LAWRENCE — In college basketball recruiting, sometimes timing can be everything.
That’s what Kansas is banking on this weekend, when top power forward recruit Julius Randle takes his official visit to Kansas. Randle, a 6-foot-9 senior, is the No. 2 overall prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com. And he’ll be coming to town just as KU prepares to play host to ESPN’s Game Day on Saturday morning and retire Mario Chalmers’ jersey at halftime of its game against Texas on Saturday night.
Kansas coach Bill Self has already signed five players in the 2013 class, including four players ranked in Rivals’ top 40, but Randle would be a crown jewel at a position of need.
“There’s not a lot of guys like him,” said Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “He’s a big lefty, he’s every bit of 6-9 and 240 or 245 pounds. He’s strong, he’s powerful — if he’s not the most physical player in the class of 2013, he’s as physical as anybody.”
Bossi described Randle’s style as a cross between former Michigan star Chris Webber and Michigan State standout Zach Randolph, both of whom carved out lucrative careers in the NBA. It’s too early to know if Randle can live up to that standard, but he would fill a hole in the interior at Kansas.
KU will lose seniors Jeff Withey and Kevin Young to graduation after this season, and next year’s frontcourt rotation will include freshmen Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas, a freshman who is currently redshirting. The Jayhawks have also signed Joel Embiid, a 7-foot center who is ranked as the No. 37 recruit in the country.
Randle, a senior at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, is recovering from a broken foot suffered in November. He’s expected to return in late February, according to Rivals.com.
To land Randle, Kansas will have to beat out a list of suitors that still includes Kentucky, Florida, Texas and North Carolina State. Randle took visits to Kentucky and Florida last fall before visiting N.C. State and Texas in the last month.
“I think wherever he goes,” Bossi said. “He’s ready to play from day one, and he’s an instant impact player from day one.”
Kansas has one open scholarship remaining. That, of course, could change depending on players leaving school early for the NBA or other roster defections.
In addition to Embiid, Kansas has already signed guards Conner Frankamp (No. 31, according to Rivals), Wayne Selden (No. 26), Brannen Greene (No. 25) and Frank Mason (No. 134). The Jayhawks are also still targeting small forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2013.
Eskridge dies — Jack Eskridge, a former Kansas basketball player who served at Iwo Jima during World War II, worked as an assistant under Phog Allen in the 1950s and later developed the iconic star on the helmet of the Dallas Cowboys, died on Monday. He was 89.
He played at KU for two seasons, averaging 7.6 points per game in 1947-48, and in 1954 began working as an assistant under Allen and helped recruit Wilt Chamberlain.
In 1959, Eskridge took a job as the equipment manager for the Dallas Cowboys, where he was responsible for updating the franchise’s logo when the team began wearing silver helmets in the 1960s.