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Introducing Cliff Alexander, college basketball's most entertaining player

Meet the freshman Kansas forward ready to win over America this season.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

So much of the charm around college sports involves the aspect of discovery.

Every year, there are players who get the opportunity to excel in a bigger role now that former stars have left campus. There's always a team like Florida, who lost four starters but is still projected to be in the top 15 thanks to years of quality recruiting. And then there's the new crop of future basketball hell raisers to uncover for the very first time.

In the one-and-done era, the freshmen are the most exciting part of college hoops for a certain breed of basketball fans. This year will be no different.

Duke's Jahlil Okafor is the most polished offensive center to enter college basketball in years. Karl-Anthony Towns looks like he was sent straight from the future, showing up with the size of an NBA center and shooting range deeper than many guards. Kelly Oubre is ready to post 100 selfies a day and generally convince you he's the spiritual offspring of Nick Young.

There's one freshman you should care about more than any of the others, though.

Big Cliff Alexander, a.k.a. King Cliff, a.k.a. Humble Kid, is in Lawrence for the next five months and he's ready to punish rims, swat shots into the stands and tweet his young, emotional heart out. The Year of Cliff begins in earnest Tuesday when Alexander's Jayhawks play Towns and Kentucky's incredible assembly of talent. If you're just learning about Alexander for the first time, here's what you need to know:

Who is Cliff Alexander?

Big Cliff is a 6'8, 240-pound forward from Chicago who turns 19 years old Nov. 16. He was the No. 3-rated recruit in the class of 2014, according to ESPN.

His recruitment was wild. For a year, Cliff posted edited pictures of himself in the uniforms of the schools that were recruiting him. He ate up the attention. In the end, it came down to his state school, Illinois, and Bill Self's Jayhawks. This is what he did at the ceremony:


You have no idea how much this killed Illinois fans.

Illinois basketball has a long history of missing on five-star recruits from their own backyard. It happened with Sherron Collins and Jon Schyer and Derrick Rose and, most recently, Jalen Brunson. No one has ever rubbed it in quite like Cliff, though.

He said he pulled the hat trick because his high school teammates thought it was funny. I love that answer because a) it would have been so easy to lie and say it was a mistake, and b) only a group of teenagers would be capable of plotting something so cruel.

Illinois fans did not take this well:

I would almost feel sorry for these suckers, but after a decade of recruiting heartache, WHY ARE YOU FILMING THIS? And then WHY POST IT TO THE INTERNET? These things can be avoided.

If Illinois fans don't agree with the premise of this column, they're absolutely forgiven. Sorry for bringing this up, but it had to be done.

Dunks, blocks, rebounds and showmanship

Essentially, that's Alexander's game. In the era of the stretch four, Cliff enters college basketball with no use for a jump shot. He would rather spend his college days dunking on anyone possible. That much was established during Kansas' exhibition slate:


The season hasn't even officially started and Cliff is already flexing on the haters. That came during a 53-point win over Emporia State. Cliff had himself a night:

He's a prolific tweeter

Protect Cliff Alexander's Twitter account at all costs. If Bill Self dares to tell Cliff to cut it back a bit, it will be a sports Internet tragedy.

Just know this: win or lose, Cliff is going to tweet through it. Always has.

Cliff *does* look 30, but he's still able to enjoy being a college kid. The man just wants to see some emojis.

And he does not want to give you a shout-out.

Mostly, though, Cliff tweets like a love-sick teenager. You could write a paranormal teen romance novels off Cliff's tweets alone.

Cliff narrating this season is going to be one of the best things about college basketball. Just don't shut him down, Kansas.

His dad can do 360 dunks

What, your dad can't dunk? Sounds like a totally worthless dad.

* * *

Kansas opens the season Friday night against UC Santa Barbara and Alan Williams -- one of the best kept secrets in the country. The Jayhawks face Kentucky Tuesday and play Florida and Utah before we're halfway through December.

There's going to be a lot of Cliff on your TV this season, America. Prepare yourself now.