Collins, Aldrich pass on NBA for Kansas
The Jayhawks will return every major contributor from this year's Big 12 championship team and will be joined by one of the best recruiting classes coach Bill Self has brought to Kansas.
Collins and Aldrich announced their decision Monday night to cheers from several hundred fans at the annual Jayhawks awards dinner.
"I can't wait till next year, when we go for another ring," said Aldrich, who played as a freshman on Kansas' 2007-08 national championship team.
"That does mean you're coming back next year, right?" Self said.
"As long as you don't throw me under the bus," responded Aldrich.
Collins, a 5-foot-11 point guard, averaged 18.9 points and five assists this past season as a junior.
The 6-foot-11 Aldrich averaged 14.9 points and 11.1 rebounds as a sophomore. If Aldrich had declared for the draft, he might have been a lottery pick.
"I do think we return the best guard in the country and the best big man in the country," said Self. "I think if you're going to start a team, why not have an anchor and why not have a guard?"
With Collins and Aldrich bursting into stardom, the Jayhawks were a surprising 27-8 last season, winning a fifth straight Big 12 regular-season title and reaching the round of 16 before losing to eventual national runner-up Michigan State in the NCAA tournament.
Aldrich and Collins both said the decision to say was so easy that they didn't even ask Self to explore a level of interest that NBA teams might have, a common practice of undergraduates who are thinking of jumping to the pros early.
"I've known for a while," said Aldrich, who had the sixth triple-double in NCAA tournament history. "It's been a blast of a year and the fans are so fun here. I was watching highlights on my computer back in my room and I got goose bumps. I was like, 'I've got to come back here.'"
He said his parents urged him to come back even though his father, a construction worker, has been out of work for some time because of the economic slowdown.
Aldrich's patience should pay big dividends for Self's squad.
"Those two together mean at least 12 victories," said Self, the AP coach of the year. "We could still be competitive because those young kids are going to get better. "
Kansas also remains in the running for two of the most sought-after prep prospects in the nation, Xavier Henry and Lance Stephenson.
Henry, a shooting guard rated by Rivals.com as the overall No. 1 recruit in the nation, is the son of former Kansas player Carl Henry. He signed with Memphis but was released from his commitment when coach John Calipari left for Kentucky.
Aldrich, in a second-round victory over Dayton in the NCAA tournament, had 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks. It was the first official triple-double in Kansas history.
Often compared with former Boston Celtics star Kevin McHale, Aldrich had 94 blocks on the season and was the only Big 12 player besides Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, the national player of the year, to average a double-double.
Collins, a fearless driver, spent his first two seasons playing behind Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson. Collins developed his midrange game and became an efficient jump shooter last season as well as someone who could attack the basket.
"We have a chance to be in a race for another national championship and go down in history with two [titles]," said Collins. "My mother has been begging me for a senior night for a long time. So now she gets it."
Self agreed the pressure to win will weigh heavily on next year's team.
"They have a chance to do what they both want to do," said Self. "Be part of a legacy to bring home two national championships."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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