* SATURDAY AM Breaking News: JayhawkSlant.com reports Cliff Alexander signed his LOI with Kansas Saturday morning
Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self announced that power forward Cliff Alexander from Curie High School in Chicago has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Jayhawks.
"We are so excited about Cliff," Self said. "Since (assistant coach) Jerrance Howard has been on board, he has done a great job in recruiting both Cliff and his family. Cliff comes from an excellent high school program and has been well coached by Mike Oliver his entire high school career. Mike has been one of the longest tenured coaches in the Chicago area and has produced a several of great prospects like Cliff."
Ranked No. 3 by ESPN100 and No. 4 by Rivals.com, Alexander averaged 21.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks his junior year for Oliver at Curie High School where he earned all-state first-team honors following the 2012-13 season. Other Chicago Jayhawks who have played for Self while at Kansas include All-American Sherron Collins, Julian Wright, Mario Little and current forward Jamari Traylor.
"Cliff comes here from a long line of great ones from Chicago and has as much potential as anybody in the class," Self said. "At 6-foot-8, he can play on the block and he can play behind the arc. He can play in between, but the biggest thing he can do is rebound the ball. He'll remind our fans of a Thomas Robinson going after the ball rebounding."
Alexander joins wing/forward Kelly Oubre on the fall 2013 signing class. Oubre, who signed his NLI with Kansas on Nov. 13, is ranked as the No. 10 overall player in the class of 2014.
"The combination of Cliff and Kelly Oubre gives us what we feel are two of the top players in our class and is a great momentum boost going forward this season knowing we'll have some real good players waiting to get here next year," Self said.
Chicago Tribune: Photos from Alexander announcement
If Kansas really was cursed in these hat ceremonies — as many fans have said for years — this should put an end to those theories. It all capped a wild day of recruiting announcements, with three of the nation’s top five recruits unveiling their college destinations.
Kansas may have lost out on Okafor, a 6-foot-10 center hailed as one of the best big-man prospects in years, but they landed another Chicago prospect who could also project as a one-and-done prospect.
“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 during a televised interview on ESPNU.
Alexander, a 6-foot-8 power forward, projects as an above-average rebounder and has drawn style comparisons to former KU power forward Thomas Robinson. The only difference: Alexander could enter Kansas as a more finished product.
“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 year next.”
…“Cliff is the type of player that gets after it offensively,” said Irvin, the AAU coach. “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 strive.”
Later, he explained of the feint that seemed simultaneously to deflate and infuriate Illini fans: “It's something my teammates thought I should do.”
It wasn't the first time Friday a teenager tossed the Illini aside.
Hours earlier, point guard Quentin Snider did an about-face and decommitted from Illinois to sign with his original choice of hometown Louisville, the defending NCAA champion. He had reneged on his oral commitment to the Cardinals in July to pick Illinois.
Alexander could have saved the day. He could have saved a program when it came to DePaul, which was also a finalist along with Memphis.
But he said his final two choices were Illinois and Kansas.
Illinois has been working to reach a level of national prominence since playing for the NCAA championship under former coach Bruce Weber in 2005. Landing Alexander would have helped do that.
He said he agonized over the decision and only made his selection Thursday, keeping it a secret until he could announce to a cable-TV audience and fans assembled in the Curie auditorium.
“They did a great job,” he said of Illinois' recruitment. “I talked to Coach (John) Groce every day. There was no (area that was) lacking.”
Added his mother, Latillia Alexander: “John Groce is great. I know, most definitely, John Groce would care for him on and off the court, but I think (Kansas coach) Bill Self will get him to the next level.”
Cliff Alexander said Friday he chose Kansas in part because of the school's success in sending big men to the NBA.
Alexander, a 6-foot-8 Curie senior who is regarded as a top forward in the 2014 recruiting class, announced he will join Bill Self's Jayhawks during a press conference at the high school. He chose them over DePaul, Illinois and Memphis.
Frontcourt players from Kansas have been selected in seven of the last nine NBA drafts.
"That played a big role," said Alexander, who said he finalized his decision Thursday night. "Me and my family talked about it and came to the conclusion that this is what I wanted to do."
Alexander said he and Okafor knew each other's selections before their respective announcements Friday and had discussed playing together.
Kansas big men Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson were drafted the last two years after collegiate careers in Lawrence, Kan. Many NBA draft sites already project Alexander, who weighs 240 pounds, as a first-rounder for the 2015 draft.
