Commentary: DePaul men’s basketball left searching for answers after Cliff Alexander chooses Kansas

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Cliff Alexander picked up the Illini hat, moving it towards his head before putting it down and picking Kansas. The move is for sure going to enrage University of Illinois fans whenever they think about Alexander going forward.

Hey, at least they were actually considered.

Alexander picked Kansas on Friday after months of waiting, and just like many other big-time prospects, DePaul missed out again. Yes, they were considered in his top four, but when asked, Alexander said that the Blue Demons finished fourth on his list.

Translation: DePaul was never in the final running.

The narrative of Alexander staying home and rescuing a program in need of a new face was fictional. If Alexander was staying home and becoming the face of a franchise, it wasn’t DePaul. It was Illinois.

Yet Alexander didn’t stay in-state. Instead, he wanted something that DePaul couldn’t even deliver the way the other three schools could.

“I thought (Kansas coach) Bill Self could develop me and get me where I want to be,” Alexander said. “I want to get to where I want to be fast and I didn’t have time to waste.”

“And that’s the NBA?” one reporter asked after.

Of course it’s the NBA.

As long as high school athletes have the plan to jump to the NBA after a year, which most big-time recruits do, DePaul’s chances of landing a prized recruit are slim.

It’s the same reason that Duke’s Jabari Parker didn’t pick DePaul, despite it being in his top ten. The same reasoning goes for Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and Evan Turner, all successful college players who DePaul strongly recruited.

DePaul does not only have a terrible track record of taking young players and turning them into NBA stars, it doesn’t have a track at all.

And they won’t land a big-time recruit until Oliver Purnell, or someone else, proves DePaul can win.

“Lack of success was,” Alexander said when asked if DePaul’s losing ways were factored in crossing them off. “I could see myself playing there, but I think I’d be happier (at Kansas).”

DePaul had enough appeal for Alexander to list them initially, but it wasn’t enough to accomplish his goals at the end of the day. Turning around a program’s culture is too big of a task for a player set on getting to the NBA within a year.

Sure, there might have been an appeal for Alexander to be the big-man on campus, but could that have been accomplished at DePaul? There was no hype for him on campus, besides a small student section chant at the Southern Mississippi game.

Compare that to Illinois, who had Alexander attend a football game and the whole stadium busted out a “We Want Cliff” chant. Both DePaul and Illinois needed Alexander as their savior, but it was Illinois that provided the allure.

For whatever allure Illinois had, Kansas drowned that out by taking over the United Center against Duke. It was everything that college basketball should be: a screaming crowd, the nation’s best players and the highest level of skill on display.

“(The United Center game) changed a lot,” Alexander said. “I didn’t know how the crowd was and it was very exciting. I enjoyed it.”

Alexander also mentioned that he didn’t want to stay home after living in Chicago for 17 years. Having just turned 18 years old, Alexander has his whole life ahead of him to create a new story for himself and develop for the NBA.

For DePaul, it’s the same old story. Another recruit skips town again.