Entries from blogs tagged with “Jayhawks”

Kansas Air Raid woes don’t start in the air

Several Baylor players celebrate over Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) after sacking him during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2017 at Memorial Stadium.

Several Baylor players celebrate over Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) after sacking him during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2017 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Spending my entire adult life reporting on sports usually means I seek other topics, often true crime, when looking to become lost in a book. When I make exceptions, it's often to educate myself on a work-related topic.

Since Kansas technically runs an Air Raid offense, I decided to give "The Perfect Pass" by S.C. Gwynne, a shot. Friend Joe Reitz, retired University of Kansas faculty member and founder of Lawrence Family Promise, a wonderful charity designed at helping homeless and low-income families to reach sustainable independence, lent me his copy.

A beautifully written, well-researched, breezy read that centers on the origins of the Air Raid through the careers of the offense's creator, Hal Mumme, and sidekick Mike Leach, the most famous Air Raid practitioner.

Leach, then 28, and wife Sharon had one child and another on the way when Leach went to work for Hal Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan. Leach was armed with a law degree, but not interested in a suit-and-tie career when, fresh off coaching in Finland, he accepted a $12,000 salary, plus free housing, a "moldy one-room trailer."

Wrote Gwynne: "Located in a junk-strewn trailer park, it was engulfed by three-foot high weeds. The bedroom was carpeted with grubby, two-inch-deep, blood-red shag. The ceiling fan was mounted so low that the blades would sometimes hit Leach in the face when he crossed the room."

From such humble beginnings, Mumme and Leach went on to change the way football is played.

The offense, when taught and executed properly, stretched the field horizontally and vertically in such a way that teams with lesser talent were able to score improbable upsets.

Rob Likens, David Beaty's first offensive coordinator at Kansas, and Doug Meacham, are among the Air Raid assistant coaches mentioned in the book.

I still don't understand the Air Raid offense, but I grew an understanding of why KU's version of it doesn't work. Two sentences on page 156 hit me like one of those thanks-I-needed-that cold slaps in the face from the old Skin Bracer after shave commercials: "As offensive line coach, Leach was an integral — Hal often thought the integral — part of the passing attack. If (Dustin) Dewald didn't get three or more seconds, there was no offense."

There you have it. Neither Likens nor Meacham was the source of the failure of the Air Raid at Kansas. If the blocks aren't there, the air is filled with three-and-out failures. (A noticeable increase dropped passes didn't help either).

Beaty inherited a roster sorely lacking in offensive linemen. The quantity of blockers has been upgraded, but so far the quality hasn't kept pace. Will that change with an extra year of growth in the weight room and in mastering technique on the practice field? We'll see.

Center Mesa Ribordy, who came to KU as a walk-on tight end, has been KU's most consistent offensive lineman. The Jayhawks will have 11 offensive lineman who came to KU on scholarship, all but one (Jacob Bragg) recruited since Beaty took the job, participating in spring football.

It's not known whether Kansas will stick with the Air Raid. This much is certain: If the offensive line doesn't improve significantly, there is no offense.

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Head-to-head: Embiid’s 76ers beat Wiggins’ T’wolves; Mason’s Kings top Jackson’s Suns

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21), of Cameroon, drives against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Minneapolis. The 76ers won 118-112. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21), of Cameroon, drives against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Minneapolis. The 76ers won 118-112. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

With so many Jayhwaks making a living in the NBA it’s not difficult on any given day to find a box score with a former Kansas basketball standout appearing for each team. But Tuesday night’s schedule provided a pair of reunions for one-time KU teammates who likely always will be tied together.

The brightest star associated with Kansas, Joel Embiid and his Sixers beat Andrew Wiggins’ Timberwolves in overtime, and one hard-nosed rookie picked up a win over another in Sacramento, where Frank Mason III’s Kings prevailed over Josh Jackson’s Suns.

Embiid’s greatness beamed down the stretch in Minneapolis, as he put up 28 points, 12 rebounds and a career-best 8 assists. Per ESPN, the last 76er center to hit those numbers in those categories was another famous Jayhawk, Wilt Chamberlain.

But Embiid’s individual production, he told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt during a post-game interview, wasn’t what made him most proud about the night.

“We fought back,” Embiid said of a game that featured several lead changes in the fourth quarter, before Philadelphia won in OT, when Embiid scored the first basket of the extra period and later nailed a 3-pointer to extend the lead to seven. “We went down in the fourth and then we (faced) some adversity and we won the game.”

The Sixers, so often maligned the past several years for not competing with the rest of the league, improved to 14-13 on the year and 7-7 on the road.