Alexander said he would be one-and-done but would return to complete his education. Oliver, though, wasn't so fast to agree with the one-and-done statement.
"We don't want to put no number on years," Oliver said. "Whatever God's willing — one year, two years, three years. I think eventually he's going to reach his dream of being an NBA professional basketball player."
But Alexander first will have to earn his playing time on a team deep in the frontcourt. Six-foot-7 forward Kelly Oubre already signed his national letter of intent, and leading rebounder Tarik Black is among four Kansas forwards eligible to return next season. Reserve big man Jamari Traylor is a Chicago native.
"I'm ready to do whatever it takes to get to where I want to be," Alexander said.
Chicago Curie High School basketball power forward Cliff Alexander says he has been under a lot of self-imposed pressure of late, trying to choose between Kansas University, Illinois, DePaul and Memphis.
“I’d been confused for the last week. One minute I want to go here. One minute I want to go there,” Alexander, the country’s No. 4-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2014, said Friday after announcing for KU in a controversial commitment ceremony that included hats as props, televised on ESPNU.
“We finally came to the conclusion last night I want to go to Kansas,” the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Alexander added, referring to family members and coaches.
…“I talked to my parents and coaches. They said it was best if I do not sign today. I’d like to see how I feel to be verbally committed and not sign yet,” Alexander said. “I wanted to get a chance to get a feel of the commitment.”
...Alexander, who turns 18 today, said his KU commitment is “a great (birthday) present, a great present.
“Coach Self is a great guy. I thought Bill Self could develop me and get me where I want to be. We have that type (of) relationship,” Alexander noted.
“I want to get where I want to be (NBA) fast. I didn’t want to have time to waste. He has a lot of titles under his belt, a lot of pros. It’s why I wanted to go to the University of Kansas.”
Also ... “I decided I didn’t want to stay home. I just wanted to get away. I’ve been living here 17 years. I wanted to experience something new.”
Alexander, whose girlfriend attends Kansas, acknowledged that he likely would not have chosen KU had Chicago Whitney Young High big man Jahlil Okafor chosen KU on Friday.
“I’d probably have gone to Illinois,” Alexander said, adding that he has nothing against Okafor and in fact likes him a lot.
“He’s like another brother to me. We have a great relationship,” Alexander said.
Alexander said he actually would like to be reunited with another buddy in Lawrence. JaQuan Lyle, who decommitted from Louisville, is considering UConn, Memphis, Louisville and others.
“He’s gonna be a Jayhawk,” Alexander said, with a smile, of the player who has yet to be recruited by KU.
When Cliff Alexander picked up an Illinois cap Friday afternoon at Curie, a legion of fans thought Illini coach John Groce had pulled it off. But seconds later it became a “Cliffmas” nightmare when Alexander dropped the Illinois cap and picked up a Kansas cap.
“I watched their game at the United Center the other night, and they’re a very exciting team,” Alexander said. “They’re a fun team to watch, and I like how they play. [Kansas coach Bill Self] has a record for getting guys ready to play at the next level, in the NBA, and that’s where I want to be.”
Groce lost to Self, the gold standard of college recruiting, at least when it comes to Chicago. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is seemingly able to pick and choose which players he wants, especially in Chicago: Jon Scheyer, Jabari Parker and now Jahlil Okafor. Krzyzewski didn’t recruit Derrick Rose or Alexander. He generally stays out of the messiest recruitments.
The messy ones are right in Self’s wheelhouse. No one is better at winning the tough Chicago Public League recruiting battles. He is almost always a step ahead.
“Bill Self, he’s the absolute superstar in all facets,” recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen said. “There are some people that will tell you behind the scenes they don’t even care for Coach K and will go to Duke for the brand. I don’t think there is anyone that won’t say Bill Self is one of the coolest guys out there. Combine the cool factor with the Kansas history and tradition, and it’s a superstar package.”
Chicago Sun Times
When handing out the kudos to those responsible for influencing power forward Cliff Alexander’s decision to come to Kansas, head coach Bill Self, a terrific closer, will be at the top of most lists.
KU’s tradition, the Allen Fieldhouse atmosphere, and the fact that Alexander’s girlfriend, Caelynn Manning-Allen, plays basketball for the KU women’s team, also will get many mentions.
But don’t forget a hidden hero in this big recruiting score.
