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Is top prep talent Marvin Bagley III a real option for Kansas basketball?

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Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Within minutes, possibly even seconds, of the news breaking Wednesday night that William & Mary transfer forward Jack Whitman was leaving the Kansas basketball program, eager and uneasy KU fans alike were connecting the dots to Marvin Bagley III.

Late Thursday morning, KU coach Bill Self confirmed Whitman's departure, saying, "Jack called me last night and informed me that he would not be playing basketball at Kansas for his fifth year. I do not know what his plans are moving forward. All I know is he will not be part of our basketball program. We wish Jack the best with his future endeavors.” But that confirmation did not include anything about what the Jayhawks will do to replace him.

It sounds good on the surface, replacing Frank Mason III with Marvin Bagley III, who just so happens to be the No. 1 ranked prospect in the Class of 2018.

And, yeah, there were rumors floating around earlier this week that Bagley was at least considering reclassifying into the 2017 class so he could play college basketball this season.

But the whole thing is far from a slam dunk, and there are a lot of moves that need to happen before Jayhawk fans can even begin to dream of seeing the 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man in crimson and blue next season.

Before we look at what factors are stacked against them, let’s first look at what the Jayhawks have working in their favor.

• First and most obvious is the fact that Kansas, no matter who you talk to, is one of the few true blue blood schools in the country and one that most all of the top prospects in class after class at least like to check the temperature on to see if the program might be the right fit for them. It was recently for Josh Selby, Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson. And, in time, it could be for Bagley, too. So it’s not as if KU fans are crazy for thinking he might come to Lawrence the way it might sound silly for fans in Boulder, Colo., to think Bagley might want to be a Buff.

• Beyond that, Bagley does already have KU on his short list of finalists. Those schools, in alphabetical order, are Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and USC. Big time programs, all of them, but Kansas is on the list.

• The big-picture timing of trying to woo Bagley to town really couldn’t be better for Bill Self and the Jayhawks, as Kansas currently has the reigning college player of the year in Mason and also just put Josh Jackson into the NBA via the No. 4 pick in the draft. Seeing that kind of exposure on the college level and path to professional ball no doubt would seem awfully appealing to a player of Bagley’s caliber. Beyond that, KU’s recent surge of putting players into the NBA — often via the draft lottery — has inspired top-tier prospects to look at KU’s ability to develop NBA talent in a fresh and more favorable light.

Now, let’s take a look at what might make this less than likely, both now and in the future.

• For one, reclassifying is not a slam dunk. It happens, but it’s not automatic and there is a process that Bagley would have to go through to make it happen. Beyond that, his family recently told Eric Bossi, of Rivals.com, that those rumors about Bagley’s reclassification were just that, rumors, and that the elite talent had not yet made any such decision. So it’s possible that all of the Bagley talk was much ado about nothing. And if that’s the case, Kansas will still continue to pursue him, but it won’t be as a replacement for Whitman this season. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish is absolutely convinced that Bagley is en route to reclassifying and Parrish said on his recent radio show that he had been told that Bagley (a) had the grades to get it done and (b) was moving forward full speed ahead. Having said that, one source familiar with Bagley's recruitment told me Thursday that it'll take "a miracle" for him to be able to reclassify and added that Duke and USC were the likely front-runners.

• Even if the reclassification comes and KU gets a real crack at him in time for the 2017-18 season, it’s not as if it’s automatic that KU would get him. Bagley already may have visited Duke, and he’s scheduled to visit USC on July 26-27 and Arizona during the first week of August, when KU is playing overseas in Italy. “The Duke visit was completely geographical and we can drive, and we chose those three because we can drive to all of them,” Bagley’s father recently told FanRagSports.com. “And then we’ll get UCLA after, and then Kentucky and Kansas. We plan to visit them all. We’re going to try to get them in the best way we can.” For what it's worth, most national recruiting analysts seem to believe Duke is the team to beat for Bagley.

• The timing of this whole thing is nuts. Because summer workouts get going almost as soon as the Jayhawks get back from Italy, it’s hard to envision them putting in the kind of work necessary to land him while they’re in Italy. Then again, three members of Self’s staff did not make the trip to South Korea for the World University Games a couple of summers ago, and given that these Italian exhibitions are much less intense and important than those games, it’s not hard to imagine someone such as assistant Kurtis Townsend staying back to make a run at Bagley if that’s on the table. Having said that, Bagley’s also the type of talent that you’d easily still welcome into your program even in September or later if that’s what it takes to get him.

• Perhaps one of the most important things to remember about this deal is that Bagley’s whole motivation for reclassifying is not because he cannot wait to play college basketball for his school of choice. Instead, it’s because doing so provides him with the quickest path to the NBA and the money that awaits there. If Bagley is able to play college ball in 2017-18, he would be eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft, where he would at least be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick and certainly would be a surefire Top 5 choice. “I want to go the NBA,” Bagley recently told Andrew Slater of 247Sports. “That's my goal and those schools help get you there. They prepare you for that. That's why they made my list.”

• As for what he’s hoping to get out of whichever college program he signs with, Bagley said his whole mindset was focused on development. “I just want to get better,” he told Slater. “Wherever I feel like that is, wherever I feel like I'm around good people, around people who push me every day and tell me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear, that's where I see myself.”

