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Friday, May 2, 2008

High school sophomore commits

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Veteran Phoenix Sunnyslope High basketball coach Dan Mannix annually asks his players to watch the NCAA Tournament closely, to study tendencies of college teams in an attempt to improve their own games.

"Before the finals, I said to Royce, 'In a dream-like scenario, if you could go to college anywhere, where would you go?' The first team he mentioned was Kansas.

"Today I had to smile thinking about that,'" Mannix said of 6-foot-2, 170-pound Sunnyslope sophomore guard Royce Woolridge, who on Thursday orally committed to KU.

"Some might say, 'Hasty decision,'" Mannix added of Woolridge committing with two seasons left in his high school career. He, in fact, becomes the youngest player in KU history to commit to the Jayhawks. "I'm ecstatic. How many times can a 15-year-old commit to play for the national champions? It's a great day for him."

Woolridge - the son of 6-foot-9 former NBA standout Orlando Woolridge - accepted an early KU offer Wednesday night through his Arizona Magic AAU coach, Anthony Ray.

KU coaches can only receive incoming calls from sophomores - they cannot phone them on their own - in accordance with NCAA rules. Calls to high school and AAU coaches are allowed, however.

"Kurtis (Townsend, KU assistant) saw him play last weekend when Royce scored 40, 35, 36, 33 at the Vegas Double Pump Tournament," Ray said. "Kurtis said, 'We know he's young, but we'd love to have him.' I let Royce know and he said, 'That's what I want, so why wait?'"

Royce Woolridge has been a KU fan of sorts for some time despite the fact he's only been to Lawrence a couple times as a toddler.

His mom Victoria's aunt and uncle are big-time Jayhawk fans who live in Prairie Village.

"They are crazy KU fans," said Royce, who all day Thursday wore a KU national championship T shirt and hat sent to him by his relatives. He wore KU gear to his news conference in which he chose the Jayhawks over Georgetown, Arizona, Arizona State, USC, Cal-Berkeley and many others.

"They send me hats, shorts, news clippings even before I chose Kansas. I've watched Kansas closely the last two years. I like their style of play and how they play defense and the character of their players. I love everything about KU," Royce Woolridge said.

Coaches are most enthused about Woolridge's offense.

He averaged 21 points as a freshman and 16 points his soph season despite being hobbled by a nagging groin pull.

"He can shoot it from 22, 23 feet accurately on a consistent basis," Sunnyslope's Mannix said.

"He can score off the dribble or standing still. It doesn't make a difference. He can get a basket whenever he wants to," AAU coach Ray said. "He's so young. He'll grow another two or three inches and get stronger than he is now."

Mom Victoria says Royce "is in a growth spurt right now. His knees are killing him. He will be 6-foot-6," she added, noting his dad is 6-9 and she is 5-9.

Royce's half brother - incoming Tennessee freshman Renaldo Woolridge - is 6-8.

"As his dad says, 'Renaldo is like Kobe Bryant. Royce is well-rounded, a do-everything type player,'" Victoria said.

She said she was all for her son choosing a school shortly after the conclusion of just his soph season.

"Royce is a very decisive kid," said Victoria, noting he "is a straight-A student, polite, humble. He told me, 'Mom, I want to be a Jayhawk,' and I said, 'OK.' Even yesterday schools across the country were coming in to see him (at open gym workout). It didn't make him change his mind a bit. After all that, he still wanted to be a Jayhawk."

Of Royce's maturity on the court, mom noted: "His dad always had him go against players two to three grades ahead of him. It's the way you get better. We don't believe in holding a person back."

Royce said his early decision was "good because I'm happy where I'm at. It can be bad, too. Other players will go at me harder. I just have to be ready for that.''

Royce and his mom will be in town for KU's Elite camp in early June. He said nothing about KU will ever make him change his mind about becoming a Jayhawk.

"I feel KU is the best place to be. Coach (Bill) Self is the best coach, who is down-to-earth. I feel KU is the best fit for me. I don't want to go anyplace else. It's where I want to go, where I want to stay. I want to be a Jayhawk," Royce said.

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Youngest in history: Woolridge committed to KU seven months earlier than Cole Aldrich, who orally committed to Bill Self's program in November of 2005, right before the start of his junior season at Jefferson High in Bloomington, Minn. Wayne Simien committed to KU the spring before his senior year at Leavenworth High.

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Woolridge older than some commits: Kentucky on Thursday actually received a commitment from Michael Avery, a 6-foot-4 eighth-grader - yes, eighth-grader - out of Sherwood, Calif. Southern Cal received a commitment from eighth-graders the past two recruiting seasons, Ryan Boatwright of Aurora, Ill., and Dwayne Polee Jr., of Westchester, Calif.

