Entries from blogs tagged with “Jayhawks”
On a night when Kansas thrived with the three-ball, the most talented basketball prospect on the floor found it more beneficial to score inside.
While Josh Jackson’s teammates combined to convert 15 of their 26 shots from downtown, the freshman wing from Detroit missed his lone attempt taken outside of the arc, with the Jayhawks leading UMKC by 26 points in the second half.
Kansas didn’t need its 6-foot-8 NBA lottery pick-to-be bombing away in a 105-62 drubbing anyhow. Jackson, who shot 8-for-12 overall, scored two of his five first-half baskets on layups, and put in two more from near the left block. His only jumper from outside prior to intermission came on a successful Andrew Wiggins-esque long two-pointer from just inside the three-point line near the top of the key.
In the second half, Jackson scored all three of his baskets at the rim — two layups and one monster one-handed jam.
When he wasn’t taking efficiency-friendly shots on his way to 19 points, Jackson flew to the glass for a career-best 12 rebounds and even dished five assists.
Even though his freakish athleticism makes it easy for him to drive and create or score, that doesn’t mean Jackson has any wild ideas about abandoning his jumper or taking a more passive approach on future looks from downtown.
Currently shooting 26.3% on three-pointers (5-for-19) as a Jayhawk, Jackson remains confident in his ability to rise up and drain more difficult shots, even if his form might not be the most traditional you’ll encounter.
Jackson said through the years various basketball types have tried to help him tinker with his mechanics, but he’s not doing much tweaking right now.
“It depends on who they are,” Jackson said of how such conversations usually go, “whether I really trust you or not. But I can say I’ve received some really good tips in the past, and hopefully I’ll receive some more in the future.”
Since arriving in Lawrence, Jackson has relied on the wisdom of KU assistant Kurtis Townsend in the shooting department. A 13-year assistant of Bill Self, Townsend has suggested Jackson keep the ball up more, over his head, on his release, and shown him how spreading his fingers wider on the ball gives him more touch.
The key, of course, is avoiding reverting back to old habits.
“It’s really just muscle memory, yeah. Repeatability,” Jackson said of the key to making adjustments stick. “Being able to be comfortable and have confidence in it.”
While he tinkers with his form — Jackson has made just 26 of 45 (57.8%) free throws thus far – he can always go back to the paint to keep his production up. Nine games into his college career, Jackson is shooting 45-for-76 (59%) on two-point field goals.
Now that the 2016 Big 12 football season is complete, all the numbers have been totaled and averaged and sorted nicely for consumption, and postseason honors are starting to get handed out.
So it’s a good time to review the league’s individual statistical leaders and see where Kansas football players landed among their peers.
As one might guess, the Jayhawks, who used three different starting quarterbacks, didn’t show up with this year’s passing leaders.
Perhaps head coach David Beaty will find a QB he can count on throughout 2017.
Still, KU had plenty of individuals stand out over the past few months, despite a 2-10 overall record and 1-8 mark in the Big 12.
What follows is a review of the categories in which Jayhawks ranked among the conference’s best, with a look at the numbers produced by the league-leader for context.
How did the Jayhawks stack up? Some of them finished higher than you might have guessed.
- Big 12 leader: D’Onta Foreman, Texas, 193.3 yards a game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 10th — Ke’aun Kinner, 61.5 yards a game
The senior running back often shared rushing duties with teammates, but Kinner averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns for Kansas in 2016. He looked even stronger late in the season, when he produced a season-best 152 yards on the ground against Iowa State.
- Big 12 leader: KD Cannon, Baylor, 6.6 a game
- Ranked Jayhawks: 4th — Steven Sims Jr., 6.0 catches a game; 9th — LaQuvionte Gonzalez, 5.2
Sims emerged as the top target for Kansas quarterbacks this season, but Gonzalez was as solid a second option as the offense could hope for during another rebuilding season.
Sims scored seven touchdowns, with a long of 74 yards. And while a No. 4 ranking in this category is impressive, Sims fared even better within the conference. Looking only at league games, Sims led the Big 12 with 6.8 catches an outing. Even OU star Dede Westbrook only caught 6.3 a week against league foes.
On the season, Gonzalez tied for 9th with Oklahoma State’s James Washington (5.2 catches). Gonzalez reached the end zone three times as a junior, including a 95-yard score in the finale at K-State, thanks to a deep ball from redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley.
