Entries from blogs tagged with “Kansas”

New father Gary Woodland feeling relieved and ready to get back to work soon

Gary Woodland (AP photo)

Gary Woodland (AP photo) by Tom Keegan

Not even a month after celebrating his 27th birthday, Gary Woodland, one of the world’s longest drivers of the golf ball, was nearing the end of the 2011 calendar year in which he won a PGA tour event, the Transitions in Tampa, Fla., finished in the top 30 in all four of golf’s majors, entered the FedEx playoffs ranked 10th, and had partnered with Matt Kuchar to win the World Cup, a prestigious, non-PGA tour event.

His resume´ and style of play lined up quite similarly to the one Brooks Koepka, 27, took into the U.S. Open he won at Erin Hills.

Injuries, changes in swing instructors, equipment and caddies were factors in Woodland not quite recapturing that magic in subsequent years, although he picked up his second PGA tour victory at the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2013.

Woodland had a strong bounce-back season in 2016, finished 38th on the PGA tour money list and gained exempt status for all four of this season’s majors.

Then the 2017 season, which actually started in Oct., 2016, opened and Woodland quickly caught fire, appearing to be back in full 2011 form, his putter not quite as reliable as back then but his wedge play noticeably better than ever.

In a seven-tournament stretch that started Nov. 10, and ended Feb. 26, Woodland placed in the top six in 4 of 7 PGA tour events and was in the top 20 in 6 of 7.

He was set to face Rory McIroy in a second-round match of the World Golf Championships Match Play tournament in late March when the only thing more important to him than his career put golf on hold. He withdrew from the McIlroy match for what he termed personal reasons and soon after revealed that one of he and wife Gabby’s twin babies, a girl, had died and that doctors would monitor closely the health of Gabby and their baby boy for the remainder of Gabby’s pregnancy.

Woodland appeared in just two tournaments (the Masters and Zurich Classic) the next six weeks and missed the cut in both. Since then, he has appeared in three tournaments, making the cut in all three, including the U.S. Open, in which he tied for 50th.

The highlight of Woodland’s golf season arrived Friday when Gabby gave birth to the couple’s first child, son Jaxon Lynn Woodland, at 11:56 p.m. The baby arrived 10 weeks premature and weighed just under three pounds, according to Woodland, who said Jaxon is expected to remain under the care of medical professional’s at St. Luke’s for the next two months.

“Friday night was a huge deal, him coming out,” Woodland said at Twin Oaks in Eudora, where he came Monday to say hello to Linda Randall, wife of his late University of Kansas coach Ross Randall at a tournament in his honor. “Now we know he’s in great hands and he’s got great help. He’s monitored all day long. I think that was some of the unknown. My wife’s at home, she’s never been pregnant, is he OK, is he not OK? Now knowing that she’s OK and knowing that he’s in great hands is a huge mental relief for me.

“I’ve actually been able to sleep a little bit, been able to rest, and just feel like I’m a thousand pounds lighter, so hopefully, in a couple of months when he gets home it’ll feel even better, but I feel great and I’m excited to kind of get out and get playing again.”

Woodland was going to playing in the Quicken Loans National in Potomoc, Md., at which Tiger Woods serves as host, this week but withdrew to be with his wife and baby.

“Tiger’s event is a great tournament, but obviously there is no way I could have mentally played this week,” Woodland said. “I would have been there wanting to be here. I’m excited to get back out there ready to go at the Greenbrier (July 6-9 in West Virginia), then I’ll get ready for the British Open (July 20-23).”

Woodland reports that Gabby is doing well and sounded thrilled to be a parent.

"I got to hold him for the first time and you just felt like everything was OK," Woodland said, "and obviously you have a little bigger purpose in life."

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Frank Mason III tough enough to fight through culture shock that awaits in Sacramento

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) raises up the Sprint Center crowd during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) raises up the Sprint Center crowd during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017. by Nick Krug

On an extensive list of ways his life is about to change now that he has reached the NBA, adjusting to a steady diet of losses has to rank near the top for former Kansas point guard Frank Mason III.

During the reigning National Player of the Year’s four seasons at KU, Mason played for Bill Self-coached teams that averaged 29 victories and 7.3 losses.

His role in those wins propelled the 5-foot-11 Mason to near the top of the second round in this year’s NBA Draft, where Sacramento made him the 34th overall pick. The ultra-competitive Petersburg, Va., native, no doubt, will make the best of it, but winning roughly 30 games a year will continue to be the norm for him in the years ahead.

Playing an 82-game schedule, the Kings have won no more than 38 games in any of the previous 11 seasons — a stretch in which they have lost 50 or more games six times (and 49 twice).

While Sacramento’s front office and coaches obviously were thrilled with their four 2017 blueblood-only draft picks — Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Duke’s Harry Giles and Jayhawk Mason — they also were realistic about the state of the franchise at the introductory press conference for the newest Kings.

Head coach Dave Joerger said when he looks at the roster he thinks about how the team will be set up three years from now and how he plans to have the 2017-18 team lay a foundation for the future.

