Monday, April 21, 2003

Recruits optimistic about Self

Giddens 'excited,' but Wilkes, Padgett eager to meet KU coach


The pending announcement of Bill Self as Kansas University's next head men's basketball coach came as something of a relief for the Jayhawks' ballyhooed incoming freshman class.

And that class possibly could get a boost from a member of Illinois' class.

Charlie Villanueva, a 6-foot-9 forward from Blair Academy (New Jersey) who orally committed to Self at the University of Illinois but has not signed a letter of intent, still is contemplating a jump to the NBA.

However, Villanueva said he might consider following Self to KU.

"Right now, the NBA is my first option," Villanueva told "I'm going to see who is hired at Illinois, and following coach Self to Kansas is something I'm going to consider, too.

"Coach Self has been real honest with me throughout this process, and I respect him for that. He is one of the biggest reasons I selected Illinois. Coach Self is just a great guy, and I'm just going to see what happens.

"Things have been real hectic for me, but it's all good. Like I said, the NBA is my first option, but we'll see what happens if I decide on attending college."

The fate of KU's highly regarded class likely will be determined after Self officially is named KU's next head coach.

David Padgett, a 7-foot center from Reno, Nev.; Omar Wilkes, a 6-4 guard from Los Angeles; J.R. Giddens, a 6-5 swingman from Oklahoma City; and Jeremy Case, a 6-footer from McAlester, Okla.; signed national letters of intent with Kansas University in November.

The Oklahomans have said since Roy Williams bolted KU for North Carolina Monday they planned to attend Kansas regardless of the next coach. But Padgett and Wilkes were less definite, though Padgett's father, Pete, said there was no way his son would follow Williams to UNC.

Sunday, the eve of Self's expected announcement as Jayhawks coach, both Wilkes and Pete Padgett were adopting wait-and-see approaches.

"I'm pleased they have a great coach," said Wilkes, who received word Sunday night by phone from KU sophomore Aaron Miles that Self had accepted the job. "I don't know too much about coach Self. I did not follow (Illinois) at all, so I don't know much except what I've heard. I've heard he's a great guy."

Does Self's hiring ensure Wilkes' intention to honor his letter of intent?

"I can't comment on that yet," Wilkes said. "I don't know coach Self. I can't say. I'd have to hear him out, see what his system is. But I do love Kansas University."

Same goes for Padgett. His father was critical of Williams' departure for UNC, though he softened and said his son's intention to play for KU was all but certain.

"We have not talked to coach Self yet, so we'll wait until we've sat down and talked with him," Pete Padgett said. "I said we would sit down and visit with whoever they hired. I don't know Bill real, real well. He recruited (David) at Illinois. I think I've only had the chance to speak to him one time, I think, so we're very anxious to hear from him and sit down and visit with him.

"This past week has been stressful for David and stressful for me. It'll be very nice to see it come to an end. Everything I've heard about coach Self is A-plus. We'd like to hear from him as soon as possible."

Giddens, meanwhile, reiterated his commitment to Kansas in the wake of Self's hiring.

"I've always heard he's a great coach," Giddens said. "My dad's always telling me he's a great coach, and I consider myself a versatile player. I've played the slow, half-court game and the fast, transition game. I don't know much about his system --I think Illinois came to one of my games and they kind of liked me -- but I never really considered leaving Kansas. It's my relationship with the fans and the players. They make me feel like I'm one of them."

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