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April 4, 2008

Kansas roster set for major changes

More Final Four Recruiting: Memphis | UCLA | North Carolina

Now the monkey is off of Bill Self's back, is it too early to talk about a return engagement to the Final Four?

Not for Kansas fans.

Especially after taking a deeper look at the 2008 recruiting class, one that has the makings of a top 10 class. The class features six players that include two highly-coveted junior college players, a local star, a battle-tested power forward from New Jersey and the latest version of talented twins to enter the college game.

The Jayhawks needed help in a hurry too.

Self and his staff wanted to add some more experience to next year's club because of the exit of Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, two other seniors and potentially Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur leaving early for the NBA, the roster needed some quick help.

Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer said the six-man class gives the team a new look and possesses similar moving parts that the current squad embodies.

"The depth and versatility really stands out with this Kansas class," Meyer said. "Every position is covered and you have two junior college transfers along with two prep school prospects. As a whole these guys should be ready to step on the court right away. It might take them some time to find their roles and develop chemistry, but it is a promising class."

Kansas found immediate help in the two junior college transfers - Mario Little and Tyrone Appleton.

Little, a former AAU teammate of current point guard Sherron Collins and former KU star Julian Wright, inked with the Jayhawks in the fall. The 6-foot-5 wing from Chicago was the leading scorer for Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, one of the top junior college programs in the nation, and seemed to get the most out of his two-year stint in the Sunshine State.

NEW-LOOK JAYHAWKS
Here is a look at the Kansas 2008 recruiting class:
PLAYERPOSHT/WTRANK
Marcus MorrisPF6-8/230 No. 13 PF, No. 37 overall
Travis RelefordSG6-5/190 No. 16 SG, No. 70 overall
Markieff MorrisPF6-10/220 No. 23 PF, No. 72 overall
Quintrell ThomasPF6-8/225 No. 147 overall
Mario LittleSF6-5/210 Three stars
Tyrone AppletonPG6-3/190 Three stars
Appleton, a Virginia Tech commitment out of high school, comes to KU after a MVP season at Midland (Texas) Junior College. The 6-foot-3 Indiana native is a battle-tested, defensive-minded combo guard that should transition smoothly with the Jayhawks next season.

"The Big 12 is a physical and rugged conference along with being an athletic conference. Both of the junior college transfers should be ready for the physically demanding season," Meyer says.

The four high school prospects aren't too shabby either.

Kansas has surefire star power in the Philadelphia duo of Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris. The latest college twin sensations originally committed to Memphis in the 2007 class but spent another year at prep because of their age. The extra year meant hitting the reset button on their commitment and picked Kansas over Villanova and St. John's.

The duo should make a significant impact, Meyer says.

"The Morris twins should provide immediate scoring and rebounding production for Kansas," Meyer said. "Marcus is the most polished of the two, but Markieff is not far behind. I expect the Kansas fans will spend some confusing moments trying to figure out which Morris twin is making a play for them."

Kansas has recruited coast-to-coast long before Self took over the program from Roy Williams, the man he will share a sideline with on Saturday. Both coaches have done a good job of keeping the top local talent home, too. Kansas City product Travis Releford is the latest blue-chipper from Middle America to ink with the Jayhawks.

Like Robinson, Releford has an understated game but should prove to be a valuable contributor to the team in the backcourt with his even-keeled demeanor and steady skill set.

Making the transition from the hustle and bustle of the Northeast, blue collar forward Quintrell Thomas shouldn't have a hard time earning respect from the locals. His hard work and get-your-hands-dirty motto served him well at St. Patrick, one of the top high school programs in the nation. Expect his career to take a similar route of Jackson, who steadily improved over four years and became one of the top contributors on the team.

With six new faces taking to the floor at the Allen Fieldhouse, the expectations are tempered. There is talent with this group, Meyer says, and like any other program, there is potential for big things.

Pay heed to all that enter, there is a new crew of Jayhawks looking to return to the Final Four. They could very well do it.

More Final Four Recruiting: Memphis | UCLA | North Carolina



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