“We’ve got good people and we’ve got good talent to build from,” Joerger said.

Even so, no one expects Sacramento to contend for a playoff berth anytime soon. The Kings very well may end up the worst team in the NBA next season, and that’s because they will most likely be the youngest. As a 23-year-old rookie, Mason is older than six players that project as part of the team’s rotation.

The contracts of veterans Rudy Gay, Tyreke Evans, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson and Ben McLemore officially come off the books when free agency begins this weekend, and it appears the organization, which recently waived 31-year-old Arron Afflalo, is prepared to rebuild around its latest lottery pick, Fox (19 years old). What does the explosive incoming rookie from Kentucky have around him? Fellow newbies Jackson (22), Giles (19) and Mason (23) — and possibly Serbian guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (24) — along with slightly more established second-year players Buddy Hield (23), Malachi Richardson (21), Skal Labissiere (21) and Georgios Papagiannis (19). And don’t forget old head Willie Cauley-Stein (23), grandpa Kosta Koufos (28) and great-grandpa Garrett Temple (31).

All of the challenging seasons ahead for Mason at least should be more tolerable with the knowledge he landed on a team that values him. Sacramento had Mason visit for two pre-draft workouts.

“I think when I first got here for my first workout I was pretty good — could’ve done a lot of things a lot better — but obviously they were impressed by me,” Mason said at the rookies’ introduction. “We got that call that they wanted me to come back for a second workout, I was really excited about that. I came back for the second workout, wasn’t my best again, but, you know, I think I was solid and they were excited about me. And now I’m here.”

Joerger pointed out Mason also showed off his explosiveness after workout No. 2, with “a tremendous dunking show.”

None by Sean Cunningham

Mason’s new head coach, though, cares much more about what his players do during games. Joerger developed a reputation as a coach who values toughness during his three seasons in Memphis, prior to taking over at Sacramento a year ago.

“I love a coach that’s going to help us get after it, challenge us every day mentally and physically,” Mason told The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones. “I’m just excited about the future.”

The future will feel a lot more real once the season begins four months from now. And it won’t be like anything Mason has experienced previously on a basketball court.

Admitted Joerger: “We’re gonna take our lumps, you know what I mean? So let’s do it with guys who have great work ethic and high character and the talent that’ll come out as they grow into it.”

Some serious culture shock awaits Mason in the NBA. But if we know anything about him, it’s that he’s gutsy enough to fight through it and will do his best to help revitalize the Kings, who haven’t finished with a winning record or reached the playoffs since 2006.

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Five steals from 2017 NBA draft

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pushes the ball up the court past Kentucky guard Malik Monk (5) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pushes the ball up the court past Kentucky guard Malik Monk (5) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

Five players who will prove they are better than the positions at which they were drafted:

Josh Jackson, Kansas (fourth): He had a hand in dropping by not working out with the Celtics and there was a reason for that. He’s a perfect fit, the defensive dynamo the Suns needed to change their culture.

Malik Monk, Kentucky (11th): A freakish athlete who does a great job of moving without the ball and is a natural scorer who can get really hot from the outside and score from everywhere and he lasts until the 11th pick? Absurd.

Jarrett Allen, Texas (22nd): Smart, good hands, great shooting touch, and has plenty of room for his body to expand.

Frank Mason, Kansas (34th): Don’t forget, Boston Celtics short superstar Isaiah Thomas was the last pick of the draft when he came out of Washington. Mason doesn’t play short.

Semi Ojeleye, SMU (37th): He has an NBA body already, a soft shooting touch with range and he’s super smart, so he’ll figure out how to make himself a player the coach wants to have on the floor and he’ll figure it out in a hurry. Great pick.

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Stadium renovation proves Kansas a football school too

According to KU Athletics officials, Memorial Stadium is set to undergo a $300 million renovation. Currently, architects are completing renderings of the renovation plans.

According to KU Athletics officials, Memorial Stadium is set to undergo a $300 million renovation. Currently, architects are completing renderings of the renovation plans. by Nick Krug

The big news about an impending $300 million renovation project for Memorial Stadium came with no details, but since it’s such a huge undertaking it’s easy to draw a few conclusions. First, naming rights are certain to go to the biggest donor or donors.

Second, the renovation will come in stages, not all at once. Since KU doesn’t have a viable option for a temporary home field in the event Memorial Stadium is shut down for a year, it won’t be shut down for a year and all the work will take place from the day after the final home game of each season until the days leading up to the season opener.

TCU and Kansas State underwent their stadium facelifts in phases and so will KU.

Best guess as to the portion of the stadium that will be addressed first is the West side, where the luxury suites and most desirable seats are because the sun isn’t in spectators’ eyes, then maybe the south side end, where the team enters and exits the field.

The stadium will be wired to the max so that fans can watch a play Iive and then watch the instant replay on their phones.

Sports franchises today count man caves as serious competitors for their stadiums, which must include bars, restaurants, family-friendly entertainment options that stretch beyond the field of play.

A sum of $300 million can buy plenty of bells and whistles. And if the money is spent wisely and the stadium sparkles, it also can buy Kansas coaches a seat at the table of big-time recruits more regularly than in the past.

