Cliff Alexander had the hopes of Illinois fans raised to the ceiling, but with one move the top high school basketball recruit turned their joy into anger.
The senior at Curie Metropolitan High School had called a news conference on Friday to announce which college he would be attending. Sitting at a podium filled with microphones, Alexander lined up four team hats beforehand so he could unveil his choice.
As he began to announce his choice, Cliff Alexander picked up Illinois hat, but quickly put it down and picked up the hat for the University of Kansas.
It may have looked like a mistake at first, that maybe Cliff picked up the wrong hat in a moment of nervousness (he did have tears in his eyes when he sat down at the podium, after all). He later admitted to doing it on purpose, but claims the Illini fake out wasn’t his idea.
“It was something my teammates thought I should do,” he said later. “So I just did.”
Cliff Alexander said he had a difficult time choosing where he would be attending college.
“I’ve been confused for the last week,” he said. “One minute I want to go here, one minute I want to go there. I came to the conclusion last night I wanted to go to the University of Kansas.”
The fake out didn’t go over well with Illinois fans. There was a strong reaction against Cliff Alexander on Facebook, with Illinois fans calling him a traitor for leaving his home-state team in favor of the Jayhawks. Videos also showed Illinois fans as they watched Alexander briefly pick their school, only to crush their hearts.
It was actually a former Illinois coach who helped bring top recruit Cliff Alexander to Kansas. Jerrance Howard, a former Illini coach, was heavily involved in Cliff’s recruiting and helped seal the deal.
“He played a big role,” Alexander said. “As soon as he stepped foot on campus at Kansas, we were talking. We have a great relationship. He was one of the guys who offered when he was at Illinois.”
Whatever his choice, it’s likely that Cliff Alexander won’t be in college long. Experts believe he’ll be able to make the jump to the NBA within a year or two.