Entries from blogs tagged with “KU”
It’s been nearly a full decade since Kansas caught the college football world off guard, finishing the 2007 season with a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory.
The Jayhawks’ quarterback at the time — the last exceptional QB to suit up for KU — Todd Reesing paid homage to that remarkable run in an interview with SB Nation’s Bill Connelly for a feature that focused on the unexpected rise of Kansas and rival Missouri that season.
Reesing reflected not only on an epic Border War that decided the winner of the Big 12 North at Arrowhead Stadium — a 36-28 Tigers victory — but also the path that led to it in the aptly titled article, “That time Missouri vs. Kansas was suddenly the rivalry of the year … in football.”
After Kansas obliterated non-conference opponents Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International in Sept. 2007, Reesing told SB Nation it was KU’s Big 12 opener, a 30-24 road victory over Kansas State, that established the Jayhawks as a legit threat that season.
"That was a place we hadn’t won at in 18 years. Our team had been historically poor on the road, poor in Manhattan, et cetera,” Reesing told Connelly. "Our offense was putting up pretty staggering points and yards and everything else, but everybody was saying, ‘Yeah, but they haven’t played anybody. That’ll change when they get to the Big 12.’ So to go up there and really not even have that great a day offensively — I think I threw three interceptions — but be able to show our grit in getting a late score on offense and a stop on defense ... that was really the point where everyone said, ‘We’ve got something here.’"
Reesing’s memory proved accurate. In that victory, which propelled KU into the top 25, he completed 22 of 35 passes for 267 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
He would experience far fewer struggles four weeks later, when the Jayhawks really began turning heads, with a 76-39 drubbing of traditional power Nebraska. Reesing went 30-for-41, with 354 passing yards and six touchdowns.
“I remember talking to a coach on the sideline and saying, ‘Hey, let’s try to score 100!’ They had beaten the pants off of Kansas for, what was it, 50 straight years before we beat them in 2005?" Reesing tried to recall. (It was 36, Connelly points out.) "And often by pretty lopsided margins. I thought we could get them one real bad whoopin’! That was one really enjoyable game to play. It was a beautiful day in Lawrence."
Since Reesing finished his KU career in 2009, the program has won three or fewer games every year.
This fall, third-year coach David Beaty and his 2017 Jayhawks aim to become the first KU team to win at least four games since the era of Reesing and former coach Mark Mangino.
— Check out the full article at SB Nation to read more from the perspective of Reesing, and his Missouri counterpart, Chase Daniel.
KUsports.com football beat writer Benton Smith joined KLWN's Nick Schwerdt on Rock Chalk Sports Talk Tuesday to discuss the Jayhawks' potential for the upcoming season.
While his Kansas basketball teammates trained in Lawrence the past couple of months for the program’s upcoming trip to Italy, senior wing Svi Mykyailiuk prepared in his own distinct way, by practicing with and playing for Ukraine’s U20 national team.
Mykhailiuk might have missed out on the continuity that comes with sticking around campus with his fellow Jayhawks, but it didn’t stop him from having a constructive summer. Among the 180 athletes competing at the FIBA 2017 U20 European Championships, none scored more points than Mykhailiuk.
Although Ukraine went 3-4 at the international event and finished 10th out of 16 teams, Mykhailiuk showcased his individual talent in Crete, Greece, over the last week-plus, averaging 20.4 points per game in seven outings. The KU senior didn’t look one-dimensional, though. He also averaged 6.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
In fact, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz reported Mykhailiuk dabbled as a point guard in his team’s Sunday finale versus Turkey, and racked up six assists in the first quarter alone, often pitching the ball ahead in transition for easy baskets. He finished the 85-82 loss against Philadelphia 2016 first-round pick Furkan Korkmaz and Turkey with a near-triple-double: 24 points, nine rebounds, nine assists.
“I’m a leader, so I have to do a little bit of everything,” Mykhailiuk said in an interview with Schmitz. “Every time I get the ball, I’m trying to score, trying to be aggressive, trying to involve my teammates in our offense. Just trying to create all the time, but just kill. Every possession just trying to kill with a pass or with a shot or with a rebound.”