Rehabilitated stadiums tend to become fashionable places to go, even more so if they develop catchy nicknames.

That of course will depend on the name of the new stadium. The identity of the major donor remains a secret, but just for the sake of using an example, let’s suppose it’s David Booth. It wouldn’t take long before the stadium would become known as “The Booth,” as in, “See you at The Booth on Saturday.”

The planned stadium renovations will go down as athletic director’s Sheahon Zenger’s legacy, a big step in his recovery from the program-damaging hire of football coach Charlie Weis.

Zenger initially had announced that a special fundraiser would be in charge of the football-stadium project but never made that hire and let Matt Baty, head of the Williams Fund, and his staff, including closer extraordinaire John Hadl, meet with the donors, explain the goals and ask for the order. They obviously did a terrific job, leading to Wednesday night’s announcement in Kansas City.

The message rings loudly: You don’t spend $300 million on a football-stadium renovation if you don’t care about football.

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NBA draft eyes zero in on Celtics, Josh Jackson

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) slaps hands with fans as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' 98-66 win, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) slaps hands with fans as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' 98-66 win, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Now that the Sixers moved into the No. 1 slot of the NBA draft and the Lakers reportedly traded their point guard, D’Angelo Russell, clearing the way to select a point guard (Lonzo Ball or De’Aaron Fox) with the No. 2 pick, all the intrigue shifts to the Celtics and what they will do with the No. 3 pick.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens are of like mind in that they put a premium on intense, defensive-minded competitors. Nobody in the draft fits that type better than Josh Jackson.

Ainge fueled the Jackson-to-the-Celtics speculation by saying, “There is a good chance the player we take at No. 3 will be the exact player we would have taken at No. 1.”

But Jackson apparently doesn’t want to become a Celtic and reportedly has refused to work out for the organization without an assurance that he will be chosen by them and not traded. But why would the Celtics, or any team for that matter, make any such assurance to any player?

Duke’s Jayson Tatum has worked out for the Celtics, which leads some to believe that since he wants to go there and Jackson apparently does not, the Celtics might just take Tatum. Not buying that. Jackson’s a great defender and Tatum’s lateral quickness could prevent him from ever developing into an even average defender.

Should the Celtics decide to deal the pick, no shortage of franchises interested in Jackson would make offers. The Kings hold the fifth and 10th selections.

The Knicks and Bulls reportedly are high on Jackson.

None by Ramona Shelburne

The Knicks reportedly would entertain trade offers for Kristaps Porzingas, the Bulls for Jimmy Butler.

The most intriguing team in the draft at this point is the Celtics, the most intriguing player Jackson. It would come as a bit of a surprise if the Celtics don't select Jackson, whether to keep him or trade him.

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Time for KU to kick bad-kicking reputation to curb

Kansas place kicker Matthew Wyman (7) celebrates with his teammates following the Jayhawks' 24-21 overtime upset of Texas on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. Wyman kicked the game-winning field goal.

Kansas place kicker Matthew Wyman (7) celebrates with his teammates following the Jayhawks' 24-21 overtime upset of Texas on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. Wyman kicked the game-winning field goal. by Nick Krug

Kansas has had trouble blocking, passing and running in recent seasons. Consequently, the Jayhawks tend to have fewer drives into field-goal range than the the rest of the teams in the Big 12.

Still, more than that has led to the Jayhawks consistently ranking last in the Big 12 in field goals.

Too often, KU hasn’t even made the field goal part of its offense because the kickers have been too inconsistent to trust.

In the past seven seasons, a Big 12 team has not reached double figures in field goals just seven times. Four of those belong to Kansas and no other Big 12 squad has done it more than once. Baylor (eight field goals in 2016), Kansas State (eight in 2010) and Iowa State (eight in 2010) had off seasons. KU has had an off decade.

Average field goals for the past seven seasons from Big 12 schools: Oklahoma State (20.9), TCU and West Virginia (19.0), Oklahoma (18.9), Kansas State and Texas (16.4), Texas Tech (14.9), Baylor (13.7), Iowa State (12.3), Kansas (9.0).

Enter Liam Jones, the incoming freshman from Choctaw, Okla., charged with kicking to the curb the program's reputation for lousy kicking. A two-star prospect, per Rivals, Jones earned honorable mention all-state distinction.

A left-footed kicker, can win the job by doing little more than not losing it. He'll replace Matthew Wyman, who had his best season as a senior, making 13 of 19 field-goal attempts and all 26 extra points. Wyman made 5 of 5 field goals from 20-to-29 yards, 5 of 7 from 30 to 39, 2 of 4 from 40 to 49 and 1 of 3 from 50 to 59.

The 13 field goals Wyman kicked last season were the most by a Kansas kicker since 2009 when Jacob Branstetter also made 13 of 19 field goals.

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Best guess: Josh Jackson goes to Lakers with second pick in draft

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) throws a pass over Oregon guard Dylan Ennis (31) to the wing during the first half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) throws a pass over Oregon guard Dylan Ennis (31) to the wing during the first half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

My only question regarding Josh Jackson’s since-deleted, late-night tweet seemingly aimed at projected No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz is why delete the tweet?

