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Key trio of returning Jayhawks far better than any group Kansas could've landed

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Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) dunks in front of Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) dunks in front of Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) by Associated Press

For months, if not years, fans of the Kansas men’s basketball program dreamed of a future roster that included players like Matthew Hurt, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Cassius Stanley, standouts in the 2019 recruiting class that all seriously considered Kansas.

But then two signing periods came and went with those prospects picking other programs and KU fans were left to wonder what the heck happened.

In a word that’s safe for work, “stuff” happened. And “stuff” happens all the time when it comes to recruiting 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids.

But in the case of the 2019 Kansas recruiting class, which currently includes three 4-star prospects — Christian Braun, Issac McBride and Tristan Enaruna — and three open spots, that stuff left the door open for KU coach Bill Self and his staff to land three players far better than any of the prospects in the 2019 class could possibly be during the 2019-20 season.

Their names: Udoka Azubuike, Devon Dotson and Silvio De Sousa.

“We couldn’t recruit anybody as good as those three, regardless of who we were trying to recruit," Self said on Andy Katz's "March Madness 365" podcast Tuesday morning. "I think all three of those guys are going to be NBA players.”

And, for my money, having those three players back in a Kansas uniform is a far bigger win for the Jayhawks than if they had landed Hurt, JRE and Stanley to begin with.

That’s not a knock on those incoming freshmen. All three are incredibly talented players and would have been great additions to the KU roster. They no doubt will have solid college careers at Duke (Hurt and Stanley) and Villanova (JRE).

But all three are still freshmen. And most freshmen, no matter how talented, need time to adjust to the college game and get their feet under them before they can make major impacts right away.

That will not be the case for Azubuike, Dotson and De Sousa. There is absolutely no adjustment time needed for those three players, who not only have been there and done that — playing in a combined 112 games for Kansas during their careers — but also have performed and produced at an incredibly high level.

Azubuike, injury history and all, remains arguably the toughest one-on-one matchup in all of college basketball and impacts the game, especially on the offensive end, like few players in recent KU history.

Dotson, in starting all 36 games as a true freshman and gaining valuable NBA feedback during the past six weeks, is poised to make a monster step from an already-damn-good player to a great one, with his leadership and drive bringing big things to the Kansas roster.

And De Sousa, who no doubt is determined to make up for lost time, was, as a true freshman, a crucial piece of the Jayhawks’ Final Four puzzle in 2018 and showed then what he could do when comfortable and given the opportunity.

There’s simply no replicating what those guys have done in Kansas uniforms and on college basketball’s biggest stage unless you’ve done it yourself, which no one in the entire 2019 class has.

Don’t get me wrong. Had KU been able to land Hurt or Robinson-Earl or Stanley or all three, the roster would be even stronger than it already is, KU would be an easy top 3 team in the preseason polls and, perhaps most importantly, the coaching staff would not be still spending time on recruiting the 2019 class, for which KU still has three scholarships available and a limited player pool to choose from.

But if you’re looking at things simply through the lens of what KU got and what it didn’t get, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in college basketball who would rather have Hurt, JRE and Stanley over Azubuike, Dotson and De Sousa. Especially when you consider the fact that all six players could be down to their final seasons of college basketball.

If this were the old days and adding talented young freshmen meant having them around for three or four years, the argument for that younger trio would be much stronger.

But because so many freshmen — ready or not — make the jump to the NBA or professional basketball after one year of college, counting on getting a full career out of them is no longer the norm.

Obviously, coaches across the country continue to go after those types of players and take what they can get. As well they should. But getting a serious dose of driven experience sure seems like a pretty good outcome for Bill Self and the Jayhawks.

