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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Releford rounds out recruiting class

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Brandon Rush returns in victory over Ichabods

Brandon Rush scored seven points and had three rebounds sparking a slow-starting KU team to a 92-60 victory over the NCAA Div. II Ichabods.

Travis Releford completed all his paperwork on Friday, freeing Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self to comment on the signing of the 6-foot-5 senior guard from Roeland Park Miege.

"Travis is a young man we recruited longer than anyone else," Self said of Releford, on the Jayhawks' radar for several years now.

Releford played for the Kansas City Pump N Run program that has sent Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed and Conner Teahan to KU.

"Ever since we came to Kansas, Travis has been a target, and we feel very fortunate to get him to come to our program. We feel like we know Travis and his family very well. We have watched him play so much and watched his development over time at Bishop Miege and with Pump N Run," Self added.

Releford, who is ranked No. 70 by Rivals.com, averaged 19.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists for Miege last year. He chose KU over Missouri, Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and others.

"Travis is a tall guard who is an excellent defender, and the transition should be easier for him having played in the Bishop Miege program," Self said of Releford, who thrives in an open-court game driving to the hoop.

"I am real confident in my jumper," Releford said. "I am more a slasher, though. I will try to do it all - defend, score, rebound."

Pump N Run coach L.J. Goolsby said Releford was a pleasure to coach the past several summers.

"They (Jayhawks) are getting a winner," Goolsby said. "He's a kid who loves to win. He plays hard. He's an all-around player, defensive, offense. He's a good fit for KU."

Releford definitely loves KU.

"It's where I need to be," Releford said. "They were at my first practice my freshman year. It's been like that every year. They've always shown the most interest in me."

Releford joins four others whose letters of intent were received via fax earlier in the week. They include: twins Marcus and Markieff Morris of Philadelphia, Mario Little of Chicago and Quintrell Thomas of Newark, N.J.

"These players are all extremely versatile," Self said. "Each can play multiple positions. They shoot well, all can handle the ball and all are very long."

Releford said he was looking forward to clicking with his new teammates.

"I don't know any of them personally. I met the twins when they came to Late Night," Releford said. "From what I hear everybody coming in will be really good. I think it's a great group of players."

Rivals.com has tapped KU's recruiting class No. 8 in the country.

"Coach Self and his staff put together another top-10 class, which has become the norm in Lawrence," Rivals.com analyst Shay Wildeboor said. "They are losing Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson and probably Darrell Arthur, so to be able to go to the East coast and get two players like Marcus and Markieff is a huge coup. Both guys can score, rebound and defend. Quintrell Thomas is another guy who is probably ahead of the game defensively.

"The key with those three is location. In years past, Kansas didn't get many players out East. Once again, KU's coaches have opened up doors nobody thought they could open."

As far as Chipola CC transfer Mario Little and Miege product Releford, Wildeboor noted: "Kansas once again has signed the best player in the state. It's important to sign players of that caliber close to home.

"Mario Little being the No. 1 juco player in the class will come in and put points on the board. He probably will not have the problems adjusting that 99 percent of freshmen have. He's a natural scorer and skilled player."

Self said the Jayhawks would continue recruiting into the spring.

On Friday, KU target Willie Warren, 6-foot-3 from North Crowley High in suburban Fort Worth, Texas, chose Oklahoma over KU, Kentucky, Texas and others.

"We feel we still have to sign at least one more. I wouldn't be surprised if we sign two. We're still involved with some guys," Self said.

One target who has mentioned KU is Devoe Joseph, a 6-2 guard from Ontario, Canada, who is visiting Vanderbilt this weekend. He's also visited Minnesota and has expressed interest in Virginia Tech as well as KU. Kansas will likely be looking for a big man.

¢ Mason to Nebraska?: Charlie Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wouldn't be shocked if former KU football coach Glen Mason is Bill Callahan's successor at Nebraska. LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and Buffalo coach Turner Gill have been prominently mentioned as frontrunners if Callahan, as expected, is canned at season's end.

"Former Gophers football coach Glen Mason is a longtime favorite of Tom Osborne, the Cornhuskers' interim athletics director who is expected to choose Nebraska's next football coach," Walters wrote Friday.

¢ Three schools for Dez: Free State High graduate Keith Wooden, who scored 25 points, wasn't the only familiar face to doom Oklahoma State in North Texas' 82-73 victory over the Cowboys on Wednesday. Former Kansas State player Dez Willingham had nine points, including a pair of key free throws late.

