When Kahlil McKenzie put on a bucket hat last January before going to watch his high school’s basketball team play, he didn’t think too much of it.
The hat was comfortable and he thought it looked cool and was something different. He had no idea that seven months later bucket hats would be such a big deal in his life.
But now it’s all the rage.
The five-star defensive tackle from Concord, California, who will choose between Arizona and Tennessee tonight, owns more than 25 of the lids now. He’s got them in all colors and brands.
McKenzie’s high school classmates started following his lead and donning the hats as well. It became such a thing that they started a hashtag on Twitter: #bucketgang. And over the past month or so, Rich Rodriguez and Tennessee’s Butch Jones have been doing everything in their power to join the #bucketgang.
Tonight, they find out which one actually gets to enlist.
McKenzie, rated as the No. 1 prospect in the West by the Scout.com recruiting service, will announce his decision tonight in Oregon at Nike’s The Opening. His commitment will be shown during its broadcast on ESPNU from 5 to 8 p.m.
And you already know how he’s going to make his declaration. McKenzie will put on a bucket hat with the logo of the school he’s planning to attend.
“I don’t really know how the hats have become such a big deal, but I like that they have,” McKenzie said. “It’s just something different and I like being unique and doing things other people don’t do.”
Over the last month or so, Rodriguez and Jones have gone all in on the hats.
Jones has had former Tennessee greats Peyton Manning, Eric Berry, Jamal Lewis and others pose for pictures in orange bucket hats and then posted them on Twitter.
Rodriguez answered Jones’ strategy a few weeks ago when filming a charity video. Rodriguez had a large jug of water dumped on his head to help raise money for cancer research. Before the pour began, Rodriguez put on a UA bucket hat and publicly challenged Jones to film a video for charity himself.
Vols might have edge
“Everyone is pulling out all the stops because I’m getting ready to commit,” McKenzie said. “It’s been cool to see everything play out and see everybody’s reaction to all the different things.”
In this recruiting battle with the Volunteers, Arizona seems to be the heavy underdog. Most recruiting analysts expect McKenzie to choose Tennessee and see Arizona finish in second place.
McKenzie’s dad Reggie, the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, starred at Tennessee and was born in Knoxville, which has given the Vols a serious advantage.
Also, as social media has become such a large part of McKenzie’s recruitment, he has had far more activity in recent weeks regarding Tennessee than Arizona. He has also said that he made up his mind about two weeks ago and has been keeping it a secret.
Need some more evidence? All 25 of the recruiting analysts from the website 247sports.com have picked McKenzie to choose Tennessee over Arizona.
Could this all be a setup by a prospect that has enjoyed going against the grain during his recruitment? Sure. But the Wildcats are the clear pick to be the runners up in this sweepstakes.