CHICAGO — Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander wouldn't mind meeting Illinois, the program whose fans he broke the hearts of, on the basketball court.
"I would love to face Illinois, perhaps in the NCAA Tournament," Alexander told DNAinfo in an email late Sunday night.
Alexander, the former Curie star and McDonald's All-America selection, infamously picked up an orange Illinois hat, then placed it back before putting on a Kansas cap during a signing day news conference on Nov. 16, 2013. When asked if he had any regrets on the "hat trick," or whether it was all in good fun, Alexander declined to answer via email.
It's not inconceivable the Jayhawks, a possible No. 1 seed, could face the Illini, on the NCAA tourney bubble, in this year's tournament.
Alexander, a 6-foot-8 forward who was rated ESPN's No. 3 overall player nationally during the 2013-14 prep season, has fared relatively well in his first — and perhaps only — season in Lawrence. He's averaging 7.4 points per game — fifth best on the 22-5 Jayhawks, who face Kansas State Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The 2014 Co-Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year also is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game and has accumulated a team-high 36 blocked shots.
Alexander said he's enjoying campus life at Kansas.
"The difference between Chicago and Lawrence is that Lawrence is a lot smaller than Chicago. Everybody knows everybody here. I love campus," he said. "Campus is great. Every time I walk around someone will recognize me, ask for a picture or just say ‘What’s up?’ or something like that. I enjoy being here."
Alexander's biggest fan in Lawrence has been his mother, Latillia, a frequent spectator at his games.
"She means a lot to me, prepping me and talking me through everything," Alexander said. "It’s a great feeling to have my mom here with her love and support."
And asked what he wanted to say to his fans in Chicago, Alexander responded: "Thanks for the support. I love you all and appreciate the support from back home. Keep fighting with me."
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