LAWRENCE — Calling Bill Self pleased with the three new national letters of intent signed and on his desk may be an understatement.
Given the uncertainty facing his Kansas basketball program, a more accurate label may be relieved.
“To have three guys like this jump on board now is a pretty strong move on their part,” Self said Thursday, “but also more importantly it helps us out and certainly changes in my opinion what’s been a fairly negative narrative that’s been put out about us.”
The Jayhawks over the first two days of the early signing period received signed pledges from oral commits Bryce Thompson (6-foot-5 guard), Gethro Muscadin (6-10 forward) and Tyon Grant-Foster (6-7 guard), securing all three players in a Class of 2020 haul that currently sits No. 11 nationally at recruiting outlet 247Sports’ composite.
That team ranking may seem ho-hum for the tradition-rich Jayhawks, but considering the circumstances — the university is putting together its response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations delivered in September, a document that outlined five potential Level I violations — the early gets could very well comprise a comforting trio for KU fans.
It certainly seems that way for Self, who said the allegations and innuendo continue to cost KU targets on the recruiting trail.
“I do think considering everything that’s happened, I think it’s a terrific class,” said Self, whose No. 5-ranked Jayhawks (1-1) play host to Monmouth (1-2) at 7 p.m. Friday. “All three were our main targets. I mean, I don’t think we could’ve recruited better than what we did at the respective positions we were recruiting ...
“I don’t think we could’ve done a lot better than we did based on our situation. Really proud to have all three in the fold because they’re all three going to be terrific players.”
With names now on dotted lines, Self is free to discuss each incoming Jayhawk in detail.
Of Thompson, the five-star crown jewel of the class pegged No. 19 in 247Sports’ composite, the KU coach pointed to family ties that go back more than two decades — Self coached Thompson’s father, Rod, in the 1997-98 season, his first at the helm at Tulsa.
“We couldn’t have recruited a better ambassador-slash-player than Bryce Thompson for our program,” Self said. “He’s terrific. He’s a combo guard. He’ll be able to play some on the ball but certainly play off the ball. We’ve always had our most success with combo guards, it seems to me, playing multiple ones out there.
“I think he’s got a chance to be a special player. He’s got to get stronger obviously and improve in some areas, but he’s got a few things you can’t teach from an IQ standpoint.”
For Muscadin, a four-star player out of Louisville, Ky., the keyword appears to be upside.
“Gethro to me is one of those guys, kind of like a Markieff Morris — how good can he get?” Self said. “His ceiling is high. He can run. He can jump. He made two or three 3s the other night in his high school game and he plays in a highly competitive situation. He’s going to be really good. He’s an active shot blocker. He’s not ready yet, but he’s going to be really good.”
Finally there’s Grant-Foster, another four-star player currently in his sophomore season at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. A native of Kansas City, Kan., Grant-Foster’s stock has skyrocketed since joining the junior college ranks.
“Tyon, to me, if he was here now he’d be playing all the minutes now,” Self said. “I mean, he’s a really good player. To think he grew up just down the street and has just blown up like this over the last 12 months is pretty amazing. I don’t know if you guys have followed it, but what people are saying about him that follow that (junior college) game are raving about him, and deservedly so. He’s a 6-7, long, do-everything guard.”
Self said he thought it was “more important this year” to have a big early signing period haul than in the past simply because of the uncertainty in the future, be it good or bad — the process is expected to drag on until at least well after the conclusion of this current season, with potential appeals and litigation following whatever decision the NCAA renders.
KU has been upfront with each recruit about the road ahead, Self said.
“They’ve been reassured that we’re being honest with them. They haven’t been reassured of what the outcome is going to be, not at all. But yeah, we’ve been straight with a lot of people,” Self said. “Playing at Kansas is a pretty good deal for the vast majority of recruits out there, playing at a place of this tradition, this history, this interest level, this recent success. And yeah, we’re dealing with a situation that we don’t know what the outcome is, but those other things I just mentioned do not go away.
“That’s why I said over time the Kansas basketball program will always prevail, over time. There may be some situations in the short term that obviously could be considered a loss, but over time, I mean, it’s 120 years. You’re not going to totally set something back that’s been so successful for so long over something that over a span of that time is such a small span. Although it happens to be now, so that makes it huge to us, but the Kansas basketball program will always prevail. I think this recruiting class is kind of evidence of that.”