Late Night in the Recruiting Phog

By Rustin Dodd

It’s shaping up to be another signature weekend for Bill Self and Kansas on the recruiting front — though maybe not as big as once anticipated.

Three of the nation’s top senior recruits are expected to be in Allen Fieldhouse this Friday, when KU plays host to its annual “Late Night in the Phog” festivities.

Cliff Alexander, a five-star power forward from Chicago, and shooting guard Kelly Oubre, a senior at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, will both be visiting KU this weekend, according to Rivals.com. Small forward Malik Pope of Elk Grove, Calif., is also expected to be at Late Night.

Alexander, 6 feet 8 and 240 pounds, is rated by Rivals as the No. 4 overall player in the Class of 2014, while Oubre, who lived in the Houston area before transferring to Findlay Prep, is rated as the No. 12 overall player — and perhaps rising. Pope, meanwhile, entered the fall as Rivals’ No. 17 overall player in the class.

One of the most important recruiting weekends of the year? Sure. But probably not any bigger than KU’s usual list of official visitors for Late Night.

When the NCAA changed the college basketball calendar in the offseason, allowing teams to begin practice two weeks earlier than usual, it appeared to set off a ripple of unintended consequences in the recruiting world.

In the past, most of the major programs have kicked off the official start of practice with a made-for-fans event that usually doubles as a program infomercial for the recruits in attendance. At Kansas, of course, it’s “Late Night in the Phog,” while at Kentucky, it’s called “Big Blue Madness.”

And with practice starting two weeks early, those programs had a larger window to schedule the annual season-opening party. In theory, programs like KU, Kentucky and North Carolina could all schedule their events on different weekends, allowing for the best recruits in the country to hit up multiple spots. This weekend, though, USA Basketball has a mini-camp event planned at its training facility in Colorado Springs — thinning the pool of candidates to be in Lawrence.

On the whole, though, October could be a crucial month for Kansas.

The Jayhawks are still recruiting Chicago center Jahlil Okafor, the consensus No. 1 overall player in the class of 2014, as well as Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones, another top-five recruit. Both Okafor, a senior at Whitney Young in Chicago, and Jones, a native of Apple Valley, Minn., are expected to visit KU on Oct. 18, according to Rivals. Okafor and Jones have long expressed a desire to play together in college.