Micah Downs has watched the newest addition to Kansas University's men's basketball team compete on the summer youth-basketball circuit and in pick-up games.
Downs's opinion is that Brandon Rush is a special player.
"He is an athlete. He can run, jump, shoot, (do) everything," Downs, a 6-foot-8 freshman, said of the 6-6 Rush, who Friday was deemed eligible to join the 2005-06 Jayhawk squad immediately. "I'm all for him coming here - definitely."
The Jayhawks, who lost Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles, Michael Lee, J.R. Giddens and Alex Galindo off last year's 23-7 Big 12 Conference co-championship team, are applauding the addition of Rush, rivals.com's No. 13-rated player nationally.
"I think he will help the team a lot," said 6-4 sophomore guard Rodrick Stewart, who will be eligible to play - and battle Rush, as well as other perimeter players, for minutes - at the conclusion of the first semester.
"He's a great player, a great athlete. He's a great person, too," Stewart added of Rush, who said his vertical leap was 38 inches.
Rush, who declared for the NBA Draft but withdrew after being told he wouldn't be a first-round pick, is known for his ability to create his own shot off the dribble while playing shooting guard and small forward.
"I played with him at a few USA Basketball-sponsored events. He's proven to me he can play hard and unselfish," said 6-8 KU freshman swingman Julian Wright. "People think if you are a slasher like he is and you can jump high that you don't pass the ball and don't get involved. He passes the ball and gets involved on both sides of the floor."
Rush joins an already stacked freshman class that includes McDonald's All-Americans Wright, Downs and Mario Chalmers.
It's possible all four freshmen could start, since Wright can play both inside and out, though KU coach Bill Self isn't even implying that will be the case.
"I would say anything is possible," Self said. "I would think that there would be some returning guys who will not make it easy on freshmen to walk into starting positions even though the potential is there for all those players to have a huge impact. I don't know if you could go as far as saying it'd be reality."
Self generally likes to play two big men with three perimeter players, but is not married to that philosophy.
"Julian can play pretty much anywhere on the floor. He can be considered a big guy," Self said. "Our freshmen are going to be good players. They don't need to be carrying the load, especially early on."
Self didn't mention any possible starting lineups. Big men who could have a say are returnees Christian Moody, Sasha Kaun, C.J. Giles and Darnell Jackson. Perimeter players Russell Robinson, Jeff Hawkins and Jeremy Case join Stewart and the freshmen as hopefuls.
"Fans should not put more expectations on him (Rush) than any other freshmen," Self said. "The reason his coming here has expectations is his last name is Rush. One Rush brother (JaRon) is one of the best high school players ever in Kansas City. Another is presently playing for the Charlotte Bobcats. Naturally, people try to associate him in the same category. Potentially, he could be.
"There will be expectations, but he is the type kid : he shies away from attention, at least so far. I don't think he'll feel those expectations as much as somebody who wants all the attention."
¢ Early out: Self in general on players coming to school one year, then leaving for NBA: "The climate of today's players in college is totally different than 10 years ago, when only third-year guys went. The way the structure is set up is for young players to go, as evidenced by Carmelo (Anthony), Marvin Williams, guys like that. If a player we recruit can play himself in that position, we'd recommend they strongly consider doing what is best for their family. If a player does not play themselves in that position, we recommend they do what is best for their family and stay in school."
¢ Rules: Rush has enrolled in 15 hours of classwork. He must pass six hours to be eligible for second semester. If he returns to school for another year, he needs to have passed 24 hours in the fall, spring and summer of 2006 semesters combined. Self said he was not worried about Rush falling behind after missing two weeks of class, noting academic advisers Scott Ward and Dino Bell had "done a very good job communicating with his instructors."
¢ More on Rush: Rush was the only one of 12 high school players who declared for the draft to attend the pre-draft camp in Chicago. He also had individual workouts for the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Seattle SuperSonics and Toronto Raptors. He withdrew his name from the draft one hour before the 5 p.m. deadline on June 21. Since he had not signed with an agent and paid for the trips to NBA cities - his brother Kareem is a wealthy NBA player with Charlotte's Bobcats - he was able to withdraw from the draft and maintain his college eligibility. He was told he'd be tapped anywhere from No. 23 to 40 overall.