Entries from blogs tagged with “KU football”

How the loss of Isi Holani affects KU’s defensive line

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise (96) is stopped at the line as Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) throws to a receiver during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio.

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise (96) is stopped at the line as Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) throws to a receiver during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio. by Nick Krug

The KU defense has already had its fair share of problems in 2017.

The young secondary has been exposed by a trio of MAC quarterbacks, while a pass rush featuring the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year has been widely held in check.

Then there's the injury bug, something that hits just about every team at some point and has, for the second straight year, ended the season of a starter in KU's front seven.

"Isi Holani, unfortunately his injury is going to be a season-ending injury," said KU coach David Beaty. "He injured his knee in the game a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately he's not going to be available for the rest of the year."

The silver lining, Beaty noted, is fairly obvious.

Holani will get the chance to return for a redshirt senior season in 2018 and should help mitigate the void left by the potential early departures of Daniel Wise and Dorance Armstrong. But there's also the other side.

Holani, along with J.J. Holmes, impressed the coaches throughout the fall. So much so, in fact, that it helped afford KU the luxury to shift the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Wise to the outside of the line on occasion, creating a rather physically imposing defensive line configuration.

"I thought it was going to be a really big year for (Holani)," Beaty said.

But while KU won't be able to go with that specific pairing anymore, Beaty seems confident others can step up.

At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, the coach mentioned Jacky Dezir, DeeIsaac Davis and, of course, Holmes and Wise as the players that could continue to fill in on the inside.

"In a lot of years, boy, (it'd) really devastate you, really devastate you," Beaty said. "Luckily, fortunately, we actually have some depth at the D-tackle area."

It hasn't played out quite as well so far.

The Good

Even though the numbers haven't been pretty, the KU defensive line has had its moments. Just look at this series from Week 3.

Wise and Armstrong are the edge rushers, while Dezir and Holmes are slotted inside. As the play progresses, both Ohio's left guard and tackle focus on Holmes and the right guard tries to pull around the line and block Armstrong.

Instead, Armstrong singlehandedly blows up the play.


Even though the running back was trying to get outside on the counter, Armstrong’s quick step inside forced the right guard to try and come back and grab him. That opened up space for Joe Dineen to burst past the line of scrimmage and ultimately chase Dorian Brown down from behind.

The whole back end of the KU defense actually does a pretty solid job of staying disciplined, too. Tyrone Miller Jr., Mike Lee and Shakial Taylor are all around where Brown is taken out of bounds.

And that discipline continued into second down.


The defensive line configuration is the same here, and the play is simple enough. It’s an option, so the quarterback can hand the ball off to the running back or keep it himself if nothing opens up.

Unsurprisingly, Wise garners a ton of attention at the edge rusher spot. Two Ohio linemen come over and basically hug him to keep him from being involved in the play. Dezir and Holmes do a solid job maintaining the line of scrimmage and not getting pushed back and linebacker Osaze Ogbebor fills the remaining space up front.

Since there’s no hole for the running back, quarterback Nathan Rourke has to keep the ball. On the other side of the line, Dorance Armstrong and Joe Dineen are waiting to bring him down for a loss.

"Me and Daniel, we've been together since the start of this thing," Armstrong said. "The more comfortable you are with somebody, the more trust you have in them. And there's no doubt that I really trust Daniel."

And it doesn’t work without that trust.

The very next play, KU shifts its alignment, moving Wise to the inside of the line and swapping Dezir out for Josh Ehambe.

The Jayhawks blitz, but the Bobcats actually have more blockers (seven) than the Jayhawks do pass rushers (six).


The extra blocker on the right side of the offensive line does a decent job trying to help block Wise while forcing Ogbebor to the outside, but once he commits, Wise is left one-on-one with the right tackle, who he blows by.

In the meantime, Ehambe draws the attention of the right guard and Holmes plows his way through a double-team, setting up what happens next.

Wise is first into the backfield, forcing Rourke to step up in the pocket as he applies pressure. Holmes comes away with the sack, and even if he hadn't, Ehambe was there to finish off the play.


Simple enough... at least in theory.

The Bad

Not all of the Ohio touchdowns were on the KU defensive line. The secondary was picked apart by Ohio's quarterbacks, and even when KU was able to dial up the pressure, it only took a second or two for the ball to come out.

Still, KU was in the game in the third quarter. After cutting the lead to 11, the Jayhawks had the chance to hold the Ohio defense to a field goal, but needed to come up with a stand as the Bobcats had the ball at the eight-yard line.

Holmes wasn't in on the first-down play and Holani wasn't available for the game, so Davis and Dezir were the two interior linemen. It didn't go so well.


The line did an OK job of not getting pushed back, but there was no penetration or disruption or any sort of resistance to keep Ohio’s A.J. Ouellette from running from the right hashmark at the 10-yard line to the corner of the endzone on the opposite side of the field untouched.

This play didn't fall on any one player, but if Davis was able to push his man back at all, Ouellette would've had to take a wider route and Lee would've had the chance to catch him near the line of scrimmage.

The same goes for Wise, but with the tight end having the sole job to keep him inside, it really fell on Davis to win that one-on-one matchup enough for someone else to come in and make the tackle.

Here’s an example of what it might have looked like if he had.


In this play from the season opener against SEMO, Wise and Armstrong are the edge rushers with Holani and Holmes on the inside.

From the snap, Holani shoves the right guard deep into the backfield and actually into the path of both the running back and his lead blocker, tight end Logan Larson.

"Isi is a guy that you'd love to have there because he's a big A-gap body," Beaty said. "You like to have that big old rear-end right there in that A-gap and it's hard to move."

Because of the narrow running lane, Larson isn't able to get a solid block on Joe Dineen, and Dineen instead drives him back into the path of the running back. From there, Lee comes up to the line of scrimmage and makes the tackle.

Things worked just as smoothly on the next play.


The configuration here is a little different. Armstrong and Ehambe are the edge rushers, while Wise joins Holani on the inside.

Holani doesn't blow things up by himself, but he is able to shove the guard back a couple steps. Armstrong does his part, getting in the way in case the running back tries to bounce outside and Wise finishes the play off.


Now, it's worth pointing out the level of competition has gone up since Week 1. But KU hasn't been able to get that same level of penetration consistently against MAC opponents, and that doesn't bode well as things figure to get even tougher with the start of Big 12 play looming.

If things don't improve, it may end up costing the Jayhawks' one of their best defensive assets.

Wise's versatility filling in at different spots on the defensive line has been a wrinkle that has aided the pass run and earned him some early honors as well. Pro Football Talk named him to the Big 12 team of the week with a grade of 86.1 against Ohio.

But while Wise's speed and track background — "I've never seen a guy with his body size be able to move as fast and as quick as he does," Armstrong said — creates problems for opponents, KU may be forced to keep him inside if the defensive tackles behind Holmes can't step up.

That being said, the coaches maintained their confidence in the line throughout the week, even if, as defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said, Holani has left a big void to fill.

"It definitely does hurt. Isi was doing some really good things for us and allowed us another big body in the middle. And he was playing well," Bowen said. "The combination of him and J.J. in the middle was something that we were excited about doing and keeping Daniel on the end and having that bigger package.

"There are some other guys that just have to step up and replace those reps."


He Will, He Won’t, He Might 2017: Svi Mykhailiuk

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a shot over Iowa State guard Matt Thomas (21) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a shot over Iowa State guard Matt Thomas (21) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Despite still being younger than most players on his team, sharp-shooter Svi Mykhailiuk enters his final season as a Jayhawk with a huge opportunity and plenty of motivation.