- Big 12 leader: Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, 122.1 yards a game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 9th — Sims, 71.6 yards a game
During his breakout year, Sims, a 5-foot-10 receiver, hauled in 72 catches, averaging 11.9 yards a reception.
- Big 12 leader: LB Travin Howard, TCU, 10.4 a game
- Ranked Jayhawks: 6th — S Fish Smithson, 7.8; 13th — S Mike Lee, 6.9; 30th — LB Courtney Arnick, 5.5; 47th — DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., 4.7; 47th — S Tevin Shaw, 4.7
As he did in 2015, Smithson led Kansas in tackles. The senior safety made 93 total stops. As the season progressed, Smithson's young apprentice in the secondary, true freshman Lee, developed into a presence, as well. After graduating high school early to join Kansas this season, Lee made 69 solo tackles (76 total) in 11 appearances and eight starts.
With Kansas missing key linebackers Joe Dineen Jr. and Marcquis Roberts, senior ’backer Arnick contributed 66 total tackles for the defense.
Both Armstrong, on the D-line, and Shaw, in the secondary, made 40 solo tackles apiece and 56 total.
- Big 12 leader: DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 0.96 a game (11.5 total)
- Ranked Jayhawks: 2nd — DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., 0.83 (10.0 total); 16th — LB Cameron Rosser, 0.33 (4.0)
With 10 quarterback takedowns behind the line of scrimmage, Armstrong produced all one-man sack attacks, without an assist, during his outstanding sophomore campaign.
Rosser, a senior who played a hybrid linebacker/end position, made all four of his sacks during a two-week span in the first couple of Big 12 games. Rosser made one at Texas Tech and three versus TCU.
Tackles For Loss
- Big 12 leader: DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas, 1.67 a game
- Another Ranked Jayhawk: 15th — Daniel Wise, 0.82 a game
Simply put, Armstrong was the Big 12’s best at creating chaos in the backfield. With 20 solo tackles for loss as a sophomore, Armstrong beat K-State’s Willis in this category by 3.5.
Although Wise didn’t have the numbers to match Armstrong, the defensive tackle had as much to do with the Jayhawks’ success on the defensive line as anyone. Wise made 9.0 stops behind the line, all solos, when he wasn’t disrupting offenses in other ways.
- Big 12 leader: D.J. Reed, Kansas State, 1.5 per game
- Ranked Jayhawks: 6th — Fish Smithson, 0.92 a game; 17th — Marnez Ogletree, 0.67
Not only did Smithson finish plays with tackles, the senior safety found his way to the ball when quarterbacks passed in his direction. While captaining the KU defense, Smithson broke up seven throws and came away with interceptions on four other occasions.
At corner, Ogletree, another senior, didn’t pick off any passes, but he broke up eight while defending the Big 12’s many talented receivers.
- Big 12 leader: Rasul Douglas, West Virginia, 0.67 a game (eight total)
- Ranked Jayhawks: 4th — Fish Smithson, 0.33 a game (four total); 10th — Brandon Stewart, 0.25 (three)
Averaging a pick every three games in 2016, Smithson took away four as a senior. But he actually vastly improved his average in November, with an interception apiece against Iowa State and Texas.
Stewart wasn’t far behind Smithson with three passing takeaways of his own during his senior season. Few of KU’s 10 picks on the year were as critical as Stewart’s 55-yard INT return for a touchdown during the Jayhawks’ upset victory over Texas.
- Big 12 leader: Five-way tie, three
Armstrong’s three forced fumbles on the season tied him with K-State’s Willis and Reggie Walker, Baylor’s Patrick Levels and Texas Tech’s Jah’Shawn Johnson for the top spot in the category.
- Another Ranked Jayhawk: 10th — Smithson, two
The other most active defender on the KU roster, Smithson knocked the ball out of an opponent’s grasp twice this season.
- Big 12 leader: Patrick Levels, Baylor, four
- Ranked Jayhawks: 5th — Dorance Armstrong Jr., and Damani Mosby, two
Twice this season, Armstrong, the Jayhawks’ most disruptive defender, found his way to a loose ball to recover it for Kansas. So did the man lining up on the other edge of the D-line, senior end Mosby.
- Big 12 leader: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State, 9.1 points a game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 9th — Matthew Wyman, 5.4 points a game
West Virginia’s Mike Molina and Texas kicker Trent Dominigue both missed seven field goals on the season — more than Wyman’s six — but, like most of the conference’s kickers, benefited from their teams reaching the end zone for far more extra-point opportunities than Kansas. Five of the league’s kickers, including top scorer Ben Grogan of Oklahoma State (55-for-56), got to kick at least 49 PATs. Wyman only had a crack at 26 kicks following a TD.
