There’s not a recruitment in the country quite like that of Trey Lyles.
The five-star power forward from Indianapolis will make a college decision for the second time at some point over the next few months. When that time comes, he’ll get more attention than most. And not all of it will be positive.
Lyles — once committed to Indiana — narrowed his college choices to Kentucky and Louisville a few weeks ago. Rick Pitino hosted him for an official visit in late August. This weekend, it’s John Calipari’s turn.
The 6-foot-9 prospect is one of several recruits who will be in Rupp Arena for Big Blue Madness on Friday night. Lyles and his father also attended the event last year and came back for several UK regular-season games.
This weekend’s trip will be more about getting into the nitty gritty of UK’s program than having fun on the fringe.
“I would say that every young man that gets a chance to go on an official visit would want to find out as much about a program from the people that are there,” Tom Lyles told the Herald-Leader. “It’s always going to be different on the inside than it is on the outside. But you never get a chance to see that being on that outside.”
Lyles’ father said the family has already seen Rupp Arena and the UK campus and knows plenty about the top-notch facilities enjoyed by the basketball program. This time around, he’s more interested in seeing what his son would be doing during the actual college part of his college experience.
“I personally would like to see the type of classes that they have their freshmen take,” he said. “And to learn about the road tutoring, how flexible the professors are to work with the guys. … If you’re a guy who’s logging a lot of minutes, that can get pretty hectic.”
He had the same objective at Louisville.
While Lyles palled around with the U of L players, his father spoke with Pitino and tried to get a better feel for the school and the experience his son might have there.
“It was a good visit,” he said. “He really enjoyed being with the guys. He thought that they had some really nice, funny guys that were part of the team. For me, it was really good to sit down and have a good conversation with Coach Pitino. Because, at the end of the day, for them it’s a business decision and, for me, it’s a life-changing decision for my son and for my family.
“All I want to do is make sure that we are doing our diligence to put him in the best situation possible so that he can reach the goals that he’s set for himself.”
Tom Lyles readily admits the decision won’t be easy.
He spoke highly of both coaches, both programs and the players that have been through both schools in recent years.
He clearly respects both UK and Louisville, and offered up two recent examples — one for each school — to illustrate that respect.
“From a Louisville standpoint, you look at how they came together when that kid (Kevin Ware) went down with that horrific injury,” Lyles said. “That right there showed nothing but love for one another.
“Then you go back a year before that, and you see how all of that talent that Kentucky had — how all the sudden these guys said, ‘You know what, we’re going to play for each other and not for our egos, not for ourselves, and we’re going to get it done.’ … No one ever would have thought that if you put that much talent together it’s going to work. Because there’s not going to be enough basketballs.”
He pointed out that both of those teams won national titles, something his son hopes to do during his college career.
The elder Lyles said he would like for Trey to make his decision before the start of his upcoming senior season. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he added.
He knows his son “gets tired” of the attention paid to his decision and hopes he can enjoy his final year of high school without the distraction that goes along with that.
At the same time, Lyles wants to make this decision the right one.
He committed to Indiana early in his freshman year. Too early, it turned out, to make an informed choice on what school would fit him best at the next level.
When he decommitted from the Hoosiers last summer, the backlash was immediate. The anger was palpable. And Lyles could feel it just about everywhere.
Fans taunted him, people often asked why he backed out and the high school junior eventually had to call a press conference to clear the air.
Lyles told the Herald-Leader earlier this year that he learned from that experience. At that time, it was clear that his recruitment would come down to Kentucky and Louisville. Two bitter rivals. Two passionate fan bases. Whichever gets burned is likely to lash out.
Lyles said the Indiana situation prepared him for what’s to come. His father agrees.
“The kid has learned a lot,” Tom Lyles said. “And from that he’s grown quite a bit. So I think he’s definitely prepared for the backlash and the fallout of whatever decision he makes.”