Leaving his name in the 2017 NBA draft pool until the last possible minute to pull it out, the Ukrainian guard who has improved ever so slightly during each of his three years in Lawrence will be looking to make one final jump this season, one he hopes will both help KU and impress pro scouts.

For the second year in a row, Mykhailiuk spent a good chunk of the summer playing back home with the Ukrainian national team and KU coach Bill Self said he thought the experience was good for his 2016-17 starter in that it allowed him to assert himself more and play a much different role than he has at Kansas.

Whether that carries over to his senior season with KU remains to be seen. Let’s take a look at what we can expect.

He Will: Finally look fully comfortable with his role

This one goes well beyond Mykhailiuk playing a primary role with his national team this summer and speaks more to what we saw from him in Italy.

Despite being away from his teammates and coaches for several weeks, Svi looked cool, calm and collected and like a bona fide leader when he rejoined the team during its exhibition trip to Italy in ealry August.

It’s possible that comfort level came from it being a handful of summer scrimmages on foreign soil. But it sure looked more like Svi was ready to assert himself on this team and take on the leadership role alongside Devonte’ Graham.

If he does, that should only make him more comfortable all over the floor and throughout the season, a fact that would likely lead to his best season as a Jayhawk.

He Won’t: Experience a significant drop-off from 3-point land

One of the things pro scouts said they want to see more from Mykhailiuk is a willingness to be more than just a lights-out spot-up shooter.

While driving the ball to the rim, flashing a strong pull-up game and getting to the free throw line while also improving his defense would all be signs of that, don’t expect Svi’s emphasis on impressing scouts to cut into his importance as a knock-down jump shooter.

With KU’s wide-open, fast-paced, guard-heavy style of play expected to remain for the upcoming season, Mykhailiuk, along with teammates Graham, Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman all will have the luxury of spacing the floor and catching kick-outs from driving teammates for wide open jumpers.

It’s possible that Mykhailiuk’s total number 3-pointers made and attempted might take a small dip during the 2017-18 season. But due to the fact that most of those shots figure to be wide open looks, I wouldn’t expect to see Svi’s 3-point percentage fall much, if any.

A career .381 percent 3-point shooter at Kansas, Mykhailiuk has finished each of the past two seasons above that mark, shooting .402 in 2015-16 and .398 a season ago.

He made 70 of 176 3-pointers last season and 37 of 92 the year before.

The guess here is that he’ll fall somewhere in the middle of that this season, perhaps knocking down 55-60 of 145-160 attempts.

He Might: Make himself a first-round draft pick

At the start of the 2017 offseason, just after the NCAA Tournament ended, Mykhailiuk was spotted as a late first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on a couple of mainstream mock drafts.

Today, on ESPN writer Jonathan Givony’s most recently updated mock draft, dated in late August, Svi sits as the 33rd player selected, with the third pick of the second round.

If that’s anywhere close to reality — and Givony’s been doing this a long time and is usually pretty locked in — the idea that Svi could move up four or five spots to crack the first round is not that crazy.

He’ll have to do all of those things scouts told him they’d like to see. He’ll have to do them consistently. And he’ll have to do them without other parts of his game suffering as a result. But if he does, given his size, shooting ability, age and versatility, it’s easy to see Svi as a late first-round pick next summer.

He Will, He Won't, He Might 2017:

Part I: • Devonte' Graham

Part II: • Lagerald Vick


How much longer will Bill Self coach?

Kansas head coach Bill Self slaps hands with fans after the Jayhawks' 89-71 win over Davidson, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self slaps hands with fans after the Jayhawks' 89-71 win over Davidson, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

In a Wednesday interview with ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self shed a sliver of light on just how much longer he might like to coach.

Brace yourselves, Kansas fans. Self’s answer was not, “forever.”

Self, who will turn 55 in late December, often has shared the feeling that he is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of coaches like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (72), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (70) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (67), all of whom are still going strong at or near the age of 70.

“I’ve said all along that if I could go to my late 50s, that’d be good for me,” Self told Medcalf on Wednesday. “Now that I'm getting close to my late 50s, I’m like, ‘Well ... ,’ but my contract runs until I’m 59, so I’ve got five more years left. I definitely want to do that. Then whatever happens after that I’d be happy with whatever.”

Self’s current contract, which was extended by four years back in 2012, runs through the 2021-22 season. And, at this point, 60 fast-approaching or not, it’s hard to imagine Self hanging it up then.

Self carries himself today with as much charm and charisma as he did the day he arrived at Kansas and operates, acts and looks a lot more like a coach in his 40s than one talking about turning 60. That’s with players, fans, colleagues and, perhaps most importantly, recruits.

Medcalf’s story also quoted Self as saying that the never-ending world of modern recruiting, “just wears you down,” and it’s certainly understandable that a life that does not involve tracking every move of young ballplayers from the time they’re 14 or 15 years old through the day they announce their college of choice would be appealing to Self and dozens of other coaches in similar positions.

Still, as things stand today, it sure seems like there’s a lot for Self still to accomplish before he hangs up his whistle.

Don’t mistake that for more to prove. There really isn’t much for Self still to prove.

He already has a national title; — though one or six more of those surely would please both him and the rabid Kansas fan base — the Big 12 Conference title streak already is the longest in the history of the game and Self is the only coach to have racked up that many consecutive conference titles all on his watch; he recently was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; and his trophy case is full of a variety of coach of the year hardware.

While those credentials, and many more, were what earned Self his rightful spot in the Hall of Fame this year and a permanent place in the hearts of Kansas fans forever, it really does seem as if Self is simply getting better with age. Say what you will about his record in Elite Eight games — 2-7 all-time, 2-5 at Kansas and 0-2 in the past two seasons — you just don’t see the kind of elite-level consistency that Self’s Kansas teams have produced pretty much anywhere else.

That’s what makes that five-year time frame he talked about so hard to imagine.

Self’s coaching career began in 1993, at the age of 30, when he took over the Oral Roberts program after several years as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. When he was a junior in high school back in Oklahoma, he told his father, Bill Self, Sr., that he would become a college head coach by age 30 and, after achieving that goal — “That was just unbelievable to me,” Bill Self Sr., recently told the Journal-World — Self moved forward with a career that has been turning heads and accomplishing goals — big time, lofty, next-level goals — ever since.

He picked up his 100th victory while at Tulsa in 1999, grabbed win No. 200 just four years after that, during his final season at Illinois and snagged his 300th win during his fourth season at KU.

Since then, Self has been on pace to eclipse a major milestone victory about every three years, with No. 400 coming in 2010, No. 500 coming in 2013 and No. 600 coming last December. Self ended the 2016-17 season with 623 career victories, giving him an impressive average of 26 wins per season during his 24 seasons as a head coach, a number that, somehow, rises to an eye-popping 30 wins a year during his 14 seasons at Kansas.

Who knows how many more wins or seasons Self will actually coach? While records and milestones are as appealing to him as the next guy, you just don’t get the sense that those things really matter that much unless you’re talking about the milestones that come with a net and a trophy on the final Monday of each college basketball season.

Given the fact that Boeheim and Coach K (both already over 1,000 career victories) are still coaching and winning, it’s hard to imagine Self one day climbing to the top of that list. But winning 800 games seems within reach, and, provided Rick Pitino (770), Bob Huggins (747) and John Calipari (694) all get there before him, Self would become just the 12th coach in NCAA Division I history to reach 800 wins.

Would a milestone like that be a good enough note on which to call it a career? Perhaps. Keep in mind that Self mentor and close friend, Eddie Sutton, guided his teams to 806 victories during his remarkable career. Wouldn’t there be something special about Self tying that mark or, in true Self fashion, perhaps finishing right behind Sutton at 805?

