COVID restrictions for college basketball recruiting are lifted. What it means for KU – Kansas City Star

Kansas coach Bill Self gets back to work with his returning and new players with his annual “Boot Camp,” which starts Monday in the Jayhawks’ practice facility.
Kansas coach Bill Self gets back to work with his returning and new players with his annual “Boot Camp,” which starts Monday in the Jayhawks’ practice facility. Rich Sugg

The NCAA’s 14-month-long dead period in men’s basketball recruiting has expired.

Starting Tuesday, college coaches, who have been tied to their campuses since mid-March 2020 in response to COVID-19 guidelines, may once again pack their suitcases and fly all around the country (on designated dates on the official recruiting calendar) in pursuit of high school and junior college players.

Those players, for the first time in such a long time, may actually visit the schools to assist them in selecting their future college homes.

This return to normalcy pleases 19th-year Kansas coach Bill Self.

“I’d say all coaches across America are excited to get back to a routine. A big part of that routine is recruiting,” Self said in a recent interview with The Star.

“June and July will be a busy month for everybody. It’s going to be good. All coaches I think would be excited to get back to recruiting in a way they’ve come to know it.”

Recruiting did not stop during the pandemic. It consisted of the usual phone calls and texts between coaches and prospects with video conferencing and virtual tours replacing in-person campus visits.

“I miss the opportunity for families and kids to come see our campus,” Self said. “I do like doing Zoom calls. Spending time with a family you can get a lot done. Our social media people have done an unbelievable job in getting stuff out to recruits and families,” he added. “I think as long as it’s a level playing field, if you work at it you still can get kids.”

KU’s coaches this past year have landed eight scholarship players in the recruiting Class of 2021 — four college transfers (Jalen Coleman-Lands, Cam Martin, Remy Martin and Joseph Yesufu) and four high school players (KJ Adams, Zach Clemence, Kyle Cuffe Jr., and Bobby Pettiford),

The commitments took place in spite of the recruiting restrictions.

“We’ve been doing a lot of it (evaluating) by video, which is fine. It’s not as good as being there, seeing the kids perform. We’re getting back to business as usual, recruiting kids, seeing kids live,” KU assistant coach Norm Roberts stated.

“I bet the last time I saw a kid play live was two years ago February. This year we didn’t go anywhere. Last time out was probably before we got in the (2020 Big 12) tournament (which wound up canceled), It’s been a while,” Roberts added.

This year, KU staff members Roberts, Kurtis Townsend and Jeremy Case will join Self on the road to evaluate prospects at AAU events June 18-20, June 25-27, July 8-11, July 16-18 and July 23-25, the dates allotted for off campus recruiting on the regular NCAA summer calendar.

Prospects can visit KU’s campus anytime the next two months except for dead period dates of July 6-7, July 12-15 and July 19-22.

Asked if the past year gave veteran coaches a chance to get over travel fatigue accumulated over the years, Roberts said: “I do think it was good from that standpoint of spending some quality time at home. At the same time I think everybody wants to get back to where we’re out working.”

Coaches realize recruiting is a vital part of the job.

“A lot of times people think players just come to Kansas, just come to Kentucky, just come to Duke, just come to Carolina,” Roberts said. “That is the most ridiculous statement of all time because the bottom line is you’ve got to work just as hard (as any school). Your pool of players (as a blueblood) might be smaller than what somebody else has.

“In trying to get players you are constantly competing against guys (competitors) that have some of the same facilities, coaching staffs, history, the opportunity to play nationwide. You have a lot of the same things. So you have to work your butt off to try to get these kids. You are not just going to sit home and get guys. That’s not going to happen.

“Sometimes you lose. You don’t get them. Sometimes you end up getting somebody else and they turn out to be better. It’s all part of it,” Roberts noted.

Players in the Class of 2021 — such as incoming freshman KJ Adams of Westlake High in Austin, Texas — had to consider colleges’ pros and cons without being able to actually visit during the pandemic.

“I had all these things figured out, because I was going to have all my visits my senior year, so I could really figure out what school I want, then the pandemic came. I said, ‘I don’t think anybody can do business for a good while.’ It was trusting God and my parents. I figured out Kansas was the best for me and jumped on it (offer),” Adams said after signing with KU in November.

“I had to do Zoom visits, (have) faith in God and listen to everybody telling me and giving me the path I should go. I loved the coaching staff and everything about Kansas. Coach Self is great. He’s a coach I never hear anything bad about. I knew that it was the right fit for me.”

Unlike Adams, players in the recruiting Class of 2022 will have the opportunity to venture out to visit KU and other schools.

The Jayhawks enter the summer with a batch of players on their recruiting radar. KU has already received one commitment — from Gradey Dick, a 6-7, 195-pound senior-to-be forward from Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas. He is ranked No. 37 in the Class of 2022 by Rivals.com.

