Advertisement

Posts tagged with Ku

The Sideline Report with KU long snapper Reilly Jeffers

Today's Sideline Report is with Kansas sophomore long snapper Reilly Jeffers.

Reilly Jeffers (KU Athletics photo).

Reilly Jeffers (KU Athletics photo). by Jesse Newell

Jesse Newell: What’s the best part about long snapping?

Reilly Jeffers: The opportunity to get on the field. Being a part of the team and playing my role. There’s not a whole lot to it, but at the same time, there’s a whole lot to it.

Compared to other positions that I’ve played in the past, it’s a lot more mental. Just being focused, and if you screw up, you’ve got to go get the next snap.

JN: Is the toughest part mentally, then?

RJ: Yeah, I’d say it’s definitely the mental. Because it becomes a point where it’s muscle memory. You’ve got to focus on where you do it the same way every time. And if you screw up, it’s different from other positions. If a guy misses a tackle, you’ve got the next play. It maybe 20 or 30 plays before you get your next snap.

You’ve got to stay locked in mentally. I think that’s the biggest thing as far as the specialists go, kicker or snapper. If you screw up, you’ve got to go get it the next time. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself.

JN: When did you start long snapping?

RJ: My dad taught me how to do it in the third grade. I used always throw the ball around when I was younger. I looked up to Eric Crouch at Nebraska and quarterbacks.

I like throwing the ball, but I was a lineman-sized kid. So my dad was like, ‘Well, bend over and throw it between your legs.’ I did it in high school a little bit. I got hurt my junior year when I would have snapped it. Then my senior year, they were like, ‘Well, there’s no point. You didn’t do it last year.’ But I always knew how to do it. I was good at it. Coach Weis brought me in as a walk-on lineman, and they needed a backup long snapper. ‘Well, I know how to do it.’ The rest is history.

JN: How did that conversation go? They were looking for somebody to long snap?

RJ: They had some struggles as far as a backup long snapper my freshman year. They knew that I knew how to do it, because I had mentioned it. They were like, ‘Well, let’s check you out.’ After practice, I gave about five to 10 snaps, and they were like, ‘OK, you’ve got a job.’ I was like, ‘All right, well that works for me.’

JN: So all that happened when they took you out there?

RJ: Yeah, it was just after practice. Coach Bowen, when he was running punt team, was like, ‘All right, let’s see what you’ve got.’ I threw a couple back there, and it worked out.

JN: What’s a common misconception about long snappers?

RJ: Not athletic. (laughs) Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Dexter McDonald out there flying around.

Kansas defensive back Dexter McDonald waits in line to participate in a drill during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013.

Kansas defensive back Dexter McDonald waits in line to participate in a drill during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. by Nick Krug

I guess it would be they’re not really football players; they’re just kind of out there doing their thing. I think (teammate) John (Wirtel) and myself, we’d be able to play another position if we had to.

JN: What position would you play?

RJ: I’m not fast enough. I’d play offensive line. That’s what I played the whole time. I’d say that’s probably the biggest misconception.

JN: So you could play elsewhere?

RJ: Ah, if they needed me in a pinch.

JN: What was the highlight of your offseason?

RJ: Really seeing the guys come together as a team.

KU football coach Charlie Weis talks to the team during a break at practice Friday, August 16.

KU football coach Charlie Weis talks to the team during a break at practice Friday, August 16. by Mike Yoder

I think when you go 1-11, it can really run a team down. I don’t think that happened with this team at all. I think we came closer together as a team. I think we worked harder together as a team. I think we worked smarter together as a team. I think you could really see things start to mold together, and you could see that these guys really cared and bought in and wanted to win games. As far as me — because I want to win games as much as anybody else — I think seeing that, it gives you hope that, ‘No, we’re going to get this done.’ That would be the highlight for me.

JN: Do you have any routines or superstitions?

RJ: No, I’m kind of a chill guy when it comes to that. When I walk out there, I just kind of feel it. Like last year, when I played against South Dakota State, I thought I was going to be real nervous and everything. I kind of just went out there and was like, ‘All right, I got this.’ You just get loosened up and get ready to go. Just lock in.

JN: Do you have to be like that to be a long snapper?

RJ: At least for me, I know if I start thinking about something or I start tensing up, that’s when I’m going to screw up. I’m a relaxed, outgoing guy to begin with, so if I start locking up and start thinking about too much, that’s when I know I’m going to screw up. So I need to be out there kind of having fun.

I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Don’t turn it into a pressure situation for myself. Because when you get out there in front of 60,000 people, there’s going to be enough pressure already. So don’t put it on yourself. I’ve just got to go out there and have fun, sling it back there and I’ll be all right.

JN: Do you remember the first time you met Charlie Weis?

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt confer during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt confer during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. by Nick Krug

RJ: Sixth grade. My dad is in the media in South Bend (Indiana), and I used to tag along with him around Notre Dame and see what’s going on. I remember him just being out there. I introduced myself. He introduced himself, and that was it. It kind of just went on from there.

JN: What was the first impression when you met him?

RJ: This guy’s in charge. I don’t think that’s changed since. Through camps and school and sports and everything, I developed a pretty good friendship with Charlie Weis Jr. Tre' Parmalee and I have been friends since freshman year of high school. We would always be hanging out together.

Kansas receiver Tre' Parmalee has a would-be touchdown pass knocked away by Texas Tech defensive back Bruce Jones during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas receiver Tre' Parmalee has a would-be touchdown pass knocked away by Texas Tech defensive back Bruce Jones during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

It’s kind of crazy how it all worked out and we all ended up in Lawrence, Kansas.

JN: So did you have some interest in KU when Weis came here?

RJ: Definitely, yeah. My uncle had gone to KU. I’d always been a mild fan of KU. When coach Weis got the job, it was really like, ‘Oh.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Then they asked me if I wanted to walk on, and I was like, ‘I definitely need to check this out.’ I kind of took a chance, and it all worked out.

JN: How much do you guys talk other sports in the locker room?

RJ: Right now, it’s the awkward time in sports. Football hasn’t really started. You’ve got baseball that some of the guys talk. We talked a lot of basketball when the playoffs were going on. You had a lot of LeBron supporters, you had a lot of anti-LeBron guys. It’s fun to watch them jaw back and forth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1FPMDjLzs

Sports are the channel that is pretty much always on downstairs. We go back and forth on it. Then during football season, it’s always … you’ve got a bunch of Cowboys fans, a bunch of Texans fans.

JN: Who’s the loudest when it comes to cheering for their team?

RJ: Probably Ty McKinney talking about the Heat.

KU defensive lineman Ty McKinney.

KU defensive lineman Ty McKinney. by Mike Yoder

He’s not even from Miami, so I can’t even take him seriously as a Heat fan.

JN: Ever cried at a movie?

RJ: I’m sure I have. I can’t remember. Oh … when I was in third grade, I cried at Monsters, Inc., because it made me miss my mom or something.

It was weird. I was a little kid, and looking back, I was like, ‘What was I doing?’

JN: That’s not the usual response, you know.

RJ: I know. It got me.

JN: What’s something that would stand out if I walked into your room?

RJ: It’s actually clean. (laughs) Yeah, (offensive lineman) Joe Gibson and I try to keep our apartment pretty tidy. I think that would be your surprise: two college football players actually keeping their apartment pretty tidy.

JN: What do you hope to accomplish here at KU?

RJ: Win a lot of games. And get to that point where you’re like, ‘KU’s a basketball school, but their football team is damn good.’ I want the culture to change, and I want to win a lot of games, and I want to win bowl games. I want to get back to that level of the Orange Bowl victories and the Insight Bowl victories and year in, year out, you’re competing for the Big 12 at the highest level.