It read: “lol anybody with the smallest bit of talent can look good and lose it’s not that hard”.

It serves as a reminder that Jackson knows the best trait a basketball player can bring to a basketball game is a winning trait. He brings it to every possession and that’s why he, as a whole, is a greater prospect than the impressive sum of his parts.

Still, most mock drafts have Jackson going either to the Celtics with the third pick — assuming the trade that gives the 76ers the first pick is finalized — or to the Suns with the fourth pick.

My guess: Jackson will become a Laker, the decision made by fellow native of Michigan, all-time great point guard Magic Johnson, another basketball player who forever put winning first. Magic tried to get Jackson to go to Michigan State out of high school and no doubt sees a little of himself in the versatile 6-foot-8 prospect when Jackson shows great court vision in finding a teammate and zipping a pass through a small window, a little bit of James Worthy when Jackson slams a one-handed dunk in transition, a little bit of Michael Cooper when Jackson locks down his man.

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, another terrific prospect, has been a mainstay at the No. 2 spot in mock drafts for a long, long time. Jackson’s the superior defender and is even more versatile than Ball. Selecting Jackson would give the Lakers an extremely young perimeter trio that could grow together and flourish once a strong frontcourt is assembled.

Point guard D’Angelo Russell, a two-year veteran out of Ohio State, is 21. Jackson is 20. Wing Brandon Ingram, entering his second season with the Lakers, is 19.

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Mitch Lightfoot working on expanding body, shooting range

Red Team center Udoka Azubuike backs down Mitch Lightfoot during a camp scrimmage on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Red Team center Udoka Azubuike backs down Mitch Lightfoot during a camp scrimmage on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

He moved from Kansas City to Tucson, Ariz., when he was 5, but he grew up in a household loyal to Kansas basketball, so wearing the jersey means a lot to sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot.

Given the makeup of the coming season’s roster, his presence means a lot to Kansas basketball, so the feeling’s mutual.

In introducing Lightfoot to campers before Wednesday’s scrimmage, KU coach Bill Self said Lightfoot would play a “huge, huge role” for the Jayhawks this coming season.

Lightfoot heard Self say that and processed the words at a couple of levels.

“So the Kansas side of me, the little kid growing up in Kansas, that kind of gives you butterflies and stuff like that. You feel excited,” Lightfoot said. “But the Kansas basketball player side of me knows that’s what I have to do and that’s what I came here to do and it’s just another step in the process of getting better and becoming a bigger part of this team and helping us win some games.”

In order to do that, Lightfoot knows his game and body must expand from last season. He’s doing that by “working in the weight room, working on the court, working on my jump shot, stuff like that.”

Lightfoot has been spending quality time in the weight room run by strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy.

“Right now I’m 216, 217 (pounds),” Lightfoot said. “By the time the season rolls around I’d like to be in the 223, 224 area, get up around there. Anywhere in the 225 area I’d be happy with. Last year I played at 210, 209. That’s not a Big 12 big man four-man, so eating and lifting with coach Hudy has been big for me.”

Lightfoot feels himself getting stronger, more flexible all the time.

“Last year coming in you get hit and it takes you a couple of seconds to recalibrate and go up again, but now with all the lifting we’re doing, the mobility stuff, we get hit, hit the ground, you go back up,” he said. “So the big thing for me is getting bigger, getting stronger, more body control, stuff like that.”

Strength can be a factor in expanding a player's shooting range, as can putting up more 3-pointers in practice.

“In talking to coach after the season I’m going to have to be able to stretch the floor. As a stretch four that will be part of my game," Lightfoot said. "I also have to be able to guard big guys, like I was guarding Udoka (Azubuike). I’ve got to be able to do both.”

Playing basketball for Kansas means a lot to Lightfoot, who isn't going to cheat himself of playing time by slacking off in any area.

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Josh Jackson addresses anger management class taken as part of diversion agreement

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) protests a foul called against him after he thought he was pushed into the scorers table during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) protests a foul called against him after he thought he was pushed into the scorers table during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Leading up to next week’s NBA Draft, many have scrutinized the merits of Josh Jackson’s basketball skills and debated just how high those attributes should carry him up the big board of a loaded rookie class.

The defense, passing and athleticism Jackson displayed during his one season at Kansas make him worthy of a top pick, but every time someone takes a deep dive into his draftability, his off-the-court stumbles from his time in Lawrence come up, too.

As the Journal-World reported in May, the 20-year-old prospect reached a diversion agreement in a case of criminal damage to property, which included writing a letter of apology and anger management classes.

Fielding questions from the media for the first time since then earlier this week in Los Angeles, following his second pre-draft workout with the Lakers, Jackson didn’t mind addressing those mandated classes when a reporter asked him about the matter.

“There is some truth to that. I have been taking an anger management course,” Jackson said. “I’m just about wrapping it up right now. It was just something I had to do and I learned from the mistake that I made. I’m making it through it.”

