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Originally published December 7, 2009 at 12:00a.m., updated December 7, 2009 at 09:08a.m.

Thanks to Self, KU reloaded better than UCLA

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2009 KU-UCLA

Markieff Morris pushes KU past UCLA

KU sophomore forward Markieff Morris scored a career-high 19 points as KU topped UCLA, 73-61, on the road.

Reader poll

Who is KU's most improved player from last year?

  • Marcus Morris 19% 45 votes
  • Markieff Morris 75% 172 votes
  • Tyrel Reed 3% 7 votes
  • Other 1% 3 votes

227 total votes.

— Eleven national championships. John Wooden. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bill Walton. Jackie Robinson. Gail Goodrich. Walt Hazzard. Keith Wilkes. Marques Johnson. Dave Myers. Richard Washington.

If those names don’t mean anything to today’s recruits, UCLA coach Ben Howland always can sell the fact he took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours (2006-08). Mix in that the school is located in a massive city rich with high school basketball talent, and it’s a given UCLA will field a nationally ranked team every year.

Right? Wrong.

There’s no such thing as a given in college basketball, not anywhere. Early exits to the NBA, key injuries and a recruiting miss here and there can add up to a perennial powerhouse slipping to 2-5 in early December, as UCLA has, including losses to Cal State Fullerton, Portland and Long Beach State.

It could happen to anyone, even Kansas University, which didn’t play its best game but didn’t need to in order to defeat UCLA, 73-61, Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.

Two years ago in San Antonio, Kansas and UCLA were two of the four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four.

Kansas, despite having just one player (Sherron Collins) who played more than four minutes in the 45-minute national title game against Memphis, is back on top, ranked No. 1 in the nation. UCLA’s only victories have come against Cal State Bakersfield and Pepperdine.

Take it from Howland, the quick Kansas reloading job should not be taken for granted.

“It’s very impressive,” Howland said. “Collins is a very good player. He was part of that team. Obviously, (Cole) Aldrich was part of that, just a freshman a the time. I saw Cole coming out of high school. Compared to where he is now, he’s really developed well. He’s bigger, stronger. And these young kids they have are really good, especially the (Morris) twins. They’re really formidable. The kid (Thomas) Robinson, he played only a minute. Watching him on film, he’s a good player, and he played one minute.”

How has Kansas avoided the cliff that ate up UCLA’s chances of putting together another memorable March run? In a word, charm. KU’s coach and home court have it, UCLA’s coach and building don’t. In another word, loyalty. KU’s fan base has it. UCLA’s does not.

Bill Self, like Howland, is a tough taskmaster blessed with a keen basketball mind. Both men see all the mistakes and don’t let any go unpunished. Self’s also armed with a sense of humor to cut the tension and a natural charm that comes in handy in recruiting and in keeping players on his side. If Howland has that side to his personality, it’s not nearly as obvious.

Howland is hamstrung by a fickle fan base. The Bruins drew just 6,145 spectators for their season-opener and just 10,451 Sunday for the No. 1 team in the nation. A huge segment of the paying customers sported KU gear. UCLA fans are front-runners.

The Bruins’ homecourt is far more airy, not nearly as intimate, as the fieldhouse. It feels more like an NBA arena from a bygone era.

The chances of KU slipping under Self to the sort of season UCLA is having are remote. Still, it pays to remember just how remarkable a two-year reloading job the Kansas coaching staff has engineered.

Comments

Dirk Medema 10 years, 1 month ago

The other bookend to this story is UF - tho not as contextually appropriate. They lost their top umpteen players to the NBA after their second NC, and have only been glimpsed nationally since.

My heart was bleeding for the bruins, after hearing about all their players leaving for the NBA, and wondered if someone else would pick up on the similarities w/ KU's '08 to '09 teams.

