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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

Newcomer class guard-heavy

August 11, 2001

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Four guards and a big guy constitute Kansas University's incoming men's basketball recruiting class.

The big guy is 6-foot-8, 245-pound Wayne Simien of Leavenworth High who, if healthy, is expected to bring an inside presence to KU's lineup.

The little guys the point guards are Aaron Miles, 6-0 of Portland, Ore., and Jeff Hawkins, 5-11 of Kansas City.

Mid-sized guards Michael Lee, 6-2 of Portland and Keith Langford, 6-4 of Crowley, Texas, complete the class.

All but Hawkins are on basketball scholarship. Hawkins, who has an academic grant, will red-shirt this season, then receive an athletic scholarship the following four years.

Here's a look at KU's freshman basketball class.

Aaron Miles, 6-0, Portland (Ore.) Jefferson High: Miles averaged 20.4 points and 7.0 assists as a senior and won the Morgan Wooten Award as the country's top high school scholar-athlete.

Miles, who has been compared to ex-Jayhawk Academic All-American Jacque Vaughn, showed he had a sense of humor, playing a little prank on reporters and fans at a November press conference to announce his decision to attend KU.

"I have decided to hold off until the spring because I am not ready to make a decision," Miles said, drawing a gasp from 100 onlookers at Jefferson High's gym.

Seconds later, he removed his shirt, unveiling a KU basketball jersey with his name and the No. 11 on the back. Indeed, he'll wear that number here.

"Kansas is my choice," Miles said. "My parents and I prayed a lot about it. God led me to this choice. I believe Kansas is the best fit for me, plus I've got my boy coming with me," Miles added, referring to Lee, who beat Miles to the punch, committing to KU a couple weeks earlier.

"That was a factor," Miles said of joining Lee. Miles played quarterback and Lee tight end on Jefferson High's league-championship football team.

"We've been boys for a long time. We've been playing basketball since third grade and baseball since first grade. Everything we've been playing, we've been winning championships," Miles said.

Lee, of course, wasn't the only factor.

"I had to do what's best for me. Mr. (Roy) Williams is a great person. He showed a lot of character in staying at Kansas when he was offered the job at North Carolina. We went to Kansas' Late Night and the crowd showed a lot of support. The spirit is something I want to be around."

Williams believes Miles will be a standout point guard.

"He is a big-time athlete he can pass, shoot, defend, dribble. He's a magnificent prospect, the all-around point guard we were looking for," Williams said. "Aaron is very athletic, very gifted."

MIles' high school coach, Marshall Haskins, said his star pupil will be a standout college point guard.

"He is athletic. He dunks on people," Haskins said. "He really shoots it well. He can defend a 1 or 2. I look at him as a cross between Maurice Cheeks (former Philadelphia 76er) and Baron Davis (Charlotte). He is athletic enough to be like Baron. He tries to do fast and exciting stuff like Baron. But on the other hand, like Maurice Cheeks, he can lead your club. He hits some big shots."

Haskins thinks Lee and Miles will make a great college backcourt.

"I talked to coach Williams at one point. We talked about Carlos Hurt who is going to Louisville and Alan Anderson who is going to Michigan State. I said, 'If you put the two of them on the court together as a backcourt versus Aaron and Mike who'd you take?' He said no question it'd be Michael and Aaron."

Michael Lee, 6-2, Portland, Ore. Jefferson High: A tight end, Lee was one of the top football players in Oregon, but chose to cast his lot with college hoops.

"Football, baseball, basketball. .... I like to play them all," Lee said. "For some reason I like basketball a little more than the other sports."

His dad, John, is former head basketball coach at Portland Community College.

"My dad is my idol," Lee said. "He's the one who taught me how to shoot."

A three-point threat, Lee averaged 19.7 points a game last year.

"I like to get up on people and play defense," Lee said. "I will bring energy to the team."

Of his buddy, Miles, he said: "We're best friends. We've been best friends since we were 6 or 7. A lot of times I know exactly what he's going to do. When we play on opposing teams (in pick-up games) I know what he's thinking. Sometimes I'll steal the ball because I know where he's going to throw it. He is a great point guard."

Lee's AAU coach, Troy Berry said: "Michael is a great student, a wonderful kid and wonderful player. This is a kid that is athletic, smart, fluid with a pro body. He can play at Kansas."

Lee chose KU over Oregon, Nevada, Santa Clara and Cal-Santa Barbara.