Kick Return Average
- Big 12 leader: Byron Pringle, Kansas State, 28.7 yards per return
- Ranked Jayhawk: 7th — Laquvionte Gonzalez, 21.5 per return
Gonzalez proved a better kick returner than punt returner for Kansas. On 28 occasions during his junior season, the speedy receiver fielded a kickoff and decided to go and attempt to make something happen. Gonzalez totaled 601 return yards, and housed a 99-yarder against Ohio in Week 2.
- Big 12 leader: Joe Mixon, Oklahoma, 195.5 yards per game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 7th — Laquvionte Gonzalez, 109.2 yards per game
With his kick return yardage added to his 729 receiving yards, Gonzalez’s numbers ranked among the Big 12’s best, even though he finished the season with negative totals in punt returns (-10) and rushing (-9).
- Big 12 leader: Michael Dickson, Texas, 47.4 yards per punt
- Ranked Jayhawk: 4th — Cole Moos, 41.4 yards per punt
For KU junior punter Moos, 14 of his kicks traveled 50-plus yards, including the longest in the Big 12 this season, an 82-yarder at Baylor.
- Big 12 leader: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State, 1.5 field goals per game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 6th — Matthew Wyman, 1.08 per game
Wyman tied for 6th with Texas Tech’s Clayton Hatfield in field goals per outing. The Kansas senior made a season-high three versus Texas at Memorial Stadium, including the game-winner in overtime.
Field Goal Percentage
- Big 12 leader: Cole Netten, Iowa State, 94.1%
- Ranked Jayhawk: 6th — Matthew Wyman, 68.4%
Beaty sent Wyman out for 19 field-goal tries this year, and his kicker nailed 13 of them, including a season-best 50-yarder versus TCU.
PAT Kicking Percentage
- Big 12 leaders: Mike Molina, West Virginia; and Matthew Wyman, Kansas, 100%
When Kansas reached the end zone and called upon Wyman’s services, the trusted kicker never missed. Wyman went 26-for-26 on PAT’s.
I like to doodle during my lunch break and my doodles usually have to do with KU sports, so I figured why not share them with KUsports.com readers on weekdays in this space, usually at noon, and if not, almost always in the 11:30 a.m.-to-1:30 p.m. range.
First, I’d like to take the opportunity to answer a frequently asked question: Why do I look so serious during Kansas basketball games when they are played in the most exciting basketball building on the planet?
Fair question. The answer is it’s my job to be objective, taking in all the emotion and not get caught showing any. I mean, the last thing I ever would want to do is get caught on camera all but jumping out of my seat after witnessing something amazing, such as, oh say Mario Chalmers launching a game-tying, overtime-forcing three-pointer. Can you imagine how much grief I’d catch if that ever happened and someone caught an image of me losing it? Good thing no such photo exists, which makes sense because I never would lose my poker face while working for fear of being labeled unprofessional.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, onto today’s doodle.
In the box score distributed to the media after each game, a tally sheet of a vague category called, “hustle plays” appears on the back of the last page. I asked Kansas men’s basketball media relations contact Chris Theisen how that is compiled, etc. I’ll share more on that during some other Lunch Break, but first, Theisen told me that fourth-year director of student-athlete development Fred Quartlebaum, Coach Q for short, Q for shorter, tracks extra-effort plays daily in practice and in games.
Coach Q — from left the fifth suit on the bench, one row in front of Urban Meyer look-alike Sean Lester, deputy athletic director, and announcer Greg Gurley — said head coach Bill Self came up with the idea “a few years back,” as a way of getting players to “get after it defensively, flying around, creating havoc.”
Q tallies “energy points,” in seven categories.
“Obviously we have talented players, but with coach’s philosophy we also want tough-minded kids,” he said. “It shows you’re having an impact, you’re putting your footprint on things that really are important to coach Self.”
Coach Q agreed to show me an example of an energy chart from Monday’s practice in preparation for the UMKC game with the names of the players redacted. Here it is:
At first I was disappointed he covered the names, but the more I thought about it, the more I was glad he did that. Now we can all try to match the player with the energy points, even if we never find out what we scored on the test.
