Cole Aldrich knows all about coming up big in the NCAA tournament.
Last April against North Carolina in the Final Four, Aldrich had the
game of his life with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks,
outdueling National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough and propelling
KU to the national championship game.
Aldrich was just getting started.
The 6-11 sophomore center broke loose Sunday for the game of the ages
against Dayton in the second round of the NCAA tournament with the
first official triple-double (13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks) in
school history as Kansas crushed the Flyers, 60-43, and advanced to the
The Bloomington, Minn., native was elated to play so well in nearby
Minneapolis at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
"I think it's fun just because I wouldn't have had it anywhere else
than being at home," Aldrich said. "I think that's kind of one thing
that got me amped up more was just seeing familiar faces in the crowd."
Aldrich's triple-double was the third unofficial triple-double in KU
annals. Wilt Chamberlain recorded two triple-doubles during the 1956-57
season years before blocked shots were officially recognized by the
NCAA in the 1970s. Aldrich's feat was just the sixth triple-double in
the history of the NCAA tournament. The last time a player recorded a
triple-double in the Big Dance that included blocks was 1992 when LSU's
Shaquille O'Neal accomplished the trick against BYU.
"I'm just so proud of him," KU sophomore guard Tyrel Reed said. "He has
been playing this way all year. For him to get this on the biggest
stage, I think it's just awesome for him, especially in his hometown."
All afternoon, the smaller Dayton players kept driving the lane and
challenging Aldrich with shot after shot. And time after time, Aldrich
swatted them back. His name is now in elite company in NCAA tournament
history with the likes of O'Neal and former Marquette star Dwayne Wade,
who was the last player to record a triple-double in the Big Dance in
2003. (Coincidentally, Wade did that also at the Metrodome.)
But don't expect Aldrich to get a big head after his historic feat.
After all, he was just doing his job.
"I just try to help out those guys (teammates)," he said. "If they get
beat off the dribble or if my guy catches it in the post, I just try to
block their shot. I have been trying to do that all year, and that's
just part of my game."
Blocking shots has come naturally for the "Fly Swatter" since he was a
little kid. He was 6-foot in the fifth grade and already gaining a
reputation for his shot-blocking skills. He's grown 11 inches since
then and become a national name in basketball circles.
His name will only get bigger after the Dayton game. Aldrich currently
ranks 14th in the country in blocked shots with 2.65 bpg.
Aldrich said he didn't keep a tally of his blocks during the game
"I definitely had a height advantage and a length advantage," he said.
"I was able to stay out of foul trouble. I was able to just alter shots
even if I wasn't able to block the shot, which is really helpful for
us, because that means they might miss a few more."
Dayton missed many shots against Kansas, shooting a dismal 22.2 percent
from the field. With the victory, the Jayhawks are off to the Sweet 16
and a battle against Michigan State on Friday night. KU's confidence is
building after each win coming off two of three losses entering the Big
Dance, including the bitter first-round defeat to Baylor in the Big 12
"We were all kind of frustrated with ourselves because we knew we could
do so much better,"Aldrich said. "Coach (Bill Self) really got on us
for the week that we had off and we kind of came together. It's
one-and-done (now) and we all just want to go home with big smiles on
Aldrich, his teammates, and Self were certainly all smiles after
beating Dayton. Self marveled over Aldrich's play.
"The most impressive thing is obviously rebounding and his blocked
shots," Self said. "He does a great job, or he did today and he's
getting better of holding his positioning against smaller guys and
making them score over the top of him as opposed to him going for fakes
or trying to block shots.
"He got a lot of blocked shots standing on the ground. I bet he had
three or four while he is standing, which is pretty smart considering
if you have smaller guys trying to shoot over him."
Aldrich is looking to keep blocking shots and help lead KU to a
national championship. Self believes the big fella could make an
inedible mark on KU basketball.
"As a head coach I never coached anybody that good as a true five
(center)," Self said. "He has a chance to be a fabulous player and even
be an All-American-type player if in fact (he comes back for his junior
"I think they (Aldrich and junior guard Sherron Collins) could
potentially be guys that could have their numbers hung up in the
rafters based on what they do."
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