The 6-foot-8 wing, who could end up playing in L.A. if the Lakers decide to take him with the No. 2 overall pick, said he had learned from the experience.

“One of the biggest things I got out of it was just to worry about the things that I can control and not to worry about the things that I can’t,” said Jackson, who never bristled at any topic thrown at him by media during his brief time with the Jayhawks. “It sounds so simple, but I went home and I thought about that a lot. It made a huge amount of sense to me, because there’s a lot of things in this world that we can’t control, yet frustrate us. But you just can’t worry about them too much.”

Jackson, no doubt, has answered questions on the matter every time he has spoken with an NBA decision-maker over the past couple of months. And franchises all have ways of performing in-depth background checks on incoming rookies, especially those who could soon become the young face of the team. Owners and management don’t want to invest their money or the organization’s future in a person who will bring them unnecessary headaches.

It doesn’t appear teams are too worried about Jackson the human being, despite his mistakes. If they were, you would hear predraft reports of his stock dropping and teams leaning toward staying away from him.

With a week to go before the big night in Brooklyn, if anything, Jackson is trending upward, challenging UCLA’s Lonzo Ball for the No. 2 spot. The way he handled the questions regarding the anger management class that accompanied his diversion is a sign he’s addressing his maturity, as well as his game, which will only impress the NBA teams that are paying very close attention.

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Lonzo has ball at pushy dad’s expense in Foot Locker commercial

Lavar Ball, father of NBA draft prospect Lonzo Ball, congratulates his son after a game at UCLA. (Associated Press photo).

Lavar Ball, father of NBA draft prospect Lonzo Ball, congratulates his son after a game at UCLA. (Associated Press photo).

It’s cooler than Cindy Crawford’s Pepsi commercial, better than Mean Joe Greene’s Coca Cola commercial, more memorable than Larry Bird and Michael Jordan shooting h-o-r-s-e, tougher to shake than the Alka Seltzer plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is jingle.

It’ll cure your Excedrin Headache No. 39, saving you the trouble of swallowing pills.

If not for that fried-egg spot — “This is your brain . . . this is your brain on drugs” — it would rank as the greatest commercial ever filmed.

It’s a Foot Locker “Father’s Day” advertisement and it’s so much more than that. It’s a brilliant marketing scheme that is bound to get UCLA one-and-done sensation Lonzo Ball the fair shake he deserves in next week’s compelling NBA draft. It gives him the separation from his father he so needs and just in the nick of time.

Lavar Ball has attempted to turn his oldest son into a piece of merchandise to be manipulated however he sees fit.

The sane son fights back in a brilliant Father’s Day commercial featuring four one-and-done players expected to go among the first seven picks in next Thursday’s draft. Jonathan Isaac (Florida State), De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Jayson Tatum (Duke) and Ball appear in it. Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Washington’s Markelle Fultz and Kentucky’s Malik Monk, also projected to go early in the draft, are not in the commercial.

Isaac, Fox and Tatum share quick thoughts on memories of their fathers.

“All those games of one-on-one in the driveway where he’d let me win,” Fox says with a smile.

An appreciative Tatum says, “Just never missing a game.”

And then Lonzo Ball bleeds painful memories: “Of course there’s that big day when your dad berates your high school coach in front of an entire crowd for not getting you enough touches.”

Said Isaac: “Waking up early to drive to far-away tournaments.”

Then Ball: “Or that special moment when your dad sits you down and tells you where you’re going to college, copyrights your name to make it part of a family lifestyle brand, went on First Take and shouted back and forth with Stephen A. Smith about how you’re already better than the reigning league MVP. All those interviews from the stands during college games. The public spats with the all-time greats. Sound byte after sound byte to the national media. And then tells 29 out of 30 teams to not bother drafting you.”

Nice chin music. I hope every overbearing sports dad sees that commercial and sees himself in it. Better chance of winning the lottery on back-to-back weeks.

Foot Locker released a statement quoting Lonzo as saying, “My dad and I both love the humor of the spot, and I’m glad I got to have a little fun around the topic before going to the league.”

I thought I read a little pain in Lonzo’s expression, but maybe that was just the power of suggestion. Either way, Lonzo speaks far more loudly and my guess would be more from the heart in the commercial than in the corporate statement.

It was impressive of a 19-year-old to lay it all out there for the world to see and hear, no matter whose idea it was. No denial. No walking on eggshells around the issue of the dad. If Lonzo’s agent thought this up, give the man a standing ovation. Nothing could do a more effective job of shrinking concerns that drafting the son means drafting the father too.

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Mitch Lightfoot is excited, ready for bigger role in sophomore season

Preparing for a bigger role in his sophomore season, Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot wants to continue adding strength and adding to his game.

Showcasing his touch from behind the 3-point line, Lightfoot scored 22 points in Bill Self's camp scrimmage on Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

"I talked with coach (Self) after the season, I'm going to have to be able to stretch the floor," Lightfoot said. "As a stretch-four man, that's a big part of my game. But I also have to be able to guard the big guys. I was guarding Udoka (Azubuike) in there and stuff like that. I have to be able to do both."

