Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Tittrington: Slim Shady’s rare gifts good reason to be excited


Judging by the number of phone calls we've fielded in the office this week, not to mention the non-stop Internet chatter taking place in a variety of college basketball portals, it seems Kansas University basketball fans can't get enough of the Darrell Arthur saga.

Now that the 6-foot-9 forward out of Dallas has officially decided to become a Jayhawk, it's my turn to weigh in, since I'm the only person on the Journal-World sports staff who's actually seen Slim Shady in person.

It's been almost six weeks since I ventured to San Diego for this year's McDonald's High School All-American festivities, where I had two clear job responsibilities. The first was writing about the one future Jayhawk already in the fold, Chicago point guard Sherron Collins. The second was trying to get the inside scoop on Arthur, who at that time was still clinging to a list of five schools as his possible college destination.

As we know now, the latter proved to be a somewhat fruitless objective. During our first conversation Arthur confided he'd basically whittled his options to Kansas or Texas, and while he ultimately decided on a member of that coupling, he did so to the chagrin of two different stretch-run suitors: Baylor and LSU.

However, while four days in the southern California sunshine didn't allow much insight regarding Arthur's mind, it did allow me to at least check out his game, albeit in the skewed confines of an all-star game environment.

My initial assessment? There is no denying Arthur has what I like to call the "wow" factor. He's long. He's quick. He's explosive. He has many of the basketball tools that, to use a favorite coaching cliche, you can't teach.

Big men who can run and play multiple positions on the floor will always find a home at any level of basketball, which is why a school such as KU - a program not used to having to wait until late spring to fill out its final docket of incoming recruits - was willing to play the waiting game and allow Arthur all the time he needed to settle on a future home instead of cutting bait and looking to use the available scholarship elsewhere.

Unfortunately for myself and any KU fans who tuned in to the actual McDonald's broadcast, those tools didn't translate come game time. The possible explanations are many: the all-star game environment, the fact he didn't rate a spot in the West squad's starting lineup, the wrong combination of players on the floor. Whatever the case, Arthur was essentially persona non grata and didn't show a national audience the collection of freakish skills he displayed during the less-publicized workouts leading up to his night on the big stage.

So, the question now becomes, is a guy with attributes you can't teach willing to learn? Does he follow the Brandon Rush plan, busting his tail and soaking up all of coach Bill Self's tutelage to make his game even better? Or does he take the Micah Downs route, expecting the silver-spoon treatment that's often the downfall of a player who's been told he's too good for too long?

For now, Arthur's saying all the right things.

"It was mainly coach Self," Arthur said, explaining his decision. "I need a coach that will push me."

Only time will tell if it's a happy marriage. But given the rare gifts Arthur does bring to the table, KU fans should be excited in knowing at least one year of that discovery process will take place in Lawrence.


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