The only player at the event to achieve a 20 points per game average, the 6-foot-8 Mykhailiuk told ESPN he is capable of contributing as a scorer, passer and rebounder, like he has this summer for Ukraine, at the college level and beyond.
“I think so, because here I’ve shown what I can do and I’m trying to do it next year at Kansas, because I’m going to be a senior,” Mykhailiuk said. “I’ve been in the program for three years, and I think coach trusts me. I trust him. And showing what I can do here is letting him know what I can do at Kansas, too.”
Back in Lawrence, KU coach Bill Self tracked Mykhailiuk’s progress, and shared with reporters the 20-year-old Ukraine star actually played in Greece with an injured wrist.
“It wasn’t bad. He didn’t miss any time,” Self said. “But he nicked his wrist up. But he’s scoring the ball.”
Mykhailiuk, who will join his coach and KU teammates next week in Italy for exhibitions in Rome and Milan, shot 49-for-124 (39.5 percent) from the floor for Ukraine. He connected on 16 of 49 (32.7 percent) 3-pointers and shot 80.6 percent (29-for-36) on free throws.
Self, though, admitted there could be one drawback to Mykhailiuk’s lengthy offseason European excursion.
“I’m a little nervous that when he comes back, maybe he’s played a lot of ball, but he’s gonna have to really commit in the weight room,” Self said. “I guarantee whatever they’ve done (with Ukraine team), he hasn’t done nearly what he’d be doing with Andrea (Hudy, KU’s strength coach) here. That put him behind last year, too.”
As Mykhailiuk’s KU coach referenced, he also played for Ukraine in summer of 2016, averaging 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists. During his ensuing junior year with the Jayhawks, Mykhailiuk produced 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists, while shooting 44.3 percent overall and 39.8 percent on 3-pointers. Mykhailiuk initially entered his name in the 2017 NBA Draft, but decided to withdraw and finish his four-year college basketball career at Kansas.
“I’m happy he’s playing,” Self said of his pupil’s FIBA experience with Ukraine. “He needs to play, and he needs to see the ball go in the hole.”
Kansas football players report for preseason camp on July 31, but the 2017 roster began materializing long before that thanks to the numerous newcomers who arrived earlier this summer.
As is the case every year, the roster looks significantly different entering August practices than it did in the spring.
Some key returning Jayhawks changed their jersey numbers, a few players left the program and an influx of new talent arrived.
Here’s a breakdown of how the composition of coach David Beaty’s team has evolved since the conclusion of spring football.
The majority of KU’s core maintained the status quo in terms of the digits they will wear on their chests and backs. But some opted for a switch.
You won’t see receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez blazing past defenders in his No. 1 jersey anymore. For his senior season, Gonzalez will wear No. 82.
Likewise, junior linebacker Keith Loneker Jr. changed from No. 33 to No. 47, sophomore defensive end Maciah Long shifted from No. 3 to No. 9, and sophomore defensive back Bryce Torneden switched from No. 12 to No. 1.
We now know the numbers many key members of KU’s 2017 recruiting class will wear during their introductory year in the program.
First, the freshmen:
Receiver Quan Hampton: No. 6
Tight end/receiver Kenyon Tabor: No. 13
Receiver Takulve Williams: No. 16
Receiver Travis Jordan: No. 17
Running back Dom Williams: No. 25
Cornerback Robert Topps III: No. 28
Linebacker Cooper Root: No. 30
Linebacker Jay Dineen: No. 43
Kicker Liam Jones: No. 46
Offensive lineman Earl Bostick: No. 68
Offensive lineman Joseph Gilbertson: No. 79
A couple of crucial junior college signees who weren’t able to enroll in the spring also got to Lawrence in the summer for offseason training: junior safety Antonio Cole (No. 14) and junior running back Octavius Matthews (No. 12).