Comments

Eric Dawson 1 week, 4 days ago

Agree, Matt, 100%. Currently projected a Top 5 team for next season, and with those three rides still available the chance to build an even better team before the summer is over. (1) Hopefully land Jalen Wilson (currently visiting UNC, Rivals analyst Eric Bossi likes KU's chances). (2) Keeping one set aside for possibly reclassifying 2020 5* SG Kyree Walker? (Still not a sure thing he reclassifies before December, or that he comes to KU then if he does reclassify), But if holding that one in reserve just in case, it leaves one ride. 2019 6-10 PF Josaphat Bilau? (He's interested in KU, is KU interested in him? Especially with the prospect of Dok and SDS leaving after next year?) Or go after another trey shooter? ("The Future is Now!" NFL HC George Allen declared decades ago as he successfully rebuilt Washington by trading draft choices for veterans, and I always tended to agree with him). Grad Transfer SG Donte Fitzpartick-Dorsey? UNM's Anthony Mathis would be a great add, but he is indicating he wants to go home to Oregon. If those guys are gone, Project (Process?) Bilau becomes even more intriguing. At least it's keeping me entertained during the off-season.

Jay Scott 1 week, 4 days ago

Kansas basketball is a dumpster fire. Bill Self is an awful coach.If he knew what he was doing he'd sign all the best OAD players every year and they'd all stay 4 years. - The Chicken Littles

Joe Ross 1 week, 4 days ago

You're the dumbest; posting the most thoughtless, dim-witted comments ever.

...come at me, bro.

Dale Rogers 1 week, 4 days ago

Ignore him. He's obviously covered in the same slime as his hero, Calipari. There's a coach who proved that signing a ton of OAD's can cause you to get blown out in the first round of the NIT by a no-name school.

Glen Miller 1 week, 4 days ago

The less Freshmen we rely on the better our teams are, that's just the cold hard facts. We all get wrapped up in recruiting, rightfully so...... but having Doke and Dotson back and getting SDS cleared are all stabilizing forces that 3 freshmen wouldn't have given us. All of Self's Final Four teams have had veteran leadership to go along with some good young talent. Even at Illinois..... so count me as one who was bummed to lose out on some recruits, yet much more optimistic now with some key pieces coming back.

Craig Carson 1 week, 3 days ago

Selfs best teams haven't been led by freshmen, which is a great thing ...but it was however a little unusual to see him miss out on every top recruit he went for..especially guys like Earl and Hurt since he spent years recruiting them and they were seen as KU locks...

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 3 days ago

Basically, Self's worst recruiting class has been saved by returning players. That's not a strategy for going forward.

Teams are already signing players for the 2020/21 season.

Craig Carson 1 week, 3 days ago

Exactly...landing 3 4 star kids is still pretty solid but it doesn't look as good when you strike out on every other top target...Self certainly can't afford to have this type of recruiting issue next season..especially since we could see another mass exodus....are they really about to go into next season with 3 open scholarships? That seems like a bit much for a program like KU

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 3 days ago

Self is going to need to pull a lot more than rabbits out of next years class. His unbelievable percentage of winning is amazing and not nearly enough appreciated but I see the potential cluster*uck looming ahead.

Lately, I've seen many at the very top commit early in the process. This has the effect on other recruits to look elsewhere, sometimes you get someone who is up to the challenge but for the rest, they're trying to figure out where they will fit in best and get the most playing time.

Nothing against these guys, they're playing the same game that the NCAA once had total control over.

Joe Ross 1 week, 4 days ago

RE: "And, for my money, having those three players back in a Kansas uniform is a far bigger win for the Jayhawks than if they had landed Hurt, JRE and Stanley to begin with."

Yeah, but having that trio AND a mix of talented freshman would have been a far bigger win for the Jayhawks than the current situation. I mean it didn't happen, sure. But you can't begrudge the begrudging.

Jay Scott 1 week, 4 days ago

It's so funny when someone makes fun of fans with crazy unrealistic expectations and then, boom, someone makes the exact kind on nonsensical comment that has just been mocked....

Lemme help you look less clueless Joe....

OAD minded players WON'T sign at a school where there are already entrenched players of NBA draft caliber at their position. (actual position, not Joe Ross Axiom position)

That was the humor in mocking the Chicken Littles who expect HCBS to sign all the best OAD players and then also have senior laden teams. There's only 13 scholarships, five players on the floor and one ball Joe. JRE and Hurt weren't interested in competing with Lawson and De Sousa, Mac and Dok for playing time. Agbaji presents a similar roadblock (as does Garrett and did Grimes) for Stanley.

That's just how it works Joe.

Thanks for volunteering to be the perfect example of a Chicken Little.

