Just as it was last season for the Kansas Jayhawks, the incoming McDonald’s All-Americans, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, will again steal the show for the Rock Chalk faithful.
The 2013-14 campaign saw the likes of the most sought after recruit in recent memory in Andrew Wiggins, while Joel Embiid quietly became the most skilled big man in college basketball. The two went first and third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft and although the electrifying talents looking to replace them are unlikely to be as glorified, they will easily be just as impactful in Lawrence.So what sets these guys apart as the ones who will absorb the spotlight in ‘The Phog’?
Well, let’s start out with the elite leaper with a silky stroke in the 6’7” product from New Orleans in Oubre.
The first thing that pops out about Oubre is seen when he’s flying around the paint, destroying the rim one possession after another, which seems to be a majority of his time on the court. This is one area where Oubre will likely outshine the former Jawhawk star Wiggins, who didn’t seem to always want to showcase his highflying ability. Oubre, on the other hand, looks to make a poster every single time he attacks the lane.
In addition to his knack for playing above 10 feet, Oubre also has a deadly touch from the perimeter, which is another thing that was lacking last season with Wiggins. He doesn’t have the quickest release and is unlikely to put a defender on skates before knocking down a pull-up jumper, but he does have a very confident and smooth form nonetheless.
In addition to his offensive arsenal, just like the guy whose shoes he is looking to fill, Oubre has tremendous upside and skill on the defensive end. His overwhelming athleticism and note worthy length with come to show Oubre becoming one of the top wing defenders in the Big 12 next season, assuming he lives up to his potential.
Plus, being paired with a returning impact player and former McDonald’s All-American in Wayne Selden will undoubtedly lessen the load on Oubre’s shoulders, which will allow him to just come in and play his game with reduced pressure to perform out of the gates.
But I’ve saved the best for last as Kansas’ prized possession of this recruiting class, Cliff Alexander, brings the talent, physicality and athleticism to absolutely dominate the college game from day one.
For those of you who haven’t yet been able to see Alexander play during his high school days, you’re in for a treat once he get’s underneath the big basketball lights of Kansas in a few short months. Just like his fellow freshman teammate Oubre, Alexander looks to bring down the house every time he elevates.
Despite being only 6’8”, Alexander has great size due to weighing around 240 pounds, which compiled with his overpowering physical nature will allow Bill Self to play him and both frontcourt positions as needs. But with great footwork, post moves and quickness for his stature, the power forward spot will be where he can be the most polarizing.
After watching his high school highlight tapes, I can’t help but compare this guy’s dunks to those of the great Shaquille O’Neal back in his prime. Of course doesn’t have the size and strength of Shaq, but the potential to dominate the collegiate level in the paint the way Shaq did at every stage in definitely there. Plus with his scoring nature and tenacious rebounding instincts, I believe 17 points and 12 rebounds a night is a very realistic expectation, which trumps over Embiid’s freshman numbers of 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per night. Also, just like the other great defensive Jayhawks I’ve mentioned in this post, Alexander will follow suite and secure the paint nicely, which is a necessity with the frontcourt strength of some of their opponents in 2014-15.
Between the athletic star caliber newcomers of Alexander and Oubre, this will prove to be yet another memorable recruiting class for Kansas and Coach Self and yet again, the most youthful guys on the team will dominate it. It’s becoming a trend in college basketball and Kansas is one of the few teams leading the way.