Additionally, Kansas added a pair of lineman via transfer this offseason: graduate transfer and former Nebraska offensive lineman Zach Hannon (No. 56) and sophomore offensive lineman Andru Tovi (No. 77), formerly of Pima Community College (Ariz.).
While Beaty chooses not to reveal which players are on scholarship, a number of incoming freshmen are expected to enter the program as walk-ons. Below are some players who likely fall in that category, most of whom were highlighted by Beaty at his Signing Day press conference back in February:
Fullback Quinton McQuillan: No. 36
Safety Tom Barrett: No. 41
Kicker Cole Brungardt: No. 37
Safety Nick Caudle: No. 45
Fullback Sam Schroeder: No. 46
Offensive lineman Sam Burt: No. 59
Offensive lineman Jack Williams: No. 62
Receiver Hunter Kaufman: No. 80
Linebacker Kashe Boatner: No. 87
The current KU roster also includes some names likely to be completely new to most fans, as they didn’t get the benefit of any Signing Day buzz. Quarterback Miles Fallin (No.15, from Canyon County, Calif.), defensive end Jelani Arnold (No. 91, from Irving, Texas) and defensive tackle Dai Coye Haley (No. 92, from Atchison) all are college freshmen.
Meanwhile, running back Kezelee Flomo (No. 30, formerly of North Dakota State College of Science) is a sophomore. And although his name didn’t appear on KU’s spring game roster, he actually carried the ball late in the fourth quarter of the open scrimmage.
Three players who were involved in the program in the spring have since left the Jayhawks.
As previously reported, tight end Jace Sternberger (Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College) and linebacker Sam Skwarlo (Coffeyville Community College) decided to transfer, in efforts to give their football careers a boost.
Offensive lineman Joe Gibson, on the other hand, gave up football after a neck injury in 2016.
Class of 2018 wide receiver Devonta Jason became the most discussed prospect in recent Kansas football memory when the New Orleans native verbally committed to David Beaty’s program in February.
Despite some skepticism on whether Jason, rated the No. 22 prep senior in the nation and a five-star talent by Rivals, will indeed end up playing at KU because commitments are non-binding, the athletic, 6-foot-3 receiver coveted by LSU and a number of other high-profile programs remains on board some five months away from his anticipated December graduation and the NCAA’s new early-signing period.
Associate head coach Tony Hull, responsible for recruiting Jason and other Louisiana standouts, such as KU sophomore safety Mike Lee (also an early Landry-Walker grad), might deserve another raise if Jason and his high school teammate, four-star cornerback Corione Harris, actually end up at Kansas and aren’t stolen away by a more successful program before they sign their letters of intent.
In a new video feature for NOLA.com, recruiting analyst Jimmy Smith explains why Jason is so intriguing for Kansas and the many other programs from which he has received offers, such as Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
“He’s 6-3, 205 pounds and he has the leaping ability of most NBA guards,” Smith says of Jason. “His athleticism, explosiveness, leaping ability — I mean, the kid’s been impressive from Day 1 of his prep career and he’s been a dominant force throughout high school.”
The way Smith, who first watched Jason as a freshman, describes the KU pledge, the receiver has the character to succeed, as well.
“Devonta has a desire to be great, and so he’s got that work ethic and that drive, and that will help propel him through his future. He’s doing it for a lot more than just himself,” Smith says. “He puts his family on his back, his community on his back.
Jason told NOLA.com the drug scene and violence he has witnessed in his community while growing up served as a form of inspiration.
“It just keeps me going,” Jason says in the video. “I don’t want to be in that predicament. To not put my life in danger.”
He began playing football at 11 as an offensive lineman, Jason reveals, but his athleticism and hands made him a natural at receiver. Not to mention his competitive nature.
What kind of play does he enjoy most, while trying to beat a defensive back (or backs) in coverage?
“Most times I like to go up top and make them feel like even less of a DB,” Jason says.
The prep star showed off some of those skills this past weekend at the USA Football 7v7 National Championship Series Tournament, in Frisco, Texas. In a highlight video from the event produced by Scout.com, Jason displays his open-field speed and footwork, as well as his ability to out-muscle or out-leap his defender to make a play.
