Just as one shot-blocker extraordinaire — Jeff Withey — leaves Kansas University, another arrives: Hunter Mickelson, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound junior-to-be from the University of Arkansas.
“Hunter’s not as tall, and he’s more agile than Jeff, and he’s probably more of a perimeter player than Jeff,” KU coach Bill Self said Friday in announcing Mickelson’s signing a financial aid agreement.
Does Mickelson — Arkansas’ freshman record-holder in blocks — remind Self of Withey, the Big 12’s all-time block leader?
“Not really. But from a shot-blocking standpoint,” Self added, “you can say he’s a ‘poor-man’s Jeff.’ He is an excellent shot-blocker.”
Mickelson will practice but not play in games next season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, then be eligible for competition in 2014-15.
He blocked 72 shots his freshman season, breaking Oliver Miller’s freshman block record (60) that stood since 1988-89. Mickelson’s block total dipped to 39 last season.
“He’s thin, but he’s got a good body,” Self said. “I think he needs to spend a lot of time with coach Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) in the weight room. He has to get his confidence back, because he was a very, very, very good player out of high school, and when you go to a school ... it’s happened to players at our place and it’s happened to players every place … maybe he lost a little confidence because he didn’t play as much or whatever the reason would be.
“He fits how we play. He’s long, very interchangeable and will be able to step away from the basket and stretch it. Defensively, he is a presence because he’s a shot-blocker.”
Mickelson, who chose KU over Butler, was offered a scholarship by KU his senior year out of Jonesboro (Ark.) Westside High. At the time, he was ranked 100th nationally by Rivals.com.
“I really believe that he thought we were a great fit for him coming out of high school, but he just wanted to stay closer to home,” Self said.
Recruiting continues: The addition of Mickelson gives KU an incoming recruiting class of six players.
KU, which has two scholarships to give, is still in the hunt for 6-9 University of Memphis junior forward Tarik Black, who will be immediately eligible next season, and Andrew Wiggins, a 6-7 senior from Huntington (W. Va.) Prep who is ranked No. 1 nationally by Rivals.com. Self said “all of the above” asked if he was open to signing another high school player or transfer.
“I’ve said all along I think our recruiting class is really, really good. You add Hunter to the mix, although he won’t play next year, and it makes it that much better. If we were able to steal one or two more, I think our recruiting class would be as good as we’ve ever had here,” Self said.
Members of the Class of 2013 are: Mickelson; No. 12 Wayne Selden, 6-5 guard, Tilton (N.H.) School; No. 25 Joel Embiid, 7-foot center, Rock School, Gainesville, Fla.; No. 29 Brannen Greene, 6-7 forward, Tift County High, Tifton, Ga.; No. 34 Conner Frankamp, 6-0, guard, Wichita North; and No. 76 Frank Mason, 5-11 guard, Massanutten Military Academy, Woodstock, Va.
One possible transfer KU has elected not to pursue is former Alabama guard Trevor Lacey. Self can’t comment on specific prospects in accordance with NCAA rules.
Job search in early stages: Self said he’s not yet “to first base” in his search for a replacement for Joe Dooley (Florida Gulf Coast) as a full-time assistant coach. He said he definitely would fill the position from the outside, meaning director of basketball operations and former Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler is not a candidate. Sadler has expressed a desire to coach again, thus likely won’t be back in the director’s role.
“Doc and I have visited ... I do know this, I really, really, really enjoyed having him around. He probably has to do more than what he’s done for us, to be honest with you,” he added of Sadler’s need to coach. “He was a big asset to us in that position. He wants to coach, so we’ll see how that plays out.”
Of the assistant opening, Self said: “I would say we are going to try to fill it with somebody that’s very well rounded, that will bring energy and enthusiasm, be a good on-the-floor coach, and then also be a guy with excellent (recruiting) contacts in areas in which we need contacts to make us a bigger presence in those respective areas we think are important.”
Camp openings: Some spots are open for Self’s fantasy camp, set for May 3-5 in Allen Fieldhouse. The camp is open to participants 35 and over. Participants can play in games on teams or serve as coaches. Former KU director of basketball Barry Hinson, head coach at Southern Illinois, will return to work the camp. To sign up, go to billselfexperience.com.
“It was a blast,” Self said of last year’s camp.
Boogie nights: Self is moving his Bill’s Basketball Boogie to Abe and Jake’s this year. Tickets for the June 8 dinner/dance are available at www.basketballboogie.org. All proceeds benefit the Assists Foundation.
“It’s the party of the summer, and will be again this year,” Self said.