Bill Self, I’ve noticed over the years, is a fun guy. He’s usually smiling and quick with a funny remark.
I imagine making close to $4 million a year to coach basketball at Kansas is good for his overall mood, too.
But I wonder if Self is enjoying his job as much as he should. I don’t know if he is or not. He well could be. But based on the happenings of the past couple of weeks, I do wonder.
First off, Self and KU have won 10 consecutive Big 12 championships. The Jayhawks and Self won the 2008 national championship. Kansas remains as one of the four or five best college basketball programs in the country. Self can pick the players he wants to recruit.
Life is good.
Or is it?
Kansas had two of the best freshmen in the country this season – Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Both are moving on to the NBA; Embiid made his intentions known Wednesday. Neither decision is a surprise and Self knew when he was recruiting them that this was a possibility.
Still, what does Self and KU have to show for one season of Wiggins and Embiid? A Big 12 championship, yes. Which is a great accomplishment. But the third-round exit from the NCAA Tournament after a loss to Stanford, a game in which Embiid did not play because of a back injury and Wiggins performed poorly, was a disappointing end to the season.
And now arguably the two best Jayhawks are moving on to most likely play for rebuilding teams in the NBA. They’ll be cashing big checks but probably not winning many games – at least for a while.
Meanwhile, Self has another outstanding recruiting class coming in, one that could get much better soon.
Already signed are 6-foot-9 power forward Cliff Alexander, from Chicago. He’s regarded as the top high school power forward in the country and it’s likely he’ll be a one-and-done Jayhawk.
Myles Turner, a 7-foot center from the Houston suburb of Bedford, Texas, is the only uncommitted 2014 McDonald’s All-American. He reportedly is still considering six schools, though Kansas and Texas appear to be frontrunners. And with Embiid’s decision to depart early, the Jayhawks have a spot for a starting center. Turner, too, is regarded as a likely short-timer wherever he plays college basketball.
KU’s third recruit is small forward Kelly Oubre, from Richmond, Texas, a Dallas suburb. He’s ranked by ESPN as the fourth-best high school small forward in the country.
Kansas, obviously, recruits at a stratospheric level. But when the Jayhawks get ousted early in the NCAA Tournament and those young stars either don’t play at all or don’t play well, the disappointment is profound.
I think there should be a rule in place that college basketball players have to spend two years in school before going to the NBA. It would improve the credibility of the college game and also help the NBA.
The argument is that players like Wiggins and Embiid have marketable skills now. They can get paid now. Why hold them back?
It’s a valid argument. I get it. I just don’t think one-and-done college players are good for the sport.
Remember the excitement about the KU recruiting class going into the 2013-14 season? It was palpable. But the two cornerstone recruits are leaving now, even though there is much unfinished business.
The NBA beckons, though, with all of its temptations. I wonder if those temptations will ever entice Self?