Regardless of whether Self goes to the end of his current contract and hangs ’em up or gets to that point and decides he wants to coach another 5 or even 10 years, one thing is certain: He’s definitely the kind of guy who would (a) want to walk away with a lot of good years of living still ahead of him, and (b) would have the discipline to say he’s done and then actually call it a career.

LISTEN: Our latest KU Sports Hour podcast explores a number of "What If" scenarios surrounding recent Kansas basketball history...


Say What? Tait’s weekly appearance on Rock Chalk Sports Talk


National championship chatter already audible in KU camp

Kansas guards Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and Devonte' Graham (4) make conversation during the second half, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guards Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and Devonte' Graham (4) make conversation during the second half, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

As many of you probably know, the Kansas men’s basketball team often breaks down the end of each practice with a simple and strong chant of “Big 12 champs.”

For the past 13 seasons (and counting), that target goal has proven profitable, with the Jayhawks winning a record-tying 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles and currently beginning the early tune-ups to gun for No. 14 and the record all to themselves during the upcoming 2017-18 season.

The theory within the program always has and continues to go something like this: Win the Big 12 and you’ll position yourselves well to achieve all of the goals that follow — No. 1 seed, Final Four, national championship.

Obviously, that last part is always the goal for the Jayhawks. And, at a place like Kansas, it’s often a realistic goal. But it’s not always openly talked about before and during the season. Again, the idea is for the team to take care of the games that are right in front of them and attack the postseason when they get there.

This year, however, things might be a little different.

Speaking with reporters Monday afternoon, after Day 1 of the Jayhawks’ annual boot camp conditioning session, senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk uttered those very words — national championship — on two separate occasions in six minutes.

“The main goal is to win a national championship,” answered Mykhailiuk when asked if he had any goals for the upcoming season. “That’s what we’re trying to do every year, and to win the Big 12.”

When informed that the question was about his own personal goals, the Ukrainian senior obliged and simply said, “Just to improve everything and be a better player and a teammate.”

That was the second reference. The first came when he was asked about Day 1 of boot camp and just how difficult it was this time around, the fourth such boot camp battle for Mykhailiuk.

His answer again pointed to the team first and the gains the group was getting from going through Self’s vicious two-week boot camp.

“It’s getting us better so it doesn’t matter what we’re doing,” he said. “In the long run, it’s going to help us win a national championship, the Big 12, anything we’re gonna win if we want to win.”

While the lofty goal of winning it all and bringing another banner back to Allen Fieldhouse hardly comes as a surprise, it is noteworthy that Mykhailiuk was so open in talking about it. The reason for that seemed simple enough and also was addressed by the senior guard.

“We talk about it,” he said. “The past two years we were pretty close to the Final Four. This year, we just gotta get there. We were one step away (the past two seasons) and we felt like we should’ve been there, but we didn’t make it for some reason.”

Mykhailiuk's brief mentions of a national championship likely do not signify a change in philosophy for the Kansas program. This team, no doubt, will still continue to emphasize taking care of business in the Big 12 and will probably continue to break down the end of practices with that "Big 12 champs" call.

That's just the way the program does things and that's the way the program will continue to do things as long as Bill Self is the man in charge.

But that doesn't mean the seniors and other players who might feel as if the upcoming season is their final shot at the big prize aren't thinking bigger, even if it is for just a few minutes in mid-September. And that, too, makes perfect sense. After all, winning it all is the ultimate goal for every team out there and spending at least some time thinking about it and pursuing it as a goal is human nature.

Whether the Jayhawks make it to the Final Four (and perhaps beyond) this season remains to be seen. But I’m sure more than a few folks out there already have imagined how cool it would be for the 2017-18 Jayhawks to honor the 10-year anniversary of KU’s most recent national championship team by returning to San Antonio, the scene of the 2007-08 squad’s finest achievements, for the 2018 Final Four.

None by Kansas Basketball


He Will, He Won’t, He Might 2017: Lagerald Vick

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

When Lagerald Vick first showed up on the KU campus, he was viewed as a solid pick-up but not a star, a player the Kansas basketball program would be happy to have in three or four years.

Well, Year 3 for Vick has arrived, and I think fans, teammates and coaches would agree that the appreciation for Vick surfaced long before now.

Regarded by Kansas coach Bill Self as the best on this year’s team at turning the corner and driving to the basket, Vick could — and probably should — play by far his biggest role since coming to Lawrence.

Add to that the fact that his confidence continues to grow by the day and you’re looking at a Jayhawk poised for a breakout season.

He Will: Start every game this season as long as he’s healthy

During the 2016-17 season, Vick made just six starts in 36 games. Most of them came early and one of them came when Josh Jackson was suspended during the Big 12 tournament.

Most of the non-Vick starts went to Svi Mykhailiuk and a lot of people believe that Mykhailiuk is poised to keep his starting spot for the 2017-18 season. So how, then, could Vick be in the starting lineup this season? There are two paths, either of which I believe is very possible.

Path 1: Vick starts alongside Svi and the Jayhawks, as they did a season ago, play small and fast with Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Svi and Vick joining Udoka Azubuike in the starting lineup. This option was solidified — if not born — in Italy, where the Jayhawks used this lineup early and often, both with Azubuike on the floor and during the two games he missed due to illness.

Path 2: Vick supplants Svi as a starter and the two merely switch roles. In order for this to happen, either Billy Preston or Mitch Lightfoot is going to have to make a huge jump between now and the start of the season. Both are bigger bodies and good athletes who would fit naturally in that four position. But neither has the experience, explosiveness or scoring ability of Vick or Svi. If one of them makes the jump, though, and Self finds himself picking between Svi or Vick, I think he goes with the driving ability, length and superior defense of Vick and uses Svi for instant offense off the bench.

The smart money, however, says both start and both play a ton of minutes.

He Won’t: Settle for as many 3-point shots as he did during the 2016-17 season

As mentioned above, Vick is likely the best player on this KU team at getting to the rim. He’s comfortable handling the ball, likes to turn the corner and is not shy when he gets into the paint.

Because of that, I think you’ll see him look to attack a lot more than he did a season ago, when Josh Jackson and Frank Mason III had the green light to go to the rim long before Vick.

Last season, 42 percent of Vick’s shot attempts (92 of 219) were 3-pointers and he hit 37 percent of those. Look for the number of shot attempts to go up, perhaps topping 300, but for the Memphis junior to fire up fewer 3-pointers than he did a season ago, when he benefitted greatly from waiting on the wing for Jackson or Mason to kick it out to him for open jumpers.

If Vick shoots 300 times this season — and, let’s face it, that’s entirely possible given the fact that the Jayhawks will be missing 821 shot attempts by Mason and Jackson and Newman and Graham can’t take them all — then I’d bet that 100 of them (33 percent) come from behind the 3-point line and the rest are transition buckets or drives to the rim.

He Might: Be one of the most underrated players in the country

At 6-foot-5, 175 pounds and bubbling with athleticism, Vick is the kind of athlete who many teams would love to have.

Add to that fact the reality that he actually has some pretty good skills — solid shooter, above-average defender, good handles — and you’re looking at a guy who can flat out play.

The Kansas coaches know that and many in the Big 12 know that, as well. But I’m not yet sure the rest of the country knows that.

When people think Kansas, they think Bill Self, they’re talking about Devonte’ Graham and one-and-dones and, this year, they’re talking about high-profile transfers like Malik Newman and the Lawson brothers waiting in the wings.

Vick is not a focal point for most people and, therefore, he’s flying in the shadows a little bit. That kind of anonymity is a nice place to exceed expectations. And the real answer to this claim will come in the results. Can Vick continue to produce solid numbers and perhaps take his production to another level as a bigger part of the program with more eyes on him?

