Bill Self Gets Creative with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones on Campus
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The Kansas Jayhawks basketball team held a scrimmage on Saturday morning that Bill Self said was for the fans who couldn't get in the doors at KU's Late Night in the Phog two weeks ago.
It was a good reason. Kansas had to turn away thousands of fans two weeks ago.
But if Self was being honest, he would have said the scrimmage, the first of its kind in his tenure at Kansas, was meant for an audience of two: Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones.
Okafor is the consensus top player in his recruiting class, a throwback big man in the mold of a Tim Duncan. Jones is the consensus top point guard. And ever since they made it known that they wanted to play together, they became the Andrew Wiggins of the 2014 class.
Landing them, just like landing Wiggins, puts the lucky winner immediately in the 2015 national championship conversation.
Okafor showed up midway through Saturday's scrimmage, and a good portion of the estimated 10,000 in attendance who showed up rose to their feet and cheered. Self and 2-guard Wayne Selden both went over to shake the big man's hand.
Once the building quieted down, a fan shouted "We love you too, Tyus."
Self knew what he was doing, and he knew there were enough diehards to show up at 9:45 a.m. on the day of a nationally televised Kansas home football game against Oklahoma to impress two recruits.
"It is pretty special knowing that these people do turn out to watch their Jayhawks," Self said. "I know our guys, that's probably the primary reason that they love playing here so much is because of the love that they receive from our fans."
Those fans are extra juiced for this team because of Wiggins, and Self is smart to ride that momentum.
The perception for those "in the know" is that Jones and Okafor want to play together, and they want to play together at Duke.
So Kansas could be a long shot.
But you probably could have said the same thing about the Jayhawks in the chase for Wiggins when the perception was that he was either going to Florida State, his parents' alma mater or join John Calipari's historical class at Kentucky.
Self got Wiggins to campus on a far from ideal date in early March against Big 12 doormat Texas Tech. So, what did he do?
As Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn pointed out in his cover story on Wiggins, the Jayhawks had a game plan heavy on ball screens and lobs, and point guard Elijah Johnson threw six alley-oops in the first half.
"We did the things that gave us the best chance to win and were along the lines of what the family would like to see," Self told Winn.
It might be a bit far-fetched to say that Self gave similar advice to his players before Saturday's scrimmage, or that such a young team could even alter how they play to please two recruits.
But the Jayhawks did come out in Saturday's scrimmage playing noticeably fast, something Jones has to like. And star post player Perry Ellis was heavily involved in the offense, getting up 15 shots in 21 minutes.
Self's high-low system should sell itself to any star big man, and Okafor had to like how much the post players touched the ball in the scrimmage. Usually, such preseason scrimmages in front of fans turn into a glorified pickup game with the guards chucking threes.
Instead, the Jayhawks put on a good show for Okafor and Jones in their courtside seats.
It would have been ideal to host the duo at KU's Late Night or an actual game, but since neither could be arranged, Self created the next best thing.
We'll see if his plan works or not, but you have to admit the guy is on a roll. He's also giving Calipari a run for his money as the game's best marketer.
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