Entries from blogs tagged with “Jayhawks”
In 2013, Frank Mason III showed up at the University of Kansas as a 5-foot-11, 185-pound freshman and, given the lack of recruiting buzz around him, a bit of an afterthought. At the time nobody other than Mason envisioned the quiet, compact point guard from Petersburg, Va., transforming into the consensus national player of the year of serious NBA prospect.
In just his second game with the Jayhawks, Mason showed flashes of the toughness that would one day make him a college great, scoring 15 points in a win over Duke. But he didn’t become an overwhelming talent on the floor until his senior season.
Becoming an authentic 3-point marksman proved a pivotal component of his overhaul. Mason recently sat down with DraftExpress.com for a one-on-one interview ahead of his ongoing NBA Draft preparations and his vastly improved 3-pointer featured prominently in the workout footage that accompanied the Q & A.
Mason scored 20.9 points a game as a senior for KU because he could score anywhere on the floor — he shot career-bests of 49% from the floor, 47.1% on 3-pointers and 79.4% at the free-throw line.
It was that long-rage accuracy that caught the attention of scouts and decision-makers in the NBA, though. Just in time to make him a more viable pro prospect, Mason knocked down 82 of 174 3-pointers as a senior — after making 85 of 211 (a respectable 40.1%) combined during his sophomore and junior seasons.
“It’s just something I’ve got better at over the years,” Mason told DraftExpress, when discussing his 3-point precision, “and I think the game was just a little too fast for me my first year in college. So I was kind of rushing a lot. And I just kind of got at my own pace and it kind of got better.”
Mason’s emergence as a dynamic play-maker and shooter at the college level forced NBA teams to take him seriously as a prospect, and weeks ahead of the June 22 draft, DraftExpress projects him as the 48th pick.
The 23-year-old Kansas star still has numerous workouts lined up with franchises around the country before one is expected to snatch up his rights late in the second round. Mason told DraftExpress how he plans to make the most of his in-person auditions.
“I can show them how athletic I am, what a good defender I am, a good leader, a good play-maker and how much I improved on my jump shot,” Mason said.
At this stage of his development as a basketball player, Mason thinks his 3-point shot should only help his ability to attack off the dribble, get to the paint and create shots for his teammates. But his time at KU also helped his on-court personality.
“I was a guy that really led by example, but over the years I worked on being more verbal and vocal and I think I got better at that,” Mason said, while describing various attributes that help make him an effective point guard.
Mason’s stock has gradually trended upward over the past several months. We shouldn’t be surprised if that continues in the weeks ahead and Mason ends up an early- or mid-second round draft pick.
David Kyriacou's smash to the warning track died in the Texas right fielder Austin Todd's glove at about midnight. The Kansas baseball season didn't die with it, but listening on the radio, it was difficult not to draw that conclusion.
Kansas can still salvage its season with its second victory in three nights against TCU, the nation's No. 6 team. That alone might be enough to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee. Or the Jayhawks could take it out of the committee's hands by defeating TCU and then knocking off Texas twice on Saturday to emerge from the lower half of the bracket to take on the winner of the upper half of the bracket on Sunday, and then conquering that squad, but that's too many ifs. The Jayhawks' best chance fell just short in the 5-4 loss to Texas.
Now scoring another upset vs. TCU is KU's only chance.
Kyriacou's deep flyball not only summed up the game but very likely will stand up as a microcosm of the Jayhawks' season in that it came up just a little short.
If that's how it plays out, the team still surpassed expectations and there is cause for optimism looking ahead to 2018.
Jackson Goddard's development ranks at the top of the feel-good vibes for next season. Goddard came so far in one year and at the same time showed a great deal of untapped potential remains in his valuable right arm.
Goddard's error on a sacrifice bunt accounted for two unearned runs in the Longhorns' four-run second inning. He pitched one out into the sixth inning, allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out six. A hard thrower, Goddard once in a while will snap off a slider that suggests the pitch one day could become a dominant one, but it's still in the development stages, as is his changeup. That's to be expected from a pitcher who faced small-school competition in high school and didn't need to do anything but blow away hitters with velocity.
“The progress he made from his freshman year to his sophomore year has been remarkable," Kansas coach Ritch Price said. "He has one final step to make and that’s the ability to command his ball down in the zone and I think when he gets to the point where he starts mixing and is not so much first-pitch fastball he’ll be even more dominant."
Price was impressed with how well the Texas hitters followed the scouting report in beating Goddard.
"I tip my hat to Texas’ plan," Price said. "They know he’s going to throw it up there at 92 to 94. They know he’s going to pitch with his fastball like a professional does. If you’re going to beat Jackson Goddard you’ve got to take his fastball away and they did a good job of that."
If hard-throwing right-hander Ryan Zeferjahn can make the sort of freshman-to-sophomore leap that Goddard did and left-hander Taylor Turski's recent eblow problems don't amount to anything serious, Kansas should have an impressive weekend rotation.
No seniors are in the everyday lineup, although shortstop Matt McLaughlin could be lost to the draft. Expectations for next season will be much higher.
If you ever wondered what former Kansas big man Joel Embiid would look like in George R. R. Martin’s fictional world of Westeros, you now have your answer — in cartoon form at least.
Finally, after four seasons worth of parodies, BleacherReport’s NBA-meets-“Game of Thrones” mash-up is trusting the process.
On the latest episode of “Game of Zones,” posted Thursday at BleacherReport.com, Embiid plays a central role as the popular online video series pokes fun at the Philadelphia 76ers’ run of tanking and selecting big man after big man near the top of the draft.
While Embiid missed most of his twice-delayed-by-a-year rookie season with more injury setbacks, he is expected to be back on the floor next season. If his ‘Game of Zones’ persona is true to life at all, some Shirley Temples should help speed up the 7-foot-2 prodigy’s latest recovery.
Embiid and the Sixers will find out at the league’s inaugural NBA Awards, on June 26, whether his 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in just 25.4 minutes a game (in only 31 games) was enough for him to win Rookie of the Year.