Thomas Michaud 1 week, 3 days ago

Isn't that what Matt said in the next paragraph? "That’s not a knock on those incoming freshmen. All three are incredibly talented players and would have been great additions to the KU roster."

And about seven paragraph's later: "Don’t get me wrong. Had KU been able to land Hurt or Robinson-Earl or Stanley or all three, the roster would be even stronger than it already is..."

Tony Bandle 1 week, 4 days ago

Matt, any word on how Mr. Wilson's visit went? I know the standard line will be everything went great, but is there any core vibe coming from the coaching staff???

Jay Scott 1 week, 4 days ago

Such a thrill to see Joe Ross return from his self imposed exile!

Joe! Any thoughts on how the Joe Ross Axiom impacts this year's Jayhawks NBA draft potential?

As it turns out, your rabid insistence that Perry Ellis played the same position, had the same skills and should expect the same draft slot and NBA career as Max Contract SF Harrison Barnes solely because they're the same height and weight ...seems not to have panned out.....

Who do you see as Dedric Lawson's Joe Ross Axiom comparison? Larry Bird? Kevin Durant? Zdeno Chara?

Can't wait for more of your "wisdom" Joe.....make sure to include the misquoted scripture and Doobie Brothers lyrics. That's the icing on your fruitcake.

Dwayne Mudd 1 week, 4 days ago

Amen Brother… I rewatched the 2018 Elite 8 game vs Duke last night. We return the entire frontcourt from that team.....Plus now we got DMac.. That is a sic frontcourt folks...

Dok is Dok and he is a beast. But I was watching DeSousa. That dude is quick quick quick..... That is the skill that he brings that DMac and Dok don't have so much.... He runs the floor like a deer, effortlessly slides his feet, and is strong as a oxe....And that smooth smooth free throw stroke... This 4-Headed monster of a front line is going to be a force to be reckoned with.... Let's don't forget Mitch... He gets overlooked but he is going to be senior and he is a tough, hustling, pick sitting, charge taking, shot blocking baller!!!!!!!!!!! Go Hawks!!!! Beware of the Phog Big 12 foes!!!

Craig Carson 1 week, 3 days ago

The front court is gonna be a handful for opponents all year...if they can combine that with reliable enough outside shooting then they have a shot at a FF or more...I just hope Garrett has worked on his 3 pt shot..

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 3 days ago

Not to beat a dead horse but what happened to the supposed uptick in Kansas recruiting?

I don't think we got a single target during either signing period that signed with Kansas. If these three haven't returned, we'd be a middle of the BIG12 somewhere watching the NCAA tournament.

Craig Carson 1 week, 3 days ago

I think they still make the NCAA but that's about it

Steve Zimmerman 1 week, 3 days ago

I think we undermine Dok's injury. While I wish him 1000% fully recovered and healthier, he has yet to prove that he's back in action during practices. He can probably dominate Lightfoot but handling Silvio is not that easy. Twice fractured wrist will never feel the same. Plus the trauma effect, and he has yet to be tested in a real college game. One thing that will help his draft stock is improvement in stamina, FT shooting, BLOCKS & REBOUNDS. That's a lot, I know. But nothing is impossible.

Jim Stauffer 1 week, 3 days ago

Well, first of all there is no twice fractured wrist. Each time it was a different wrist. Furthermore, the first time it was a tendon and the second time it was a ligament on the other wrist. However, you make a valid point. Can Dok stay healthy for a full season. My thought is with Silvio, DMac and Mitch, he should not have to play more than 20 mins per game. We should have healthy fresh bigs running the floor all game long this year.

Steve Zimmerman 1 week, 2 days ago

Thanks for the correction, Jim. Let's hope for best season of KU bigs!

Barry Weiss 1 week, 3 days ago

I think we are going to be dynamite next year. Dok, Silvio and D-Mac were all coming on strong the last time they were on the court, so I feel good about our front court. Devon in the backcourt is probably the best PG in the country, so how could Jayhawk fans not be pumped. I'm predicting right here, right now, a return to B-12 champions and a deep run in the dance.

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 3 days ago

I think we lucked (luck being the offshoot of being prepared) into a really great class for next year. I cannot wait to see SILVIO kicking ass up and down the court next season.

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