“We’re getting better. We’ve got a lot of growing to do. We’ve been doing a better job, especially this year,” Embiid told Van Pelt, adding his first three seasons with the organization — two of which he missed with injuries — were tough to swallow. “To be in this type of position where we can actually go into the game and know that we have a chance to win and we’re going to win is always great.”

One wouldn’t have known it from Embiid’s near triple-double in a career-high 39 minutes, but some back soreness forced him to miss Philly’s two previous games — road losses at New Orleans and Cleveland — and he was a game-time decision against Minnesota.

“I missed the last two games and I don’t want to be that guy who’s always missing games,” said Embiid, who has played in 22 of 27 this year. “So I pushed through and we got the win. I’m excited to go back home and get some more wins.”

None by Philadelphia 76ers

Though fourth-year forward Wiggins has proven far more durable than Embiid, he didn’t impact the game as much as his fellow Jayhawk this night. Wiggins shot 8-for-24 from the floor and 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, while scoring 20 points and grabbing seven boards.

His most impressive highlight came when he stole a bad Embiid pass and scored over the 7-foot-2 center.

None by Timberwolves

The Timberwolves dropped to 16-12 but currently occupy the No. 4 slot in the Western Conference standings. Philly (14-13) is tied with Detroit and New York for the seventh-best record in the East.

Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III, right, goes to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Jakob Poeltl, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. The Raptors won 102-87. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III, right, goes to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Jakob Poeltl, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. The Raptors won 102-87. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Unlike Embiid and Wiggins, neither Mason nor Jackson are likely to make their playoff debuts this season.

But Mason stayed on his recent upward trend, playing more minutes than Kings lottery pick De’Aaron Fox versus Phoenix.

Mason only shot 2-for-8 and scored 6 points, but he also contributed 4 rebounds, 4 assists and even a blocked shot of Suns guard Tyler Ullis.

None by Kings on NBCS

The rookie backup point guard’s plus/minus of +9 was the second-best in Sacramento’s box score, and he played the entire fourth quarter of the Kings’ win.

Jackson, meanwhile, had one of the worst shooting nights of his young career, going 3-for-14, while scoring 7 points and adding 5 boards and 2 assists in 30 minutes, in his seventh start.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft is averaging 9.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists, and shooting 38.5% from the floor and 23.9% on 3-pointers (17-for-71).

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KU’s perimeter defense exposed by Arizona State trio

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) defends against a shot from Arizona State guard Tra Holder (0) during the first half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) defends against a shot from Arizona State guard Tra Holder (0) during the first half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In a rare Allen Fieldhouse loss Sunday to surging Arizona State, no potential defect for the now 13th-ranked Kansas basketball team leapt off the court quite like the Jayhawks’ perimeter defense.

KU’s defenders uncovered no real solutions for hindering either the paint-bound drives or 3-point bombs of Sun Devils guards Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Remy Martin.

The trio accounted for 72 of ASU’s 95 points in a road victory that propelled the Pac-12 program to a No. 5 national ranking. Holder (29 points), a 6-foot-1 senior, shot 4-for-7 from long range and scored eight points in the paint. Evans, also a 6-1 senior, went 5-for-9 on 3-pointers and scored four points off layups. Martin, a 6-1 freshman, drained both of his attempts from beyond the arc and added 10 points at the rim.

Kansas senior Devonte’ Graham shined some light on the defensive conundrum he and his teammates faced while trying to stop Arizona State’s dynamic guards.

“They were really tough, because they were so quick and they could shoot the ball really well. It was hard to guard both,” Graham began. “You know, you wanted the short close-out because you were worried about the drive. And then they could shoot it. They did a great job knocking down shots.”

Especially in cases when Holder or Evans spotted up on the perimeter and waited for a kick-out, Kansas defenders found it hard to decide whether to fly at a shooter or close their ground under control to better limit an attack off the dribble.

At other points, ASU coach Bobby Hurley asked Holder to attack off ball screens, and those situations harmed the Jayhawks, as well, even if it wasn’t one of the guards finishing the play. Five of 6-8 freshman forward Romello White’s six buckets came at the rim. Improperly defending a White screen-and-roll with Holder meant an assist for the senior ball-handler and a layup for the young big man.

After Kansas dropped its second game in a row, 15th-year head coach Bill Self — without naming any specific culprit — deplored the way Graham, Lagerald Vick, Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk guarded their ASU counterparts.

“(ASU) ran some actions to create switches and, you know, our ball-screen defense wasn’t any good today,” Self began. “But basically they were better with the ball, which they’ve been with everybody. They put it on Xavier pretty good, too. They’re good. And they were better with the ball than we were obviously, physically being able to stay in front of them.”

