Worldwide Wes: Don’t Believe the Hype
Words. Jason Jordan
In the trendy and ever-evolving business that is basketball recruiting — where power equals influence, which often times equates to commitments — the ultimate powerful influential figure is one William Wesley.
Or is he?
“At least that’s the perception,” said Shawn Teague, whose son Marquis Teague is committed to Kentucky, the main school where Wesley is notorious for having influence. “He’s the guy everyone’s talking about. Especially with Kentucky’s recruiting.”
It’s unknown what exactly Wesley’s job title is, though lately he’s been tied to Creative Artists Agency and is a regular presence around NBA superstars like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, among others.
Publications from GQ to ESPN have painted Wesley, or “Worldwide Wes” as he’s more commonly known, as a character who deals in the shadows to influence some of the biggest decisions on all levels of basketball, whether it’s steering high school kids to John Calipari or pulling the strings on LeBron’s free-agency decision.
Our guess is that it’s all sensationalized.
Problem is, when trying to delve into discussions about the Worldwide One, you’re often hit with the Fight Club rule of law: “The first rule about Worldwide Wes is you DO NOT talk about Worldwide Wes.”
This only strengthens Wesley’s powerfully mysterious facade.
To let one recruit tell it, “it’s almost like he (Wesley), not even knowing you, can call you and tell you to go to Kentucky. And guys do it. It’s crazy!” he says anonymously.
But just how true is that? How influential is Wesley in funneling recruits to Calipari, a coach who he has a well-documented friendship with? Certainly, Wesley has been tied to every big-time Calipari recruit, from Dajuan Wagner to Derrick Rose to John Wall, but the current crop of youngsters who are either committed or considering the Kentucky Wildcats said not to believe the hype about Wesley’s clout in this regard.
Take Garfield (Seattle, Wash.) point guard Tony Wroten Jr., a rising senior who is one of the top players in the country, regardless of class. Wroten has one of, if not the liveliest personality of any recruit in the country, and a massive Twitter following. He wouldn’t listen when people urged him not to play football last season, a move that cost him a torn ACL and the ’09-10 basketball season.
“I make my own decisions,” said Wroten.
Though Wroten has named Kentucky as his leader in recruiting countless times, it’s hard to imagine anyone having that type of influence over a kid like Wroten, who already has a strong family support system led by his father, a former NFL player.
“That’s because they don’t,” said Wroten. “I don’t know Wesley at all. Never met him. Never talked to him. All I know is that he’s supposed to, like, send people to Kentucky or have ties there or something. Could he tell me where to go? Well, anyone can tell me whatever they want, but at the end of the day I’m gonna go where I want to go. He may have some pull, but not enough to tell me where to go.”
Winter Park (Fla.) combo guard Austin Rivers, maybe the best player in the country right now, has met Wesley a few times, and classified him as “a good guy.”
“He’s come to watch me play a few times and he’s really nice,” said Rivers, a rising senior who is considering Kentucky along with Duke and Florida, most notable. “Just a real good guy.”
Still, the notion that Austin Rivers — whose father is Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers — would head to Lexington per Wesley’s suggestion is laughable to Rivers.
“Oh, come on now, you already know that’s not gonna happen,” said Rivers. “He’s a good guy and all, but I’m gonna sit down with the people I know the best and decide. I don’t know him that well to have him in on my decision. Guys like Michael Gilchrist have known him forever, so people make connections based off that, and I don’t know if that’s true or not. I just know that at this point, as cool a guy as he is, he couldn’t have an impact on my decision.”
Teague, a rising senior point guard at Pike H.S. (Indianapolis), said he’d “never even heard of Worldwide Wes” until after he’d already committed to Kentucky.
“So he definitely had no influence on my decision,” said Teague, another prospect who has an in-the-know support system that includes older brother Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks. “I still don’t know him. He’s supposed to be this real powerful guy. I sat down with my Dad and decided. I wasn’t gonna let anyone influence me and definitely not anyone I don’t know. I made my own decision and I went because that’s where I wanted to go.”
Shawn Teague, Marquis’ father, says he was introduced to Wesley at Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League in Los Angeles in June. Marquis committed to Kentucky two months prior in April.
“He just said hi,” said Shawn of Wesley. “I was thinking, ‘So this is the guy everyone’s talking about?’ I think the kids that don’t have fathers around are more likely to be enticed by a situation like that. Do I think all his power and influence is a myth? I don’t know, this man’s name is always out there and always popping up so I think there is some degree of truth in what he’s capable of. But I don’t think he just points to Kentucky and kids go running.”
The mere assumption, which is popular among prep players, unfairly diminishes Kentucky’s true appeal, according to Austin Rivers.
“The person who has an influence over me, as it pertains to Kentucky, is John Calipari,” said Rivers. “Not anyone he’s associated with. And though a lot of high school guys think otherwise, that’s the case for most players.”
Got a burning question for Jason? Email him: JasonJ@DimeMag.com