LAWRENCE — It was, in Bill Selfs words, a pretty good spring.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
In the aftermath of an NCAA Tournament meltdown, and the loss of five starters from a Sweet 16 team, Self added the final pieces to what could be considered his finest recruiting class at Kansas.
Kansas lost freshman Ben McLemore, a prospective top-five pick, to the NBA Draft on April 9. Thirty-five days later, they picked up Andrew Wiggins, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Senior center Jeff Withey is gone. And Self filled the hole by beating out Duke for the services of Tarik Black, a coveted graduate transfer from Memphis.
This, of course, came after Self had signed a five-man freshman class that featured four players in the top 40 of Rivals national rankings. Add in Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson, who will sit out next season, and the Jayhawks have cobbled together an infusion of talent that goes eight players deep the biggest roster turnover since Self has been at Kansas.
In 2009, the year after Kansas won its third NCAA title, the Jayhawks lost all five starters and added seven newcomers to the program. This class is one bigger. And for now, with no remaining scholarships available, its complete.
With only five scholarship returners, Kansas will be young, promising and still unproven on the college level. If you count in redshirt freshman Landen Lucas, nine of KU scholarship players have never played a minute at Allen Fieldhouse.
Yes, the list of impact returners is pretty short. Junior guard Naadir Tharpe and sophomore forward Perry Ellis will add a tinge of experience to the fold next season, while sophomores Jamari Traylor and Andrew White III also played minutes
And with seven of the eight newcomers expected on campus in the first week of June (Self says Wiggins is still planning his duties around his Canadian national team duties), heres first glance at Kansas new class.
Andrew Wiggins, 6-7, 190, freshman
• Rivals ranking: 1
• The breakdown: On the day Wiggins signed, Self was vociferous that Wiggins would be one of Kansas starting littles his term for the Jayhawks three-man starting backcourt. There are some concerns about Wiggins outside shooting, and itll be interesting to see how Self employs Wiggins in the Jayhawks high-low offense. Can Wiggins attack off screens with the ball in his hands?
• The impact: In college basketball circles, Wiggins has been mentioned as the potential national preseason player of the year heading into next season. That would mean sliding to the front of an impressive list of returning stars Oklahoma States Marcus Smart, Louisvilles Russ Smith and Creightons Doug McDermott, to name a few. Thats a pretty high bar even for one of the best talents to enter the college game in the last decade. For Wiggins, the expectation is a Kevin Durant-like impact.
Wayne Selden, 6-5, 225, freshman
• Rivals ranking: 12
• The breakdown: Seldens stock continued to rise during his final season at The Tilton School in New Hampshire, and he draws high marks for his size, strength and ability to attack the rim. (He even showed flashes of elite athleticism in the McDonalds All-American game?) But will Selden be a capable secondary ballhandler in a starting lineup? And can he shoot the ball from the wing?
• The impact: Other than Wiggins, Selden projects as the most ready-made product in Kansas freshman class. He is also a natural fit as a combo guard next to Tharpe and Wiggins in the Jayhawks backcourt.
Joel Embiid, 7-0, 220, freshman
• Rivals ranking: 25
• The breakdown: The most intriguing newcomer, Embiids ceiling rates as one of the highest in the class of 2013. But how soon will he reach it? The Jayhawks have a history of turning post players into NBA first-round picks. But few have contributed much as freshmen. Cole Aldrich. Thomas Robinson. Jeff Withey. All three needed a year (or more) of seasoning. This may be even truer for Embiid, who hails from Cameroon and is still relatively new to basketball.
• The impact: At worst, Embiid appears to be the sort of rim protector that Self covets. If his offensive skills are adequate, he could push for major minutes by the conference season.
Brannen Greene, 6-7, 200 pounds, freshman
• Rivals ranking: 29
• The breakdown: An early commitment, Greene projects as a tallish guard with the ability to knock down shots from the outside.
• The impact: In the short term, Greene could be the player most affected by the addition of Wiggins. Their skill-sets may be quite different, but Greene, like Wiggins, is primarily a wing player. That means he could be in a battle with Conner Frankamp and sophomore Andrew White III for minutes off the bench.
Conner Frankamp, 6-0, 160 pounds, freshman
• Rivals ranking: 34
• The breakdown: If were ranking skills, Frankamps jump shot may be the best in the class. A Wichita native, Frankamp became the all-time scoring leader in Wichita City League history. He also averaged a team-leading 14.1 points for the U17 USA squad that won a gold-medal at the world championships last summer.
• The impact: Frankamp will have to prove two things during his first season. Can he play the type of defense that Self will demand? And can he play point guard at the Big 12 level?
Frank Mason, 5-11, 160, guard, freshman
• Rivals ranking: 76
• The breakdown: Originally a member of the 2012 class, Mason spent last season at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia. The KU staff believed in Mason before the national rankings did. And Self has called him one of the most underrated guards in the 2013 class. Some of that may be the usual hype that emanates from the recruiting process. But Mason has point-guard skills, something KU sorely needed last season.
• The impact: Other than Embiid, Mason could be the biggest unknown in the Jayhawks freshman class. If nothing else, he adds another element of depth to the backcourt.
Hunter Mickelson, 6-10, 245, junior
• Rivals ranking: 100 (2011)
• The breakdown: After spending two seasons at Arkansas, Mickelson will attempt for a career re-start at Kansas. Self has called him a poor-mans Jeff Withey, mostly for his shot-blocking ability.
• The impact: Mickelson will be required to sit out the 2013-14 season because of transfer rules, but he will get to go against Ellis, Traylor, Embiid and Lucas every day in practice.
Tarik Black, 6-9, 260, senior
• Rivals ranking: 54 (2010)
• The breakdown: In three seasons at Memphis, Black never lived up to expectations as a high-profile recruit in his hometown. But he was a capable rebounder and finisher, and hell now get the opportunity to finish his career at Kansas as a graduate transfer.
• The impact: The Jayhawks wont need Black to be a star, and thats a good thing. From the moment he steps on Kansas, hell be the programs most experienced inside player. And that could give him the inside track to start aside Ellis in the frontcourt.
The options are tantalizing. But for now, mostly unknown. Self has a tendency to lean on veterans during the seasons opening weeks. But this year, there wont be many to turn to. But as the Jayhawks enter the summer month, heres an early projection: Tharpe, Selden and Wiggins in the backcourt; Ellis at power forward; and Black forcing Embiid to earn his spot in the middle.
Then again, its still May. By next January, that could all change.