In the meantime, enjoy Embiid’s likeness in “Game of Zones.”
Nothing sharpens an athlete's focus in quite the same manner as a game with sudden-death implications. Even though the Big 12 tournament is a double-elimination format, a loss for Kansas in its first-round game vs. TCU would have dealt a serious blow to the Jayhawks' NCAA tournament chances. It would have extended the Jayhawks' losing streak to five games.
Instead, the Jayhawks defeated the nation's No. 6 team, 7-3, at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark to advance to a game tonight against Texas, first pitch scheduled for 7:30.
Kansas shortstop Matt McLaughlin talked about the edge a team fighting for its postseason life brings into a game like the one the Jayhawks played Wednesday night.
"I think the biggest thing right now is just understanding your window," McLaughlin said. "If you are a TCU or Texas Tech, you are looking to be a national seed, and the motivation to go out and win some games isn’t the same as it is for a team like us. We believe if we go out and win two or three games, we will put ourselves in a position to make a regional."
Oklahoma State upset Texas Tech, 3-0, earlier Tuesday.
A win tonight for Kansas would give another boost to the chances of landing an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, in event that the Jayhawks don't win the Big 12 tournament title. KU entered the tourney ranked No. 59 in the nation, which put it on the wrong side of the bubble. The TCU upset, bumped KU's estimated RPI to 53, according to respected RPI estimator Warrennolan.com. Oklahoma State moved up eight spots to No. 49.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle was extremely complimentary of KU's starting pitcher Tuesday, left-hander Taylor Turski.
"He's a really good pitcher," Schlossnagle said.
Left-hander Blake Weiman was credited with the win in relief and Stephen Villines pitched a scoreless ninth.
"With those two guys Weiman and Villines down there, there was no doubt we were going to have to have a lead going in late."
Kansas head coach Ritch Price called it "a great win for our program against one of the best teams in America. I am very proud of the way we competed and how we grinded the victory out."
The Jayhawks (30-26) likely need one or two more victories to garner an at-large bid.
Sophomore Jackson Goddard is on the mound tonight for Kansas. He started against the Longhorns on April 2 at Hoglund Ballpark and was not involved in the decision in KU's 5-4 victory. Goddard lasted five innings, all three hits and six walks and hit a batter. The team's best pitching prospect, Goddard is 5-3 with a 4.24 ERA with 28 walks and 69 strikeouts in 74-1/3 innings this season.
Early on in head coach David Beaty’s third season at the University of Kansas, the football program continues to make strides on the all-important recruiting front.
Over the course of the past several days, Beaty and his staff learned four different prep prospects and one junior college talent included KU in their shortlists of schools up for consideration.
The first came from Mississippi prep defensive end Deuntra Hyman, rated a 3-star prospect in the Class of 2018 by Rivals. While the 6-foot-5, 235-pound lineman from Meridian, Miss., made it clear in his tweet he was still open to other offers, he announced he would be “taking a closer look” at Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Louisville, Purdue and KU.
Another high school defensive end evaluating the Jayhawks at this juncture is Blue Springs (Mo.) lineman Daniel Parker Jr. Rivals’ 10th-best rising senior in the state of Missouri also has three stars next to his name. Parker announced via Twitter his top 10 finalists (in no specific order): Nebraska, Missouri, Memphis, Arizona State, Iowa State, Minnesota, Central Florida, Kentucky, Iowa and Kansas.
The defensive line trend on KU’s recruiting front included a junior college defensive tackle at Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Miss.), Jonathan Lolohea. Rated a three-star juco prospect by Rivals, Lolohea posted on Twitter that his recruitment remains open but he currently has a top four of KU, Kansas State, Washington State and TCU.
Add two more potential “Louisianimals” to the list of players contemplating KU in associate head coach Tony Hull’s home state of Louisiana.
Marreo safety Lance Robinson on Tuesday tweeted he, too, is open to further recruitment but listed a current top eight of K-State, KU, SMU, Tulane, Washington State, South Carolina, Arizona and Memphis. Currently un-rated by Rivals, Robinson, a rising senior at De La Salle High, is rated a three-star prospect by Scout and 247 Sports.
Late Wednesday morning, another KU recruiting target from The Pelican State, New Orleans defensive end Josh Smith, posted on Twitter he is focusing on a top six of Houston, Tulane, Arkansas State, Ball State, Colorado State and KU — and is still open to hearing from other programs. Smith, listed at 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds, is a three-star strong-side end according to Rivals. He also happens to be the Landry-Walker High classmate of the Jayhawks’ two most talented commits in the Class of 2018, receiver Devonta Jason and cornerback Corione Harris.
KU currently has secured nine commitments for its 2018 class, which Rivals ranks No. 23 in the nation.
Slow growth tends to equate to real growth even though it can be frustrating for fans of the Kansas football program who have endured seven consecutive seasons of three or fewer victories.
Two statistical indicators will be worth watching to see if the Jayhawks are in the midst of a significant step forward. Track yards per rush for the Kansas offense and for the defense.
KU has finished in the top 90 in yards per carry just once in the past seven seasons. That was in 2012, when Mark Mangino holdovers Trevor Marrongelli, Duane Zlatnik and Tanner Hawkinson were all returning starters on the offensive line, all in their fifth seasons in the program.
Since that year, the O-line has lacked stability and in many cases talent. Things are beginning to stabilize up front, although the line still appears to be a year away.
KU has finished in the top 100 against the run in yards per attempt just once in the past seven seasons, placing 92nd in 2013.
The keys to performing better against the run lie in the rotation of defensive tackles doing a better job of occupying blockers — Daniel Wise can't do it alone — and the linebackers doing a better job of shedding blockers to make their tackles closer to the line of scrimmage.
Depth at D-tackle and linebacker should be better this season.
A look at how Kansas has done running the ball and defending the run in the past seven seasons during which the Jayhawks have averaged a 2-10 record.
