The college basketball world sat on the edge of its seat waiting for Andrew Wiggins to announce his destination.
When word came that Kansas was the choice of the 6-foot-7 forward from Huntington Prep in West Virginia who is considered the nation’s top prospect, Jayhawks coach Bill Self had scored the biggest recruiting victory of his decade-long KU tenure.
Wiggins also ranks among some of the biggest gets in KU history.
Recruiting has changed dramatically over the years, becoming its own industry with camps, scouts, analysts and media devoted to the process.
That wasn’t always the case, but Kansas has scored several recruiting coups throughout its history. Here are the biggest, in chronological order:
Clyde Lovellette (recruited by Phog Allen)
Lovellette, growing up in Terre Haute, Ind., blossomed into a 6-9 star as a high school senior, but there was no need for any school to recruit him. He was Indiana-bound. “Everything I did was geared toward going to Indiana,” Lovellette said in a 1995 interview.
But Allen came to the Lovellette house and persuaded the star to visit Kansas. Lovellette loved it, and he liked what Allen was selling —come to Kansas and be part of an NCAA championship team and Olympic team as a senior. Allen’s line to the press was that Lovellette had selected Kansas to cure his asthma because of the “rarefied atmosphere” of the Midwest.
Allen’s promise was kept. In 1952, Kansas won its first NCAA title and, by reaching the Olympic playoff final, made up half of the U.S. team that won the gold medal in Helsinki.
Wilt Chamberlain (recruited by Phog Allen)
Recruiting Chamberlain became a regional event with Kansas City’s African-American community, including some the city’s jazz musicians, getting involved during a time of great social change. More than 200 schools recruited Chamberlain, a 7-footer from Philadelphia, but he was interested in leaving the East.
The offered rolled in, and Kansas eventually was punished by the NCAA — but not for Chamberlain’s recruitment. The Jayhawks were dinged for boosters making car payments and were banned from the NCAA Tournament for two years.
In 1985, Chamberlain was quoted as saying he got paid while attending Kansas, but the amount “would make it look like I was not worth very much” compared to the major cheating scandals of the day.
Kansas reached the NCAA title game in 1957, Chamberlain’s sophomore season and first year on the varsity. He left after his junior season, without a championship.
Danny Manning (recruited by Larry Brown)
Ed Manning, Danny’s father, was a former pro basketball player but was driving a truck to make ends meet when his son was a star at Page High in Greensboro, N.C. It just so happened that Kansas coach Larry Brown, who had coached Ed Manning during a stint with the ABA’s Carolina Cougars, had an opening on his staff upon being hired in Lawrence in 1983.
Manning accepted and moved the family to Lawrence, where Danny starred at Lawrence High when he signed with the Jayhawks.
In the annals of college basketball, coaches have hired dads and former coaches of standout players. None perhaps worked out as well as this one, when Manning led Kansas to the 1988 national championship.