KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Across the country, the best college basketball players are evaluating their games and trying to figure out what they can change to become more attractive to NBA scouts. Big men are told they need to play smaller, guards are told they need to play bigger, and somewhere along the way, players forget who they are.
Don't count Kansas center Cole Aldrich among that group.
"Most guys feel like they've got to be something else," KU coach Bill Self said, "and he doesn't feel that way at all."
Nope, sure doesn't.
Never miss a local story.
"There aren't too many true centers," Aldrich said. "A lot of guys are kind of what you'd almost call hybrid. I know I take great pride in just being a true big guy."
A hybrid is exactly how you would describe the last three Big 12 players of the year: Texas' Kevin Durant, Kansas State's Michael Beasley and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, who were all big players but often played away from the paint. Aldrich? Good luck getting him out of there.
"The true five that stays and doesn't go pro, that's rare," Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. "I think everyone was hoping last year he'd probably go pro. He's a hell of a player. My dad (Bob Knight) even told me last year after he (broadcast) one of the games, he thought (Aldrich) was the best big guy in the country. So it isn't just me. One guy asked me who the most valuable player was in the league, and I thought he was. He brings the whole package."
Self admitted at Thursday's Big 12 media days at the Sprint Center that he wasn't sure what the 6-foot-11 Aldrich would bring to the Jayhawks last season.
"I had no idea Cole would be what he's become," Self said. "I knew Sherron (Collins) was a good player. We went into last season thinking we had one good player, and Cole emerged to be outstanding."
"He could be the best true big man Kansas has had since Wilt (Chamberlain)," Self said. "You start and think about the true big man. Danny (Manning) wasn't a center, and Raef (LaFrentz) wasn't a center. But you really look at it, that's a pretty big statement for 50-plus years that he could be the best true big guy."
Self's definition of a true five-man depends on where the player would play in the NBA. So he doesn't consider NBA power forwards Manning, LaFrentz and Nick Collison to be in the same conversation as Aldrich, who will undoubtedly play center in the NBA.
Aldrich, a junior, isn't alone in the Big 12. Texas senior center Dexter Pittman joins him as a true center expected to dominate the league this season. Pittman and Aldrich became friends during the summer at Amare Stoudemire's big-man camp.
"We're very rare," Pittman said. "We gotta stick together."
Pittman, who prides himself on having the largest hands in college basketball, and Aldrich enjoy playing against each other because of the novelty.
"It's kind of exciting playing against someone your size," Pittman said. "You're going to get away with a lot of banging and bruising, and you can use your brute force."
Aldrich and Pittman give KU and UT an advantage in most games.
"I'd say it's unique," Self said. "The game's getting smaller. At this time, all fives want to be fours, all fours want to be threes, all threes want to be twos."
Pittman explained the phenomenon this way: "Most big guys wanna be skinny, and most skinny guys wanna be big. It's kind of like that."
Morningstar gets diversion — Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss drunken-driving charges against Kansas guard Brady Morningstar if he stays out of trouble for the next year.
The 23-year-old Morningstar was arrested Oct. 3 on the Kansas Turnpike near Lawrence on suspicion of driving under the influence. Court records indicate that the junior had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system at the time.
He was fined $500 and charges included speeding and failing to keep his car in a single lane. Douglas County prosecutors say all charges will be dismissed if Morningstar does not have any further legal problems in the next 12 months.
Morningstar has been suspended from playing in any games during the first semester.