Jerrance Howard, hired to join Kurtis Townsend and Norm Roberts as full-time assistants on Self’s staff after Joe Dooley left to take the head-coaching job at Florida Gulf Coast, can’t be overlooked in the role he played in landing the backboard-shattering power player.
As is the case with so many strong recruiters, Howard has a knack for making someone he met 20 minutes ago feels as if they have been friends since grade school.
On Friday, Bill Self became the best recruiter in the country.
I can already feel the blue blood boiling in Big Blue Nation. Call anyone but John Calipari the nation’s best recruiter and it feels like heresy. It’s almost become an article of faith in today’s college basketball world that if you’re a one-and-done talent looking for the best place to develop your game before heading to the NBA, you take your talents to Lexington, no questions asked.
But when Cliff Alexander — the No. 5 overall recruit for next season according to Scout.com, a Dwight Howard-like basketball talent who is the most athletic player in the 2014 class — sat at a table at Curie High School in Chicago and put a Jayhawks hat on his head, he very well might have helped shift the balance of power in the recruiting world.
…Some kids want the cachet of an NBA factory, so they join the rest of the McDonald’s All-Americans and head to Kentucky. Some appreciate history and don’t need all the flash; Duke sources have told me that the recruitment of Parker was one of the most pleasant, down-to-earth recruiting processes they’ve seen, indicative of a place that fit his personality.
But the way Self has reinvented his and Kansas’ image — from one of the nation’s most historic, winning programs into a place that’s also getting the flashy one-and-done caliber recruits like Wiggins and Alexander — is remarkable. He’s done it through his personal charm, through his track record in developing players, and through hard work on the recruiting trail to build relationships with these teenage talents and their inner circles.
Even in a world with Coach Cal and Coach K, I’d still take Coach Self.
Nick Irvin just laughs when opponents are first able to meet Cliff Alexander, his pupil, off the court.
After playing against the bruising 6-foot-8 forward, most who haven’t met Alexander assume he’s a mean dude.
“He just always smiles,” said Irvin, coach of the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team. “But on the court, he’s an animal.”
…“Especially for Kansas fans, the easy comparison to make is a young Thomas Robinson,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi said of Alexander. “He's a burly, explosive athlete who tries to tear the rim down every chance he gets. He plays with a physical edge to him, runs the floor really hard from rim to rim and is in a place where he’s trying to extend his game a little bit from a guy who’s being thought of as strictly a power player around the rim to someone who’s got a little bit of skill and can face up to the hoop a little bit.”
Irvin has seen plenty of Alexander over the last two years while serving as his AAU coach.
“He rebounds the ball well. He blocks shots. He dunks on you,” Irvin said. “He’s just a tough, mean kid on the court. He reminds me of (New York Knicks forward) Amar'e Stoudemire.”
Irvin also has seen Alexander improve his shooting. Though it hasn’t always been a strength for the forward, Irvin says Alexander's range now extends to the 3-point line.
…Irvin, who knows Alexander as a fun-loving kid who likes both video games and cartoons, says KU is getting a player who will be committed to his teammates.
“He’s a great kid that wants to win. He’ll want to win a national championship," Irvin said. “The thing (fans) are going to love about him is his smile, the way he smiles, how humble he is. He’s a lovable person.”
Found it very interesting that there was a DePaul basketball billboard on I-55 near the exit to get to Curie. The billboard features a few Blue Demons basketball players and it reads “Who’s next?”
Found it even more interesting that there’s one right across the street from the school.
News Gazette live blog from announcement
But quicker than Illinois fans could recite the “I” in the I-L-L, I-N-I chant, the 6-foot-9 consensus Top 5 forward dropped the Illini cap, picked up the one beside it and placed it on his head while saying “the University of Kansas.”
The auditorium erupted in cheers, and minutes after the ESPN cameras were being taken down, Alexander stood on the stage, swarmed by reporters inquiring about his decision. Mom stood near him chanting “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk,” and a few feet away, Curie coach Mike Oliver stood watching, excited for his guy but somewhat disappointed at the same time.
“I was just as shocked as you guys were,” Oliver said. “It’s disappointing that we continue to have the best players in the state go out of the state. It’s a sad moment for the state of Illinois, but it’s the kid’s decision. We’ve got to live with it and wish him the best.”
Oliver and other prominent Chicago Public League coaches, including Simeon’s Robert Smith, have been publicly advocating for the top players from the city and the state to play for one of the state schools, namely Illinois. Minutes before Alexander’s decision, the top-rated player in the country, Jahlil Okafor of Chicago Whitney Young, announced for Duke.