Year (Coach): (Yards per rush average)
2016 (David Beaty II): 113 (3.53)
2015 (Beaty I): 126 (3.04)
2014 (Charlie Weis III): 121 (3.12)
2013 (Weis II): 97 (3.73)
2012 (Weis I): 49 (4.55)
2011 (Turner Gill II): 95 (3.52)
2010 (Gill I): 103 (3.44)
Year (Coach): Rank (Yards per rush average)
2016 (Beaty II): 5.17 (103)
2015 (Beaty I): 5.67 (123)
2014 (Weis III): 5.40 (117)
2013 (Weis II): 4.72 (92)
2012 (Weis I): 5.22 (114)
2011 (Gill II): 5.83 (120, last)
2010 (Gill I): 5.01 (105)
For the next month, in every NBA city he visits, Frank Mason III will answer questions about his lack of size and how that impacts his ability to translate his college success at Kansas to the next level.
On Monday, the 5-foot-11, 189-pound consensus National Player of the Year found himself in St. Francis, Wis., addressing queries on his dimensions following a workout with the Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the 17th and 48th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Mason’s relative lack of stature, in comparison to the long bodies occupying courts all over The Association, won’t always be a hindrance once he joins the ranks. The 23-year-old’s speed, strength and 41-inch vertical will allow him to use his proportions as an advantage at times.
“Just getting in the lane, play-making,” Mason began, when asked how a sub 6-foot guard could benefit from working with a vastly different frame than most of his competition. “Shooting the ball consistent and just doing what I do best — getting other guys involved, scoring the ball and focusing in on the defensive end.”
Although Milwaukee’s roster has become synonymous with length and wingspan — the Bucks at times played 6-foot-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard — the team’s vice president of scouting, Billy McKinney, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Mason had the components necessary to play in the NBA.
“By the time he came back to Kansas his senior year, you could see his game had evolved to the point where he was a true leader for that ball club," McKinney said. "Tough as heck, gritty and started to make better decisions with the basketball, which is going to serve him well at the next level.”
During the 2016-17 regular season, only 18 players listed at 6-foot or shorter played in the NBA. Some, like Boston’s Isaiah Thomas (a favorite of Mason's) and the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul, were great. Others, such as Orlando’s D.J. Augustin and Denver’s Jameer Nelson, didn’t make much of an impact.
Still, thanks to the successes of small guards such as Thomas, Paul and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Mason thinks there is a role for players his size on basketball’s biggest stage.
“Shorter guys are getting in the NBA and still filling the stat sheet up, doing what the taller guys do,” Mason said. “So it’s not all about the size. It’s more about the heart and what do you do when you get out there.”
Thus far, Mason has worked out for Milwaukee and Orlando. Off the top of his head, he told reporters in Wisconsin he thinks he has “10 or 11” left before the June 22 draft, where he is expected to be a second-round pick.
The whole pre-draft experience, Mason said, feels unlike his four years of college basketball at Kansas.
“Just the travel and the experience with the NBA guys. I think everything is pretty different about it and it’s something I’ll always remember and something I’m just trying to enjoy,” Mason said.
Now that Paul Pierce has retired from the NBA it's a good time to look at where Jayhawks stand compared to each other in terms of a few NBA statistical categories:
1 - Paul Pierce 1,343
2 - Wilt Chamberlain: 1,045
3 - Dave Robisch: 930
4 - Bill Bridges: 926
5 - Nick Collison: 895
6 - Danny Manning: 883
7 - Kirk Hinrich: 879
8 - Jo Jo White: 837
9 - Drew Gooden: 790
10 - Jacque Vaughn: 776
1 - Wilt Chamberlain: 31,419
2 - Paul Pierce: 26,397
3 - Jo Jo White: 14,399
4 - Danny Manning: 12,367
5 - Clyde Lovellette: 11,947
6 - Bill Bridges: 11,012
7 - Dave Robisch: 10,581
8 - Kirk Hinrich: 9,594
9 - Drew Gooden: 8,653
10 - Wayne Hightower: 6,568
11 - Raef LaFrentz: 5,690
12 - Darnell Valeninte: 5,400
13 - Markieff Morris: 5,338
14 - Nick Collison: 5,328
15 - Mario Chalmers: 5,236
16 - Walt Wesley: 5,002
17 - Andrew Wiggins: 4,995
18 - Ron Franz: 4,733
19 - Marcus Morris: 4,513
20 - Greg Ostertag: 3,512
1 - Wilt Chamberlain: 23,924
2 - Bill Bridges: 11,054
3 - Paul Pierce: 7,527
4 - Clyde Lovellette: 6,663
5 - Dave Robisch: 6,173
6 - Drew Gooden: 5,618
7 - Nick Collison: 4,680
8 - Danny Manning: 4,615
9 - Greg Ostertag: 4,145
10 - Wayne Hightower: 3,966
1 - Paul Pierce: 4,708
2 - Wilt Chamberlain: 4,643
3 - Kirk Hinrich: 4,245
4 - Jo Jo White: 4,095
5 - Darnell Valentine: 3,080
6 - Bill Bridges: 2,553
7 - Mario Chalmers: 2,215
8 - Danny Manning: 2,063
9 - Jacque Vaughn: 1,919
10 - Dave Robisch: 1,655
Mid-year Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe won't be eligible to play in games until mid-December, by which time he will have had a year in the program. All that practice time will make him more ready for games than a freshman would be and it will be interesting to see him work his way into the lineup.
A native of Seattle, will have to work even harder for minutes if Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk withdraws his name from the draft and returns for his senior season.
What can we expect to see from the 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing who shot .308 on 2-point shots and .405 on 3-pointers?
“He’s really, really athletic, really athletic, good shooter, doesn’t really know how to play yet without the ball, so the year (of practice) will definitely help him do that," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I think he’s going to be a really good college player, without question. I don’t know how soon he’ll have the impact. I see similarities that I saw with Lagerald (Vick) early in his career. He’s athletic like that.”
