Cole Aldrich was informed by his head coach at Jefferson High School about a month ago that he had reached the pinnacle of high school basketball – he was going to be a part of the 2007 McDonald’s All-American squad. Now came the hard part. The 6-11 senior was asked to keep a lid on the news.
“We couldn’t tell anybody really. We had to keep it kind of low (key) with everybody. That was the one thing – I almost didn’t even tell my parents for a bit because I didn’t even know if we could go tell grandma and grandpa or tell somebody else. I tell you, you tell another person, it spreads like wildfire and then it comes back to me and I figured maybe the McDonald’s people could get mad and kick me off! I thought well, I ain’t going to have that happen,” said Aldrich with a smile.
Cole is certainly smiling about the honor now and embraced the magnitude of this accolade.
“Oh yeah. It’s a big thing. It’s a pretty big honor,” continued the clearly humbled Aldrich. “I said, ‘that’s pretty cool,’ to be mentioned with all the great players in the NBA…you know Kobe, Jordan, Garnett, you know the list goes on. I mean it’s a huge honor.”
Now that the official announcement has been made, the Aldrich family can finally share their good news with everyone.
“My dad’s pretty pumped. He’s in the fire department and he’s been telling a few guys in the fire department and they’re kind of like, ‘huh?’ They’re not really basketball-oriented so they didn’t understand the magnitude of it. But my dad (explained) it’s like the World Series, but on an individual basis,” said Cole with chuckle.
Of course, Cole also shared the news with his future head coach as Self and the Jayhawks were on a bus ride prior the Missouri game on February 10th.
“I told coach and they were pretty pumped up. They thought that was real cool you know all the adversities I went through and what not, I can get through those and I’ve been rewarded for it,” Aldrich told Phog.net.
Cole may have kept a lid on the news but his game appears to be exploding at the seams. He’s brought a super-sized effort to his senior campaign at Jefferson High. Aldrich’s spring/summer struggles are a thing of the past. He’s led his team to an impressive seven-game win streak and is averaging 23.0 points, 17.5 rebounds, and over four blocks a game. Numbers that have to make KU fans and head coach Bill Self proud.
“I mean I didn’t really have that good of a summer with some little injuries here and there. I just wasn’t playing as good as I could. Coming into the high school season I really started to play well and I’m feeling really good. I can run and jump and all that.”
One of the best things about Cole - if you want an honest assessment of his play, all you have to do is ask. He was candid when he was struggling back in the spring and summer of 2006, and he’s not afraid to admit his performances appear to be on quite an upswing right now. Aldrich helped his team attain a spot atop the conference standings with a big win last Friday.
“I’ve been playing real well lately. We’ve had some big games in the last week. This last Friday we had Apple Valley, which was at the top of the conference. We were one game behind them so it was a must-win to be at the top of the conference with them. We came in Friday and we took care of business, we won by two points (59-57),” said Aldrich who notched 29 points, over 20 boards, and seven blocks in the contest. “I had a turnaround jumper with about 3.3 seconds left to put us up by 2, and they missed a shot at the very end.”
With his confidence and his game back in place, Cole’s response to being chosen as an All-American is simple – continue to help his team on a run that could possibly end with a state championship.
“I’ve just gotta keep elevating my play and hopefully the rest of my team continues to keep playing well. We can make a real good run for it.”
The regular season for Cole and his Jefferson High teammates concludes with two final games this week – Tuesday and Friday. But the senior center admits earning a state championship will be a tough task.
“It’s going to be a real tough road to get to states. I was looking at it the other day and we have five of the top nine teams in the state in our region. We have number one, we’re number three, and we have five, seven, and eight in our region too. Besides five of the top teams we have Edina, which is a real tough team too. It’s basically the state tournament for our region,” Aldrich told Phog.net.
Cole has certainly shown he’s not one to back away from a challenge. When you sign with a school like Kansas, there’s quite a bit of pressure to shoulder. Adding the McDonald’s All-American label increases the performance expectancy for a high school prospect like Cole.
“Oh yeah. I mean being the only one in the class that is an All-American. The last few years we’ve had four guys come in. We had Sherron (Collins) and (Darrell) Shady (Arthur) this year and Micah (Downs) and Julian (Wright) two years ago, kind of like me,” continued Cole. “Tyrel (Reed) is a great player, but just kind of having that label ‘All-American’ like well, now I have to perform even more.”
A pressure he feels, but a pressure he welcomes.
Cole understandably found it difficult to ponder what it will feel like to slip on that McD’s All-American jersey but he’s well-aware of this game’s impact, and the number of eyes that will be watching across the country.
“I mean being in Freedom Hall, it seats like 15,000. I think the most I’ve had at a high school game is probably 1,000 or 2,000, and now you’re going to multiply that by seven, said Aldrich clearly in awe. “You got the national media and ESPN on and all that. That’s where the best come to play.”