He’s a long way from officially becoming a Jayhawk, but Jason could be a program-altering recruit for Beaty and his staff.
For all the points he has put up and all the wicked dunks he has thrown down since entering the NBA as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Andrew Wiggins still has ample room to grow in terms of the impact he can make for Minnesota.
In his three professional seasons since leaving Kansas, Wiggins’ scoring average has climbed each year, and he produced 23.6 points per game (16th in the league) in 2016-17. However, his 6-foot-8 frame, 7-foot wingspan and elite athletic ability haven’t helped the young wing become the defensive stopper many envisioned.
Wiggins’ new teammate, Jimmy Butler, plans to change that.
During Butler’s appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Wiggins’ reputation came up as Simmons and Butler discussed Minnesota’s roster. The host referenced Wiggins’ below-average defense, as recently detailed at FiveThirtyEight.com.
In a feature titled “The NBA Haters’ Ball,” FiveThirtyEight identified Wiggins as the league’s “Least Defensive Player.” That unwanted label got thrust upon Wiggins after some player-tracking data examined shots defended by individuals during the 2016-17 season and the results of said attempts.
“Possession by possession, there are a few defenders who are as bad as Wiggins,” Kyle Wagner wrote. “When Wiggins contests a shot, opponents have a 56.1 effective field goal percentage; when they are unguarded, they have a 56.4 eFG percentage. Fundamentally, getting a shot up against Andrew Wiggins is the same as getting an open shot.”
According to the evaluation, Wiggins’ liabilities included a lack of full effort and ball-watching.
“He defended the 10th-most shots in the league, by far the most by a below-average defender,” Wagner added at FiveThirtyEight. “Most teams do their best to hide their weak defenders, but opponents seek Wiggins out like no other defender in the league.”
A three-time second-team All-Defensive team selection, Butler expects he can mold Wiggins into a far more competitive and potent player on the defensive end of the court.
“He has all the tools to be a terrific defender, by the way,” Butler said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “But it’s different when somebody’s just telling you something all the time and somebody’s showing you: This is what playing both sides of the floor can get you.”
When Wiggins joined Minnesota three years ago, he had no savvy multi-time all-star to show him the NBA ropes. The Timberwolves have been somewhere between mediocre and awful throughout their current 13-year playoff drought, but finally appear to have a postseason-worthy roster thanks to the summer additions of Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague, to go with Wiggins and star big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
Minnesota acquired Wiggins with the idea that he would one day become an all-star wing such as Butler. Now the 22-year-old Canadian prodigy has a chance to learn every day from one of the league’s best all-around perimeter players long before entering the prime of his career.
“He is extremely talented on the offensive end,” Butler said of Wiggins. “And I think he’s going to be just that talented on the defensive end, as well, as long as you lock into it. I think he has that will and he wants to be great, so he’s going to want to do it. And I’m excited to get with him, just because I know how passionate he is about the game — his drive and his work ethic and how he wants to win. When you have that as a young guy, you have it. You can’t really teach that; you just have it.”
Frisco, Texas — National Signing Day could look significantly different this year for the college football coaches eagerly waiting to see their recruits’ names on official NCAA documentation. Whether that’s a positive or negative, Kansas football coach David Beaty said, remains to be determined.
It used to be prep football talents couldn’t sign with their college programs of choice until February. But the NCAA is introducing this year an earlier option, in late December, lasting just 72 hours.
Asked at Big 12 Media Days about how the new early signing period for high school prospects could change the way Beaty and his staff approach the uber-competitive world of recruiting, the third-year Kansas coach had to take a wait-and-see stance.
“I don’t know that we’ll know the answer to that for a couple years,” Beaty admitted Monday at Ford Center, while speaking with a group of reporters. “I’d like to say that the research we’ve done is going to be accurate, but the truth is when you get major rule changes like that it usually takes a few years for all the things to shake out.”
