The biggest weakness of last season’s Kansas team was its season-long struggle to consistently protect the rim. Perry Ellis has never been known for his defense and probably never will be, but a frontcourt of he, Jamari Traylor, Cliff Alexander and Landen Lucas swatted only 12.3 percent of opponents’ shot attempts on the season, the team’s second-worst mark since 2005. Kansas’ results on the defensive glass were similarly uncharacteristic (and galling). The Jayhawks rebounded just 68.4 percent of opponents’ misses in 2015, their lowest rate in five years and a mark among the bottom half nationally (205th) for the first time in the Bill Self era. While Kansas didn’t really miss a beat offensively in winning an impressive 11th straight Big 12 title, the Jayhawks clearly weren’t the same team we had grown accustomed to on the other end. Thanks to Tuesday’s commitment from one of the nation’s top big man prep standouts, however, that deficiency could be addressed as soon as next season.
After an NCAA eligibility issue effectively ended Cliff Alexander’s college career, the Jayhawks needed an immediate influx of size and defense to shore up their frontcourt. Self got busy on the recruiting trail and ultimately beat out Kentucky and St. John’s for forward Cheick Diallo, a 6’9″, 225-pound athletic wonder. While he lacks offensive polish, Diallo’s shot-blocking prowess, rebounding ability and motor renews the hope that Kansas’ front line will return its typically intimidating defensive force.
The native Malian (he arrived in the United States in 2012) will arrive in Lawrence this summer with as many accolades as imaginable. He’s a consensus five-star recruit who played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, capturing MVP honors in the former as one of the few players who showed great energy in the showcase event. He also suited up for the World team in the Nike Hoop Summit earlier this month, where he went for 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 16 minutes of action.