As you can see, two players reached double figures and the one with 13 points scored at least one point in 6 of 7 categories — the steal tally for him is barley visible, but it's there — and led the practice in two categories, offensive rebounds with five and dunks with three. I'm going to guess Josh Jackson because he does a little bit of everything, but I wouldn't rule out Lagerald Vick or even Carlton Bragg.
The player with 10 energy points had a team-high five steals and didn't throw down any dunks. He also had two deflections and didn't block a shot, which tells me he's a perimeter player, probably Devonte Graham.
Quartlebaum is not above bending the rules when charting.
“The other day there was a loose ball that ends up on Stanford’s bench and the guy wouldn’t give it back to us,” Q said. “Devonte Graham went over and grabbed the darn thing, so I gave him credit for a 50/50 ball.”
Quartlebaum, by the way, is an upbeat, friendly man, so please don't hold this against him: He had a hand in North Carolina winning the 2005 national championship under Roy Williams. Quartlebaum worked for Matt Doherty at Notre Dame and again at North Carolina, where he recruited four players from Roy's first national-championship team. Coach Q also was on Norm Roberts' staff at St. John's for six seasons.
Conventional stats aren't where it's at
In the Dec. 5 issue of Sports Illustrated, Kentucky coach John Calipari points out that two of his former centers chosen No. 1 in the NBA draft weren't even close to leading their teams in shot attempts. Anthony Davis (2012) took the fourth-most shots, Karl Anthony Towns (2015) the fifth-most.
"Make them realize that numbers, minutes, all of that stuff is not important," Calipari told SI. "Just be the best version of you."
I'm glad Calipari called attention to that because it's amazing how many people think NBA scouts put a premium on players' points.
A candidate to go first in the 2017 draft, Jackson ranks second to Frank Mason on KU's roster in shot attempts and has taken four more than third-place Graham.
One more look back at Duke game
The KUsports.com staff stacked so many stories on top of each other from KU's 77-75 victory over Duke at Madison Square Garden that you might not have read every single one of them.In case you missed it, Bobby Nightengale's blog examining how Duke star Grayson Allen fared against the five different Jayhawks who guarded him is well worth the time it will take you to read it.
It illustrates how Frank Mason's contributions extend well beyond points. Nobody did a better job on Allen than KU's leading scorer, who led KU with 21 points that night and leads them in scoring for the season with 19.6 per game.
Kangaroos strike from long distance
You don't make it all the way to the doorstep of 600 victories without giving your players specific challenges for each game, even when facing a prohibitive underdog.
Self explained the challenge for tonight's game vs. the UMKC Kangaroos, who not only have one of the better nicknames in college sports, but the sixth-best three-point shooting percentage (.430) in the nation. (Kansas is tied for 14th with Oklahoma at .408).
“Their freedom offensively," Self said. "They attempted (34) threes last game and so us being able to defend the three, get to their little guards. They’re going to be quite a bit smaller than us. Can we defend quickness? I think those will be the key things. . . . For the most part can our quickness match their quickness, so that will be a challenge for us."
The 'Roos will be without 5-foot-11 Martez Harrison, their second-leading scorer with a 16.5 average. Suspended, he will miss his fourth consecutive game.
As young Kansas football fan Cole Hayden continues his fight against undifferentiated sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, his cheering section continues to grow.
Over the past couple of days, Cole’s mother, Shanda Hayden, shared video messages sent the youngster’s way courtesy of some of the most recognizable Jayhawks in the NFL.
Shanda, the KU football team’s academic and career advisor who has worked with the program for nearly a decade, is beloved by current and former players alike. Many around the team consider her a bit of a team mom. In turn, Cole has become a popular member of the Jayhawks’ family.
KU players and coaches have rallied around the determined boy, wearing #TeamCole bracelets and doing everything they can to support him and the Hayden family.
Now former players are letting Cole know they have his back, too. Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald reached out via video this weekend to the Haydens.
“I’m definitely pullin' for ya down here in Tampa,” McDougald said.
Monday morning, Shanda shared another video message, this one from the top two Kansas players in the NFL, Denver Broncos cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.
“Cole, man, stay strong,” Harris said. “We’re prayin’ for your family, prayin' for Miss Shanda. Just hope everything goes well.”
Second-year Kansas football coach David Beaty often mentioned Cole’s fight and the Hayden’s throughout the season, dating back to KU dedicating its opener to #TeamCole.
