The NBA playoffs are now entering the conference finals stage, and Kansas basketball fans have been forced to either tune into the association or dive into baseball season. While many KU fans have little to no interest in the NBA, several former Jayhawks have been a big part of this year's NBA playoffs and have made a name for themselves on basketball's biggest professional stage
While the NBA playoffs may interest Kansas fans because it is an opportunity to see players like Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers compete for an NBA title, it also could serve as an important recruiting tool for Bill Self and his staff. How much it actually does help, though, is open to debate.
When it comes to recruiting, few coaches can hold a candle to Bill Self and his staff. Self landed several future NBA players at Illinois, and wasted no time in putting together monster classes the moment he set foot in Lawrence. Self's first two classes, a mixture of solid role players and future stars, would eventually gel into the 2008 national championship team, and he has continued to recruit at a top level since winning it all.
Despite all of the successes, Self's Kansas players have enjoyed at the college level, few have yet to make much of an impact in the NBA. Chalmers and Brandon Rush were crucial pieces to Self's championship team, yet neither has been much more than a role player in the NBA. Darrell Arthur, another player who shined for Self during KU's title run, has had an average start to his NBA career, while Julian Wright has been a bit of a bust. So while several of these players have found themselves deep in the playoffs, many have gotten there as role players playing on teams stocked full of stars who played their college ball elsewhere.
While none of Self's KU players have become NBA superstars, it is important to note that many of his players developed into NBA draft picks due to immense improvement while at Kansas. Darnell Jackson went from a little used backup in the post to an important member of KU's title team, and the improvement shown by Marcus and Markieff Morris during their three years in Lawrence is remarkable. Jackson was good enough to get drafted in the second round and make an NBA roster, while the Morris twins are projected to be top 20 picks in the upcoming draft. Self may not have coached any future NBA All-Stars at KU, but he and his staff have a record of developing players who have gone from struggling college players to future draft picks.
While history, tradition, fan support and school location are all important to recruits, most top high school players have dreams of one day playing in the NBA. Self's players have had mixed results in the league, but he and his staff's track record for developing guys who weren't McDonald's All-Americans into draft picks could be a useful tool. KU is extremely thin in the post at the moment, and Self will have several open scholarships to work with during next year's recruiting season. When trying to persuade top-level bigs to join him at Kansas, Self can simply point to the development of Darnell Jackson or Marcus Morris as to why a player should choose to become a Jayhawk.