In a crazy twist, it's the third time Willingham has faced OSU - all with different teams. Playing for SMU, he had 19 points against OSU in December of 2005. He also played against OSU his freshman season at Kansas State.

Comments

jaybate 14 years ago

The above posts were for jayhawklee. :-)

Keith Kienzle 14 years ago

Are we still in the running for Wesley Witherspoon?

hawkitup 14 years ago

Forget Willie Warren...sign Devoe Joseph!

jaybate 14 years ago

Soon the intimidator forwards put a premium on prison bodies at all positions. The Super Bigs evolved into wide bodies with Shaquille O'Neal being the ultimate iteration so far of the prison body big man. But the prison body spread to small forward, and to the 2 guard and then to the 1 guard quickly. The prison body was also referred to as the basketball player with the football player's physique.

And then there was a sudden, inexplicable drought of Super Bigs, at least ones that were an order of magnitude bigger than the guards and forwards. It might be put another way, also. It might be that the guards and forwards just got so big and strong, and became such great leapers, that the Super Bigs that came along just couldn't dominate the way they used to do.

Throughout all of the above the shift toward the specialist seemed inexorable. Coaches recruited players to fill specific slots with specific roles. If they could be versatile, it was a good thing, but not a concept you purposely recruited for.

Along the way, the perversion of the game called the three point line put a new premium on outside shooting by guards and forwards.

And so things seemed to be lurching along inexorably towards trey specialists, prison bodies at all positions, and more and more emphasis on having a rotation of four tall prison bodies for 4 and 5 spots, while and guard and wing prison bodies continued to specialize in defensive stoppers, shooters, and ball handlers.

But now a new regime is perhaps emerging--the age of the long versatile player--the player from 6'5" to 6'9" that can play 3, or even 4 postions interchangeably. Brandon Rush at 6'6" is the new model for this sort of player. He has defended the 1,2,3 and 4 positions and offended from the 2, 3 and even 4 positions. Rod Stewart, though only 6'4" tall, does the same. No doubt Releford and Little will do the same starting next year.

There have long been swing men in basketball, especially at the 2/3 positions. But it is a new thing to try to create teams full of these sorts of players and view them as being interchangeable between the 2,3 and 4 positions.

There have long been combo 4/5 position players, but it is a new thing to stock a team with combo bigs who could play the 3, 4, and 5 spots.

jaybate 14 years ago

This sort of emerging trend doesn't just happen. There are always a combination of drivers. The physiques and skills of players have to evolve to permit this sort of versatility. The way the refs call the game has to be encouraging the new generalist in basketball, too. With so much contact allowed, a coach has to devise even more physical mismatches to achieve tactical advantage in pursuit of strategic advantage. To overcome the contact you have to create mismatches. To do that, you have only three choices: 1) get way bigger and taller; 2) get way faster; or 3) get way rougher. Getting decisively rougher does not seem feasible. Getting way taller does not seam feasible either. There just are no 8' Wilt Chamberlain's out there yet. They are always getting bigger, but order of magnitude leaps in prison body physique seem impossible as well.

So: there seems to be a move on to getting alot of long, active players that can play many positions and so show up practically everywhere on the court at one time or another and be capable of creating and exploiting frequent matchup problems against teams still stuck in the specialized player slots of 4/5, 2/3, and 1.

The new ideal would seem to be two slots: 1/2/3/4 and 2/3/4/5.

Practically, the new regime will probably be less extreme in its versatility. The slotting will be more like: 1/2/3 and 3/4/5.

Regardless, this increeased versatility allows a coach and a team to seek out more permutations and combinations of mismatches from more places on the floor with more players able to occupy more of those places on the floor at any given time.

Robert Brock 14 years ago

Willie Warren was a perfect fit for the Sooners - this year's team is really weak at ball-handling and the perimeter game. Good luck to him (and especially good luck to the Jayhawks who will be called on to defend him when that time arrives).

Brock

Robin Smith 14 years ago

didn't willie say he was going to wait until the spring signing period to choose a school? so much for that.

jaybate 14 years ago

Self emphasizes the class is long and versatile: Have we entered the era of the versatile player in college basketball?

In the early years of the game, every one was versatile, because there were not the great height differences in players and coaches had not yet devised comprehensive strategies to exploit types of players.