Confident in KU's frontcourt — Lightfoot, Azubuike, Jack Whitman, Billy Preston — Lightfoot said depth won't be an issue in the upcoming season.

"He's picked up where he left off, if not more," Lightfoot said of Azubuike. "Athletic as all gets out. I think he's just going to be a monster this year."

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Kansas freshman forward Billy Preston discusses his role, adjusting to the college level

After scoring 17 points in Wednesday's camp scrimmage at Horejsi Center, Kansas freshman forward Billy Preston talked about his role of playing in the paint and on the perimeter.

"Coach (Bill) Self in practice don't let me take any breaks," Preston said. "Any time I'm just roaming around the perimeter, any time I find myself doing that, he's the first to say something to me, get me in a position he needs or he feels would be best for the team."

Preston showcased all parts of his game Wednesday, hitting a 3-pointer, mid-range jumpers and driving to the rim for dunks.

After a quiet performance in last week's scrimmage, he admitted he made it a focus for himself to play better.

"Last week, I was kind of nervous," Preston said. "First time playing with the guys, playing against the alumni. I didn't play so well, but this following week, I made a commitment to myself to play harder and better."

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Malik Newman, Udoka Azubuike lead Jayhawks in camp scrimmage

Playing for the second straight week in a camp scrimmage Wednesday, Kansas sophomores Malik Newman and Udoka Azubuike made several highlight-reel plays to lead the Crimson squad to a victory against their teammates.

Heating up from behind the 3-point line, Newman scored a team-high 21 points while Azubuike added 18 points with his dominance in the paint.

Check out more highlights from the intrasquad scrimmage provided by Devonte Graham, Billy Preston, Mitch Lightfoot, Charlie Moore, Lagerald Vick and others.

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NBA draft propositions include over/under on Lonzo Ball sneakers

Lavar Ball, father of NBA draft prospect Lonzo Ball, congratulates his son after a game at UCLA. (Associated Press photo).

Lavar Ball, father of NBA draft prospect Lonzo Ball, congratulates his son after a game at UCLA. (Associated Press photo).

Oddsmakers and mock draft makers are in lockstep on which one-and-done talent will go first in the NBA draft.

Sportsbettingdime.com set odds to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft as: Markelle Fultz (Washington): 1/5, Lonzo Ball (UCLA): 7/1 and the field 19/1.

Shocking that a wager on the field would pay 19/1. That means that if KU’s Josh Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum or either of Kentucky’s vastly different but equally intriguing guards De’Aaron Fox or Malik Monk were to go No. 1 it would pay 19/1.

I’d be tempted to take what’s defined as the field here against Fultz straight-up.

The website also released an over/under draft position for the six one-and-done prospects: Fultz: 1.5, Ball 2, Jackson 3.5, Tatum 4, Fox 4.5, Monk 5.5. Jackson, Fox and Monk are the smartest plays there, although Fultz at 1.5 isn’t bad since most believe he’ll be the first selection. The funniest proposition the board is the over/under for the number of Big Baller Brand Z02s sold before the start of the NBA draft: 950.5.

Those are the basketball shoes being marketed by Lavar Ball, father of Lonzo Ball.

If that seems high for a shoe that ranges from $495 to $695 for the Z02: PRIME and anywhere from $995 to $1,195 for Z02: WET - ‘THE AUTOGRAPH,’ keep in mind that they could become collector’s items for the filthy rich who might view them as investments that will appreciate because fewer than 1,000 pairs of shoes will be in circulation.

Sometimes the super rich like to scream, “I’m rich,” without using those words. What better way than to show friends a pair of the most expensive sneakers in history, better yet shoes talked about on SportsCenter.

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Lakers get Josh Jackson out of ‘comfort zone’ with 2nd pre-draft workout

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) elevates for a dunk against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) elevates for a dunk against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at WVU Coliseum. by Nick Krug

It turns out the Josh Jackson to Los Angeles buzz was just starting to hum when the one-and-done Kansas standout canceled a workout with Boston the week before the NBA Draft. Less than 24 hours later, Jackson showed up Tuesday at the Lakers’ practice facility for an examination with the Celtics’ historical rival.

A possible draft target for L.A., which owns the No. 2 pick, Jackson told media following the session he was excited about working out for the Lakers for the second time in a six-day span.

“I was all for it. Of course, I’m not gonna tell them no,” Jackson said. “It was just an honor to be here today. I just want to thank the whole organization for having me.”

The 20-year-old wing who displayed his versatility on both ends of the court throughout his lone season with the Jayhawks met with and played in front of Lakers legend and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, head coach Luke Walton and other members of the organization the previous week, too. That was in Sacramento, with Jackson’s trainer, and more on his terms.

“But today I kind of got out of my comfort zone a little bit working out with their training staff,” Jackson said. “I thought both went pretty good.”

In the mind of the 6-foot-8 prospect from Detroit, he felt in better shape for workout No. 2, and his objective for the on-court job interview was to provide proof that he’s addressed some of his perceived weaknesses as a player, such as 3-point shooting and ball-handling.

