11th best in state history).
The 6-6 wing also had a broken collarbone from an automobile accident in April when he was on his way to Lexington to rehab his knee.
Allen and his former coach have both insisted that nothing has been said to the freshman about redshirting this year. A source close to Allen recently told me he was slightly ahead of schedule with his knee rehab and that everything was fine with the collarbone.
Allen’s plan remains to play this year. Doubtful he will do a lot at the Pro Day as the source said he could be another five weeks or so from being fully cleared. Calipari has also shown a tendency to be conservative with injuries as Jemarl Baker redshirted his freshman year after knee surgery and Jarred Vanderbilt played only sparingly his one year at UK because of leg injuries. However, Calipari often shares a lot of player tidbits during the Pro Day.
Allen’s scoring ability as well as his all-around game could be a nice bonus off the bench for UK this year and from what I was told, Allen is eager to have a chance to do just that.
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Kentucky’s defense figured to have a drop this year after losing national player of the year Josh Allen and its five top secondary players off last year's team. The Cats are giving up 24.5 points and 398 yards per game after four games.
However, junior college transfer Brandin Echols is one player who might have exceeded preseason expectations. The cornerback is second on the team with 25 tackles — he’s first in solo stops with 21 — and forced a fumble at Mississippi State last week. He also leads the team with three pass breakup.
Echols has made some big-time plays against Florida and Mississippi State but UK lost each time. He wants that trend to change at South Carolina Saturday night.
“Everybody is talking and everybody has their opinion about what should have happened (in the losses) but we can’t let that get in our heads like that. We have to keep pushing forward,” Echols said. “I know we can still be great. Got no doubts about that. We’ve shown the potential we have.”
He was a three-sport Mississippi high school star and his senior season he had 111 tackles, one interception, 29 catches for 406 yards and four scores, 906 yards and eight touchdowns rushing, and 604 return yards with four more touchdowns. He also won the state long jump championship. He had to attend junior college for academic reasons and switched from receiver to cornerback his freshman season, so this is only his third year playing in the secondary.
“We have just made some bad decisions that have taken a toll on us. We have to get better with our decision-making,” Echols said. “I don’t want to play the blame game because there is nobody in particular to blame for not winning. It’s on all of us and has to change.”
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Quote of the Week: “I don’t think it’s as simple as having a hangover (from the Florida loss). I really don’t. I just think it’s a mentality that you have to have and you have to be a good football team to go on the road and to play in an environment like this and win. We didn’t have that today,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops after his team's loss at Mississippi State.
Quote of the Week 2: “A lot of times success is right around the corner if you just stay the course, but guys stop because they get beat up a little bit and they don’t keep the faith. Part of it becomes the faith you had when you were 12. The faith you had when you were young and didn’t know any better,” Kentucky coach John Calipari to North Carolina-Wilmington players during his speech last week at the school's tip-off dinner.
Quote of the Week 3: “LeeAnne is an amazing wife and mother!!! She is a superwoman! I’m grateful to call her friend,” UK coach Mark Stoops’ wife, Chantel, on LeeAnne Schlarman, wife of UK offensive line coach John Schlarman.