The defensive malfunctions throughout the second half allowed Arizona State (9-0) to put up 58 points in the final 20 minutes, on 58% shooting, as the visitors converted 11 layups or dunks and shot 7-for-14 from 3-point range.

The display is likely to become a favorite of the most talented guards remaining on KU’s schedule, who will watch the video evidence of how to attack the Jayhawks picturing themselves doing the same. The more quick-off-the-bounce drivers and shooters a team has on its roster, the better its coaches and players will feel about matching up with Kansas.

Even when KU’s offense finally rallied late in the second half, its defense couldn’t stop Evans during a critical stretch, when he nailed three 3-pointers in less than four minutes.

The Jayhawks either gave him too much space or flew right past him, allowing Evans to flourish and further embolden his teammates for crunch time.

Really, the only portion of the game in which Kansas played effective defensively came in the opening minutes, when the Jayhawks built a 13-point lead they couldn’t sustain.

“I thought the first half, early in the half we did a pretty good job,” Self said. “They’re going to score points. I don’t see how you keep them from scoring points, especially if they shoot the ball like that.”

Of course, that defensive success proved short-lived. Once KU’s breakdowns on the perimeter allowed ASU back in the game, its talented guards kept exposing their opponent’s weaknesses, paving the way for a 51% shooting performance from the field and 14-for-28 accuracy from 3-point range.

At times, it was simple as Holder, Evans or Martin blowing by the Jayhawk in front of him for a layup.

“They played take-em a lot in the second half,” Self said, “and we had a hard time keeping them in front of us.”

By the end of a stressful afternoon for KU’s perimeter defenders, the Sun Devils had foisted the Jayhawks into so many missteps it seemed like every shot ASU put up was bound to drop through the net.

Even a Steph Curry-range dagger.

Avenues toward an improved KU defense obviously still exist, even as the team tries to maximize minutes from its starting five while incorporating just two rotation players, Mitch Lightfoot and Marcus Garrett, off the bench.

As a jumping off point, Self said his players need to learn how to defend in a fashion that makes their opponents uneasy on offense.

“A lot of it is toughness. When things aren’t going well you kind of grind through it a little bit, and we just don’t have that right now,” Self said. “That’s what we’ve got to get as much as anything else. We’ve got to get to the point where we can make others play bad. See, they could make us play bad because they could tell Remy Martin to go guard the ball and he’d get a deflection or a steal (five takeaways at KU) or what not. We don’t have people that can do that. So we’ve got to figure out a way to collectively not let people be comfortable as a team. That’s not working right now.”

KU’s senior leader and best player, Graham understands the Jayhawks must enhance their defense. They might have held Tennessee State, South Dakota State, Texas Southern, Oakland and Syracuse below 37% shooting, but Washington converted 48% of its shots in an upset at Sprint Center, and Arizona State, the best team Kansas has faced so far, out-scored KU 93-70 in the final 36-plus minutes at the feildhouse.

“We’ve got to work on it a lot,” Graham said of KU’s defense. “We’re just not guarding the ball really well right now. We’ve got to get better, especially on that end of the court. We’ve got a whole week until our next game and we’re going to get better.”

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Kansas football 2018 season-opener shapes up as compelling matchup

Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe looks on in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 26-24. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)

Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe looks on in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 26-24. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)

Nicholls State and Kansas were in the market for football coaches at the end of their disappointing 2014 seasons. Kansas hired David Beaty, receivers coach from Texas A&M. Nicholls State opted for Tim Rebowe, safeties coach at Louisiana Lafayette.

Beaty inherited a program coming off a 3-9 record, a seven-year bowl drought and a roster sorely lacking in offensive linemen.

Rebowe inherited an 0-12 squad located in Thibodaux, Louisiana, that had finished last in the Southland Conference for four consecutive seasons.

Three years into the job, Beaty has a 3-33 record. He hasn’t been able to establish a strong recruiting footprint in either his native Texas or Kansas, which led to an aggressive turn toward Louisiana. At the moment, 2 of 6 verbal commitments from The Boot still list Kansas as their top choices, but cornerback Coe Harris and running back Pooka Williams are being aggressively pursued by big-time college football programs.

Rebowe is 16-18, including 8-4 this past season when his team lost to South Dakota in the first round of the 16-team FCS playoffs.

Obviously, Louisiana produces far more football prospects than Kansas. Even so, it’s impressive how disciplined Rebowe has been in sticking to his hyper-local recruiting approach. In his first three recruiting classes, 58 of 64 signees came from Louisiana.

Why should anybody in Kansas care about what's happening with an FCS school from Louisiana? KU opens its 2018 football season Sept. 1 vs. Nicholls State in Memorial Stadium.