It’s unknown how many scholarships will be available in the class. The Jayhawks currently have filled all 13 scholarships for 2021-22. Senior scholarship players on the roster are David McCormack, Ochai Agbaji, Remy Martin, Cam Martin, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Mitch Lightfoot, who is a Super Senior. Agbaji, Remy Martin and soph Jalen Wilson currently have their names entered in the 2021 NBA Draft. They have until July 7 to withdraw their names if they want to retain collegiate eligibility.

Here’s a list of high school seniors (Class of 2022) who have reported recruiting interest from KU, starting with four players who have set up campus visits.

Mark Mitchell, 6-8, 205, F, Bishop Miege: Mitchell, the No. 8-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2022 according to Rivals.com, will visit KU on June 16 unofficially and then again for the season-opening Late Night in the Phog. Mitchell — he averaged 18.0 points and 6.0 rebounds his junior year at Miege — also has Missouri, Kansas State, Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina and others on his list of prospective schools.

Nick Smith, 6-5, 175, PG, Sylvan Hills High School, Sherwood, Arkansas: Smith, ranked No. 39 by Rivals.com, will visit KU on June 20. He is considering KU, Baylor, Texas Tech, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgetown, Mississippi and others. He averaged 25.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in 2020-21.

Jayden Epps, 6-1, 170, PG, King’s Fork High School, Suffolk, Virginia: Epps, ranked No. 68 by Rivals.com, will visit KU on June 28-July 1. He recently decommitted from Providence. He has a list of KU, North Carolina, Georgetown, N.C. State, Illinois, UConn, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and others.

Zuby Ejiofor, 6-8, 220, PF, Garland (Texas) High School: Ejiofor, ranked No. 58 by Rivals.com, will visit KU on June 23. He also is considering Texas, TCU, Arkansas, Oklahoma and others.

Now players who have yet to set up visits to KU. …

Chris Livingston, 6-6, 190, G/F, Buchtel High School, Akron, Ohio: Livingston, ranked No. 4 nationally by Rivals.com, averaged 31.1 points, 15.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 4.7 steals and 4.0 blocks a game in 2020-21. He’s considering KU, North Carolina, Florida, LSU, Ohio State and others.

Keyonte George, 6-5, 190, SG, iSchool Entrepreneurial Academy, Lewisville, Texas: Rivals.com’s No. 5-ranked player has a top five of KU, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas. George averaged 23.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals a game his junior season.

Dariq Whitehead, 6-8, 205, F, Montverde (Florida) Academy: Whitehead, ranked No. 6 by Rivals.com, is considering KU, UCLA, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and many others. His older brother, Tahir Whitehead, is currently a linebacker for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

Shaedon Sharpe, 6-4, 180, SG, Dream City Christian High School, Glendale, Arizona: Sharpe, ranked No. 11 by Rivals.com, is considering KU, Kentucky, Duke, Oregon, USC, Alabama, Creighton, Xavier, Illinois and others. A native of Ontario, Canada, Sharpe attended Sunrise Christian Academy In Bel Aire, Kansas, during the 2019-20 school year.

Sadraque Nganga, 6-9, 205, PF, Compass Prep, Chandler, Arizona: Nganga, ranked No. 12 by Rivals.com, is originally from Angola. He is considering KU, Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona State, Illinois, Arizona, Auburn, Memphis, Oklahoma and Georgia.

Jazian Gortman, 6-1, 170, PG, Keenan High School, Columbia, S.C.: Ranked No. 13 by Rivals.com, Gortman is considering KU, Florida State, Duke, Alabama, Wake Forest, Miami, Texas, Illinois and others.

Dereck Lively, 6-11, 200, C, Westtown (Pennsylvania) School: Lively, ranked No. 14 by Rivals.com, lists KU, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan UCLA, Florida, Memphis, Ohio State, LSU and others. He’s originally from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Kijani Wright, 6-8, 220, PF, Windward High School, Los Angeles: Wright, ranked No. 17 by Rivals.com, lists KU, Texas, Stanford, Arkansas, Florida State, USC and Michigan State.

Jaden Bradley, 6-3, 170, PG, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida: Bradley, ranked No. 18 by Rivals.com, lists KU, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan, Florida, Florida State and others.

Julian Phillips, 6-8, 175, F, Blythewood (South Carolina) High School: Phillips, ranked No. 21 by Rivals.com, is considering KU, Missouri, Wichita State, Florida, Clemson, Florida, USC, Boston College, South Carolina, Indiana and others.

AJ Casey, 6-8, 200, F, Whitney Young High School, Chicago: Ranked No. 22 by Rivals.com, Casey has a list of KU, Gonzaga, Indiana, Illinois, Louisville, Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State and others.

Arterio Morris, 6-4, 180, PG, Kimball High School, Dallas: Morris, ranked No. 25 by Rivals.com, is switching to iSchool Entrepreneurial Academy for his senior season of high school. He lists KU, Texas, Florida, Oregon and Georgia. As a junior, Morris averaged 23.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.2 blocks per game.

MJ Rice, 6-5, 200, F, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia: Rice, ranked No. 28 by Rivals.com, is being recruited by KU, Duke, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Pittsburgh, North Carolina State and others. He is planning on leaving Oak Hill for a yet-to-be-determined school.