One could never be sure without a lot of research, but the tall center, usually called Stretch, and the fast, short, ball-handling guard seem to have emerged earliest as specialists coaches recognized for the matchup problems they created for other teams. The rest of the team was pretty much a mix of average height players, some who could shoot, others who could defend, and others who could rebound slightly above the norm for their average height.

This regime did not change greatly until the dawn of the age exceptionally tall (for the time) big men--Lovellete and Mikan and Iba's bean pole at Oklahoma A&M. The arrival of the tall post man in turn put a premium on the great ball handling and passing guard who could feed these big men. In fact, every position had to learn to "feed the big man."

Next came the era of the Super Center--Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jabbar, Walton, and on through Olajuwan. These were the fabulously, good passing, athletic bigs, who could do almost anything. Guards and forwards now had to become excellent outside shooters to exploit the sagging defenses the Super Bigs triggered. They also had to become great jumpers to be able to have any chance of getting high percentage, close-in shots off. Forwards began to split between muscle ballers who could rebound and intimidate. They had to rebound for these high scoring Super Bigs and they had to learn to keep new leaping, penetrating guards out of the paint. Great leaping, penetrating guards and forwards, left unintimidated, meant foul problems for the Super Bigs.

jaybate 14 years ago

Lastly, there is market driver at work. Coaches used to like to recruit specialists, as I've already noted. They liked to have a ballhandler. They liked to have a trey shooting two. They like to have a swing man 3. They liked the prison body 4. They liked the great big man. And year after year they tried to fill those slots. And when players stayed 3-4 years, you could construct teams around these specialist roles.

But with players leaving after one or two years, coaches find themselves suddenly without their specialists at a couple positions and often can't find one quickly enough to replace the loss. In turn, they have to play the season while missing one of the puzzle parts. KU has been missing a true two for the last two years for one example, because of a knife fight and a recruiting failure or two.

The solution to the loss of highly talented specialists is either to recruit another highly talented specialist, or recruit a lot more generalists who can fill in for the lost specialists that leave unexpectedly and/or early; the generalist can bridge the loss.

Hence, the current recruiting class could be part of a trend. Yes, you have to grab the super talented however you can, but the days of building programs around the super players may be over. The super player is now just a hired gun you bring in briefly, not the hub of the team. The new hub of the team are the generalists.

okjhok 14 years ago

The fact that Warren committed to OU is HUGE KU bball news, and it is buried in this story. I'm not sure how much Self expected to get him. Oh well...c'est la vie.

cklarock 14 years ago

Thanks for the article, Jaybate. I appreciated reading it.

ku_fan25 14 years ago

o well its ok if we didnt get willie. our 09 class is going to be great. i hope we get lance stephenson i saw him playin the other day on tv and man can he play. we can also get willie warren their are 2 of the top point guards interested and the top 2 small forwards are interested and a couple of centers as well i think id much rather have lance stephenson than xavier henry

rockchalkAZ 14 years ago

for real jaybate, hardly anyone reads your posts. you should apply at LJW, because it appears your a bit confused. If you want to write an article, work for a newspaper. If you want to post a thought or two, post in these message boards.

cklarock 14 years ago

^ Post what you like where you like, Jaybate. At least you're not insulting other posters.

Chicago_JHawk 14 years ago

I agree with cklarock. If you don't want to read jaybate's posts, then don't. It's simple, really.

jaybate 14 years ago

Too bad. Willie and Travis would have made a heckuva pair of guards.

On the other hand, Mother Warren must have decided that her son needed a hard-nosed coach, rather than a great tradition, for only a one year stay. I'm guessing she tired of the game and ordered the letter signed.

For what its worth, I can't think of any better place for him to go than OU from KU's POV. It means he won't be on a good team, like Carolina, or UCLA, or Georgetown, or Memphis, and so he won't get a high seed in the post season tourney and so we won't have to contend with him when it counts in the Dance.

jaybate 14 years ago

Whatever became of Rotnei Clark? Do you think Gillispie still wants him at UK, after getting beaten by Gardiner Webb? If I were Billie, I'd wait till he wins a game or two in the tourney, before I started indulging in out of state runts. I've sipped bourbon in the back of a Jag in horse country outside Lexington on business a time or two. I doubt bringing in short guards from small Oklahoma towns is going to sit well with the UK alums, unless the rest of the barn is already stocked with thoroughbreds and they've gotten to the final four. I can hear them now, swirling the ice cubes in their highball glasses, saying, "Mister Gillsipie, I b'lieve we have quite a few young men right here in blue grass country that are as short as this young man."

lee3022 14 years ago

Anytime anyone hijacks a story with multiple posts back-to-back I am inclined to skip reading. There is nothing wrong with the posts - I just choose to read those that are pithy. There is a reason for the limit of words in any one post. Back-to-back continuations are not honoring that limit.