Reply

Cliff’s Notes: Charlie Weis press conference, 8/23/13

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

KU junior college offensive lineman Pearce Slater came into Weis’ office early Saturday morning and told Weis there was a family emergency at home. KU got him to the airport, and Slater went home. Slater said everything was going OK when he first got there. The two communicated several times over the next few days. Weis suggested — if everything was clear — that it would be best for Slater to be back at least by this Sunday, as classes start Monday. Weis says he has no idea if and when Slater will be back on campus. Weis texted Slater this morning and hasn’t heard from him, and he’s taking him for his word that he'll return. Weis said when he hears something more on Slater, he’ll make sure everyone knows.

Weis says there have been good players at center in the past — Kevin Mawae of the Jets is an example — that have been taller players like KU's Pat Lewandowski. Sometimes shorter guys play at center because they can’t play at other positions on the line. Short arms are not a good attribute for a snapper, but sometimes, those guys can get their hands inside a nose tackle quickly. That’s the only advantage of having arms like that. Weis says there’s no disadvantages to having a tall center. Weis said he knew things were going to be rough in the beginning with Lewandowski. It took him a week to settle in with his shotgun snaps. There was a transition period, but for the last week and a half, his snaps have looked good.

Weis says he’s going to do everything he can to make sure junior college defensive lineman Andrew Bolton doesn’t play this year. He wants to red-shirt him. Weis has had a conversation with him, and Bolton is not 100 percent about it, even though he’s recovering from a previous knee injury. Weis said you can’t bring in this many juco kids in one year and play them all and have them all graduate at the same time in two years. That would put KU in trouble with its numbers on its roster. Right now, both Weis and Bolton would favor him not playing this year so he could get his knee fully healthy.

Weis’ next depth chart will come out a week from Tuesday. The depth chart is already done. If a junior-college guy doesn’t show up in the two-deep, you can assume that guy is probably going to red-shirt.

Weis has had to have his scout team practice how to run a fast tempo to give his team’s defense the best look. The scout team’s goal is to get a new snap at least every 12 seconds. That’s faster than almost all the Big 12 teams’ fast-tempo offenses.

Weis says a lot of coaches will tell TV announcers stuff they can use during telecasts. When announcers go into analysis, they usually don’t know that on their own; they are told that. Weis pays attention to what the TV analysts say when he watches TV replays of opposing teams because he can gain insight into what the coaching staff is thinking. When Weis gets coaches’ tape, he watches that without sound and uses that for scouting purposes.

Weis says in the NFL, coaches are more cognizant of playing complementary football. That’s an art that’s lost in college. Part of the job of the offense in the NFL is to score, but part is to help save the defense. A quick three-and-out with a fast tempo doesn’t allow a defense to rest. The college game lends itself to this, as there are more players available to play. NFL players have 45 or 46 guys that can play, and college teams basically have two teams on each side of the ball to play when guys are tired. In college, there is no concern for how fast the defense has to be on the field again. When looking at the gameplan heading into the week, KU’s coaching staff has to look at which offensive tempo gives the team the best chance to win. Sometimes, the old college basketball “four corners” stall offense is best. Sometimes, a fast tempo is better. Weis says his offense has to score more points this year or it’s a moot point anyway.

KU's players watch the tape and hear the critique from coaches after practice and can tell who is playing well and who’s not playing well. You play the guys who deserve to be out there and not necessarily the ones with reputation or so-called entitlement.

Right now, juco defensive lineman Marquel Combs is not a starter. There are a lot of guys in that category: their reputations are high and their ceilings are high, but are they better than the guy in front of them? Combs is indicative of a group of guys. Different guys have performed at different levels. Juco safety Isaiah Johnson has been the best safety since he got to KU, so he’ll be the starting safety. At some positions, it’s not as easy to step in and perform well early, just because of the demands of the position. Juco cornerback Kevin Short, who just arrived last week, will be playing Week 1. That might be starting or backing up. The best guy plays.

Weis says one of the guys that has had a great camp that he wasn’t expecting is Buck linebacker Michael Reynolds. Everyone’s been waiting for this, but he’s starting to deliver. He’s turned a corner. Last year, he had the most pass-rush ability on the roster, but KU couldn’t get him on the field because he wasn’t an every-down player. He hasn’t beaten Ben Goodman out, but Reynolds’ development has made Weis even more encouraged about that position, especially after Chris Martin’s dismissal from the team earlier this year.

Everything starts with the quarterback in Weis’ system. It takes about a year for quarterbacks to figure out the system, but once you get it down, it’s pretty easy. Talented transfers have some advantages, because they have a year to get the system down before playing. KU tries to cater to do what the quarterback does best. Last year, the passing playbook got smaller and smaller because KU didn’t show it could execute the more complicated plays. Weis says he turned into an option run coach — he had never done that in his career — because that was KU’s strength. He joked that his father would probably roll in his grave if he heard him say that, because Weis has always been a guy that has believed in 50-50 run-pass split on offense.

Quarterback Jake Heaps is unquestionably the team’s No. 1 quarterback and it’s not close. Michael Cummings has gotten significantly better from last year. The guy in the future of the program that is going to be tough to keep off the field is freshman Montell Cozart.

Weis says KU’s offense has always had a fast pace it could go to, but it goes back to the fact that if KU goes three-and-out a lot, a fast tempo doesn’t benefit the team’s defense. Weis loves going no-huddle, up-tempo, but you have to do what’s best for your team to give yourself a chance to win the game.

Weis wants to take another week to look at returners and especially Kevin Short, who could complete for a job there. Weis all but said Matthew Wyman will be the team’s starting kicker. Wyman came from the dorms. KU advertised to try to find walk-ons last year. He walked on in the spring and went through conditioning. He kicked OK, got to the spring game and made a few. He came into camp down on the depth chart, but he’s moved up because he’s kicked so well. He’s got good pop and good range. He has no problem making it from 50 yards. He’s been consistent.

Weis says that KU has some bumps and bruises, but other than linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore’s knee injury that will keep him out this season and a couple of appendixes that needed removed, it looks like KU won’t have anyone that’s not ready to go for the opener. Cornerback Tyree Williams also is a question mark for the opener, but Weis said it looks like he might be ready too.

Weis said he didn’t have to recruit new quarterback commit T.J. Millweard much. Millweard's high school coach reached out to one of KU’s staff members. He’s a top-line talent. This is a kid who’s going to come in to compete to play. His mom went to KU and lived in Kansas. Millweard spent his first eight years in Kansas. Weis had a long conversation with him. Weis said after watching him on tape, this was any easy decision. It’s nice when a top-line player wants you. Weis said he was only going to give a scholarship for a quarterback next season if a special situation presented itself, and he was was a special situation. KU is glad to have him. He’s a bright student.

Reply

Examining grips with KU’s Jake Heaps, Michael Cummings

In baseball, most pitchers throw fastballs in a similar way; two-seamers are thrown with the two fingers on the seams, while four-seamers are thrown with fingers going across the stitches.

That made me wonder: Are quarterbacks the same way? Is it "one size fits all" when it comes to gripping a football?

For help with those questions, I consulted the two people on Kansas University's campus that should know best: starting quarterback Jake Heaps and backup QB Michael Cummings.

I started with Cummings, who admitted he hadn't thought much previously about the way he gripped the football.

Cummings' grip.

Cummings' grip. by Jesse Newell

"It just feels comfortable, man," Cummings said. "I know when I was younger (around 5), I used to put my thumb over the laces, because my hand was kind of small."

Cummings' grip as a 5-year-old QB.

Cummings' grip as a 5-year-old QB. by Jesse Newell

Cummings said he believed the most important part of a grip was getting one that had a "natural feel." He also said a key was for the pointer finger to be the final body part to touch the ball and even admitted he had a callus on his first finger from throwing.

"That stuff hurts, too," he said.

KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus doesn't talk about grips with his players, Cummings said, instead focusing more on the mechanical work of passing like getting the proper footwork.

"Just try to throw with your body, not just your arm the whole time," Cummings said. "It lets you put more oomph on the ball than just throwing with all arm."

A few minutes later, I made my way over to Heaps, who said he'd had the same grip since the first time he'd picked up a football.

Heaps grip.

Heaps grip. by Jesse Newell

Heaps says it is important to have one's hand on top of the football, because the pointer finger — the last contact point with the ball — gives the ball its rotation.

Heaps demonstrates how the ball releases off his pointer finger.

Heaps demonstrates how the ball releases off his pointer finger. by Jesse Newell

Heaps also believes having the pointer finger high on the ball helps give him more control. Some QBs in the past have even gone to the extreme with this, with Heaps giving the example that Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw put his pointer finger on the point of the football when he threw.

Heaps demonstrates Terry Bradshaw's grip.

Heaps demonstrates Terry Bradshaw's grip. by Jesse Newell

Mechanically, Heaps said it was important to avoid two pitfalls. One is "cupping" the ball, which means putting one's hand too far over the top, which makes it difficult to snap the ball for good rotation.

"Cupping" the ball.

"Cupping" the ball. by Jesse Newell

The other potential mistake is getting one's hand too far underneath the ball, which again can be a sign of poor mechanics.

Underneath the ball.

Underneath the ball. by Jesse Newell

Heaps said it was important to maintain a "nice U-shape" with your hand, which allows a QB to get the proper release and rotation.

A "nice U-shape."

A "nice U-shape." by Jesse Newell

After talking with both QBs, I was interested to compare their grips.

It turned out there were quite a few differences.

As you can see from this comparison, the two view comfort in different ways. While Heaps' hands remains tight toward the top of the football, Cummings' hand has an extreme spread. Notice also the different placements of the players' middle and pinky fingers.

Comparing Heaps' and Cummings' grips.

Comparing Heaps' and Cummings' grips. by Jesse Newell

So who has the correct grip? Heaps says there's no right answer.

"If you’re going to a (quarterback specialist) that’s trying to get you to grip the ball differently, then you probably should go to someone different," he said. "Everyone grips the ball differently. It’s not how you grip it ... it’s whatever you’re comfortable with."

Reply

The Sideline Report with Marcus Jenkins-Moore

Today's Sideline Report is with Kansas junior linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, who will sit out the 2013 season after suffering a knee injury in the summer.

Marcus Jenkins-Moore (Rivals.com contributed photo).

Marcus Jenkins-Moore (Rivals.com contributed photo). by Jesse Newell

Jesse Newell: Who’s the funniest teammate you have?

Marcus Jenkins-Moore: Marquel (Combs).

Kansas University defensive tackle Marquel Combs, left, and linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, juco teammates at Pierce College, are leaning on each other in their first season at KU. The pair hope to reunite on the field next season, when Jenkins-Moore will return from a knee injury.

Kansas University defensive tackle Marquel Combs, left, and linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, juco teammates at Pierce College, are leaning on each other in their first season at KU. The pair hope to reunite on the field next season, when Jenkins-Moore will return from a knee injury. by Matt Tait

JN: Is he even funnier in person?

MJM: In person? He’s funny anywhere. I’m with him 24/7, so my jaw is hurting from laughing so much. Real talk.

JN: What do you guys do together?

MJM: We just hang out. Play games. I haven’t beat him in 2K. He’s a really good 2K player.

JN: Do you play as a bad team?

MJM: He’s just been getting lucky. (smiles)

JN: What do you remember about the first time you met Charlie Weis in person?

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis is seen behind a blur of players running through warmups during the first day of football practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis is seen behind a blur of players running through warmups during the first day of football practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo by Nick Krug

MJM: The first time I met coach was when I came on my visit. I went up to his office, saw him. I was like, ‘OK, it’s real. It’s real.’ After seeing him on TV every Saturday on NBC, to finally get to meet him … the guy offered me a scholarship. It was a blessing.

JN: Kind of a crazy moment, then?

MJM: Exactly. The man’s a legend. He’s a legend.

JN: Who’s a person you admire?

MJM: My mom. She’s strong. After she heard what I’ve been through (with a season-ending knee injury), she didn’t cry. I did, but she didn’t. She just encouraged me to keep moving, stay strong, do what I’ve got to do to get back. All the stuff she’s been through, being a single parent, dealing with me … I admire her the most.

JN: Were you tough to deal with growing up?

MJM: I was. I was a little hard-headed, but she got through to me, told me what I had to do.

JN: What makes her so strong?

MJM: She’s been working at one job for 36 years. She had a tough time growing up. She told me some things she’s been through, and I was like, ‘Man.’ I didn’t know until she told me. I just see her as one of those parents that doesn’t ever give up on their kids.

JN: What’s a food you can’t live without?

MJM: Chicken. If I don’t have chicken, I’m not living. (laughs)

JN: Is there any restaurant that does that best?

MJM: Back home (in Memphis), we’ve got this place called 'Big Momma’s.'

JN: That sounds like a good place.

MJM: Sweetest cornbread you’ll ever eat.

JN: Are they popular?

MJM: It’s popular in the city. If you come, you’ll see.

JN: What’s something that not many people know about you?

MJM: I’m a very good bowler. I’ll beat anybody.

JN: What scores are we talking here?

MJM: My high score was 289. … I’m 250s, 260s. But 289 was my high score.

JN: What was the toughest part about the injury for you?

MJM: Thinking about it. Just thinking about my whole situation: what I’ve been through to get here. It was really hard for me.

JN: When you called your mom, how did that conversation go?

MJM: Man. I started crying. I didn’t want to tell her. She asked me, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Something bad happened to my knee.’ She was just encouraging me the whole time. She was like, ‘I don’t care what happened. Everything’s going to be all right. Just keep praying.’ And that was it.

JN: Your favorite Disney character?

MJM: Goofy. He’s goofy. Goofy is funny.

JN: Was he your favorite growing up?

MJM: Yeah. I used to watch him and Donald Duck. Him, Donald, Bugs (Bunny). I’m a Mickey Mouse fan, too.

JN: If I walked into your room, what’s something that would stand out to me?

MJM: My shoes. I’m an Air Force Jordans guy. People are like, ‘Dang, why do you have so many shoes?’ And I don’t even wear them all.

JN: How many you have?

MJM: Right now, I’ve probably got like 15. Well, you know, I couldn’t take everything from Cali.

JN: What’s an embarrassing TV show you watch?

MJM: The Parkers.

JN: What do you like about it?

MJM: Man, they are cracking up. Professor Oglevee (laughs), he’ll be dissing Nikki. But it’s funny, though. It makes me laugh.

JN: What’s something unexpected about Lawrence that you didn’t know until you got here?

The Holiday Lighting Ceremony along Massachusetts Street kicks off Friday night with clear weather and a crowd. This photo was taken from the roof of Weaver’s Department Store, 901 Mass., facing north.

The Holiday Lighting Ceremony along Massachusetts Street kicks off Friday night with clear weather and a crowd. This photo was taken from the roof of Weaver’s Department Store, 901 Mass., facing north. by kevin-anderson

MJM: Man, the people. I thought it was just going to be just land, land and then a couple people. There’s people out here, and they’re really cool. I really like the city. They like the team. They support the team. I met a couple people that are really expecting us to do good things this year. So they’re really exciting me.

JN: Is there anything interesting or unexpected that I’d find in your refrigerator?

MJM: Unexpected … I’m not a yogurt guy, but I just started eating it. Interesting would probably be Kool-Aid.

JN: Man, I love Kool-Aid.

MJM: Kool-Aid’s the thing, man. Kool-Aid will take you as far as you want it, but you’ve got to have sugar. You can’t drink Kool-Aid without sugar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66njeIMpv5U

JN: What’s your favorite flavor or color?

MJM: See, the trick is, you’ve got to get Tropical Punch, Grape, Orange, but you’ve got to have a Lemon to mix it with. Always mix a strong flavor with a Lemon, so it tastes like lemonade, but it’s really Tropical Punch.

JN: But that makes it look kind of brown, doesn’t it?

MJM: Nah. If it’s green, it’s going to be green, because it’s yellow.

JN: Oh, the yellow mixes into it.

MJM: Exactly.

JN: What do you hope to accomplish before your career is over at KU?

MJM: Just to build this program back up.

Just to get all the people off coach Weis’ back. Everybody’s doubting him, so I want to be a part of the team that helped him accomplish something big — (when) people weren’t planning on us to even be a talked-about team in the nation. I just want to help him have that story from what he did with this team a year ago to what we’re going to be.

And, you know, I want to be a cool guy. I like people. As long as they’re nice, it’s cool.

Reply

Summer Q&A: Is ‘08 KU better than ‘12 Kentucky? And who had the best season in the Bill Self era?

Earlier today, I asked Twitter followers if they'd be interested in a question-and-answer blog on KUsports.com about advanced stats, and the response was great.

The following are some of the questions I received. Let's get nerdy.

Kevin Baker @deutschmarine

why is 2012 UK seen as some all time team (especially defensively) when '08 KU is KenPom's number 1 team of the decade?

It's all a matter of perception and our eyes sometimes getting in the way of what might not be true.

Kansas players Jeff Withey (5) and Kevin Young wrestle for a loose ball with Kentucky players Doron Lamb (20) Anthony Davis (23) and Darius Miller during the first half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans.

Kansas players Jeff Withey (5) and Kevin Young wrestle for a loose ball with Kentucky players Doron Lamb (20) Anthony Davis (23) and Darius Miller during the first half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans. by Nick Krug

To be fair, the 2012 Kentucky team probably had as much talent in terms of NBA prospects as any team in the last decade. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went 1-2 in the draft, and a total of six Wildcats were drafted that year, which tied an all-time high.

But your point stands ... talent doesn't necessarily mean UK was one of the best teams.

The stat you're citing above is KenPom's "pythagorean winning percentage," which Pomeroy uses as the primary way to rank each team. In his own words, Pomeroy defines the stat as "a fancy way of computing a team’s expected winning percentage against an average D-I team."

According to pythagorean win percentage, the college basketball team since 2003 was 2007-08 Kansas, which had a mark of .9859.

2011-12 Kentucky, meanwhile, had a pyth of .9679, which is ranked 20th in the last 11 years. The Wildcats' season actually falls behind two other Jayhawk teams that didn't win it all (2006-07 KU, .9755; 2009-10 KU, .9683).

This also leads me to another point: Oftentimes, we overrate records when trying to evaluate teams.

Kansas guard Travis Releford looks to foul Kentucky guard Marquis Teague during the second half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans.

Kansas guard Travis Releford looks to foul Kentucky guard Marquis Teague during the second half of the national championship on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans. by Nick Krug

Though Kentucky tied an NCAA record for wins in 2012 with 38, a 38-2 record might not actually be better than KU's 37-3 record in 2008 when you consider all the circumstances.

According to KenPom, KU's 2008 strength of schedule (.8202) was much tougher than that of UK's in 2012 (.7061). Though we'll never know what would have happened if UK 2012 faced KU's 2008 schedule, the safe bet would be that the Wildcats would have had at least one or two additional losses, which would have knocked them down a few notches with national perception.

And let's be honest: As sports fans, we love watching superstars. I'll easily argue KU 2007-08 was a better team than UK 2011-12, but KU didn't have an Anthony Davis or a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Heck, KU didn't even put a player on the All-Big 12 team that year.

Kansas players watch highlights of the game against Memphis on Monday, April 7, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas players watch highlights of the game against Memphis on Monday, April 7, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. by Thad Allender

That doesn't mean KU wasn't a great team. It just means that the perception of what makes a great team might be different from reality.

Brian Haase @bhaase86

what do u feel is the best advanced stat that accurately portrays how an individual is performing on offense and defense?

On offense, I'll have to go with two hand-in-hand: offensive rating and usage percentage.

Part of offensive rating's problem is that it's a complicated formula, and trying to explain it is difficult. There's a reason many people are drawn to stats like batting average and simple shooting percentages: because they're easy to tally and understandable to non-statistics majors like us.

If you can accept the fact that offensive rating is widely considered the best individual basketball statistic, though (it was developed by one of the leaders in advanced statistics in Dean Oliver), and it can be extremely useful.

Basically, with our eyes, it's hard for us to take in the entirety of a player's game, even if we feel like we know them well. The stats showed last year that Perry Ellis was one of the best players in the Big 12 at avoiding turnovers. I watched him all season, and I never would have been able to come up with that observation on my own without the numbers.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis flashes a rare smile as he is applauded by the Kansas fans after leaving the court following the Jayhawks' 88-73 win over Iowa State in the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis flashes a rare smile as he is applauded by the Kansas fans after leaving the court following the Jayhawks' 88-73 win over Iowa State in the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

So basically, offensive rating compiles all of a player's offensive statistics (made and missed field goals, made and missed free throws, assists, offensive rebounds and turnovers) and tidies it up into one stat that shows a player's individual offensive efficiency — or how many points he scores per 100 possessions.

It's useful in that you can compare that to the team's offensive efficiency to easily figure out who should be doing more for an offense and who should be doing less. KU's schedule-adjusted offensive efficiency last year, according to KenPom.com, was 111.8. Both Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe's offensive ratings were under 100. Obviously, KU would have benefitted by those guys taking a back seat to other more efficient offensive players.

Offensive rating also faces an obstacle in that it has to be used with usage percentage to be kept in context. Travis Releford led KU with a 125.8 offensive rating last year, but I don't need to tell you that he wasn't a better offensive player than Ben McLemore, whose offensive rating was 118.7.

The difference in the two players is usage (or possession) percentage — the percentage of possessions a player ends either by making a shot, missing a shot that isn’t rebounded by the offense, or committing a turnover. You can think of this as, "How much offensive load does a player take on?" The average for a player is 20 percent.

Last year, Releford's usage percentage was 15.7 percent, while McLemore's was 22.1 percent.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore drives between Iowa State defenders Chris Babb, left, and Willy Clyburn during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore drives between Iowa State defenders Chris Babb, left, and Willy Clyburn during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

Basically, on offense, you're looking for players with high offensive ratings that also end a lot of possessions. These players are rare, but they're also extremely valuable, as they're able to keep their efficiency up while also taking pressure off teammates by taking on large offensive responsibilities.

Wayne Simien's 2004-05 season (118.5 offensive rating, 26.9 usage percentage) and Marcus Morris' 2010-11 season (121.9 offensive rating, 26.1 usage percentage) stand out as two of the best offensive seasons in the Self era, and those high numbers combined with each other are rare.

As far as defensive stats go ... it's tough. I mostly stick to defensive rebounding percentage, block percentage and steal percentage, just because the standard box score does not (yet) keep many defensive stats.

If you're looking to get a little more advanced, Basketball-Reference lists both individual defensive ratings and defensive win shares, which attempt to give us a glimpse of a player's entire defensive value.

Beware of the Phog @Pay_Heed

I have a basic question. What's the football equivalent of a basketball PER?

Football still sits a little behind the curve as far as advanced stats go, and it's easy to see why.

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

KU defensive lineman Keon Stowers, top, wraps up Taylor Cox during KU's Spring Game on Saturday, April 13, 2013. by Richard Gwin

Baseball is great for advanced statistics because it's easy to assign responsibility to one player. If you're in the batter's box, and you strike out, it's hard to blame that on anyone else.

Basketball is tougher, but there still are areas where we can say that certain actions are nearly independent of teammates. When you're shooting a free throw, it's hard to say anyone else contributed to you making or missing it. Grabbing a rebound is a stat we can assign to a certain player.

Football is much harder because almost every play is dependent on other people. Do you give James Sims credit for a 15-yard run, or should the credit go to the offensive line? Was that sack of Dayne Crist because he held it to long, or because a blocker came free on a blitz?

There still have been plenty of advanced stat breakthroughs in the past few years, especially at sites like FootballOutsiders.com, where smart folks are starting to pin down the best way to measure individual players in football.

So the short answer is: there is no PER for football yet.

If you're looking to go a step deeper with college football analysis, though, I'd highly recommend Bill Connelly's advanced stat season preview of KU on SB Nation. He also provides a glossary at the top that helps explain what some of the stats are and why they're important.

Give it some time, and I think we'll see some of these advanced football stats become more mainstream, just as on-base percentage and effective field-goal percentage have in other sports.

Chris Teegarden @firket2000

I would love to get a better understanding of how coach Selfs system works with advanced statistics. What works & doesn't

Had a couple questions about this. A good start, if you haven't read it yet, is the two-part series we had last week talking about how the KU men's basketball team uses new video technology.

Synergy Sports Technology is just one tool that is used by the basketball staff (along with KenPom.com, I'm told) to evaluate its own players and also opponents. From the articles, you can tell the coaches have embraced these new technological advancements in a short period of time.

Also, if you listen closely enough to Self's press conferences, you can tell he uses KenPom. He's referenced KenPom's "Experience" ranker before and a few times (saying something like an opposing team is the 10th-youngest in the country) and has made it a point to explain to media members that if KU allows a high number of offensive rebounds in a game, that doesn't mean the Jayhawks necessarily had a bad rebounding game (and he's right).

A good example is KU's round of 32 win last year against North Carolina. Though the Tar Heels posted the seventh-highest offensive rebounding total of the season against KU (16), that number was artificially high because the Tar Heels missed a whopping 51 field goals.

Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) jumps over North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald after a loose ball in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) jumps over North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald after a loose ball in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Mike Yoder

The better way to look at how well KU rebounded is by looking at its defensive rebounding percentage, which was 68.6 percent. That number was just below KU's season average of 70.7 percent, and in a completely acceptable range considering the quality of the opponent.

Self often talks about how he's a numbers guy, and he brings up field-goal percentage defense more than any other stat (effective field-goal percentage is a better stat, of course, but I digress).

This topic is probably worthy of exploring further, but based on the conversation I had with video coordinator Jeff Forbes, I can tell you that KU is at least accepting of the new statistics and technology out there to try to gain an edge.

Which is more than we can say for the Kansas City Royals.

Kevbo™©® @kevbo9

using advanced stats, who’s had the best season under Bill Self? T-Rob in 2011/12? Sherron in 2008/09? Simien in 04/05?

Great question, and one I've thought a lot about lately, especially when making picks for the best players during our KUsports.com summer series.

After looking it over, though, I think one season stands above all others: Cole Aldrich's sophomore year in 2008-09.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich screams in jubilation after getting a bucket and a foul Dayton during the first half Sunday March 22, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. At right is Kansas forward Mario Little, Dayton center Kurt Huelsman and Dayton forward Chris Wright.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich screams in jubilation after getting a bucket and a foul Dayton during the first half Sunday March 22, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. At right is Kansas forward Mario Little, Dayton center Kurt Huelsman and Dayton forward Chris Wright. by Nick Krug

I referenced this in the ranking of KU's centers under Self, but Aldrich's sophomore season stands by itself in terms of Basketball-Reference's all-encompassing Win Share statistic, which is "an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense."

Here are the top five from the Self era:

Win Shares.

Win Shares. by Jesse Newell

To me, no one looks out of place on this list, and Aldrich being that far in front of everyone else only strengthens his case.

Of course, his advanced stats at KenPom.com also back up the argument that he's Self's best player in a single season.

Remember, this team earned a share of the Big 12 title and advanced to the Sweet 16 basically with Aldrich, Sherron Collins, a freshman Tyshawn Taylor and a bunch of other guys. The Morris twins were not good statistically their freshman year (or playing much), and while Brady Morningstar added some defensive value, he shot on just 12.4 percent of his possessions, which limited his offensive role.

Basically, Aldrich had to be dominant on both ends for KU. And he was.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich stuffs a shot by Missouri guard J.T. Tiller during the first half Sunday, March 1, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich stuffs a shot by Missouri guard J.T. Tiller during the first half Sunday, March 1, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

On a team that had an adjusted offensive efficiency of 1.14, Aldrich posted 1.24 points per possession — and that was while ending an above-average offensive load for KU (he ended 21.5 percent of the possessions he was in and shot it on 22.8 percent of his possessions).

Aldrich was a great shooter that year. His effective field-goal percentage of 59.8 percent was 63rd-best in the nation, and his 79.2-percent free-throw percentage still stands as the seventh-best in the Self era (minimum 100 attempts).

Big men also never seem to get credit for avoiding turnovers, but Aldrich was exceptional at this as well, as his 14.3-percent turnover rate was best on the team.

Aldrich was rare in that not only did he block shots, but he also was a dominant offensive and defensive rebounder.

Aldrich defense.

Aldrich defense. by Jesse Newell

Jeff Withey received a lot of fan love, and rightfully so, but he didn't approach the offensive numbers or defensive rebounding numbers that Aldrich had his sophomore year.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich delivers a dunk over North Dakota State defenders Dejaun Flowers, left, and Ben Woodside during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich delivers a dunk over North Dakota State defenders Dejaun Flowers, left, and Ben Woodside during the first half Friday, March 20, 2009 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. by Nick Krug

In a season where KU desperately needed Aldrich to score, defend and rebound, he did all three at an elite level without a whole lot of help around him.

Looking back, the center probably deserves the most credit of any Self player for keeping the nine-consecutive-conference-titles streak alive.

Reply

Where does each KU basketball returner need to improve?

It's the basketball offseason, which means it's the best time for the Kansas men's basketball players to improve their skills before the games begin to matter again in November.

So what types of drills should each returning KU player be focusing on?

Taking a look at last year's statistics, here's a suggested area of improvement for each of the Jayhawks' five returning scholarship players.

Perry Ellis: Finishing at the rim

As mentioned earlier this summer, Ellis had an impressive statistical first season, thanks mostly to a low turnover rate and an ability to get to the free-throw line and make those shots when he was there.

Blue team forward Perry Ellis puts up a jumper against Red team center Joel Embiid during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue team forward Perry Ellis puts up a jumper against Red team center Joel Embiid during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

The next step, though, is to make a few more bunnies. Ellis — often undersized in the lane at 6 foot 8, 225 pounds — made just 52 percent of his shot attempts at the rim last year, according to Hoop-Math.com. That number is well below the 61 percent national average on layups/tipins/dunks and also was the lowest mark on the team among players with at least 75 field-goal attempts.

In the first camp game last week, Ellis showed an improved face-up game offensively, which included range past the three-point line.

To become an even greater scoring threat this year, though, Ellis will have to improve upon his 47.1-percent two-point shooting from 2012-13. The easiest way to do that will be to body up to shot-blockers and put in a few more close ones when he's next to the rim.

Andrew White III: Lateral quickness

As a three-point specialist, White's 27.8-percent three-point accuracy last year had to be considered a disappointment, but it also could be the product of a small sample size (36 three-point attempts).

Here's what was more troubling for White when he was on the court: He had trouble keeping the person he was guarding in front of him.

Kansas guard Andrew White defends as Emporia State guard Chris Sights looks to pass during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew White defends as Emporia State guard Chris Sights looks to pass during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

White's foul numbers reflect that. In 125 minutes, he racked up 20 fouls, which comes out to 6.4 fouls for every 40 minutes. That number is too high for any player and especially worrisome for a perimeter player who typically doesn't have to use up whistles to prevent easy baskets.

White has shown the potential to have value offensively, but the sophomore will only get significant playing time when KU coach Bill Self starts to feel more comfortable with him on the other end.

Naadir Tharpe: Field-goal shooting

Tharpe had an impressive assist rate last year for KU, and while his turnovers were a touch high, they're in an acceptable range if the junior can make a few more shots.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Naadir Tharpe laugh with newcomer Tarik Black before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Naadir Tharpe laugh with newcomer Tarik Black before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

Though it hasn't been talked about much, Tharpe had the second-worst shooting year of any player in Self's 10-year tenure at KU (minimum 100 field-goal attempts).

Worst eFG% in Self era.

Worst eFG% in Self era. by Jesse Newell

Though Tharpe especially struggled inside the arc, he really could use improvement in all his shots. His field-goal percentages at the rim (52 percent), on two-point jumpshots (30 percent) and three-point jumpers (33 percent) were all below NCAA averages.

The point guard shouldn't be relied upon to score much next season, but he'll still need to hit enough shots to prevent defenses from sagging off him.

Justin Wesley: Hands-off defense

When Wesley checks into a game, he's being put in to defend, rebound and most likely help KU avoid further foul trouble.

Red team forward Justin Wesley fights for a rebound with Blue team guard Wayne Selden during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Red team forward Justin Wesley fights for a rebound with Blue team guard Wayne Selden during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

If Wesley is to fill that role better in 2013-14, he's going to have to tone down his aggressiveness and avoid fouls better than he did a year ago.

Wesley's foul numbers were sky-high last season, as he picked up 16 whistles in 68 minutes. That's a whopping 9.4 fouls per 40 minutes, which decreases his overall value, especially if the opponent is already in the bonus.

Wesley will always be primarily a ball-mover on the offensive end (though eight turnovers to just four field-goal attempts last year is a ratio that could be improved), but to be a better role player for KU, he'll need to improve his defensive technique and be a little less hack-happy in the lane.

Jamari Traylor: Two-point jump-shooting

Much like Thomas Robinson in his freshman year, Jamari Traylor had poor offensive numbers last year because of a high turnover rate.

Part of the problem, though, was Traylor's hesitance to shoot the ball. When he was in, he only attempted 13 percent of KU's shots, which was the lowest mark of the Jayhawks' rotation players.

Though Traylor was OK when shooting at the rim (58 percent is slightly below NCAA average), he struggled quite a bit with his jump shot.

Blue team forward Jamari Traylor elevates to the bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue team forward Jamari Traylor elevates to the bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

According to Hoop-Math, Traylor made just 21 percent of his two-point jumpers, which again was the worst mark of any player in the Jayhawks' rotation.

Traylor appeared to show some extended range in the camp game when he hit a three-pointer, but much like Tharpe, he'll need to take (and make) open shots to remain on the floor.

The sophomore has the ability to help KU with blocked shots and on the defensive glass, but he won't get to show those skills if he can't provide more offensively in 2013-14.

More from Jesse Newell

  • The biggest difference between Xavier Henry and Ben McLemore? Perception
  • Here's what KU's 2013 recruiting class would have looked like in previous years
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Reply

    The biggest difference between Ben McLemore and Xavier Henry? Perception

    The general consensus I get from Kansas basketball fans is that Xavier Henry was a bust in his one-and-done year, while Ben McLemore was a success.

    It's simply not true if you look only at the numbers.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore pulls up for a three over Temple guard Scootie Randall during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore pulls up for a three over Temple guard Scootie Randall during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    For the last few years, Ken Pomeroy has listed "player comparables" in his advanced stats on KenPom.com.

    The full explanation for the measure is on his site, but basically, a score of 900 or more means two players are "a great match."

    McLemore and Henry's player comparable score is 917 — the highest mark for each player. Keep in mind that's comparing their statistics to every other Div. I freshman over the past eight years.

    The similarity between the two is even more striking when looking at the advanced statistics. I've highlighted in red the categories where the two put up nearly the same stat line.

    Photo illustration by Janella Williams/Journal-World.

    Photo illustration by Janella Williams/Journal-World. by Jesse Newell

    The two players took on the same offensive load (usage percentage) and hitched up the same amount of shots. Their rebounding numbers are nearly identical, as are their turnover percentages and three-point shooting percentages.

    Basically, here are the four things that separate McLemore and Henry:

    • Playing time: McLemore's per-game numbers look better because he was in a greater percentage of KU's minutes. One could easily argue that if McLemore was on the deeper 2009-10 team in Henry's place, his playing time might have been reduced as well.

    • Free throws: Henry was a good free-throw shooter, but McLemore was an excellent one, which helped boost his offensive rating by a few points.

    Two-point shooting: McLemore shot six percentage points better inside the arc, which again was enough to boost his offensive production up just a bit above Henry's.

    Defense: Henry was the more disruptive defender, as his steal percentage was nearly double that of McLemore in his one season.

    All things considered, McLemore is the better player. His enhanced offensive value over Henry makes up for his weaker steal numbers.

    Still, it's close — and much closer than you'd expect based on the players' reputations.

    So why is it that McLemore is widely considered a success while Henry isn't?

    A few theories:

    Expectations: McLemore committed to KU at an anonymous high-school all-star game near Chicago. Henry's original announcement that he was attending Memphis (before he reopened his recruitment) was live on ESPN.

    Fair or not, the added media exposure of recruits usually boosts their expectations. Interestingly, Henry was ranked eighth in his class by Rivals.com, while McLemore was 17th, so the two actually were closer in that respect than KU fans might remember.

    Henry's stock also was elevated a bit early in his senior year when, for a short time, he was the ranked the No. 1 player in his class by ESPNU.

    • Likability: McLemore's backstory of succeeding over adversity and poverty has been documented in a few places, and it added to him being an easy player to cheer for. Henry, meanwhile, didn't initially report to KU in the summer before his freshman year, which didn't get him off to a good start with KU's fanbase. Xavier — a polite kid in interviews — also probably had his reputation hurt by association, as his father Carl many times came across as overbearing while his brother C.J. often looked disinterested and self-focused while putting up a high percentage of shots during his one season at KU.

    Dunks: This is a big one. Though the two players' numbers were similar, they looked much different based on the eye test.

    According to the KU media relations department's unofficial count, McLemore had 43 dunks in his one season.

    Henry had only 17. And his weren't nearly as impressive.

    McLemore was a more fun athlete to watch because of his leaping ability and creative slams. Even with those gifts, McLemore's offensive production was just barely above Henry's.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore finishes the game with a windmill dunk against San Jose State during the second half on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas guard Ben McLemore finishes the game with a windmill dunk against San Jose State during the second half on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    The bottom line? McLemore and Henry both had productive seasons during their one-year playing careers in Lawrence.

    Take out the emotions and perception, and the two were nearly identical college players ... even if there's little hope that they'll be remembered that way.


    More from Jesse Newell

  • Did Perry Ellis exceed expectations in 2012-13?
  • Here's what KU's 2013 recruiting class would have looked like in previous years
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • Reply

    Did Perry Ellis exceed expectations in 2012-13?

    If you watched a lot of NCAA Tournament games last year, you most likely heard the story of Butler graduate manager Drew Cannon.

    In short, Cannon was put on Brad Stevens' staff as an advanced statistics expert, going through numbers to help Butler put its best lineup on the floor at all times.

    Before Cannon was snatched up by one of the game's smartest coaches, though, he was guest-writing for KenPom.com, submitting blog posts last summer that gave statistical projections for the nation's top players.

    He used different formulas for returners (taking into account past stats, basic demographics, team stats, high school rankings, mock draft projections and awards) and freshmen (basic statistical information along with a few other secret ingredients added in), but in essence, he gave us a baseline on what to expect statistically from individual players.

    I want to use this blog post to evaluate KU freshman Perry Ellis' performance last year to see if he went above or below what was expected of him, but first, let's look at just how close Cannon was to projecting KU center Jeff Withey's actual performance.

    Kansas center Jeff Withey puts up a shot over North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo..

    Kansas center Jeff Withey puts up a shot over North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo in the first half on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.. by Mike Yoder

    Jeff Withey: Projection vs. Performance

    Jeff Withey: Projection vs. Performance by Jesse Newell

    No wonder Cannon is on Stevens' staff; it's almost like he had the answers to the test given to him beforehand. Cannon's projections almost are the exact replica of Withey's production at KU his senior year. Perhaps the only exceptions are that Withey fouled a touch less than expected and made a few more twos.

