Even without Myles Turner, the sky ain't falling for KU's Jayhawks
APR 30, 2014 8:27p ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The glass is half-full, still. Don't look at this as a snub, Rock Chalkers.
Think of it as a challenge.
Myles Turner went on national television Wednesday afternoon to announce he was going to Texas. The 7-foot Texan had been considering Kansas, along with about a half-dozen other bluebloods, before electing to join the Longhorns, the first love of his boyhood.
Last spring, KU reeled in the last whale in the 2012-13 prep recruiting class, Canadian wing sensation Andrew Wiggins. The hype machine swung into about six extra gears after that; a few months later, Wiggins was sharing magazine covers with Wilt and Danny, inducted into the modern Phog Holy Trinity before he'd ever taken a shot.
And, hey, let's be frank: Like Wiggins, Turner would've helped. By the time the prep stud's presentation was done, it was hard to discern which was the greater loss for Jayhawk fans: A natural '4' with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a silky mid-range jumper, or the poise and eloquence Turner showed on camera that elevated him above the usual banal hat-dance rhetoric.
But now he's a Longhorn, following the Nikes of hero Kevin Durant and joining a Texas roster that returns, on paper, everybody -- including 6-8 forward Jonathan Holmes (12.8 points per game), 6-9 center Cameron Ridley (11.2 points, 8.2 boards per game) and 6-1 point guard Isaiah Taylor (12.7 points, 4.0 assists per game).
Which makes it official: Hook 'Em is the new Oklahoma State, if you're looking, the latest hotshot challenger to Self and his run of 10 straight Big 12 crowns.
There's your target. Right there. Instead of man-mountain Cliff Alexander looking for Turner on the break, now they'll be trading paint in the paint, the marquee positional battle among the league's two marquee teams.
And for Self, the sky is hardly falling, either. For one, it's not as if the Jayhawks are suddenly starving in the post. Alexander, a 6-foot-9 banger out of Chicago, is expected to slot next to Perry Ellis on the blocks next fall. Most Division I teams would kill for a combination of Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas; and 6-10 Hunter Mickelson, who transferred in to Lawrence from Arkansas two years ago, joins the mix, too. Mickelson swatted away 72 shots in 2011-12, a new Razorbacks freshman single-season record -- and the same number of blocks Embid posted this past winter, coincidentally enough -- while stopping 39 more in '12-13.
For another, the other big name on Self's radar, point guard Devonte' Graham out of Brewster (N.H.) Academy, is still in play, having earlier Wednesday narrowed his list of finalists to two: KU and North Carolina State. According to web reports and eyewitness accounts, the 6-1 Graham is a polished, college-ready prospect with reach, range, good decision-making skills, a stellar passing touch and quick defensive hands -- something Self felt was sorely missing from his backcourt this past winter.
Because all-world bigs can get you conference championships, but defense and guard play remain the two most powerful currencies of March. Turner might be a stud with an NBA game and an NBA future. But if he doesn't have a point guard with serious stones to run with, his first foray through Bracketville will wind up crashing like a zeppelin. Just ask Wiggins how that song goes.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.