Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Woodling: Recruits crucial for KU

March 21, 2006

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Virginia. But is there really a Virginia Tech?

Michael Vick played football for Virginia Tech and so did, er, um, uh : well, let's face it. Virginia Tech is a school that might as well be on the moon as far as Kansas University sports fans are concerned.

The Jayhawks and the Hokies never have met in football. Moreover, the two schools never have faced each other in men's or women's basketball.

Virginia Tech never really has been on the KU radar.

And yet a headline about Virginia Tech caught my eye the other morning. Playing in an NCAA Tournament game, Tech's women's basketball team blasted Missouri by 31 points.

Anytime any Missouri team takes a flogging, KU fans take note, but that's not what caught me eye. It was the story's second paragraph.

"The Hokies' four senior starters - who have been to the NCAA Tournament every year - played with poise and ran a crisp offense : ," the paragraph began.

OK, you're asking, where am I leading you?

Back to Kansas. Those four senior starters were recruited by current KU coach Bonnie Henrickson.

"I follow them, certainly," Henrickson said Monday after the Jayhawks' season ended in a 78-76 loss to Mississippi. "Two of them worked our camp last summer. A couple of them called me after we lost last night. They're great kids."

Now you know more about what Henrickson left when she opted to take over KU's stuck-in-the-mud program two years ago. She left two future NCAA Tournament teams for KU teams that pretty much treaded water for the last two years with back-to-back 5-11 Big 12 Conference records.

Kansas did slip into the WNIT this year, but that was only because the Jayhawks feasted on a weak nonconference schedule and because the WNIT expanded its field.

During the last two years, Henrickson failed to recruit an impact player. Her first year was a wipeout, an inevitability of transition. This year, however, she thought she had a difference-maker in Shaquina Mosley, the reigning national junior-college player of the year.

Mosley was a bust, although the 5-foot-7 guard showed signs late in the season that she finally had grasped the concept of five-on-five basketball.

In her defense, Mosley was like a fish out of water. Her athleticism stuck out like a rabbit in a rock pile. Mosley isn't a halfcourt player, and she was forced to play a halfcourt game.

Not that Henrickson didn't have good basketball players this season or last. She just didn't have athletic basketball players. The KU coach had players who could score in the halfcourt, but players who lacked the speed and quickness to make anything happen on the other end.

Now Henrickson has a huge class coming in. She has recruited seven freshmen, and it's not inconceivable that she, like Bill Self this year, will start three or perhaps even four first-year players next year.

Unlike Self's recruits, however, none of Henrickson's incoming players is a McDonald's All-American. Regardless, they will be known as her signature class : hopefully, her first signature class.

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