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Kansas Basketball: Top of the Class in High School Recruiting by Max
Despite the recent slide in the performance of Kansas basketball, there is hope for the future. The Jayhawks lost their third straight game on Monday, which had not previously occurred since 1994. This is a veteran dominated team that starts three seniors, all of whom have futures in the NBA. But these players were Roy Williams' recruits and since he bolted for North Carolina, the Jawhawks have yet to play up to their potential under Bill Self.
It started last year, when the Jayhawks fell short of the Final Four in a game being played in their backyard of St. Louis. Much like many of their losses this season, KU fell behind early, made a superb comeback, and lost the game in overtime. Coach Self has trouble winning the close games and at the moment has to be questioning why he left Illinois for Kansas. Self's former team, for which he recruited all of their current starters, is 27-0 and has an easy draw that could send them to the Final Four. Current Illini Coach Bruce Weber has gotten his team to play up to their potential and they have sat atop the standings for more than two months.
Whereas Illinois may have the better team now, the future does not like as bright for them when compared to Kansas. Both teams start veteran line-ups and Illinois will likely lose two of its junior guards to the NBA. Self has not lost his touch in recruiting, as he currently has three high schools prospects committed to Kansas basketball. All three rank in the top 15 in the nation according to Rivals.com. Illinois has signed one recruit in Charles Jackson, but he currently does not sit on the list of Rivals' top players.
Leading the way for the Jawhawks 2005 class is PG Mario Chalmers. Chalmers comes from Anchorage and is currently playing for his father at Bartlett High School. He has a superb junior season in which he averaged 23 points per game, along with six assists. He has the ability to step right in and fill the shoes of departing senior Aaron Miles. I expect him to make an immediate impact on this program.
Along with Chalmers are two power forwards both 6-8 in stature. Julian Wright is the more coveted of the two, currently ranking as the second best power forward in the nation. He comes from Flossmoor, IL and it is apparent Self has kept this pipeline open even though he moved on to Kansas.
Rounding out the trifecta is the fourth ranked power forward in the nation in Micah Downs from Kirkland, WA. Downs will need to put on some weight, but he averaged over a double-double his junior season in high school. These three players should allow Kansas to stay atop the standings next season.
But as Self has found out, recruiting is just half of the battle. The other half is getting these blue chip players to play to their potential. This is where the Kansas basketball coach has work to be done. Twice he has gone into elite eight games with better teams and came away on the short end of the stick. His team has yet to reach their potential this season and has only posted one impressive victory away from Lawrence. That came in Lexington, which was without their star player Wayne Simiem. There is still time this season to turn around the program, but one has to wonder in Self has what it takes to get a team to the Final Four. Or will he just become another Mac Brown in college basketball? Great recruiter, but cannot win the big games. Only time will tell.
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