Jalen Hood-Schifino, 6-5, 190, SG, Montverde (Florida) Academy: Hood-Schifino, ranked No. 32 by Rivals.com, decommitted from Pitt in July of 2020. He lists KU, Indiana, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Oregon, Pitt and others.

Kel’el Ware, 7-0, 215, C, North Little Rock (Arkansas) High School: Ware, ranked No. 33 by Rivals.com, is considering KU,Missouri, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Auburn, Oklahoma State, Florida, Texas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech and others. He averaged 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game as a junior.

Vince Iwuchukwu, 7-0, 220, C, La Lumiere School, La Porte, Indiana: Rivals.com’s No 29-rated player, is considering KU, Texas, USC, Purdue, Indiana, Florida State, Arizona State, Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arkansas and others.

AJ Storr, 6-6, 200, G/F, Compass Prep, Chandler, Arizona: Storr, ranked No. 32 by Rivals.com, is originally from Rockford, Illinois. He reopened his recruitment on May 13 after committing to Illinois on April 7. He’s considering KU, Arizona State, Iowa, South Carolina, Oklahoma, DePaul, Creighton and others. He also still has Illinois on his list of potential schools.

Bryce Griggs, 6-2, 180, PG, Hightower High School, Houston: Rivals.com’s No. 36-rated player has a final list of Kansas, Texas, Memphis, Houston, Baylor and LSU. He also is considering playing in the new “Overtime Elite” professional league.

Richard Isaacs, 6-2, 180, PG, Wasatch Academy, Mt. Pleasant, Utah: Isaacs, Rivals.com’s No, 38-rated player, has set up visits to Oklahoma State, Iowa, Arizona State, Arkansas and UNLV. KU is also on his list with Illinois, Creighton, Oregon, Stanford, Florida State and others.

Derrian Ford, 6-3, 190, PG/SG, Magnolia (Arkansas) High School: Ford, ranked No. 47 by Rivals.com, has a list of KU, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Baylor and others.

Aidan Shaw, 6-8, 190, F, Blue Valley High School, Stilwell, Kansas: Shaw, ranked No. 56 by Rivals.com, has KU, Missouri, Kansas State and Wichita State on his list as well as Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Purdue, Arkansas, Illinois, Creighton, Cal, Iowa, USC, TCU and others.

Yohan Traore, 6-11, 230, PF, Prolific Prep, Napa, California: Traore, ranked No. 64 by Rivals.com, is originally from France. He has a list of KU, Texas, Creighton, Gonzaga, Ohio State, TCU, Tennessee, UC-Santa Barbara, and others.

Isaac Traudt, 6-9, 200, PF, Grand Island (Nebraska) High School: Traudt, ranked No. 67 by Rivals.com, is considering KU, Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Iowa, Drake, Marquette, Stanford, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Colorado, Virginia and others.

Colin Smith, 6-8, 200, F, St. Mark’s High School, Dallas: Smith, ranked No. 69 by Rivals.com, has heard from KU, Michigan, Baylor, Arkansas, Illinois, Auburn and others.

Tarris Reed, 6-8, 220, PF, Chaminade High School, St. Louis: Reed, ranked No. 90 by Rivals.com, lists KU, Missouri, Michigan State, Michigan, Saint Louis, Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State and others.

Ernest Udeh, 6-10, 230, PF, Dr. Phillips High School, Orlando, Florida: Udeh, ranked No. 115 by Rivals.com, lists KU, Florida, Tennessee, Iowa, Miami, Seton Hall, Georgia, Stanford, Notre Dame, Mississippi, Western Kentucky, Temple and others.

Cameron Corhen, 6-9, 210, PF, Pope John Paul II High School, Plano, Texas: The unranked player has set up visits to Houston and Virginia Tech. He’s also considering KU, Illinois, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Texas A&M and others.

Mady Traore, 6-11, 195, C, Bishop Walsh High School, Cumberland, Maryland: The unranked player says he’s heard from coaches from KU, Oregon, Illinois and others.

Bobi Klintman, 6-8, 200, F, Sunrise Christian Academy, Bel Aire, Kansas: Klintman, who is unranked, has a list that includes KU, Texas, Maryland, Nebraska, Utah, Rutgers and Virginia. He’s originally from Sweden.

Braeden Moore, 6-8, 210, F, Christ Presbyterian Academy, Nashville, Tennessee: Moore, who is currently unranked, lists KU, Missouri, Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, TCU, SMU, West Virginia, Houston, Nebraska and others.

Jai Smith, 6-9, 235, PF, Word of God Christian Academy, Raleigh, North Carolina: Smith, unranked, lists KU, Baylor, Texas, Alabama, Houston, Georgetown, Michigan State, Memphis, Marquette, Indiana, Ohio State, Houston, Illinois, West Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Georgia, and others.

It should be noted there could be other players on KU’s list. KU coaches cannot comment on specific prospects in accordance with NCAA rules.

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Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.