Cole Aldrich has been a frequent visitor to Kansas University's campus the past three years.
"He's been to as many 'Late Nights in the Phog' as I have," KU coach Bill Self cracked Wednesday, happy to report the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Bloomington (Minn.) Jefferson High big man would be to many more as an official member of the Jayhawks.
Aldrich signed and shipped his national letter of intent to KU on Wednesday, the first day of the weeklong signing period.
Receipt of the letter eased the pain caused by forward James Anderson's decision to attend Oklahoma State instead of KU.
"Obviously, this is anticlimactic but a big get for Kansas," said Self, who has known Aldrich was KU bound since Halloween 2005, when Aldrich orally committed to KU over Minnesota and North Carolina.
"He committed a year ago, and we probably knew we had a great chance for him three years ago," Self noted. "I think it's so cool that somebody commits because they want to be at a place. They believe in a place because of the place, not just the opportunity from a personnel standpoint. He wants to be at Kansas.
"He also held true to his word and jumped on board when we asked him to. I know he's a team player and excited about this."
Self is enthused about adding an inside presence who averaged 16.5 points and 13 rebounds his junior year at Jefferson.
"He is a load," Self said. "He should be a great sealer, should be a defensive presence. He has touch and feel around the basket. He runs the floor better than just about anybody his size. I see him being a good scorer, a true 5-man with skill."
Self said Aldrich had a "great second half of the summer" after struggling late in his junior year of high school as well as the spring and early summer AAU season.
"People didn't think he looked that good at the Jayhawk Invitational (in May), a large part due to health (foot injury)," Self said. "Also part of it is he might have lost a little bit of the hunger he needed to have to keep improving on a regular basis."
Self reminded him, "Hey, you were ranked very, very high going into your junior year and rightfully so, and your ranking has dropped some because you haven't performed as well as you can. There's only one person who can change this if it means a lot to you, and it's you.'
"I think it was a great wake-up call for him. People there have said he really has worked very hard over the summer getting his body in shape."
Aldrich, who put pen to paper in a 7:15 a.m. ceremony at the high school Wednesday, said he's anxiously awaiting his first official Late Night in the Phog in 2007.
"I know what to expect now. I have time to work on my dance moves," Aldrich said. "I can't wait to get there and play. I've seen up close how great the fans are at KU. If you go to a game there you won't go anyplace else. There's not another arena where every game you play, even if it's against some unknown school, you'll draw 16,000."
¢ Anderson's choice is OSU: Anderson, a 6-6 forward from Junction City (Ark.) High, said "it came down to Kansas and Oklahoma State. Knowing that I was their No. 1 guy from the start was a big factor (for OSU). I thought it was my best fit."
Of Anderson's decision, Self said: "It's disappointing. I think he'll be a very good player, but not surprising. I thought all along he was a heavy Oklahoma State lean. They've been recruiting him since he's been young."
¢ What's next?: Self said KU still would like to sign another wing player in the early signing period, which concludes next Wednesday. No available seniors, with the exception of Burlington guard Tyrel Reed, have listed KU prominently. Reed has said he will likely wait until the spring to sign.
"We have a couple things maybe not probable but possible we'll look into and see where that leads," Self said, not naming names of prospects. "We'd like to sign a wing. That might not work out. We've obviously missed out on a couple (Anderson and Kyle Singler)."
One remaining wing is 6-7 Darrington Hobson from Decatur Christian School in Illinois. He also has Oklahoma State, Illinois, UNLV, Texas A&M;, Baylor and others on his list.
KU also reportedly is looking at Charley Coley, a 6-6 sophomore wing from Dodge City Community College. Coley is also considering Oklahoma State, UNLV, Texas A&M;, St. John's, Bradley, Oklahoma, Auburn and Florida State and Florida International.
¢ Chalmers' big toe ailing: Self believes Mario Chalmers, who has a severely sprained left big toe, will be able to play in Saturday's 7 p.m. regular season opener against Northern Arizona. "He could have played maybe last night," Self said of the win over outmanned Emporia State.
Self also said contrary to rumor he has not decided to red-shirt freshman guard Brady Morningstar at this time.