Archive for Wednesday, November 20, 2002

High standards

November 20, 2002


KU's basketball coach recruits for the best people as well as the best players.

With the collegiate basketball season now under way, and with high school seniors announcing their commitments to certain schools, much time is spent trying to assess which teams are likely to be playing for the national championship next March and which schools appear to have won the recruiting battle for high school stars.

Kansas basketball fans have become somewhat spoiled in recent years by the nation-leading win-loss record achieved during the 1990s under the leadership of coach Roy Williams. Recent preseason polls have placed the Kansas University team among the nation's best, and this year, most polls have the Jayhawks ranked as the country's No. 2 collegiate team.

As good as a coach may be, his or her success depends largely on the quality of players on the team. From time to time, there are exceptions, but most often, the teams that end up winning conference championships and national titles are those with a nucleus of talented seasoned players and a good group of skilled underclassmen.

Recruiting good high school players is a key to the success of any team, perhaps the most important factor. Unfortunately, there are college basketball coaches who, with the approval of athletic directors and chancellors at their schools, are prone to break the rules to attract talented high school players. Winning is what is most important in such instances, and many coaches are willing to do whatever is necessary to be a winner.

This is one of the things that sets KU's Roy Williams apart from many other coaches. He will not cheat or break rules to attract talented high school basketball players. There have been a number of big-time, well-known high school players Williams has spotted in his recruiting efforts but decided not to recruit after learning more about the young men, their academic records or perhaps some questionable benefits their coaches may suggest for themselves.

From time to time, some KU fans may read about a certain player who has committed to another school and wonder why Williams was unable to sign that player. They can't figure out how Williams "lost" the recruiting battle.

First, the competition is tough, extremely tough, and in some cases, other coaches and other schools have another set of rules or academic standards for athletes. Williams will not compromise.

KU is competing for the best players, the best students and the best people. KU and Williams are recruiting for the cream of the crop of high school players, those also being sought by schools such as Stanford, North Carolina and Duke, all of which have excellent academic reputations. Coaches at such schools play by the rules, but other coaches at other schools may not follow suit. KU's academic requirements and academic integrity are different from those at some other schools with which Williams competes.

The KU basketball program, the high standards of coach Williams and the winning record of the Jayhawks reflect great credit on the university. Williams has achieved these lofty records, playing by the rules. "Student athletes" at KU are expected to be just that, and he will not recruit players whose high school classroom work does not qualify them for a scholarship or whose behavior would not reflect credit on the university and its basketball program. He gambled on one player some years ago who did not conduct himself in the proper manner, and Williams said, "not again."

KU fans and all Kansans have every reason to be proud of the Jayhawks and their coach for past achievements and for the manner in which they will represent the university in the upcoming season, which started with a win Tuesday night against the Holy Cross Crusaders.

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