Checking In With Cole

The Jayhawks have opened plenty of eyes with their current 12-game surge. KU is 10-2 over that stretch and in second place in the Big 12. Bill Self's young squad certainly has 2007 commit Cole Aldrich's attention. The Bloomington (MN) big man shared his thoughts with Phog.net on his personal chase for a conference title, the improvement in his game, and he just might hold the secret to KU's continued success.

On Saturday, January 7, 6-10 Cole Aldrich was in attendance as Kansas drubbed Kentucky by nearly 30 – a game the 2007 KU commit labeled as a “crazy game”. The large margin of victory led Aldrich to share a revelation with KU head coach Bill Self.

“I told coach I need to come down here more because every time I come down here we just beat up on whoever we’re playing,” Aldrich said while laughing. “I’ve been to three games and we’ve won by more than 20 every game.”

Based on that premise Self would love to arrange for Cole to attend every game from here on out -- but that won’t be possible because Aldrich is chasing a conference title of his own at Jefferson Senior in Bloomington.

“I want to win the conference,” Aldrich emphatically stated. “I think it’s one of the biggest things we could accomplish as a team.”

Aldrich admits winning states would be a nice feather in his cap but he believes winning the marathon conference race would carry even more weight.

“I mean going to state would be great too, and winning states would be great -- but saying that we won the conference I think personally says a lot more than going to state. You could have 3 real good games to go to states. But in conference we have to play 20-straight good games to win it.”

Jefferson Senior is 12-2 and has a good chance to accomplish its goals. Though Aldrich sees his share of double and triple teams he’s still averaging nearly 17 points a game, and close to 14 boards. He’s put up several impressive double-doubles this season and the improvement in his game is apparent. Maximizing and getting the most out of his 6-10 frame is something Aldrich has worked on this season.

“I think last year I was putting the ball on the ground and the little guards would take it or foul me and they wouldn’t call it, or they’d strip it. Now I’m just keeping the ball up taking a little turn, and just shooting over them -- they’re falling lately so I’m pretty happy.”

But that’s not the only facet of his game he’s enhanced.

“I’m starting to have more of a feel in the open court too. When teams press us I just kind of stand in the middle and they throw the ball up and I just catch it – turnaround – and hit guys on the release for an open layup or even sometimes I’ll bring the ball up myself. I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable doing that.”

Aldrich getting more comfortable doing anything is probably bad news for the competition, and music to any Kansas fans’ ears. But while Aldrich has been tuning up his own game, he’s found plenty of time to pay attention to the Jayhawks ’05-’06 campaign.

“It’s going good. The first part of the season was a shaky start but I mean now they’re finally starting to come together and they just got a win at Iowa State yesterday. I was going to go to that game too,” Aldrich said. “It’s definitely improved a lot from the beginning of the season when they struggled with Arizona and so many turnovers. The guys have really picked it up and it’s going to be an exciting end of the season.”

Micah Downs was a player Aldrich had met before on recruiting trips to Kansas and Cole had heard the rumblings about Downs’ future in a Kansas uniform. The future Jayhawk believes that Micah may have been a bit overwhelmed by the demands of a big-time program like KU. 

“I think it was a poor decision on his part because I know there are so many other schools out there you can find. It happens sometimes though and some guys get too blinded by the fact that they’re at a huge big-time program and they’ve gotta produce or they’ll find somebody else.”

Aldrich is aware that at Kansas, no matter what pedigree you walk through the door with, it all comes down to what you do in practice and how hard you work. It’s a trait that Cole admires in his future coach.

“You gotta keep it up every game or else it’s going to be gone,” according to Aldrich. 

Back when Cole attended the Kentucky game he thought he might’ve been able to share a word with possible future teammate Darrell Arthur. Arthur ended up being a no-show and will possibly attend the Oklahoma game on Sunday. But Aldrich feels he could’ve helped sway one of the premiere 2006 recruits.

“I was excited to see him. I could’ve done a little recruiting myself with him and said, ‘hey, you can come play with me.’

Cole has a terrific head on his shoulders and could certainly double as a college basketball analyst – from his analysis on KU’s Brandon Rush and his possible jump to the NBA --

“I don’t know if it will be this year or next year. I kind of have a feeling it will be after this year. But I don’t think it would be the best for him. The only thing I’d say he has to work on some is maybe his ball handling but…Once he works on that not many people will stop him,” stated Cole.

-- To his analysis on Sunday’s Indiana-Minnesota game which he attended. 

“I was expecting it would be an Indiana win. Indiana just did not hit a shot. I mean it was like they barely could even get the ball up sometimes. They just threw quick shots up they didn’t even look for Marco Killingsworth,” said Aldrich.

The lack of attention paid to the interior is something that hits home for Cole. Though he’s still a star-in-the-making, Aldrich is not shy about wanting the ball. At times this season his Jefferson teammates have forgotten about 2007 top-ranked center.

“I mean last game Coach was just saying if I was one of these guys I would’ve gotten the ball in – this is like 2 minutes into the game – I would’ve been getting the ball inside sometimes already because they were playing behind me,” and Aldrich let his teammates know that this was a situation he could take advantage of. “You guys better get me the ball if they’re playing behind me. One time out of eight teams we’re going to face are not going to bring a triple team then they got that double-team you better give me the ball.”

Cole wants the ball, wants to succeed, and can’t wait to spend his future at KU.


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