As KU center Cole Aldrich "struggled" by nearly averaging a double-double during the first 18 games of the season, everyone wanted to know why he wasn't playing well. Some started to question his decision to come back to Kansas instead of heading to the NBA. Two games later, they had their answer.
The junior averaged 15.5 points, 13.5 points and five blocks in two wins against Iowa St. and Missouri this past week. The shots in the paint that weren't blocked seemed to at least be altered by the seven-foot Jayhawk Giant. Sports shows across the nation talked how Aldrich is back in the discussion of Player of the Year, as he should be. Even before his monster games most coaches in the nation would have gladly taken his 10.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and three blocks per contest.
KU head coach Bill Self said Aldrich's mind is "freer" now that his grandmother lost a long battle with an illness and some of his nagging injuires have healed. Whatever the case, Aldrich does seem to be bringing some swagger back to a Jayhawk squad that left some on the court in Knoxville earlier this month.
That can only mean one thing: bad news for Kansas opponents.
If the "Minnesota Mountain" continues to put up numbers the way he has the past two games, KU may not lose again this year. That is a lot to ask of one player, but fortunately for him, he plays on the deepest team in the country. If he does have an off game (and KU fans will say he had 18 of them) there is pre-season all-American Sherron Collins to pick him up. Or his seven-foot counterpart Marcus Morris (the most improved player in the nation according to Yahoo! Sports' Jason king) will tell the big fella "it's all right," and record a double-double of his own. Sharp shooter Tyrel Reed, defensive specialist Brady Morningstar (who can shoot the rock in his own right) and freshman sensation Xavier Henry have all had big games themselves this season.
Point is, Cole Aldrich is far from a one-man show in Lawrence. He has more help than a McDonald's. However, if there is one guy on the team who can alter a game more than anyone, it's Aldrich -- just ask Tyler Hansbrough. And if there was one guy who was worried the least about his performance to start the season, it was again, Aldrich. After the Missouri game Self praised the junior for never letting his emotions get to him no matter how high or low he was or no matter what was said about him in the media. That says a lot of a young man who wasn't playing as well as he could have been while dealing with an emotional family issue.
More than likely he will have a down game before the season is over, but you may not be able to tell by looking at him. The only thing more consistent than the gap in Aldrich's smile, is the fact he always plays hard, and he plays to win.
Opponents can only hope he goes back to his "struggling" ways.