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Tennessee Vols, Kentucky facing bidding war for Chaz Lanier?

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Tennessee and Kentucky basketball fans have something in common. They’re growing weary of waiting on Chaz Lanier.

There used to be a term used in recruiting, that a high school prospect got “caught up” in the recruiting process. In other words, said prospect was a perfectly humble, respectful high school prospect until college recruits and media came calling. That can – and certainly has – affected some egos along the way. Now, things are different.

Instead of just receiving some recruiting “love,” prospects are looking for NIL cash. Therefore, months worth of recruiting a prospect can be undone by one fat NIL promise. That very well could be happening as you’re reading this.

BYU wasn’t thought to be a factor. However, per various sources, the Cougars may decide to go all in with Lanier, meaning they have at least upped the bidding on the four-star transfer, if not made him unaffordable all together.

Lanier, who is transferring from North Florida, was thought to be down to just the Vols and Cats before the Cougars got involved. Now, all bets are off. However, Tennessee still has plenty of reason to be optimistic, despite the increased competition for Lanier’s services. It’s important to remember that Lanier attended Ensworth High School in Nashville so the Vols make plenty of sense.

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Kentucky also has proximity on its side. Lexington and Knoxville are nearby. BYU’s campus is two time zones away. It’s hard to imagine Lanier having much of a reason to go west other than NIL funds. Moreover, there’s another reason to stay in-state.

No matter who you might root for, Tennessee makes a lot of sense after what the Vols did last season with transfer Dalton Knecht. He could be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft after all.

As for Kentucky, the Wildcats are enthused under new head coach Mark Pope, who has quickly shown he’s going to try to rebuild Kentucky through the transfer portal. So much for former coach John Calipari’s one-and-done ways. We’ll see how that works out at Arkansas. However, Kentucky certainly feels more family friendly than before. That should be a factor in Lanier’s recruitment as well. There is a strong sense of optimism around Kentucky’s basketball program for the first time in years. There’s another reason to be a Cat. Barring something unforeseen, Pope has plenty of time to assemble his team without booster pressure, at least for a couple of years.

Pope and Tennessee coach Rick Barnes certainly have a different, more wholesome, approach than Calipari. However, NIL has changed everything.

Calipari used to argue that players shouldn’t worry about NIL when choosing a school, that doing so was akin to tripping over nickels with millions on the line. It was a good argument, especially as NIL payments have spiked.

Calipari made his statements in the infancy of NIL. Now that the NIL pay rate has become life-changing money, the basketball community needs to reevaluate Calipari’s earlier statements.

The goal of college is to prepare oneself for life, which includes creating earning power. However, with a seven-digit, NIL payday on the line, Calipari’s stance seems antiquated. While I’m sure his bank account is filled to the brim, most prospects aren’t in that same position. That’s what makes BYU scary.

Welcome to the new world of recruiting in which months of work can be undone by one NIL promise. Kentucky and Tennessee are both more intent on developing players than Calipari. Moreover, neither are recruiting based almost solely on future NBA earnings, like Calipari.

Tennessee seems to be the logical choice. They have the cash to be competitive in a bidding war, have experience developing a wing scorer with Dalton Knecht and are willing to adapt an offense around a player as the Vols did with Knecht as the Vols did last season. Plus, there’s an opportunity to play for a soon-to-be Hall of Fame coach. Objectively, this doesn’t seem like a hard decision. However, I’m not the one staring a potentially huge NIL pay in the face. 

How much will BYU offer? How much is Tennessee or Kentucky willing to match? That seems to be the key factor in Lanier’s recruitment. Who can blame him?

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