The trend in recent years has seen Jabari Parker (Duke), Anthony Davis (Kentucky) and Derrick Rose (Memphis) all leave the state after prolific prep careers in Chicago.
Oliver said Illinois did absolutely everything it could do in its pursuit of Alexander. He commended coach John Groce and assistant coach Paris Parham for their efforts in Alexander’s recruitment.
“I was impressed with Paris. He’s a Chicago guy, I’m a Chicago guy, a Public League guy, and he did a great job,” Oliver said.
Alexander told reporters he made the decision Thursday. Oliver said that as late as 2 p.m. Friday, about 75 minutes before Alexander was scheduled to announce, the forward was still conflicted.
“I just told him to go with his gut, and he said, ‘Coach, I want to go to Kansas. That’s what’s best for me and my family,’ ” Oliver said.
According to Alexander, Illinois finished second to Kansas in the sweepstakes. The deciding factor, Alexander said, was Kansas coach Bill Self, the one-time Illini boss.
“Coach Self is a great guy. He develops his players and gets them to the (NBA),” Alexander said. “He can get me to where I want to be. He’s a great guy; I like how he coaches. I like how he gets the ball to the bigs.”
Where he wants to be is in the NBA — and soon.
“One and done, then come back to get my degree,” Alexander said of his college stay.
Another former Illini, Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard, was instrumental in Alexander landing with the Jayhawks. Howard recruited Alexander during his time on Bruce Weber’s staff from 2007 to ’12 and had a hand in Alexander receiving a scholarship offer from Illinois.
“He played a big role. Ever since he stepped foot on campus at Kansas, we’ve been talking, built up a great relationship,” Alexander said.
11/15/13, 3:23 PM
S/O to my dude @humblekid11 welcome to the family !! #KUCMB
11/15/13, 3:20 PM
Congrats to the youngin @humblekid11 on his commitment. Show him some love jayhawk nation!
11/15/13, 4:34 PM
ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!!!!!
11/15/13, 5:27 PM
Congrats to my bro @humblekid11 for joining the family! Everyone show him some love. #KUCMB
11/15/13, 5:30 PM
Everybody follow the newest member of the fam @humblekid11 #Kucmb gongrats!
11/15/13, 5:44 PM
Everybody go follow the newest member to Jayhawk fam @humblekid11 !! Glad to have u big dawg #KUCMB
11/15/13, 6:27 PM
Happy to have my young @humblekid11 join the family! #KUCMB only up from here.
11/15/13, 7:49 PM
S/O to cliff for signing with #KUCMB
*Explicit lyrics in below video
2013 USA 3X# U18 National Championship Tournament
FIBA Under18 World Championships
My Alexander Youtube playlist
If the 2014 class has been highlighted by drama and unpredictability, Cliff Alexander's recruitment epitomized that storyline. Over the past few months, at least three or four teams have been deemed the favorite – and even over the final 24 hours before Alexander's decision, three teams seemed to be the pick.
In the end, it was Kansas for the Chicago big man.
Alexander chose the Jayhawks over Illinois, DePaul and Memphis.
Friday's announcement was just the final domino in a topsy-turvy recruitment. He burst onto the scene as a high school freshman, and his recruitment picked up rather quickly. Michigan State was the heavy favorite early on, and the Spartans still seemed to be the leader prior to the AAU season. Kentucky made its play and moved to the forefront – before falling back rather quickly. Late in the summer, it appeared Kansas and Illinois were the ones with momentum, but DePaul and Memphis also had their moments in the sun for Alexander. The Fighting Illini had most of the momentum the past couple of weeks, but an unofficial visit last weekend to Lawrence stemmed the tide and the Jayhawks restaked their claim. The relationship between Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard (who recruited Alexander while he was at Illinois) and Alexander, as well as the fact Alexander's girlfriend attends Kansas, were keys.
Moments after Okafor and Jones announced their decisions, No. 3 overall prospect Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie) announced his commitment to Kansas. Alexander, the top power forward in the ESPN 100, selected the Jayhawks over in-state favorite Illinois.
"I think Bill Self will develop my game the best, not like the others coaches couldn't, but Kansas was just the best fit," Alexander said. "Coach Self talked to me about playing a versatile forward role like he did with the Morris twins [Marcus and Markieff]."
Kansas also solidified a top-10 national prospect in small forward Kelly Oubre.