“Man, that dude is a tough dude,” Beaty recently said of Cole. “He's fighting, and just want to let Shanda know how thankful we and our players are for her. I don't think people know how much she does for these guys, and I know not just the guys we have here but the ones that have came before them. Man, a lot of those kids have degrees because of her. She wears so many hats for us, and not the least of which is what she does for them academically. She's like a second mom for them while she's here.”
With Cole’s battle often keeping Shanda away from the team of late, a number of Jayhawks went to visit the Haydens after their season ended to check in and help out with some holiday decorations.
Sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. recently said the Jayhawks used FaceTime at one of their final practices to check in with Shanda, and players regularly get updates on Cole’s progress through Beaty.
“She’s a strong woman,” Sims said of Shanda Hayden, “and we’re fightin' for her, and she’s gonna keep fightin' for us.”
Kansas players Devonte' Graham, Landen Lucas & Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk & Head Coach Bill Self
Stanford coach (and former Jayhawk) Jerod Haase
As Kansas football coach David Beaty and his staff keep persevering in their ongoing venture to reinvigorate a program that had been left to languish, the offseason months are just as critical as Saturdays in the fall.
The two most direct avenues for improvement — as Beaty referenced shortly after the conclusion of his second season at KU — are player development and recruiting. While the head coach thinks the Jayhawks already on campus are steadily getting bigger and better, Beaty knows that’s just one part of the process.
“And then I think the other thing is understanding we’ve gotta go out and continue to recruit and get some marquee players to help us,” Beaty said, “’cause every good coach I know has some really, really good ones. And we’ve got some good ones already, and we’ve gotta go get some really, really good ones from this point forward to be able to do what we want to do, which is win a lot and compete for championships.”
Just a week after those words left Beaty’s mouth, Kansas will welcome some highly sought after high school prospects to Lawrence. Adrian Ealy, a 6-foot-7 offensive tackle from Gonzales, La., will be in town this weekend to check out Anderson Family Football Complex and hear the KU staff’s recruiting pitch.
Running backs coach and Louisiana native Tony Hull, of course, deserves credit for getting Ealy — a four-star O-lineman who already has visited Oklahoma and has offers from Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Texas and many more — to give Kansas a look. A high school senior at East Ascension, Ealy is listed at 282 pounds. Rivals.com ranks him the 20th best prospect in the nation at his position.
As reported by Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, Ealy won’t be the only talented Louisiana recruit in town. Tevin Bush, a speedy 5-foot-5 athlete from New Orleans’ Landry Walker High (the same program that gave the Jayhawks starting safety Mike Lee), will visit Kansas this weekend, too.
A high school senior assessed three stars from Rivals, Bush already has verbally committed to West Virginia, but must be intrigued with Kansas as an option — thanks again to Hull — if he is making a visit. Bush also has picked up offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Texas Tech and others.
Although Ealy and Bush visiting campus obviously doesn’t guarantee anything for Kansas, it’s another indicator that Beaty seems to be steering the program in the right direction.
KU’s 2017 recruiting class already includes eight three-star prospects: former Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender, juco defensive back Hasan Defense, Texas prep linebacker Kyron Johnson, Louisiana prep receiver/athlete Travis Jordan, Derby standout receiver Kenyon Tabor, Garden City Community College defensive end Jamie Tago, Chicago high school defensive back Robert Topps and Texas prep running back Dominic Williams.
As Beaty suggested, Kansas needs a number of members in its latest recruiting class to come in and make a difference — just like Lee, defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., defensive tackle Daniel Wise and receiver Steven Sims Jr. did before them.
The more impactful recruits the staff lands, the quicker KU can escape the Big 12 cellar and start chasing Beaty’s hopeful longterm goals.
David Beaty’s first fall as Kansas football coach went pretty miserably. Twelve games. Twelve losses. Minimal hope for the future for a frustrated fan base.
Only someone as positive as Beaty could come away from the 2015 campaign feeling optimistic, and, of course, he did.
So it came as no surprise this past weekend, upon the conclusion of Year 2 for Beaty, the man running the program sounded even more fired up entering the offseason. Asked to assess his second year compared to his first, Beaty didn’t reference the Jayhawks’ 2-10 overall record or 1-8 mark in the Big 12.
“One of the best things that we’ve done is I think we’ve developed the guys that we have in our program,” Beaty offered. “There’s two ways I think you get better: you recruit and you develop the one’s you’ve got. ’Cause you’re not gonna get any more — they’re not gonna give you any more. You have what you’ve got and then you get to go get 25 (in recruiting), is what you get to get.”
