Chicago native Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, chose to play college basketball at Duke on Friday along with his friend, Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones, Rivals’ No. 5 overall recruit.
But Kansas wasn’t shut out: Rivals’ No. 4 recruit, Cliff Alexander, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Chicago Curie, picked Kansas.
He chose KU over Illinois, whose hat he briefly touched and started to pick up before saying he would become a Jayhawk. Alexander, who also considered DePaul and Memphis, was in Lawrence last weekend watching his girlfriend play for the KU women’s team.
Alexander might not stay very long.
“He’ll be at Kansas one year and then he’ll be out,” Nick Irvin, Alexander’s AAU coach for Mac Irvin Fire, told Rivals.com. “That’s how good Cliff is on the basketball court. I call Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander one and two. Cliff will be a top-two pick when he leaves Kansas next year.”
“Cliff is the type of player that gets after it offensively. He doesn’t complain and he doesn’t ask for the basketball. He’s just a throwback basketball player and he is the type of player where you put him in any situation and he will (thrive).”
Alexander has a long-time relationship with KU assistant Jerrance Howard, who recruited the Chicago area as an assistant at Illinois from 2007-12.
“I feel they are going to develop me, get me to where I want to be, expand my game to the next level,” Alexander said in an interview on ESPNU.
On KU coach Bill Self, Alexander said: “He’s going to coach me and get me to where I want to be.”
Okafor and Jones, a 6-1 point guard, had long been adamant that they would like to attend the same school.
Okafor, a 6-foot-10 senior center who was considering Duke, Kansas and Baylor, was at the United Center on Tuesday when the Jayhawks beat the Blue Devils in the Champions Classic. Watching KU win apparently wasn’t enough to lure him to Lawrence.
Kansas has two commitments for its 2014 class. Small forward Kelly Oubre, rated as Rivals’ No. 12 overall recruit, signed with Kansas on Wednesday after orally committing to KU over Kentucky in October following his visit to Late Night in The Phog.
If Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins enters the NBA Draft after this season — and he’s been clear that he will — KU will have one scholarship open for next season. (Forward Tarik Black is the Jayhawks’ only scholarship senior.) The Jayhawks feature two other freshmen — Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid — who are potential first-round picks.
It’s a slightly different situation for Self, who has had one-and-done players before (Xavier Henry and Josh Selby) but has never faced the possibility of losing as many as three in one year.
“The sense of urgency is we better recruit,” Self said earlier this season. “That’s where the sense of urgency comes in. If there’s a potential for that to happen, we better replace those guys.”