The phrase foundation class tends to get thrown among Kansas fans when talking about the 2011 recruiting class. A group of five that could grow to six along with one transfer means that the Jayhawks will have quite a different look and feel than they did a year ago. To many it's a situation similar to 2008 when the Jayhawks added seven players following the mass departure on the tail end of a National Title.
It's something that happens to most major division one programs on some level in this "new era" filled with one and done's and early departures. Kentucky deals with it on an annual basis, other teams run up against it after a deep run in the tournament.
For Kansas the class in 2008 included the Morris twins, Tyshawn Taylor, Mario Little, Travis Releford and a pair that have now transferred in Quintrell Thomas and Tyrone Appleton. The class had a solid reputation coming in with the Morris twins being viewed as a duo with great potential. It took a little more time but overall the group did very well winning three straight Big 12 titles to date. Next year Taylor and Releford will be the lone remaining pair from this class and all in all it would be fair to say that the group provided a strong transitional group for Kansas.
What about this upcoming 20011 class? Are they a foundation class or are they a transition class? Are the two one and the same? And for that matter would you consider the 2008 class more of a transition class or would you call the Morris twins and Tyshawn Taylor a foundational group?
Hard telling if there is any difference at all but when you look at Bill Self's history at Kansas it's been a series of recruiting classes that has included strong three and four year players mixed in with some potential one and done, two and out talents. Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun and Russell Robinson provided a tremendous ground level group while Brandon Rush, Julian Wright and Mario Chalmers stepped in and raised the bar. Self was fortunate to keep Chalmers and Rush for three seasons ultimately winning a title, but both were players that had NBA aspirations from the start.
Fast forward to 2008 and the Jayhawks had a pair of solid players in Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins. Throw into the mix a group of young players, some that would hit and some that would miss but overall the Morris twins and others helped bridge that potential rebuilding gap to the point where Kansas never missed a beat. Rather than seeing the falloff, Bill Self and Kansas kept moving right along.
In 2011 that doesn't seem to be as much of a certainty. A pair of four stars that could contribute fairly early and an assortment of developmental players and transfers make up the class of 2011. At this stage in the game it's not likely that any of the incoming talent will be heading to the NBA in a year or two. It's a group a step below Bill Self's first class at Kansas, a step below the 2008 class and really it's a group that represents Bill Self's riskiest patchwork attempt since arriving in Lawrence.
So how do they fit? With Kansas well positioned in terms of 2012 recruiting, does the 2011 class provide a foundation or just a brief transition? The perceived down year in the Big 12 along with some strong players returning should provide Kansas with an opportunity to again win the Big 12, but is this a group that stays together long term putting Kansas in contention?
Odds are that this isn't going to be the case, at least not in its entirety. Bill Self and college basketball in general sees a fair amount of transfers in today's game. Patience isn't necessarily a given and when you bring in seven players some will sink and some will swim. That's especially the case if there is a talented group of players lining up the following year to join your program.
Time will tell where this class fits in the grand scheme of things. Most likely there will be a player or two that find there opportunity elsewhere. Most likely there will be a player that exceeds expectations and provides a great story for Kansas basketball fans. And most likely Bill Self will continue to put Kansas in a position to succeed. At face value this looks like a transition year, but sometimes it's hard to tell when Kansas is transitioning and when Kansas is simply setting another foundation in place. Just look at 2008, things ended up working out pretty well for that class.