"Fans, coaching staff, players, I liked it all," Lee said. "I'm honored coach Williams offered me a spot on the team. It's going to be great being a part of Kansas' program. I guess the part I like the most is the fans. They are unbelievable."

KU coach Williams classifies Lee as a very good shooter and defender.

"When we lost our original two targets at big guard Daniel Ewing (Duke) and Alan Anderson (Michigan State) I said to our staff, 'Tell me if somebody has a better total package than Michael does.' Nobody could come up with anybody."

Keith Langford, 6-4, North Crowley High, Crowley, Texas: Langford, who averaged 25.7 points and 8.6 boards last season, picked KU over Cincinnati and Oklahoma. Not to mention Mississippi, a school he verbally committed to in May of 2000, changing his mind after he realized he could attend a basketball powerhouse.

"The deciding factor," Langford said "is I wanted to stay close to home so my mom and the rest of my family could see me play and be part of my college career. It's an opportunity I couldn't pass up, to be part of KU's tradition. I feel it's the best place for me."

He committed to Mississippi last May, right before the start of summer camp season. After a productive summer, Langford de-committed to Ole Miss and KU, Oklahoma and Cincinnati stepped forward.

"Coach Williams called me after I decommitted," Langford said. "I was honored to hear from him. Kansas is a school I grew up watching. I am very excited. I mean, this is Kansas. Not only am I going there, but coach Williams thinks I can play and maybe even be put in place for a starting position."

A lefty, Langford patterns himself after Jalen Rose, formerly of Michigan and now with the Indiana Pacers.

"Actually, my strength is going to the bucket," Langford said. "I hit from the outside, too. Coach (Roy) Williams ... he is like he wants me to come in and play hard. There's no guarantee of starting or anything, but there's an opportunity for me to earn a spot. It's exactly what I wanted, an opportunity."

Of Langford, Williams said: "I would not get involved with his recruitment until he said he would not be involved with Ole Miss. He's a very good shooter. Coach (Neil) Dougherty saw him in September when he scored 46 and missed three shots. I saw him and he did not have a good game at all and still fell in love with him. He knows how to play the game."

Wayne Simien, 6-8, Leavenworth High: Simien, who averaged 19.3 points and 10 boards last season, committed to KU a long time ago late in his junior year of high school.

"It's a life-long dream. That is what I would call it," Simien said. "I've always wanted to go to KU. It feels good to be part of the family."

Simien has been a fixture at KU home games the past two seasons, sitting behind the KU bench on unofficial recruiting visits.

"It was his lifetime dream to play at Kansas. He's been going to coach Williams' camp since he was 8. I'm really happy for him," Leavenworth High coach Larry Hogan said. "He's been a joy to coach. He's just a great kid. He has a tremendous work ethic. He's willing to put in the time needed to be the best he can be."

Simien said he followed the Jayhawks as a youth but really became hooked, "when Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz played there. They were great players and KU always had such good teams under coach Williams.

"I've gotten to know some of the players. I decided to play for the best coach in the country and play with the best players. Leavenworth is so close to Lawrence ... I've been a KU fan a long time. Coming to coach Williams' camp (three times) and seeing so many games the last two years (seated behind KU's bench on unofficial visits), I realized how much fun it would be to play at KU."

Simien had surgery to repair a torn right shoulder ligament last spring, but it's expected to heal in time for Simien to participate.

"Wayne is a great youngster," Williams said. "At 6-8, 235, he's the kind of player who will be very good defensively and rebound. He can score on the offensive end, but doesn't have to do it to help the team win.

"He's a youngster I've known since seventh grade. He attended our basketball camp every year. He kept growing and getting bigger and better. He'll be able to do some things at this level."

Jeff Hawkins, 5-11, KC Sumner: Hawkins was a consensus all-state pick after averaging 19.6 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals for 19-7 Sumner.

He elected to walk on at KU despite receiving overtures from UCLA, Portland and others.

"I'm pretty confident I will be able to contribute at KU. I can't wait," Hawkins said.

As a red-shirt, he can practice, but not play in games.

"I think I need to get a little quicker. I'll work on my defense a lot more, watch a lot of tapes and everything. I want to be a defensive guy," Hawkins said, noting he figures to benefit from guarding incoming frosh point guard Miles at practice, plus junior Kirk Hinrich.

"I will try to work him real hard," he said of Miles. "Just because he's one of the top point guards, I won't lie down.

"I want to push him and him to push me. The good thing is he'll be there with me. Playing against one of the top point guards ... he can only get me better."

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