Early on Monday morning, Cliff Alexander and Myles Turner stepped onto the same floor here inside the Quest Multiplex gym on the west side of the city.
It was nearly an hour into a morning practice. NBA talent-evaluators sat in a row along the far wall. Twenty-four of the best high school basketball players in the country were spread across two floors, preparing for Wednesday night’s McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center, a few miles away.
Now it was time to scrimmage, and Alexander, a 6-foot-9 power forward, and Turner, a 6-foot-11 center, found themselves anchoring the same frontcourt while members of the 12-man East squad began to fly up and down the court.
Related note: An opposing team of smaller guards and wings had minimal luck getting to the rim for the next 20 minutes. So it goes.
Alexander, a Chicago native who signed with Kansas in the fall, is one of the top frontcourt players in the senior class. So is Turner, who has yet to pick his college destination. Both have the talent — and physical tools — to be in college for a very short period of time.
On Monday, they played together for close to an hour. And Alexander is hopeful it could turn into a more permanent partnership.
“He said he hasn’t made up his mind yet,” Alexander said, “so hopefully we can entice him to come to Kansas.”
Turner, a native of Euless, Texas, is the No. 6 overall player in the class, according to Rivals.com. He’s also the only unsigned player here participating in the most prestigious event for blue-chip recruits. He projects as a ready-made rim protector at the college level — and a developing offensive talent. (On Monday night, he lit up the three-point shooting contest for 21 points in a round.)
That all makes him a wanted man this week, but especially by two players that could be his future teammates.
Alexander, the No. 4 overall prospect in the class of 2014, and fellow Kansas signee Kelly Oubre, a 6-foot-7 swingman, have tried different sales pitches this week.
Alexander, it appears, has been trying the hard sell.
“I told him: ‘Come be a Jayhawk, Bill Self will get you ready,’” Alexander said.
Oubre, meanwhile, says he’s used a softer approach.
“I just let Myles be to his self,” said Oubre, rated as the 12th overall recruit in the class. “He has a tough decision. I know how hard it was to pick a college, and he has so many good colleges that want him. I can’t just persuade him myself to go to the college of my advising.”
Turner has indicated that he will wait until mid to late April to pick a school. He visited Kansas in early March, and he just finished up a visit to in-state school Texas this past week. Turner loves former Texas star Kevin Durant, so the Longhorns are definitely in play.
Part of his decision, though, could hinge on NBA Draft decisions. For example: If KU freshman center Joel Embiid were to return to KU for his sophomore season, it’s unlikely Turner would fit into the Jayhawks’ plans. If Embiid leaves, Self would have a tailor-made spot for a 6-foot-11 rim protector.
For now, though, Turner is content to wait.
“God is going to lead him to the right situation,” Oubre said. “Of course, it’d be nice to see him in KU blue, but if he doesn’t I can’t be mad at him.”