Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Minnesota grunt’ identifies wild Aldrich

December 12, 2007


Finals week halts KU games

Finals week on the hill means no KU basketball games to look forward to until Saturday. Enlarge video

Born on Halloween in 1988, perhaps Cole Aldrich was destined to be a little different, a little wild.

The Kansas University freshman center from Bloomington, Minn., has been on campus only a few months, and though he has played just 86 minutes in nine games and averages a mere 3.6 points an outing, he's establishing himself as a player who enjoys himself and makes his presence known.

Fellow post player Matt Kleinmann said the young center from the Land of 10,000 Lakes wasn't too hard to find during practices and pickup games. And it's not because of his 6-foot-11, 235-pound frame. It's because he brings the noise.

"He's got this Minnesota grunt that, whenever he gets fouled, everybody hears it," Kleinmann said, adding that those who hear the distinct bellow know it belongs to Aldrich.

Fellow freshman and roommate Tyrel Reed said Aldrich really was a pretty normal guy, with a personality to match his stature.

"You always know he's there. He's 6-11, loud voice," Reed said of his big buddy. "He's loud and that just gives him a great personality. You always know when he's there and he's just fun to be around."

Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur can attest to that.

"I hang around Cole all the time. He's a goofy cat," Arthur said. "He talks about off-the-wall things. He's funny, though."

Senior forward Darnell Jackson said the opposition doesn't have much fun trying to defend the freshman's go-to post move.

"He has a crazy, crazy jump hook," Jackson said. "Because he's so long, you can barely get up there and block it."

While his teammates take Aldrich's skills seriously, with his boisterous basketball nature and personality, Arthur admitted it's hard to do sometimes.

"He's just a funny guy in general, just the way he talks and stuff," Arthur said, before joking on the big man for ... being a big man.

Arthur described Aldrich as a lanky guy with long arms who walks funny: "Like a regular, tall, goofy cat."

But the ribbing is good-natured and Arthur said he likes playing with Aldrich because he never knows what he'll do next.

At one preseason workout Aldrich was in a shooting competition, going back and forth taking shots. Near the end of the drill, Aldrich moved to the final spot at the top of the key and kept missing - knowing all along that if he didn't hit the shot he would have to run. As the final allotted seconds ticked off, Aldrich never hit the jumper he needed and when time expired he let out one of his wild, Minnesota screams.

"I just dived on the floor cracking up," Arthur recalled.

Aldrich doesn't mind being a little different - he claims in KU's media guide that he likes dill pickles on his pizza - but when he talks KU hoops he isn't concerned with himself or his playing time. While the 6-foot-11 Bloomington, Minn., native was a McDonald's All-American his senior year at Jefferson High, his arrival on Mt. Oread has not generated much hype.

"I feel a little under the radar, but that's fine with me," Aldrich said. "I'm just trying to make my time here the best that I can. If it's totally hyped up or just mellow, I'm fine with that."

The down-to-earth big man realizes he's playing for a team that returned every key member, save Julian Wright, from a 33-5 squad that went to the Elite Eight last season. And Aldrich praised his elder KU bigs - through nine games, Arthur, Jackson and Kaun have combined to score 33.4 of KU's 84.7 points per game - for what they bring to the Jayhawks' frontcourt.

"We all have our own special thing that we're really good at," Aldrich said. "Shady (Arthur) will step outside and shoot some jumpers, and Darnell will, too. Sasha (Kaun) and I are more big guys who like to get inside and dunk on those little guys."

At 6-foot-10, Kleinmann's doesn't fall into the "little" category, but he appreciates the presence Aldrich has brought to the floor, especially in practice.

"It's good for guys like Sasha and I and us taller guys to have another (physical player) contesting shots at the rim," Kleinmann said.

Named the Associated Press Minnesota Defensive Player of the Year as a prep his sophomore, junior and senior seasons - becoming the first player to receive the honor three straight years - Aldrich takes pride in his defense (he's averaging one block a game, while playing just 9.6 minutes) and said he always gets a cheap laugh out of swatting an opponent's shot.

"I really like playing defense. I love blocking shots," Aldrich, who averaged 3.8 blocks his senior season at Jefferson High, said. "If a big guy comes to dunk on me, I'm gonna try to stop him."

Other than providing another big body to the KU rotation while playing behind Arthur, Jackson and Kaun - "He's going to be a good player, but it's going to take some time," coach Bill Self said - Aldrich hasn't set too many personal goals for his freshman campaign.

"Whether it be starting or coming off the bench or cheering my hardest," he said, "I'm just going to do anything I can to contribute to us winning."

And when he says winning, Aldrich means the whole darn thing, as in a national championship - something that has eluded the Jayhawks since 1988.

"We're looking to bring it back, and this is one of our best years to do it. We've got a lot of talent," Aldrich said. "It's going to be a fun ride."

With this Minnesota wild man on board, that much is certain.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.