Bill Self is an extremely savvy and forward-thinking recruiter. He and his staff are able to identify and attract both elite recruits (see: Brandon Rush, Xavier Henry and Josh Selby) and lower tier role players (see: Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar) while continuing to keep an eye on upcoming classes down the road. Upon losing early entrants to the NBA Draft on numerous occasions, Self has been able to curb these episodes of mass exodus with carefully vigilant recruiting methods.
The Jayhawks’ 2012 class is filled with six prep players along with two members of the 2011 class that sat out last season due to academic reasons (Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor), therefore initial reaction might be to compare their talents to another large class, 2008. While this may not be a poor idea as three of those 2008 targets were selected in their respective NBA Drafts, the roster make-up is significantly different as they prepare for the 2012-13 season.
With two verbal commitments for 2013 (Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene) Self has already filled two huge future holes, but there still remains a host of both elite prep stars and crafty role players on the market that he will attempt to lure into the Phog in 2013.
Larry Brown is pursuing his first elite recruit, Jordan Mickey
Jordan Mickey - PF - Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas)
Jordan Mickey is definitely a dark horse candidate to join the Jayhawks in 2013, as he has not released plans to take an official visit to Lawrence, although he has acknowledged they are an option. His 6’7” frame has yet to fill out, but his versatility and quickness is allowing him to develop other parts of his game in the meantime, especially moving in transition.
Both Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Southern Methodist’s Larry Brown are aggressively pursuing Mickey, with Brown hoping to land the hometown product. Mickey has said he was impressed with both Pitino and Brown but is also intrigued by Self’s ability to work a 3 or 4 into the transition game. He would like to make a decision by the end of July, but the longer he waits for the dominoes to fall, the higher chance Coach Self has of landing the lanky power forward from Arlington.
Jabari Parker is the top ranked player in the 2013 class
Jabari Parker - SF - Simeon (Chicago, Illinois)
Every college hoops fan has seen the "Tweet heard ‘round the world" by now, in which all-world prep phenom Jabari Parker listed ten schools he is still considering. Kansas was one of those listed amid other college basketball royalty that still have a chance to land the dynamic scoring small forward.
Kansas may have loads of young talent arriving in Lawrence but they still lack an established pure scorer, a role Parker could fill similarly to that of Xavier Henry in 2009—although they hope Parker does not disappear in the final 38 minutes. While he can create for himself, playing with an elusive point guard and big body down low could even further develop his inside-outside game.
Julius Randle has a game similar to Thomas Robinson
Julius Randle - PF - Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas)
Julius Randle is a big body with a big future, if he lands at the right program that can develop his low post game and further improve his already dynamic versatility. He has been immensely vague about his recruitment, acknowledging he has a long list of teams seeking his services but giving no more than a slight indication of those strongly seeking his services in 2013. He has drawn comparisons to former Jayhawk Thomas Robinson with his ability to get to the free throw line while regularly creating high percentage shots. Randle’s destination is nearly impossible to predict and while KU does not currently have a power forward with his type of game on their radar, his confidence in Bill Self’s ability to work him into the transition game could determine his landing spot.
Tyshawn Taylor's departure leaves a hole at point guard
Isaiah Lewis - PG - Christ the King (Brooklyn, New York)
Lewis might be the most interesting target of Bill Self’s staff for 2013 because Wichita product and fellow point guard Conner Frankamp, widely considered the best perimeter shooter in the class, has already given a verbal commitment to the Jayhawks. Entering 2012-13 with no true established point guard could leave Self drooling for multiple ones next season, especially two that can stroke it from the outside.
Lewis has repeatedly raved about assistant coaches Joe Dooley and Kurtis Townsend and expressed interest in KU's offensive flexibility to run the pick and roll. A move to the 2-guard, in a hybrid Travis Releford/Conner Frankamp role might be best suited for Lewis as he is both an excellent on-ball and off-the-ball defender with a knack for interrupting passing lanes. Louisville and Miami (FL) are also both high on Lewis’ list, with both Rick Pitino and Jim Larranaga possibly offering more immediate playing time than Lewis would receive in Lawrence.
Ishmail Wainright could replace Travis Releford in 2013.
Ishmail Wainright - SF - Montrose Christian (Rockville, Maryland)
The fiercest competitor for Wainright could be KU’s former Big 12 rival, Frank Haith and the Missouri Tigers. Ishmail previously expressed high interest in Mizzou but has elevated that interest ever since Haith began recruiting his younger brother, 2014 recruit Amaad.
Wainright has a very imposing frame and has developed a suffocating defensive prowess to accompany his impressive slashing offensive game. Many Jayhawk fans will immediately think Travis Releford, another former Kansas City prep player, but Wainright currently possesses a stronger ability to get to the rim than Releford did as an incoming freshman in 2008. Syracuse, Duke, and North Carolina State have also jumped into the recruiting battle but this has the makings of a late period commitment after he watches a few similar small forwards sign their letters first.
Billy Donovan has an attractive track record in developing big men
Chris Walker - PF - Holmes County (Bonifay, Florida)
It is no secret Walker’s list is down to two teams: Florida and Kansas. He has spoken extremely highly of Billy Donovan, especially touching on his proven track record in developing power forwards. However, he is good friends and AAU teammates with current 2013 Kansas commit Brannen Greene, and plans to visit the KU campus at least once again for his official visit.
KU has enormous uncertainties at both the 3 and 4, along with the mammoth task of replacing Jeff Withey in 2013, therefore the potential to play immediately is present. However, because Walker’s style of play is very similar to that of Jamari Traylor, it seems reasonable Walker may wait until he observes Traylor’s development in the post-Danny Manning era.