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Archive for Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bill Self basks in glow

KU coach relishes gift of Andrew Wiggins

Huntington Prep basketball player Andrew Wiggins smiles along side his mother Marita Payne-Wiggins, right, as he announces his commitment to Kansas University during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at St. Joseph High School in Huntington W.Va. The Canadian star, a top prospect, averaged 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this season for West Virginia's Huntington Prep.

Huntington Prep basketball player Andrew Wiggins smiles along side his mother Marita Payne-Wiggins, right, as he announces his commitment to Kansas University during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at St. Joseph High School in Huntington W.Va. The Canadian star, a top prospect, averaged 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this season for West Virginia's Huntington Prep.

May 16, 2013

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Wednesday seemed a lot like the day after Christmas to Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self.

“My birthday falls two days after Christmas. I always got underwear or T-shirts for my birthday,” Self said during an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio show. “This was better than a Christmas and a birthday present combined.”

The present he received on Tuesday’s unofficial holiday was a signed letter of intent from the country’s top-ranked high school basketball player — Andrew Wiggins, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound guard/forward from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep.

The signing of Wiggins, who chose KU over Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina, classified as huge national news, hence Self’s appearance on various national talk shows.

Tim Brando of CBS radio asked Self about losing one top-three NBA Draft pick in Ben McLemore with another filling the void in Wiggins.

“The situation with Ben, he handled himself beautifully while he was here. He’s an unbelievable kid. We lose him. We should have lost him (after one season). He should go because he has a chance to provide for his family,” Self said on Brando’s show. “You wake up and have somebody like Andrew Wiggins step in to go with five other guys (in KU’s recruiting Class of 2013), and you are, ‘Wow. Did we deserve this? This is unbelievable.’ We’re all ecstatic around here.”

Wiggins has been praised for announcing in a private ceremony at his high school attended by just one media member.

“It drives me nuts. You spend a lot of time recruiting a kid, and a kid picks a hat (off a table), which is fine. It’s how TV wants to play it up to be a big deal,” Self said of signing ceremonies in which a top high school player places hats of his finalists in front of him and puts the hat of one school on his head, signifying the winner.

“You have schools that invest so much time, energy and money sitting there watching it go down and not have a clue because they (network executives) tell them (prospects), ‘If you tell anybody, we won’t have you on TV.’ This was the high school beat writer, family, friends, teammates ... perfect. I thought it was very refreshing.”

Analysts have compared Wiggins to various NBA standouts, like LeBron James.

“Comparing him to LeBron is not fair,” Self said. “From a physical standpoint, they are both about the same height. LeBron is obviously much thicker and bigger physically. Andrew is extremely long at 6-8. His wingspan may be 7-1, 7-2, and they can both fly. There are some similarities in that. Both are freakish athletes.”

As far as how Wiggins will be used ...

“We’ll plug him in and do a lot of things we did with Ben plus add a whole bunch of more things,” Self said. “I think he’s a slasher who can shoot. You can post him. You can play really small with him at the 4, which we probably never will do, and of course he can be your 2-guard, which is his natural position.”

McLemore case: Brando referenced the situation in which McLemore’s amateur status from last season may be in jeopardy. It was recently alleged that a middleman paid for his birthday party, hotel rooms for relatives who attended the party and also paid travel expenses for McLemore’s AAU coach and McLemore’s cousin on a pair of trips to Los Angeles.

“I can’t comment on this other thing that’s happened. It is unfortunate,” Self told Brando. “It is something it’d be great to get your arms around. It’s easy from the cheap seats to say you should be doing this or should be doing that. That’s not the life these guys live. I don’t think Ben did anything remotely wrong at all, but the whole thing is ... you are talking about a big, big, big, big business. People know it’s a big business. There’s a lot of people benefiting from these exceptional athletes, more than just one sport — football, baseball, whatever, but certainly basketball is the one highlighted the most because of the situation where kids can leave so early and there are so many third party influences in some way, shape or form.”

Kentucky response: Kentucky coach John Calipari at a news conference Wednesday discussed losing Wiggins to KU.

“I’m as confident before and after his decision,” Calipari told the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy. “I wish him well. He’s a great kid and is going to be a terrific basketball player. I was confident in this team and what we have before and after.”

Calipari said his young Wildcat team will try to go undefeated.

“We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done before in the history of this game,” Calipari said. “It’s never been done … in the modern era.”

No team has gone undefeated since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

“It wakes you up a little earlier in the morning,” Calipari said in the Sporting News. “I don’t mind a little pressure. You know what? I’m at my best when the gun is to my head. Players are the same. I’m not saying if we lose a game, it is not a successful season. No. But you’re chasing greatness. What’s wrong with that?”

Next year’s top player responds: Jahlil Okafor, a 6-10, 280-pound center from Chicago Whitney Young and the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014, wrote about Wiggins in his blog in USA Today.

“Of course I heard the news about Andrew Wiggins signing with Kansas and I really liked that move for him. He wouldn’t be there if I was to go there but that still makes them really attractive,” Okafor wrote.

“A lot of people say that Kansas doesn’t want a freshman to just come in for a year and have a huge impact then leave. I’ve never believed that, but I know Andrew will prove that it’s not true so that’s why it’s big. I’ll definitely be watching close to see how they handle a player of his talent level. I know coach Self will do a good job with it. I thought Andrew handled his whole recruitment really well. He took his time and made the right decision for him. I do think I’ll end up committing much sooner than he did though.”