Curious as to whether Rebowe had the good fortune of inheriting a strong class that as seniors led the Colonels to an 8-4 record in 2017, I did some research on geauxcolonels.com.

Unfortunately for Kansas, not the case.

Nicholls State returns 89 percent of its rushing yards and 95 percent of its rushing touchdowns, 95 percent of its passing yards, 100 percent of its passing touchdowns, 79 percent of its receiving yards, 86 percent of its receiving touchdowns.

But will the blocks be there to free the quarterback and running backs to do their work?

Yes.

The Colonels bring back 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen from the team that lost to Texas A&M by 10 points, an impressive showing, although not as shocking as the previous year’s outcome vs. an FBS opponent. Georgia defeated Nicholls State by two points in 2016.

Oddsmakers don’t always post lines for games pitting FBS schools vs. FCS ones. If there is a line for this one, it’s worth wondering which school will be favored. I wonder if an FCS road team ever has been favored against an FBS school. I’ll try to find out before the day is over.

On one hand, Beaty has a 2-1 record vs. FCS opponents and will finally have a full roster of scholarship players. On the other hand, look at the comparative records from 2014, the year before the coaches took over, through 2017.

Kansas: 3-9, 0-12, 2-10, 1-11.

Nicholls State: 0-12, 3-8, 5-6, 8-4.

The Colonels’ growth curve points steadily up. For the Jayhawks, it’s been down, up, down. It's reasonable to expect it to head back up in 2018, provided defensive linemen Dorance Armstrong return, rather than declare for the NFL draft.

Fascinating matchup between coaches who inherited similar situations, although at different levels of competition, and three years in have had starkly different results.

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‘Louisianimal’ RB Anthony ‘Pooka’ Williams picking up interest from major programs

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

The University of Kansas football program generated an explosion of unexpected buzz this past February by adding intriguing prospects to its 2018 recruiting class.

But 10 months later, with the NCAA’s new early-signing period for college football beginning Dec. 20, the vibe surrounding KU’s potential signees could shift drastically in the opposite direction.

Over the weekend, the biggest name tied to the Jayhawks, four-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason, decommitted from David Beaty’s program. Meanwhile, the only quarterback in KU’s class, Texas prep Clayton Tune, visited Ole Miss and currently describes Kansas as “still in the picture” for the quickly approaching signing day.

KU fans now have to hope Beaty and his staff can hold on to the high school commitments they have, with the biggest concerns being four-star cornerback Corione Harris — Jason’s prep teammate at Landry-Walker (La.) — and the group’s other remaining “Louisianimal,” running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams.

Harris announced recently he will chose between KU and Mississippi State. Williams, though, appears to have a number of programs to consider.

Sam Spiegelman, a recruiting reporter for SEC Country, spoke with Williams after his Hahnville High team lost in Louisiana’s Class 5A state title game on Saturday. The 5-foot-10, three-star running back explained how his recruitment has picked up during his remarkable senior season, capped by rushing for 1,403 yards and 14 touchdowns in five playoff games.

The speedy all-purpose back told SEC Country he not only has an offer from LSU but also Miami. Plus, Williams related, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama and Auburn have shown interest in him, as well.

“A lot of schools have come here,” Williams told SEC Country. “When you do big things, big schools come in. Nebraska, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Miami. … I can keep naming schools.”

Williams had stated previously he planned to sign with Kansas on Dec. 20, but Spiegelman reported the Louisiana standout is considering delaying signing until February.

If the increasingly popular running back had to make a choice now, he told SEC Country he would pick the Jayhawks, to whom he committed in February after hitting it off with running backs coach Tony Hull, a Louisiana native.

“It’s still Kansas, because I’m committed to them and I gave them my word,” Williams said. “It would be hard for me to flip my word on them. It’s about loyalty and it’s like a family, so if I go somewhere, I have to feel comfortable and it’s where I can play. We’ll see who can build a family [relationship] with me and we’ll take it from there.”

None by #LooseScrew!

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No easy fix for Kansas basketball team’s defensive woes

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) sends a shot from Arizona State guard Tra Holder (0) sailing during the second half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) sends a shot from Arizona State guard Tra Holder (0) sailing during the second half, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

No easy solutions exist for the Kansas basketball team’s defensive problems exposed in back-to-back losses to Pac-12 schools.

The flaws extend from the perimeter, where the guards don’t force a ton of turnovers, to the interior, where center Udoka Azubuike hasn’t yet developed great timing as a shot-blocker.

“We have less margin for error than a lot of teams that we’ve had in here in the past,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But I would say our toughness, to be able to get stops or keep a guy in front of you for 30 seconds, being able to defend the entire shot clock, those things are disappointing. And it’s everybody. It’s not just one or two people. We have no rim protection.”

Azubuike blocked just two shots Sunday against the much shorter Sun Devils.

Arizona State’s guards stung Kansas from the perimeter and on drives to the hoop. “I don’t know how tall they list (Tra) Holder and (Shannon) Evans and (Remy) Martin, but they all have to be under 5-11 and to have three guys score 72 points who are basically really, really quick and really good with the ball, but still yet, that’s just ridiculous to allow them to have that type of output.”

Arizona State (9-0) moved all the way to fifth in the Associated Press top 25 poll, eight spots ahead of Kansas.

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KU Sports Extra: Sunday Sun Deviling

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Bill Self after loss to ASU: ‘This is the softest team Kansas has had since I’ve been here’

After a 95-85 home loss to Arizona State on Sunday, Kansas coach Bill Self talks about the team's need to add mental toughness on the defensive end, giving up layups to ASU's guards and where the Jayhawks had defensive breakdowns.

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Udoka Azubuike on KU’s problems in loss to Arizona State

Kansas sophomore big Udoka Azubuike explains how No. 2-ranked Kansas couldn’t turn a hot start Sunday into a victory against No. 16 Arizona State at Allen Fieldhouse.

Azubuike, who finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, discusses ASU’s back-court attack, whether fatigue has become an issue for the Jayhawks and their short rotation, KU’s defensive breakdowns and what led to Kansas turning the ball over 16 times in the home loss.

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Devonte’ Graham after loss to Arizona State: ‘Their guards were just better than us’

Moments after KU’s 95-85 loss to Arizona State — just the 11th at Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self-era — senior guard Devonte’ Graham made his thoughts on the performance clear.

“I don’t like losing, period,” said the downtrodden Graham. “At the end of the day, their guards were just better than us.”

Graham finished the game with 19 points, outdone in that area only by junior Lagerald Vick (25 points, 7 rebounds). Still, it was far from a perfect game from the senior, who missed nine shots and committed three of his team’s 16 turnovers, which led to 25 points for the Sun Devils.

Defense was also an issue for the Jayhawks, who allowed the visitors to shoot 57.6 percent from the field in a 58-point second half. After the game, Self called the KU team the softest he'd had since taking over at KU. Graham used similar wording in discussing what KU needs to do moving forward.

"We’ve just got to man up to it," Graham said, "look at ourselves in the mirror, each and every one of us."

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Baseline View: Kansas shut down by Arizona State guards

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More Frank Mason III could be prescription for Sacramento success

Sacramento Kings' Frank Mason III, right, and Cleveland Cavaliers' Dwyane Wade battle for a loose ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Sacramento Kings' Frank Mason III, right, and Cleveland Cavaliers' Dwyane Wade battle for a loose ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Arco Arena, the former home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, had a notoriously noisy reputation, thanks to the cowbell-wielding fanatics who occupied its seats.

Brand-new Golden 1 Center, the Kings’ new permanent residence in California’s capital, hasn’t had the chance to become so renowned yet.

But you know some holdovers from the glory days of Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac are just dying to bust out those old noisemakers again.

And much like fictional music producer Bruce Dickinson famously demanded more cowbell during a Blue Oyster Cult recording session fabricated by Saturday Night Live years ago, Kings fans these days have to be clamoring to see more of a certain backup guard.

“Guess what! I’ve got a fever! And the only prescription … is more Frank Mason!”

A recent addition to Sacramento’s regular rotation, the rookie from Kansas continued to endear himself to his team’s fans — and likely teammates and coaches, as well — this week with further examples of his NBA-level merits.

The 23-year-old from Petersburg, Va, followed up an off night in Chicago (5 points, 1-for-6 shooting) this past Friday with consecutive strong showings: 13 points, 3 assists, 4-for-6 shooting at Milwaukee; and 15 points, 2 assists, 4-for-6 shooting at Cleveland.

A former KU All-American, Mason flashed incredible passing and finishing in Sacramento’s loss to Cleveland, while also draining jumpers over both Dwyane Wade and the NBA’s real king, LeBron James.

None by Sacramento Kings

None by Sacramento Kings

Sacramento (7-17), near the bottom of the Western Conference standings entering Friday’s game at New Orleans, isn’t winning. That’s hardly any fault of Mason, who is averaging 9.9 points and 3.9 assists in 20.5 minutes over his past 10 games — a stretch during which the 5-foot-11 reserve has shot 49.3% from the floor and nailed 60% of his 3-pointers. The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 and are in the early stages of their latest rebuild, still less than a year removed from trading away franchise player DeMarcus Cousins.

A second-round pick, Mason actually has proven to be a bright spot of late, helping the Kings’ bench lineups, as detailed by The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones.

“If not the same five (players), it’s been like the same three or four,” Mason told The Bee. “I think we’ve been playing pretty well together, first or second unit. We just have to keep doing that, cut out the transition points and take a lot more pride on the defensive end.”

According to the most recent data available from NBA.com, the five-man lineup in which Mason has most appeared for Sacramento puts him with Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kosta Koufos. That particular combination has a net rating of +7.9, while most of the team’s other frequently-used lineups have massive negative net ratings.

Jones recently argued in The Bee that the Kings need more Mason:

“Frank Mason III continues to show the moment is not too big for him and earns playing time in the fourth quarter of close games,” Jones wrote.

“De’Aaron Fox was drafted to be the face of the franchise, but Mason could prove to be a needed piece in this rebuilding project. His production and intangibles should not be underrated.”

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Early signing period cranks up pressure for college football coaches

Kansas University's new head football coach, David Beaty, speaks at an introductory press conference Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, at the Anderson Family Football Complex. Beaty, the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Texas A&M, was hired by KU Friday.

Kansas University's new head football coach, David Beaty, speaks at an introductory press conference Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, at the Anderson Family Football Complex. Beaty, the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Texas A&M, was hired by KU Friday.

Twelve days removed from college football’s first December signing period, Kansas ranks next-to-last in the Big 12 with 12 verbal commitments. Only Kansas State, which never does as well in recruiting on paper as on the football field, has fewer (11) verbals.

The rest of the Big 12 members' numbers: West Virginia (22), Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU (20), Texas Tech (19), Iowa State and Texas (18), according to Rivals, which ranks Texas slightly ahead of Oklahoma in its team recruiting rankings, followed by West Virginia, TCU, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State.

Eight of KU’s 12 commitments are high school players and four are prospects from junior colleges.

KU head coach David Beaty shared his thoughts during Big 12 Media Days in July on the addition of the early signing period.

“One of the most interesting things for me is when kids are committed and that first period comes around how many of them actually sign and how many don’t, because if they don’t sign then, they’re not committed,” Beaty said.

Tough to argue that point, so it's now or never for KU's most celebrated recruits.

Kansas lost another commitment Wednesday when three-star defensive end Josh Smith of Landry-Walker High in New Orleans, announcement on Twitter that he will “explore other options.”

KU has four remaining commitments who have been pursued by big programs and will be recruited aggressively by schools trying to pry them from their Kansas commitments before early signing day.

Cornerback Corione Harris and receiver Devonta Jason of Landry-Walker High in New Orleans, running back Anthony Williams from Boutte, Louisiana, and quarterback Clayton Tune of Hebron, Texas, all have SEC offers.

Harris announced on Twitter he would choose between Kansas and Mississippi State. Jason tweeted that former Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullens’ still is recruiting him at his new job at Florida. This might mean nothing, but it’s somewhat interesting that Harris just started following new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt on Twitter.

LSU, Mississippi State, TCU and UCLA have offered Williams at various stages of his recruitment, per Rivals.

Quarterback Clayton Tune from Hebron, Texas, tweeted that Ole Miss offered him a scholarship.

These are nervous times for college football coaches. The early signing period cranks up the pressure because the guess by most is that the majority of prospects will sign now, rather than wait until February.

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Lindsey Scott Jr., brings exciting possibilities at quarterback

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

The first thing I liked reading about Lindsey Scott Jr., quarterback of national-champion East Mississippi Community College, was his height.

He’s listed at 5-foot-11, which means schools that can afford to be picky about such things decided not to recruit him for fear he would have trouble seeing over offensive linemen.

The smaller the pool of interested schools, the better shot Kansas has of landing him.

Mark Mangino had two terrific quarterbacks at Kansas and both could play in 6-foot-and-under basketball leagues without cheating by bending their knees at the official measurement, a tactic that allowed our 6-2 center Joe Trivisonno to play on the Marquette 1978 intramural champions, “The Eraserheads.”

Back to Mangino’s two best quarterbacks.

Bill Whittemore was listed at 6-0, Todd Reesing at 5-11. KU beat out New Mexico to land Whittemore, Duke and Kansas State to land Reesing.

Underdogs can’t get hung up on physical prototypes or they’ll end up with a roster full of players who look good coming off the bus, warming up and posing for photographs for the media guide, but can’t play a lick.

Whittemore played in the Tangerine Bowl, which interestingly was played in a stadium called the Citrus Bowl.

Reesing led KU to victory in the Orange Bowl and the Insight Bowl.

Jason Swanson, listed at 6-foot, led KU to victory in the Fort Worth Bowl.

The next thing to like about Scott is that he has only burned one year of eligibility and will have three remaining seasons after selecting a school from among Kansas, Texas-San Antonio, Tulane and Western Michigan. He red-shirted during his one year at LSU.

My guess is that Scott has thick skin because he excelled under EMCC coach Buddy Stephens the central figure in the popular Netflix series that followed two Lions seasons.

Stephens is a yeller and a screamer, a cusser and a fusser, despite trying to tame his act in Season 2.

Scott’s dual-threat capabilities count as another plus.

If KU can land Scott and Clayton Tune, who intends to graduate early and participate in spring football drills, David Beaty would have four quarterbacks, including holdovers Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, competing for the starting job heading into spring football.

That’s a good thing, as long as Beaty names a starter by the end of spring football.

Tune originally made a verbal commitment to Kansas, then opened up his recruitment the night KU produced 21 yards in total offense in a 43-0 loss at TCU. He verbally recommitted to Kansas last week, but doubts arose to the strength of that commitment when he tweeted on Thursday: “Thankful to have received a scholarship offer from Ole Miss!”

Kansas had been recruiting dual-threat QB Victor Viramontes, but he committed to Minnesota.

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Former LSU QB and NJCAA national champ Lindsey Scott Jr. considering KU football

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

A former LSU quarterback with both a high school state title and an NJCAA national championship on his résumé is examining the University of Kansas as his next potential stop.

Earlier this week, Lindsey Scott Jr., helped East Mississippi Community College — the program made famous the previous couple of years by the Netflix documentary “Last Chance U” — finish the season No. 1 in the nation. Scott completed 15 of 28 passes for 170 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, as well as 40 rushing yards, in a 31-28 victory over Arizona Western at the Mississippi Bowl, the NJCAA’s Football Championship Game.

According to Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham watched Scott in person on Sunday, in Perkinston, Miss., and the Jayhawks offered the QB a scholarship on Monday.

In high school, Scott led Zachary (La.) to a Class 5A state championship in 2015, and was considered by Rivals to be a three-star, dual-threat QB in the recruiting Class of 2016.

Scott signed with LSU after picking up offers from a number of programs, including Power Five schools Maryland, Rutgers, Wake Forest and Syracuse, as well as Air Force, Army, Navy, Tulane and Harvard.

A 5-foot-11, 210-pound passing and running threat, Scott transferred out of LSU this past August after spending one season in the program as a redshirt QB. According to The Advocate, he was in a battle to become LSU’s No. 2 quarterback during preseason camp.

However, Scott decided to transfer to the junior college level and play immediately. At Eastern Mississippi, within a spread offensive attack, he completed 65 percent of his 398 passes, while throwing for 3,481 yards, with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also averaged 60.8 rushing yards a game and ran for six scores.

None by EMCC Athletics

Now that his one fall of juco football is over, Scott has three years of eligibility remaining. The QB said during a Wednesday interview with Matt Moscona, on 104.5 FM ESPN Baton Rouge, he will visit Kansas this weekend, and follow the trip up by checking out Western Michigan.

Scott identified KU, WMU, Tulane and Texas-San Antonio as the four teams he is considering right now. In another interview, with the Biloxi Sun Herald, he said Tulane has recruited him hard since he left LSU.

Asked during his radio Q & A whether he will reach a decision this month and make it official during the new NCAA early signing period, Scott admitted he wasn’t certain. He could potentially wait until February.

“With juco recruiting things can change quickly,” Scott told ESPN Baton Rouge. “So I guess the extra time would just be beneficial to me.”

As Scott weighs his choices, he will have different styles of offenses to consider. Although Tulane runs a zone-option, he told the Sun Herald he could see himself fitting in there. But that seems to be his mentality for any system, as Scott declined to pigeonhole himself.

“I can see myself in different types of offenses,” he told ESPN Baton Rouge. “I think I’m very malleable.”

Ultimately, Scott might decide he fits best at KU if his experience during his visit to Lawrence convinces him he would be contented as a part of the rebuilding program.

“I just want somewhere that feels like home with a coaching staff that has the best interest for me,” Scott said, “and where the offense suits my skill set.”

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KU Sports Extra: Sprint Center Setback

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Bill Self on loss to Washington: ‘We deserved exactly what we got tonight’

After a 74-65 loss to Washington on Wednesday, Kansas coach Bill Self and senior guard Devonte' Graham talked about the team's struggles against UW's zone defense and what they learned from the loss.

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Baseline View: Jayhawks fall victim to Washington’s zone

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Sam Cunliffe soon will be more than just a practice player for Kansas

Blue Team guard Sam Cunliffe dishes a pass beyond defender Tyshawn Taylor during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Blue Team guard Sam Cunliffe dishes a pass beyond defender Tyshawn Taylor during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. by Nick Krug

By the time Sam Cunliffe is eligible to play in his first game for Kansas, which will be at Nebraska on Dec. 16, barring one of his professors spacing out and not getting his first-semester grade in on time, the Seattle native will have played in practice for Kansas coach Bill Self for a full year.

So what type of player are the Jayhawks adding?

“He’s an athlete,” senior guard Devonte’ Graham said.

The internet is loaded with examples of Cunliffe’s acrobatic dunks.

What else?

“He can steal extra possessions and you know coach loves guys like that who can go offensive rebound, get out in the passing lanes,” Graham said. “He can shoot the ball really well too. He’s been shooting well in practice. And he also can be another defensive stopper.”

It wasn’t dissatisfaction with playing time that caused Cunliffe to transfer from Arizona State. He started all 10 of his games there and averaged 25.4 minutes per game. he also averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 turnovers. Cunliffe shot .314 on 2-point shots and .405 on 3-pointers.

Coming out of high school he was ranked No. 36 in his class by Rivals.

Search for "Sam I Am" on youtube and you'll find a three-episode series on Cunliffe. Each one is roughly 30 minutes.

Cunliffe won't have any trouble keeping up with the fleet Jayhawks. Speed runs in the family. His sister, Hannah, a senior at Oregon, was 60-meter champion at the NCAA Indoor meet.

Running at altitude, she was clocked in a collegiate-record 7.07 in a heat. She won the final in 7.14.

She was named Pac-12 female track and field athlete of the year in 2016 and was on course to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 meters, but suffered a hamstring injury that put that dream on hold for four years.

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Stock watch: Top Jayhawks project as 2nd-round picks in 2018 NBA Draft

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets around Missouri guard C.J. Roberts (0) during the first half of the Showdown for Relief exhibition, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets around Missouri guard C.J. Roberts (0) during the first half of the Showdown for Relief exhibition, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

Devonte’ Graham’s shooting display in Miami this past weekend was so impactful it wowed Heat president Pat Riley, who, according to Kansas coach Bill Self, said the senior guard “put on a show” in a victory over Syracuse.

That 35-point deluge alone — even coupled with Graham’s 35-point outburst versus Toledo that preceded it — won’t guarantee the 6-foot-2 Jayhawks veteran a spot in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft.

In a new mock draft from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (formerly of DraftExpress.com) released on Tuesday, neither Graham’s name nor the those of any of his teammates appear in the first round.

As of early December at least, with 24 regular-season games and an entire postseason in front of him, Graham is considered an early second-rounder. Givony projects KU’s current leading scorer (18.6 points per game, 46% field goals, 41% 3-pointers) as the 38th pick overall, a slot occupied for the moment by the Memphis Grizzlies.

The charismatic senior also has shown improvements in other areas of his game, with career-best averages of 4.6 rebounds and 8.0 assists at this early juncture of the non-conference schedule.

ESPN’s predictions consider another KU senior, 20-year-old shooting guard Svi Mykhailiuk, a second-round talent, as well.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a shot over Toledo forward Luke Knapke (30) and Toledo forward Nate Navigato (35) during the first half on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a shot over Toledo forward Luke Knapke (30) and Toledo forward Nate Navigato (35) during the first half on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Givony’s mock draft forecasts Mykhailiuk being taken eight picks after Graham, 46th overall, by Utah.

After testing out the draft process this past spring without signing on with an agent, Mykhailiuk’s final go-around with the Jayhawks is off to a promising start, with improved defense and a better-than-ever 3-point stroke.

The 6-foot-8 guard from Ukraine enters Wednesday’s non-conference matchup with Washington in Kansas City, Mo., averaging 17.1 points, fueled by 25-for-46 accuracy (54.3%) from beyond the 3-point arc.

Mykhailiuk, while not as well-rounded as Graham, also has picked up his rebounding (4.0 a game) and passing (1.9 assists) with increased playing time as a senior.

The Kansas seniors are the only Jayhawks on ESPN’s mock draft in the first week of December. However, Givony’s list of top 100 prospects for the 2018 NBA Draft also includes junior Lagerald Vick, listed at No. 61, and sophomore Malik Newman, 92nd.

A great deal can change between now and the NCAA Tournament, let alone in the pre-draft workouts and interviews that follow the season. Graham and Mykhailiuk won’t soar into lottery status, but both appear to be on trajectories that could get them closer to — or maybe even into — the first round in the months ahead.

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