Cliff Alexander checks out Late Night in the Phog for the final time as a spectator.
Kansas coach Bill Self has long had success in recruiting in Chicago, going all the way back to his days at Illinois. Even since he headed west, he's scored great Windy City talents like Julian Wright and Sherron Collins, the latter being instrumental in bringing KU a national title.
Self was in the mix to land Chicago center Jahlil Okafor, the class of 2014's top prospect, up until mere hours before Okafor committed to Duke.
Even with that domino toppled, however, Self still scored big in Chicago by landing Okafor's AAU teammate, power forward Cliff Alexander.
A 6'8", 240-pound man-child in his own right, Alexander may be the most dominant rebounder and shot-blocker in his class, even beyond Okafor. A Chicago Sun-Times survey of 16 anonymous college coaches revealed that Alexander may be every bit Okafor's equal.
Alexander was unanimously rated as a superior rebounder and overall athlete, and 14 of the 16 coaches preferred him as a rim protector. Okafor received credit for his passing and overall offensive polish, including a superb back-to-the-basket game. Of the 10 categories of comparison, Alexander triumphed in six.
The point of all this?
KU fans need to be every bit as excited to get Big Cliff as they would have been to get Big Jah. And if you're angry that you didn't get both, then you're just being greedy. Shame on you.
Dig, if you will, the roster that Self could unveil at Late Night in the Phog 2014, provided Andrew Wiggins is his only NBA departure next April:
|PG||Naadir Tharpe||Frank Mason||Conner Frankamp|
|W||Wayne Selden||Brannen Greene|
|W||Kelly Oubre||Andrew White|
|PF||Perry Ellis||Jamari Traylor||Landen Lucas|
|C||Joel Embiid||Cliff Alexander||Hunter Mickelson|
That is a loaded roster. Not quite 2013-14 Kentucky loaded, but it's very close, especially with the array of post talent.
What pair would you start on your front line?
There's no guarantee that Self will have such a tough decision to make as relates to his interior minutes, since Embiid is currently ranked seventh in Draft Express' 2014 mock draft. His sheer size and raw potential will intrigue nearly every NBA team, no matter how pedestrian his freshman stats are.
Self's potential decision is no different than what he'd have had with Okafor. Ultimately, the individual production and team success may also be similar.
Now, KU fans can enter the 2014-15 season with a built-in storyline, watching how their rookie big man stacks up with the one down in Durham and talking trash over which one will get to try on an NBA cap first.
Enjoy it, Rock Chalk Nation.