Black’s visit: Tarik Black, a 6-9 junior from the University of Memphis who recently announced plans to transfer, was on KU’s campus on a recruiting visit Wednesday after visiting Duke earlier in the week. He’s also considering Oregon, Georgetown and Ohio State.

Number tidbits: KU junior Naadir Tharpe has given his jersey No. 1 to incoming freshman Wayne Selden, Selden reported on Twitter. Tharpe will be No. 10. Brannen Greene will wear No. 14, Frank Mason No. 0, Joel Embiid No. 21 and Conner Frankamp No. 23.

KU-UF announced: Kansas University’s men’s basketball game at Florida on Dec. 10 will be part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, the two conferences announced. The Big 12/SEC Challenge will begin during the 2013-14 season.

“This will be very good for our league,” Self said.

McLemore picks agent: Former KU guard Ben McLemore has chosen Rival Sports Group as his pro representation, ESPN’s Chad Ford reports from the NBA combine in Chicago. Ford said he has been working out in Los Angeles with Pooh Richardson. McLemore will not scrimmage at the NBA combine, just take part in measurements and interviews.

Comments

Jerry Collins 1 year, 7 months ago

What a coaching challenge. To meld together 7-8 great and 2-3 super great athletes with only 3 with previous playing time together, all in a short practice and pre-conference period. Coach Self is the man for the job. After watching numerous clips of Wiggins, I'm not sure if I have ever seen a kid coming with this kind of quickness, speed and explosiveness. I also expect Percy Ellis to rise to a level this year that will amaze. In 56 years following KU basketball. I've never been this excited about the team. Plan to be patient early and enjoy the ride.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 7 months ago

That "glow" will turn white hot when the team goes down next year (again) in the second or third round of the NCAA tournament. There is something systemic wrong in the KU basketball program, every year it is out in the second or third round to lower seeded teams.

One "red hot" player does not a team make.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

K.U. doesn't only get knocked out in the second or third round of the tournament. They've been knocked out in the first round as well. Then again, sometimes we win those games, only to get knocked out in the Elite Eight or Final Four. Sometimes, we get knocked out in the final game. Sometimes, though, we win it all.

The thing that is "wrong" with the K.U. system is that of the hundreds of teams that play basketball, and of the 68 that make the tournament, only one will win it all. K.U. has done better than the overwhelming majority of teams. And next year's team will again do better than the overwhelming majority of teams. Will we win it all? Probably not, but our chances are as good as anyone's and much, much better than most.

So, who is "your" team, yeoman? Let us know so we might critique the systemic problems with them. Or are you one of those guys who thinks he's more qualified than Coach Self merely because you can swill beer after beer while watching games on T.V.?

rgh 1 year, 7 months ago

Nuff said right there. Well done.

Robert Rauktis 1 year, 7 months ago

You're right in your second paragraph. But probably three "red hot" in the final six games of the tourney will hang a banner. The rest just have to be average. And by week two, the seedings don't mean didly-sqwat. Who would you have? Royboy? Sleazeball Calipari? K & Izzo are the only ones better in the tourney and even they have their moments. Single elimination and the basketball gods can be unkind.

mom_of_three 1 year, 7 months ago

um, last year, KU was in the championship game...where were you? In 2011, KU made it to the regional final, so that would be fourth round. In 2010, it was the 2nd round. 2009, it was in the third round, in the regional semi final. I don't have to tell you what happened in 2008. There is nothing "systematic" wrong with the KU basketball program. If you think KU has problems in the tourney, then you should look at Duke the past few years. With the exception of 2010, when they won it, and this year, they were out in the third round or sooner for the past several years... every program has its issues in a one and done tourney. get over yourself.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 7 months ago

My favorite teams are the Oklahoma Sooner Football team, and who ever is playing the Dallas Cowboys this week.

Boomer Sooner!! (OU basketbal sucks, don't cha know??)

jonas_opines 1 year, 7 months ago

That's interesting. Last time I checked the OU football team was doing very poorly in the NCAA tournament. Exactly 0 wins. Clearly a systemic problem.

rgh 1 year, 7 months ago

I like Calipari's statement that they'll try to go undefeated. So will KU and a lot of other school John. You had the best class this past year. How'd that work out for you? One and done in the NIT. Should have been able to have handled the loss of your best player better than that. Poor coaching but at least you admitted it.

jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm really looking forward to next year's season. It's been big fun to be a KU fan with Self at the helm. Great job Bill, keep up the good work.

jonas_opines 1 year, 7 months ago

I see the mythos of the Jayhawk choke still has its adherents.

Bucknell and Northern Iowa are the only ones that I think are reasonable to be considered as under-achievements during the Bill Self era, and its the Bucknell loss alone that has created this mythos.

But we still have the most tournament wins of any team, I believe, during the years Self has been coaching Kansas.

DRsmith 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't think they hang banners for that.

jonas_opines 1 year, 7 months ago

And? We've got kind of a lot of banners up there as it is.

kuae99 1 year, 7 months ago

There's one statistic mentioned in this week's articles that will send the haters flying like a Jeff Withey block leading to a BMac jam:

In the last 7 years, the Kansas basketball team has won more games (228) than any team in any 7-year span in the history of college basketball. Boom.

For me, I'll take a program whose average out is S16 or E8 with a near-perfect APR and well-spoken kids. The mercenaries that go to KY schools are not people I'm proud to have representing my alma mater.

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