For Aldrich, leaving was never a question
It was difficult to miss. Smack dab in the middle of the wide-eyed grin, there it was — a huge gap in the front of Cole Aldrich's mouth, the result of an incidental elbow taken in the victory against Kansas State back in January.
"He's pretty confident in his own skin," Kansas coach Bill Self said of his standout big man. "He shows everyone the missing tooth."
"He's a guy who doesn't worry about what the public thinks," added Self. "It just doesn't register with him."
Want further evidence?
How about the fact that Aldrich never even gave the NBA a glimpse, opting to pass on the NBA draft process and not even test the waters despite being what many felt was a certain lottery pick.
It was billed as a weak draft.
Quality big men were so scarce that Jordan Hill was picked eighth overall.
None of that mattered.
"I really never even thought about it," said Aldrich, who is one of 20 college players attending the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron. "I love school. I'm living the dream right now and having so much fun."
Blake Griffin admitted he didn't enjoy the schoolwork part of college, but he returned to Oklahoma for his sophomore campaign in order to ensure he could make an immediate impact in the NBA.
Aldrich is more along the lines of Tyler Hansbrough — a guy who just flat-out enjoys college.
"I love my teammates and we all get along so well together," Aldrich said.
"He's just a fun-loving, big old kid," added Self.
There's not a whole lot not to like these days for Aldrich. The 6-foot-11, 242-pound Aldrich is literally the big man on campus.
The hefty paychecks can wait another year.
"I'm greedy," he said. "I want to win another title."
Aldrich will have that opportunity. The Jayhawks will be the clear-cut favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis come April.