The first time Kansas coach Bill Self can remember seeing Cliff Alexander, he was standing in a hallway at Curie High School in Chicago, watching a team of high school boys run wind sprints.
Alexander, running with the rest of the boys, was just a ninth grader.
Chicago winters can be long and hard, and the city sidewalks don’t make for a great running track, so the Curie High basketball program would often take their workouts to the hallways.
“That’s how they conditioned,” Self said. “It was pretty cool.”
The old story took on a little more meaning on Saturday, when Alexander, a 6-foot-8 power forward, officially signed to play basketball at Kansas. Alexander, rated as Rivals’ No. 4 overall recruit in the country, joins small forward Kelly Oubre in the Jayhawks’ 2014 class.
But on Monday, Self confirmed what seems rather obvious: The Jayhawks are not done recruiting.
“Oh, yeah, we’re still recruiting, yes, absolutely,” Self said. “We don’t know exactly how our situation will play out, so we’ll always be recruiting.”
Last Friday, the Jayhawks lost out on two top-five recruits, Chicago center Jahlil Okafor and Minnesota guard Tyus Jones, who opted to attend Duke. But, depending on a few scenarios, Self could still be in the market for some more blue-chip prospects.
For now, Alexander and Oubre fill the scholarship spots of two obvious departures: Senior forward Tarik Black and freshman Andrew Wiggins, who projects as the No. 1 overall pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. Kansas could also be in danger of losing freshman guard Wayne Selden and/or freshman center Joel Embiid, who both could be potential first-round picks next summer. It’s early, though, and Self cautions about making too much out of early-season results.
“Right now, there’s 90 guys out there that’s been guaranteed he’s going to go in the first round,” Self said. “And there’s only 30 teams.”
Other possible Kansas targets include two five-star prospects: Myles Turner, a center from Euless, Texas, and shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, a teammate of Oubre at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Alexander, meanwhile, has suggested that he’d like to play with shooting guard Jaquan Lyle, a former Louisville commit who plays at Huntington Prep in West Virginia.
But for the moment, with Alexander and Oubre on board, Self appears plenty pleased with his class. On Monday, he said Alexander could be one of the better big men he’s recruited to Kansas.
“This guy has a chance to be really, really, really good,” Self said of Alexander. “His ceiling is remarkably high, and he’s a — if I say he’s a monster, then that’ll be the headline: ‘Alexander a monster.’ I’ll say he plays much more aggressively than what most 18-year-olds play.
“He really goes after the ball and attacks the basket very hard. He’s got a chance to be really good.”