Loaded roster leaves Kansas basketball with flexibility on the recruiting trail
Three players in the 2021 college basketball recruiting class who had Kansas on their lists of finalists elected to go elsewhere this week.
But that does not mean it’s time for KU to panic — far from it, in fact.
All three prospects — five-star small forward Kendall Brown, four-star wing Matthew Cleveland and three-star guard Jordan Riley, who chose Georgetown on Friday morning — are perimeter players, and the Jayhawks are absolutely loaded at that position for the foreseeable future.
That’s not to say Brown, Cleveland and Riley could not have found a path to playing time had they picked KU. But all three very well may have been low-minute, luxury-type pieces in KU’s already stacked backcourt for at least their first year or two of college basketball.
And let’s face it; no matter how many stars they have attached to their names, very few prospects these days are interested in joining a program where they know they’ll have to sit before playing meaningful minutes.
That’s likely a big part of the reason all three committed elsewhere this week, with Brown picking Baylor on Monday, Cleveland picking Florida State on Tuesday and Riley electing to stay close to home on Friday.
Here’s a quick look at where KU sits on the perimeter for at least the next three seasons, which takes us through this trio’s sophomore year.
Christian Braun (6-6, 205) and Tristan Enaruna (6-8, 200) each have three years remaining and would be seniors when those three are sophomores.
Jalen Wilson (6-8, 215), who was injured for nearly all of the 2019-20 season, has four years remaining and would be completing his junior season two full seasons from now.
That’s three players, at a minimum, who all play the same position and all have more experience who would be ahead of Brown, Cleveland and Riley on the depth chart three seasons from now.
Four more current Jayhawks — juco transfer Tyon Grant-Foster, redshirt freshman DaJuan Harris and incoming freshmen Bryce Thompson and Latrell Jossell — also will factor in heavily during the next two seasons, leaving little room for anyone else.
In all, that’s seven guards who figure to be around past the 2020-21 season. And that number easily could grow to eight if current junior Ochai Agbaji sticks around for his senior season in 2021-22.
Just because a roster is loaded with numbers at any one position does not mean coaches stop recruiting that position. For instance, if a player like Brown, who is ranked No. 12 in the Rivals 150, is interested in coming to your school, you go after him and try to get him.
But the pressure to land him is not nearly as great as it would be if you were losing four or five guards from your roster after the upcoming season or had a glaring hole at his position. KU isn’t facing either of those realities.
Recruiting’s cyclical and there are certain rhythms that need to be accounted for that play a big role in how it all plays out.
The Jayhawks liked all three players or they wouldn’t have offered them scholarships. And they gladly would have welcomed any of the three to the roster for the 2021-22 season if they had chosen KU. But there’s a difference between liking a player and needing a player.
The only thing we know right now is that KU will be losing seniors Mitch Lightfoot, Silvio De Sousa and Marcus Garrett after the 2020-21 season. That leaves three open spots in the 2021 recruiting class and one of them is already spoken for via four-star Top 30 forward Zach Clemence.
KU may still look to add a wing player in the 2021 class, but it’s likely that the position will be a much higher priority in the 2022 and 2023 classes instead.