The third commitment for Bill Self's 2008 recruiting class - 6-foot-8 New Jersey power forward Quintrell Thomas - gives KU another big body following the departures of Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun and possibly Darrell Arthur. Journal-World KU men's basketball beat writer talks about the newest member of the class, plus ...
The cell phone connection wasn't crystal clear when New Jersey power forward Quintrell Thomas told Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self he wanted to be a Jayhawk.
"Coach said something about gymnastics and doing cartwheels," Thomas, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound senior forward from St. Patrick High in Elizabeth, N.J., said Tuesday after orally committing to KU.
Thomas, who visited Mt. Oread from Sept. 28-30, made Self a happy man by choosing KU over Rutgers and UNLV.
He also seriously considered Maryland.
"I'm going to one of the best programs in the country. I'm really excited," said Thomas, the first frontcourt player to commit to KU in the Class of 2008. Self, who may award up to seven scholarships, has received commitments from Travis Releford, 6-4 from Roeland Park Miege, and Mario Little, 6-5 from Chipola (Fla.) Junior College.
"There's an opportunity for a lot of playing time. I like the players and coaches. Pretty much it's quiet there, but you can also have fun when you want to," Thomas added.
Thomas, who coach Kevin Boyle said averaged about 9.0 points and 7.5 rebounds last season for 30-2 St. Patrick, averaged about 22 points and 12 rebounds this past summer for coach Derrick Bobbitt's New Jersey Elite AAU squad.
"It was real tough," Thomas said of recruiting, "because from the start there were 23 schools. It (list) was hard to cut down. At the end, Rutgers was hard to turn down. I know all the players on the team. It was pretty emotional. UNLV was real hard (to turn down), too. They were the No. 1 school on my list for a long time."
Thomas - he is not ranked in Rivals.com's preseason top 150 - is known as a strong shot blocker and rebounder with shooting range up to 17 feet.
"I try," Thomas said simply, when asked if he contests every shot in the paint. "I can defend big men on the perimeter, and I can get up and down the court because I'm pretty fast."
Boyle said Thomas would be one of the key players on this year's squad. He was first off the bench a year ago, the coach explained, because he was a late transfer from Science Park High School and had to sit out 10 games.
Upon becoming eligible, Boyle didn't want to mess with team chemistry and made Thomas a reserve on a team that won its second straight New Jersey State title.
"I think he can compete (on major-college level) now as a rebounder," Boyle said of Thomas, who started playing basketball in eighth grade. "He is somebody who will block shots. His offensive game has improved a lot the last 12 months.
"A lot of times a kid will come into a program and not get better. He will get better. I see him as a guy who will stick the 17-footer."
Boyle and Bobbitt both believe Thomas will emerge as a top-100 player by the end of the season.
"He is a great rebounder and shot blocker right now and finisher," AAU coach Bobbitt said. "He is vastly improving. You get somebody like (KU assistant) Danny Manning working with you ... you are going to get better. I think he will be regarded as one of the top players strictly on rebounding and shotblocking prowess."
Bobbitt said his star player had a tough time the last week or so.
"He definitely struggled with it," Bobbitt said. "He was supposed to have a school picked when he came back from UNLV (Oct. 13). Everybody did such a good job recruiting him. Everybody made it difficult. (But) Kansas was always in the back of his mind."
"Rutgers had a lot to offer. They are close to doing in basketball what Kansas is doing in football," coach Boyle said.
"Kansas is pretty much a no-brainer if you are confident you can play. If you are confident you can play at Kansas how can you not go there and be a vital part of their future? It is one of the best schools in the history of college basketball with a lot of guys leaving."
Thomas said he is all for KU signing two other big men from the East.
Marcus and Markieff Morris, 6-8 and 6-9 twins from Philadelphia, will visit Villanova this weekend, then decide between 'Nova and KU.
"I welcome them coming in," Thomas said. "Whoever comes in is fine if it makes us a better team."
KU also is recruiting J'Mison Morgan, 6-10 from Dallas, who will choose either KU, LSU, Alabama, UCLA or Cincinnati on Nov. 2; Willie Warren, 6-3 from suburban Fort Worth, Texas, who will sign in the spring; Devoe Joseph, 6-2 from Ontario, Canada, who has a final four of KU, Minnesota, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech; and Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 from Jersey City, N.J., who is considering KU, Marquette, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and others.
Â'Everyone supports me': Thomas on leaving the East coast to play ball at KU: "It's going to be a lot different. I've lived in the New York area, New Jersey all my life. It's fast paced. Everything is slowed down (in Kansas).
"Everyone supports me. My coaches say I need to work on some things now on the perimeter to get ready for Kansas. My mother said, 'Wherever you go you, will be a success.' Everyone is happy I've made a decision. It was starting to bother me. My coaches, mother would ask me about it every day. It was getting ridiculous."
ÂTidbits: KU is recruiting one of Thomas' teammates - Dexter Strickland, a 6-3 point guard who is ranked No. 16 in the Class of 2009. However Strickland's top five are Indiana, Florida, Michigan State, Memphis and North Carolina. ... Thomas scored eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds in one of the most hyped games of last season - St. Patrick's 78-76 overtime victory over O.J. Mayo's Huntington (W.V.) High team. At the time, St. Pat's was ranked No. 1 and Huntington No. 6 in the country by USA Today. ... St. Pat's has turned out NBA players in Samuel Dalembert (Philadelphia) and Al Harrington (Golden State).