If the answer is yes, he won’t be underrated or overlooked for much longer.

He Will, He Won't, He Might 2017:

Part I: • Devonte' Graham


Former Jayhawk Brandon Rush eyeing roster spot with Milwaukee

Minnesota Timberwolves' Brandon Rush plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves' Brandon Rush plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Priority Sports, the agency that represents him, said Monday that former Kansas guard Brandon Rush has joined the Milwaukee Bucks, his fifth team in a 10-year NBA career.

But there appears to be at least a little ways to go before the Kansas City native slaps on Milwaukee green.

According to a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Bucks currently have 15 players on their roster, which is one more than the maximum number allowed by NBA rules. In order to make room for Rush the team either will have to move a player or two or is planning to give Rush a training camp deal which would allow him to compete for a spot.

If the latter is the direction the former Jayhawk has to go, it will be interesting to see how things play out.

Given his nine years of in the league with four NBA teams — including Golden State, with which he won an NBA title ring and Minnesota last season — Rush (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) would have the experience edge over young guns like Gary Payton II (6-3, 190), Rashad Vaughn (6-6, 202), Bronson Koenig (6-4, 193) and rookie Sterling Brown (6-5, 225).

But his career averages of 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 22 minutes per game paint his as a deep reserve and strictly a role player. While there is a place for a player like Rush on just about any roster — given his defensive ability, athleticism, experience and ability to shoot — it's entirely possible that the Bucks would favor any one of those younger options instead of Rush.

Still, the fact that his agents identified Milwaukee as a good spot for his next move would seem to indicate that there is at least something to like about the situation.

Rush, who had his jersey retired at KU last season, played in 47 games and made 33 starts for the Timberwolves last season. The 33 starts were the second most of his career and his 21.9 minutes per game were the most since he averaged 26 minutes per game during the 2011-12 season in Golden State.

Those numbers point to there still being a valuable place in the league for the veteran. But, at this point in his career, that place is likely the most important part of the puzzle. Finding a spot where the franchise appreciates and can utilize Rush's experience and skills is crucial. If they're able to locate it — whether it's Milwaukee or elsewhere — the former Jayhawk could likely play another 4 or 5 seasons.


He Will, He Won’t, He Might 2017: Devonte’ Graham

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) celebrates the Jayhawks' 84-80 win over West Virginia, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) celebrates the Jayhawks' 84-80 win over West Virginia, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

With the official start of the 2017-18 Kansas basketball season now just a couple of weeks away — Late Night is set for Sept. 30 and the exhibition opener is slated for Oct. 31 — it’s time to dive into the second year of our He Will, He Won’t, He Might series.

As you might remember — or may have guessed if you don’t — the series takes a quick look at every KU player and takes a stab at three predictions for that player for the upcoming season.

Last year was my first year doing this, and, after looking back at the 2016-17 “He Will, He Won’t, He Might” predictions, I have to admit I was fairly impressed with how I did.

From predicting that Frank Mason III would land on the all-Big 12 first team for the first time and that 3-point shooting would not be a strength of Josh Jackson’s to the fact that Carlton Bragg Jr. would leave Kansas (OK, I may have missed this one and said “He Might” leave KU to become a lottery pick), most of the guesses were either right on or at least in the ballpark.

With a 2017-18 roster that features enough returners mixed with a couple of newcomers, let’s see if this year’s effort can be anywhere close to as good.

Up first: Senior point guard Devonte’ Graham.

He Will: Continue to look to get others involved before looking for his shot.

Although Graham has proven he is more than capable as a scorer, both he and his team often have been at their best when he has thought pass-first and score second.

Part of the reason for that is, when Graham is a threat to do more than just shoot, defenders have to respect that and can not just crowd him on the catch. Beyond that, Graham has great vision, is a naturally unselfish player and likes to see his teammates succeed as much as himself.

That mentality forces defenses to account for every corner of the floor and that often leaves Graham open on the back end of things for good looks from 3-point range that, at least to date, he has knocked down more than 40 percent of the time.

The whole thing falls into the old adage of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and, while Graham will look to emulate former running mate Frank Mason III in some areas, it won’t necessarily be as a scorer.

He Won’t: Have the year that Frank Mason III had in 2016-17.

This one ties into the first one, but it’s not because Graham isn’t talented enough to deliver a big season. He is. And he might. But if he does it won’t look the same as Mason’s national player of the year campaign a season ago. Here’s why.

For starters, Graham is not the same kind of player as Mason. How many times, late in the shot clock, did you see Mason put his head down and drive to the rim, either to get to the free throw line or finish in traffic when the Jayhawks’ offense broke down? A ton. Graham is not as likely to do that and does not have the same physical advantages that allowed Mason to succeed in that area.

So fewer trips to the free throw line and fewer points in the paint means fewer points overall. So don’t expect Graham to approach the 20 points per game average that Mason delivered last season.

He Might: Average more assists than Mason while averaging fewer points at the same time.

Seeing how the first two tied together, we might as well tie the last one to those two, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that it is.

If Graham scores less than Mason but continues to look to set up others for easy buckets at the same time, it only makes sense to think that Graham’s assist total could be higher.

For his career, Graham is averaging 3.4 assists per game in 103 games. I’m not sure if doubling that number during his senior season will happen, but I do think it’s possible. And if he’s able to, Graham would absolutely be in line for a first team, all-Big 12 type of season and possibly a Big 12 player of the year nod.

Just don’t expect him to parlay that into sweeping the national player of the year honors like Mason did and don’t count on Graham delivering Mason’s total of 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

Something like 14 points, 3 rebounds and 6-7 assists seems more likely and would be a solid, albeit completely different, season unto itself.


Mitchell Robinson leaving Western Kentucky again (Don’t worry, not for Kansas)

Big East's Mitchell Robinson (22) blocks the shot of Big West's Brandon L. McCoy (44) as Jaren Jackson Jr., left, and Brian "Tugs" Bowen II, watch during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in Chicago. The West team won 109-107. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Big East's Mitchell Robinson (22) blocks the shot of Big West's Brandon L. McCoy (44) as Jaren Jackson Jr., left, and Brian "Tugs" Bowen II, watch during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game Wednesday, March 29, 2017, in Chicago. The West team won 109-107. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) by Matt Tait

I know no one really cares at this point. And I’m not sure anyone should.

But since I wrote roughly 3,543,267 words about him this summer and most of you read every one, I felt compelled to put a neat and tidy bow on the mess that is Mitchell Robinson.

Surely, you remember the name.

If not, here’s a brief recap: McDonald’s All-American and Top 10 player in the 2017 class who committed to Western Kentucky only to leave Western Kentucky after his godfather left the coaching staff. He had already committed to Texas A&M before that but followed A&M assistant Rick Stansbury to WKU when Stansbury got the job.

After asking for his release after his godfather left, Robinson visited LSU only to have them back off. Then visited Kansas only to have them back off. And also visited the University of New Orleans during that time. Two of the three were close to his hometown in Louisiana so that made sense and, well, Kansas is Kansas.

But after all of that, after dragging out his visits and his decision and flirting with the idea of going overseas or sitting out the season entirely to prepare for the 2018 NBA Draft, Robinson went back to Western Kentucky, where he knew with 100 percent certainty that he would be eligible to play.

That is, until he didn’t.

Sunday afternoon, the 7-foot projected lottery pick told Evan Daniels of Scout.com that he was starting the whole thing over again.

OK. That might not be exactly what he said. And, hopefully for everyone’s sake, he’s not going to go through something as wild and crazy as his wishy washy summer. But he is leaving WKU for the second time.

