Josh Selby: Anatomy of a Recruitment (Part I)

A key piece in Bill Self's plan for the 2010-2011 season was to add another difference maker into the guard rotation at KU, especially given the departure of Sherron Collins from the Jayhawk lineup. Coach Self found his man in Josh Selby. Here's Part 1 on how Josh's decision to play at KU came about, as Aaron Cedeño has the story behind the story.

It was the morning of April 17, and the Jordan Brand Class All-Star Game was just hours away.

For Maeshon Witherspoon, that meant one thing. Her son, Josh Selby, had a decision to make. The countless hours of studying game tape, researching a coach's offensive and defensive tendencies, the visits and even heartache would culminate that night inside Madison Square Garden.

Calling him in to her New York City hotel room, Maeshon placed two National Letters of Intent in front of him – one to the University of Kansas and one to the University of Tennessee – and walked away.


Maeshon understood why her son got caught up in the moment two years ago.

At the time, Josh was a highly-touted point guard who had just started his junior season at DeMatha (MD) Catholic High School. The three schools recruiting him the hardest, she explained, were Louisville, Texas and Tennessee, and the stress of the process was already starting to wear on him.

Having already taken two trips to Louisville, the family scheduled back-to-back visits – one to Tennessee and one to Texas – in September of 2008.

But once they set foot on the Tennessee campus, she said, they were blown away. With the Vols football team set for its annual battle with rival Florida, campus was at a fever pitch. The family walked through the parking lot and passed through the sea of tailgaters, they stepped onto the football field before the game, and Maeshon even had the opportunity to speak with legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summit.

The plan was to wait two weeks before a commitment was made, to give the family time to sort things out. But shortly after returning to Baltimore, with the trip still fresh in his mind, Josh decided he wanted to be a Tennessee Volunteer.

"He was ready to end it," Maeshon said. "I was kind of shocked, but to me it felt right because of (assistant coach Steve) Forbes."

The relationship Forbes had built with not just Josh, but the entire family, would remain strong for the next two years. They don't let people in to their inner circle and into their hearts easily, Maeshon explained, but they had done so with him. They trusted him because he cared for them. He cared for Josh.

But in the year that followed, they began to view the Tennessee program in a different light. Maeshon's brother, Larry Witherspoon, took it upon himself to begin investigating Tennessee's style of offense and their roster, and some doubts began to arise.

Did they make the right decision? As Josh's star continued to rise on a national level, they wondered if they'd done such an important decision justice. Had they done all the necessary research?

It was in July of 2009, almost a year after Josh had originally committed to Tennessee, that the family sat down for another group discussion.

"My brother just sat down and explained to us the different (offensive) sets that Tennessee wasn't running, the offense and different things like that," Maeshon explained. "And we decided at that point we were going to open it up."

This time around, she added, they were going to gather as much information as they possibly could about each one of her son's suitors. Anyone who showed sincere interest would be considered.

When it came time to schedule in-home visits a couple of months later in September, the list of suitors included many of the best coaches and programs in the college game. Kansas. UCONN. Baylor. Oregon. Kentucky.

Where Kansas was concerned, the family already had a degree of interest – dating back to the Jayhawks' national championship game victory over Memphis in 2008. But when Coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend left their living room Sept. 9, that interest had gone to a whole new level.

The two coaches delivered a fantastic presentation, Maeshon explained, but it was Self's easy demeanor that really hit home. Kansas fans have long assumed that their head coach must be dynamite in the living room, so to speak, with his friendly and down-home manner.

Using the reaction of Josh, Maeshon and the rest of the family as a gauge, it appears those suspicions are correct.

"It didn't feel like, you have some college coaches out there who are kind of egotistical and kind of arrogant," Maeshon said. "Where you don't feel like you can talk to them as one-on-one without walking on eggshells. I didn't get that impression from Coach Self. Coach Self seemed real down to Earth, easy to talk to and laid back."

Thus began a year that can only be described as a whirlwind of activity. A few short weeks after the in-home visits, Josh started the process of narrowing down his list by including Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, Miami, Indiana and Baylor.

Though that list would fluctuate in the coming months, the Jayhawks remained steady, thanks to consistency on the part of Self and Townsend in their recruitment of the elite point guard. With college practices preparing to kick-off in October, Maeshon explained, some schools seemed hesitant in asking Josh to attend their opening night festivities, but the Jayhawks never were.

Late Night in the Phog has long been considered one of the biggest, most celebrated pre-season events in all of college basketball. 16,000 people – and typically some of the elite basketball prospects in the country as well – pack the stands to be entertained by player-performed skits and a scrimmage to help kick off the season.

Maeshon knew that Late Night 2009 was going to be star-studded from a recruiting standpoint, even without her son. Harrison Barnes, Doron Lamb and Kansas signee Royce Woolridge had already scheduled trips to campus for the weekend event, but Self and Townsend persisted. They wanted Selby there as well.

So the family packed its bags and headed for the Sunflower State, only to be stunned by what they found. They'd been to games at Maryland and Georgetown, Maeshon said, but nothing compared to the intensity and passion they experienced  with the fans at Late Night.

And it wasn't even for a game.

"When the players, the recruits walked out, they got a standing ovation," Maeshon said. "And at the time those fans had no idea if those guys were going to pick their school, but they treated them like they were KU basketball players. Josh said to me 'Mom, there's 16,000 people screaming and hollering and it's not a game!'"

By the time they left Lawrence and headed home for Baltimore, the Kansas program – its coaches and fans – had solidified itself as a contender for Josh's services.

Editor's Note:  Tomorrow, we'll have the conclustion to this piece.  And, look for this story in an upcoming copy of Jayhawk Illustrated magazine. Top Stories