The progress Beaty alluded to showed up in 2016 thanks to freshmen and sophomores making significant on-field contributions.
A year ago, receiver Steven Sims Jr. caught 30 balls for 349 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. His production leapt to 72 receptions, 859 yards and seven touchdowns — all team-highs — as a sophomore.
A true freshman who graduated a year early to join KU football ahead of schedule, safety Mike Lee tied senior safety Fish Smithson for the team lead with 70 solo tackles. Lee’s 77 total tackles trailed only Smithson (93) and he didn’t become a starter until October.
Defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., while expected to play a key role for Clint Bowen’s defense, turned into one of the Big 12’s most disruptive forces. Armstrong likely will finish the year as the league’s top tackler for loss. His 20 stops behind the line of scrimmage lead Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis’ 15 — though the Wildcats’ end still has a Saturday date at TCU to try and catch up. Plus, Armstrong finished his second season with 10.0 sacks, currently second in the Big 12 to Willis’ 10.5.
Mostly playing as a replacement starter for Marcquis Roberts, who missed five games, sophomore linebacker Keith Loneker Jr., in his first season of FBS football, finished sixth among KU defenders in tackles, with 43, while also breaking up four passes.
Second-year defensive tackle Daniel Wise, who looked the part of a future impact interior lineman as a freshman, fulfilled that promise. Wise came through with 10 tackles for loss and 38 total stops playing a spot where it’s difficult to produce many statistics.
Redshirt freshman Carter Stanley took over starting quarterback duties with three games left and Kansas experienced the best stretch of its season to close it. In his three starts, Stanley completed 71 of 124 passes (57.3 percent) for 693 yards, with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Freshman defensive end Isaiah Bean, in limited playing time, finished with 3.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks.
“And the thing that I’m very proud of our strength staff, our coaches, is they develop those guys,” Beaty said of the program’s youngest talents. “They’re a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, a little bit faster. … They’re all very young, which they’re gettin' something we can’t give ’em, which is experience. Unfortunately sometimes it comes with growin’ pains when you’ve got a bunch of ’em out there at once. Maybe sometimes not so much when you’ve got one or two of ’em, but if you’ve got a bunch of ’em out there, there’s some growin' pains that come along with that.”
The hope for Kansas is less of those aches will show up in 2017, with Armstrong, Sims, Lee, Wise, Stanley and Loneker returning, with running backs Khalil Herbert and Taylor Martin, and offensive linemen Hakeem Adeniji, Mesa Ribordy and Larry Hughes among the promising underclassmen.
Plus, upperclassmen such as receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez, O-lineman Jayson Rhodes, defensive tackle DeeIsaac Davis, linebacker Joe Dineen, cornerback Derrick Neal and safety Tyrone Miller Jr. will continue to play big parts in the Jayhawks' plans.
“But, man, I think the thing that I’m most impressed with is the way that we’re developing ’em,” Beaty said. “I think if we can continue to do that we’ll have a chance to be a very competitive ball club here in the future.”
The limited second-half contributions of Kansas post players Tuesday night against Long Beach State weren’t enough to restore head coach Bill Self’s trust in his team’s bigs.
After all, the Jayhawks already had put the 49ers away by halftime, long before starting center Udoka Azubuike or sophomore power forward Carlton Bragg put the basketball through the hoop in a 91-61 rout.
For years, Self’s teams have relied upon a low-post scoring threat to facilitate the offense — from Wayne Simien, to Thomas Robinson, to Joel Embiid. Seven games into this season, though, the coach doesn’t think that traditional approach will work for his Jayhawks (6-1).
“We scored 48 points the first half and our big guys combined for one,” Self marveled after the victory, referencing Udoka Azubuike’s single made foul shot during the first 20 minutes. “And we had to bank in that one from the free-throw line to get one. So obviously you’re not gonna win consistently against good teams relyin' on makin’ three-point shots all the time, because there’s gonna be times where you don’t make ’em.”
Self expected much more out of his big men against Long Beach State, but utilized a four-guard approach often on a night KU shot 14-for-26 from three-point range and frontcourt players accounted for just 18 of the team’s 91 points.
The coach conceded Long Beach State (1-8) played a “kind of funky” matchup zone that the Jayhawks didn’t prepare much for and that kept the offense out of rhythm. Self also said Landen Lucas (oblique strain) missing the game hampered the team’s inside play, as did Bragg picking up two fouls in the first half, when the sophomore got on the floor for all of one minute.
