One of the nation’s elite high school basketball seniors cut Kansas University from his list of possible suitors Thursday, and the news barely registered as noteworthy for those who frequent Allen Fieldhouse.
Five-star small forward Jaylen Brown, from Marietta, Georgia, would rather play at Cal, he announced Friday night. Yet in Lawrence, shoulders shrugged. Nobody gnashed their teeth, nor second-guessed their season-tickets purchase.
Now, no coach in his right mind, including Bill Self, would say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” if Brown chose his program. But the addition of Rivals.com’s No. 3-ranked player to the 2015-16 roster would have been a luxury for KU, not a necessity.
The reaction would’ve reached the opposite end of the spectrum, in the neighborhood of freak-out mode, had the Jayhawks not landed the talents of power forward Cheick Diallo two days earlier. Ranked No. 5 overall by Rivals, the 6-foot-9 native of Mali gave Kansas as complete a college basketball roster as one could hope for in this era of one-and-dones.
The presence of another one-year wonder, no matter how good, would only have added so much to next season’s Jayhawks.
Self will have abundant options at small forward as KU hunts its 12th consecutive regular-season Big 12 title.
First, the obvious choices. Sophomore Svi Mykhailiuk, at 6-8, gives the Jayhawks length and competitiveness on both ends of the floor, whether he turns out to be a role player or a breakout star. Junior Brannen Greene, scheduled to return to regular basketball activities before the start of preseason practices following hip surgery, can serve as a deadly three-point shooter.
When Self wants to go small and use point guards Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham simultaneously, he can slide 6-foot-5 junior Wayne Selden Jr. over and trust the third-year starter to slash, shoot, pass and defend.
Want to super-size your lineup? Put some combination of Diallo, 6-9 freshman Carlton Bragg, junior Landen Lucas and seniors Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson inside. Then let senior leader Perry Ellis show off that perimeter game he spent the offseason developing.
No, KU doesn’t need Brown to reach the 2016 Final Four. Not with that versatile roster.
So why should anybody care whether a four-star Class of 2015 small forward by the name of Tevin Mack decides to join the Jayhawks?
There’s more to it than keeping the one-time VCU commit away from Shaka Smart and Texas. Even if the 6-6 wing from Columbia, South Carolina, were never to crack the KU rotation next season, he could turn into a reliable upperclassman down the road. And no program can have too many of those.