Cunliffe averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 25.4 minutes in the 10 games he played for Arizona State before deciding to transfer.
Cunliffe has such an effortless look to his smooth, acrobatic dunks, as shown in the following video.
During his senior season at Kansas, point guard Frank Mason III seemed larger than life with the ball in his hands. But the consensus national player of the year’s relative lack of height has NBA decision-makers hesitant to take Mason, who averaged 20.9 points and shot 47.1% on his 3-pointers, before the late stages of the second round at next month’s draft.
The most recent predictions from Draft Express have Mason slotted as the 49th overall pick. Given the KU ball handler’s projected stock and the compact frame that belies his impact on the court, it’s not surprising Mason finds himself enjoying the exploits of an All-NBA guard who faced similar obstacles when he left college basketball behind.
During a recent interview with The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Mason didn’t try to say he was the next Isaiah Thomas — the 5-foot-9 point guard from Washington who has helped the Boston Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals — or even that he tried to model his game after the two-time all-star. But when the subject of the sparse number of players in The Association Mason’s size came up, the Big 12 Player of the Year couldn’t help but bring up his admiration for Thomas, the 60th and final selection in the 2011 draft.
“I really don’t model my game after anyone,” Mason told Charania and The Vertical. “But, you know, I always had confidence in myself, no matter who’s in the league. But I look at Isaiah Thomas and I really root for him, because people counted him out and said he couldn’t do the things that he’s doing now. So I have a lot of players in the league that I like, but I’m really rooting for Isaiah.”
Thomas, six seasons into an NBA career that has far exceeded the expectations of his critics, was named second-team all-league this season after averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists while helping Boston to the best record in the East. Had Thomas not completely blown up the past few years with the Celtics, many would be quick to compare Mason, a talented yet small guard, with the most recognizable vertically-challenged scorer in the league. Fortunately for Mason, who measured 5-11 without shoes at the NBA Draft Combine, he should be able to avoid any unrealistic parallels and simply keep Thomas in mind as proof that you don’t have to be 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan to make it at the highest level of basketball.
Mason — he of the 6-3.25 wingspan and 41-inch max vertical, by the way — also enters the youth- and upside-obsessed league as a 23-year-old, four-year college player. His accolades and statistics say that shouldn’t matter, but look at the complete mock draft at Draft Express and you’ll find zero seniors listed in the first round. Charania asked Mason what he thought about some teams potentially favoring younger prospects.
“I just let them know how much I improved through every year. Not only on the court, but as a young man off the court,” Mason said. “And I just tell them how tough I am, how much I’ve improved my shooting and how great of a play-maker I am and — most importantly — a good defender.”
Before the June 22 draft Mason said he plans to work out for somewhere between 12 and 13 teams. Earlier this week he was in Orlando to showcase his talents for the Magic. When he goes on these basketball job interviews, Mason told The Vertical he has a general objective.
“I think it’s more mental than physical, so I just really want to show them that I’m mentally tough as well as physically tough,” Mason said. “And I just want to go out there and be myself, be the player that I’ve been over the years and show them how much I’ve improved.”
No, he’s not the next Isaiah Thomas. But drafting Frank Mason III shouldn’t be a concern for teams in need of point guard depth, because guards listed at 6-feet and under have more space than ever in the modern NBA to maximize their strengths on the floor — as proven by the Celtics guard Mason finds himself rooting for during the playoffs.
Joe Reitz, founder of Family Promise of Lawrence and retired University of Kansas business professor, sent me a text from Tuesday night’s Yankees-Royals game, marveling at the size of the Yankees.
“If this were football, it would be a huge mismatch,” Reitz wrote.
He then watched a huge baseball mismatch won by the Yankees, 7-1.
Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to compare the size of the players in the Yankees’ lineup, including both the starting pitcher and designated hitter, to Saturday’s lineup fielded by the Kansas baseball team against Kansas State.
Brett Gardner LF, 5-11, 195………………Rudy Karre CF, 6-2, 180;
Gary Sanchez C, 6-2, 230………………..James Cosentino 2B, 5-10, 175;
Matt Holliday DH, 6-4, 240……………….Matt McLaughlin SS, 6-1, 190;
Starlin Castro 2B, 6-2, 230………………..Devin Foyle LF, 6-3, 185;
Aaron Judge RF, 6-7, 282……………..….Jaxx Groshans C, 6-0, 190;
Jacoby Ellsbury CF, 6-1, 195…………… Marcus Wheeler 1B, 6-0, 230;
Chase Headley 3B, 6-2, 215………………Brett Vosik RF, 6-4, 215;
Didi Gregorius SS, 6-3, 205………………. Benjamin Sems 3B, 6-2, 165;
Chris Carter 1B, 6-4, 245…………………..Tanner Gragg C, 6-1, 215;
C.C. Sabathia P, 6-6, 300…………………..Taylor Turski P, 5-9, 180;
Average Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 239………………………………………6-1, 193;
You would expect a major league baseball team stocked with older, stronger players, to outweigh a college lineup, but not by 46 pounds per man.
You wouldn’t expect the Yankees to come close to outweighing the most recent Kansas football team to take the field in a Big 12 game, so let’s look at the starting lineup for the Jayhawks against Kansas State in Manhattan last November and see how they measure up.
Kansas football 2016 offense
QB Carter Stanley, 6-2, 196;
RB Ke’aun Kinner, 5-9, 191;
LT Hakeem Adeniji 6-4, 265;
LG Jayson Rhodes 6-4, 307;
C Mesa Ribordy 6-4, 290;
RG Larry Hughes 6-7, 311;
RT D’Andre Banks 6-3, 305;
WR Luis Gonzalez 5-10, 176;
WR Tyler Patrick 6-0, 177;
WR Steven Sims 5-10, 176;
WR Shakier Barbel 6-3, 203.
Average Ht./Wt.: 6-2, 236.
The Yankees starting lineup from Tuesday night outweighed the Kansas starting 11 in the 2016 season finale by three pounds per man.
