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Nike Camp: With a Kansas flavor

Not only was Tuesday the first day that Kansas head coach Bill Self and his staff could evaluate players during the all important July open period, it was also my first day at the 2003 edition of Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis, IN. <img src="http://media.theinsiders.com/media/site_logo/premium.gif">

On top of all the national recruits in attendance, there is a strong crew of kids of kids with considerable interest to the Kansas staff and fans. Representing the Jayhawks in Indianapolis on Tuesday were Self and his right hand man Norm Roberts. They had to have been impressed with what they saw as several KS targets had nice outings. (Grimes comes up big at Nike)

Of course, big Kalen wasn't the only Kansas target who was getting his hoop on Tuesday. A handful of other targets were showing their stuff in front of the watchful eyes of either Self, Roberts or both.

Malik Hairston - It wasn't vintage Malik. The 6-5 WG wasn't racking up silly scoring totals, but he still got a whole lot done. He played his usual mature and calm game, grabbed rebounds, made a few jump shots from all over the court and finished strong drives at the basket. There is no question that Malik "gets" how much potential he has and a kid with his talent playing with as much confidence as he has is a scary thing. It will be interesting to see how his homeboy Joe Crawford's de-commitment from Michigan will change things for him. I would have loved to speak with him -- or Joe for that matter -- about it but the crowd of reporters around him was sick. I didn't have the heart to grill Malik any more after watching him answer the same questions no less than 16 billion times.

Darnell Jackson - I've been one of Darnell's biggest critics over the last year because of how raw he is on the offensive end. But that is why I continue to watch players. Darnell deserves a ton of credit for how much better he is getting. He's a legit top 50-75 in the nation type talent and is playing very hard in Indy. He grabs tons of boards and seems to at least get a touch of anything in the paint even when he can't snatch the board. He is a solid defender who is learning to be patient and avoid silly fouls and he's making tremendous strides on the offensive end. He's at his best using his deceptive quickness and fairly explosive leaping ability to attack the basket but he'll hit a few short jumpers. Stay tuned for more on Darnell tomorrow. He has a tremendous perspective on the game and he's winning over a lot of coaches.

A.J. Ratliff - A.J. wanted desperately to commit to Indiana before Robert Vaden and James Hardy's commitments ruled them out as a viable option. It is hard to gauge how serious A.J. is about KU, but he is worthy of a good hard look. He's probably one of the top five shooters at Nike and if he gets a square look at the bucket it is curtains. His jumper is picture perfect, but he can also get to the rim in a hurry and will dunk on you if you aren't careful. He is a top 50 kid at a minimum and will be a very popular guy among coaches this month.

A.J. Price - The number one priority for Price (who measured in at 6-0 in his bare feet) is to prove that he is a point on the next level and not just an undersized wing guard. So far so good as Price as sacrificed a little of his offense in order to run his team -- arguably the best one in the camp -- and look damn good doing so. He has a lighting quick crossover dribble and will find teammates through the smallest of openings. Although he is still a little more comfortable in the transition game, he is upgrading his decision making and play making in the half court game. Like Ratliff, it is cookie time if he gets an open look from three point land. He'll still be tough to pry off of the East Coast, but KU is making a major move with him.

Jason Rich - It wasn't a stellar day for the exciting 6-3 athlete from Florida, but it wasn't a terrible one by any stretch. He's a transition guy who needs to get to the rim. He has been struggling to find a groove with his teammates -- which include Price, Ratliff and 2005 stud Josh McRoberts -- and has settled for too many jump shots. Still, he can defend like a witch and rebounds as well as any 6-3 kid you will see.

Josh McRoberts - This 6-9 Carmel (IN) High product from the Class of 2005 drew a ton of attention from college hoops heavy hitters and deservedly so. He can really run the court, is explosive around the hoop, has 17 foot range on his jump shot and is a flat out terrific passer. He still needs to add strength and learn to assert himself a little more on the offensive end, but he could be a top 10 guy in the class of 2005.

Tyler Hansbrough - Another tough 6-9 kid, Tyler is making his case as a top 10 type in the class of 2005. He is aggressive around the basket and wants to dunk EVERY time he gets the ball on the block but has the ability to step out and bury high post jumpers. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm and isn't afraid to do a little talking on the court. He does have a tendency to drop the ball to his waist resulting in the occasional tie up, but there is no doubt that Poplar Bluff, Mo's finest is one of America's finest.


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