As good as this week started, it's ending even better for the Kansas basketball team.
Mario Chalmers, the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2005, announced at a news conference Friday that he's made an oral commitment to play for Bill Self's Jayhawks. An Alaska native, Chalmers chose KU over Arizona.
"Kansas has the total package, the all-round team," Chalmers said by phone Friday from Anchorage. "I can't wait to be part of it."
Chalmers' decision put the cherry on top of a week in which KU signed two highly touted high school seniors (Alex Galindo and C.J. Giles) while getting oral pledges from two of the country's top juniors (Chalmers and Micah Downs).
The fact that Kansas was able to bring in four new players - and good ones, at that - in five days has led some to label this as the greatest recruiting week in school history. As he walked off the golf course Friday, Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins did his best to encapsulate all that has transpired.
"This is unbelievable, it's big time," Perkins said. "I'm so proud of Bill and his staff. What's happened these past four or five days ... you don't see something like this very often. It's pretty special."
Chalmers is easily the jewel of Kansas' four-player recruiting haul. Along with labeling him as the top point guard, rivals.com has Chalmers ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect in the class of 2005.
No player in recent KU memory was able to earn such a gaudy ranking in high school - not even Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden or Wayne Simien.
"He's a point guard, but I call him a scoring guard," said Shay Wildeboor of rivals.com. "The guy can flat out shoot the ball. I saw him hit eight consecutive three-pointers one time. This is huge for Kansas. He's as good of a point guard as you'll find."
As a junior last season, Chalmers averaged 23 points and eight assists for Bartlett High School in Anchorage. He'll likely inherit Kansas' starting point-guard duties as a freshman in 2005-06. Aaron Miles, the Jayhawks' current starter, will be a senior this season.
"Coach Self said the point-guard spot is up for grabs and that whoever comes in there and works the hardest is going to get that position," Chalmers said. "I've just got to go in and work harder than anyone else."
Chalmers visited Kansas last weekend, but his recruitment didn't begin there. Jayhawks assistant Joe Dooley traveled to Anchorage to watch Chalmers play during the season. And Self made the trip for an in-home visit with Chalmers this spring.
That kind of persistence was impressive to Chalmers' father, Ronnie, who is his high school coach.
"(Self) reminds me of myself a little bit," Ronnie Chalmers said. "He likes to win, but he's also all about business. He can create balance between being tough and putting his players in a good environment. He would never do anything to embarrass anyone on the court.
"Mario is walking into a good situation. I really think they're on their way to winning a national championship."
Chalmers stands 6 feet 1 but weighs just 165 pounds. Both he and his father said that adding strength will be a priority before he arrives at Kansas in 2005.
"Another thing he needs to work on is his footwork," Ronnie Chalmers said. "I don't say that in a negative way. The competition in Alaska doesn't challenge him day in and day out. He gets to have his way a lot, so his footwork doesn't have to be as sharp as I'd like to see it."
But that's not to say that Chalmers won't be ready for the challenge that awaits him at Kansas. Schools such as Arizona, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest all wanted Chalmers for the same reason.
"Mario has instincts you can't teach," his father said. "He's always thinking ahead to the next play. He thinks like a coach on the court. His greatest attribute is leadership and collaboration. He's a bona fide point guard."
Possibly the best player in the camp is Kansas commit Mario Chalmers. The Alaskan has played excellently on offense and defense. In his evening game against Louisville’s Williams, Chalmers led his team to an easy victory, had a nice open court block, and a couple of silky smooth 3 pointers. Following in behind Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer from the far north, Chalmers should make as much of an impact as they did once.
adidas Superstar Camp
It nearly is impossible to catch Kansas coach Bill Self without that wide, disarming grin spread above his chin. Right now, though, he's got a reason to smile.
Many of the other coaches in this gymnasium are searching for point guard prospects like blackjack bettors wishing for another ace. The supply is short, but the Jayhawks grabbed theirs early in the game.
Down on the floor at Shadow Ridge High in Las Vegas, Alaska's next exceptional basketball product, Mario Chalmers, is playing with some not-so-great Alaskans. They are competing in the Adidas Super 64 event, one of three amateur club tournaments that recently took over this city. Chalmers is strong, long and fluid. He is an alert passer and effective shooter. He does not yet have a feel for what awaits him at Kansas -- playing with, and trying to enhance, other talented players. As he figures that out, he'll likely become the best point guard to emerge from the high school class of 2005.
That might be the least flattering compliment Chalmers ever receives.
Former Kansas guard Mario Chalmers wanted to play for Team USA in the Pam Am Games in 2007. Villanova coach Jay Wright was the head coach for the Pam Am Games team. When it came time to choose his backcourt, Wright went with his own player, Scottie Reynolds, and cut both Chalmers and fellow guard Sherron Collins. According to Chalmers, Reynolds had "clearly been the worst player at the entire camp."
That might be subjective, and no one ever did their most reflective thinking after being cut from a team, but it almost doesn't matter if Chalmers is right or wrong. What comes next is hilarious:
So when it came to the Villanova game, Coach Self called Sherron and me into his office and said, “How do you feel about this Villanova game?” I said, “Coach, this is personal to me. I don’t like Jay Wright.” He was like, “I understand that, but keep it out of the media.” So when the media asked if it was a personal game, we’d say, “No, it’s not personal. It’s just another game.” But during the game we were talking all kinds of s--- to Jay Wright. We’d run by him and tell him, “Sit your a-- down! We got this!” Another time we said to him, “This is what you get for cutting us. We’re about to dog you!” Anytime we were throwing the ball in from the sideline, when he was standing up trying to call a play, we’d tell him to shut his mouth and sit down. There was one play where I threw a lob to Shady on an inbounds pass and he dunked over Scottie Reynolds. Right before I threw it I looked at Jay Wright and said, “Watch this!” That game was definitely personal for Sherron and me.
This is probably not the best way to handle your basketball-related grievances. Yelling at the opposing coach while you're bludgeoning his team in the NCAA tournament -- that game was 72-57, by the way -- makes you seem petty and dumb. Be the bigger person, right? Show how much better you are than the player he picked without screaming in the coach's ear about it on every sideline out of bounds play. Sheesh.
Of course, I say that, but really I'd be lying if I didn't thoroughly laugh at this quote. That's swagger, folks. Sometimes a team needs a chip on its shoulder. You wouldn't think the buzzsaw that was the 2008 Jayhawks would need that sort of motivation. But hey, whatever works.