Cliff Alexander Decision: Pros and Cons of Each Contender for 5-Star Recruit
Cliff Alexander, the No. 3 prospect in the class of 2014 according to 247Sports, will make one college basketball program very happy when he decides where to go to school on Friday.
Alexander is one of the most physically dominating big men in his class. He is a formidable rebounder and shot blocker on the defensive end and has gradually developed a soft touch around the rim with the ball in his hands.
Alexander will decide between Illinois, Kansas, Memphis and DePaul. Read on to get some pros and cons for each possible destination.
Anyone who has tried their hand at recruiting in various college football and basketball video games understands that being close to a recruit’s home often helps a team’s cause.
Alexander would be playing at his home state’s premier college basketball program if he elects to take his talents to Illinois. Perhaps more enticingly, he would be playing alongside fellow 2014 class member Quentin Snider, who is an excellent distributor from the point guard position.
Alexander and Snider would form quite the duo in Champaign.
While the best players in the country thrive in almost any situation, the reality is the Big Ten is a difficult place for a young big man to succeed immediately.
It is the most physical conference in the country, which means Alexander’s toughness and ability to play through contact would be tested immediately. This is not to suggest that he won’t be able to handle it (because in all likelihood he will), but there will be moments when he is tested. If he doesn’t prosper, NBA scouts will notice.
If Illinois gets credit for being close to home for the Chicago native, then DePaul certainly gets a point in the pros category for distance.
Outside of being nearby, DePaul would offer Alexander the best chance of the four contenders to be the unquestioned alpha dog. The Blue Demons aren’t exactly bringing in 5-star studs every year, and Alexander would be the best player from the moment he stepped on campus.
His numbers would make him hard to ignore for NBA scouts.
While being “the man” is certainly enticing for many young prospects, the reality is that Alexander would have zero chance at winning a championship if he went to DePaul.
Of the four schools, this one gives him the lowest chances at winning and becoming a household name in March. If that is something that truly matters to Alexander, he has to be factoring that in during the decision process.
Memphis brought in a lot of talent from the class of 2013, and the perimeter players of that group would benefit Alexander. RaShawn Powell and Markel Crawford would both open up the lane for Alexander by drawing crowds of defenders.
Furthermore, Memphis would give Alexander a chance to dominate lesser competition in the American Athletic Conference (especially since Louisville will be gone by then). The good thing about playing for the Tigers in a weaker conference, though, is the fact that Memphis is still a big name in the college basketball world.
His numbers would not be discounted like they would at a mid-major school.
While the guards in that 2013 class would certainly help Alexander, there were also a number of big men in that group.
Memphis’ frontcourt would get a bit crowded with Alexander, Kuran Iverson, Dominic Woodson and Austin Nichols. That is not to suggest Alexander wouldn’t be the best of the bunch, but it might take him some time to get on the court for significant minutes, which could ultimately impact his NBA chances after one year.
The most obvious pro for Kansas as compared to the other contenders on this list is the chance to win the national championship.
Illinois and Memphis could certainly develop into title contenders (and the argument can be made that the Tigers are fringe candidates this year), but being a member of the Jayhawks means you are going to win, plain and simple. Kansas takes the Big 12 title every year, and it is almost a surprise when it isn’t playing in the Final Four.
Furthermore, Kansas would give Alexander a brighter stage than the other schools to shine, which could impact his positioning in the next NBA draft.
For so many young prospects today, the NBA is the only real goal that matters. While going to Kansas would give him a more prominent stage and a chance to win, he wouldn’t be the “big fish in a small pond.”
Chances are Alexander would have teammates that are just as talented as him, if not more so. There is a chance that big men Jahlil Okafor and Myles Turner choose Kansas as well, which has to factor into Alexander’s thought process.
Many of these kids want to win, but they also want to be serious contributors in the process. If one of the other elite big men in this class chose the Jayhawks, Alexander would likely have to sacrifice some playing time.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.
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