Kansas Basketball head coach Bill Self made the most of his opportunity to coach the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team. He guided the team to a 6-0 record and a gold medal, and he was able to make an impression on several undecided players.
Self and the coaching staff had to make several difficult cuts during Team USA’s Training Camp. A few high-ranking players in the 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes were cut, and some lower-ranked players made the team. It was clear that the main goal of Self and the selection committee was to have a team that played as a cohesive unit. They wanted twelve players who were willing to make the extra pass, play defense, and dive for loose balls. The committee succeeded in a big way, and the team jelled and accomplished all of its goals. All twelve players perfectly fit the aforementioned qualifications.
From Self’s perspective, the best result that occurred during the week was the fact that the team won all of its games and took home the gold medal. However, the second-best result was that the team had a lot of fun. Self and the coaching staff allowed all twelve players to play a relentless, unforgiving style of defense. Team USA pressed and trapped at almost every opportunity. This strategy allowed the Americans to create many live-ball turnovers, which resulted in countless fast break opportunities. The big men led almost as many fast breaks as the guards. Nothing is more fun for a big man than being able to steal the ball and go coast-to-coast for a dunk. No matter who led the fast breaks, it seemed that the Americans ended up with an open layup or an open three-point attempt.
Usually, having fun is not mentioned as one of the most important objectives for a coach to accomplish. However, the U18 FIBA Americas Tournament gifted Self with an opportunity to coach several players who he is currently recruiting. Self made the most of the opportunity and made sure that the players enjoyed their time wearing the red, white, and blue.
Self and the Jayhawks are in an intense recruiting battle with several other schools for Class of 2019 forward Matthew Hurt. Hurt, who is ranked as a top-five recruit in the class by most scouting services, played a starring role for the U18 team last week. He averaged 14.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and made 12 of his 20 three-point attempts. He made great decisions with the basketball and got to handle the ball on several fast breaks. Hurt has said that Self would use him as a guard at Kansas. Hurt, who stands at six-foot-nine, has guard skills and will be a matchup nightmare at the college level. He knows the role he would play in Self’s offense. It is up to Hurt to determine whether he believes he would thrive in that role. Based on what we saw last week, Hurt will thrive and have fun if he chooses to play for Self at Kansas. The Jayhawks have plenty of competition, but they made their best case for why Hurt should choose KU.
Self also made an impact on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Class of 2019), who started and played a lot of minutes in the tournament. Robinson-Earl was able to score in several different ways. He made tip-ins and put-backs off of missed shots, hit mid-range jumpers, and finished some pick-and-roll plays at the rim. Additionally, Robinson-Earl led the team in rebounding with 9.3 rebounds per game. His father, Lester Earl, played at Kansas in the late 1990’s. If he wants to stay close to home, he will probably commit to KU. If not, he will commit to one of the other schools that has offered him a scholarship.
Another big-time player in the 2019 class who is uncommitted is point guard Cole Anthony. Anthony, the top-ranked guard in the class, is a point guard who can do it all at both ends of the floor. The only problem he encountered in the U18 tournament was foul trouble. He impressed scouts when he took a charge in the final minute of a 70-point blowout. That play showcased his love for the game and willingness to play hard for all 40 minutes, regardless of the score.
Anthony has not hinted at which schools he is considering. All we know is that there is a nonzero chance that Anthony could choose to play for Kansas, since the Jayhawks have offered him a scholarship.
In addition to recruiting undecided players, Self was able to coach soon-to-be Kansas freshman Quentin Grimes. Grimes was named the Most Outstanding Player of the U18 Tournament. He averaged 14.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He began to take on more of a leadership role with the team after having a conversation with Self after the second day of the tournament. Grimes is on track to earn Self’s trust faster than any freshman ever has. He will certainly begin the season as a starter and could end up being the team’s leading scorer in the upcoming season.
All in all, Self had a great week coaching the U18 National Team in St. Catharines, Canada. He was able to give everyone plenty of playing time, and he allowed the players to play a fun, aggressive style of defense. Offensively, everyone shared the ball. Self made an impression on several players who he is currently recruiting, and he also strengthened his relationship with Grimes.