“A lot of things people know I can do. I’m athletic, long, lanky,” the 203-pound athlete with a 6-9 3/4 wingspan said, “but I’m just trying to show that I’ve improved since the end of the season at Kansas.”

From the moment the Lakers secured the No. 2 pick via the draft lottery, many assumed the organization would select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball in that spot — right after the Celtics presumably take Washington guard Markelle Fultz at No. 1. But given the Lakers’ interest in meeting with Jackson a second time (they reportedly are trying to do the same with Ball), the incoming rookie was asked whether his chances of playing for L.A. seem to be improving.

“It was definitely more of a ‘come in, try to impress them.’ And hopefully I impressed them enough,” Jackson replied. “But they can’t look past any guy in this draft because we’re all really, really talented, and I think we all bring a lot to the table.”

Fultz, Jackson, Ball and Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, who worked out for the Lakers before Jackson on Tuesday, all seem to be coveted talents. The rumors and conjecture surrounding who ends up where only will ramp up between now and the June 22 draft.

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Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett highlight KU’s camp practice

It may have been mostly drills, but Kansas freshmen Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett made several highlight plays in a practice in front of Bill Self campers on Tuesday at Horejsi Center.

Along with plays from Preston and Garrett, check out a few of the highlights provided by seniors Devonte’ Graham and Jack Whitman, juniors Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson, sophomores Udoka Azubuike, Malik Newman, Mitch Lightfoot and Charlie Moore.

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Eljiah Johnson praises KU’s backcourt; details overseas game vs. Tyshawn Taylor

After practicing against the Kansas men's basketball team, including a scrimmage in Bill Self's camp game, former KU guard Elijah Johnson is happy with what he's seen from the Jayhawks' backcourt.

Headlined by Devonte' Graham and Malik Newman, Johnson believes there's tons of potential for the upcoming season.

"I think we've got some weapons," Johnson said. "Although a lot of people haven't been on the floor for us yet, I think coach will whip them up. I don't think this team is going to be one step behind any other team."

Johnson played overseas in several countries last season, finishing in Turkey, which gave him an opportunity to face off against former teammate Tyshawn Taylor — where they both scored more than 30 points.

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What to make of Josh Jackson canceling pre-draft workout with Boston

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a  rebound during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a rebound during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

While the two best teams in the NBA clashed in The Finals Monday night, news of one top incoming rookie canceling a pre-draft workout with a preeminent franchise sneaked out.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman came through with the surprising scoop: One-and-done Kansas wing Josh Jackson scrapped a workout with the Boston Celtics, who own the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft.

This past Thursday, Jackson met with and played in front of the Los Angeles Lakers, who will pick No. 2. So why would he decide against displaying his skills for the Celtics?

It’s not as if Jackson is in Lonzo Ball’s overpriced Big Baller Brand shoes, with his father appearing on every sports-based argument show that will have him, claiming the Lakers are the best fit.

Jackson is fierce on the court, and you know he would take great pride in being selected first overall. So obviously there are other factors at play.

Perhaps Jackson’s management has advised him against a session with Boston because Washington’s Markelle Fultz has emerged as a lock for the No. 1 spot. Or maybe, as many have speculated since Goodman reported the cancellation, a team (conceivably the Lakers) already has made a promise to Jackson that it will draft him.

Who knows? The only conclusion we can really draw from this is there’s little chance of Jackson ending up with the Celtics, unless the team trades down in the draft, with Jackson becoming a piece of a more enticing collection of assets than Fultz alone.

Now it seems — barring some as of yet unforeseen trade, of course — Jackson is bound for either the Lakers at No. 2 or Philadelphia at No. 3. Neither would be a bad place to start for the 20-year-old talent from Detroit. Both the Lakers and Sixers have struggled the past few years. But the NBA’s structure sets such organizations up with high lottery odds, enabling them to stockpile young, talented players.

As a Laker or Sixer, Jackson would join a core built for the future, and that’s certainly not a bad thing, considering Golden State and Cleveland seem bound to meet in The Finals as long as LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers and Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are Warriors.

Maybe three years from now, LeBron finally shows some rust, just as the Sixers are on the come up with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jackson leading the way.

Or, possibly, the Lakers really do prefer Jackson to Ball, L.A. gets Paul George next year and the purple and gold are back to their yearly playoff runs sooner than everybody thought.

Either way, Jackson will be just fine — even if he doesn’t get to join a Celtics organization much closer to contending for a title.

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Kansas women’s basketball program subtracts three sophomores and welcomes seven newcomers

Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider talks with guard McKenzie Calvert (2) left and Jayde Christopher (20) during a timeout in the Jayhawks game against the Missouri State Lady Bears Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 at Allen Field House.

Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider talks with guard McKenzie Calvert (2) left and Jayde Christopher (20) during a timeout in the Jayhawks game against the Missouri State Lady Bears Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 at Allen Field House. by Mike Yoder

It has been another offseason of roster upheaval for the Kansas women’s basketball program headed by Brandon Schneider.