Billy Derringer 10 years, 1 month ago

self has done a great job at reloading but.........im alittle nervous of his landing kids right out of high school...if it were not for the 4 decommits that makes most of are playing rotation where would we be?(henry-little-mk mc morris and thats not counting whittney or the other henry) coach self love him to death but he has been out recruited here the last few years. if it werent for decommits where would we be surely top 25 but i dont think a.p.#1...not to memtion all the kids that has come to ku and has been run off or bolted on there on. (.giles-downs-appleton-galindo-thomas-wilkes-padgett-giddens bahe) im not saying some of this is not going to happen with a coaching change-but i just wish we could do are home work sorta say and find good players from the jump and not have to fight all this red tape we have to fight threw to get are kids...im not knocking coach hes doing a hell of a job but just wish hed win in the begging of recruiting and not have to wait for a coach to leave a school to grap his players to find talent..but just my 2 cents-- whats are class look like this year we have signed one kid?

Scott Lippoldt 10 years, 1 month ago

Derringer--OUR not are, HAVE come, not has... Sorry, not usually one to nitpick, but it makes it difficult to take your post seriously. Speaking of which, are you serious?!?! We've won a national championship, we currently are ranked number one in the country, we have stellar recruiting classes, etc., etc., etc., and you're complaining about Coach Self's recruiting abilities??? We're not going to get every single top player in the country, and I personally like the guys Self brings in who are "projects" (e.g., Morris brothers) who blossom through Coaches Self and Manning's system. A song I would recommend for you: "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" Life is good as a Jayhawk--enjoy the ride!

Robert Brock 10 years, 1 month ago

Next year Howland's team adds Josh Smith at the post. If he can find someone who can play the point, watch out!

Kye Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

derringer29 - don't forget about Tyshawn Taylor. Originally committed to Marquette, came to KU when Tom Crean went to Indiana. I think some players you have a valid point, the Henry brothers (and my own inclusion of Taylor). They committed to KU after coaching changes. But the Morris Twins changed their mind to come to KU while Calipari was still at Memphis. Little was a juco transfer brought in to balance our recruiting class, he obviously had to transfer from his juco. As for the players you mentioned that defected, anyone in the Roy Williams' recruiting class (Padgett, Giddens, etc) has to be excused. You can't blame Self for not holding on to someone else's recruits while at the same time not giving him credit for taking advantage of getting players who decommit to other schools due to the same situation. Padgett, and maybe to a lesser extent Micah Downs, are the only two of those players to go to a high level program and excel. Most have left due to lack of playing time, which only means that Self has recruited at a high level.

champs528808 10 years, 1 month ago

derringer - all of those players that have left since Self arrived really hurt our chances of winning the 08 title? Yeah, right. They obviously wanted more playing time or couldn't handle Self's toughness.

yates33333 10 years, 1 month ago

How could anyone seriously question Self's ability to recruit and coach. He is another Roy Williams as a recruiter, but a better floor coach.

BTW, instead of buying Williams' book buy Sarah Palin's. You need not read either.

KANSTUCKY 10 years, 1 month ago

We really don't need a bunch of OAD's to leave massive gaps and fly before their potential is realized. To find a good NBA ready player that will stay for more than two years is going to be the exception and not the rule. We have been lucky to keep a number of players the last few years. I don't think I could have refused a million dollar buyout of my college education. Hopefully none of these kids lose any value by sticking around.

thmdmph 10 years, 1 month ago

When it comes to recruiting, I think Self is masterful. However, don't forget that he's recruiting these star athletes to come to to homely Lawrence somewhere in the middle of Timbuktu. Nothing except hills. NO beaches, no mountains, no Hollywood, no glamour. Additionally, he doesn't pay WWW under the table to recruit for him.

In the end, a lot of recruits have KU as their #2 because they really wants to play for Self at KU, however, the bells & whistles of the other schools lure these teenagers earning else where for stardome, money, fame, beach babes, ..... I don't think it has to do the Self's recruiting abilities. If KU was nested in Florida or S. Calif coast, KU would have had 25 NCAA championships by now.