What does it all mean? It means the Kansas baseball team could benefit from a massive slugger and the football team could use bigger players. The Jayhawks have become faster on the football field and are working at becoming bigger in the weight room and on the recruiting trail.
Lavar Ball, father of UCLA star point guard prospect, has had a blast making outrageous statements.
He’s a laugh riot, provided you can laugh about a man blowing his son’s shot at a $20 million shoe contract because he started his own shoe company and came up with a $495 price tag for a pair of sneakers.
Anyway, one of Lavar’s headline statements came when he said that his son Lonzo would sign only with the Lakers. Sure enough, the lottery gave the Lakers the second pick and most mock drafts have them selecting the local prospect.
Not so fast.
If I’m the Lakers, I throw a wrench into that scenario and draft a player who brings such intense competitiveness and has such a well-rounded game that he could get to work at establishing a winning culture from Day 1 and do it with a smile and smoothness made for Hollywood.
Josh Jackson’s a smiling assassin, just as the man making the decisions for the Lakers now was during his playing days.
Magic Johnson has a great appreciation for basketball players who excel in all areas because that’s how he won championships. Ball does that too, although he doesn’t get after it defensively to the same extent as Jackson. Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, the draft’s quickest player, blew by him all day in the NCAA tournament.
Magic played at Michigan State and tried to get Jackson to do the same. He has known all about Jackson, his game, his fiery, competitive spirit and natural charisma for years. To know Jackson is to like him.
Magic's signature play was the no-look pass and now we're supposed to believe that now that everyone’s looking at Ball as the Lakers' obvious pick Magic’s going to telegraph a move for the first time in his life? Magicians, masters of illusion, don't let the rest of us behind the curtain.
Jackson would look great in purple and gold. His passes will remind Lakers fans of Magic's. His dunks will recall those of James Worthy. He'll defend the way Michael Cooper did. He'll play winning basketball in an unselfish way that will make veteran stars want to join him via free agency.
The draft isn’t until Thursday, June 22, by which time Lavar Ball might be planning to start a basketball league on Mars, one that charges $10,000 per ticket, excluding the cost of the roundball interplanetary roundtrip spaceship flight.
It will be a fascinating draft, especially if the Lakers pass on Ball and a few others do as well as the cameras zoom in on his father’s sweat beads.
In the five weeks between now and the 2017 NBA Draft, a lot can, and most likely will, change — particularly in the realm of opinions on the potential impact of the most sought-after incoming rookies.
For the moment, it seems the likeliest scenario for one-year Kansas star Josh Jackson is heading to Philadelphia as the No. 3 pick and teaming up with a young core built around one-time Jayhawks center Joel Embiid.
Most around The Association assume Washington’s Markelle Fultz will go No. 1 to Boston (or to some team that trades an all-star in exchange for that slot) and the Lakers will take UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick. That leaves the 76ers, a team lacking in the productive guard department, with the choice between Jackson and what’s left of what is considered a great crop of point guards.
In a lottery reaction episode of The Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express was asked which player makes sense for Philadelphia if it’s not a lead guard.
“I think they really have to look at Josh Jackson,” Givony said, “and they have to bring him into their gym and figure out, ‘How far away is this guy from being a good shooter?’”
As those who followed KU’s 2016-17 season closely will recall, Jackson greatly improved his 3-point accuracy over the final few months of his brief time with the Jayhawks. The versatile 6-foot-8 forward from Detroit showed his biggest weakness wasn’t a completely lost cause by hitting 38.5% of his 3-pointers in January, 47.8% in February and 40% in March.
“If you can get him some good looks and you can continue to develop his stroke,” Givony said of why Jackson made sense for the Sixers, after referencing his late-season surge. “In the NBA not everybody comes in as a finished product.”
We have no way of knowing whether Philadelphia coach Brett Brown and his staff would take this route, but Givony wondered whether Jackson could be persuaded into changing up his shooting mechanics with the endgame of adding an effective NBA-range 3-point shot to his arsenal.
“People say great things about his work ethic. And he really does everything else,” Givony added. “He’s a phenomenal defender. He’s a great passer. He’s outstanding in transition. He can play a lot of different positions. You can play him off the ball — you can play him on the ball a little bit even. There’s a lot there with Josh Jackson. They need to look at him.”
Teams taking gambles in the NBA Draft is a June tradition, but selecting Jackson with the third overall pick wouldn’t qualify as a risk for the Sixers. The only unpredictability accompanying the 20-year-old prospect is his often-scrutinized jumper. No, it’s not a pure, fluid stroke — Jackson brings the ball down low and shows it a bit as he rises up on 3-pointers. But which is more likely: Jackson stinks from long range for his entire career or he works at it until it becomes a trusted part of his game?
Jackson is too competitive to take a complacent approach to owning a below-average 3-point shot, especially now that so many NBA teams value that real estate behind the arc more than ever. He’s not entering the league with a trustworthy 3-pointer, but I’d bet on him adapting into at least a serviceable long-distance threat sooner than later. Same goes for his 56.6% free-throw shooting as a college freshman.
Philadelphia would still have the ability via free agency or the trade market to go after the floor-balancing shooter it needs. No player available at No. 3 other than Jackson is entering the NBA with as complete a skill set. And a nucleus of Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Jackson with some to-be-determined guards (by the way: the Sixers get the Lakers’ pick next year, which is bound to be in the lottery) projects as one of the league’s up-and-coming teams, able to contend in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
Before taking a look at where the hot-take NBA mock drafts have Josh Jackson going, consider a brilliant idea proferred by Andrew Perloff in a video on SI.com.
The NBA’s integrity took a huge hit with teams tanking left and right to improve their chances of moving up the lottery ranks. Such maneuvers make a mockery of the game and cheat fans who pay money to see teams compete, not to be used as pawns in a dastardly scheme.
Perloff suggests that the lottery expand from 14 to 20 with the bottom three playoff teams in each conference getting ping pong balls. Each of the 20 teams has an equal chance, which completely takes away the incentive to throw games.