High school football seniors this winter will have the option of signing with a university between Dec. 20-22 — also the first three days of the mid-year signing period for junior college players. If they don’t make their commitments official then, the prospects still can do so on Feb. 7, 2018.
“One of the most interesting things for me,” Beaty said, “is when kids are committed and that first period comes around how many of them actually sign and how many don’t, because if they don’t sign then, they’re not committed.”
KU’s 2018 recruiting class has the potential to be the most significant in program history, thanks to the non-binding verbal commitments Beaty and his staff already have received from five-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason and his Landry-Walker High teammate, four-star cornerback Corione Harris.
Jason has stated in previous interviews he is on pace to graduate high school early and enroll at the university of his choice for the 2018 spring semester to get a head start on his college football preparation. So Beaty and associate head coach Tony Hull, who recruited the first five-star commit in program history, might have known Jason’s status by December even if the new signing period had not been implemented. But the recruiting rule change still holds importance for the rest of KU’s targets. Beaty indicated he would like to get as much of the 2018 signing class officially on board as soon as possible.
“Now, they still may sign on that second one,” the coach added, referencing the later February date. “But if there’s a paper available and they don’t sign it, that’ll be very interesting for me to see how many kids actually open their recruiting back up at that point, which I think that there will be some.”
As of Tuesday, Rivals ranked KU’s 2018 class 28th in the nation, thanks to the presence of Jason and Harris. The Jayhawks’ list of commitments currently stands at 13 players, nine of whom have been assessed a three-star ranking.
An oral commitment from a recruit never has provided college coaches with much certainty. Beaty said those in his profession will keep refining their sales pitches and doing all they can to get players signed. Three days in December now provide them with a new wrinkle in those endeavors.
“But for the most part if you do the studies and you look at basically signing trends, the majority of the kids still sign with the guys that they’re committed to and they don’t switch very often,” Beaty added. “I think (switching is) becoming a little more prevalent, but I think that’s where it comes down to coaches and their talent, in terms of how well they continue to recruit. Because make no mistake it’s not done with them there (when players commit).”
Kansas football players weren't surprised when junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. was recently named the Big 12's preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
The Jayhawks, and opponents across the conference, saw Armstrong's ability to disrupt plays throughout the 2016 season and they expect him to only improve this fall.
"First of all, his work ethic is crazy," KU linebacker Joe Dineen said. "Nothing he's got is just because it fell in his lap. He's worked for everything that he has gotten. But he's got speed, strength, all of the moves you need. He's legit D-end and he's going to find himself in NFL one day getting paid to do that."
Armstrong finished his sophomore season with 10 sacks, the most by a KU player since 2008, and 79 total tackles. He was one of three unanimous preseason all-Big 12 selections, and the only unanimous choice on the defense.
"He's got really long arms, really good size," said Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, a unanimous preseason all-Big 12 pick. "His first step is really good. He's a guy in college that you very rarely see."
Frisco, Texas — David Beaty didn’t accept the head football coaching job at the University of Kansas to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings every year. But Beaty made it clear Monday morning at the Ford Center, during the conference’s annual media days, he understands the program has quite a way to go before it’s humming along in the manner he envisions.
In Beaty’s first two seasons, KU has gone 2-22. It’s a difficult to convince people the program is on a successful path without the tangible evidence of victories. Asked during his press conference how he and his staff judge success and what benchmarks they try to hit season to season, Beaty laid out his philosophy on slowly building toward an on-field product in which the fan base can take some pride.
“Before we look at the benchmarks we’ve got to look at how we’re going to get there,” Beaty began. “And the benchmarks are not going to be any different, really, for us than they are for other programs.”
As far as Beaty is concerned, Kansas should have some big-picture goals that aren’t necessarily immediately attainable.
“We want to win championships. We want to play in bowl games,” the third-year KU coach said. “We want to produce productive men, who are good for our society — and that is what is going to cause the byproduct of winning championships.”
That’s the most challenging part of Beaty’s massive reclamation project. He and his staff have to notice and take pride in the small gains made behind the scenes, with the idea that those will one day pay off in the form of wins in front of fans at Memorial Stadium. And they have to help the players value those baby steps.
“We say it at all the time. We talk to our kids daily about every day we need you to wake up and be the best man you can possibly be, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed,” Beaty said. “And the byproduct of that day will be something you, we, our program can all be proud of — and it will be called production.”
The message Beaty hammered throughout his Q&A was no different from what he has said since taking over. He hit some of his favorite talking points, including the phrase: It’s a process; not an event. The always-positive coach said players and staff have to get wrapped up in that concept.
“Our championship hopes and dreams are going to hinge on us continuing to understand that it will be a byproduct of the work and what it means to be a good man every day, because that really encompasses what it means to be committed to a program and doing the things necessary to win championships,” Beaty said. “People want to talk about championships. Not a lot of people want to do what it takes to get one.”
Preparing to play four exhibition games in Italy next month, the Kansas men's basketball team is conducting two practices per week.
With several newcomers, the practices are an early opportunity for the Jayhawks to learn how to play alongside each other.
"I'm not saying this is going to help us win one more game," Kansas coach Bill Self said, "but you would think if you do something in the summer, you should be probably a week or two ahead when games start in November. But that's probably about the extent of this.”
The Jayhawks are allowed 10 practices ahead of their trip to Italy.
After two summer practices in preparation for the team's exhibition games in Italy, Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self gave an update on the team's progress.
Off of the court, he's seen senior point guard Devonte Graham take the top leadership role and he believes the summer practices help set a tone for younger players entering the program.
"This is Devonte's team," Self said. "We want other guys to be leaders and all those things, but everyone is going to look to Devonte."
Self said he plans to play everyone during the exhibition games in Italy in August, but will likely play eligible players together and transfers together.
Despite losing national player of the year Frank Mason III, star freshman Josh Jackson and Landen Lucas, Self believes the Jayhawks have the pieces for another strong season.
"Udoka being healthy, Billy Preston is a talent, Devonte and Malik together is a little different than Frank and Devonte, but still I think there's a chance this team could be pretty good," he said.
Expected to become one of the team's leading scorers in the upcoming season, Kansas sophomore guard Malik Newman did his best to learn from his teammates last year.
That included picking up things from national player of the year Frank Mason III and returning senior Devonte Graham during practices. As a transfer from Mississippi State, Newman was ineligible to play last year.
"Just being able to control the pace of the game; toughness," Newman said. "Just the leadership that those guys brought and the respect that they had."
In addition to what he learned, he spent extra time working on his ball handling. He had a chance to bring the ball up the court in various scrimmages last month, and plans to help Graham at point guard when the team plays in Italy in August.
"I always play with the ball in my hand and I've always been comfortable with it," Newman said. "But I think last year I took a bigger step as far as playing with the ball in my hands."
Kansas junior forward Dedric Lawson, a transfer from Memphis, isn't eligible to play during the upcoming 2017-18 season, but he has plenty of motivation to bring his best to practice each day.
Lawson is one of three KU transfers — along with his brother KJ Lawson and point guard Charlie Moore — who will sit out all of next year because of the NCAA transfer rule.
"You have to push the players that are playing this year," Lawson said Tuesday before the team conducted one of its practices in preparation for exhibition games in Italy. "That's what me, my brother and the other guys, like Charlie Moore, we've been doing. Just competing with them, making them guys get better every day. Just giving them a better look."
Last year, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Lawson averaged 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds during his sophomore season at Memphis.
Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self responded to comments from Missouri's ex-chancellor R. Bowen Loftin on Tuesday, which cited Self as the main reason for the lack of Border War rivalry games.
"I'm shocked that he would think I would be involved in a football negotiating deal to try to play a game in Arrowhead," Self said. "He may have got me confused with the football coach."
The Border War, once known as the longest continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi River, ended in 2012 when Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.
"I still feel the same way that I have," Self said. "Nothing has changed in my regard. I'm sure there will be a time where Kansas and Missouri play again. I don't know when that time will be."
With his team in the midst of a potentially embarrassing drubbing versus an undermanned Los Angeles Lakers squad late Monday night at the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, former Kansas All-American Frank Mason III got a chance to outshine some of the event’s stars — the more highly regarded first-round picks who went before him in the June draft.
Sacramento’s No. 5 overall pick, De’Aaron Fox tweaked an ankle in the first half, enabling Mason, the 34th pick, to put on a second-half show. Mason nearly helped the Kings rally from a 28-point deficit against L.A. with a game-high 24 points — scoring 20 in the second half. The backup floor general shot 9-for-13 (2-for-3 on 3-pointers) and contributed six assists, five rebounds and two steals in a 95-92 loss.
Predictably humble, Mason downplayed his big night and the comeback that fell short versus a Lakers lineup which did not include Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart or Kyle Kuzma.
“The goal is always to win,” he told reporters afterward. “I’m happy that my team fought pretty hard to make it interesting, but we didn’t come out with the win, so I’m not really happy.”
While Mason’s assertive approach in the second half resembled his senior season at KU, the point guard credited his coaches’ strategy and teammates for getting him open with screens.
“I was pretty much just driving the ball downhill, creating for my teammates and myself,” said Mason, who went 2-for-9 in his first summer exhibition and 2-for-10 in his second outing, leading up to a breakout performance.
The 23-year-old lead guard said his four years of Kansas experience kicked in at some point, and he was able to make a positive impact for his team and get the Kings back in the game. Not that he ever was overly concerned with his slow start in Las Vegas.
“I just made shots in this game,” said Mason, who is now averaging 11.3 points, 3.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds, while shooting .406 from the floor. “The last two games I had pretty good looks; they just didn’t fall.”
Fox’s minor injury set up Mason with more playing time (24 minutes). Instead of subbing in and out, he got to experience a prolonged stay on the court. While Mason admitted that helped him feel comfortable, he also said, “it’s the NBA. No matter when your number is called you’ve got to be ready.”
Even the summer league is a step up for the former Kansas star, which means a new reality: coming off the bench.
“I think I do a pretty good job of accepting my role and giving whatever the team needs from me,” Mason said of entering the league as a backup. “It’s a different feeling, obviously, from the past three years — starting and playing for a lot of minutes throughout the game — to coming here and just getting limited minutes. But I accept my role, whatever it is, and just give my best effort.”
He didn’t enter his latest summer league game expecting a chance to take over, but Mason did just that given the opportunity. The more looks he gets with the Kings, the more the second-rounder will force others around the NBA to take notice.
For every promising young rookie who enters the NBA, there’s always some inevitable player comparison slapped on him — fairly or unfairly — by those who have analyzed his skills, style, strengths and weaknesses.
Months before Josh Jackson became the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, the 20-year-old small forward’s defensive intensity and offensive potential had some observers equating Jackson’s longterm career path with that of All-Star San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard.
As it turns out, Jackson welcomes that demanding player analogy.
Appearing on NBA TV’s “The Starters” following a Phoenix Suns win at the the Las Vegas Summer League, Jackson said he, too, would compare his game to Leonard’s, and he hopes to model his career after the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
“The way he just plays both ends of the floor, defense and offense,” Jackson said of how he wants to emulate Leonard. “He’s just a really good player, and in today’s NBA league it’s kind of hard to find a guy who plays so hard on both ends just all the time.”
Leonard, the 15th overall pick in 2011, wasn’t as touted then as Jackson is now. But the Spurs’ latest franchise player, a two-time member of the All-NBA team, currently finds himself in the running for MVP honors every season after entering the league as a supposed defensive specialist.
“Defense creates offense,” Jackson said.
A 6-foot-8 small forward, Jackson would like to establish himself as someone who can do that for Phoenix, in Las Vegas. Teaming up with other key members of the Suns’ very young core — such as bigs Dragan Bender (19) and Marquese Chriss (20) — has Jackson locked in months before the real season starts.