Billy Derringer 10 years, 1 month ago

i never once said self wasnt doing a good job, just think sometimes he could avoid alot of the hassle if he got some kids to commit in the early singing period-and i was just pointing out the fact that we are very lucky to have who we have at this point due to other coaches leaving different programs....dont kid your selves ku fans a couple bad recruiting years or a couple transfers and we too could be were ucla is or even were the gators are it only takes a few misses and a few defections and bamm your talent pool is not so good....am i wrong for wanting coach to bring home the bacon...lol

thmdmph 10 years, 1 month ago

KU's main selling point to "glits and glamour" is that Lawrence is 45 minutes down I-70 from KC. No, really, KC.

Chris Shaw 10 years, 1 month ago

Decommits are part of recruiting and you have to be ready when they do happen. Self is a master when it comes to the misfortunes (Job Loss) or fortunes (Job improvement) of other coaches.

One thing I snickered at in this article is the quote by Ben Howland, "“It’s very impressive,” Howland said. “Collins is a very good player. He was part of that team. Obviously, (Cole) Aldrich was part of that, just a freshman a the time. I saw Cole coming out of high school. Compared to where he is now, he’s really developed well. He’s bigger, stronger. And these young kids they have are really good, especially the (Morris) twins. They’re really formidable. The kid (Thomas) Robinson, he played only a minute. Watching him on film, he’s a good player, and he played one minute.”

Howland's last sentence comment about Thomas Robinson IMO was a little technique to plant seed's in the minds of recruits. You don't think Howland wished he had Thomas Robinson on his UCLA squad last night? I could see how a "Runner" or some individual could get in the head of a guy like Robinson and get him to transfer to a school like UCLA. It's not going to happen because Robinson is going to have a great future with KU, but I thought it was interesting how Howland worded that last sentence in reference to Robinson. Why mention Robinson is my point?

Chris Shaw 10 years, 1 month ago

THM: In the end, a lot of recruits have KU as their #2 because they really wants to play for Self at KU, however, the bells & whistles of the other schools lure these teenagers earning else where for stardome, money, fame, beach babes, ..... I don't think it has to do the Self's recruiting abilities. If KU was nested in Florida or S. Calif coast, KU would have had 25 NCAA championships by now.

I think that is why having the best possible facilities in the country is so "Key" to the recruiting for Self and the Jayhawks. Even Harrison Barnes was impressed with the new facilities, but it sounds like he had already made up his mind before he came back for Late Night and saw all the new things with the basketball program.

I think in the upcoming recruiting classes (2011 and beyond) the facilities will be a difference maker. Maybe not in Beal's case, but i think it will be a "Selling Point".

Christopher Johnson 10 years, 1 month ago

Derringer,

The point you're missing is that he does an INCREDIBLE job of capitalizing on others messes. He recruits very well, but is the best at landing kids late when they're in awkward situations. Brandon Rush and the Henry boys are prime examples. Who cares if these kids get picked up late. He's doing something right to keep the kids on board late.

DallasHawk 10 years, 1 month ago

I'm just glad Tom pointed out how fickle the ucla fan base is and what a dump pauley pavilion is. I watched their Holiday tournament in Anaheim when they were smoked by Portland and there were maybe 5,000 people there. More power to players who would rather have that than a sold out 16,300 every game.

KUFan90 10 years, 1 month ago

One last comment on derringer's post regarding the list of players that have left the KU program. Every other power program (Duke, UNC, UCLA, etc etc) has a list just as long or longer of similar names for the same period you mention. It's just part of life in college hoops. It's wishful thinking reflecting an ignorance of reality to say something like "I wish Self would do something different so we didn't have all these transfers from KU".

distracted 10 years, 1 month ago

One of the big reasons why many recruits go elsewhere is the log jam of talent at every position and the depleted playing time it causes. Kids want to win but they also want to play and some just don't have the desire to have to earn it (especially when things have been handed to them their whole careers). I love this problem and hope it continues season after season.

milehighhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

hate to pile on, derringer, but EVERYONE ELSE IS RIGHT.

you think we have recruiting issues? REALLY? our deep a$$ bench begs to differ.

we are consistently in the running for the absolute top HS players every year as well.