That said I commend the KU coaching staff for a great recruiting class. Coach Self always says the right thing and we will know more when he fields the team with these players (and the 1 or 2 more he is targeting). I am not sure how hard he tried to recruit Willie Warren but the me me me that the media attaches to Willie turned me off some time ago. I like other Big XII schools to recruit well - it adds to our strength of schedule.

RckChalkJeff 14 years ago

cklarock ...then feel free not read my comments too....

jaybate 14 years ago

RkChalkJeff,

I have a feeling that persons frequentiing this site that disagree with your POV ignore your posts without need of your permission, you know?

I am pretty sure many persons that dislike my POV and/or writing style ignore my posts.

At the same time, I am puzzled by persons like you that take the time to read posts by persons with POVs and/or writing styles that you seem to dislike. I am even more puzzled that after spending your time reading someone you do not like, you then take the time to go negative.

There are always enough posts on this site that interest me that I never feel compelled to wade through any post, long or short, written with a POV, or writing style, that I dislike.

Why do you read posts you dislike by posters that you dislike?

I've deliberated on it and the only hypothesis I have come up with is that it is a kind of digital vigilante-ism for you. Perhaps you feel territorial about the site and think evil doers need to be policed and purged.

I would actually like to know why you read what you don't like by persons you don't like. It is not as if this is scholarly research where one must familiarize one's self with all POVs to be considered professionally expert. It is a pleasurable activity of reading and talking about a game we love.

I really would like to know, if you could respond without negging on me.

jaybate 14 years ago

lee3022,

Thread highjacking?

That's kind of a catchy phrase.

But how exactly can a thread be highjacked?

Here is what I observe when I make my posts. Some times a bunch of people respond to my take and sometimes no one does.

I never get the sense that people are stuck inside a digital jetliner thread going one way and then feel that suddenly the digital jetliner thread has been commandeered by me (or anyone else) and takes them away terrorized and against their will in order to crash the digital jetliner thread against their will into, say, the Campanile, creating some kind of digital ground zero of KU sports talk littered with well meaning posters from the Campanile to Potters Lake.

Is it possible that "hijacking" a thread was a bit of hyperbole on your part, or is this REALLY how you feel?

I find many of the posters here very intelligent. I just cannot conceive that my posts (or anyone else's) so take control of this site and of posters' minds that they are unable to free themselves and post about what subjects they really care about after I post a four parter as I did in this thread.

I know what I do when someone posts something I am not intereested in for whatever reason. I point the mouse arrow at the lower right corner of my window and scroll down; then when I find something worth remarking on, I point my cursor in the window at the bottom of the page and tap out a response--sometimes a sentence that I know many will at least glance at, sometimes something long that I know only a few who enjoy longer pieces will look at.

But I have to say: I've never felt hijacked on a website (except for the occassional browser hijacker), nor felt a thread was hijacked, by anyone else's posts.

This must be a most disturbing feeling when it occurs to you.

Huskerhawk 14 years ago

I would not have realized that Jaybate wrote all of those long rants if another poster had not pointed it out. Seriously, if I see a post that has so many lines it fills my screen I skip it and read the next one.

kcmostwanted 14 years ago

Agreed w/ KU_25... We need Lance Stephenson.. This kid is a true baller... I mean he has crazy handles w/ excellent strength and athleticism for a 6-5 gaurd...

Lance needs to be a priority for KU... I must agree, even before Xavier Henry... But if we can get them both that'll be great!!

ralsterKUMed95 14 years ago

Self is a proven recruiter, in my point of view. Some kids just may or may not want to come to the state of Kansas.

jaybate 14 years ago

KU needs a persuasive man and a fine coach to recruit top athletes. Self is one. Roy was another. But Jayhawk fans should never forget that the crucial thing is to get players to visit KU. If they visit, it always becomes a very difficult choice not to come to KU. I have lived away for a LONG time now, and I have travelled far, but I get back every few years and it is still one of my most favorite places. I would recommend KU to any kid, not just any basketball player. A great coach is a big part of drawing players to KU, but KU itself really is pretty special in a way that takes a few days there to jack into.

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