“I’ve decided to leave Western Kentucky and just focus on next year’s NBA Draft,” Robinson told Daniels. “I want to thank Western Kentucky, the coaching staff, the fans and my teammates, but I decided to pursue a professional career.”

Added Robinson’s mother: “He’s strictly focusing on training in Dallas. He has another plan and it’s training.”

I won’t bore you with the why or the how or even the huh? of all of this.

It just seemed like a travesty for those of you who wasted so much time reading up on Robinson’s decision(s) to not know how things ended up.

For now.

“The lifetime goal of mine is to play in the NBA and I feel like forgoing my year of college and going straight to work on a day to day basis will help prepare me, so I can focus just on basketball and maturing,” Robinson told Daniels. “I just want to get better and just grow as a person.”


Say What? Tait joins Midco Sports Network to recap Bill Self’s Hall of Fame induction


Getting to know: Ohio football

Ohio running back Dorian Brown (28) trudges through the Kansas defense for a first down during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Ohio running back Dorian Brown (28) trudges through the Kansas defense for a first down during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

After losing by multiple touchdowns last week, along with problems protecting the ball, the Kansas football team is hoping it can turn around its season Saturday in Athens, Ohio. On the other sideline, the Ohio Bobcats have the same thoughts.

“Ironically, I have a feeling both teams are going to be working on some of the very same stuff this week,” KU coach David Beaty said Tuesday.

The Bobcats (1-1) had a disastrous second quarter in a 44-21 road loss to Purdue last week. Their defense gave up 558 yards and allowed a few big plays.

Ohio was picked to win the East Division in the MAC preseason poll, but is adjusting to a pair of new quarterbacks and several new faces in big roles on defense.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) pulls in a touchdown catch past Ohio cornerback Jalen Fox (21) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) pulls in a touchdown catch past Ohio cornerback Jalen Fox (21) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug




The Bobcats are expected to mix two QBs against KU. Sophomore Nathan Rourke (6-2, 209), a transfer from Fort Scott CC, is a dual-threat signal caller. He’s completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 283 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. On the ground, Rourke has rushed for 86 yards and three scores on 15 attempts. Redshirt sophomore Quinton Maxwell (6-3, 224) is more of a pocket passer but has only completed 8 of his 15 attempts for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Maxwell started the first two games.

Running backs

A.J. Ouellette (5-9, 205) only played in one game last year before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc tear in his foot. The redshirt junior Ouellette, a former walk-on, has gained 101 yards through the first two games with one touchdown in 23 attempts. He was the team’s leading rusher in 2015. Freshman Julian Ross (5-9, 186) and senior Dorian Brown (5-11, 208) share the backfield with Ouellette. Ross, from Kansas City, Mo., has 82 yards and three scores on 20 carries. Brown had 122 yards against KU last year.


Even with two quarterbacks, the Bobcats feature a pair of big-play threat receivers in junior Papi White (5-9, 168) and freshman Cameron Odom (6-1, 188). White, who previously played running back, has 10 catches for 138 yards and one touchdown. He scored a rushing touchdown against Kansas last season. Odom has 121 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. No other receiver has more than three catches through the first two games.

Offensive line

Ohio returned three starters on the offensive line: junior left tackle Joe Lowery (6-7, 305), center senior Jake Pruehs (6-1, 316) and senior right guard Durrell Wood (6-3, 294). Pruehs, a third-team all-MAC pick last year, has landed on a couple of preseason watch lists. Junior left guard Joe Anderson (6-6, 340) and senior right tackle Jared McCray (6-5, 340) fill out the rest of the line.

Ohio safety Mayne Williams gets upended by teammate  Kylan Nelson (23) after intercepting Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis on the Jayhawks' final drive on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. At right is Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11).

Ohio safety Mayne Williams gets upended by teammate Kylan Nelson (23) after intercepting Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis on the Jayhawks' final drive on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. At right is Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11). by Nick Krug


Defensive line

Ohio’s defensive line set a school record with 44 sacks last year and ranked fifth nationally against the run. Some players in the current group made spot starts last year, including defensive tackle Tony Porter (6-1, 278), nose tackle Cleon Aloese (6-0, 295) and defensive end Kevin Robbins (6-4, 250). Porter and Robbins have both recorded 0.5 sacks through the first two games. Senior defensive end Trent Smart (6-4, 260) is another starter.


One of the most experienced position groups, the Bobcats returned all two of their linebackers: MLB Quentin Poling (6-0, 235) and strong side linebacker Chad Moore (6-0, 222). Poling was a first-team all-MAC selection last season and he’s recorded eight tackles (one for loss) and one pass breakup in the first two games. Moore is third on the team with nine tackles. Weakside linebacker Evan Croutch (6-0, 227) leads Ohio with 11 tackles and two sacks.


The Bobcats gave up several big plays through the air in their loss to Purdue last week. Cornerbacks Bradd Ellis (5-10, 177) and Jalen Fox (5-11, 186) both played a little bit last year, but are essentially new starters. Free safety Kylan Nelson (5-10, 192), a returning starter, has seven tackles and one pass breakup. Strong safety Javon Hagan (6-0, 207) started seven games last season and has recorded six tackles through the first two weeks.


Sophomore kicker Louie Zervos earned freshman All-America honors last season, setting an NCAA freshman record with 29 made field goals. His career long is 51 yards, but he’s only attempted a 38-yarder this season. Punter Michael Farkas has averaged 38.6 yards per punt, downing five of his eight punts inside of the opponent’s 20. Papi White returns punts, while Kylan Nelson is the team’s leading kick returner.


Solich, in his 13th season, is the third-longest tenured head coach in the NCAA behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and TCU’s Gary Patterson. Solich owns a 7-0 record vs. Kansas.


Ohio by 7.5. The over/under is set at 58.5.

After KU’s loss against Central Michigan last week, the Jayhawks likely won’t be favored for the remainder of the season. But Saturday’s game against Ohio is one of their more winnable games on the road.

A key will be Ohio’s rushing attack, which had some success against Purdue, against the Jayhawks. Ohio ran for 329 yards versus KU last year.


Hakeem Adeniji on KU’s offensive line issues: ‘It’s all correctable’

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) passes while under pressure from the CMU defense during the Jayhawks game against Central Michigan Saturday, Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) passes while under pressure from the CMU defense during the Jayhawks game against Central Michigan Saturday, Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium. by Mike Yoder

For the Kansas football team to take the next step on offense, it will likely start with an improvement on the offensive line. In last week’s loss to Central Michigan, there were too many pass protection breakdowns and busted plays to consistently move the ball down the field.

After watching film, KU sophomore left tackle Hakeem Adeniji said there were “spurts” of good plays by the offensive line, but it wasn’t as consistent as the Jayhawks wanted.

“I think for sure it’s all correctable,” Adeniji said. “I think we have a good group of guys. I think we have a great coach. I think it’s all about just putting that together.”

KU sophomore right tackle Antione Frazier had a particularly rough outing, committing a false start when the Jayhawks had second-and-goal from the 1-yard line and other problems in pass protection.

Adeniji said the false start near the goal line are the type of plays that “you can’t make,” but he trusts Frazier will only grow from the experience. Adeniji added that he wants to take Frazier under his wing.

“You pat him on the back and you tell him to keep going,” Adeniji said. “That’s Antione’s second start and we know he’s going to make mistakes. I trust him and I’m going to keep working with him. More than just a teammate, that’s family to me. We know how talented he is and what he can do, so we’re just going to keep on pushing until he gets to that point.”

Frazier and freshman right guard Chris Hughes, who redshirted last season, are brand new to the offensive line and had trouble keeping the pocket clean for quarterback Peyton Bender.