“That way everyone is gunning for the postseason,” Perloff said. “You’re going to see no mid-level tanking at all.”
Now onto the mock drafts:
SI.com has Jackson going fourth to the Phoenix Suns, behind Fultz, Ball and Duke's Jayson Tatum.
ESPN.com’s Chad Ford also has Jackson going fourth to the Suns, behind Fultz, Ball and Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk.
“He’s a versatile two-way wing who is great in the open court, can lock down three positions and plays with an intensity reminiscent of Kevin Durant,” Ford wrote. “His jump shot is shaky, but the Suns have plenty of shooters.”
Reid Forgrave of CBSsports.com has Jackson going fifth to the Sacramento Kings, behind surprise No. 1 Jayson Tatum of Duke, Ball, Fultz and Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox.
Three Jayhawks at lottery
A case easily could be made that Jackson has the least natural ability of the three Jayhawks at the NBA lottery, ranking behind Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, but if I had to guess which player will have the most productive NBA career, my guess would be Embiid if healthy, Jackson if injuries prevent Embiid from having a long career.
The photo of Wiggins and Jackson together offered an interesting contrast in styles. Wiggins wore a flashy suit that called attention to himself. Jackson was dressed like a man ready to get down to the serious business of winning. Wiggins will score more points in the NBA, but Jackson will do all the things necessary to play winning basketball.
If I were the general manager of whichever team drafts Jackson and the Minnesota Timberwolves called offering Wiggins in exchange for him, I would instantly respond with four words: "No thanks. Anything else?"
The Ping Pong balls have spoken, and a trio of the NBA’s classic franchises will decide between them which incoming rookies will occupy the top three picks in the 2017 draft.
Thanks to The Association’s annual lottery on Tuesday, one-and-done Kansas star Josh Jackson, a projected top-three pick, has a much better feel for what his future holds. And the versatile 6-foot-8 forward very well could end up the fresh young face in one of the league’s marquee markets.
Odds are Jackson won’t go first overall — that spot long has been associated with Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. But, most likely, Jackson won’t drop any farther than fifth, either. Two to four seem the safest bets for where Jackson lands. But since we’re here we might as well dive into some NBA lottery reaction and look at why each of the top five teams would be interested in kicking the shoes on Jackson to see if they want to add him to their roster.
No. 1 - Boston
This would be a fantastic spot for the rookie from KU to begin his professional career. But, at this point in time, it seems as if Boston is more likely to take Fultz or trade the pick for an established all-star.
But one never knows what Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is thinking. If, by June 22, Ainge were to shock everyone and decide upon taking Jackson, it likely would mean he’s too enamored with the team’s current backcourt rotation of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier to break it up with Fultz or Lonzo Ball. However, the current contracts for Thomas, Bradley and Smart expire in the summer of 2018, so it would make sense for Boston to take a young potential star guard on a rookie deal and move on from one of the more established members of the backcourt.
Don’t bet on seeing Jackson in Celtics green.
No. 2 - L.A. Lakers
Jackson has the personality and game to shine in L.A. However, this spot screams Big Baller Brand. If the Lakers are as crazy about UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball as his father, LaVar, is about the idea of his son joining one of the NBA’s storied franchises, then Jackson has no shot at wearing that classic purple and gold uniform.
Unless, that is, Lakers legend and current president of basketball operations Magic Johnson — long familiar with Jackson’s game due to his ties with his alma mater, Michigan State, and that program’s recruitment of the Detroit native — sees more overall potential in Jackson. L.A. does, after all, already have a couple of young point guards in Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. Then again, it wouldn’t be too difficult to part ways with one of them and hand the keys over to Ball, the local prodigy.
No. 3 - Philadelphia
This is where things really get interesting for Jackson. Many consider him the third-best prospect in a talented draft class. But the Sixers have a glut of young frontcourt players and no longterm answer in the backcourt. Philadelphia already plans on using 6-10 forward Ben Simmons as its primary ball-handler on offense. Would the organization comprise an even less traditional lineup and give Jackson guard minutes, too? If the Sixers took that route they could put a monstrously long lineup on the floor that few teams could match.
If the 76ers want to address needs instead of taking the best available player on the board, though, they could opt for one of the coveted Kentucky guards, De’Aaron Fox or Malik Monk, instead.
For those who follow KU, it would be intriguing to see Joel Embiid, another No. 3 pick from Kansas, team up with Jackson as part of a young core on course to blossom over the next several years and potentially turn into a force in the Eastern Conference.
No. 4 - Phoenix
If Jackson slipped out of the top three, the Suns would be thrilled to have him. Their two best players at this point are guards Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe. Adding a two-way wing such as Jackson, who also happens to be an adept passer and fierce finisher in the open floor, would make Phoenix a team to watch out West in the future.
The Suns had the second-best odds of landing a top-three pick before the lottery balls bounced out of their favor. One would think ownership and coaches would do backflips across the Sonoran Desert if Jackson fell into their laps.
Unless they think Duke’s Jayson Tatum is a better answer. [Scoffs inwardly.]
No. 5 - Sacramento
Look up and down the Kings’ roster and you’ll find a who’s who of “why him?” Sacramento will be thrilled with whomever it drafts fifth overall, because that young man instantly becomes the new centerpiece of the franchise. If the Kings know what’s good for them, they are gathering all their good-luck charms, opening doors for strangers, not cutting anyone off in traffic and praying to the basketball gods at all hours from now until draft night, in the hopes that four other franchises pass on Jackson.
Philadelphia’s favorite 7-foot-2 Cameroonian is returning to the court soon. Even though the Sixers don’t have a game on their schedule for more than five months, any time Joel Embiid has good news on his basketball well being, it qualifies as a significant development for the potential franchise center.
Although he put up Rookie-of-the-Year numbers in his debut season, the former Kansas center remained a victim of the injury bug that already had cost him two entire NBA seasons. Embiid at times dominated offensively while playing 31 games for Philadelphia, but had his rookie season cut short in late January due to a meniscus tear in his left knee.
