Each year, fans of Kansas Basketball look forward to the annual Late Night festivities because it marks the beginning of a new season. The packed house, the skits, the entertainment and eventually the short scrimmage all make for a fan friendly experience.
Perhaps more importantly, these Late Night or Midnight Madness festivities are becoming increasingly important as a recruiting tool. With that being the case, Kansas is looking to make the most of a very good recruiting tool this evening when no less than eight high profile recruits will be in the building.
It is going to be a nice mixture of commitments, prospects on official visits and members of the class of 2006 and 2007. While many of these names are already familiar to Kansas fans, a refresher course on each player who will be in attendance couldn’t hurt.
Mario Chalmers- Obviously, Kansas fans have read an awful lot about Mr. Chalmers over the last six months. The 6-2 combo guard from Anchorage (AK) Bartlett offered up a commitment after an official visit last spring and has decided to make the trip to Lawrence on his own dime so that he can be with his future teammates.
Chalmers has developed his reputation as one of the truly elite guards in the country thanks to his quickness, creative scoring and superior ability on the defensive end. He has a dangerous jump shot but needs to learn to involve others and make sure he has a purpose in mind on drives to the lane. He changes directions and makes a lot of difficult shots in the lane right now that will be tough to convert on the next level. Kansas fans will also want to know that Chalmers will be playing in the area when he and his team play in the Bass Pro Tourney of Champions in Springfield, MO from January 14-16, 2005.
Micah Downs- The 6-8 WF made his official visit to Kansas the same weekend as Chalmers and like his Alaskan friend committed the next week. He’s settled into his new surroundings at Juanita (WA) High after spending his junior season at Bothell (WA) High.
Downs has drawn several comparisons to current NBA’er and former Duke star Mike Dunleavy Jr. because of his length and strong perimeter game. He’s a borderline lethal shooter from behind the arc with textbook mechanics on his jump shot but shouldn’t be categorized as just a shooter. He’s got some ability to go off of the dribble, is light on his feet and moves very well around the basket making him dangerous in the lane or finishing in transition. He’s also one of the few players around with a legitimate mid-range game and he loves to use the glass. The most important thing for Downs is to improve his strength.
Julian Wright- After committing last month, the Flossmoor (IL) Homewood-Flossmoor star will actually be taking his official visit this weekend. The 6-8 wing pulled one of the biggest surprise commitments in recent memory when he committed to Kansas after Bill Self’s in home visit even though the Jayhawks hadn’t even been listed in his most recent top three schools.
On the court there are few players in the country who can match Wright’s versatility and desire. He’s a unique player with a bit of a herky jerky style but he gets an awful lot done thanks to his size, above average ball handling ability, instincts and superior passing ability. His jump shot still needs plenty of work, but he does hit shots off of the dribble and can score with either hand around the basket. His athleticism, long arms, rebounding and shot blocking ability also mean that he can help out some in the interior and he should some time playing the high post during his career.
Martynas Pocius- A native of Lithuania, the 6-5 WG who is prepping at Plymouth (NH) Holderness will be visiting Lawrence officially as well. Although he is a bit of an unknown to most recruiting analysts and followers of high school hoops he has earned a big time reputation thanks to a stellar summer in Europe and some impressive fall workouts.
At this point he is down to Kansas and Duke and is slated to take an official visit to Durham next weekend. He’s regarded as a big time shooter who also has the athleticism to get to the basket if necessary.
C.J. Henry- The son of former Jayhawk Carl Henry, C.J. will be in Lawrence on an unofficial visit. A 6-2 WG, the Putnam City (OK) High product is well known as a dual sport threat and is reportedly an elite baseball prospect and has a chance to be drafted in the spring MLB draft.
He’s a hard nosed kid with a good body that is wired for getting to the basket and scoring. His outside shooting is a bit streaky and he’d have be considered as more of a scorer than pure shooter. He generally makes good decisions with the ball and is a solid defender who helps out on the glass as well. Thanks to his Kansas bloodlines, he’s been a hot topic for discussion among the Jayhawk faithful but has not received a scholarship offer at this time.
Jerry Smith- A member of the class of 2006, Smith has the potential to emerge as one of the truly elite guards in his class. He’s a very well built 6-2 combo guard from Wauwatosa (WI) East in the suburbs of Milwaukee and put up big time numbers during his freshman and sophomore years.
Smith has also backed up the hype on a national circuit and has proven time and time again that he is a dangerous scorer no matter who is guarding him. He has an extremely explosive first step that he uses to get around defenders and is a confident ball handler. His jump shot has come around and he must be respected as a three point shooter. So far in his career Smith has played primarily on the wing but will see more time at the point as his career goes on so he needs to continue to learn how to set up other teammates. Smith will also play defense and you won’t find a better rebounding guard anywhere.
Matt Bouldin- Another member of the class of 2006, Bouldin is a 6-4 WG who came on late last summer and is being evaluated by schools on several different levels. Bouldin saw schools from the Missouri Valley, Big 12, Pac 10, WAC, WCC and several other conferences stop by Highlands Ranch (CO) Thunder Ridge during the fall to watch him play.
Bouldin is a smart wing who loves to pull up from between 12 and 17 feet and bury effortless looking jumpers. His stroke is reliable out to three point range and he has just enough athleticism to catch defenders sleeping on surprising drives to the basket. He’ll need to work on his lateral quickness and continue to prove that he can take quicker defenders off of the dribble.
Cole Aldrich- As wild as it may sound, one could make the argument that there won’t be a more promising prospect in the building or on the court than Aldrich. He’s a 6-10 forward from Bloomington (MN) Jefferson and although he is only a sophomore in high school, this stud from 2007 has already made plenty of waves.
For the sake of sanity and reason, it is a little too early to put too much thought into Aldrich’s potential because a lot can change over the next few years. However, at this point in his career he is as complete a big man as you will find. He can face the basket and shoot to 12 feet, finishes with either hand around the basket, rebounds, runs the court pretty well and has above average footwork and fundamentals. He’s already one of the truly elite prospects in the country regardless of class and it is going to be very interesting to see how he develops.