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Monday, February 12, 2018

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Local recruiting makes sense for national-powerhouse program

Oak Park High guard Ochai Agbaji drives to the rim during a recent high school game against Liberty North in the William Jewell Tourney last December. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound wing recently became one of the hottest unsigned prospects in the country after picking up offers from Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. On Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, Agbaji committed to KU during a ceremony at his high school.

Oak Park High guard Ochai Agbaji drives to the rim during a recent high school game against Liberty North in the William Jewell Tourney last December. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound wing recently became one of the hottest unsigned prospects in the country after picking up offers from Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. On Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, Agbaji committed to KU during a ceremony at his high school.

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Against the backdrop of stories about ailing team chemistry and Bill Self talking about having to coach effort in February for the first time at Kansas, encouraging news broke on the recruiting front for the 13-time-defending Big 12 champion.

Kansas landed a Kansas City recruit for the first time since Travis Releford (Bishop Miege Class of 2008) when an oral commitment came from late-bloomer Ochai Agbaji, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Oak Park High.

In the age of impatient players itching to play right away and, in some cases, hypersensitivity to hard coaching, transfer numbers are on the rise.

Players from the state of Kansas or the Kansas City, Mo., area are less likely to transfer and the uniform tends to mean even more to them.

Given that Kansas has won 13 consecutive Big 12 titles, it’s tough to find ways they could take an even better approach to recruiting, but changing times sometimes necessitate tweaks.

To that end, I wonder if it might be a good idea to save one scholarship from every class for a player from either Kansas City, Mo., or the state of Kansas.

If it became something the coaches discussed publicly, the honor of becoming that one recruit each year would be awfully difficult for any prospect to say anything but "yes" and "thank you" to a scholarship offer. The pride most would take in the uniform would give them the desire to fight for playing time, stick it out until it arrives and add to the stability of the roster during four-year careers.

Self has given scholarships to six such players and all but one worked out well. Conner Frankamp left before the start of his sophomore season and is a senior starter at Wichita State.

Brandon Rush, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Travis Releford and Perry Ellis combined to make 393 starts in 683 games.

At least one Big 12-caliber recruit is available from either Kansas City, Mo., or the state of Kansas every year.

Starting with 2005, here is a look at some of the top players and where they signed:

2005: Rush (Kansas).

2006: Morningstar (Kansas).

2007: Reed (Kansas).

2008: Releford (Kansas) and Marcus Denmon (Missouri).

2009: Michael Dixon (Missouri, transferred to Memphis) and Dorian Green (Colorado State).

2010: Trevor Releford (Alabama).

2011: Ron Baker (Wichita State).

2012: Ellis (Kansas) and Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky).

2013: Semi Ojeleye (Duke, transferred to SMU), Frankamp (Kansas, transferred to Wichita State).

2014: Clayton Custer (Iowa State, transferred to Loyola of Chicago).

2015: Landry Shamet (Wichita State) and Dean Wade (Kansas State).

2016: Jeriah Horne (Nebraska, transferred to Tulsa).

2017: Mitchell Ballock (Creighton).

2018: Agbaji.

Nobody bats a thousand, but KU could come close with local players. Not everyone on the list would have upgraded KU’s roster, but identifying one player each year from this state or KC and recruiting them aggressively might result in rosters with a greater number of emotionally invested, four-year players and experienced reserves.

Comments

brent flanders 1 week, 4 days ago

"Against the backdrop of stories about ailing team chemistry and Bill Self talking about having to coach effort in February for the first time at Kansas, encouraging news broke on the recruiting front for the 13-time-defending Big 12 champion."

So, it's ok for THE anointed Kansas University athletic program - Basketball - to adapt to the ever-changing landscape in recruiting.

But at the same time, you eviscerate the other major KU athletic program - Football - and their desire to adjust and adapt to the context they were dealt.

Hypocrisy?

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 4 days ago

Pretty interesting. I wonder how many Kansas City/Kansas players left to go to a power 5 conference other than the BIG 12.

RJ King 1 week, 4 days ago

"The honor of becoming that one recruit each year???" We were all over Ballock and he had no difficulty saying, "no thank you."

Coaches and players have enough to worry about. Who may or may not leave early, may or may not sign early, may or may not qualify, may or may not transfer, may or may not redshirt, and so on.

Sure it's frustrating to see a quality local player go elsewhere, but a scholarship reserved specifically for a home-grown prospect would hardly prevent that. The idea is antiquated, overly complicated, and silly.

