This past season was not one to celebrate for the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team. Although they claimed the Big 12 regular season title for the tenth consecutive season, they failed to make it to the elite eight (much less the final four) for the second consecutive season. Their freshmen stars did not deliver as expected: Wiggins (although averaging about 17 points and 6 rebounds per game) was inconsistent with his playing ability throughout the season, while center Joel Embiid’s lack of presence during the tournament (he experienced a stress fracture in his lower back) hindered the Jayhawks ultimate performance. Kansas’ young squad just couldn’t make the cut this year. UConn went on to win the championship proudly representing the American Athletic conference (everyone should be fully aware of this by now). The Huskies won their championship with a veteran starting squad that included two seniors and two juniors (not trying to make excuses, but experience always helps.)
Although the season is over, big changes are occurring for the Jayhawks. Wiggins and Embiid have both announced that they will enter the 2014 NBA draft, leaving Kansas after just finishing their freshmen year. Young and eager, these two have doubt, hard work, and immense competition to face entering the big leagues. So where does this leave the Jayhawks without the two shining stars that make up their starting lineup? The high school draft is far from over, with many of the top ranked high school players in the country finalizing their selections from the coveted lists of schools that have approached them with offers to play. Kansas is no slacker when it comes to recruits, already seizing two of the best in the country: Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre Jr, both McDonald’s All Americans (bringing Kansas’ recruiting total to 36, with 17 of those under head coach Bill Self).
Alexander, a 6’8 forward from Chicago Curie high school and listed No. 3 overall recruit according to ESPN 100, is Kansas’ best bet of replacing a departing Embiid. Granted, he does not size up in comparison to Embiid’s 7’0 stature, but he is a force to be reckoned with under the basket, averaging 27 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots, and six assists during his senior year at Chicago Curie. Without Embiid, who averaged about 11 points and 8 rebounds per game, a dominating inside force is absolutely necessary for the Jayhawks to succeed. Alexander’s high school averages are impressive, and the fact that he has stated that he is in no rush to enter the NBA? Perfect. That should allow Self some time to mold Alexander into the potential powerhouse that Kansas needs.
Oubre Jr.a rangy 6’7 guard/forward from Findley College Prep in Henderson, Nevada is also a top recruit, being listed No. 11. With Wiggins (a versatile talented player who could basically be placed anywhere on the court) leaving the Jayhawk squad, Self needs another multifaceted (yet more consistently able to deliver) player to fill the void. Oubre averaged 22 points per game for Findley Prep, and (once again) considering that Wiggins was quite the let down this season, experiencing ups and downs his entire freshman year.
The next couple of weeks will be huge for the Jayhawks: Alexander and Oubre will both compete in the Jordan Brand Classic (one of the country’s premier high school all-star games) tomorrow night in Brooklyn Center. Also, the remaining stars of college basketball will make their final decision as to which elite basketball program they will represent.
With all of these promising changes coming to Rock Chalk country, the Huskies better watch out.