Wichita State: Those guys are lottery picks
Everyone who follows college basketball knows the caliber of player that Kentucky recruits these days.
The Wildcats’ roster is made up of McDonald’s All-Americans, Jordan Brand Classic alums. The cream of the crop from the top of the recruiting rankings.
What about Wichita State, winners of 16 straight games and UK’s opponent in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon? The common recruiting theme for the Shockers’ players: a lot of rankings in the triple digits, if they have rankings at all.
Wichita State — in the tournament for the sixth straight season under Coach Gregg Marshall — has built its success on players who weren’t well known coming out of high school. This bunch is no different.
Here’s a look at how the UK and Wichita State teams stack up from a recruiting standpoint (all numerical rankings are from the 247Sports composite):
By the numbers
Kentucky’s roster includes five McDonald’s All-Americans (Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Malik Monk), and a sixth player — freshman Wenyen Gabriel — that would have been a McDonald’s Game selection if he had been eligible for the showcase last year. (Gabriel was ineligible as a fifth-year high school player).
The Cats have another five-star recruit — freshman Hamidou Diallo — sitting on the bench as a midseason enrollee. Isaac Humphries was the No. 50 recruit in the 2015 class. Tai Wynyard was a Top 100 recruit in that group. Mychal Mulder was the No. 14 junior-college player in 2015. In-staters Derek Willis (No. 129 overall) and Dominique Hawkins (No. 194 overall) were both ranked in the 2013 class.
Wichita State has only one player who was considered a Top 100 prospect coming out of high school — Conner Frankamp — and he originally signed with Kansas. Of the seven other Shockers with 247Sports composite rankings as high schoolers, only two -- Markis McDuffie and Landry Shamet — were considered Top 250 recruits nationally.
McDuffie — the team’s leading scorer and rebounder — was the No. 130 prospect in the class of 2015. That means that Adebayo, Briscoe, Diallo, Fox, Gabriel, Humphries, Killeya-Jones, Monk, Willis and Wynyard — a total of 10 UK players — were listed ahead of McDuffie in the recruiting rankings for their respective classes. One of those players (Diallo) isn’t playing as he gets acclimated to college basketball. Another (Killeya-Jones) hasn’t seen the floor in the last 16 games. And another — Wynyard, who was ranked 39 spots ahead of McDuffie in the 2015 class — hasn’t played in UK’s last 11 games.
The Top 100 recruit
Frankamp — the Shockers’ lone Top 100 recruit out of high school — signed with Kansas as the No. 43 overall prospect nationally in the class of 2013. He played in 27 games as a freshman — averaging 2.5 points in 8.3 minutes per game — and then transferred to Wichita State early in his sophomore year, enrolling in classes at WSU at the semester break.
Frankamp sat out the first seven games last season and was eligible to play in the spring semester, when he averaged 6.1 points in 19.2 minutes per game off the bench. He has started 24 of 35 games this season, averaging 9.0 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from three-point range.
The No. 12 shooting guard in the 2013 class, Frankamp attended Wichita North High School and ended his career with 2,275 points, breaking Perry Ellis’ scoring record in the Wichita City League. He was the leading scorer on the gold-medal-winning Team USA U17 squad in 2012. That team also featured Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Dakari Johnson and Joel Berry.
The best of the rest
McDuffie was the No. 130 overall recruit in the 2015 class, and Shamet — the team’s second-leading scorer — was the No. 174 overall prospect in that group. Every other Shocker was ranked outside the Top 250 in his respective class. C.J. Keyser was No. 254 in 2016, Shaquille Morris was No. 316 in 2013, Eric Hamilton was No. 322 in 2015, Rashard Kelly was No. 339 in 2014 and Rauno Nurger was No. 348 in 2014.
Junior forward Zach Brown has started 29 games this season, but he didn’t have a 247Sports ranking out of high school. Freshman guard Austin Reaves, who plays 11.9 minutes per game, also had no 247Sports ranking.
Key contributors Darral Willis Jr. (No. 11 junior-college player nationally in 2016) and Daishon Smith (the No. 29 junior-college player that year) both came to the Shockers from the juco ranks.
The Sunrise connection
Five Wichita State players — Brown, Hamilton, Keyser, Nurger and freshman walk-on Brett Barney — played at Sunrise Christian Academy, a highly regarded program nationally that is located less than five miles from WSU’s campus.
The Shockers’ connection to Sunrise Christian — other than proximity — is WSU assistant coach Kyle Lindsted, who was the head basketball coach and athletic director at Sunrise from 2000 to 2015, building the program into a national powerhouse during that time. This is Lindsted’s second season with the Shockers.
Among the players that Lindsted coached at Sunrise was Buddy Hield, who became a star at Oklahoma, played in the Final Four as a senior last season and ultimately became the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The only seniors on Wichita State’s roster this season are walk-ons Zach Bush and John Robert Simon, so the Shockers aren’t expecting a large recruiting class for 2017.
So far, WSU has just one signed recruit for next season, and he fits the mold of the program’s other under-the-radar prospects. That player is 6-foot combo guard Samajae Jones, a junior-college recruit with no ranking from 247Sports.
Meanwhile, UK Coach John Calipari has another No. 1-ranked national recruiting class and four more McDonald’s All-Americans coming in next season.