Welcome Ochai.

Dirk Medema 1 week, 4 days ago

Since Ellis, Clayton Custer (75 of 100 ESPN because the numbers are easy to visualize regardless of being less than the best), Landry Shamet (77) and Dean Wade (NR), Jeriah Horne (Error), Mitchell Ballock (82). Even between Travis Releford and Ellis, the candidates were Michael Dixon (Error), Dorian Green (Error), Trevor Releford (94), Ron Baker (NR)

I think most wanted Trevor and Mitchell, and the staff recruited them aggressively. Without hindsight though, were any of the others really considered, or considered above any other HS player in the State/Metro? Hat tip to each of the guys above for making a name for themselves, but hard to imagine pursuing any of them. Who were the other HS player in the State/Metro during that time?

Joe Black 1 week, 4 days ago

What site had Shamet at 77? He was an a 3-star and not in the top 100. I pretty much agree with everything else. Everybody knows the story of Baker, he wasn't even recruited by WSU. He went there as a non-scholarship guy. Quite frankly, they got really lucky on that one. Dean Wade was not coming to KU no matter what. He played for a Kinnamon so it was KSU or nothing.

Ralph Huge 1 week, 4 days ago

Rivals had Landry Shamet ranked as a 4-star, the 88th best prospect out of the class of 2015. Ron Baker wasn't ranked out of high school but was invited by KU to visit the campus after he completed his senior basketball season, but he declined, as it was during his baseball season and he felt his basketball skills had rusted a bit and "he didn't want to embarrass himself" in a potential scrimmage.

Dirk Medema 1 week, 1 day ago

Note the very beginning of the sentence you are questioning Joe - It says the "# of 100 ESPN".

Layne Pierce 1 week, 4 days ago

Frankly Ballock was a very good player, but not KU material, and he believed he had a bigger opportunity to play at Creighton, and he has a lot. So I don't see how the two can be compared.

I was very sorry to see Francamp leave, but it has worked out for him.

Joe Black 1 week, 4 days ago

Or has it? He is seeing very reduced playing time with the Reeves getting most of the minutes now.

Ralph Huge 1 week, 4 days ago

Frankamp has done well at WSU (this season he set school record for most consecutive games with a 3-pointer: 40 games). He started most of the year until just recently. He didn't play one game due to migraines and he lost his shooting touch shortly afterwards (at the same time Shamet started his slump), which lasted a couple games but he regained his touch making 4 out of 5 3-pointers in last Saturday's game against UConn. Austin Reaves started shooting lights-out (7 for 7 on 3-pointers in one half) at about the same time Conner entered his slump, which earned him the starting position over Frankamp.

Andrew Foster 1 week, 4 days ago

Ballock saw that he was going to be coming off bench at least he first two years and that there were no guarantees for PT even beyond that. Frankamp while being a great spot up shooter didn't fit the system and because of his lack of speed was a defensive liability.

Even thought he did move to California, am curious as to how we let Bol Bol fall get away. for a local kid who was raised here in area and went to numerous camps at KU, would have thought we would have pushed harder.

Next up Is Lester Earl's son at Miege.

Jay Hawkinson 1 week, 4 days ago

I say Lightfoot should count as local. And he certainly fits the pattern of a max effort guy who is incredibly proud to wear the uniform.

Craig Carson 1 week, 4 days ago

to be fair, the state of Kansas doesnt produce a lot of high quality D-1 players so it sholdnt be that odd to see KU sign anyone locally..Though I would have loved to see Dean Wade along side Azibuke

Brian Leslie 1 week, 4 days ago

You missed Alec Burks from Grandview, MO from that last, who has been the best NBA player out of the bunch. You could also add Shakur Juiston from Hutch Juco, currently averaging about 15 & 10 for UNLV.

I'm all for getting 4-star local talent, and maybe the occasional 3-star, but we've already been doing a pretty good job of that overall. I would have particularly loved to have Baker as a Jayhawk, but literally no one, including Gregg Marshall, saw how good he would end up being.

Ballock, Wade, and Cauley-Stein were never going to be Jayhawks. I think that Tom is forgetting that there is enmity towards KU in some percentage of the state. We also had the infamous "Crider Ax" back in Roy's time. If you get a Kansas kid that is just not qualified to play here, it doesn't work out well for anyone.

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