Adeniji said one of the big keys for the offensive line is doing a better job of blocking on first and second downs. Against Central Michigan, the Jayhawks were 5 of 18 on third downs (28 percent). That included a 1-of-8 mark when KU had 3rd-and-9 or longer.

“Obviously we have a lot of young guys, especially on the right side of the O-line,” Adeniji said. “It’s probably going to take them a little time to get to the flow of things, but I trust they can do it, for sure.”

In the run game, Adeniji thought the offensive line made some strides from Week 1 to Week 2. The Jayhawks averaged 4.3 yards per rush on 34 carries, including four runs longer than 10 yards.

But the Jayhawks (1-1) did have some problems turning their long drives into touchdowns. Three possessions inside of the red zone ended in field goal attempts.

“The biggest part of it is staying mentally composed throughout the whole game,” Adeniji said. “I feel like we had spurts here and there where we did a good job, but we didn’t do a great job of keeping it consistent the whole game. I think being a leader of the O-line, I have to do a better a job of keeping our guys on the right track.”

Heading into Saturday’s matchup against Ohio, Adeniji said he’s seen KU players focus more in practice and film sessions, and he’s hopeful that will show up on the field. 

“Me personally, I never like to be embarrassed, you know,” Adeniji said. “I always want to go out there and do my thing. You have someone you don’t feel is capable and shouldn’t beat you like that, and they come into your home and do what they did, it just tunes you in. It makes you hungry for the next (game).”


In-home visit with 5-star PG Devon Dotson ‘great,’ according to Dotson’s father

Team Clutch''s Devon Dotson #0 in action against Team Drive in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 20, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Team Clutch''s Devon Dotson #0 in action against Team Drive in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 20, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) by Matt Tait

When it comes to talking to the media about their current teams, coaches, in all sports, often refrain from dealing in absolutes.

Kansas football coach David Beaty and his “earn it” philosophy is a great example, with nothing being promised to anyone and every player on his roster having to earn his spot day after day, week after week.

Even Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, whose roster always has both more talent and stability than Beaty’s, has been known to dabble in the art of the uncertainty, whether when discussing potential starting lineups or how he’ll divvy up the minutes between a trio of big men.

But when it comes to recruiting, things can get a lot more concrete in a hurry. And while it’s never the coaches who make it that way — for one, it’s against NCAA rules for them to comment on recruits and, for two, they likely wouldn’t change their approach anyway — their messages to recruits of all shapes, sizes and rankings often get out.

Take Class of 2018 point guard Devon Dotson, for example.

Fresh off an official visit to KU’s campus a couple of weeks ago, the five-star point guard from Charlotte hosted Kansas coach Bill Self and KU assistant Norm Roberts at his home last night, merely the latest in an incredibly busy week of in-home visits for the KU staff.

In addition to all of the regular stuff that he they found out about during Dotson's official visit to campus — from talk about academics and the support staff to questions about where they’ll live, what they’ll eat and how closely they’ll be monitored — the Dotson family, according to Dotson's father Dana, liked what they heard from Self and Roberts during the visit, which featured a series of follow-up questions and inquiries from the Dotson family.

“They believe he's the starting PG from day one,” Dana Dotson told Matt Scott of 247 Sports site TheShiver.com. “He stressed that over and over.”

A couple of things about that comment are important to remember.

First, it’s not a promise or a guarantee. You’ll notice that the father said, “They believe...” That does not mean they said, “We promise you he’ll start at point guard.” Instead, it means that based on the younger Dotson’s talent and skills and KU’s need at the position, the coaches think and hope that the young man, should he pick Kansas, would be a guy they could plug into the starting point guard role right away so long as he put in the work and picked up the system enough to handle the job. Pretty standard stuff, but still important to note.

Second, this is not a case of a coaching staff telling a kid and his family what they want to hear. Because of their blue blood status and all of the interest from so many of the top-ranked players in each class, the Kansas coaching staff does not have to operate that way. They can be — and always are — 100 percent up-front and honest, for better or worse, with these recruits during the entire process. Sometimes that honesty is exactly what an athlete and his family want and need to hear. Other times it has turned people off and left them looking to go in a different direction.

Which direction Dotson goes remains to be seen. But, between the official visit to Lawrence and the in-home visit Thursday night, the Jayhawks appear to be in as good a shape as anybody in their pursuit of the 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard who is ranked No. 17 nationally by Rivals.com.

“(It went) great,” Dana Dotson told Scott when asked about the visit. “Coach Self talked about why Kansas is the best fit for Devon. A lot of talk about the vision for Devon and what is, and should be, important for Devon and how Kansas fits those wants.”

Dotson and his family will visit Florida this weekend and many recruiting analysts believe the recruitment of the Charlotte point guard is down to a three-team race between KU, Florida and Maryland.


How KU football addresses one of its most glaring issues

Central Michigan defensive back Tyjuan Swain rips the ball away from Kansas receiver Quan Hampton for an interception on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Central Michigan defensive back Tyjuan Swain rips the ball away from Kansas receiver Quan Hampton for an interception on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. by Mike Yoder

It's no secret turnovers have been a massive issue for the Kansas football team. And it's been that way for quite some time.

The Jayhawks have held the regrettable distinctions of...

  • Leading all of FBS with 36 turnovers in 2016
  • Committing two or more turnovers in 16 straight games
  • Failing to win the turnover battle in each of their last nine road games

KU coach David Beaty has spoken at length about the turnover issues several times in the past.

He was asked about them again at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, and noted that while the road-losing streak, which sits at a whopping 41 games, has been out of his mind, the turnover issues certainly have not been.

"Well, I've said all the other things. I've already talked to you about every drill that could have been created. Anything that's ever been done, we've done, and we've done it twice on Sunday," Beaty said. "We've studied with the Cowboys, we've studied with the Rams, we've studied with Seattle. I mean, just everywhere we can go trying to prevent that, right? That's the death of you in a football program."

Putting aside the 22 interceptions Kansas threw last year — a mark that ranked 126th out of 128 teams — and the four that new quarterback Peyton Bender has already thrown this year — no quarterback in FBS has more — the 14 fumbles KU lost last season were a massive issue, and it's one the team has attempted to thwart with just about everything, even clothing.

"It's a lot more difficult than people think to keep that ball up high and tight. But it's a learned trait," Beaty said. "When we toss them a pair of socks, they've got to tuck it. Doesn't matter what we throw them, that thing better be tucked. Wrist has to be above the elbow, back nose has to be covered, and that front nose ought to be gripped. That ball never comes away."

As amusing as it might seem, the players have at least taken to the strategy.

Junior wideout Jeremiah Booker, one of the team's captains, says he understands the reasoning for the drill, which Beaty reminds the players of during every practice.

Booker has also caught himself practicing his ball security outside the football complex, namely when his instincts as an athlete start to take over.

"High and tight. It's with anything and everything, whether it's a pencil or something," Booker said. "When I'm relaxing, not really, but if I'm rushing to class, I catch myself like (clutching) my water bottle or something."

Fellow wideout Steven Sims, who was limited in the Jayhawks' last game with a right-ankle injury, is another who has taken to this strategy, though he's hardly been part of the problem.

Sims has been charged with one lost fumble some 20-plus games into his college career, which came on a late drive of a 43-7 blowout loss to Memphis back in 2016.

With the game already out of reach and KU having already committed five turnovers on the day, Sims caught a pass down the left sideline and dove for a first down. At the same time, a Memphis defender dove at Sims and managed to knock the ball loose about an instant before he hit the ground.


Regardless, Sims is as sure-handed as just about anyone on the team.

That's in part why he's back returning punts this year. LaQuvionte Gonzalez, who handled the punt return duties for much of 2016, is not back with the program, but he had already been removed from that spot on several occasions after a host of lost fumbles and muffed punts.

