Jayhawks again nab last remaining big-time recruit
In each of the past two seasons, one of the top 10 high school seniors remained uncommitted -- down to the very end.
Kansas got both of them.
As a result, the Jayhawks will be penciled in as one of the favorites to win the 2007 national title.
Does this mean coach Bill Self and his staff have become the ultimate closers in recruiting? Not really. They've been fortunate and, most of all, patient.
In the case of last year's catch, Brandon Rush, he was locked into the NBA draft a year ago at this time after not signing with an agent in the spring. He went to the predraft camp in Chicago and was making a push to become a first-round pick. He decided to withdraw, though, and after flirting with Missouri, Indiana and Illinois, he settled on Kansas in the last few days of August.
"Brandon was luck," Self said.
Rush ended up leading the Jayhawks in scoring (13.5 ppg), minutes (31.7 mpg) and rebounds (5.9 rpg). Not bad for a late-August pickup.
The signing of Darrell Arthur, the top remaining player in the class of 2006, could turn out to be just as fruitful. Arthur may not lead the Jayhawks in scoring, but he could contribute just as much as Rush did for them this past season.
Arthur, who dragged out his recruiting until the final 10 days of the spring signing period (which ends May 17), bounced from possibly going to Indiana (under Mike Davis) to Baylor to Texas to LSU before ultimately landing at the school that had been recruiting him the past three years.
"Since the first day we got the job, we've been recruiting him," Self said of Arthur, a 6-foot-9 forward out of South Oak Cliff High in Dallas. "This one is big for us."
Self said he was anxious and excited to hear Arthur's decision -- as much as with any recruit he has signed.
"What made me nervous was that we return five starters," Self said. "But for whatever reason, he liked our situation."
Self said Arthur reminds him of LSU freshman Tyrus Thomas, who after one season declared for the NBA draft and signed with an agent. Thomas is a freakish athlete who can block shots (inside and outside) and hit the mid-range jumper.
"He's not as freaky [as Thomas] -- that cat was all-time freaky, and there are only a handful of guys as athletic as that," Self said. "But [Arthur is] pretty good. He has unbelievable quickness, a quick jump shot, and he's a very advanced athlete."
Kansas, along with Florida, will be two of the deepest and most talent-rich teams in the country next season. The Gators and Jayhawks were 1-2 in the ESPN.com Top 25 poll posted immediately after the national title game last month in Indianapolis.
Based on the addition of Arthur, that could change over the summer and into the fall when more polls emerge.
Self already is considering his possibilities. Junior-to-be Russell Robinson and sophomore Mario Chalmers (they were 2-3 in scoring for the Jayhawks last season), along with incoming freshman Sherron Collins, are expected to share the backcourt duties.
Self said Rush would play the majority of minutes at small forward, while sophomore Julian Wright (the team's fourth-leading scorer) would play behind Rush, if he's not at power forward. Arthur, known as "Shady," would share power forward with Wright. Scorers 6-8 last season -- juniors Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson and C.J. Giles -- would rotate at center.
That's a solid nine-man rotation that shouldn't create gripes about minutes, as there wasn't a playing-time issue last season. Kansas may have finished with a dud in the NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round to MVC upstart Bradley, but the Jayhawks had a sensational Big 12 season, finishing 13-3 (25-8 overall) and winning the conference tournament over Texas.
"We'll play all nine," Self said. "We can do great things if the guys work and stay healthy. We'll have healthy competition."
The Jayhawks, as usual, are already loading up their nonconference schedule, with a game against Florida in Las Vegas as part of a Thanksgiving weekend holiday tournament, a game with Boston College and one at South Carolina. Self said the Jayhawks are close to finalizing a game with USC in Lawrence, Kan., which would replace a proposed home game against Arizona. According to Self, Arizona said it would rather play a neutral-site game in New York in the Jimmy V Classic.
"This is as excited as I've ever been," Self said after getting the news that Arthur had text-messaged him with his decision. "We dodged a bullet with Brandon not declaring [for the draft again]. It's been a good spring. We return all five starters, [plus] Arthur and Collins.
"On paper," he said, "we got better."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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