Last week when local high school basketball star Vander Blue announced he was de-committing from Wisconsin, it represented a coming-of-age moment for not only the all-state junior from Madison Memorial, but for those UW coaches whose careers often rely on their tenuous relationships with gifted teenagers.
Blue, who verbally accepted a scholarship from Bo Ryan's coaching staff as a promising but little-known sophomore, threw down thunderous dunks, nailed shots from outside and stopped opponents on defense during Memorial's run to the state championship in March. Badger hoop fans started picturing Blue in cardinal and white.
Rob Schultz, who covers Badger basketball for The Capital Times, reported on May 13 that after a meeting with academic staff and coaches, Blue's Facebook profile revealed that he had made a "big decision" about his college recruitment and was planning on assessing his options.
Fans immediately started criticizing Blue on message boards, and Blue was paying attention. At a press conference last Tuesday, after announcing that he was backing out of his commitment, Blue said, "To see how these so-called Wisconsin fans, what they had to say on those blogs, just really made me second-guess, like, 'Do people really want me here?'"
He went on to say that Schultz's story and the reaction to it made him think about basketball as more than just a game for the first time in his life. At about the same time, it's likely that the Badger coaches, holed up in the Kohl Center, started thinking about fan message boards as more than just a workday time waster.