How he fits: Self gets an elite finisher and rebounder who is competitive and boasts a great motor, similar to former Kansas All-American and current Portland Trail Blazer Thomas Robinson. Alexander will improve the Jayhawks' rebounding on both ends of the floor and gives them an excellent low-post defender and shot-blocker. Alexander is also an underrated offensive player. He can muscle his way through contact with good touch on his power moves with his back to the basket. He can knock down the open mid-level jumper and occasional 3 when given time and space. This is an area Alexander has worked on, and one he should continue to improve upon, under Self and his staff. Alexander will be a highlight waiting to happen on the break for the Jayhawks and will thrive in coach Self's high-low offense and quick-hitting sets and isolations.
Who he reminds us of: At the prep level, Alexander played like Dwight Howard because of his strength, power and the way he finishes, rebounds and defends. He was head-and-shoulders above most of the competition. On the college and pro level, a more realistic comparison is Antonio McDyess because of his rebounding, shot-blocking and ability to finish.
How the class is shaping up: To date, it’s only a two-player class with Alexander and Oubre, but their production in the scoring, rebounding and defense departments speaks volumes. These two prospects are both immediate impact players and will put their stamp on the Jayhawks' program as soon as they arrive in Lawrence.
*Explicit language in below videos
Told Cliff the hat trick probably was not a good idea, he said "No disrespect to #Illini fans or Groce. I love them" pic.twitter.com/9qdkJPcnnm
Thanks to Twitter, the video spread like wildfire.
A room packed with young men, probably students at the University of Illinois. They’re gathered around a television Friday afternoon watching Curie super-recruit Cliff Alexander announce his college decision. Alexander picks up an Illinois hat, and the room explodes with joy. But it’s just the most adorable little rope-a-dope! The Illinois hat goes down, the Kansas hat goes up and onto Alexander’s noggin, and the fans in that room go up for grabs with agony and anger.
Quite an inglorious moment for a player whose Twitter handle is @HumbleKid11. As absurd as nationally televised signing-day announcements are to begin with, at least they present the best players with opportunities to be seen as more than simply touchdown-scorers or slam-dunkers. But now we know: Alexander, who turns 19 on Saturday — still young but too old to get away with behaving like a jerk — has little, if any, perspective beyond that of the selfish superstar.
So congrats, Kansas, and here’s hoping the Cliffster never spits on Bill Self and all Jayhawks fans like he did Friday on John Groce and all Illini fans.
But those Illini fans in that video? And the many others who angrily tweeted profane reactions at Alexander? They’re fools, too.
They’re fools for soaring and crashing emotionally based on which school a kid anoints as his official, and hopefully very temporary, detour en route to the NBA. And they’re fools for thinking anything less than psychological torment would befall Illini Nation on national signing day.
It was bad enough when blue-chip point guard Quentin Snider wigged out on Illinois late Friday morning, de-committing to sign with Louisville. Illini fans tried to remain positive on a day they’d dubbed Cliffmas.
They should’ve known better. For crying out loud, Alexander’s decision was well-understood to be coming down to Illinois or Kansas. Memphis and DePaul also were finalists, but this was about the Illini vs. the Jayhawks. And all Illini fans know who wins there. Always.
Kansas beat Illinois for Self. With Self on board and Bruce Weber in Champaign, KU beat the Illini down the stretch for Chicago-area stars Sherron Collins and Julian Wright. Until Alexander’s nationally televised loogie, nothing was worse than when Eric Gordon de-committed from Illinois to sign with Big Ten rival Indiana. But all are just bricks in the cold, hard wall that now stands between Groce and the very highest-ranked recruits.
The Illini almost never get their guy.
Alexander’s decision was about perception. In Kansas, the 6-9, 240-pounder saw a program that revolves around great interior players and makes them lottery picks. In Illinois, he saw a program that — without a tradition of high-level interior play — tends to rely a lot on defense and three-point shooting.
That’s not very sexy, nor is the decrepit State Farm Center, where the Illini play their games. Long-overdue renovations are coming to the former Assembly Hall, but what was that supposed to mean to a hopeful one-and-done player on a campus visit?
No one has a leg to stand on if they’re mad at Alexander for choosing basketball temple Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Self and Lawrence over a 1960s spaceship, Groce and Champaign.
Illini fans forever will resent him for his dirty little hat trick, and that’s fair. But they were the perfect suckers.
More Illini fan reax vids. And where are the Jayhawk fan reax vids? LOL