Self is the master.

JayCeph 10 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure I see derringer complaining about anything. They just seem to be making a comment that we seem to land a lot of players... after the fact. They commit elsewhere and then, due to one situation or another, they come to KU.

Derringer seems to be asking the question, "Why don't they come here to begin with?"

I see nothing wrong with this line of questioning. It is probing and insightful. No need to 'pile on' anything. I don't understand the direction the posts/answers to this question took. Why is everyone so indignant about nothing?

Eric Schneider 10 years, 1 month ago

Something that can't be overlooked in how successful we have been is the "Kansas Family." The former players that come back all the time. The fan support. Several recruits have spoken about that. Even those that chose to go elsewhere have stated that it was the reason it was such a hard choice not to go to KU. The other good thing about the "family" is that it attracts the type of kids, usually, that aren't going to cause problems. They also tend to graduate. And we fans have come to expect that.

Also, Florida is not really a good comparison. The run with Noah, Horford, etc. was an aberration for that program. Indiana would probably be a better fit for the profile. Trust me I live in Indy and get to hear all the Hoosiers whining.

eastTXjayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

who's happy J'Mison decided not to follow Shady to KU? I saw him in HS, knew he wasn't half the player that Shady and Kevin Rogers were.

Marcia Parsons 10 years, 1 month ago

A couple of the transfers derringer mentioned didn't leave on their own. Giles and Giddens were shown the door. But I understand what he's saying. My feeling is that Self knows better than to go all out for all the top players for fear he might get them and then lose them all after the season. That's how UCLA ended up like it is. He continues to go for a balance with good support players who will improve during their years at KU. Losing Wall was a given. He only plans to play one year. Why would he come to a school with a Sherron Collins already in place?

Aaron Rosenthal 10 years, 1 month ago

I flew from San Francisco to LA for the game yesterday. Great to see thousands of Jayhawks in attendance, though not at all surprising. UCLA fans were stunned. One guy said to me, "Where did you all come from?" I just said, "All over, man."

They really don't get the concept of throwing support behind the team 100%. Granted KU is #1 right now and has had a run of excellence in recent years. But KU fans should take pride in the quality of our fan base. There was so much joy from the KU fans at the game. Full respect for someone else's gym, but also full-throated passion for the Jayhawks. I really don't think we have the arrogance and entitlement shown by fan bases of other "elite" programs, specifically UCLA, UNC and Kentucky from what I've seen. More than just our coaches and players, I wouldn't trade our fans for anyone.

Chris Shaw 10 years, 1 month ago

rosentag: Great Post! Was it as dead as it appeared to be on TV?

angusmcpherr 10 years, 1 month ago

Always great to hear the Rock Chalk chant in places like Pauley, too.

wyansas 10 years, 1 month ago

skwahjayog: "Sorry, not usually one to nitpick, but it makes it difficult to take your post seriously. Speaking of which, are you serious?!?!"

HAA!!

wyansas 10 years, 1 month ago

rosentag, it seemed like the Rock Chalk chant was pretty loud at the end of the game. Sounded like maybe half the arena could have been singing it. Always love it when Jayhawk fans represent on the road.

buckleyhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

derringer, not bad questions, but any time you throw out this list "giles-downs-appleton-galindo-thomas-wilkes-padgett-giddens bahe"...i have to stop and go "huh?" there are only two players on that list i was sad to see go. there are roughly four players on that list who probably belonged at ku in the first place, and two of those screwed up too many times off the court (and the other two simply didn't see themselves playing much or well in self's system).

