Kansas coach attracted Jalen Wilson by making him priority
Lisa Wilson, mother of incoming Kansas basketball small forward Jalen Wilson, fielded a phone call from KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, 15 minutes after her son announced plans to play for the Jayhawks.
“He said he was walking down the hall toward Coach (Bill) Self’s office. I could hear people clapping. He said yes they were clapping, that everybody was excited. I went, ‘Oh wow.’ We’re excited too,” Lisa Wilson said in an interview with The Star an hour after Rivals.com’s No. 47-ranked player in the Class of 2019 choose KU over North Carolina and Michigan.
The 6-foot-8 Wilson — he averaged 18.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game his senior season at Guyer High in Denton, Texas — in November 2018 signed with Michigan. At that time, he chose John Beilein’s Wolverines over KU, Baylor, Marquette, Oklahoma State, UCLA and others.
Beilein left for the Cleveland Cavaliers on May 16 and Wilson immediately asked out of his letter-of-intent.
“He had a great relationship with Coach Beilein. We thought initially he was destined (to attend Michigan), being named after Jalen Rose and everything,” said Lisa Wilson, a former Oklahoma State signee who did not play for OSU after tearing an ACL. She played hoops at Seminole State College in Oklahoma and moved on to play at Oklahoma City University. Wilson’s dad, Derale, played basketball at TCU then overseas professionally.
“After he (Beilein) left, Jalen said, ‘God has a different plan for me.’ He looked at me and said, ‘OK what is next?’ The day after the news broke, 32 schools called Jalen’s AAU coach. I said, ‘Son I think we are going to be OK.’ I said, ‘The bad part is we don’t have time to talk to 32 schools.’ We had to narrow it down. He has loved KU since grade school and we already knew Coach Self and Coach Howard and the coaches from before.”
Wilson visited KU on May 30 and UNC a few days later.
“Coach Self talks about immediate impact,” Lisa Wilson said. “He tells him he can see him at the 3. He can play the 2. Maybe when big guys rest rotate to the 4. That is the beauty of Jalen’s position (he was a backup point guard in high school). If you’ve got somebody (who is) smaller inside the paint, he can guard that. He can guard at the top of the key. He is versatile.
“He shot close to 45% from three this year,” she added. “The beauty too is if they are playing tight defense, be careful, he’ll take you to the hole. He can dribble, bring the ball down. Sometimes height takes away being able to dribble. He’s been in situations where he’s been a guard and has that mentality. If he’s fortunate enough to play in the league that’s where he’d play (at guard).”
Wilson, who is planning on heading to KU soon to join his new teammates at summer school, said KU’s tradition played a major role in his decision.
“Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce, Andrew Wiggins, legendary dudes,” Jalen Wilson said in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday. “They have a long line of culture in basketball. Being a part of that now is special.”
Wilson said Self “made it a point to make me a big deal and priority to himself and his team. I felt the love he was giving. What he said I could do next year, coming in as a freshman and making an impact. …”
Wilson said it would be fun playing basketball in the Big 12.
“I wanted to go to a place that was best for me,” he said. “Now that I am in the Big 12, I’m closer to my family. They can come see me play a lot. I feel I had to make the best move for me. It fits my game. My eventual goal is to win a national championship.”
Self, who along with Howard has recruited Wilson for several years, said: “I’m very excited about Jalen’s commitment to us. He’s been a Kansas fan for the vast majority of his young life and is certainly a guy who is used to winning after being a part of a great high school program at John H. Guyer High School. He will bring great size, skill and versatility playing both as a big and a small, but more importantly he’ll bring incredible toughness.”
KU now has 12 scholarship players on the 2019-20 roster. They are: Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, Silvio De Sousa, Udoka Azubuike, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, as well as incoming players Wilson, Isaiah Moss, Christian Braun, Issac McBride and Tristan Enaruna. KU has three-walk on guards: Chris Teahan, Michael Jankovich and Elijah Elliott. Teams are allowed 13 scholarship players.