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Magic alumni: Jerryd Bayless, who is headed to the NBA after one season at University of Arizona, also played for the Arizona Magic.

"Kansas recruited Bayless hard. I told these guys (KU coaches) he is the next one," said Ray, coach of the Magic since 1999. "He's been a great gift to our program. He just might be the best scorer in the Class of 2010. It's so early, and that class has not developed yet. I've not seen anybody better at scoring on the West coast. He's at the same level Bayless is playing."

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Like father ... : Woolridge's dad, Orlando, coached the ABA's Houston Takers last season. During his career he played with Magic Johnson and the Lakers and Michael Jordan and the Bulls as well as Bill Laimbeer and the Pistons.

Comments

justanotherfan 11 years, 7 months ago

There's nothing wrong with recruiting a kid that may grow a few more inches. Remember Jalen Rose of Fab Five fame. He was 6-8. Magic was 6-9. This is actually a good thing because right now the kid is playing PG because of his size, but he could develop into a SG or SF with PG type skills. I have no problem with kids committing early as long as they are getting sound advice. I would anticipate that since his father played in the NBA and was a college standout, and he has a brother that just went D-1, he probably has good advice coming his way from people that aren't just trying to ride his coattails. Will a commitment last the next two summers? Well, by the time he arrives on campus in 2010, the only players on our current team that will still be in Lawrence areC - Cole Aldrich (maybe as a senior)F - Markieff Morris (maybe as a junior)F - Marcus Morris (probably as a junior)F - Quintrell ThomasG - Tyshawn TaylorG - Tyrel ReedG - Travis Releford (maybe as a junior)We will probably add a couple guards, but the consensus is that Xavier Henry is probably a one and done. Lance Stephenson is special (I really like his game and think he is underrated because of attitude/effort concerns). Dominic Cheek (Tyshawn Taylor's backcourt teammate) may be around longer if he comes here, but our team could potentially be completely rolled over from what we will see next fall by the time Fall 2010 rolls around.

westernkshawk 11 years, 7 months ago

I liked the part (which was on the boards yesterday) where he said he was also looking for a school which would provide a good education. The fact that he is a straight-A student in high school as well as a phonominal basketball legacy makes me confident that he is the kind of intelligent student-athlete we like to build our program around!! Rock Chalk, Royce!!

Dan Pawlowski 11 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like a Kansas Guy. Talent and Character. Congrats Bill.As for big men at Kansas. I think the key to attracting the quality big men is Danny Manning. He has done a great job working with the bigs. That can be seen in the progress of Kaun, Jackson and Arthur. Although I believe Arthur would do well to stay one more year.

JayViking 11 years, 7 months ago

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!8th graders? Wow. When do we start genetically birthing kids for basketball?

areyouserious 11 years, 7 months ago

As long as Bill is here, this kid will be coming to Lawrence for atleast a year!!!!!

wtarush 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm excited about this guy... of course two years is a long time to be excited. He has more patience than me. Any video highlights out there on Royce?

Matt Kenton 11 years, 7 months ago

Okay Self, you've got 2 years to find a player named Rolls...Perfect, because that's what our program is becoming!

Jonathan Andrews 11 years, 7 months ago

WOW, we just got a gem!Sounds like a very mature 15yo, and he seems to have nothing but positive influences around him.

JayCeph 11 years, 7 months ago

I can already see the headlines for articles about this young recruit should he have a big night (scoring, rebounding, whatever) during a regular season game... "Royce Rolls!"

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 7 months ago

I think that Bill Self needs to send Auntie and Uncle in Prairie Village a Thank You letter

woodhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

My only worry about this is that this kid is probably not done growing. He commits as a 2 or 3 guard, but may wind up being 6'9". On the other hand, having a 6'9" baller who can shoot and handle the rock isn't such a terrible thing.

OutlawJHawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Regarding recruiting young players, I think few players that are THAT good THAT young, would somehow become worse players. There is a huge upside, and my belief is that Royce will only get better and better. By the time he gets here, watch out. Look where he is rated now, and when he gets here I bet you he will be at least a top-25 rated recruit. Those of you naysayers, do you still want him??? And his early signing only helps Self in recruiting other players as many might want to commit earlier instead of waiting and losing a chance for a scholarship.This whole thing is all good. End of story.

jayhawkinATL 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm cautiously optimistic...a lot can happen between now and the time he shows up in Lawrence.

mwilliam 11 years, 7 months ago

Self, you are incredible, great job. Concern about Royce growing a few more inches, I remember a 6'9" guard out of Michigan leading his team to an NCAA championship and who went on to lead a little team in LA to a couple of NBA championships; even when Jabbar went down, Magic's size and intelligence led the Lakers to victory. I see nothing but upside to this kid--a great recruit for KU. If he improves over what he is currently doing, he just might end up being the #1 in his senior class.

speedy 11 years, 7 months ago

finally some luck comes to KU. i mean to all of us faithful who have been loyal and cheered for the jayhawks all of these years. jayhawk reputation and tradition are being recognized by the upcoming young BB players. thank you all. forget the wantabees KU is the real deal. welcome royce woolrige

Benjamin Clay Jones 11 years, 7 months ago

What a great kid! We're getting a lot of recruits lately who really express a lot of love for the Kansas Jayhawks. It's going to make for some great team chemistry down the road. Welcome aboard, Royce!

Jeff Braun 11 years, 7 months ago

My main concern with Royce is that he may become relaxed and complacent. The fact that he has a scholarship basically wrapped up he may not work as hard on his game. Hopefully his dad will keep on him to work hard. Best of luck Royce. See you in 2010!

chaggs 11 years, 7 months ago

Welcome aboard, Royce! Stay consistent on offense, distribute to your tesmmates, defend with intensity, and you will find a warm home in the Phog!Even more indication that KU doesn't re-build...we re-load!

Ryan Gerstner 11 years, 7 months ago

I wouldn't want any commitments younger than a sophomore and with that said, I hope commitments like this are few and far between unless it's pretty much a no brainer that they're an elite level player. I'm certainly excited to have Royce as part of the Jayhawk family. Hopefully he keeps working hard and fulfills the talent level he obviously has.

not_important 11 years, 7 months ago

How about some gift certificates for the aunt and uncle to the Salty Iguana for a "Bill Self Burrito?" Or at least a coupon for some free Iguana Dip.

Paul Meyer 11 years, 7 months ago

Just shows how winning a National Championship can land top ranked recruits without recruiting. (And having Bill Self as your coach and Allen Fieldhouse as your gym helps too.)

ChicagoJHawk 11 years, 7 months ago

OutlawJHawk, I completely agree, there is no downside to this! Bill Self - you rock!! I also agree w/Lebowski, KU basketball really could become a dynasty! The quality of the players that Self continues to bring in keep getting better and better every year, as does his coaching.Royce sounds like a great person on and off the court, which is why I feel he will fit in perfectly here at KU.Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!!

LAJayhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

While having commitments this early is still somewhat rare, it is very common for college coaches to recruit early in a player's career. Most coaches do it, because the earlier the player knows the name "Bill Self" and sees interest from "Kansas" the more likely he will be to sign that letter of intent his senior year. If a kid knows you were interested in the 8th grade (even if you can't actually contact him), there will be a sense of loyalty or a belief in him as a player and a person and that gives you a better chance at landing him.College recruiting is a knock-down, drag-out business, and Bill Self is a heavy-weight fighter.

Lance Hobson 11 years, 7 months ago

I think this a great find! I watched O play for the Bulls and saw him when he came to speak to my high school. He's very intelligent and classy and I have no doubt his son is coming from a great basketball and family background. He's just the kind of guy we want, and it seems he knows what he wants, too.We are on a roll!!!!

TheTruth08 11 years, 7 months ago

The way we recruit has me excited. We're always on a blue-chipper's radar. And we always have our eye out for great talent. KU may not get all the players it targets, but it's always in the mix. I love that.

OutlawJHawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Lebowski, your own comments suggest you are one...stating you are concerned about there being "a lot of time" and Hawkfan 20 who states he hopes early signings like this are "few and far between" both seem to diminish the significance of early oral commitments. Maybe you are one of those people who miss the old Roy method of recruiting...where the only focus was recruting in a couple areas of the country (California and Iowa) and as old Roy liked to say, "sign a core(a couple of decent recruits, which he always did) every four years." Step into the 21st century and let Self work his magic. I like getting great players early and often. And try not to be such a Naysayer. This is all good and we are now finally recruiting the way we should be.

Dan Harris 11 years, 7 months ago

What a great year to be a Hawk fan! GREAT coaches in Self and Mangino! Orange Bowl Championship and BB National Championshup!

smitty33 11 years, 7 months ago

Thank goodness the NBA has agreed to let players have to go to college for 1 year. A few years ago this guy sounds good enough to go straight to the pros... ala Stevenson. Hopefully by the time this guy comes it will be 2 years. Didn't Adrich orally commit as a Sophomore?

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