LAWRENCE — In many ways, Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson represents exactly what Kansas coach Bill Self looks for in a player.
A former top-100 recruit, Mickelson will sit out next season and use a redshirt year to grow into a mature, program player. It’s a long-term addition, though, and that’s one reason Self is still looking to add instant-impact pieces to the Jayhawks’ roster for next season.
“I think the current roster could add a piece or two to make it great,” Self said on Friday, after officially announcing Mickelson’s transfer. “I’ve said all along, our recruiting class, I think, is really, really good. Adding Hunter to the mix, although he won’t play next year, makes it better.
“And if we were able to steal one or two more, I think our recruiting class could be as good as we’ve ever had here.”
Indeed, the Jayhawks are slated to add a five-man freshman class in 2013-14, including four players ranked in the top 40 of Rivals’ top 150 rankings. But there are a few big fishes remaining, namely top overall recruit Andrew Wiggins, who is still considering Kansas, Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina.
No one is quite sure when Wiggins will be ready to announce — and coaches can’t comment on prospective recruits — but Self said Friday that he’s still open to adding another transfer or a high school recruit.
“It’s all of the above as we presently speak,” Self said. “There’s not a lot of high school guys out there available. But we’re certainly open to the recruitment of a couple of those guys that we’re pursuing.”
Another potential target is Memphis transfer Tarik Black, a 6-foot-9 junior forward who is expected to graduate this spring and will be eligible to play right away under the graduate transfer rule. (The Jayhawks, according to ESPN.com, are not pursuing Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey.)
A player such as Black could provide an immediate impact, something that Mickelson won’t be able to do while sitting out. Still, Self believes Mickelson will benefit from what will essentially be a redshirt year.
“When we recruited him (out of high school), we didn’t know that Hunter would be a great player as a freshman, but we knew he had a chance to be a great player,” Self said. “That’s exactly where we are. He’s going to be a very good player for us we firmly believe, but I think it is going to take a little time. So the redshirt year will be much better for him.”
For now, Self says he’s comfortable with his current roster, but some recent events have put the Jayhawks in rare territory. With freshman Ben McLemore’s departure to the NBA, the Jayhawks will lose their five leading scorers for the first time during Self’s tenure at Kansas.
On the flip side, Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart, the reigning Big 12 player of the year, stunned observers by choosing to return to school for his sophomore year.
Smart’s return, Self says, is good for the Big 12 and the college game as a whole. But he also expects the Cowboys to be a top-five team in the preseason and the likely favorite in the Big 12.
“It’ll be great for us,” Self said, “to try to raise our level to try and compete with them.”