Monday, May 30, 2011

Welcome back: Cole Aldrich returns to KU

Former Kansas University standout and current Oklahoma City Thunder player Cole Aldrich (45) blocks a shot by Miami’s Chris Bosh in this photo from their NBA exhibition game Oct. 8, 2010, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. While Bosh’s Heat have rolled into the NBA finals, the Thunder’s season ended a round earlier, sending Aldrich packing for Lawrence, his home away from home.

Former Kansas University standout and current Oklahoma City Thunder player Cole Aldrich (45) blocks a shot by Miami’s Chris Bosh in this photo from their NBA exhibition game Oct. 8, 2010, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. While Bosh’s Heat have rolled into the NBA finals, the Thunder’s season ended a round earlier, sending Aldrich packing for Lawrence, his home away from home.


Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Cole Aldrich, whose NBA season ended Wednesday, packed up his belongings, hopped in his car and hit the highway Thursday afternoon.

His destination?

“I’m on my way to Lawrence right now. I’m going to be in Lawrence most of the summer,” former Kansas University center Aldrich revealed in a cell-phone interview.

Aldrich is making good on a vow he made to himself and his parents after electing to leave KU after his junior year — not to rest until he earns his college degree in communication studies.

Aldrich, the 2010 ESPN The Magazine/College Sports Information Directors Association of America Academic All-American of the Year, said he’s enrolled in two summer-school classes, which run June 7-29 on KU’s campus.

“I want to say I’m 15 or 18 hours short, about a semester’s work,” Aldrich said. “It’s not going to be terribly hard. It’s just going to take some time. I’m chipping away at my degree.”

The 6-foot-11, 245-pound native of Bloomington, Minn., who played in 18 games his rookie season after being selected No. 11 overall in the 2010 Draft, is fired up about spending more quality time in his college town.

“Oh, I do, I do,” Aldrich said of loving KU. “Being from Minnesota, I’ve been in the Midwest all my life. Coming to KU ... everybody taking me under their arms and supporting me throughout my career means a lot.”

Lawrence natives will be sure to see Aldrich out and about, perhaps well into next fall and winter if there’s a lockout that will delay the start of the 2011-12 season.

“You might see me throw a strike or two down the lanes,” bowling fan Aldrich said of Royal Crest Lanes. “I know the gym will see me for sure.

“It’s tough because we don’t quite know if there will be a lockout or not on June 30 at midnight when the collective-bargaining agreement ends. Right now it’s looking toward we are going to have a lockout, but if there is one, you never know how long it’s going to last.”

Aldrich is looking to expand his game after scoring 18 points, grabbing 35 rebounds and blocking 18 shots in the regular season. He wasn’t activated for the Thunder’s playoff series against Denver, Memphis and Dallas. He also averaged 10.3 points and 8.6 boards in 21 games for the Thunder’s Developmental League team in Tulsa.

He’s eager to play meaningful NBA minutes.

“I’m definitely ready,” Aldrich said. “It’s night and day,” he noted of his improvement since starting his pro career. “When I left Kansas, I thought I was a pretty good player. Once you get to the NBA, you quickly realize everybody is just as good as you if not better. You are playing against guys who have played in the league eight, 10, 12 years and really know the little things that you pick up on through the course of your rookie season.”

He’s sure to receive some additional pointers from his mentor — KU assistant coach/KU big-man coach Danny Manning, who had a long NBA career — in coming months.

“I’m just going to continue to work hard this summer, work offensively, but also just work on quickness and agility because those things really help guard the pick and roll and guarding those guys that are so good,” said Aldrich, who earned $2,126,520 last season with three years left on his first NBA deal.

He indicated he learned a lot watching former KU player Nick Collison of the Thunder in the playoffs. Collison, who stands an inch shorter and is 10 pounds heavier than Aldrich, excelled while guarding Memphis’ Zach Randolph in a seven-game, second-round playoff series and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki in the conference finals, which OKC lost, four games to one.

“Dirk is a Hall of Famer, it’s plain and simple,” Aldrich said. “He’s one of the only guys that can average 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) in all the playoff games he’s ever played.

“He’s tough to guard because he’s 7-foot. He can shoot the three. He can go in the post. He can do so many things. I think Nick made it real tough on him to get shots up. Even though he made some really tough shots, Nick did a heck of a job guarding him.

“The playoffs really set Nick into the public eye,” Aldrich added of Collison, who averaged 6.7 points and 5.8 boards while logging 24.3 minutes a game in 17 playoff games. “It (his performance) shows a guy that doesn’t average double figure points every game or anything like that can still really affect the game.”

Aldrich plans to spread his own knowledge of the game to area youths this summer. He will hold a basketball camp for boys and girls kindergarten through eighth grade June 27-30 at Olathe Northwest High. Aldrich will be assisted by former KU players Jeff Gueldner, Tyrel Reed and Mark Randall.

“The main thing is trying to give back to the community,” the 22-year-old Aldrich said. “Mario (Chalmers) had a camp last year. I always felt once you get to the NBA, you realize all the people that really helped you get to where you are now. You want to give back, have the kids learn a little basketball and have fun with us. Everybody gets to interact with guys who played at KU or in the league or are currently in the league. It’s in the Kansas City area, not too far from Lawrence obviously and not terribly far from Topeka. I hope kids come out and really just have fun.”

