Last week, Conner Frankamp became the 2nd top-50 recruit to leave the university in a matter of months; the determining factor in both transfers being playing time, or more accurately, the lack thereof.
KU has had highly-ranked players transfer before-- namely David Padgett and Micah Downs. However, both of those situations had extenuating circumstances: Downs was reportedly homesick, missed his girlfriend, and retreated back to the Pacific Northwest; and Padgett was a Roy Williams recruit who reportedly clashed with Bill Self's style his freshman year. (For what it's worth, Padgett also suffered from the "Crazy Dad" rumors that are currently swirling around Frankamp. I suppose that any rumor of a meeting that reminds me of the classic Homer Simpson meltdown in the Treehouse of Horror knockoff of The Shining is an OK rumor in my book.) Anyway, I would argue that neither of those transfers had much to do with playing time, since Downs bounced after one semester, before he could have known how much he'd play at Kansas; and Padgett started over half his games during his lone season as a Jayhawk, averaging almost 20 mpg.
By my count (argue away in the comments if you disagree, Quintrell Thomas lovers), Andrew White III and Frankamp represent the first highly-ranked, playing time-related transfers since Self took over, and they happened during the same off-season. And don't forget about Naadir Tharpe, not exactly a regular Tyrone Appleton himself, leaving the program as well.
My question is this: Is this a coincidence, a one-time blip in the cyclical nature of recruiting? Or is this indicative of what the Kansas basketball program is becoming?
It's disconcerting to lose two players with as much talent as AWIII and Frankamp, particularly when one of them is a Kansas product who has wanted to be a Jayhawk virtually his entire life. On one hand, it's promising that Self is consistently pulling in the type of recruits that can make a top-50 guy feel like he's been recruited over. On the other hand, is this the type of program KU is now? Prove yourself and win a rotation spot right away, or spend your career watching a stream of higher-ranked freshmen take your minutes? More importantly from a fan's perspective, is this the type of program that is fun to root for?
Here's where I digress. Watching Kentucky evolve these last five years into a soulless monster, churning out one-and-dones and re-loading with another batch of top-10 recruits by the handful each and every year, has been interesting, to say the least. It's always nice to have villains to hate on, but once I get past the comment section douchebaggery of Big Blue Nation, I actually feel bad for Kentucky fans. Who wants to cheer for a team like that? AAU teams have more continuity than Kentucky does right now. Getting to know players, watching them grow and develop from inconsistent freshmen to major contributors as upperclassmen, surviving the "down" years and anticipating the next title contender....isn't that half the fun of college basketball? Or is that just me?
I think this upcoming off-season could seal KU's fate for the foreseeable future, regarding whether or not it becomes known as a one-and-done school. There is a very real chance that Selden, Oubre, and Alexander all leave. There is a very real chance that KU replaces them with another batch of highly-ranked one-and-dones-- take a look at the finalist schools for the top recruits in next year's class, and KU is mentioned quite a bit. Maybe a scenario unfolds where Brannen Greene gets leapfrogged by Svi (much more of a possibility, after watching Svi impress in the first exhibition game) and decides he doesn't want to waste away on the bench another year, and now there is yet another player who was recruited over that now needs to be replaced. And meanwhile, there are very few upperclassmen developing into star players; the kind of players that thrive in Self's system, the kind of players he has the most success with.
Along those lines, I think this season dictates how the fanbase reacts to the fence that KU is currently straddling. I admit that if Embiid doesn't get hurt last year, and KU doesn't lose in the second round to Stanford, this article might not be written. Likewise, if all the young guys develop quickly this year and, say, Kansas wins the title and everyone leaves for the NBA, well then, we'll live with it. Flags fly forever. But if there is another early-round exit, and we say goodbye to Selden after two years, and Oubre and Alexander after only one....then are we on our way to cheering for Kentucky, minus the postseason success?
This may seem like a major overreaction to a couple of transfers, and it very well could be. The time to mash the "Are we turning into Kentucky?" panic button is probably at least six months away. Last week, I said I love to be irrational during the exhibition game season, I just didn't think we'd have an unexpected transfer to deal with. And I gotta say, after watching the Washburn game and seeing the potential of the new guys who will benefit from getting Frankamp's minutes, I am much more calm than I was last week when the transfer news broke.
I guess my point is that the warning signs are out there. We haven't turned off the interstate onto One-and-Done Highway yet, but we've at least clicked off the cruise control, and we're thinking about putting our blinker on. But what do you guys think? Is this just a couple of unfortunate transfers, coinciding with an influx of highly-ranked recruits? Or is the KU basketball program undergoing a metamorphosis?