As for Sims, he takes ball security pretty seriously.

"Yeah they'll throw anything at you, a water bottle, anything they can find. You have to look it in and tuck it like it's a football," Sims said. "I'll always hold my imaginary ball. Like I'll be doing moves and things while I'm walking through a crowd. I'll be juking students and things like that. That's just how I am. I'm working on my game 24-7."


5-star SG Quentin Grimes on KU’s message: ‘They said they have to get me’

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

It’s been a wild week for the Kansas basketball coaching staff, with trips all over the country for in-home visits and check-ins with prospects in the Class of 2018 and beyond.

And while KU coach Bill Self and his staff clearly are used to the grind that is year-round recruiting, it’s also clear that they’re leaving little to chance with the current class, which Self, on numerous occasions, has said could be one of the most important classes in his 15 years at Kansas.

Take the case of Class of 2018 shooting guard Quentin Grimes, for example.

Grimes, the 6-foot-5, five-star prospect from The Woodlands, Texas, who has narrowed his list down to a final four of Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette and Texas, hosted all four schools for in-home visits this week and recently broke down those experiences with Eric Bossi of Rivals.com.

While it’s obvious that all four schools are very much still in the running — not to mention that they all can offer Grimes many of the same things in terms of playing time and on-court opportunities — it’s also clear that the constant connection between Grimes and the coaches and genuine relationships he has built with all four programs is what helped Grimes trim his list to these four.

It's hard to say exactly where each program stands after the in-home visits. Grimes had great things to say about all four programs and clearly has a great deal of respect for the coaches and the way each staff has recruited him thus far.

But a break down of the major selling point for each school in a couple of sentences looks something like this:

Kansas – The Jayhawks have been aggressive, flat-out telling Grimes they think he’s the best guard in the class and that they are not going to take no for an answer.

“They were real straight up and straightforward with me that I’m the best guard in the country,” Grimes told Bossi. “They basically told me that I have to sign with them.... They said they have to get me, they were very clear on that.”

Kentucky – Kentucky is really pushing their all-star roster and how that will help make him better. Grimes also noted that the Wildcats have “turned it up over the last month.”

“Their practices stand out because of all the other five-star players you go against and that you have to get better because of the competition,” Grimes told Bossi of the Wildcats. “They can help me reach my goals."

Marquette – For Marquette, it’s all about painting Grimes as the player who can put them over the top and get the program to the next level.

“During the previous visit in April they were consistent with the message that I’m the only guard they are recruiting and they showed that,” Grimes told Bossi. “They feel like I’m the missing piece to them making the next step and making a Final Four."

Texas – Shaka Smart is really emphasizing keeping Texas talent in Texas while also, like Kansas, pointing out that there’s a solid point-guard in waiting (KU’s Charlie Moore and UT’s Matt Coleman) with whom Grimes would fit perfectly.

“The uniqueness of knowing Matt Coleman and what he does and having a good relationship with him; he would be a sophomore and I would be a freshman and knowing him and that system could be an edge to set them apart,” Grimes told Bossi.

Self and assistant coach Jerrance Howard have handled the point on Grimes’ recruitment and, with official visits still to come, the Jayhawks have positioned themselves as well as possible with Grimes.

He has talked a lot about how someone from KU has contacted him pretty much every day of late and how the relationship aspect of his recruitment would play a huge role in his decision.

Grimes’ official visit dates are expected to be announced later this week and he is expected to make trips to all four of his finalists by the end of October.

As for when he might pick a program, the No. 11-ranked player in the 2018 class does not appear to interested in rushing a decision.

“Whenever the timing is right I will do it," Grimes told Bossi. “Waiting is an option. If I go take my visits and feel like I need to take unofficials and see them again I could do that. I’m not in a rush. Definitely the relationship with the coaches, I feel like that’s the most important thing. I'm going to have to be the coach on the court so I have to have a relationship with him because he’s expecting a lot and you have to be on the same page.”


Say What? Tait’s weekly appearance on Rock Chalk Sports Talk

• Recorded on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017


Zion Williamson to visit KU for Late Night

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

According to multiple reports that came in late Tuesday night, the Kansas men’s basketball coaching staff, which made an in-home visit with top-ranked Class of 2018 prospect Zion Williamson on Tuesday night, left Williamson’s South Carolina home with the knowledge that they’d see him again in a couple of weeks.

When that time comes, it will be on KU’s turf, as Williamson told Kansas coaches Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend that he planned to make an official visit to the KU campus the weekend of Late Night, which is slated for Sept. 30 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Williamson will be one of nearly two dozen official and unofficial visitors to make the trek to the Fieldhouse for the first official practice of the 2017-18 season later this month. Some of the notable attendees expected to visit for Late Night include: Jalen Carey (2018), David McCormack (2018), Zach Harvey (2019), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (2019), Malik Hall (2019), Samuell Williamson (2019), N'faly Dante (2020), Bryce Thompson (2020), R.J. Hampton (2020), Ty Berry (2020) and Markese Jacobs, the already-committed Class of 2019 point guard from Chicago.

As for Williamson, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound, do-it-all forward also has official visits set up at Kentucky (Sept. 22), Duke (Oct. 22) and UCLA (Oct. 27) and does not appear to have any desire to rush his decision.

“I said this before, but as far as lists and things like that I don’t see myself doing all that,” he wrote in a recent USA Today blog. “Once I feel like I’ve found the college and it feels right for me and my family I’m just gonna announce it. I don’t really have a timetable for my decision. It’s just whenever it feels right.”

Wherefore art thou?

Adam Zagoria, of zagsblog.com, reported on Tuesday afternoon that the KU coaching staff was expected to visit Class of 2018 shooting guard Romeo Langford at his school in New Albany, Indiana, on Thursday.

Langford, the No. 6-ranked player in the class according to Rivals.com, is a 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard who also is expected to host in-home visits with Louisville and UCLA later this week.

According to Zagoria, Indiana and Vanderbilt also visited Langford’s school this week. Also Thursday, KU has a scheduled in-home visit with five-star, Class of 2018 point guard Devon Dotson, who recently made an official visit to Lawrence.

2020 vision

It already has been a busy week for the Kansas coaching staff, which has made trips all over the country to check in with recruits and conduct in-home visits.

On Tuesday that included a quick stop in Little Elm, Texas, to watch a workout by R.J. Hampton, the No. 3 player in the Class of 2020 according to Rivals.com.

The 6-foot-4, 170-pound point guard on Tuesday Tweeted his thank-yous to coaching staffs from TCU, Texas, KU and Michigan for watching him and his team workout.

Hampton is one of more than a dozen underclassmen planning to make an unofficial visit to KU for Late Night in the Phog later this month.


Film Room: Breaking down key plays from KU’s loss to CMU

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) passes during the Jayhawks game against Central Michigan Saturday, Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) passes during the Jayhawks game against Central Michigan Saturday, Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium. by Mike Yoder

Throughout all of last season, the defense was the strength of the Kansas football team, usually by a large margin over the offense.

But when the offense scored two touchdowns at the beginning of the third quarter, giving the Jayhawks some life on their comeback bid, the defense gave up scores on CMU’s next three possessions.

As I introduced last week, this will be a weekly breakdown where we’ll take a look at a few plays that might not be included in the main highlights, but they had a big impact on the outcome of the game:

Shane Morris remains calm under pressure

The tide of momentum was starting to shift at the beginning of the third quarter Saturday, when the Jayhawks scored touchdowns on their first two possessions.

After watching their lead drop and a three-and-out punt to open the second half, the Chippewas needed a response. On 2nd-and-6 from their own 31-yard line, Central Michigan senior quarterback Shane Morris dropped back and immediately felt pressure from KU defensive tackle Isi Holani, who blew past sophomore offensive lineman Logan Slaughter.

