KU coach Bill Self has some serious talent at his disposal at USA Basketball Camp
Kansas coach Bill Self has been up to his ears in basketball evaluations during the past couple of days, but not in search of players to add to the KU roster in the Class of 2019 and beyond.
Instead, Self has been busy evaluating the 33 players invited to try out for the U18 USA Basketball team this week in Colorado Springs, where Self is making his debut as a head coach with the USA Basketball organization.
Before taking the team to Canada to compete in the FIBA Americas basketball tournament in mid-June, Self’s first job will be to trim the roster down from 33 to a group of finalists and, eventually, to the 12-man team that will compete for a gold medal.
Finalists are expected to be announced Saturday and the final cut will come a day or two later.
Earlier this week, Self discussed the USA Basketball experience with the Journal-World and made it clear that his No. 1 focus was to keep the gold medal streak alive. But there’s no denying that the chance to be around some of the best players in the 2019 and 2020 high school recruiting classes will not hurt Self when it comes to putting together his roster at Kansas in the coming years.
With that in mind, here’s a quick glance at some of the more intriguing names among the 33-man group vying to make the 2018 U18 squad.
• Quentin Grimes, Class of 2018 — By far the most interesting name from a Kansas perspective, Grimes, who signed with KU last November and will be a freshman and likely starter on the 2018-19 KU team, will get an early opportunity to be coached by Self for a couple of weeks if he makes the team. Given the fact that he’s one of just eight players from the 2018 class at the tryout, Grimes, a McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic participant, has a shot to be one of the top players on the team and his chances of making the final 12 are good.
• Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Class of 2019 — One of KU’s top targets in the 2019 class, Robinson-Earl’s presence in Colorado Springs can only help Self’s chances of landing him when the son of former KU player Lester Earl makes his college decision. Beyond that, though, Robinson-Earl is one of the top talents in the 2019 class and has a good chance of making the final roster on his own merits.
• Zion Williamson, Class of 2018 — Williamson may have picked Duke over Kansas during the recruiting process a few months back, but that does not mean Self will not get a chance to coach him. Williamson suffered a minor injury during his time on the all-star circuit but he appears to be fully recovered from that and should be a factor in competing for a spot in the final 12.
• Matthew Hurt, Class of 2019 — Versatile forward who the Jayhawks have liked and been recruiting for a long time should get a chance to shine in front of Self and could get an opportunity to see another side of the KU coach than he already has seen. Think of it as an extended recruiting visit.
• Bryan Antoine, Class of 2019 — A 5-star shooting guard in the Top 20, Antoine, who plays for the Mario Chalmers-backed Team Rio, is a 6-4, 170-pound teammate of Scottie Lewis' at Ranney Prep School in Tinton Falls, N.J., who is drawing the same kind of interest as his close friend.
• Scottie Lewis, Class of 2019 — One of just a few shooting guards in the top of Rivals' rankings, Lewis is a 6-4, 170-pound 5-star scorer from Tinton Falls, N.J., who is ranked No. 11 overall and holds 18 offers from all of the country's powerhouse programs. Also plays for Team Rio.
• Jalen Lecque, Class of 2019 — Ranked No. 9 in the class, Lecque is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound 5-star point guard who has more than two dozen of the country's top basketball schools pursuing him. KU assistant Norm Roberts is listed as the lead recruiter for Lecque, who hails from Arden, N.C.
• Cole Anthony, Class of 2019 — Ranked as the No. 4 player in the 2019 class, this 6-foot-2, 180-pound 5-star point guard from New York City is drawing major interest from Georgetown, Oregon, Pitt, St. John's, Kansas, Wake Forest and UCLA.
For those of you who might be interested in just what goes on at these events, consider it a little like one of KU's practices before last year's summer trip to Italy.
There's work to be done and a lot to install and get on the same page about, but it's not as if it's mid-February and a Big 12 title is on the line. Things will get to that point, of course, as the U18 squad gears up to go for a fifth consecutive gold medal later this month. But right now, with Self and his coaching staff trying to wade through all of that talent, it's more about getting guys as many reps as possible to see how they might fit in to what Self and company want to do.
With that end goal in everyone's mind, the team, after kicking off practices last night, will practice twice a day for the next six days, with Self trimming the roster to a group of finalists and later a final 12 in the coming week and that group leaving for the FIBA Americas tournament in Canada on June 7.