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Kansas’ Bill Self focusing in on big guys in 2015 recruiting class

08/01/2014 10:23 AM

08/01/2014 10:23 AM

Recruiting can be a weird thing. Fortunes change on the whims of teenagers. The lists and rankings are endless. The whole exercise is, to put it one way, soaked in misinformation and hype and handlers and star-ratings and late-bloomers and hundreds of kids receiving thousands of pieces of recruiting mail every day (and texts — lots of texts).

Yes, the whole exercise can feel a bit weird, like one chaotic sorting of talent. Bill Self doesn’t use this particular verbiage, of course. He keeps it a little more vague: Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve, Self will say, and sometimes you do get what you don’t deserve.

Which is to say: Self has no idea what his 2015 recruiting class is going to look like. It’s too early. Too many variables at play. The Kansas roster features zero scholarship seniors, and at the moment, Self has just one vacant scholarship to offer for the 2015-16 season. This will likely change, of course. But after spending the month of July on the recruiting trail — sitting in dozens of gyms that look just like the next — Self is still piecing together possibilities for his next class.

“We really don’t know,” Self said Thursday, before outlining his main focus: “We know we got to get bigger. So if I were going to say if there’s a need, the need would be size. But we don’t have a senior, and we don’t know how many (players) we’re going to lose.”

So, yes, consider size the top priority. And looking at the current composition of the roster, it’s easy to see why. The Jayhawks enter the 2014-15 season with just five players that could be considered “bigs” — junior forwards Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson, sophomore center Landen Lucas and freshman Cliff Alexander, a potential one-and-done talent from Chicago.

It’s not certain that Alexander will be gone after just one season — at least, not certain as it was for Andrew Wiggins. Sophomore guard Wayne Selden Jr. and freshman wing Kelly Oubre Jr. also could be candidates to leave early. But even if the bulk of the roster returns — also an unlikely scenario — Self would still likely covet a more class rim-protector in the middle.

“We’re just going to try to sign the best players we possibly can,” Self says. “But we’re definitely putting an emphasis on trying to sign a couple of big kids.”

The hunt for size and length can start with three names — Stephen Zimmerman, Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg. Zimmerman, the No. 7 overall recruit in the country, according to Rivals, is a 7-footer from Las Vegas, while Diallo (No. 5) is an athletic power forward from New York. Bragg, a Cleveland native, is also rated as a top-10 recruit. All three likely will be McDonald’s All-Americans and could headline a recruiting class.

Zimmerman and Bragg have scheduled visits to Kansas for Late Night in the Phog on Oct. 10, while Diallo has shifted most of his attention to five schools, according to CBSSports.com: Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and St. John’s.

The list of suitors for all three will be dotted with power programs.

Zimmerman has set his five official visits — Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona and UCLA — and the list has a decidedly blue-blood feel to it. Bragg, meanwhile, is also set to visit Kentucky for its season kickoff event, Big Blue Madness.

For all the focus on big guys, Kansas’ staff also kept a close eye on a list of top guards during the July recruiting period. Among the names to watch is Malik Newman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Jackson, Miss., and the former No. 1 overall recruit in the 2015 class.

“We’re in on some good kids,” Self said, “whether or not we can close remains to be seen, but certainly I like the kids that we’re in on.”

After the conclusion of the July recruiting period last week, here are six names for Kansas fans to watch entering the fall.

Rivals ranking, name, height, weight, position, hometown

2. Malik Newman, 6-3, 180, guard, Jackson, Miss. (Callaway High)

3. Jaylen Brown, 6-7, 200, forward, Marietta, Ga. (Wheeler High)

5. Cheick Diallo, 6-9, 220, forward, Centereach, N.Y. (Our Savior New American)

7. Stephen Zimmerman, 7-0, 241, center, Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman),

9. Carlton Bragg, 6-9, 225, forward, Cleveland, Ohio (Villa Angela St. Joseph)

12. Allonzo Trier, 6-3, 185, guard, Henderson, Nev. (Findlay Prep)

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

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