Embiid’s most recent rehab stint, at least, has gone well, he reported Tuesday, during an appearance in New York for ESPN.
“I’m doing great,” the 23-year-old big man told Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. “… I’m supposed to be back on the court in about two or three weeks. But I’m doing good. It’s been going good.”
In town to represent his franchise at the NBA Draft Lottery, in which the 76ers could end up with two choices near the top of the board, Embiid felt typically confident about serving as a lucky charm of sorts.
But if he and the organization have their way, Philadelphia will break into the playoffs in 2018 and no longer have to count on the bounces of some Ping Pong balls when planning for their future.
“Hopefully this is the last time we’re gonna be doing this,” Embiid said. “I hate losing.”
Already an NBA social media superstar, despite his limited in-game chances to date, Embiid also explained why he stays authentic to himself when he posts on Twitter and Instagram.
“Social media is a way for me to connect with fans, and I love being on social media. I love being funny on there,” Embiid said. “… Especially in Philly they show me a lot of love, and it goes all over the world, too. So I love social media.”
On that front, Smith and Hill brought up Embiid’s longstanding aspirations to go on a date with music superstar Rihanna, and because singer Kelly Rowland also was in attendance for the event, asked him to make his case to Rihanna through her friend, Rowland.
“Why should Rihanna give you a shot?” Hill asked.
“I mean, look at myself,” a grinning Embiid responded. “… I’m 7-2. I’m good-looking. You know, women usually love my accent, because I’m from Cameroon, in Africa. And I’m pretty intelligent, too.”
Seriously, though, now nearly three years removed from becoming the No. 3 pick in the draft, Embiid, who averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Sixers in just 25.4 minutes a game, appears on schedule to return for the 2017-18 season. For him, that’s an even better development than Rihanna accepting his open invitation.
And — who knows — if the lottery shakes out the right way, Embiid might end up with another one-and-done KU prodigy as a 76ers teammates soon.
If Embiid is able to play a whole season for Philadelphia next year, along with 2016’s No. 1 pick, Ben Simmons, a run at a playoff berth and an end to the team’s spring lottery tradition just might be possible.
(Insert your own “Trust the Process” joke here.)
Nobody without an agenda disputes that the Big 12 is the top college baseball conference this season. At the moment, Kansas has an 11-10 record in conference play, good for a three-way tie for fourth place.
So an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament is a given, right?
Not so fast. This is the age of computer rankings, which in English means the age of selection committees covering their backsides by justifying omissions with cold numbers. Kansas ranks No. 59 in the dreaded RPI, moving down a spot after taking 2 of 3 from Kansas State last weekend at Hoglund Ballpark.
Meanwhile, Texas, which has a 9-11 Big 12 record is No. 23 in the RPI and therefore has nothing about which to worry. Tied with KU with 11-10 records are Baylor (No. 12 RPI) and West Virginia (No. 20) so they are locks.
Most of KU’s regulars are freshmen and sophomores. It took the freshmen awhile to adjust to the college game during the nonconference season.
The NCAA tournament selection committee has 34 at-large bids to name after 31 automatic spots are earned via mostly conference tournaments. If the committee wants to choose the 34 best at-large teams at the time the tournament starts, it would pick KU, but that would require the guts to go against the RPI, aka CYA.
KU’s RPI figures to climb this weekend because it plays at Texas Tech, No. 4 in the RPI. If the Jayhawks win a game or two in Lubbock, the spike could be a big one. The Big 12 tournament also offers a chance to improve the RPI because all the teams participating will have high rankings. The Big 12 has six schools ranked in the top 23 in the current RPI.
D.J. Haurin, assistant communications director for KU athletics, referred to as “my analytics guy” by baseball coach Ritch Price, used the case of Mercer to illustrate how computer rankings can frustrate bubble teams.
Mercer has a 48 RPI and has not played a single game against a team with a top 50 RPI, according to Haurin, who added that KU has played 21 such opponents.
Kansas earned at-large big in 2014 with a 44 RPI and did not get in with a 68 RPI in 2013.
If you’ve kept up with Josh Jackson’s NBA Draft stock over the course of his one-and-done season at Kansas, you know his name often appears following those of Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball on “best available prospect” lists and mock draft scenarios. Sometimes, Jackson even slips out of the top three in the eyes of some evaluators.
And, if you’re like me and wonder why Jackson isn’t more often at least in the conversation as a top-two pick, one new 2017 draft breakdown will leave you nodding your head instead of shaking it.
The Ringer’s NBA Draft Guide ranks the top 60 rookie prospects for the June draft, and only the king of the mocks, 6-foot-4 Washington point guard Fultz, is thought of more highly than Jackson, a versatile 6-8 wing from Kansas who doesn’t have a $495 signature shoe coming out or a father intent on annoying the basketball community at large.
According to analysis from The Rigner’s staff, Jackson could turn into a player as lethal as Tracy McGrady or as versatile as Andre Iguodala. His prospect profile includes a list of his positives and negatives, as well as a telling shot chart, highlighting Jackson’s ability to finish inside (62.5% around the rim) and his favorite area from which to fire behind the arc — the right half of the floor (46.9% on 32 attempts).
Those who watched Jackson play his 35 games in a KU uniform are familiar with the pros and cons he brings to the hardwood. Some of the plus-side attributes referenced at The Ringer include Jackson’s explosiveness, feel for the game, ability as a perimeter/team defender, play-making and rebounding.
The aspects that give evaluators pause? Jackson’s “average” 6-10 wingspan, shooting mechanics and tendency to dwell on negative plays, to name a few.
Obviously even the most elite future pros can be dissected to find their flaws. The majority of the league’s top-three picks, year after year, never come close to transcending to the level of LeBron James or Michael Jordan. Jackson’s overall ability on both ends of the floor, along with his instinctive passing and willingness to defend make him a coveted player and a rare rookie who can compete and contribute immediately. It will be interesting to see if his stock fluctuates at all in the weeks ahead, as various teams invite him in for individual workouts, following Tuesday’s draft lottery.
