Entries from blogs tagged with “football”
It's back to the secondary for today's entry on the list of most crucial Jayhawks for the 2015 season.
This Kansas University football player has flown under the radar for much of his career but, as a junior, definitely could be poised to play his way into a much more important role this season.
He has experience, is put together well and is a smart player with great athleticism.
Here's a little more on No. 19.
19. Tevin Shaw, 5-foot-11, 194-pound Jr. Safety
With 2012 signing day just days away, Shaw called Iowa to inform coaches that he was going to sign with the Hawkeyes, who had been recruiting him as a running back. It was at that point that he was informed the school had run out of scholarships. Smaller schools, such as Temple, had moved on at that point, leaving Shaw scrambling.
Kansas saved the day for Shaw, who had rushed for 1,596 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, leading Piscataway High to second consecutive New Jersey state title.
KU decided to play him at safety, where he didn’t stand out in practice during his red-shirt season. He played well on special teams as a red-shirt freshman and made a big step forward last season, starting eight games at nickelback. Shaw is coming off a strong spring and is expected to start in the secondary.
Based on his success in high school, Shaw could be available for emergency action at running back, where injuries have left KU extremely thin.
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
The beginning of another week brings the latest entry in this summer's edition of the most crucial Jayhawks for the upcoming football season.
With the lower portion of the list packed with defensive backs, it's time to encounter the second offensive lineman in the series, as a versatile junior-college transfer lands on the list at No. 20.
Here's a look.
Be sure to check the links below for Nos. 25-21 and check back throughout the week as we continue to count down the Top 20.
20. De’Andre Banks, 6-foot-3, 309-pound Jr. offensive lineman
The junior-college transfer who participated in spring football impressed coaches with his aptitude and attitude.
He responded well to his first taste of Div. I conditioning and showed a great work ethic in practicing snaps after practice in case he is needed at center.
Banks originally committed to Louisiana Lafayette out of Trinity Valley Community College, but changed his mind when Kansas offered a scholarship. He said he never had experienced the type of workouts that strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson put the team through during spring football.
His body changed, looked less puffy by the end of the spring. Listed at 6-foot-3, 309 pounds, Banks weighed at least 20 pounds more than that when he arrived at Kansas. As is the case with most of KU’s offensive linemen, guard is his natural position, but that doesn’t mean all of his playing time will come there.
Banks, who’s from the same hometown (Killeen, Texas) but a different high school from injured KU quarterback Michael Cummings, comes to Kansas from Trinity Valley Community College, where he teamed with promising defensive backs Bazie Bates and Brandon Stewart.
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
1:45 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS COACH CHARLIE STRONG
Charlie Strong’s first season in charge of the heralded Texas football program didn’t live up to his — or any of the Longhorns’ — expectations. UT did win enough games to gain bowl eligibility, but Texas finished 2014 with a 6-7 mark, and a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl.
The Longhorns also got blown out in their regular-season finale, versus TCU, so Strong felt just plain angry about the way his first year in Austin turned out.
Strong said every person involved in the program enters 2015 as fired up about getting Texas back to its glory days as he is. The UT coach shared he spoke with the team’s seniors and it came up that they have yet to experience a double-digit win season.
“So it's more about them,” Strong said. “They want to show that what it's all about and what the university is all about and just how they want to go out and compete.”
From the head coach’s discussions with strength coach Pat Moorer this summer, he thinks numerous Longhorns are taking it upon themselves to step up and get UT headed in the right direction.
“But you know what, when you're at a place like here, it should be like that,” the second-year Texas coach said. “We shouldn't even have to have this conversation. It should get where each and every year we talk about competing.”
12:10 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA STATE COACH MIKE GUNDY
In 2014, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy decided to pull the trigger and insert a true freshman at quarterback late in the season. While he, of course, wishes the three games Mason Rudolph played hadn’t cost him a year of eligibility, Gundy still thinks it was the right move for the program then and now, and the Cowboys are seeing dividends from the move.
OSU went 7-6 overall last fall and 4-5 in the Big 12, but it won two of its last three games — including a win over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl — with first-year QB Rudolph on the field. The team’s sudden late-season starter threw for 853 yards and six touchdowns (four interceptions) in those three games.
The way the Cowboys ended the season, Gundy said, led the staff to go ahead and name Rudolph the starter for 2015 long ago, even though there are other options on the roster, including J.W. Walsh. OSU’s head coach said the player who would have been a red-shirt freshman this season looks much different in his second summer in the program, and Rudolph is working hard and showing signs of toughness.
11:47 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
More leftover KU nuggets from Monday Fun Day in Big D...
• KU coach David Beaty said that senior Ben Goodman was “by far” the best leader the Jayhawks have on the roster, but that does not mean Goodman is the only leader. Late in the breakout sessions, I caught up with sophomore tight end Ben Johnson and asked him to rattle off the names of a few players who had emerged as leaders throughout the spring and offseason. After tipping his head toward Goodman as a somewhat obvious answer, Johnson listed senior wide receiver Tre' Parmalee, juco running back transfer Ke'aun Kinner, junior linebacker Courtney Arnick and junior quarterback Montell Cozart as some of the team's best leaders. Johnson also said he had done his best to fill the role vacated by Jimmay Mundine in terms of leading the tight ends and leading by example whenever possible.
• One other interesting note about leaders, Beaty said Michael Cummings has maintained a role as one of the team's best leaders, even while recovering from ACL surgery. “The day after he had surgery (in mid-June), he hobbled up to my office to talk about how he could help the team,” Beaty recalled. “We didn't have to talk about it because he already knew and had it in his mind, but I told him that day that the key now is for him to find a way to still help this team. And he has. He always has his arm around one of the younger guys out there and is trying to make this team better.”
• In the name-flying-under-the-radar category, it might be time to start looking a little more closely at red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Daniel Wise. There's a serious opportunity for some unproven guys to step up on the interior of the defensive line for the Jayhawks this fall and Goodman said he thought Wise, 6-foot-3, 271 pounds, was a guy who could definitely make some noise and hold his own in there. Another guy Goodman mentioned was senior Kapil Fletcher (6-3, 271), who played seven games a season ago after transferring to KU from Hartnell College.
• Speaking of D-Tackles, Goodman said he was not worried at all about those guys (and others) being able to handle the middle of the trenches for the KU defense this fall. “I played in there last year, out of position, at 250 pounds and I at least was able to hold my own. So I know those guys, who are around 280 or so, will be fine in there.” Time will tell, but Goodman brings up an interesting point.
• Every Jayhawk in attendance on Monday was asked to give their realistic expectations for the 2015 season. Although none of them gave a specific win total — and why would they? — you could tell that these guys believe they'll be better than people think. And why wouldn't they? From the sound of things, they've definitely been putting in the work it takes to be a successful team, it's just going to come down to the answers to these questions — Do they have enough talent to compete? Will a few guys step up from out of nowhere and make a big impact? And will they have enough depth to handle injuries and fatigue? At least as of now, the answers to those questions all look less than positive, but you can't blame the players themselves for being confident and believing that they can go out there and get the job done. That's an important part of it. How much it matters remains to be seen.
11:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
IOWA STATE COACH PAUL RHOADS
Like Kansas, Iowa State experienced a rough 2014 season. The Cyclones — the only Big 12 team to lose to the Jayhawks last fall — went 2-10.
Seventh-year ISU coach Paul Rhoads had plenty of issues to address in the offseason, and after surrendering 38.8 points a game to its opponents, defensive strides have been one area of focus.
“We’ve been porous, as far as stopping the run,” Rhoads said.
The coach thinks the defensive line will have depth and talent in 2015, though, and Rhoads said the Cyclones have six players returning with starting experience on defense and 10 more who played significant snaps. So he thinks continuity and seasoning will help the progress on that side of the ball.
On offense, the coach pointed out, ISU has 11 players who have previously started. It also will help to have offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, the former KU head coach, back.
“I think Mark has a much better understanding of where the league is at,” Rhoads said, “going into his second season as offensive coordinator.”
11:08 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA COACH BOB STOOPS
Not many football coaches would consider an 8-5 season disappointing. Then again, not many football coaches work at programs such as Oklahoma.
Bob Stoops’ Sooners finished 2014 with fewer than 10 wins for just the second time in the past nine seasons.
“It’s not up to our standards and our expectations as a a program, for sure,” Stoops said of a down year that ended with a 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
OU averaged 36.4 points a game in 2014 and 464.7 yards, but Stoops hopes to put up even larger numbers this year, with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (formerly O.C. at ECU) in place. Stoops said the Sooners need to move the ball more consistently and simply show a better ability to put points on the scoreboard.
A reporter asked Stoops if the program is where he wants it to be at right now, and he gave his numerous reasons for feeling optimistic. For starters, he has been at Oklahoma for 17 seasons (and won 168 games), and the Sooners are just a year removed going 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl.
“I look around the country, we’re probably not the only team who was 8-5 or 7-6,” Stoops said.
In his time at Oklahoma, the team has finished with 10 or more victories 13 times.
11:03 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
A few leftover notes from KU's turn at Big 12 media days on Monday...
• Asked what surprised him the most so far about the job and taking over the KU program, KU coach David Beaty said the support and acceptance from the KU fan base had been the most surprising. He's well aware of how rough things have been the past few seasons and he does not blame anyone for being down on the program or taking a wait-and-see approach to being a fan. But he's been incredibly pleased by how welcoming everyone has been and how much so many fans have expressed to him how badly they want KU to have good football again.
• Beaty was asked about whether he thought the Big 12 should expand from 10 teams to 12 and he quickly passed through the topic. He did say that he thought finding schools that were the right fit was the most important factor if the conference were to expand and said he would rather see the conference stay at 10 schools than add just for the sake of adding and getting to some magic number. Asked if he had any schools in mind that he'd like to see the conference go after, he simply said, “No.”
• Asked how he came up with the three players who would represent KU at Big 12 media days this year, Beaty spoke to a team mantra that has become pretty popular in Lawrence and on Twitter this offseason: “They earned it,” he said of Jayhawk representatives Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith. “If we're gonna talk and say that we're gonna base everything we do on earning it and hard work then we're gonna do it with everything we do. Because if we don't, it's gonna lose it's punch.”
• History and tradition clearly mean so much to Beaty and he's done a lot already to make sure his team understands what came before them and what legacies they're trying to represent and honor. That's why he has made such strong efforts to get so many former players in front of the Jayhawks at practice and things like that and also why he has so regularly emphasized that everything these guys have today — the football complex, the TV exposure, the gear, etc. — has come about because of the blood, sweat and tears of former players who did not have it so good. That even extends to the 2008 Orange Bowl team, which Beaty said was sort of irrelevant to this group initially but no longer is because of the big deal they've made about how special that team was. “We're standing on the shoulders of giants,” Beaty said. “They were in the dungeon and we're in the Taj Mahal. It's important that we honor and appreciate that.”
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
BAYLOR COACH ART BRILES
A year ago Baylor football coach Art Briles had an arm he could trust in the Bears’ high-octane offense. But Bryce Petty’s days in a BU uniform are through.
That makes junior Seth Russell the quarterback for what is expected to be one of the nation’s top teams. At this point of Russell’s career, Briles said he doesn’t quite know what he has in the new No. 1 QB, compared to what he knew of Petty at the same stage of his career.
Briles and the Baylor coaches are still trying to figure out how Russell functions as an athlete, how he competes and how he processes it all. As he gets adjusted to his new role in the spotlight, Briles said he wants to make sure Russell doesn’t feel too much pressure.
“You just have to be good,” Briles said. “You don’t have to be great.”
10:00 a.m. Original post — By Benton Smith
We’re back in Dallas for another day of Big 12 football news conferences.
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty and the Jayhawks went through their media sessions yesterday and have completed their responsibilities, so we’ll share some notes and thoughts that haven’t been addressed yet, as well as the comments of the Big 12 coaches in attendance.
In the meantime, catch up on some of Monday's highlights:
5:05 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
There aren’t a lot of expectations for Kansas football this season. So Ben Goodman, Jordan Shelley-Smith and Ben Johnson didn’t anticipate hearing a lot of questions about wins or bowl games at Big 12 Media Days.
Goodman said while they respect people’s opinions, given KU’s recent struggles, they also easily keep themselves from feeling negative about outside perceptions.
“We just look at it as motivation, man,” Goodman said.
The Jayhawks know few in the college football world think they are capable of becoming relevant.
“We have to earn it, which is our slogan, but we have to earn people’s respect, too,” Goodman said. “Stay tuned in in Lawrence, and I hope we earn y’all’s respect.”
Since Goodman brought up “earn it,” I asked him how often David Beaty uses the two words.
“He says it a lot,” the senior defensive lineman said, before giving his impression of Beaty, which wasn’t quite as polished as Shelley-Smith’s. “‘Hey, man. Earn it. Earn it, earn it, earn it. Love you guys.’”
Beaty doesn’t mind those type of light-hearted moments, because he wants players enjoying themselves while they work toward restoring the program’s public image.
4:15 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
The interview portion of the afternoon just wrapped in Dallas, and Jayhawks Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith, as well as first-year coach David Beaty, spent over an hour and a half answering questions.
One of the highlights of the session had to be junior offensive lineman Shelley-Smith giving his Beaty impression, which of course included the team slogan, "earn it."
12:37 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS TECH COACH KLIFF KINGSBURY
A former quarterback himself, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has two quarterbacks competing to become the Red Raiders’ starter this fall.
Junior Davis Webb and sophomore Patrick Mahomes both have had individual success at times in their careers. Kingsbury said both will need to eliminate negative plays at the QB position for Texas Tech to win more games.
Both showed progress in the spring with ball security, but Kingsbury knows that has to carry over to actual games to mean anything. Whomever is named the starter, he added, won’t see a quick hook when mistakes come.
Kingsbury plans to name a starter “fairly early” in preseason camp, but if an injury takes place after one guy wins the job, he won’t be worried, because he thinks Tech has two players capable of winning games.
12:18 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KANSAS STATE COACH BILL SNYDER
After leading his Kansas State football team to a 9-4 record in 2014, coaching legend Bill Snyder heads into preseason camp with significant uncertainty at the most marquee position.
Snyder, who has seven quarterbacks on his K-State roster, said the Wildcats will open practices in a few weeks with four players sharing opportunities to become the starter. Ideally, one will emerge as the clear starter before the season begins.
“I don’t know how fast that will be,” Snyder said. “Right now, they’re all on equal footing.”
When questioned on the possibility of implementing a platoon, or two-quarterback system, Snyder said that won’t be the intent. He doesn’t favor that approach, but he hasn’t ruled it out, either.
One of the four leaders at this juncture is transfer Jonathan Banks, a sophomore from Contra Costa College. But because he joined K-State in the summer, so they haven’t seen him in practices yet.
Freshman QB Zach Davidson red-shirted in 2014. Sophomore Jesse Ertz played in mop-up duty last season. Junior Joe Hubener played in seven games a year ago.
“They’re all good young guys,” Snyder said. “They all care, they’re all good teammates.”
11:33 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
WEST VIRGINIA COACH DANA HOLGORSEN
Headed into his fourth year coaching in the Big 12, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen feels pretty confident and comfortable with his team.
Part of those positive vibes come from having more than 50 players who have been on the field in Big 12 football games. And some of the optimism originates from how competitive the Mountaineers were in 2014, when they went 7-6, despite having major issues with giving the ball away.
WVU was 120th in the nation in turnover margin last season, and four of its losses came by 10 or fewer points.
“We know we would’ve put ourselves in a position to win the conference,” Holgorsen said, if the Mountaineers had taken care of the ball.
Holgorsen has been known in his coaching career for his involvement in Air-Raid offenses, and he thinks his West Virginia version will only be as good as its quarterback.
Success with the Air-Raid, the fifth-year WVU coach said, comes down to taking care of the football. The Big 12 has had “tremendous” quarterback play through the years and many instances of pass-heavy offenses.
“The main thing when it comes to winning a championship,” Holgorsen said, “is guys that take care of the football.”
11:05 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KU COACH DAVID BEATY
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty opened his morning press conference at Big 12 media days talking about how excited he is to be back in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, one of the nation’s hotbeds of high school recruiting.
• Beaty said getting KU’s football program back on track will be a process, not an event. The new KU coach said he and his staff have high standards, and they have simple ways to reach lofty goals: work hard and earn everything.
• Beaty wants KU football to have a brand that is tough, competitive and fun for players to play in.
• On freshmen/first-year players: In college football these days, it’s hard to tell a player he will for sure red-shirt. Injuries are a part of the game, so depth usually becomes a factor. High school players are coming in more prepared than ever. But incoming freshmen will have to earn playing time.
• Beaty referenced his time at KU as an assistant under Mark Mangino. Some of the things Mangino created, in terms of good habits, are still there, according to Beaty.
• Senior QB Michael Cummings is a better kid than he is a player, Beaty said. His knee injury in the spring game broke Beaty’s heart. Cummings had surgery in June, and Bowen looked out his office window the other day and saw Cummings down on the field throwing the ball. If anybody can make it back this season, it’s Cummings.
• It was a no-brainer decision to keep Clint Bowen on his staff as assistant head coach. Beaty and Bowen, and their families, vacationed together this summer. Beaty likes the kind of person Bowen is, but also how much Bowen cares about the KU program.
• New offensive lineman Jordan Shelley-Smith has been a consummate pro. That’s probably the most impressive thing about him. Shelley-Smith has put on 65 pounds since converting from tight end and it should pay dividends for him.
• With two days of contact now the standard for practicing in the Big 12, it won’t change the way KU does business. The program will adjust to this and other changes that come in the college football landscape.
• Strength coach Je’Ney Jackson used to be at KU as an assistant coach and worked with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Beaty hired Jackson because of how talented he is. He likes the standards and expectations Jackson sets for the players.
• You need to have some depth at running back in college football, and Beaty thinks the Jayhawks have that. He pointed to Taylor Cox, Ke’aun Kinner, De’Andre Mann and Taylor Martin as the players KU will lean on at the RB position.
• High school coaches in Texas know Beaty and co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry well, and they know when their kids go to KU they’ll be taken care of, and nothing will be given.
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
Some on social media wondered if Kansas football was going with "KU" on its helmets, without a Jayhawk logo.
But, as we saw last season, Kansas actually has a number of helmet options, and some of them that KU brought to Dallas have "KU" on one side and a Jayhawk on the other.
10:25 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TCU COACH GARY PATTERSON
This summer’s trip to Big 12 Media Days feels a lot different than the 2014 venture for TCU coach Gary Patterson. Twelve months ago, the Horned Frogs were coming off a 4-8 season in 2013, with few expecting much out of them.
“A year ago, you had to prove people wrong. Now you’ve gotta prove people right,” said Patterson, whose team went 12-1 last season after installing a new offense, and now is expected to battle Baylor for the 2015 league crown.
Patterson said entering this season as a Big 12 favorite only means so much.
“It’s a nice feeling, but I’ve been in this business too long to get caught up in it,” the TCU coach said.
Patterson has to stay even keeled, he continued, because then his team will do the same.
His best player, senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, has kept his cool this summer, as hype builds around the Heisman Trophy front-runner.
Patterson said Boykin spent all summer doing seven-on-seven work with his offensive teammates, instead of leaving town to work with some “quarterback gurus.”
10:21 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
Just caught my first glimpse of KU coach David Beaty and the three KU player reps here in Dallas. Beaty and Ben Johnson elected to go with the light gray suit look while Jordan Shelley-Smith went dark blue and Ben Goodman went with the dark gray. All of them look sharp and they're all rocking the Jayhawk pin on their jackets.
A lot of teams just wear slacks and team polos to this event but the KU players always have tried to make sure they look as sharp as they can.
I think part of it is that they want to make sure they look like a top-level team so that people will treat them like one in spite of their record during recent seasons.
Beaty will hit the podium at 10:40 for his first official Big 12 Q&A.
Original Post: 9:25 a.m. — By Matt Tait
Like it or not, Big 12 football media days in Dallas always sort of represents the unofficial end of summer and the infant beginning of another college football season.
And it has arrived.
Four representatives of the Kansas University football team, along with players and coaches from the other nine Big 12 schools have invaded the Omni Hotel in Dallas to talk about the upcoming season, the challenges facing college football today and any and every other quirky and comedic thing they can think of to represent their schools and teams and kick off the 2015 season in style.
KU will be represented by first-year coach David Beaty, who should flourish in this setting, as well as players Ben Goodman (senior defensive end), Ben Johnson (sophomore tight end) and Jordan Shelley-Smith (junior offensive lineman).
Those three players, though not widely known throughout the conference will be in charge of answering all of those tough questions the Jayhawks normally get down here — Why is it so hard to win at Kansas? What's it like to lose so often? Will this year be any different than the previous five? And so many others like that.
I saw the KU contingent in the lobby when we checked in last night and they don't appear to be concerned with those types of things. Instead, they're excited to be here, ready to represent KU well and looking forward to showing people that there's more to football and the teams in the Big 12 than the results on the field.
I wouldn't expect to hear any outlandish comments from any of these guys. They're respectful young men who understand that the best way to talk the talk is to walk the walk. But I'm sure they'll be happy to share with us how hard they've been working this offseason and why they're optimistic about what's ahead.
As for Beaty, you can bet he'll give some colorful quotes, simply because he uses such interesting and entertaining language. But you can also bet that you'll hear him speak the words “earn it” about a million times and also will NOT hear him call his team or anyone else “a pile of crap.”
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is speaking to the media to kick things off and the coaches press conferences get rolling at 10:05 with TCU coach Gary Patterson. Beaty is set to speak for the first time at 10:40.
Keep it right here for all of your coverage from Day 1 of Big 12 media days from myself and your guy Benton Smith.
Today we pick back up with this summer's series that recognizes the KU football players who figure to have the most important roles for the Jayhawks during the upcoming season.
After starting with a wide receiver, it's back-to-back D-Backs to get the list going.
Here's a look:
23. Greg Allen, 5-foot-11, 212-pound Jr. Safety
It’s now-or-never time for Allen to establish himself as a starting defensive back. He appeared in eight games as a redshirt freshman, all 12 as a sophomore and even started three. He showed flashes as a solid cover guy and a decent tackler, but didn’t do any one thing well enough to convince anybody that he needs to be on the field. With a big step forward this season he can finish his career as a two-year starter.
Now listed as a safety, Allen has the size (5-foot-11, 212 pounds) and speed for the position and needs to show he can bring the instincts and understanding of the game to contribute in a way he can help others on the field with him become better players.
Since last season ended, Allen has been aggressive on social media in telling himself and his followers that 2015 is the year he needs to make it happen. He has the right attitude and the opportunity is there for him with all four starters from the secondary having graduated.
Allen’s life story makes him an easy athlete for whom to root. When he was 12, Allen’s mother packed their bags and headed from New Orleans to Houston, beating Hurricane Katrina by a couple of days. Allen remembers watching TV and recognizing victims of the disaster.
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
Gold became a trending topic in the realm of college basketball social media Monday morning, as news spread of Kansas leading Team USA to a double-overtime victory over Germany in the World University Games final.
From SportsCenter, to Larry Brown to Dick Vitale, various tweets popped up congratulating the Jayhawks on their summer run.
Even cooler, though, was the opportunity this international stage gave KU’s players. And after going 8-0 in South Korea, the Jayhawks couldn’t help celebrating their feat.
A few former Kansas players acknowledged the win, too.
Even those tied to the KU football program showed some love for the basketball team’s golden moment.
— Check out all of our KU in Korea coverage, from Bobby Nightengale and Mike Yoder, the only local journalists covering the Jayhawks at the World University Games.
First, the world title. Next challenge for the Kansas University basketball team, a tougher one, the national title.
In winning USA’s first World University Games gold medal in men’s basketball in 10 years, Kansas revealed so many positives about itself. The games also showed there is so much to like about international rules.
Seven quick takeaways from the World University Games:
1 - Thanks to Frank Mason, KU will be tough to beat in close games. Fearless Frank has the quickness, skill and boldness to get where he wants to go with the ball and finishes at the hoop and sets up teammates with equal effectiveness in the clutch.
2 - Even when Wayne Selden’s shots don’t drop, as was the case in the double-overtime, gold-medal-game victory vs. Germany, he has the confidence to come up with big plays late with the game in the balance. He’ll face more athletic players in the college game, but he’ll also be playing the right position this season and far more often than not will be at an athletic advantage against the opposing small forward.
3 - Hunter Mickelson, an active force at both ends, has earned a spot in the rotation with his shot-blocking, tip-ins and consistent energy. Energetic incoming freshman Cheick Diallo projects as the starter, but when he has his freshman moments, KU coach Bill Self has somewhere to turn for relief. Curiously, Self went more with Landen Lucas, the better rebounder but not the defender or scorer that Mickelson is, for most of the second half. Mickelson held German center Bogdan Radosavljevic scoreless in the first half. Radosavljevic awakened when Mickelson sat.
4 - Self had to have made a strong impression, setting himself up for bigger jobs on the international stage. There isn’t a better man to coach the Olympic team than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, committed through the 2016 Games in Rio. But Coach K isn’t going to want to do it forever. His outrageous success as coach of the national team has to increase the chances of the next coach also coming from the college game. Team USA’s performance — so strong on effort and team play — in South Korea should move Self to the head of the non-Coach K division of college coaches, even ahead of Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Kentucky’s John Calipari.
5 - The international shot-clock rules (24 seconds, a reset to 14 seconds after a missed shot rebounded by the offensive team, eight seconds to advance the ball past mid-court) eliminates dead seconds, forces players to make moves and puts the game more in the hands of the players. It would work great in the college game.
6 - The international timeout rules, including limiting each team to two in the final two minutes, keeps an exciting, close game from grinding to a halt. It would lead to quicker games on TV, so that instead of watching the end of a game that doesn’t interest the on-deck audience, viewers can watch all 40 minutes of the games that interest them. The sooner college basketball goes to this format, the better.
7 - The added practice time, overseas bonding, strong performances under pressure can only benefit the Jayhawks in their quest to win what would be Self's second national title and fourth NCAA tournament title for the school. The roster has depth, experience and a clutch performer with the ball in his hands at the end of games and a smart, driven, seasoned coach pulling it all together.
Each summer, across the country, football fans spend time watching, waiting and anticipating the arrival of another college football season. And while that might not always be a favorite pastime of KU fans, many still get sucked in to the journey.
Will this be a better season? Is this the year that things finally get going in the right direction? Will Kansas at least be competitive therein making Memorial Stadium on Saturdays in the fall the place to be instead of a place to avoid? All are common questions KU fans wrestle with every year.
So in order to help you predict the answers to those questions and more, we set out to pinpoint the 25 players that could make the biggest impact for the Jayhawks this fall.
Big seasons from these guys — be them in the form of yards and touchdowns or just consistency and perhaps overachieving — could go a long way toward increasing KU's chances at success during the upcoming season.
This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2015 season.
This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.
Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing last year, but most of the guys from that list are gone, which made this list much tougher to put together.
Remember, this is not an exercise designed to identify KU's best players but an attempt to pinpoint which players, with standout seasons, could have the biggest impact for Kansas this fall.
Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we'll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order.
25. Derrick Neal, 5-foot-10, 170-pound Soph. WR
Week after week, Kansas will face football teams with superior size, experience and depth. The Jayhawks will need big plays to steal touchdowns to close the gap on more talented teams. On defense, that means forcing turnovers. On offense, that means players with game-breaking speed finding daylight via kickoff and punt returns, receptions, rushes to the outside and even trick plays.
Neal is one candidate to find the end zone in a variety of ways, thanks to his speed, accelleration and escapability. At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Neal makes for a small target, which can be a good thing in that it can frustrate would-be tacklers into missing.
Neal played four games at last season, appearing at wide receiver, cornerback, and on special teams, until suffering a season-ending injury making a tackle against Baylor. He was used as a punt returner and could be seen there again this season. His size makes him a risky athlete to use as an every-down player, but his speed makes him a weapon that first-year coach David Beaty is going to want to use in a variety of ways.
Neal and twin brother, Erick, originally committed to play basketball at UT-Arlington, where Erick is a sophomore. Derrick changed his mind, orally committed to play football and Texas Tech and ultimately decided to accept a football scholarship at Kansas.
From time to time during Devonté Graham’s freshman season at Kansas, the young point guard exhibited the shooting, passing and decision-making of a veteran.
The 6-foot-2 lead guard from Raleigh, North Carolina, scored a team-high 14 points in his debut, came away with three steals against Florida in a comeback victory, didn’t miss a shot on his way to a career-high 20 points against TCU and got KU to overtime by hitting two clutch free throws late against West Virginia.
The floor general in the making, though, made his most lasting impression in the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. Graham led KU with 17 points, pilfered five takeaways and knocked down three 3-pointers.
For a program that has suffered two consecutive early exits in March Madness, optimism abounds for Kansas heading into the 2015-16 season. The Jayhawks are expected to be just as good as — if not better than — any of the nation’s projected top teams, such as North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Maryland, Iowa State, Virginia and Arizona. The return of Graham, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr., Brannen Greene, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas, Svi Mykhailiuk and Hunter Mickelson to go with another highly regarded recruiting class brings on those expectations.
At Kansas, one comes to expect significant individual improvements from season to season, and Graham has heaps of potential as a point guard. Just ask his coach, Bill Self.
“Devonté’s gonna be our next Aaron Miles,” Self proclaimed at KU’s end-of-season team banquet. “That’s what Devonté is. He’s Aaron, but can actually shoot it better than Aaron. A lot better than Aaron.”
Miles could be considered the last true point guard to start at Kansas. Most of Self’s primary ball-handlers through the years have played more like combo guards or scoring point guards.
How does Graham compare to Miles and other former KU ball-handlers? We’ve only seen one season of Graham, so it helps to narrow down the sample size for all the players in the discussion. Check out the NCAA Tournament numbers for Miles, Graham and every other lead Kansas guard to play a significant role during his freshman season in the past 15 years.
Each Jayhawk point guard is listed with the season of his tourney debut and the seed KU earned that year.
Kirk Hinrich — 2000, No. 8 seed
• vs. No. 9 seed DePaul — 81-77 win (OT):
8 points, 3/4 FGs, 2/2 3s, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 4 rebounds in 29 minutes
• vs. No. 1 seed Duke — 69-64 loss:
12 points, 4/7 FGs, 3/5 3s, 1/3 FTs, 6 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds in 28 minutes
— Averages: 10 ppg, 63.6% FGs, 71.4% 3s, 33.3% FTs, 5.0 assists, 4.0 turnovers, 3.0 rebounds in 28.5 minutes
Aaron Miles — 2002, No. 1 seed
• vs. No. 16 seed Holy Cross — 70-59 win:
7 points, 3/8 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1/1 FTs, 1 assist, 5 turnovers, 2 steals in 36 minutes
• vs. No. 8 seed Stanford — 86-63 win:
8 points, 2/4 FGs, 0/0 3s, 4/4 FTs, 5 assists, 4 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal in 25 minutes
• vs. No. 4 seed Illinois — 73-69 win:
13 points, 5/11 FGs, 1/3 3s, 2/2 FTs, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 7 rebounds, 1 steal in 35 minutes
• vs. No. 2 seed Oregon — 104-86 win:
6 points, 2/10 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 8 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds, in 30 minutes
• vs. No. 1 seed Maryland — 97-88 loss:
12 points, 1/7 FGs, 0/4 3s, 10/12 FTs, 10 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 2 steals in 28 minutes
— Averages: 9.2 points, 32.5% FGs, 10% 3s, 90.4% FTs, 5.8 assists, 3.6 turnovers, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals in 30.8 minutes
Russell Robinson — 2005, No. 3 seed
• vs. No. 14 seed Bucknell — 64-63 loss:
Did not play
— Averages: DNP
Mario Chalmers — 2006, No. 4 seed
• vs. No. 13 seed Bradley — 77-73 loss:
15 points, 6/11 FGs, 2/4 3s, 1/2 FTs, 0 assists, 5 turnovers, 3 steals, 3 rebounds, 5 fouls in 34 minutes
— Averages: 15.0 points, 54.5% FGs, 50% 3s, 50% FTs, 0.0 assists, 5.0 turnovers, 3.0 steals, 3.0 rebounds in 34.0 minutes
Sherron Collins — 2007, No. 1 seed
• vs. No. 16 Niagara — 107-67 win:
15 points, 4/9 FGs, 2/3 3s, 5/6 FTs, 6 assists, 0 turnovers, 4 steals, 1 rebound in 20 minutes
• vs. No. 8 Kentucky — 88-76 win:
8 points, 4/11 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound in 26 minutes
• vs. No. 4 Southern Illinois — 61-58 win:
2 points, 1/3 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 2 steals, 3 rebounds in 23 minutes
• vs. No. 2 UCLA — 68-55 loss:
0 points, 0/4 FGs, 0/1 3s, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 rebound in 15 minutes
— Averages: 6.3 points, 33% FGs, 29% 3s, 83% FTs, 2.8 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 1.5 steals, 1.5 rebounds in 21.0 minutes
Tyshawn Taylor — 2009, No. 3 seed
• vs. No. 14 seed North Dakota State — 84-74 win:
8 points, 4/9 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0/1 FTs, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 2 rebounds in 27 minutes
• vs. No. 11 seed Dayton — 60-43 win:
3 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1/3 FTs, 3 assists, 6 turnovers, 1 steal, 3 rebounds in 27 minutes
• vs. No. 2 seed Michigan State — 67-62 loss:
8 points, 2/4 FGs, 0/1 3s, 4/4 FTs, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 steal, 1 rebound in 28 minutes
Averages: 6.3 points, 38.8% FGs, 0% 3s, 62.5% FTs, 2.0 assists, 3.7 turnovers, 0.7 steals, 2.0 rebounds in 27.3 minutes
Elijah Johnson — 2010, No. 1 seed
• vs. No. 16 seed Lehigh — 90-74 win:
0 points in 1 minute
• vs. No. 9 seed Northern Iowa — 69-67 loss:
Did not play
— Averages: 1 GP, 0.0 points in 1.0 minutes
Josh Selby — 2011, No. 1 seed
• vs. No. 16 seed Boston — 72-53 win:
4 points, 2/6 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 2 rebounds in 15 minutes
• vs. No. 9 seed Illinois — 73-59 win:
0 points, 0/0 FGs, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 rebound in 10 minutes
• vs. No. 12 seed Richmond — 77-57 win:
9 points, 3/9 FGs, 3/5 3s, 0 assists, 1 turnover, 3 rebounds in 17 minutes
• vs. No. 11 seed VCU — 71-61 loss:
2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/3 3s, 0 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 rebound in 15 minutes
— Averages: 3.8 points, 30% FGs, 30% 3s, 1.0 assists, 0.5 turnovers, 1.8 rebounds in 14.3 minutes
Naadir Tharpe — 2012, No. 2 seed
• vs. No. 15 seed Detroit — 65-50 win:
0 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1 assist, 2 turnovers in 13 minutes
• vs. No. 10 seed Purdue — 63-60 win:
3 points, 1/3 FGs, 1/3 3s, 0 assists, 1 turnover, 1 rebound in 4 minutes
• vs. No. 11 seed North Carolina State — 60-57 win:
Did not play
• vs. No. 1 seed North Carolina — 80-67 win:
Did not play
• vs. No. 2 seed Ohio State — 64-62 win:
Did not play
• vs. No. 1 seed Kentucky — 67-59 loss:
Did not play
— Averages: 1.5 points, 17% FGs, 25% 3s, 0.5 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 0.5 rebounds in 8.5 minutes
Conner Frankamp — 2014, No. 2 seed
• vs. No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky — 80-69 win:
10 points, 3/6 FGs, 0/2 3s, 4/4 FTs, 4 assists, 0 turnovers in 25 minutes
• vs. No. 10 seed Stanford — 60-57 loss:
12 points, 4/8 FGs, 4/7 3s, 0 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 1 steal in 18 minutes
— Averages: 11 points, 50% FGs, 44% 3s, 100% FTs, 2.0 assists, 0.0 turnovers, 1 rebound, 0.5 steals in 21.5 minutes
Frank Mason III — 2014, No. 2 seed
• vs. No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky — 80-69 win:
2 points, 1/1 FGs, 0/2 FTs, 4 assists, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds in 9 minutes
• vs. No. 10 seed Stanford — 60-57 loss:
2 points, 0/4 FGs, 0/3 3s, 2/2 FTs, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 2 rebounds, 1 steal in 22 minutes
— Averages: 2 points, 20% FGs, 0% 3s, 50% FTs, 3.0 assists, 1.0 turnover, 3.0 rebounds, 0.5 steals in 15.5 minutes
Devonté Graham — 2015, No. 2 seed
• vs. No. 15 seed New Mexico State — 75-56 win:
8 points, 2/6 FGs, 2/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds in 25 minutes
• vs. No. 7 seed Wichita Stte — 78-65 loss:
17 points, 5/13 FGs, 3/8 3s, 4/4 FTs, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 1 rebound, 5 steals in 29 minutes
— Averages: 12.5 points, 37% FGs, 50% 3s, 100% FTs, 3.5 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 1.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals in 27 minutes
Now let’s throw all those stats in one place to make things easier, and see which KU freshman point guards/combo guards truly performed the best.
Key: BLUE NUMBERS = Best in the group; RED NUMBERS = 2nd-best
|KU Freshman PGs NCAA Tournament Numbers — 2000 to present|
|Kirk Hinrich ('00)||2||10||64%||72%||34%||5.0||4.0||3.0||--||28.5|
|Aaron Miles ('02)||5||9.2||33%||10%||90%||5.8||3.6||3.2||1.2||30.8|
|Russell Robinson ('05)||0||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|Mario Chalmers ('06)||1||15||55%||50%||50%||0.0||5.0||3.0||3.0||34.0|
|Sherron Collins ('07)||4||6.3||33%||29%||83%||2.8||1.8||1.5||1.5||21.0|
|Tyshawn Taylor ('09)||3||6.3||39%||0%||63%||2.0||3.7||2.0||0.7||27.3|
|Elijah Johnson ('10)||1||0||--||--||--||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||1.0|
|Josh Selby ('11)||4||3.8||30%||30%||--||1.0||0.5||1.8||0.0||14.3|
|Naadir Tharpe ('12)||2||1.5||17%||25%||--||0.5||1.5||0.5||0.0||8.5|
|Conner Frankamp ('14)||2||11||50%||44%||100%||2.0||0.0||1.0||0.5||21.5|
|Frank Mason III ('14)||2||2.0||20%||0%||50%||3.0||1.0||3.0||0.5||15.5|
|Devonté Graham ('15)||2||12.5||37%||50%||100%||3.5||2.0||1.5||2.5||27.0|
When you stack the numbers together, four guys stand out as the clear-cut leaders: Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Miles, Mario Chalmers and Devonté Graham.
Hinrich led in FG% (64%), 3-point % (72%) and took second place in assists (5.0) and rebounds (3.0).
Miles played in the most games (5), dished the most assists (5.8) and pulled down the most boards (3.2), while posting the second-best free-throw numbers (90%) and minutes played (30.8).
In his one tournament game as a freshman, Chalmers scored 15 points, swiped 3 steals and played 34 minutes to lead the group, and finished second in FG% (55%), 3-point % (50%) and rebounds (3).
Graham’s numbers look just as good as the ones posted by any of those other three guys. By the way, Hinrich, Miles and Chalmers all became some of the best Kansas players in recent memory. Graham hit 100% of his free throws to tie the departed Conner Frankamp for first, and had the second-best numbers among the 12 freshman point guards in points (12.5), 3-point % (50%) and steals (2.5).
Limiting the turnovers-per-game numbers to those who played at least 20 minutes, Graham’s 2.0 giveaways were only bettered by Frankamp (0.0) and Sherron Collins (1.8).
After playing in his first NCAA Tournament game this past March, in Omaha, Nebraska, Graham said staying loose keyed his performance on that stage.
“When you have fun,” he said, “a lot of good things happen.”
Graham didn’t didn’t just look comfortable, he stood out as someone who could change the flow and make a critical impact.
“As soon as the game started, as soon as I got on the court, after I got up and down, started sweating a little bit, I just felt like it was another normal game,” Graham said. “I’m not thinking about how big it is and all the pressure. You’ve just gotta be calm in that situation.”
Whether Graham starts or remains a key backup in his sophomore season has yet to be determined. KU’s summer play at the World University Games should heavily play into that decision for Self.
After averaging 18.1 minutes, 5.9 points and 2.1 assists as a freshman, all those numbers figure to increase in Graham’s second season at KU. Self likes what he has in Graham, and even if Mason keeps his starting spot the two easily could could play side-by-side for long stretches to give KU a pair of play-makers.
“When we’re in a game together, we’re always thinking: attack,” Graham said of teaming up with Mason. “It’s kind of hard to stay in front of both of us at the same time. We try and break the defense down, find the right guys open to pass it to — create for others and also ourselves.”
More playing time for a more experienced Graham should mean more success for the Jayhawks next season, as they try to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2012. That KU team had Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson as point guards, and neither looked nearly as good his freshman season as Graham did.
Course knowledge, evidently, can be overrated.
For example, former Kansas golfer Gary Woodland never had played the 100-yard No. 14 hole at TPC Four Seasons Resort until today. That's because the hole didn't exist until today. Heavy rains flooded the fairway so badly that tournament officials shortened the par 4 from 400-plus yards to a 100-yard par 3.
Woodland landed his tee shot just to the right of the cup, inches shy distance-wise. The ball rolled behind the pin and sucked back right into the hole.
Woodland was done in Thursday in the opening round by a triple bogey and a double bogey and was in 90th place heading into the day after a 2-over 72. He carded a 6-under 63 today.
Dexter McDonald’s life changed earlier this month, when Oakland snagged him in the final round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
“When I finally got the call it was just a blessing,” McDonald said in a profile posted on the Raiders’ website. “It was a relief. And I was happy to say I would have the opportunity to become an Oakland Raider and join the Raider nation.”
McDonald, a rookie cornerback out of Kansas, took another step in that direction Tuesday, when the seventh-round pick signed with Oakland. Referencing spotrac.com, SilverAndBlackPride.com reported the contract is for four years and $2.37 million.
You can watch McDonald, a Kansas City, Missouri, native, arrive in California, pose for photos and wear his No. 21 Raiders uniform for the first time in a Raiders.com video feature. The 6-foot-1 corner describes himself as a team player with a lot of energy.
“I’m one of those guys who is gonna be the same every day. I’m a physical corner — I’m gonna get on those wide receivers and jam them, disrupt the timing between the quarterback and the receiver to make it hard on them to pass,” McDonald said.
Back in late March, an amazing pro day propelled McDonald into the realm of draftees. The physical, 200-pound corner stood out with a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, a vertical leap of 40 and 1/2 inches and a broad jump of 11 feet, 2 inches.
“It allowed teams to see what I was capable of, athletic wise,” McDonald said the day he was drafted.
Now, McDonald can’t wait to prove he can compete at the next level. The 23-year old defensive back finds himself with a unique opportunity, too, playing for and alongside some legendary names. Rod Woodson coaches Oakland’s defensive backs and 18-year NFL veteran Charles Woodson plays safety for the Raiders.
“It’s a blessing,” McDonald said, “and I have an opportunity to be like a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as I can from those guys. And I’m definitely gonna do that.”
Levi Damien of SilverAndBlackPride.com speculated McDonald has a chance to earn playing time as a rookie. Oakland’s starting corners figure to be D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie, but the nickel spot is “very much up for grabs,” and the Raiders proved last season with Carrie (also a seventh-round pick) that young guys can work their way onto the field and play crucial roles. Damien also projected McDonald’s size could make him an option at safety eventually.
McDonald and his former KU teammate, Ben Heeney (drafted by Oakland in the fifth round), will play in Kansas City, against the Chiefs, on the final day of the regular season, Jan. 3, 2016.
The more you hear about Kansas basketball commitment LaGerald Vick, the more impressive he seems.
National analyst Eric Bossi of Rivals watched the 6-foot-5 guard from Memphis this past weekend in New York and came away claiming Rivals.com needs to move his national ranking of No. 137 up “at least 100 spots.”
In order to get a better idea about Vick as a player, just check out his highlight videos. The 175-pound guard, who reportedly will re-classify and join the 2015 KU recruiting class with Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo, plays for Team Thad AAU, and in the past year or so he has put together quite the YouTube résumé.
Three of his scoring reels are posted below. With each one, I included some quick take-aways about what the clips tell us about this multi-skilled guard. Obviously, not everything we see here will immediately translate to college basketball and the Big 12, but there are plenty of promising signs that this previously unheralded recruit could turn into a go-to scorer for the Jayhawks before his days in Allen Fieldhouse are through.
This latest highlight reel from Courtside Films doesn’t capture the correct way to spell Vick’s first name, but it does provide an impressive array of highlights
• Vick can pull up for a 3-pointer off the dribble with ease when his defender leaves his hands down or fails to close out.
• His shooting, strength and ability to finish above the rim all look better now than they did in past highlight videos (shown below).
• When Vick’s man gets low and really tests him on the perimeter, his ball-handling allows him to not only maintain possession but also get creative and find a way to punish his defender.
• He may be a little too reliant on his right hand at this point, but he does go left off the dribble from time to time, and that’s obviously something he can continue to develop.
• No matter where he gets the ball, Vick stands out as an offensive threat in his ability to create better looks for himself, whether that be with a ball fake, jab step, cross-over or hesitation dribble. He appears a real challenge to keep in check.
• By the looks of this highlight reel, Vick is as confident a 3-point shooter as one could hope for. He doesn’t overthink things when he’s open from downtown, he just rises up and lets it fly.
• Finishing in traffic isn’t for everyone. But it looks like Vick enjoys the challenge that taking on multiple defenders provides. Even when the road to the hoop looks treacherous, he doesn’t show any fear.
• It’s just a bad idea in general to leave him open anywhere on the court. He can either pull up for an easy look from behind the arc or speed through driving lanes to the rim.
• Vick often shows creativity in avoiding potential shot-blockers.
• He has a slight frame, but sometimes uses that to his advantage by slithering between defenders.
• If teams decide they want to take away his shooting ability, he could easily turn into a drive-first player on offense.
• Vick is confident and crafty when he gets into the paint, regardless of what kind of defender flies at him. In this aspect, he kind of reminded me of Manu Ginobili in his prime.
• He can play above the rim when he gets a wide-open lane or someone fails to put a body on him on the offensive glass.
• If you make the mistake of crowding Vick on the perimeter he is fast enough off the dribble to blow by you.
• Obviously his jumper is one of his strengths, enabling him to punish defenses if they leave him open (keep in mind many of these highlights come against teams ignoring basic defensive principles).
• Vick will need to clean up his ball-handling when he’s taking on college guards. He is able to play pretty loose in these types of AAU showcases and (in the past at least) carries the ball at times when using his dribble outside.
• The kid has pretty quick hops, and can head skyward in a hurry.
• Vick’s now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t methods of slashing might be the final ingredient that turns him into a big-time college scorer. He can show defenders the rock, then take it away and finish by utilizing the window he just created for himself.
• His cross-over has a strong burst to it and he’s always thinking “attack” when he has the ball in transition.
• Vick can finish with either hand once he has slashed his way into the paint.
• This scoring guard doesn’t just rely on floaters, he takes advantage of angles on the floor and uses the glass well, even six to eight feet away from the rim. Not many guys have so many tricks in their bags.
When JaCorey Shepherd arrived at Kansas four years ago as a wide receiver, his transition to college football included plenty of teaching moments.
Now that the All-Big 12 cornerback is with the Philadelphia Eagles, who drafted him in the sixth round and this past week signed him to a four-year contract, Shepherd said his initial introduction to the NFL has been less based in instruction. After all, the players are all professionals now, as the 5-foot-11 defensive back pointed out in a video interview for Philadelphia’s website.
But that’s not to say Shepherd's experience thus far has been devoid of learning. At the Eagles’ rookie mini-camp, the corner said, he found himself picking up new techniques at a fast pace. While playing press coverage — something he did at KU, too — he got too “handsy” on a few plays by doing things that were fine in college. He discovered he’ll have to get rid of some of those habits he picked up in his first three seasons of playing defensive back.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Shepherd said, “but I’m good at learning and going with the flow as I get more reps.”
Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin, who just joined the staff this offseason after working for Denver in the same role, wants his corners playing assertive press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
“To actually learn the proper way to press is actually gonna benefit me,” Shepherd said.
Plus, Shepherd knows some guys who just played for Undlin last season, with the Broncos. He brought up their names when asked if he had anybody he could lean on for guidance while finding his way in the NFL.
“Previous corners from the University of Kansas, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, they kind of helped me,” Shepherd said, “and they told me they’ll be there for me if I’ve got a question about the process going forward.”
Excited that he could graduate from KU and embark on his NFL career this spring, the newly minted Eagle, who can be seen practicing in his No. 36 jersey in the video, said it felt good going “full out” at mini-camp for the first time since suffering a tear in his left hamstring prior to KU’s pro day.
Now Shepherd can just enjoy himself on the field while playing the game he loves.
“It’s a great relief off your shoulders,” he said. “You don’t have to think about that stuff, as far as where you’re gonna be, where you’re gonna end up. You can just go out there and do what you do.”
Shepherd said he can tell Chip Kelly’s staff is comprised of player-friendly coaches, which he likes. Now that he is in the league, the rookie corner wants to make sure he enjoys every moment, because he realizes not everybody gets the opportunity that is in front of him right now.
I knew that he was a good enough basketball player to earn a scholarship to Div. II Washburn University, but until browsing Youtube for golf videos, I never actually had seen former Kansas golfer Gary Woodland play basketball.
The video of his highlights playing for Shawnee Heights High revealed Woodland as a vocal leader, flashy ballhandler, strong finisher, sharp shooter and a bit of a hot dog.
Still, Woodland obviously made the right decision to transfer to Kansas to play golf after a basketball season that started with him making 1 of 7 shots and scoring three points in a 101-66 loss to Kansas in an exhibition game in Allen Fieldhouse in November, 2002. Woodland was matched up against Kirk Hinrich.
Nearly 13 years later, Woodland was matched up against Rory McIlroy in the final of the Match Play Championship, losing 4&2. Woodland played seven matches in five days and made some incredible shots along the way.
Woodland missed the cut in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, then bounced back this past weekend by finishing tied for fourth in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. He tied with wedge-magician Phil Mickelson and former Kansas State golfer Robert Streb, another of my favorite golfers to watch. Streb's father, Dave Streb, and I were teammates in Little League and on the freshman basketball team at Bishop Kearney High in Rochester, N.Y.
Anyway, Woodland's recent hot streak has vaulted him all the way to 13th on the PGA tour money list ($2,290,497.50), 17th in the Fed Ex Cup standings and 24th in the World Golf Rankings.
A native of Chickasha, Oklahoma, Streb ranks 10th in the Fed Ex Cup standings, 17th on the money list, 73rd in World Golf Rankings and is third with six top 10 finishes, behind Jordan Spieth with eight and Hideki Matsuyama with seven.)
It's nice to see two golfers from the two Big 12 universities in Kansas doing so well. One of these days, that might even translate to more TV coverage of them during tournaments.
Back before Ben Heeney became a star football player at Hutchinson, or an All-BIg 12 linebacker at Kansas or a draft pick of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, he was just a 12-year-old kid who seriously loved football.
In 2004, Heeney laid out his goals for becoming a football lifer by mapping them all out with a pencil and paper. A fifth-round pick in the NFL Draft 11 years later, the linebacker shared the list of goals from his childhood on Twitter.
Complete with a table of contents, the script for the rest of his life included goals for middle school, high school, college and beyond.
HIGH SCHOOL GOAL
“In high school I want to make varsity on the football team. I want college coaches to come to the games and scout me for the team. I will play hard.”
TRAINING / COLLEGE
“I would like go go to the University of Kansas or a better team in football. My parents went to KU. I want a football scholarship.”
“I want to play in the NFL. It would be fun and I would make a lot of money. I would train hard. After the NFL I would like to be the head coach for a college football team.”
Pretty impressive stuff when you consider all of it has come true so far and Heeney still has plenty of football to play before he chases that coaching goal, post-retirement.
The Raiders profiled the former KU star on their website, in a video that includes Heeney going through drills at rookie mini-camp in his No. 51 Oakland jersey.
The new member of Raider Nation said he has quickly adapted to wearing the silver and black.
“Since I’ve been drafted by the Raiders, I can just tell they have the best fan base in the nation,” Heeney said. “People comment on my Instagram and stuff. I’m just really excited to be a part of it.”
Heeney hopes to break through as an on-field contributor immediately with Oakland, in the upcoming 2015 season.
“I think I bring leadership, and I’m always all over the field making plays,” Heeney said. “You know, I’m just looking to bring that and help any way I can — special teams, defense, put me on offense. I’ll play anything.”
The hype for Kansas University’s 2015-16 men’s basketball season received another early boost to accompany the just-announced January showdown versus Kentucky, at Allen Fieldhouse.
With actual games still almost six months away, The Sporting News rolled out an updated preseason Top 25 and placed the Jayhawks at No. 1.
KU, of course, hasn’t advanced past the Round of 32 in the previous two NCAA Tournaments, so the selection might come as a surprise to some.