Morris moved up in the pocket, slipping a potential sack from Holani, and kept his eyes downfield. With only a split-second to release the ball ahead of a charging Daniel Wise, Morris fired a pass toward his left and connected with senior receiver Corey Willis for a first down. Willis broke a tackle after his catch, pushing the ball all the way up to the 50-yard line.


If Holani or Wise complete the sack against Morris, the Chippewas are starting at 3rd-and-very-long deep into their own territory. If the Jayhawks force a punt, they have the ball with a chance to retake the lead.

Instead, Morris helps CMU finish the drive with a touchdown and the Jayhawks never were closer than 11 points for the remainder of the night.

CMU finds success on the same play

It was immediately noticed by Fox Sports Net’s broadcast crew of Brendan Burke and David Anderson, but the Chippewas scored two of their touchdowns in the second quarter on virtually the same play.

The play design was out of a four-receiver set. The inside slot receivers on both sides zag to the outside, while the outside receivers run to the inside, creating a twist. Many NFL teams use the play to set up picks, freeing a receiver if the referees don’t call offensive pass interference.

On the first touchdown, Morris finds Mark Chapman wide open for a 14-yard score once KU cornerback Derrick Neal is caught over the top of his coverage.


The second score was at the end of the first half, with only 11 seconds remaining at the 6-yard line. Neal takes a much quicker route to the ball, but he’s about one second late in trying to break up the pass to Willis, who reached out over the goal line.


“I don't think we did a very good job handling those twist routes down by the goal line,” Beaty said afterward. “Seems like they were making those throws fairly easy. We weren't jumping through those pick plays down there. Their credit, they didn't pick us. They played the way they were supposed to and executed. We didn't get coverage on it.”

Offensive line has trouble protecting Peyton Bender

During a Week 1 victory against Southeast Missouri State, Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender operated in a mostly-clean pocket throughout the game and it was a big reason why Bender had so much success through the air.

Against Central Michigan, Bender didn’t have the same level of protection and it showed in a couple of his wild throws. Bender was sacked twice and the Chippewas recorded three quarterback hurries.

When he threw his first interception, Bender was blitzed off of the left edge and hurried a pass over the middle that was easily picked off.

Two drives later, Bender looked over the middle and his first option wasn’t open. By the time Bender looked for his next option, he was brought down by a pair of CMU defenders from both sides of the offensive line.


Beaty said Bender didn’t help the offensive line by holding the ball too long in some situations, but on plays like the clip above, he wasn’t afforded much time at all to run either.


KU coaching staff slated for in-home visit with top-ranked Zion Williamson

Team Drive''s Zion Williamson #21 is seen against Team Clutch in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 20, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Team Drive''s Zion Williamson #21 is seen against Team Clutch in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 20, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) by Matt Tait

As part of an ongoing project with USA Today, Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall recruit in the high school basketball Class of 2018, per 247 Sports’ composite rankings, recently dropped Part VI of his online blog with the paper.

Included in this latest edition was a detailed entry about his recent recruiting talks with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and a little info about a trip to Disney World and the start of the 2017-18 school year.

Williamson, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound, do-it-all forward who sits very high on the wish list of the Kansas basketball program, did not mention Kansas by name in this entry, but did discuss his recruitment in general.

“It’s been great getting to know all of the coaches that are recruiting me,” he wrote. “I know that the reality is that the coaches can just tell me what I want to hear because they want me to come to their school so I’ve started to ask hard questions.”

With official visits set up at Duke (Oct. 22) and UCLA (Oct. 27), Williamson no doubt will have much more time then to ask all the questions he wants.

But, according to Matt Scott, of TheShiver.com, the highly coveted small forward will get a chance to ask plenty of questions of the KU coaching staff as soon as tonight, when Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend are expected to be in Spartanburg, S.C., tonight for an in-home visit with Williamson.

This, on the same day that KU assistant coach Norm Roberts was expected to make quick check-ins with Class of 2019 guard Zach Harvey, in Topeka, and Class of 2019 forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, at nearby Bishop Miege High.

Although the in-home visit is an important part of any recruiting process — parents love to see how these coaches operate on their turf and in a family setting — there’s little doubt that the KU coaching staff is hoping to come away from the trip to South Carolina having set an official visit date for Williamson to Kansas.

While Williamson has received an offer or interest from nearly every major program in the country and will bring elite-level athleticism and explosiveness, along with a certain amount of toughness, to whatever school he picks, he does not appear to be in any particular hurry to put the recruiting process behind him.

I said this before, but as far as lists and things like that I don’t see myself doing all that,” he wrote in the USA Today blog. “Once I feel like I’ve found the college and it feels right for me and my family I’m just gonna announce it. I don’t really have a timetable for my decision. It’s just whenever it feels right.”


In-home visits up next for Hall of Famer Bill Self

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

With Hall of Fame week and the overwhelming emotions of being inducted and celebrated by assistants and players from every step of his coaching journey now behind him, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self can again move on to the business at hand.

In the immediate, that means getting back to recruiting full-time, an endeavor that is as important this year as any because of the potential for KU to lose as many as 5 or 6 players to the NBA Draft and graduation after the 2017-18 season.

Fresh off of his return from Springfield, Mass., where on Saturday, during a private ceremony one day after his induction, Self received his Hall of Fame ring, the Kansas coach will be in The Woodlands, Texas, today, conducting an in-home visit with five-star guard Quentin Grimes.

“I've got a lot of nice rings,” Self said Saturday. “But I don't know if I have any nicer than this. It is nice and it was nice to sit on the stage with all those greats. I'm still kind of blown away by the experience but this is something I will cherish and I'm sure my family will, too."

Today, it’s all about the next big step in adding Grimes to the Kansas basketball family.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, the 6-foot-5, 180-pound Grimes recently wrapped up in-home visits with Kentucky, Marquette and Texas, but many believe the Jayhawks are the team to beat in his recruitment.

“This is one where I think BillSelf and his staff are considered the leaders headed into visits,” Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi recently wrote. “And I like where they stand.”

Borzello also reported that the Jayhawks this week were expected to make an in-home visit with fellow five-star guard Devon Dotson, the 6-1, 180-pound point guard from Charlotte who visited KU’s campus a couple of weeks ago.

Shay Wildeboor, of JayhawkSlant.com reported Monday that the Dotson visit will take place Thursday and Borzello indicated that the elite point guard also plans to host Florida, UCLA and Maryland this week after conducting an in-home visit with Clemson last weekend.

“There’s a decent chance that Kansas could get both Dotson and Grimes,” Bossi wrote. “If it doesn’t get both, though, I’d be pretty surprised if it didn’t get at least one of the two.”

Dotson and Grimes are just two on a long list of Kansas targets in the 2018 class, but, with both ranked in the Top 20 in the Rivals 150 (Grimes, No. 11, Dotson No. 17) they are two of the higher-profile players the Jayhawks are pursuing to add to a class that already includes five-star big man Silvio De Sousa.

Another such player is 6-foot-3, 175-pound point guard Immanuel Quickley, who visited Kansas two weekends ago and was slated to head to Miami (Fla.) and Kentucky after that.

Not much has been learned about Quickley’s visit to KU and his trip to Miami was postponed last weekend because of Hurricane Irma.

Given that Quickley is expected to visit Kentucky this weekend — and the Wildcats are Quickley’s Crystal Ball leader, at 100 percent, according to 247 Sports — it will be interesting to see if the Miami visit gets rescheduled.

Quickley has said he would like to make his decision before the start of his senior season at John Carroll High in Bel Air, Maryland.