By the time the early portion of summer 2006 arrived Cole Aldrich had heard the rumblings. The media and fans targeted the 6-11 big man, and what they viewed as sub-par play. KU’s sole 2007 commit suffered through a variety of injuries in the latter part of ’06 that seemed to affect his confidence and level of play. Aldrich needed to get healthy and get back to being the player that Kansas head coach Bill Self targeted the moment he took the reigns in Lawrence.
Being a highly-touted recruit isn’t always easy but the Bloomington, MN native was determined to respond with his play. After starting the summer discouraged by his poor play, Aldrich got healthy and started to turn things around.
What started to steer Cole in the right direction was a change in AAU teams. When the AAU circuit began Aldrich was a part of a talent-laden Minnesota Magic Elite team, by mid-summer he switched to Fox Valley Skillz which seemed to spark his game.
“Just a situation occurred. I wasn’t playing the best. And I just needed a new start to get away from everything and just get that fresh new start and get back to playing well,” said Aldrich. “The first part of the summer was frustrating. It was a real big learning experience. But the second part of the summer I started to feel a lot better health-wise and I was playing a lot better. It was nice ending on a high note.”
The second turning point came during his visit to the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic at famed Rucker Park in New York City on September 2. With NBA players Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, and Steve Nash on hand, and next to 19 of the best high school prospects in the nation, Cole dominated.
“That was a big turning point in the late part of the summer. It was a real fun time going out there. We did some community work out there to give back to the community for having us out there,” Aldrich continued. “Just playing the game and playing at the mecca of all places where all the greats played. You know Wilt, Kobe, KG, and all those other players. It was an honor being out there and it was an even bigger honor playing well out there.”
Most of Cole’s impressive 14 points, came via the dunk.
“(Laughs) I had about 8 good dunks.”
Eight is a pretty good number isn’t it?
Ok, so maybe he only had seven but the word is they were so emphatic no one would’ve complained if you said he had eight. There’s nothing like some quality dunks to help win over a boisterous New York City crowd.
“On one of the first possessions I caught a nice little one-handed tip dunk. The crowd really liked that from the beginning. They kind of started watching and dunk after dunk they liked it even more.”
The performance at Rucker Park next to some of the nation’s best high school players definitely gave Cole’s confidence a boost. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for his national ranking. After nearly a year-and-a-half as the top-ranked center from the class of 2007, he dropped to fourth according to scout.com.
“Poor guy seemed like he was beaten up a little bit. Unfortunately, I don’t think he got a chance this summer to play to the level of player he is. And at the same time you have to give credit to the other guys that are playing at an extremely high level,” explained scout.com National Recruiting Director, Dave Telep. “I think with Cole, clearly he’s a really talented prospect. Unfortunately the injury bug bit him a little bit and at the same time two other guys were playing really well,”
From talking to Cole there’s no doubt he’s taking the right steps to getting back on track and showing everyone what an inside force he can be. Aldrich is not just satisfied with being good, he wants to dominate.