Transfer recruiting gives KU staff ‘mulligan’ on certain players it pursued out of high school

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas head coach Bill Self addresses the crowd during a scrimmage at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena in Lawrence on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

Given that he was speaking at a golf event, Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self made an apt choice of words on June 3 on the subject of recruiting transfers he hadn’t signed out of high school.

“Sometimes it’s nice to get a second chance, or to get a mulligan, so to speak,” he said, “not only from our standpoint but from the kids’ standpoint too.”

KU is getting a mulligan, in this case, on a pair of transfers in particular: AJ Storr, who went to St. John’s out of high school and was most recently at Wisconsin, and Rylan Griffen, who joins the Jayhawks from Alabama. Both, who were at one point high school targets of Self’s, bring extensive starting experience from high-caliber basketball programs and will figure prominently into KU’s 2024-25 plans.

“I think in both those (transferring) situations they both wanted to be at Kansas,” Self said. “So they wouldn’t have wanted to be at Kansas if we hadn’t recruited them out of high school. So I do think that’s important. I’ve sat down with both their families and talked about it back when they were in high school, and it didn’t work out for whatever reason.”

Back when he was about to enter his postgraduate season at IMG Academy, and shortly after he decommitted from Illinois, Storr received a scholarship offer from KU in May 2021. He took an official visit to KU a month later but ended up committing to St. John’s at the end of the summer.

Storr said that this time around, the KU coaches told him, “Just come here ready to win,” as part of their pitch.

In the same high school recruiting cycle as Storr, Griffen was reportedly set to visit campus for the 2021 edition of Late Night in the Phog but canceled the plan and committed to Alabama that November.

KU already had two McDonald’s All-American wings coming in for its 2022 class in Gradey Dick and MJ Rice.

Even Noah Shelby, who is expected to join the Jayhawks as a walk-on this year and then redshirt, had an offer from Self’s staff in the fall of his junior season before going to Vanderbilt and then Rice.

KU is getting a different sort of do-over on Zeke Mayo, who was right in the Jayhawks’ backyard and grew up a KU fan, but received offers primarily from mid-major schools out of Lawrence High and ended up developing into a star at South Dakota State. He averaged 18.8 points per game as a junior and was the Summit League player of the year.

Some of his LHS classmates who ended up going to KU themselves, including KU football players Devin Neal and Cole Mondi, played a role in swaying him to come home, even if “they all understood it was my decision at the end of the day,” as Mayo says.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere around campus, just walking around, seeing familiar faces,” he added.

KU’s roster currently consists of five players who arrived as transfers (Hunter Dickinson, Griffen, Mayo, Shakeel Moore and Storr) and seven who came in as freshmen (KJ Adams, Flory Bidunga, Zach Clemence, Dajuan Harris Jr., the injured Elmarko Jackson, Jamari McDowell and Rakease Passmore).

photo by: AP Photo/James Crisp

Alabama’s Rylan Griffen (3) looks to shoot between Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard, left, and Justin Edwards (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Lexington, Ky.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas transfer Rylan Griffen drives to the basket during a scrimmage at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena in Lawrence on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.


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