Typing phrases into a Twitter search and expecting to find useful information is cheap, bottom-feeder Web publishing that generally tells you nothing … but I think, this morning, it might be instructive.
At 4 p.m. ET today, four of the top 10 recruits in the country will announce live on ESPNU where they will go to college. It is making everyone crazy. Two of the recruits -- center Jahlil Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones -- have announced they'll be going to the same school, probably either Duke or Kansas, which means a few words they will say this afternoon very well might decide who the preseason No. 1 team in the country will be next year. But I'm going to focus on one of the other two recruits, Cliff Alexander.
Now, I've written about Alexander -- a 6-foot-9 power forward out of Chicago -- before, but today, today is the day it all goes down. Alexander, who, like most of us would probably do if we were a teenager and the entire college basketball world was salivating with speculation over our every move, has milked the attention for all that it's worth, but today he'll finally decide. He has narrowed his schools to four: Kansas, Illinois, DePaul and Memphis. The general consensus -- that's to say, professional human beings paid to guess what is going on in the brain of an 18-year-old kid -- is he'll choose either Kansas or Illinois. Kansas gets recruits like Alexander all the time, but Illinois doesn't, which means the Illini fanbase (of which I am a member) is unusually intense about this.
They're calling today Cliffmas. Can you imagine being a teenager and having hundreds of complete strangers naming a holiday after you?
Alexander's announcement will end weeks of conjecture, and by conjecture, I mean literally dozens of people guessing on camera, for money, about what a teenager will do. It has led to content-free videos like this one that I find myself compulsively watching.
(I mean no offense to young Taylor Rooks, a college senior who has become a legitimate source this entire recruitment, a kid hustling to catch a break and making a bit of a name for herself in the process. I have no doubt I'll be working for her very soon.)
So, what's everybody doing for Cliffmas? Going on Twitter and begging, of course. Or worse.
Let's see. From the Kansas side, there's the "come hang with your girlfriend" angle (Alexander's girlfriend plays on the Kansas' women's team, a fact I'm embarrassed to know):
@humblekid11 go to Kansas as be with your girlfriend! You know whats right she loves you!- Jake Fuja (@jakefuja) November 15, 2013
There's the old "best fans" appeal:
And there is the showing off of Photoshop skills:
Illinois fans have the photoshops, too (Alexander actually Tweeted that one out once, just to mess with people):
Don't forget the always compelling "bro's before hoes" entreaty:
And of course there are the blatant offers of sexual gratification:
@humblekid11 Everyone is saying you are going to pick Kansas because you girl goes there! Don't chase tail, it will come to you! Be THE MAN!— Shawn Freeman (@Freebird1980) November 15, 2013
All these Tweets came within about an hour. Alexander himself went to bed at 10 p.m. last night -- another fact I am ashamed to know -- and threw one last gas can on the fire:
Turning my phone off need some time to think— Cliff Alexander (@humblekid11) November 15, 2013
There is no way he really shut off his phone.
(If you want to watch these scroll down your screen all day today, here you go. )
This is all ridiculous, this sad, lonely courting of teenagers over Twitter for a one-year sleepover at a college campus, but this isn't just the new reality, it's just the start. Alexander, Okafor and Jones, have enjoyed every aspect of this whole process, and why wouldn't they? Forget booster alumni and back-room deals: If Cliff Alexander or any future recruit wants any special treatment, it's just a direct message away.
One thing you can be certain of today: Someone, when they make their ESPNU announcement, is going to say, "I'm taking my talents to [name of school.]" That particular awkward construction, of course coined by LeBron James three years ago, has entered the basketball player lexicon the same way armsleeves and headbands filtered down the ranks. Most of us were appalled by "The Decision." But young players saw attention, saw respect, saw power. It is difficult to blame them. Meanwhile: We're all Tweeting at them, grown adults, imploring teenagers to come play basketball for our team, for free, please, please, please.
Fortunately, it'll all be over once Cliff says which team he's playing for. Just like it was when Quentin Snider, another Illini recruit, who told an adoring crowd back in September he'll be heading to Champaign. Except now he might have changed his mind and might be going to Louisville. Or he might be waiting on Cliff's decision.
It never ends. I'd like to say I'll be skipping the big ESPNU announcement, maybe to go watch an actual basketball game. But I won't. I'll be staring and cheering or booing, part of the problem. If I can just figure out the precise Tweet wording to convince Cliff. Please, please, please. I am sorry we are all like this. We just are.