At this point, it’s hard to picture exactly how all of this is going to play out. Bagley has not given any kind of time frame for a decision about his school or a decision about reclassifying and, even though there still is time to iron it all out, August is quickly approaching and things get a little tighter from there.

According to Slater’s report, Duke and now Kansas, thanks to Whitman’s departure, might be in the best shape of the bunch should Bagley reclassify because they have spots available immediately.

Regardless of KU’s chances of landing him or what his immediate future holds, this much we know: For at least the next few weeks, those interested in Kansas basketball would be wise to pay attention to whatever news comes out of the Bagley camp.

Comments

John Fitzgerald 4 weeks, 1 day ago

I say there's a 5% chance we land him IF he even reclassifies. The news I'm seeing is that he's likely to go to Duke. But, as Matt mentions above, it's at least worth a strong go at him.

Dirk Medema 4 weeks ago

But wasn't a significant portion of the "likely to go to Duke" speculation also the fact that at the time they were the only team with a roster spot open?

An open roster spot would seem to make KU a lot more likely.

John Fitzgerald 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Also his dad is from Durham and his grandma still lives there.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Thanks. Matt. Interesting stuff. I'm confident that Whitman's departure was 100% due to Jack Whitman's concerns about his role on this team, not the staff pushing him out in the hopes of potentially landing MB3.
However, this does potentially bode well for our chances with him. What a treat it would be to see him and Udoka in KU's front court!

Craig Carson 4 weeks, 1 day ago

seeing MB3 this season would be a thrill, but he is not likely to play this college season..At any rate, I hope Self and his staff are hard at work to fill Whitmans spot with a decent big man. Before the season KU had a front court of Azibuike, Bragg, Preston, and Coleby. now its just Azi and Preston. Very very thin...Hopefully the guard shoot 3's as good as last years team because they may have to make alot to offset the lack of Front court depth.

Titus Canby 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Don't forget Lightfoot. And Preston down low doesn't sound like a great option, given the mention in a previous article that he wants to play on the perimeter. Sure do wish Coleby didn't leave.

Craig Carson 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Lightfoot looked good at times last year..if he were 6'10, Id feel better about him back up Azi or Preston. Situations like this make you realize how valuable guys like Lucas actually are. Azibuike is gonna need to stay healthy all year and have the conditioning to play extended minutes as well as stay out of foul trouble. I dont mind Preston being more a an outside type of player ans long as he rebounds ok and holds his own of offense..something we all thought Bragg would do this past season..obviously didnt pan out that way. We may see a lot of zone from KU this season to protect Azi

Mike Greer 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Boy, do I need a geography lesson. I'm not sure how Duke and Arizona are geographically within driving distance. Obviously there's something I'm missing here. He can also drive to Lawrence, there's a nice road and I've driven there many times ;)

I'm not sure what the psychology of recruitment and selection is, so do you go first to the least likely choice and build to your perceived final choice, or do you go first to the most likely choice and then see if anything looks any better?

Matt Tait 4 weeks, 1 day ago

I'm pretty sure he said that when they were down at some AAU tournament in the south, closer to Carolina. Should've included that in there somewhere. Sorry for the confusion.

Titus Canby 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Does anyone know what it takes to re-classify? How in the world does a kid "graduate" from high school after he's already finished his junior year?

Seems fishy to me.

Len Shaffer 4 weeks, 1 day ago

"Those schools, in alphabetical order, are Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and USC. Big time programs, all of them, but Kansas is on the list."

USC is a "big time program???" Are we talking about football???

4 weeks ago

I'm guessing USC is South Carolina? In which case they're an up and coming program.

Red Demon 4 weeks ago

The USC in question is University of Southern California.

Art Jefferson 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Would love to see this kid come to Lawrence, but I highly doubt he wants to challenge Preston for the starting 4 spot and chance playing from the bench. I sure hope I'm wrong on this.

Dirk Medema 4 weeks ago

Wonder if he ever played against Preston on the AAU circuit? It would seem that he would have a decent idea of his ability to play ahead of him.

Priest Fontaine 4 weeks ago

Bagley > Preston (especially at the 4). But it really doesn't matter who starts. There's PLENTY of minutes available for Bagley if he were to sign with KU. Bagley and Preston could even play together in a 'Big Boy' line up of:

1 - Graham 2 - Svi 3 - Preston 4 - Bagley 5 - Azubuike

Or even a smaller, quicker line up of:

1 - Graham 2 - Vick 3 - Svi 4- Preston 5 - Bagley

I know the chances are slim that Bagley reclassifies and signs with KU, but if he did, there's more than enough minutes available for him and it would take our team to a whole new level. Otherwise, let's hope Lightfoot (aka Woody from Toy Story) has magically grown a few inches, gained 25 lbs of muscle, turning into Thomas 'Heart Throbinson' in the offseason.

Craig Carson 2 weeks, 3 days ago

+Priest...you seem to be forgetting the Newman,a former 5* player is playing for KU this season? You dont leave a guy like that on the bench. At any rate, If by some miracle Bagley were to sign with KU, he'd probably split time with Azi at the 5.

Craig Carson 2 weeks, 3 days ago

I think if he came here it would be Preston that should be worried about his playing time cause he looks to more of an inside player..something KU lacks outside of Azi

Dirk Medema 4 weeks ago

BRush didn't start practicing with the team until September, and that seemed to work out.

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