One year after two-year starter Lauren Aldridge’s surprising decision to transfer to Missouri, three sophomores who combined for 30 starts this past season have left the program.

The departure of McKenzie Calvert, whose sharp decline in production during Big 12 play and team-second attitude led to a permanent spot on the bench by the end of the season, did not come as a surprise. She started 12 games and scored 30 points in a non-conference game vs. UC Riverside before heading into a shooting slump she couldn’t shake.

Jayde Christopher started 16 games, averaged 19.4 minutes and three points and had a team-high 82 assists.

Aisia Robertson started two games, averaged 15.2 minutes, 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds.

All three players who left the program had rough shooting seasons: Robertson (.287 shooting percentage), Calvert (.294), Christopher (.307).

As a team, the Jayhawks shot .338 from the field. TCU was ninth in the conference with a .410 accuracy rate.

At this point, coach Brandon Schneider enters his third season with five returning players, four transfers from junior college and three freshmen.

Three of the returning players started last season for the Jayhawks (8-22 overall, 2-16 in conference). Jessica Washington (17.1 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Chayla Cheadle (4.7, 4.7) are rising seniors, Kaylee Kopatich (9.5, 4.4) a junior. Junior Chelsea Lott played sparingly in her first two seasons. Tyler Johnson spent last season as a redshirt while recovering from a knee injury. During a promising freshman season, Johnson averaged 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field. She started seven games, including the final four of the season.

To a large extent, it appears, Schneider is starting over. He has one terrific player in Washington, but she might be forced to look to score too often again this season if more scorers don’t develop around her than was the case last season.

The challenge in taking on a rebuilding project like the one for which Schneider signed up is that moving up the standings in the powerful Big 12 requires climbing past another school.

That’s tough to do without changing perceptions about the program embedded in recruits’ heads. So far, it doesn’t look as if Schneider has been able to do so.

None of the incoming freshmen made the HoopGurlz top 100 recruiting rankings.

Eleven top 100 high school players signed with Big 12 schools. The Jayhawks were not the only school skunked. Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech did not land any top 100 players either. The four schools that didn’t add a top 100 recruit finished seventh through 10th in the Big 12 standings.

Texas (3, 4, 33) and Baylor (19, 20, 64) landed three top 100 recruits apiece, Kansas State picked up two (59, 97) and Oklahoma (32), Iowa State (42) and West Virginia each added one.

Unless a few of the seven newcomers catch on quickly and have productive seasons, Kansas likely is headed for a third consecutive last-place finish in the Big 12.

The two-season conference records of Big 12 women’s basketball teams since Schneider took over for fired Bonnie Henrickson:

Baylor...................34-2

Texas....................30-6

Oklahoma.............24-12

West Virginia.........20-16

Kansas State........19-17

Oklahoma State....17-19

Iowa State.............14-22

TCU.......................12-24

Texas Tech..............8-28

Kansas....................2-34

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5-star KU football commit Devonta Jason: ‘I’m just going to be me’

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

The first five-star prospect to ever commit to the University of Kansas football program, New Orleans prep receiver Devonta Jason has heard the murmurs and seen the skepticism floating around the recruiting world in response to the non-binding pledge he made back in February.

That much was clear in Jason’s comments to Bleacher Report, for a feature titled: Do You Believe 5-star WR Devonta Jason is Kansas-bound? LSU and Alabama don’t.

"People were asking me if they gave me something," Jason told Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer. "Everybody was going crazy. They wanted to know what I was thinking. I'm just going to be me."

A 6-foot-3 rising senior at New Orleans’ Landry-Walker High, Jason, of course, is the marquee prospect in third-year KU head coach David Beaty’s Louisiana-heavy 2018 recruiting class. Rivals ranks Jason as the 22nd-best player in the country, and considering KU’s current seven-year streak of winning three games or fewer, many outsiders scratch their heads or scoff at the idea of Jason officially signing with the Jayhawks months from now.

According to Jason, a coach from another program texted him “really?” upon hearing of his verbal commitment to Beaty, associate head coach and Louisiana native Tony Hull and Kansas.

"It really didn't get to me," Jason told Bleacher Report. "I know they went 2-10 and 0-12 the year before. It's really not about what school you go to or being a big fish in a big pond. It's about your future and making an impact on your life. It's about being known and recognized."

Given that most prospects of Jason’s caliber typically sign with the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State or some other renowned program, Rivals’ national recruiting director Mike Farrell characterized Jason as a “unicorn.”

Farrell explained: “I’ve never seen one in person, and I don't know if they exist. If this sticks, it will prove that they do."

Hull, who also helped lure commitments from Jason’s current Landry-Walker teammates, four-star cornerback Corione Harris and three-star defensive end Josh Smith, as well as former L-W standout Mike Lee, gets credit for making this unique recruiting situation possible. Jason said he connected with Hull when he visited Lawrence.

“Being as far away as I was,” he told Bleacher Report, “it still felt like home.”

As Jason had stated previously, he intends to graduate from Landry-Walker early and enroll in college for the spring semester of 2018, ahead of his freshman year of college football.

Read the full feature on Devonta Jason at Bleacher Report

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