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Cmill1221 10 years, 6 months ago

COLE!!! You make millions of dollars a year now. FIX THAT TOOTH!!!!

KEITHMILES05 10 years, 6 months ago

His tooth is fixed. He can put it or take it out.

David Hodges 10 years, 6 months ago

The answer is a resounding,Yes! Throw it in... go to a fancy dinner with your lady. Take it out... oh the options. :) I love that goofy smile Cole, don't ever get it fixed. Rock Chalk!

Cmill1221 10 years, 6 months ago

Thats not fixed!!! He isnt a 90yr old man that takes it out and puts it in a glass next to the bed. Go to the dentist and get something long term!!!

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

It's his trademark, and he's proud of it. A battle scar. No need looking "pretty" when you're going to war.

Cmill1221 10 years, 6 months ago

Its basketball..... the sport where if you get touched on the arm they stop play and let you shoot free shots. the tearm "Battle" and "War" seem a little much. Just fix it.....

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

Work on offense.

Work on quickness and agility.

Offense, I can believe.

But quickness and agility?

Guarding the pick and roll?

I thought hedging the pick and roll was going to be one of his strengths going in.

The players in the NBA are just so fabulously good!

duanep5ku 10 years, 6 months ago

Cole Aldrich is a class act all the way,you are the kind of player that represents the good about being a Kansas Jay hawk. A student who actually wants to Graduate,I mean what a great ideal a player who wants to get a degree for going to College. Cole you may have got the millions but you never forgot about the person inside.classy.

Cole, welcome back and good luck in the class room and next year in the NBA

PS Happy Memorial Day to all the Kansas fans on here and stay safe

David Hodges 10 years, 6 months ago

Thumbs Up... Cole was and still is a class act that will always represent the Jayhawks well. Class act all the way--any chance Simien played a role in this? Only reason I ask... Simiens return to Lawrence and his overall positive attitude has to have some affect on our Jayhawks. I think Cole embodies all the great things that come out of KU. Of course, a great deal is owed to his parents. Great parenting = great people. Rock Chalk!

John Brown 10 years, 6 months ago

Good post on Aldrich, NBA is tough on rookies. I'm excited to see 2 Jayhawks on one team twice; (Shady and Xavier) being two. Wish you the best in year 2.

madamhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Cole-glad to have you back for the summer. Make sure you get in the gym as often as possible with DMann, TRob,JWith and JTray and bang the hell out of each other ballin. Get all of you ready for next season.

Have a great and safe Memorial Day Jayhawk Nation!

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Welcome home to Lawrence, Cole. I hope that you spend many future offseasons working with DMan, scrimmaging with our current hoopsters. You lit up our TV screen every time the cameras panned to you, wearing one of your new suits on the sidelines during the playoffs. Hope to see you in uniform for several more seasons. Best of luck in your developmental pursuits, and good health to you for as many playing years as Nick and Kirk. You have provided topnotch entertainment for the Jayhawk Nation. The Hansbrough Shutdown in '08 ranks as one of the super highlights of 21st century Jayhawk basketball.

chaggs 10 years, 6 months ago

As a teacher, it's refreshing to see him follow through on a commitment he made to his family and his education!

The world could use more role models like Cole!

ccarp 10 years, 6 months ago

Reads like Withey should have good development this summer too.

Martin Rosenblum 10 years, 6 months ago

Excellent point!

DManning should have his first obligation to Withey in the "off-season". While Cole will no doubt be in the gym with Danny, Withey needs to either be with them or involved on a regular basis with one or the other in his effort to become a force and not a farce!

David Lara 10 years, 6 months ago

I disagree entirely. Am I the only one who thinks Withey would be better served following the Dave Mathews Band on their summer tour??? You too Cole. You're already bringing in the big bucks. This is your time to sit back and just let it all come to you. Duh, winning!

milwaukeeJAYHAWK 10 years, 6 months ago

Cole is one of my favorite Jayhawks of all time. If any guy deserved success, it would be him. Such a nice kid.

nuleafjhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Awesome! You've got to love a guy who makes 2+ million bucks a year and still wants to get his college degree. I hope he's an example to many others who would like to do the same. (OR even get their degree before they go to the NBA - gasp!)

kranny 10 years, 6 months ago

Anybody have a rough estimate on how many former players have a home in Larry-town? My brother lives in Lawrence and sees a lot of former Jayhawk/NBA players around town.

Tony Bandle 10 years, 6 months ago

My brother lives near the interection of Harvard and Wakarusa and says that there are four or five Jayhawk Basketball Alumni just in his subdivision.

gchawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Welcome home, Cole. I'm so proud of you for setting out to earn your degree. While playing in the pros will net you millions, you'll find that your degree is priceless.

Tony Bandle 10 years, 6 months ago

My suggestion...have Scott Pollard and Cole Aldrich play 2 on 1 with Jeff Withey every day this summer for 8 hours a day!!!

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