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Archive for Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Keegan: Self knows how to close deals

May 10, 2006

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Darrell Arthur said Tuesday that if he went ahead with a scheduled Monday afternoon news conference at a YMCA near his home, he would have announced he was going to Baylor University.

Unlike the past two basketball seasons, Kansas University's prolonged recruitment of Arthur didn't end too soon. One extra day proved the difference.

Arthur needed one more night to sleep on his decision to attend Baylor. When he changed his mind and chose Kansas, and then said why, it revealed why he could develop into one special player in what figures to be a short (two years?) stay in Lawrence.

He said he wanted to play for a coach known for pushing his players hard. Good sign.

If Arthur had joined Scott Drew's impressive resurrection of a Baylor basketball program left in ruins by Dave Bliss, it shouldn't have shocked anybody. Drew already has recruited talent nobody thought he had a shot at. Arthur would have been the best, but not the first, prep All-American to say yes to Drew.

Yet, if Drew is to college basketball recruiters at closing deals what a healthy Mike MacDougal is to baseball closers, then Bill Self is Mariano Rivera.

As a closer, Self is second to none.

You get the feeling that if Self's trade were selling automobiles instead of coaching basketball, he'd break a sales record every month. Not that he doesn't have a lot to sell at Kansas. If he didn't, he wouldn't have left one of the most prestigious college basketball programs in the Midwest to come here.

He can sell Allen Fieldhouse, the most exciting atmosphere in college basketball. He can sell tradition and the national TV exposure the Jayhawks regularly get.

He can't sell guaranteed playing time. He can't sell that he runs easy practices and lets mistakes slide. He can't sell a rivalry that can compare to the likes of Duke-North Carolina, at least not until Bob Huggins elevates the Kansas State program, which figures to be sooner than later the way recruiting is shaping up for the Wildcats.

The point is, whatever Self sells, and more significantly, the way Self sells it, results in the top basketball talent in the nation buying into him.

Brandon Rush, KU's leading scorer and rebounder last season, came out of a prep school, so he wasn't a McDonald's All-American. Even so, Self has recruited five McDonald's All-Americans in the past two seasons: Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs, Julian Wright, Sherron Collins and Arthur.

Self's salesmanship skills can't be given much credit for the Chalmers recruitment, considering his father was hired as director of basketball operations. Still, a haul of four other McDonald's All-Americans, plus Rush, in a two-year span is noteworthy.

Too much talent at his position and too little toughness in his belly led Downs to transfer. Arthur surely was reminded of that by recruiters from other schools. It didn't scare him. Another good sign.

Baylor-bound on Monday, Arthur said he saw himself in a KU uniform during a middle-of-the-night dream. He called Self on Tuesday morning and told him he had questions. Self had all the right answers, no doubt without hesitation. Closers are nothing if not great in the clutch.

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