Friday Terrence Jones announced that Washington would be his destination of choice for his collegiate career. Now John Calipari and Kentucky scramble desperately to fill a roster left empty after a mass exodus of one and dones.
Kansas coach Bill Self on the other hand, apparently spent Friday golfing. Rumors emerged early in the day that Coach Self told a staff member at the course he was playing that he didn't know what Jones was going to do, but he thought he'd pick Washington. Calm, collected and seemingly carefree as to what the final decision might be. Lucky? Just his personality? or is it a direct reflection of the fact that Bill Self had nothing to lose.
Kansas took a shot. A hail marry, last ditch attempt at the #13 player in the country, but they never needed him. When Josh Selby announced for Kansas at the Jordan Brand classic, Terrance Jones expressed interest. Obviously any coach at any program is going to make that last minute pitch, and Kansas looked like a serious option even getting Jones on campus for a visit. Still Bill Self had the luxury of going into it with nothing to lose.
Fact is, with Mario Little and Travis Releford at the wing, Kansas might just be better off.
First comes the question of where does Jones fit. It's easy to sit here and say you let the players sort it out in practice, but temptation can get the best of any coach. Currently Kansas has a logjam of talent, but it's fairly well defined. Minus Marcus Morris who could probably play at the three, the bigs are bigs, the guards are guards and you've got a pair of wing players. Add Jones and suddenly you've got a player that could take the wing spot, or slide underneath. As a coach you risk burying a player that's been with the program in order to make room.
Without Jones Kansas has four bigs, two wings and five, maybe six guards to work with. Find a solid rotation and the pieces are there for a deep tournament run. Inserting a combo guard like Josh Selby isn't nearly as disruptive and a fairly simple thing when compared to inserting a player like Jones.
The second reason Kansas is better off, Mario Little. As a quick recap, Mario Little was the top junior college ranked recruit in the 2008 class. For comparisons sake, Missouri has signed the #1 junior college prospect for this coming year and some in the Tiger camp are ready to declare themselves the front runner for the Big 12, to go along with being a Final Four and National Title contender. Is our #1 junior college recruit from 2 years earlier that much less talented and not worth any credit? I'd contend the opposite as the trend toward prep school has watered down the junior college pool, but that's just me.
Little played through the '08-'09 season with Kansas out of position and injured for most of the year. Little is not a four and now has the opportunity to move back to the three. He'll be playing his more natural position, he's had two years to adjust to the division one game and he will hopefully be 100% healthy. The importance of senior leadership can't be overstated, Little could very well provide that for this group.
The last reason, Travis Releford. By year Releford would be a junior. Due to a redshirt season, he'll be sophomore. In spot minutes as a freshman Releford showed a willingness to attack the rim and aggressiveness defensively. It was obvious that the competition jump was a bit overwhelming at times, but with his length and physical nature Releford's raw potential caught the eye of Coach Self early.
Sit him a year, add two years in the system and now Releford will have the opportunity to earn a starting spot at the wing or be a spark off the bench. It's reported that Releford has been shooting 500 shots daily over the past year to improve his shot. If the game has slowed down, if he's kept that attacking mentality and he is able to develop his mid to long range game, then Travis Releford could be a very solid wing player for the next three years.
Any time a top 15 talent expresses interest in your program you take the chance. Without a doubt you add a player like Terrence Jones and you find a way to work out the minutes. The difference for Bill Self and Kansas is that they might have been in the enviable position where they didn't need the top 15 talent this year and they might just be better off from a chemistry standpoint with what they have.