Two springs ago Bill Self received the bittersweet news that his star forward Brandon Rush had torn his ACL during predraft workouts and was returning to Lawrence for another year. Rush followed that up with a junior year that led to Kansas’ first national title in twenty years. This time around Self won’t even have to cry crocodile tears over a player’s injury because his two stars, point guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich, decided tonight that they will officially return to Kansas for another year. From the AP report:
“I do think we return the best guard in the country and the best big man in the country,” said Self. “I think if you’re going to start a team, why not have an anchor and why not have a guard?” Aldrich and Collins both said the decision to say was so easy that they didn’t even ask Self to explore a level of interest that NBA teams might have, a common practice of undergraduates who are thinking of jumping to the pros early. “I’ve known for a while,” said Aldrich, who had the sixth triple-double in NCAA tournament history. “It’s been a blast of a year and the fans are so fun here. I was watching highlights on my computer back in my room and I got goose bumps. I was like, ‘I’ve got to come back here.'”
Aldrich deserves particular praise here given that his father, a construction worker, has been jobless for a while due to the economic recession. He is a projected lottery pick and could have erased those financial worries immediately, yet his dad was the one urging him to return for another year. It’s rare that we actually see players pursue love of school and the precious present over guaranteed riches, so Aldrich just became our newest favorite player for 2009-10. Unlike last year’s Great White Hope, however, Aldrich’s dad isn’t already a millionaire surgeon – he’s just a regular guy from Minnesota who wants his son to be happy.
Getting those two stars back is enough cause for celebration, but Self is sitting on a loaded team with every key contributor returning. Tyshawn Taylor is a star in the making and the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff) are poised to break out next year. Then there’s the unthinkable, which is that Kansas is in the running for Xavier Henry, the nation’s #1 shooting guard, and Lance Stephenson, one of the top uncommitted wings. If KU manages to get even one of those two freshman studs, you’d have to believe that the Jayhawks become the odds-on favorite for the 2010 national title, regardless of what happens in Lexington or E. Lansing in the offseason.