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Kansas Basketball Coverage

KU Keeps the Ball Rolling

By Kristi Chartrand

November 12th, 2004




Kansas Basketball Recruiting Analysis


Happy Signing Day to you…Happy Signing Day to you...Let the celebration begin in Lawrence. Or should it be "let the celebration continue"? Things are definitely on the upswing in Jayhawkland. The 2004-2005 Kansas Jayhawks sit on top of both preseason polls, and now, Head Coach Bill Self has officially inked a recruiting class for next season second only to Duke (according to


"Although it is somewhat anti-climatic because we received the commitments some time ago, this is a great day for the future of Kansas basketball," Self said. "Never during my tenure as a coach have we had the opportunity to sign three young men who are so highly ranked by various scouting services."


It doesn’t look like those opportunities will cease anytime soon for Self.  After he landed 5 top-notch recruits for the '04-'05 campaign, the KU head coach continued his recruiting prowess and landed 3 more blue-chippers for next season.


Some high-caliber seniors will leave Lawrence at season’s end. Saying goodbye to the likes of Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, and Michael Lee would be cause for concern at most schools. But with a top-tier program like Kansas, the prevailing thought is reloading, not rebuilding. Though the successful quartet won’t be forgotten, Self has certainly helped ease the pain with these 3 prospects.  


Mario Chalmers - Point Guard - 6-1 - Anchorage, Alaska


Explosive point guard Mario Chalmers committed to KU back on May 21st, and is tabbed the country's best at his position. As a junior, Chalmers averaged 23.2 ppg, 6.0 apg on his way to a state runner-up finish.


The floor leader for the crimson and blue will take on a decidedly new look after Aaron Miles' departure. While Miles' career was more about "pass-first", Chalmers is a "much more accomplished scorer", that according to's National Recruiting Director, Dave Telep.


Telep believes that Jayhawk fans can look forward to the point position being "a lot of Mario mixed with some Russell (Robinson), until Chalmers gets his feet wet." Not many people expect that to take long including Self.


"Mario is a very explosive athlete that should be able to fit in here immediately and play both on and off the ball."


Chalmers is likely to take over the reigns for a highly-ranked Jayhawk team. Though he's a talented-scorer, Mario’s main job may not be putting points on the board.


"The challenge for Mario will be realizing he has a big responsibility keeping everyone involved (on a top-5 team) and running this team," Telep said.


And when asked who Mario’s game most closely resembles, Telep quickly answered John Gilchrist of Maryland. By the way, Gilchrist was the ACC tournament MVP last season for the Terrapins.  


In my opinion, this kid has all the tools. He will run the Jayhawks like a well-oiled machine. Chalmers scored over 40 points against worthy competition this summer in Vegas and gave fans a glimpse of the type of scorer he can be. He’s on his way to stardom in Lawrence. 


Micah Downs - Small Forward/Shooting Guard - 6-8 - Kirkland, Washington


Downs was Self's initial commit for next season and Micah did that back in May. As a junior at Juanita High School, Micah averaged 19.7 points and 11.8 rebounds, and is the 4th ranked small forward in the country.


Though his offensive skills are most often talked about, Downs is capable of impacting both ends of the floor. With his long arms and a slender 6-8 frame, he's a formidable shot-blocking presence on the defensive end.


"Micah is one of the most fun players to watch because he does a lot of everything," Self said. "He's tall. He's skilled. He can block shots, can rebound the basketball and has a great feel for the game."


Telep is also quick to point out Micah’s defensive effort. "Downs is an accomplished perimeter player who will surprise you on the defensive end."


Like many players coming out of high school, Down’s does need to gain strength. Prepare to see him on campus early in the summer spending long hours in the weight room.


Like fellow recruit Mario Chalmers, Downs also possesses a high basketball IQ and will make a huge impact on this Jayhawk program.


Julian Wright - Small Forward - 6-8 - Chicago Heights, Illinois


He’s labeled a small forward but at 6-8 he played the point for Homewood-Flossmoor High School last season. That's just a taste of the type of versatility Julian Wright brings to the court. It's easy to understand why his recruitment was such a hotly contested battle. What’s puzzling is how he ended up a Jayhawk.


Back in July, Wright was merely a blip on the radar screen for KU, yet he became Self’s final commit immediately following a home-visit in September. That must’ve been one heck of a sales pitch made by KU’s 2nd year head coach. I’m sure a lot of coaches would like to have had that one on tape.


"It's the recruiting upset of the last 5-years," Telep said, "When Self went into his home just to score a visit and came out with a commitment, no one was more surprised then Bill Self."


It was a stunning development that left Self with one of the most talented prospects in the nation. It left Arizona, Illinois, and DePaul extremely disappointed.


At 6-8, Wright can play all 5 positions on the floor and is capable of guarding 1 through 5 on the defensive end.


“With his size he can handle the ball in transition, he has some point guard skills but is still big enough to play anywhere on the floor”, said Self. “His versatility will be a huge asset for us.”


The number two-rated small forward has drawn comparisons to the NBA's Darius Miles, but Telep thinks he's much more.


"He's a better prospect then Darius Miles. He's the definition of a team guy and as competitive of a player as you'll find”, stated Telep.


Telep, like many other experts, constantly raves about what a competitor Julian is. His numbers won’t wow you (10.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, and 4.9 apg) but his potential will. This is a guy who simply does whatever it takes for his team to win. Wright is a perfect fit for Self’s style and the Jayhawk program.


So what about adding another player to an already stellar recruiting class? According to Telep, it would take a special type of player for KU at this point. Don’t expect any more high school seniors. The possibility still exists for a transfer or even a foreign player. With or without another this KU class will be ranked as one of the nation’s best.


“All those scouting services do not guarantee success” said Self. “I think it’s safe to say these three are well thought of and have a very bright future in college basketball.”


 *All rankings are from Dave Telep, Director of Basketball Recruiting for contributed to this article.


Learn more about the author Kristi Chartrand and how to contact her here.

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