    Still, it's amazing to think that a formula could so closely predict human performance.

    Switching over to Ellis, let's take a look at his projections compared to his performance a year ago.

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes in for a dunk against Iowa State during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes in for a dunk against Iowa State during the first half of the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament on Friday, March 15, 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

    Perry Ellis: Projection vs. Performance

    Perry Ellis: Projection vs. Performance by Jesse Newell

    Though Ellis' minutes were limited (he averaged 13.6 minutes per game), we can see from the numbers that he greatly exceeded Cannon's projections, especially on the offensive end. He averaged 1.14 points per possessions used while taking on a larger offensive load (ending 21.9 percent of KU's offensive possessions when he was on the floor) than expected.

    Here are a few other positives from Ellis' numbers:

    Turnovers: This is where Ellis overachieved most. He gave the ball away on just 10.7 percent of his ended possessions, and though it's often overlooked, that kind of ball security from a big man greatly enhances his offensive value. Ellis had just 20 turnovers in 503 minutes last season.

    • Free throws: Ellis also helped his offensive output by getting to the free-throw line often (a 52.5 free-throw rate is a solid number) and making those shots once he was there (his 73.8-percent accuracy was nearly 10 percentage points better than his projection).

    Defensive rebounding: Though KU coach Bill Self often pushed Ellis to be more aggressive, his defensive rebounding percentage ended up well above average. Ellis' 19.9-percent defensive rebounding percentage was second on the team behind Withey and much higher than his projected total of 16 percent.

    If we're using the projections as a guide, here are two areas of improvement for Ellis in the offseason:

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets up to block a shot by Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

    Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets up to block a shot by Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

    Overall defense: Ellis wasn't a disruptive defensive player last season. His block percentage was barely half of his projection (2.1 percent), while his steal percentage also wasn't as high as you'd expect for a player with his quickness (1.8 percent).

    Two-point shooting: Ellis finished with below-projection two-point numbers despite an impressive end to the season. In his final seven games, Ellis was 30-for-46 on twos (65.2 percent), which lets you know just how much he struggled early. As an undersized 4, Ellis will have to continue his evolution offensively, learning how to create space and also avoid blocks against taller competition than he faced in high school.

    The numbers above indicate that Ellis is ready to take the next step for KU in 2013-14. He's already a good offensive player — thanks to his low turnover count and ability to create and make free throws — and with some improvements defensively and on two-point jumpers, he could quickly turn into an all-conference-type player with an increase in playing time next season.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Here's what KU's 2013 recruiting class would have looked like in previous years
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Reply

    Here’s what KU’s 2013 basketball recruiting class would have looked like in previous years

    Kentuckysports.com recently put together a blog post about the Wildcats' recruiting class and how it might have looked like in earlier years.

    Because Kansas coach Bill Self has compiled his best recruiting class (at least on paper) in his 10 years in Lawrence, I thought it would be interesting to do a similar exercise for the Jayhawks.

    For this blog, we'll use the RSCI recruiting rankings, which compile many of the top recruiting rankings to come up with a single list.

    Here's where the Jayhawks' class finished up in those rankings:

    KU's recruiting class of 2013
    1. Andrew Wiggins
    13. Wayne Selden
    16. Joel Embiid
    36. Brannen Greene
    40. Conner Frankamp
    89. Frank Mason

    Just for fun, I looked up what KU's recruiting class would have looked like if it had the first, 13th-, 16th, 36th-, 40th- and 89th-best players in previous years.

    Here are the results (two/three players are listed under each other in case of a tie in the rankings):

    2012
    1. Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
    13. Ricardo Ledo (Providence)
    16. Gary Harris (Michigan State)
    36. Katin Reinhardt (UNLV)
    40. Brice Johnson (North Carolina)
    89. Mike Gesell (Iowa)
    Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)

    Kentucky forward Anthony Davis bounces the ball off his fist during the Wildcats' practice at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012.

    Kentucky forward Anthony Davis bounces the ball off his fist during the Wildcats' practice at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012. by Nick Krug

    2011
    1. Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
    13. Myck Kabongo (Texas)
    16. Jabari Brown (Oregon)
    36. Trevor Lacey (Alabama)
    40. Jakarr Sampson (St. John's)
    89. Sidiki Johnson (Arizona)

    2010
    1. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)
    13. Cory Joseph (Texas)
    16. Joe Jackson (Memphis)
    36. Cameron Clark (Oklahoma)
    40. Jordan McRae (Tennessee)
    89. Jarell Eddie (Virginia Tech)

    2009
    1. Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech)
    13. Dante Taylor (Pittsburgh)
    16. Alex Oriakhi (UConn)
    36. Aaric Murray (La Salle)
    40. Jamil Wilson (Oregon)
    89. Donnavan Kirk (Miami FL)
    Keith Clanton (Central Florida)

    Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings (3) drives against Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 105-97.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings (3) drives against Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 105-97. by Nick Gerik

    2008
    1. Brandon Jennings (Europe)
    13. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
    16. Elliot Williams (Duke)
    Kemba Walker (UConn)
    36. Kenny Kadji (Florida)
    Darius Miller (Kentucky)
    40. Anthony Jones (Baylor)
    89. Matt Gatens (Iowa)

    2007
    1. O.J. Mayo (USC)
    13. DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M)
    16. Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)
    36. DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh)
    40. Chris Allen (Michigan State)
    89. Bradley Wanamaker (Pittsburgh)

    Greg Oden, Ohio State

    Greg Oden, Ohio State

    2006
    1. Greg Oden (Ohio State)
    13. Daequan Cook (Ohio State)
    16. Vernon Macklin (Georgetown)
    36. Jerome Dyson (UConn)
    40. Davon Jefferson (USC)
    89. Taylor Harrison (California)

    2005
    1. Josh McRoberts (Duke)
    13. Greg Paulus (Duke)
    16. Gerald Green (NBA)
    36. Theo Davis (Iowa State)
    Dominic James (Marquette)
    40. Eric Boateng (Duke)
    Fendi Onobun (Arizona)
    89. K.C. Rivers (Clemson)

    2004
    1. Dwight Howard (NBA)
    13. D.J. White (Indiana)
    16. Juan Diego Palacios (Louisville)
    36. Josh Wright (Syracuse)
    40. Dorell Wright (NBA)
    Isaiah Swann (Florida State)
    Brian Johnson (Louisville)
    89. Nick Young (USC)
    Lorenzo Wade (Louisville)

    Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's LeBron James goes up for a dunk in the
first half of the McDonald's All-American Game. James had 27 points
in the East's 122-107 victory Wednesday at Gund Arena in Cleveland.

    Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's LeBron James goes up for a dunk in the first half of the McDonald's All-American Game. James had 27 points in the East's 122-107 victory Wednesday at Gund Arena in Cleveland. by AP Photo

    2003
    1. LeBron James (NBA)
    13. Olu Famutimi (Arkansas)
    16. Travis Outlaw (NBA)
    Linas Kleiza (Missouri)
    J.R. Giddens (Kansas)
    36. Rodrick Stewart (USC)
    40. Gary Forbes (Virginia)
    Ronnie Brewer (Arkansas)
    89. Omari Israel (Notre Dame)

    2002
    1. Amare Stoudemire (NBA)
    13. Evan Burns (UCLA)
    16. Anthony Roberson (Florida)
    36. Eric Williams (Wake Forest)
    40. Matt Walsh (Florida)
    89. Marquis Kately (California)

    2001
    1. Eddy Curry (NBA)
    13. David Harrison (Colorado)
    Jonathan Hargett (West Virginia)
    16. Maurice Williams (Alabama)
    36. Billy Edelin (Syracuse)
    40. Travis Diener (Marquette)
    89. Derek Stribling (Tennessee)

    Indiana's Scot Pollard, left, defends Portland's Zach Randolph. Pollard had six points and 16 rebounds in the Pacers' 101-69 victory Wednesday night in Indianapolis.

