Of all the first year player drafts that happen in sports, the NBA is where I believe the most immediate impact is felt. Of course there is a learning curve and it takes time to see the true development, but there are many who have had an immediate impact on the game the second they stepped onto both the podium and the court. We all remember the stars of the NBA and when they were selected on Draft Day, and we also remember those who didn’t quite turn out to be who we thought they were. A few colleges receive a credibility pass for having stellar programs along with players who are selected in the NBA lottery, but has anyone truly examined the level of success as a whole after the players shake the hand of the commissioner and establish themselves in their new team colors?
The Kansas Jayhawks are a basketball powerhouse. Some would even go as far to say a basketball factory. From the originator, Dr. James Naismith, Dr. Phog Allen who is known as the “Father of Basketball Coaching”, to Larry Brown, Roy Williams and now Bill Self, the Kansas coaching tree is arguably the greatest ever. A season ago, Self brought in two of the country’s most highly sought after recruits, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. By most accounts, Wiggins was considered perhaps the highest rated prospect since the likes of LeBron James. There was even talk that his stock was even beyond that of LBJ and sneaker companies were lining up to offer record deals upwards of nearly $200 million. But then something happened…these guys had to actually play basketball.
Andrew Wiggins had a “good” freshman campaign at Kansas. Sure he was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and a consensus second-team All-American pick, but the prospect who was considered to be can’t miss, and prior to the 2014 season would have easily gone No. 1, now has a few question marks. Why? Before we dive into it, let’s provide another example for the basis of this article.
According to top recruiting site Rivals.com, Joel Embiid was the No. 25 rated player coming out of high school. When entering Kansas, he was considered the third best recruit behind Wiggins and off-guard Wayne Selden, who national ranked 12th. Embiid put his shot blocking ability and versatility on display throughout the year and wowed NBA scouts to the point that he was considered not only the best of the group, but the best prospect in the entire country. Comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon began to surface and all the hype suddenly shifted from Wiggins to Embiid.
As the NBA Draft began to approach, the consensus amongst most scouts was that Embiid, who was recovering from an injury which took place towards the end of the college season, was still going to be the No. 1 overall pick if cleared by team doctors. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike again as Embiid would end up fracturing his foot, an injury that is projected to keep him out of basketball for at least 6-8 months if not longer.
With all of the question marks and uncertainly about Wiggins and Embiid, it leads to a bigger issue that has never seemed to be highlighted. Are Kansas players not who we think they are? No seriously. Let’s examine the history, shall we:
Life AW (After Wilt), has produced some amazing seasons in Allen Fieldhouse. Three NCAA Championships, countless conference titles, and 27 first round draft choices have come by way of Lawrence, Kansas. But of those 27 picks, only five have held a career scoring average of more than 10 points (one of which is Markieff Morris who is right at 10 ppg in just two seasons). In fact, of the 62 players who have ever been drafted out of Kansas, only 13 have averaged double figures. Excluding ten time NBA All-Star Paul Pierce and two time NBA All-Star Danning Manning, think about the other Jayhawk names for a minute: Drew Gooden, Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Thomas Robinson, and Ben McLemore. All lottery picks, but none of which is remotely close to All-Star status. The jury is still out on some, but with history starring them in the face, the verdict may already be in place. Listed below are the first round draft choices selected after the Chamberlain era.
So what about Wiggins and Embiid? These two most certainly won’t fall into this category right? Outside of Paul Pierce, the Jaykawks seem to be using smoke and mirrors when it comes to projecting talent at the next level. In 2010, Josh Selby was rated as the nation’s No. 1 recruit. After some eligibility issues surfaced, Selby was suspended for the first nine games of his college career. He did, however, get his opportunity and would go on to become the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He would follow up his season by entering the 2011 NBA Draft. Today Josh Selby plays for Cedevita Zagreb in Croatia. Check.
While we are unsure as to what the future of Wiggins and Embiid will be, we can only hope that it will somehow be the exception to what the past has dictated. If not, it may be time to visit Bill Self and see what is really going on in Lawrence.