On Wednesday afternoon, University of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self met with the media for his weekly press conference. With the Jayhawks coming off of a blowout win over Emporia State and preparing for another in-state rival in Washburn, the conversation was focused on recruiting.
On Wednesday morning the staff received signed letters of intent from Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs and Julian Wright. While the signings were entirely expected and maybe more symbolic than anything, it did give Self a chance to finally discuss in public how good the trio could potentially be.
“I think it’s a big day for us with what we’re losing from a senior standpoint and recruiting three guys that are this highly rated,” said Self who commented that this group is the most highly rated combination of players he had ever recruited. “Certainly they are good players and they are very good prospects, they seem to us to be better people than players so I think they’ll be great additions and great fits for our basketball program.
Self also took some time to break down the strengths and weaknesses of each player. With Wright, a 6-8 wing from the Chicago area, Self was also able to provide a little bit of insight into both his playing ability and how Kansas seemed to come from way behind schools like Arizona, Depaul and Illinois to secure his services.
“We were always on Julian but I personally had not a good job with him. There’s a lot of reasons and we’ve all got excuses but when I had stomach surgery in the spring and we had a lot of different things going on I personally did not make it to Chicago to see him and that put us behind,” continued Self. “When that put us behind we were playing catch up all summer. Fortunately for us they allowed us in their home and I really feel like Kansas was always a place that Julian always kind of wanted to go, or was a place that was high on his list in the last 18 months or so.”
Self went on to explain that the in-home visit with Wright may have been the best and most memorable in-home visit that he’d ever have. Most importantly he is excited about what Julian brings to the table as a player.
“In high school he can play any of the five spots, for us he can play four spots,” said Self of a player who could see time at any spot but the five. “He needs to improve in a lot of areas as all young guys do, but he’s got a great feel for the basketball game. He sees it before it happens, the games in slow motion to him much like it was with Danny back when he played. Now he’s not the inside scorer like Danny, but he’s kind of a poor man’s Magic player type player coming out of high school.”
Self was quick to point out that he isn’t Magic Johnson though.
“I’m not comparing him to Magic, I said a poor man’s Magic. He handles it, he passes it, and he’s tall and he’s good in transition.
Moving along, Self had plenty of praise to lavish on Mario Chalmers. Many Kansas fans have expected the 6-2 guard from Anchorage (AK) Bartlett to come in and take over for Aaron Miles, but Self was sure to point out that Chalmers is more of a combo guard and a much different player than Miles.
“Mario has a scorer’s mentality where Aaron doesn’t have a scorer’s mentality at all, Aaron’s a set up guy,” said Self. “He’ll go through a phase where he’s got to learn to play with other good players, there’s no doubt about that and Micah will go through it to, but as you know his summer team was loaded. But you’ll go from being the first option every possession to being the second, third, fourth option but it’s something he’ll adjust to. Most good high school players take a lot more shots in high school than they do in college so I don’t think that will be too difficult for him.
The recruitment of guards, and prospects in general, like Chalmers and Robinson before him that don’t really have a defined role is something Kansas fans can expect from Self in the future. Self isn’t worried about filling specific positions on the court, he just wants to put players on the floor.
“I hope that we’re able to recruit good players and put them out there and figure it out as opposed to saying he’s a two, a three, a four or a five. I don’t like doing that,” said Self. “The five best perimeter players are going to play a majority of the minutes regardless of how big they are as long as you’ve got a point in the game.”
Rounding out the early class is Downs a 6-8 wing from the Seattle area. According to Self, Downs may be the single most skilled player in the class of 2005.
“Micah is one of the most skilled players of this senior class, period,” said Self. “Of all the players out there in the country he’s one of the most skilled.”
According to Self, Downs is a complete wing on both ends of the floor who only needs to add strength. He praised Downs’ ability to shoot from behind the three point line, off the bounce and his ability to explode to the rim and rebound on either end of the court.
“He’s probably about as fun to watch as any player out there from my standpoint because he just knows how to play and he’s just strength away from being a very good player.”
With those three prospects on board, the Jayhawks are left with one -- for now -- available scholarship to use in the spring if they so desire. Self credited current assistants Tim Jankovich, Joe Dooley and Kurtis Townsend as well as departed Norm Roberts for discovering the players early and putting Kansas in a position to land them.
Whether or not another player is added, Self is expecting the class of 2005 to make an immediate impact when they make their way to Lawrence next year.
“They will help next year, we think they’ll all three have an impact next year but a lot of that is because they have to have an impact next year because we lose so much,” said Self. “They’re not perfect players by any means but they all have potential to be excellent college players and I would say maturity would be the only thing standing in the way of them being ready to have a huge impact. Hopefully that will occur within the next 12 months.”