    Indiana's Scot Pollard, left, defends Portland's Zach Randolph. Pollard had six points and 16 rebounds in the Pacers' 101-69 victory Wednesday night in Indianapolis. by Darron Cummings/AP Photo

    2000
    1. Zach Randolph (Michigan State)
    13. Jerome Harper (juco)
    16. Darius Rice (Miami FL)
    36. Cliff Hawkins (Kentucky)
    40. Brian Boddicker (Texas)
    89. Kim Bowers (Mississippi State)

    1999
    1. Donnell Harvey (Florida)
    13. Kenny Satterfield (Cincinnati)
    16. Casey Sanders (Duke)
    36. Steve Hunter (DePaul)
    40. Matt Carroll (Notre Dame)
    89. Marque Perry (St. Louis)
    Nathan Hair (USC)

    1998
    1. Al Harrington (NBA)
    13. Michael Miller (Florida)
    16. Ray Young (UCLA)
    Corey Maggette (Duke)
    36. Douglas Wrenn (prep school)
    40. Jeff Boschee (Kansas)
    89. Marqus Ledoux (LSU)
    David Graves (Notre Dame)

    A few interesting things:

    If you're wanting to dream on KU's recruiting class, look no further than 2007. O.J. Mayo, DeAndre Jordan Blake Griffin and DeJuan Blair? Obviously, the numbers fell just right for these players to be in these spots, and I'd guess 2007 was one of the strongest recruiting classes of all time. Still, if KU had close to that kind of talent coming in ... look out.

    Though 2007 is encouraging for KU fans, there are other years that show high recruiting rankings don't necessarily guarantee success. I'm thinking the 1999 grouping is the worst (Donnell Harvey, Kenny Satterfield, Casey Sanders, Steve Hunter, Matt Carroll, Marque Perry, Nathan Hair), though a few recent ones like 2010 (Harrison Barnes, Cory Joseph, Joe Jackson, Cameron Clark, Jordan McRae, Jarell Eddie) lacked some star power as well.

    It's an interesting coincidence that Conner Frankamp shares the same RSCI ranking as former KU basketball player Jeff Boschee (No. 40).

    KU's Jeff Boschee.

    KU's Jeff Boschee.

    When I talked to Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi a few months ago, he even made the remark about Frankamp that "it’s too easy to make a Jeff Boschee comparison."

    I would guess KU fans would be thrilled if Frankamp went on to have a Boschee-like career for the Jayhawks.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Five plays that show how Releford shut down Bullock — and how KU’s ‘D’ forced UNC into ‘one bad shot’
  • Reply

    Will Andrew Wiggins average over/under 18 points next season?

    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.

    I guess Andrew Wiggins is kind of a big deal.

    Not only has he moved the Kansas men's basketball team from 30-to-1 odds to win the national championship to 7.5-to-1, but the site Bovada also had individual odds on whether Wiggins would score over or under 18 points per game next season. No other college player was given similar attention on the site.

    This actually brings up a good question: Will Wiggins average more or less than 18 points per game for KU next season?

    Let's examine:

    3 reasons Wiggins could average 18 points per game

    • Opportunity: KU doesn't return much in the way of proven scorers. It'd even be different if a guy like Jeff Withey (13.7 points per game last year) was coming back.

    Really, though, who is a guarantee to score more than 10 points per game next year? I would think most KU fans would say a healthy Perry Ellis should, but other than that, what guarantees are there? Wayne Selden is athletic, but will he be an immediate scorer? Conner Frankamp is a great shooter, but how many minutes will he get right away? Tarik Black is a nice addition, but his stats indicate he's more of a complimentary scorer rather than a go-to one.

    If Wiggins is the "alpha dog" that KU coach Bill Self says he is, then it's definitely possible he'll be shooting a high percentage of the Jayhawks' shots on a team that doesn't return any starters from a year ago.

    • Pace: With athletic players like Wiggins and Selden — and no lumbering centers to slow down the offense — KU should be looking to push the pace in 2013-14. And obviously, more possessions would give Wiggins extra shots to get to the magic 18 point-per-game number.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins (22) and Julius Randle (30) battle for a rebound during the second half of the McDonald's All-American Boys basketball game in Chicago on April 3, 2013.

    McDonald's East All-American's Andrew Wiggins (22) and Julius Randle (30) battle for a rebound during the second half of the McDonald's All-American Boys basketball game in Chicago on April 3, 2013.

    Self's green light: When Self has had talented offensive players in the past, he's practically begged them to shoot more ... even if they didn't.

    KU guard Sherron Collins said that, in practice, Brandon Rush would have to run on the treadmill if he passed up a jumpshot.

    This past season, KU guard Ben McLemore often talked about how Self wanted him to be more aggressive, including this quote from a story in late January:

    “Coach Self always stresses to me that he needs me to be more aggressive, and I need to create more opportunities offensively to get myself open one pass away. I need to get myself open. I need to do a better job of that. I didn’t plug myself in the first half. I wasn’t aggressive like coach wants me to be. Coach told me to go out second half and be more aggressive and plug myself in.”

    Wiggins likely won't hear any grumblings from Self if he decides to be an ultra-assertive player on the offensive end.

    3 reasons Wiggins won't average 18 points per game

    Schedule: Let's face it: It's much easier to put up points against patsies.

    It'll be much tougher for KU players to rack up the points in the non-conference season this year, as the Jayhawks' slate is loaded with contests against Duke, Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State — and that's not even counting a three-game trip to the Bahamas in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Even some of the "easier" games aren't that easy, as Iona (101) and Towson (168) finished in the top half of KenPom's rankings a year ago.

    If Wiggins gets to 18 points per game next season, he'll have earned it against what is sure to be a top-five schedule.

    18's a high number: Only 48 players averaged 18 points or more per game last season, and just four of those players were on teams that finished the year in the AP top 25 (Creighton's Doug McDermott, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Louisville's Russ Smith and Michigan's Trey Burke). Notice also that none of those players were freshmen.

    If you're wondering about Self's 10-year history at KU ... only two players have topped the 18-point-per-game barrier.

    Top PPG players under Self

    Top PPG players under Self by Jesse Newell

    The top freshman scorer under Self? That would be McLemore, who averaged 15.9 PPG last season.

    History of No. 1 prospects: To see how other top-ranked prospects had fared in their first year of college, I looked up the No. 1 recruits over the last eight seasons in the RSCI rankings (which compiles many recruiting rankings to make a comprehensive list). I then looked at how many points per game each player scored in his freshman season.

    Only one — USC's O.J. Mayo — averaged more than 18 points per game.

    RSCI No. 1s

    RSCI No. 1s by Jesse Newell

    Interesting, only two players on that list averaged more than 16 points per game, which shows how difficult it has been in the past for a top recruit to step in and produce big point numbers right away at a top program.

    Final verdict

    Your answer to this question probably depends on your view of Wiggins.

    Is he the best high-school basketball player since LeBron James, as a few analysts have claimed? If he's that kind of talent, he should get 18 points per game fairly easily.

    If, talent-wise, he's around what the other No. 1 recruits have been, then it's a much tougher question to answer. Most No. 1 guys don't step immediately into blueblood programs and average 18 points per game, but then again, most No. 1 guys aren't entering a team with no returning starters and a coach that has pleaded with his elite players to shoot more in the past.

    For me, I'll say Wiggins finishes just under 18 points per game. I think he'll definitely be above McLemore's 15.9 last year, but getting 18-plus against the schedule KU has next year will be a difficult task.

    Vegas usually isn't off by much, and I don't think it is here, either. I'll say Wiggins ends somewhere around Marcus Morris' mark of 17.2 PPG in 2010-11.

    But I'm definitely not confident enough to put my money where my mouth is.

    What do you think: over or under 18 points per game for Wiggins next season? Be sure to vote in our online poll.

    More from Jesse Newell

  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Tarik Black
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Here's what type of player KU is getting in Hunter Mickelson
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Reply

    1 2 3 4 ...10