Why no combine?
Jackson, who passed on attending the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, explained that part of his pre-draft strategy recently in an interview with Rebecca Grant.
“Normally, like the top 10 picks don’t go to that,” Jackson said. “There’s no benefit from it. You can only lose. They already know how good you are, and then if you go there and do bad it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe he’s not that good.’ So it just hurts your draft stock.”
During his Q&A with Grant, Jackson also detailed how his upbringing made him a tough player on the court. The 20-year-old millionaire-to-be said he used to battle his mother, Apples Jones, one-on-one.
“It would get so bad that sometimes I would cry that she would block my shot, take the ball from me,” Jackson said of his games as a youth against the former UTEP player, adding he didn’t defeat his mom at basketball until he was about 14 years old.
When Jackson hears his name called early at the 2017 draft, on June 22, you can bet Jones will have tears in her eyes as she watches what her son has accomplished, with her help.
Dwight Coleby has one foot out the door, not officially gone but likely headed to another school to play his final season as a graduate transfer.
That solves the mystery of how Kansas can get to 13 scholarships in the event that Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk withdraws his name from the NBA Draft.
So let’s assume Coleby is gone and look at how minutes might be distributed with Svi back.
Point guard: Devonte’ Graham 33, Marcus Garrett 7.
Shooting guard: Malik Newman 30, Lagerald Vick 5, Garrett 5.
Small forward: Svi 20, Vick 20.
Power forward: Billy Preston 20, Jack Whitman 15, Svi 5.
Center: Udoka Azubuike 25, Mitch Lightfoot 10, Whitman 5.
Obviously, these are wild guesses that will fluctuate greatly, based on how quickly newcomers learn what coach Bill Self wants out of them in terms of effort, unselfish play and attention to detail.
If Preston competes well enough in practice to earn a starting spot along with Graham, Newman, Svi or Vick, and Azubuike, that would give KU four accomplished shooters playing with a stay-on-the-block center, a tough load for any defense to handle.
Azubuike's development will be the single biggest key to success, regardless of whether Svi completes the roster.
So much talent will be on the floor during practice, ideal circumstances for competitive athletes seeking to improve quickly to draw closer to earning money.
Transfers Charlie Moore (California) and Dedric and K.J. Lawson (forwards from Memphis) can't play in games, leaving the practice floor as the only outlet for their competitive juices.
Kansas head football coach David Beaty talks in superlatives about recruits on signing day but once they arrive on campus, he tries to bite his tongue so as to keep complacency at bay.
At least that’s how he approaches most players. Beaty knows Dorance Armstrong well enough to know that if complacency ever came near the rising junior defensive end’s space he would deliver it a punishing stiff arm, much like the one that flattened huge Texas running back D’Onta Foreman toward the end of Armstrong’s fumble return on which he changed directions with the smoothness of a polished running back.
Beaty doesn’t worry about Armstrong getting a big head because he knows how straight it’s screwed on and knows he is a relentless self-improvement hunter. So when ESPN.com interviewed Beaty about Armstrong during the offseason, the coach didn’t hold back.
“Dorance is a stud. The fact that he didn’t make All-American last year was shocking to me,” Beaty told ESPN.com. “He got robbed. (He) is unbelievable. He’s a freak. He is Myles Garrett, and Myles is a freak. This guy’s a beast.”
Beaty recruited Garrett, the first selection in last month’s NFL draft, to Texas A&M.
Garrett stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 271 pounds. Armstrong is 6-4, 246, so he might decide to use his senior year to get a little bigger and even stronger, or he might decide to enter the NFL draft after three seasons, as did Garrett. Armstrong has the perfect answer when asked about that potential decision. He says he wants to experience winning as a college football player before even thinking about that. And when he talks about the future, he talks about two seasons, not one.
"Everybody on this team knows that next year we’re going to be better and the next year after that we’re going to be even better than that,” Armstrong said.
If the Jayhawks were to open the season with victories against SEMO and a tough Central Michigan squad at home and then end its road losing streak against Ohio to start the season 3-0, it’s possible Memorial Stadium would be sold out for the Big 12 opener, Sept. 23.
And if Armstrong is a huge factor in the Jayhawks earning more victories in the opening three weeks of 2017 than it did in Beaty’s first two seasons, Beaty might not stop at talking about his All-American worthiness. Maybe he’ll hit the play button on the fumble recovery against Texas, freeze the frame that shows him sending Foreman off his feet with the stiff arm and then ask: “Does this remind you of any trophy?”
Defensive players seldom are mentioned in Heisman Trophy talk, but it's not absurd to think that Armstrong, should he make another big step forward, could merit mention.
Armstrong had 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last season and became the first Jayhawk to earn unanimous first-team All-Big 12 honors. He came to Kansas weighing less than 215 pounds and has had no trouble putting on weight while maintaining his speed.
In contrast, sophomore Isaiah Bean has had trouble moving the needle on the scale and was listed at 6-4, 220 during the spring. He’s really quick, fast and explosive, but needs to exercise more discipline in several areas to fulfill all the requirements to practice, play, study and condition to maximize his potential the way Armstrong has.
Josh Ehambe has done well in all the areas where Bean needs to improve. A fourth-year junior, Ehambe is 6-3, 247 and has changed his body for the better. A former linebacker, he has made the adjustment to defensive end and emerged from the spring as a first-string player. Ehambe validated that status with a big spring game and has a shot at establishing himself as a two-year starter.
Depending on how well he makes the transition from junior college to the Big 12, Willie McCaleb (6-2, 240) could work his way onto the depth chart and hard-working, 6-3, 285, fifth-year senior Kellen Ash brings experience in reserve. Maciah Long, if he continues to develop, could fill the role played so well last season by Cameron Rosser.
This concludes the 10-part, position-by-position ranking of KU football. Links to stories on the rest of the positions: