Kansas Jayhawks big men, both current and future, have dominated college basketball and recruiting headlines alike in the last seven days.
It began last week when ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford made a change atop his Big Board, with Joel Embiid dethroning fellow Jayhawks freshman Andrew Wiggins as his top prospect. Days later, Embiid was the subject of a Dana O’Neil column that documented both his rapid rise to prominence as well as the realization that he’s not yet sure he’s ready for the NBA.
By the end of the holiday weekend, attention had turned to Embiid’s successor, high school senior Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie), who thrust himself back into the conversation for the top spot in the ESPN 100 after a tremendous performance at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.
While Embiid and Alexander are bound both by their position and college choice, they’re otherwise vastly different prospects. In fact, Alexander is almost the antithesis of Embiid in some ways. So, with that, it was ironic that the growing case for Alexander’s spot atop the national recruit rankings coincided with the realization that Embiid, while far from the overnight star many sensationalize, is even better than we might have realized last year when he finished ranked No. 6 overall in the ESPN 100 in one of the strongest classes in recent memory.
The major difference between Embiid and Alexander lies in potential vs. production. There was no denying that Embiid had incredible talent last year, and the rapid rate at which his tools evolved was why he climbed the rankings more than any other prospect in the Class of 2013. At the time, however, Embiid lacked the sheer production of guys like Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle or even Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and likely wouldn’t have been capable of putting a team on his back to upset the top team in the country as Alexander just did at Hoophall.
One of the hardest parts about evaluating is not making too much of one performance, like Alexander’s on Monday, especially when your evaluations are based on long-term projections.
In Alexander’s case, he was far and away the most dominant prospect in the Hoophall field and turned in a performance that perhaps no player in the country could have duplicated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the top prospect.