But when Self looked at the box score and saw the following numbers from his big men, it just translated into disappointment.
- Azubuike: 3-for-6 FGs, 2-for-6 FTs, 8 points, 7 rebounds, 0 blocks
- Bragg: 3-for-7 FGs, 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 turnovers
- Dwight Coleby: 1-for-1 FGs, 2 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block
Considering Azubuike had dunked his way to 17 points four days earlier against UNC Asheville, Self demanded more from the freshman 7-footer, calling him “no factor” against LBSU.
The coach proceeded to present his wish list for the Kansas bigs moving forward.
“At least a big can block a shot. We get no blocked shots tonight. I think the bigs can rebound better and I think that we can score with angles better, and certainly we can shoot our free throws better,” Self said. “But we’re not gonna be a team that scores 20 points out of the post this year. I don’t think that’s gonna be the case.”
KU veteran Devonté Graham understands his coach’s frustrations. But the junior guard said this Self team, even when it has four guards on the floor, won’t completely abandon its interior players as an offensive option.
“We still got that same mentality, though. Coach always tellin' us to play inside-out,” Graham said. “But I just think tonight we shot the ball real well, so we was just trying to be aggressive — kept attacking, kept shooting and making shots.”
Plus, Graham pointed out, LBSU set up its defense to pack in and try to take away points in the paint (though KU still scored 36 of those), almost inviting Kansas to shoot 3-pointers instead.
Obviously KU won’t see the same kind of defense every night if its guards keep burying open looks from downtown. And then the burden to score will increase for the team’s bigs. What’s more, Graham doesn’t think the Kansas post players will let their woes persist, even after a disappointing night.
“They’re doin’ real well with it,” Graham said. “They’ve been goin’ hard at each other in practice. So they’re gettin' better. They havin' that little slump, but I think definitely Carlton and Landen and ’Dok are doin’ a great job of gettin' through it.”
A little less than three weeks into the season, the No. 4-ranked Kansas basketball team has shot just 35.5% from 3-point range. Dozens of games remain to be played and it’s a small sample size, but that rate of success marks a noticeable dip from last year, when the Jayhawks had more shooting threats on the roster and hit 41.8% from downtown.
As many likely expected, three KU players have emerged as the top long-range shooters for the 2016-17 campaign: senior Frank Mason III and juniors Devonté Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk — the three top returning shooters for a program that lost Wayne Selden Jr., Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene as outside options.
So who will emerge as the top marksman on the Jayhawks’ perimeter? Depends on whom you ask.
“Obviously everybody can shoot,” Mykhailiuk responded. “You know, last game Frank was five-for-five from three, 100 percent. Every game’s a different game and different guys hit shots.”
As the wing from Ukraine referenced, Mason couldn’t miss in the rout of UNC Asheville on Friday, improving his accuracy from beyond the arc to 48% thus far.
So is Mason the Jayhawks’ top sharpshooter? That Bill Self character probably has an opinion on the matter.
“Yeah, Frank’s shooting it really well,” Self said. “But you guys get so hung up on what happens in one game against North Carolina Asheville. I mean, in the big scheme of things that really doesn’t matter. I’d rather see what happens consistently over a seven- or 10-day period. And certainly I think we’ve got multiple guys capable of having big nights like Frank did the other night.”
OK, the head coach doesn’t want to single one guy out. So what does surging sophomore guard Lagerald Vick think?
“Svi. Hands down,” Vick said without hesitation.
“Even on bad days he still is a good shooter,” Vick replied. “Coach always get on him when he’s not jumpin’ on his shot. You know he can make shots. I watch him shoot a lot. I get techniques from him. He’s definitely the best shooter on the team.”
Mykhailiuk has knocked down 11 treys, one fewer than Mason’s team-best 12 to this point. But it’s hard to ignore Graham as a top option. Even though he’s off to a slow start (32.4% from deep), Graham led Kansas in 2015-16 with 75 3’s on the season while draining 44.1%.
As far as Self is concerned, any number of his players are capable of being considered the best 3-point shooter in crimson and blue.
“I would say if we were having a HORSE contest, I’d say Svi. But depending on game situations and things like that, then Frank’s pretty good,” Self added. “But Devonté’s good, too. I won’t quite put Lagerald (Vick) and Josh (Jackson) in that group, but I think they could become, at any particular game, could be our best shooter in the game.”
Vick and Jackson have only made seven 3-pointers between them this year, so they definitely can’t lay a claim to KU’s unofficial shooting crown.
