Aldrich Tough To Replace

Kansas head coach Bill Self didn't mince words stating simply, "It's time." Self was alongside junior Cole Aldrich Monday and supportive of his decision to throw his name into the ring for the 2010 NBA Draft.

If you've followed Kansas basketball closely you're very familiar with the development Kansas junior Cole Aldrich has undergone. He started out as a relatively raw freshman who developed into a player who was ready to contribute to KU's title run in San Antonio. His stellar performance against North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough will not be forgotten. But from a wide-eyed freshman struggling to get a grasp on big-time Division I basketball he transformed into one of the best centers in the country.

Now, after giving KU an extra year when he could've played for cash after last season, Aldrich determined it was time to take the next step. Monday, the 6-11 Bloomington, Minnesota native sat in front of the media with his head coach at his side and announced he will enter the 2010 NBA Draft finally getting to realize a dream he's had since the fifth grade.  

"I think he's paid his dues here and I think it's time for him to move forward into another chapter," Self stated. "He's made a lot of sacrifices, as his family has, to come back in a time where he didn't have to. We're all very proud of him."

"First of all I want to thank everybody for the opportunity that I've had here. It's been a fun one. I don't want to get choked up or anything but the last three years have been pretty special," Aldrich continued as he held back tears. "A lot of highs a few lows this summer with my grandma but…it's a special time for me and my family I really had talked to them extensively we went through somewhat of the same process last year of figuring out what I wanted to do."

"No, I didn't go that strong. But it's time," Self answered when asked if he had to tell Cole not to come back. "In everyone's decision making process, there's a time when you're at a crossroads and wonder if you're prepared and wonder what's best for your family and everyone. This was an easy decision in my opinion. Although there are emotional strings I'm sure that pull at Cole. This was an easy decision from my perspective, and one that we should all view as a happy decision as well."

Every discussion and every talk led to forgoing his senior season. If you operated inside the Kansas circle you knew this day was coming and that the decision was likely a pretty easy one for all parties involved. This was not a decision that was questioned or even unexpected. It was also not a decision based on the number where the Bloomington, Minnesota native might hear his name called in late June.

"I really haven't heard too much about where I am going to go," though one site projects Aldrich might even go to his hometown Minnesota Timberwolves as the final pick in the lottery. "I am hoping to go really high—hopefully a lottery pick. I'm really just going to take the workouts from here on out to the end of the draft to ensure that I put myself in the best position to help whatever team I go to be successful."

"I think that is almost irrelevant right now. I think that we all know he's going to go pretty high. Whether he's going to go five or 14, I don't really know," said Self adamantly.
 
A lot depends on who goes where and which teams might need a big man. Aldrich has not hired an agent yet and if you don't hire an agent you always have the option of coming back to school. However, Self stressed that whether Cole hires an agent or not will be dependent on his comfort level but with or without an agent the decision has been made and is final.

"I'm going to meet with a few people and a few groups here in the next week or so, but I don't have any favorites. I'm still undecided about that," said Aldrich speaking about his decision-making as far as an agent goes. "As of right now I think that it would be a good choice to make. There is that option of not doing it, but I think everybody around me has pushed me to do that."
 
Cole leaves with an NCAA Championship ring and an unblemished record at home (55-0) and just four blocks short (254) of Greg Ostertag's KU record for blocked shots (258). The news also comes on the heels of being chosen AP third team All-American. He averaged 11.2 ppg, and 9.8 rpg and never let his goal of reaching the NBA or the decision that faced him after the season affect his play. Aldrich has given everything to the Kansas program including an extra year that he certainly didn't have to give. But sitting in front of his teammates, coaches, and friends and saying this was it was not easy.

"I felt that my time has come in my life to change the chapter and just go from one great chapter to hopefully starting another great chapter in life. It's exciting, it's a little nerve-wracking but most of all I'm just going to have fun. Take in all the experiences that these guys have given me the past three years. I wouldn't trade anything for these guys. They're a little goofy, a little crazy, but we have a lot of fun and that's the main reason why I came back to school was just to have another fun year and just to be around everybody that I love."

Kansas will now say goodbye to its two unquestioned leaders and two National Championship leftovers in the same year. While senior Sherron Collins will collect his diploma in May Aldrich will end the semester 16 credits shy of a degree but has promised his coach that he will return to accomplish that goal. If you know Aldrich rest-assured the Academic All-American of the Year will stay true to his word.

"He's going to go ahead and finish up school and get his degree, he's promised us that. But you're proud of all your players all the time. You're especially proud of someone who sacrifices a lot to give your university a chance to be better and Cole has certainly done that," Self added.

Much like Collins, Aldrich leaves with no regrets about what has transpired on the court and departs Lawrence a better man off of it.

"I told Tyrel (Reed) the other night in the room that as much as it hurts not going to practice (after being knocked out of the tournament), I wouldn't change it for the world. I had an absolute blast. Not only did I mature as a player, but I definitely matured as a man," Aldrich said.
 
"We're really proud of the young man that he's become. He's represented himself and his school in a way that has been nothing but first class," Self said.

"It really gives me a lot of confidence not only in myself, but also to my family. Our comfort level around Coach has been tremendous. We've gone through a lot and Coach has always been there to help us out through that. To have him say he feels not only my game on the court, but my personality and my maturity off the court is ready for it, we really respect that a lot," Aldrich added.
 
Kansas will miss an engaging, bright young man off the court and 6-11 presence on the interior on it. They are certainly big shoes to fill but everyone is entitled to follow their dreams and Aldrich has more then earned the right.

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