At this point, Bill Self's resume at Kansas sells itself. Eleven straight regular season titles in the Big 12. Eight first-round picks in the NBA draft since 2010. Five Elite Eights, two Final Fours and one national championship. Blue chip recruits come in, win games and leave with NBA millions. It makes Self's job as a recruiter pretty easy.
That's why it's hardly a surprise that one of the most wide open recruitments in the class of 2015 eventually ended with a commitment to the Jayhawks on Tuesday night. Cheick Diallo, the No. 7 player in the class according to ESPN, is headed to Lawrence, where he'll be the fifth top 10 national recruit Self has landed in the last three years.
Any program in the country would love to have Diallo. He looked like the fastest player at the court during the week leading up to the McDonald's All-American Game -- not bad for a 6'9, 220 pound power forward. It's a combination of length (7'3 wingspan), motor and speed that gives Diallo the chance to be a buzzsaw defender, the type that can blow up a pick and roll, close out on a shooter or recover quickly out of a double team.
He's a hard player to find a comparison for. Many scouts have been comping him Kenneth Faried recently due to his rebounding ability and non-stop hustle, but those who follow the NBA know Faried is considered a minus defender. Diallo has a chance to be a game-changer on that end. If he can develop a face-up game, Diallo may end up as something similar to Serge Ibaka. His offensive skill set is still raw at this point, but that's to be expected for someone who has only been playing the game about five years.
For now, Diallo's long-term development is a different subject for a different day. He should be an immediate contributor even within a deep and experienced Kansas team next season, and a potential starter next to senior Perry Ellis in the front court. While Ellis is a polished scorer without great speed or leaping ability, Diallo is the thoroughbred athlete who should excel defensively and on the glass. To put it another way, Diallo covers up for Ellis' weaknesses and Ellis covers up for Diallo's. Diallo will be a bit undersized as a college center, but Kansas has other options in the front court if it isn't working out.
Make no mistake, playing time within the Kansas front court will be competitive, and Diallo won't be handed anything. Jamari Traylor will be a senior, Landen Lucas will be a junior and fellow freshman Carlton Bragg also comes into school as a McDonald's All-American. Last season, Cliff Alexander entered Lawrence as a prospect even more highly-touted than Diallo, and he fell out of favor with the coaching staff quickly and never recovered.
That's the other thing to watch with Diallo and Bragg next season: while Self is a master at getting players to the NBA, he is also developing a bit of an underwhelming history with blue chip recruits. Josh Selby entered college as a top five recruit in 2010 but only played 20 minutes per game once he got on the court following a nine-game suspension from the NCAA. Wings Xavier Henry and Kelly Oubre were good, but not great. Alexander's tenure was basically a disaster even though he was very productive when Self actually played him.
You can already sense something similar developing this year with so many veterans in the front court, though it's Bragg and not Diallo who is likely to be the odd man out. Self consistently criticized Alexander's motor last season and cited it for his lack of playing time, which shouldn't be an issue at all with Diallo. If he lives up to the reputation he formed in high school, no one will play harder.
Suddenly, there might not be a team in the country as deep, talented and experienced as Kansas. It's a team that can put size, shooting, defense and athleticism on the floor, and has other options on the bench should it ever start to falter. The lineup should look like this:
PG: Frank Mason, III, Jr.
SG. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, So.
SF: Wayne Selden, Jr.
PF: Perry Ellis, Sr.
C: Cheick Diallo, Fr.
The bench includes sophomore guard Devonte Graham, shooter Brannen Greene (who could easily start in place of Mykhailiuk), and the trio of Traylor, Bragg and Lucas in the front court. Try to find another roster as deep, talented and experienced as that one and you'll be looking for a long time.
It's all a testament to the work Self puts in and his refusal to make one player bigger than the program. Self and assistant Jerrance Howard were in the front row at adidas camp this past weekend watching class of 2016 stud Dennis Smith, and they're supposedly in on the the potential No. 1 player in that class, wing Josh Jackson, too.
Which is to say: even if Alexander didn't get the experience everyone was hoping for in Lawrence, it doesn't seem like it's going to slow Self down on the recruiting trail at all. The facilities are great, the fan base is huge and dedicated and the results can't be argued with.
Bill Self is probably going to keep this thing going for a long time. Cheick Diallo is simply next in line.