Few schools in America are known for producing elite level basketball players at a position, year in and year out. Under Lute Olsen’s watch, Arizona became known as "Point Guard U". Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, and Miles Simon are the major ones that come to mind. Georgetown has always been known as "Big Man U". This dates back to the days of Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning. Then there was a lull in the factory, until the resurgence with Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe, and Henry Sims. Wisconsin has also created a pipeline of successful Bigs with Brian Butch, Marcus Landry, Jon Leur, Greg Steimsma, and now, Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky. Maybe lesser known is Bill Self’s ability to churn out successful collegiate Big Men. His high-low principles most certainly help elevate the talent, not taking this year, of course, into consideration.
Let’s take a look at the Big Men Self has recruited and developed in Lawrence, Roy Williams’s holdovers not included.
-Five McDonald’s All-Americans: David Padgett, Darrell Arthur, Cole Aldrich, Perry Ellis, and Cliff Alexander.
-Five five-stars: David Padgett, Darrell Arthur, Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, and Cliff Alexander
-Seven four-stars: Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, CJ Giles, Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, and Thomas Robinson.
-Four three-stars: Quintrell Thomas, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas, and Zach Peters.
Looking at the table below, we can do a comparison by numbers of these recruits with the recruits of Wisconsin and Georgetown throughout the same years.
At least on the pure rankings and recruiting front, HCBS has been running circles around the two "Big Man Universities" of America. Yes, a couple of the Wisconsin three-stars were Marcus Landry and Frank Kaminsky. So Bo may not get the elite ranked players, but he gets the right ones for him and turns them into legit player. Kudos to him.
Here are my top five Bigs to play under Self at KU:
- Perry Ellis- I’m doing my best not to be a "Prisoner of the moment" as Skip Bayless says. However, this last stretch of Perry Ellis’ career is some of the best basketball I have seen during the Bill Self era. When I think of the typical KU Big Man, it’s the seven foot rim protector that is great at creating angles. This is not what Perry Ellis is. What he is is a perfect compliment to that in the high-low: A six foot eight stretch four that can do it all. His offense doesn't seem to have a hole, from knocking down the open three pointer to driving and scoring around the rim. His only knock is his size and (used to be) his aggressiveness. Him being at the top spot is also dependent on a similar senior year. If so, he could ascend to the top 10 all-time on the scoring list at Kansas. Not too shabby.
- Cole Aldrich- While the stats might not jump off the page at you, the impact did. He was a monster for anyone to contend with attacking the hoop. He left Kansas with an average of 2.3 blocks a game and most likely doubling that with altered shots. With all of the fire power on those teams, he wasn't needed to assert himself overly on the block.
- Thomas Robinson- There were signs of a star with the impact he made in limited minutes his sophomore year. Then came his chance to shine and boy did he, to the tune of 17 points and 11 rebounds. Those numbers were almost as impressive as his proud shoulders he had that year in carrying the Jayhawks to a National Championship with that roster. With his story, it’s hard not to cheer for him.
- Darrell Arthur- This guy is another man crush of mine throughout the Bill Self time and that championship roster. He was so smooth down on the block and around the rim. If that team wasn’t loaded, I truly believe he could have put up far better numbers and that would have been comparable to Thomas Robinson. The performance he put forward in the National Championship game (20 points and 10 rebounds) against Memphis was memorable. I miss Shady.
- Marcus Morris- For pure NBA potential, Joel Embiid would be the choice in this list. However, Marcus had a much better career in the Phog. He could score around the rim, in the mid range, and step out to the three point line. He was Perry before Perry (was Perry). You can’t knock 17 points a game in the Big 12.
Lawrence is a destination for any high end recruit to showcase their ability. This is especially true of Big Men. Whether that is protecting the rim and rebounding the ball, scoring around the hoop and back to the basket, or stretching the floor and attacking. If you can play, Kansas can provide you with a direct path to the NBA hardwood.