Dan Pawlowski 10 years, 1 month ago

Sorry but derringer deserves to be piled on. His first statement, "self has done a great job at reloading but.........im alittle nervous of his landing kids right out of high school..." , makes no sense. He would rather land kids right out of what, college?, retirement? . Sorry ,no matter what you follow that nonsense up with you cannot redeem yourself.

Gregory Newman 10 years, 1 month ago

Actually Self recruited to well for his own good. He had to redshirt 2 players that I felt could contribute now. But that probably frightened all the recruits knowing that they couldn't break the line-up. Barnes knew he would sit that is why he chose NC. Plus Elijah Johnson terrified alot of guards although he isn't getting the credit from Rivals which I think is a joke. Because that Woolridge kid ain't no joke he's the real deal. Coach Self can observe better than the scouts according to his needs. Plus everybody forgot about Withey and Morningstar. The only thing that I dissagree with Self is that he doesn't think that this team is as fast as the 08 team. This team is so big they are deceptive when they are in transition but trust me they are moving. GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!

SoCalAlum 10 years, 1 month ago

I was at the game Sunday too and as Rosentag pointed out, tons of Kansas fans sporting all manner of Kansas gear...saw one dude wearing a Jeff Graves jersey!! As for the UCLA crowd, they only woke up twice during the game: when UCLA closed it to four and during the sequence when they felt goaltending should've been called. Two traditions occurred simultaneously toward the end of the game: our RCJH chant and UCLA/LA fans heading for the exits.

Re: recruiting...Jio Fontan - the top guard on Tyshawn's St Anthony's team is finally transferring from Fordham...hope Dooley is on him to get him to consider KU - he'd be a good candidate to replace Sherron, I think.

jaybate 10 years, 1 month ago

Tuesday Noticing Along with Yogi Berra that College Coaching Is 90 Percent Recruiting and 10 Percent Coaching, but that 90 Percent of Winning with Recruiting is Great Coaching:

} Self has created so much freaking depth recruiting with less than a full allotment of scholies that he has the Number 1 ranked team in the country, even though he has two guys ineligible till second semester (7 foot Withey and former starter Brady), C.J. is hurt, and he threw red shirts on Little and Releford.

Think about this folks.

What is Kansas going to look like after Self has three years of recruiting with a full allotment of scholies?

It is mind boggling.

} derringer does, however, raise an interesting question: 1) why are so many saying no to KU the first time around?

I have a hypothesis with these premises.

a) Self is everyone's first choice for a coach, but KU is always overflowing with talent.

b) Players want to maximize PT, so they often sign with their second choice coach to get maximum PT.

c) There are lots of coaching changes.

Therefore, it follows that:

Players choose a coach offering max PT, then when he jumps for big bucks to rebuild a program, they pick Self, who was straight with them from the beginning and is not in rebuilding mode.

} The remaining issue is: why are we losing out on some of the best big men, when we have a need next year and we always have the best big man coach by a large margin?

I have another hypothesis.

Check book recruiting is prevailing in big men.

And with Calipari and Pastner getting rewarded rather than punished for the cheating at Memphis with Rose, Dozier, et al, check book recruiting is spiking fast and furious since this past summer and probably affecting all recruits at all positions.

} As I have said elsewhere, I think there is a real possibility that Self will have a few lean years, simply because KU is not apt to join into the check book recruiting in hopes the NCAA can be lobbied into putting a stop to it a couple years down the road.

chalkitup1811 10 years, 1 month ago

Self is doing an awesome job of recruiting who cares what kids he gets because of a coaching change. He still got the kids to come to kansas . not to mention when he was at illinois he had dee brown luther head and darren williams who i believe went to a national title and came up short after self left for kansas. Didn't Illinois beat us in the sweet 16 when they were a one seed while self was still at illinois. The guy can recruit , he may not get the best recruits every year but he gets kids that can play and that will be a good fit for our program and his style of play. those other players that left, left because they weren't getting enough playing time.Not because he can't get players. that tells you right there that self knows what he is doing .

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