Still, Vick considers joining that conversation one of his goals. He noticed upon reviewing game footage earlier this season a tendency to fade backward some on his jumpers. So Vick has made a point since to stay straight up and down when he rises up for a release.
“I’ve been stayin’ in the gym, just workin' on my jumpshot, lookin’ at the film and stuff,” Vick said, “so that should help me catch up with those guys.”
Personally, I’d cast my vote for Mykhailiuk as the best Jayhawk from deep. He shoots with the form Vick is trying to mimic and has that feathery touch on his release that convinces you the ball will fall through the net each time it leaves his hands. Plus, at 6-foot-8, he doesn’t have to always put so much of his body into his longest attempts.
What’s more, Mykhailiuk, who shot 37-for-92 (40.2%) while playing just 12.8 minutes a game as a sophomore, said he feels good about his shot and thinks he’s better this year.
“I think I’m more confident,” he said, “and I get more open looks.”
— Below is a look at how each of KU’s rotation guards has shot from 3-point range through six games.
Mason: 12-for-25, 48%
1-for-5 vs. Indiana
0-for-1 vs. Duke
1-for-4 vs. Siena
3-for-6 vs. UAB
2-for-4 vs. Georgia
5-for-5 vs. UNC Asheville
Mykhailiuk 11-for-27, 40.7%
2-for-5 vs. Indiana
0-for-3 vs. Duke
2-for-4 vs. Siena
4-for-5 vs. UAB
1-for-6 vs. Georgia
2-for-4 vs. UNC Asheville
Graham 12-for-37, 32.4%
- 2-for-6 vs. Indiana
-1-for-6 vs. Duke
0-for-3 vs. Siena
4-for-9 vs. UAB
3-for-9 vs. Georgia
2-for-4 vs. UNC Asheville
Jackson 3-for-12, 25%
1-for-3 vs. Indiana
1-for-2 vs. Duke
0-for-0 vs. Siena
1-for-4 vs. UAB
0-for-0 vs. Georgia
0-for-3 UNC Asheville
Vick 4-for-17, 23.5%
1-for-3 vs. Indiana
0-for-4 vs. Duke
0-for-1 vs. Siena
0-for-3 vs. UAB
0-for-2 vs. Georgia
3-for-4 vs. UNC Asheville
Since Wayne Selden Jr. left the University of Kansas a year early to enter the NBA Draft, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the young shooting guard.
A meniscus tear in his right knee slowed Selden down leading up to the draft, which came and went without the 6-foot-4 prospect hearing his name called. And though Selden landed a preseason camp invite from Memphis, the Grizzlies parted ways with him before the regular season.
Though his basketball journey currently finds Selden in the NBA’s Developmental League, it doesn’t seem to have curbed his approach. Eight games into the season, he’s averaging 19.5 points to lead the Iowa Energy, the Grizzlies’ D-League affiliate.
Selden is hitting 2.3 3-pointers a game at a 35.3% clip and averaging 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals, too.
His overall 47.6% shooting from the floor, no doubt, has been helped by his tenacity in attacking the rim.
On Sunday, in a game against Fort Wayne, Selden drove to the paint and took off for a nasty one-handed throw-down over Rakeem Christmas as if to say, “Bah humbug!”
The 22-year-old Selden currently ranks 17th in the D-League in scoring. That won’t guarantee him an invite to an NBA roster by any means, but the more he keeps playing with confidence and aggression, the more Selden will get noticed by organization’s scouts and increase his odds of speeding up his track to The Association.
Selden’s knee doesn’t appear to be giving him any issues at this juncture, which is a good sign. His strength and athleticism are a big part of his game on both ends of the floor.
And, of course, the more he works on his 3-pointer the better. So far Selden has hit 18 of 51 from long range. If he can get his 3-point shooting at or above 40% he’ll look that much more enticing to NBA decision-makers.
Perhaps going undrafted has inspired Selden. His highlights make him look one of the better young players in the D-League.
Reaction from Tom Keegan and Matt Tait on KU's two victories in two days that led the Jayhawks to claim the CBE Hall of Fame Classic championship at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Reaction from Matt Tait and Tom Keegan at Sprint Center, following the Jayhawks' 83-63 Monday victory over UAB in the CBE Classic.
• — For a preview of what to expect in tonight's match-up, join our Gameday Chat with Matt Tait to talk KU-Georgia. Submit questions early or join the live chat at 2 p.m. central time. — •