“When the best answer to the question of ‘Why Kansas?’ is ‘Why not?’, you’ve got yourself a pretty strange college basketball season on the way,” Mike DeCourcy wrote.
Between reliable senior-to-be Perry Ellis, the addition of incoming freshman big man Cheick Diallo and a number of Jayhawks capable of making significant strides in their development, The Sporting News likes KU’s potential rotation.
Still, attempting to predict next season’s elite teams, DeCourcy said on SportingNews.com, wasn’t as easy as it was in 2014-15, with Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke leading the pack.
“What we have now are a lot of teams that have potential, but flaws,” he said, “and they’re gonna have to overcome those flaws in order to be champions.”
Settling on Bill Self’s Jayhawks, DeCourcy added, came with some trepidation.
“There’s just not any single player that says, ‘I’m your star,’ and usually you need someone to carry you to a title,” he indicated. “Nobody at Kansas at this point has emerged as that sort of player.”
DeCourcy questioned whether Ellis possesses headliner power and pointed to Wayne Selden Jr. as someone who hasn’t proven to look comfortable in that role. Diallo, he added, projects as “a great defensive weapon,” but might not be as reliable on offense.
“One of those guys has to be a star for us to be right,” he offered, “but we like them more than some of the other contenders.”
Ultimately, DeCourcy said The Sporting News staff believes in Self, and thinks the Jayhawks will play great defense in 2015-16.
The two teams immediately following the Jayhawks in the advance rankings have Kansas ties. Former KU guard Mark Turgeon’s Maryland Terrapins snagged the No. 2 spot and Self’s predecessor at Kansas, Roy Williams, leads No. 3 North Carolina.
Wichita State, which knocked the Jayhawks out of The Big Dance this past March and adds former KU guard Conner Frankamp to the roster this coming season, landed at No. 9.
The Big 12 earned four total spots in the rankings, with No. 7 Iowa State, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 16 West Virginia joining KU.
Sporting News College Hoops 2015-16 Preseason Top 10
3. North Carolina
7. Iowa State
9. Wichita State
Now more than ever, diehard KU fan and professional boxer Victor Ortiz wants another shot at Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Remember the boxer from Garden City who wears Jayhawks on his trunks and lights up rooms with his smile?
His name is Victor Ortiz and, yeah, he watched the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight a couple of weeks ago — at least some of it — and came away less than impressed by Mayweather's easy victory.
See, Ortiz, who lost to Mayweather via a controversial knockout in September of 2011 that started with a dirty headbutt by the diehard KU fan and ended with Mayweather rocking him with a couple of shots that no one expected including the official in the ring, has not quite gotten over how the biggest bout of his life came to a close.
The fourth-round drama ended what was shaping up to be a terrific fight and left a bitter taste in Ortiz's mouth.
On Wednesday, Ortiz, 28, spoke out about the fight through a contributed piece on the web site theplayerstribune.com dubbed “Disputed.”
It's a candid look at Ortiz's feelings about his lost shot at glory, his true feelings about Mayweather as a person and a fighter and a clear indication that he wants a rematch and believes he is owed one.
Here's a look:
For the first time in his life, Hutchinson, Kansas native Ben Heeney is in California.
The Bay Area is the former Kansas linebacker’s new home now, thanks to the Oakland Raiders, who took him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
Heeney thought heading into this past Saturday he might end up down in Tampa Bay or with one of the other handful of organizations with which he had the most pre-draft contact. But he landed on the opposite coast, in part, because he grabbed the attention of Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio.
Some say real recognize real. Well, linebackers recognize linebackers, too.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Del Rio — the former Vikings, Cowboys, Chiefs and Saints linebacker — received a text from an old teammate. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur, Oakland’s coach said the message read something like: you have to check out Ben Heeney.
“So it kind of piqued my attention and (I) started watching him in the drills; of course he had that crazy hairdo going at the Combine,” Del Rio said. “We get back and start watching the tape, and the guy is all over the place. He flies around, makes plays, very productive, has a great mindset in terms of special teams and linebacker play. We’re excited to add him.”
Clearly, the Raiders coach sees potential in the KU standout.
“He plays with his hair on fire,” Del Rio said.
Heeney arrived out west Thursday, and a Raiders video production crew greeted him and his KU teammate, seventh-round pick Dexter McDonald, at the airport.
“I just tweeted out that I landed in Oakland, and the fans are crazy,” Heeney says in the video posted on the Raiders’ website. “They continue to just show me love.”
Oakland’s rookie mini-camp begins today for Heeney, McDonald and the rest of the Raiders’ draft picks and undrafted hopefuls.
Zach Yenser doesn’t claim to be on the cutting edge of social media usage, nor the inventor of some fantastic, never-before-seen concept. But Kansas University’s new offensive line coach and run-game coordinator knows what he likes and what works when it comes to using Twitter to his advantage.
Of late, like all of head coach David Beaty’s assistants, Yenser has been hitting the recruiting trails hard. You can tell by checking in on his tweets.
During spring football, when the former Cal and Louisiana Tech assistant could most often be found on KU’s practice fields or in the offices at the football complex, he used Twitter from time to time to highlight the work and technique of his offensive linemen.
While examining and critiquing video footage from practices, Yenser would grab his phone, take a video of something he liked and make it a Vine he could tweet out to his followers.
“It’s just a way to publicly recognize your guys up front,” the O-line coach said. “People watch the offensive line and are like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, ya know. Fun.’ I tell my guys, ‘The only way you’re gonna get noticed is if you give up a sack.’ Nobody knows what you do.”
Yenser hopes to educate and put a spotlight on his big men in the trenches when he sends out a highlight to the masses — an idea the coach said he stole from Penn State O-line coach and run-game coordinator Herb Hand, who started posting short clips as a Vanderbilt assistant.
Former Kansas tight end Jordan Shelley-Smith became the first Jayhawk to show up in one of Yenser’s videos. The coach liked the footwork he saw from his junior left tackle.
Of course, Yenser received positive feedback from his players upon debuting the idea. He could tell they appreciated the love, and said it goes back to the core of his interaction with the linemen. He tells them: “We’re in it together. I’m here to serve you guys.
“If they take that and listen,” he added, “we’ll all get better.”
Senior center Keyon Haughton and sophomore guard Junior Visinia also starred in Yenser’s tweets this spring.
The concept brings some added benefits with it, too.
“I think recruits like it,” Yenser said. “I think a lot of people like just to see what’s going on.”
The O-line clips also provide the KU assistant with another avenue for discussions with high school coaches. He gets questions from them about how he teaches certain techniques, and prep coaches also tweet out some of the clips for their players to see.
Yenser said whenever he has time while watching video footage, he’ll throw a clip up and tweet it out. He can tell how much the idea is working every time he posts a new one, looking each time for the ultimate sign of praise:
“How many retweets and likes can you get?”
In progress: Rory McIlroy, KU’s Gary Woodland battling for $1.5 million Match Play Championship purse on NBC
Tune your television sets to NBC right now if you want to see a former Kansas University golfer take his shot at bringing down the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world and earning $1.5 million in the process.
Gary Woodland, seeded 52nd in a field of 64 in The Match Play Championship, reached the final by defeating Jimmy Walker in 19 holes in the first round and won his next three matches before reaching the 18th hole. Woodland defeated Danny Willett, three and two, Sunday morning to advance to the final against the world's No. 1-ranked golfer, Rory McIlroy. Woodland trailed McIlroy by four holes at the nine-hole turn.
The event is taking place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, a course he had said he thought would bring out the best in him.
"It sets up the treeline, just sets up well to my eye," Woodland said earlier this week. "That's the key. It's long, too. The fairways are pretty receptive as well. It widens the fairways for me. If I get driver down there far enough, I can get wedge on the green from about anywhere. I like the setup. The format allows me to play aggressive, which for me is key."