Bill Self on recruiting: 'High school rankings can be so overrated'
Throughout the past decade, Kansas has found itself ranked among the top teams in the country and competing for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament each season.
Perhaps the only ranking system that hasn’t shown the Jayhawks at the top annually are recruiting class rankings. Duke and Kentucky have traded turns with the No. 1 class for the last several seasons, while Bill Self's classes have been a little lower.
On ESPN’s Campus Conversation podcast with Jeff Goodman last week, Self was asked why the Jayhawks haven’t competed as often for the No. 1 spot as Kentucky or Duke, even though the Hall of Fame coach has proven he can land top-ranked prospects like Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson.
“These high school rankings can be so overrated,” Self said. “We went to the national championship game with not one McDonald’s All-American on our roster in 2012 and last year’s national player of the year (Frank Mason III) was not a McDonald’s All-American. Joel Embiid was not a McDonald’s All-American. We’ve done fairly well but to look strictly at rankings is the wrong way to look at it, even as a fan.”
The Jayhawks are off to a very strong start to their Class of 2018. Even with Silvio De Sousa opting to reclassify to help the team this season, guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, and forward David McCormack, all earned selections to the 24-player McDonald’s All-American Game in March.
Kansas is ranked No. 3 in the team rankings by Rivals and ESPN, and fifth by 247Sports. The Jayhawks had only one Top 5 class, according to ESPN, since 2010. Of course, not all years are created equal with the availability of scholarships or adding college transfers instead of high schoolers.
“It is comical to me,” Self said. “Kentucky has by far the most pros in the NBA, they’ve got 30. I was watching something on ESPN and I think that Duke is second with 23 and then us and (North) Carolina are third right now with 16. You don’t get 16 guys to the pros when you recruit them and they can’t play.”
Since 2010, the Jayhawks have recruited eight one-and-done prospects: Josh Jackson, Cheick Diallo, Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Ben McLemore and Josh Selby.
“You recruit the best kids but you also want the best kids to fit everything you are trying to do,” Self said. “If I can recruit five one-and-dones every year, I would. But that’s not what we do. Certainly, we won’t beat everybody in recruiting every year, but I’ll tell you this, Kentucky and Duke don’t beat everybody every time either.”
Since 2010, the Jayhawks have been a one or two seed in each NCAA Tournament, so it's difficult to say that any of the recent recruiting classes haven't matched up with Kentucky, Duke or other blue blood programs.
The last Top 5 ranked class was in 2013, which featured Wiggins, Embiid, Mason, Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene.
“Recruiting is such an inexact science,” Self said. “I think the best teams have always been the ones with maybe the most talented guy is the youngest but the heart and soul is always the oldest. I think Jay Wright has taken that formula into a whole new level in what they’ve done there at Villanova.”