Hype hurts top Jayhawk recruits

Let’s not allow this to happen again.

Let’s be reasonable this time around, please. It’s easy to get excited, but next year, let’s keep it realistic for the kid who could be ranked No. 1 in his class.

On Monday, Cliff Alexander’s Curie High School beat the No. 1 team in the nation, Monteverde Academy, on national television. Alexander — who will be playing for Kansas next season — scored 30 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and blocked five shots.

After Monday’s game against Baylor, Self indirectly mentioned Alexander, and his big game that aired on ESPNU.

“A kid has a good game and they’re comparing him to Amare (Stoudemire),” Self said. “It’s just a different world that these kids are entering school with the hype.”

Self went on to give an answer about Andrew Wiggins, even using the words “no-win” to describe the absurd expectations placed on KU’s 18-year-old freshman.

Next summer, it will be Alexander who will travel from Chicago to Lawrence, bringing the hype with him. Students will daydream of Alexander dunks, ESPN highlights and 25-point games. They’ll talk about how good he’ll be, even though Alexander will be just another college freshman having to adjust to a game with higher speed, intensity, physicality and complexity.

In August, seeing Wiggins on campus would invoke text messages to their friends about seeing their fellow classmate go to class. Next August, it will surely be the same for Alexander.

It’s natural to be excited, but let’s not overdo it. Expectations can weigh on a player, and while pressure is a normal symptom of playing for Kansas, it doesn’t have to be unfair.

The Jayhawks have had a few players enter school with weight of being a top-ranked high school player. Xavier Henry averaged 13.4 points a game for Kansas and didn’t quench all expectations for him. Josh Selby also underwhelmed fans in a somewhat notorious fashion, because he averaged 7.4 points as a Kansas freshman.

It looks like the Jayhawks will be gifted with another top-tier athlete and basketball player in 2014. Alexander has become known for his eye-popping numbers, and he did it again, on one of the biggest stages for high school basketball. As the numbers and national attention swells, the hype goes along with it.

CBSSports’ Jeff Borzello’s column Tuesday morning ran with a headline “Is Cliff Alexander No. 1. In 2014?”

Borzello wrote: “And coming out of this past weekend’s event, the biggest talking point was about Cliff Alexander. As in, is the Chicago big man the No. 1 player in the country?”

Now, Borzello didn’t pump Alexander up in any unfair fashion.

But if what Borzello alluded to becomes true, and Alexander is ranked as the No. 1 player in the country, let’s keep the expectations and hype in a realistic place. Alexander will have to grow, become stronger and adjust to the speed of the game in a very short period of time.

Let’s not piggyback off this year’s unfair situation for Wiggins. Not every top-ranked player is great or even good right away. They don’t always meet expectations immediately.

It takes time. So, please, let’s not let this happen again.

  • Updated Jan. 23, 2014 at 5:18 pm
  • Black Schustee