The Wait For Rush

Now that Julian Wright is off to greener pastures in the NBA, many questions beg: Will sophomore star Brandon Rush be the next to declare for the June 28 NBA draft. And if so,when will he announce his decision? Are there any other KU players who might leave early? Will coach Bill Self still be able to sign a player to replace Wright for next season?

Let’s go inside the mind of the Jayhawk head man and find out the answers to these pressing questions and more.

Bill Self certainly wouldn’t be surprised if KU held another press conference to announce a player (Rush) opting for the NBA.

“If it ended now, it would be great,” Self said. “But there’s also some chances we can certainly do this again. Time will tell.”

Brandon Rush certainly is the player in question regarding whether he will opt for the NBA draft. Self said on Monday he still thinks “we’re 10 days to two weeks away from knowing what (Rush’s) intentions are” concerning the NBA.

“After talking with Brandon on numerous times and talking with people closest to Brandon, I don’t think he’s in a big hurry to let anybody know what he’s going to do because it’s in his best interest to wait,” Self said. “It’s in his best interest to wait and see who else declares. It’s in his best interest to gather as much information as we can. That will be done.”

Rush backed up those statements by Self at the KU basketball banquet on Tuesday, when he said he’s in no rush to make a decision. He has until April 29 to declare for the draft. While most observers have thought Rush would turn pro since that was his first option out of high school, the 6-6 forward does have some motivation for coming back to school, especially if he feels he’ll drop past the first 20 picks of the draft.

“I think we’ll be better (next season),” Rush said after the UCLA loss in the Elite Eight. “This will be our third year together. We’ll learn how to play in these type of games.”

If you believe the many mock NBA drafts on Web sites, Rush appears to be a likely first-round pick and guaranteed a three-year contract. However, Self doesn’t put too much credence into those mock drafts. In any case, here’s what some Web sites are predicting.

NBAdraft.net actually projects Rush to slip to the second round as the No. 32 pick by Boston (second pick of second round), while three other sites have Rush going in the first round. Draftexpress.com projects Rush being selected with the No. 21 pick by Minnesota; insidehoops.com predicts Rush going at No. 23; and hoopshype.com likes the Kansas City native landing with the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 20 with a rookie contract worth $957,300. That Web site compares him to former Temple star and current Miami Heat player Eddie Jones, who was actually selected by the Lakers with the 10th pick overall in the 1994 NBA draft.

As for the other KU players and pro prospects like Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, and Sherron Collins, they have all confirmed that they will indeed be back next season.

“(They all) seem on board,” Self said.

Self doesn’t think Wright’s decision will affect what Rush might do.

“(They’re not like),‘Oh, Julian’s leaving. We’re not going to be as good,’” Self said. “ Hey, we’re going to be good. And Julian knows we’re going to be good no matter what. It does hurt from a talent standpoint losing a caliber of player and person as Julian, but somebody usually steps up. Brandon’s decision I think will be made strictly on what’s best for Brandon.”

Of course, Self would feel better if he could find a player to replace Wright. However, he certainly knows he won’t sign a recruit of Wright’s ability out there now.

“You don’t replace Julian with three days notice,” Self said. “It’s not the movie Blue Chips. ‘Hey, let’s get on the phone and get some guys.’ It doesn’t exactly work like that. This is a situation that potentially kind of puts us — not behind the eight ball — but puts us in a situation where we got to scramble. That’s based on some other things happening (if Rush leaves). ...My staff does a good job of digging them (recruits) up. We’re not going to recruit a top 15 pick (like Wright) in the next week, but if we do get somebody, we’ll get some people that can help us. I do think there’s probably guys out there. ...We’ll work hard to get that done.”

Despite Wright’s decision, Self believes he can turn the loss into a positive. He said Wright’s decision is “not a totally bad thing because it’s been my experience when you have guys that experience success and move on, that’s also very attractive to other guys out there that want to experience the same type of success and do some things similar to what Julian did.”

Will Rush follow Wright into the NBA? Will master recruiter Self turn another Larry Brown and sign a sleeper or two for the 2007 Class like Brown did when he first arrived in Lawrence in the spring of 1983?

Without even seeing Mark Turgeon from Hayden High School in Topeka, Chris Piper at Lawrence High School, and Cedric Hunter from Omaha (Neb.) South, Brown signed all three overlooked prospects who would all end their careers making a lasting impact on Kansas basketball. Hunter, Piper, and Turgeon help lead KU to the 1986 Final Four, while Piper was the defensive stalwart on the 1988 NCAA championship team. Heck, Hunter even had a 10-day NBA contract with the Charlotte Hornets in 1991-92.

Stay tuned Jayhawk fans as many questions will be answered in the coming weeks and months. For now, the second season of Kansas basketball has just officially begun.


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