“I’m really excited. Especially playing in summer league with a few guys who are actually going to be asked to play major minutes this year,” Jackson said. “That’s why I think it’s just really important for us to come out and take this serious. It’s actually a lot more important (for us) than some other teams here, because, like I said, we are so young and we’ve got so many guys who are going to play major minutes for us this year on the team.”
That means it’s more likely than not Jackson’s fiery side will come out on the court before he leaves Vegas. He told “The Starters” he’s the best trash-talker in this year’s rookie class, but he only utilizes that strategy “here and there, when I want to.”
While he admitted he has taken trash talk a step too far in the heat of battle before, Jackson said the approach can be harnessed to his benefit, too.
“It gets me going. I try to get under other players’ skin,” he said. “But mostly it gets me going.”
Among the many topics Jackson dove into, he also touched on why he is wearing a No. 99 jersey for the Suns this summer. When he was a ninth-grader and coming up on the AAU circuit he wore that same unique basketball number on his chest and back.
“That was actually the last number I wore before I wore 11,” Jackson said, adding he can’t have the same digits that donned his Kansas jersey for Phoenix (guard Brandon Knight currently wears No. 11).
Through two exhibitions in Vegas, Jackson is averaging a summer league-high 36 minutes a game, while putting up 16.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks, and shooting .343 from the floor.
Ben McLemore, no doubt, needed a change of scenery. Four seasons in Sacramento brought the former Kansas standout declining returns in terms of both his on-court production and his perceived value around the NBA.
Free agency offered McLemore a way out this summer, and now that he officially has signed with Memphis (reportedly for two years and $10.7 million), the 24-year-old shooting guard hopes he can start to live up to the potential that made him the 7th overall pick in the 2013 draft.
“So far it’s been great,” McLemore said in an interview for the Grizzlies’ website. “Memphis is going to be a great fit for me. (Agent Rich Paul and I) came up with that decision and now I’m here, a Memphis Grizzly.”
For the 6-foot-5 shooting guard, who started a career-low 26 games in his final season with the Kings, his greatest asset on the floor remains his explosiveness, and that’s what he referenced first when asked about the best aspects of his game and how he fits in with Memphis.
“My shooting ability, athleticism and the way that I run up and down the floor, and getting to the basket,” McLemore began. “And also playing both ends of the floor, being a two-way player for them, especially playing defense,” he added, saying he knows from facing the Grizzlies through the years they tend to be a “great” defensive team.
Memphis long has needed a wing capable of knocking down 3-pointers and playing a complementary role to its now primary pieces, point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol. McLemore’s shooting ability is trending in a positive direction. During his fourth year he shot a career-best .382 from 3-point range, knocking in 65 of 170, while playing a career-low 19.3 minutes a game.
His plan, though, involves much more than spotting up for 3-pointers, considering he has a chance to play with Conley and Gasol, both willing passers.
“Me coming in, I definitely can adjust to that,” McLemore said, “running the floor for Mike and cutting to the basket for Marc.”
His first four seasons in the NBA haven’t gone nearly as well as the former college All-American would have hoped. But this might be McLemore’s chance to start anew and find ways to flourish.
“Now I can focus on myself and grind it out and continue to have the great summer that I’m having and get ready and prepare myself for next season,” he said of moving on with his career.
McLemore might be more likely to take on a sixth man role with Memphis, rather than become the team’s new starting shooting guard. The Grizzlies already have lost veterans Zach Randolph and Vince Carter through free agency during the past week and its possible fan favorite shooting guard Tony Allen could be the next to move on. But if Allen returns he could continue to start.
McLemore has more competition in the backcourt, including another Grizzlies free-agent addition, Tyreke Evans, as well as former KU guard Wayne Selden.
However it plays out, McLemore is embarking on a potentially career-defining season, and those who follow the Grizzlies are hopeful he finally will break through in 2017-18. Chris Vernon, who covers the organization for its website and hosts The NBA Show for The Ringer, thinks the inconsistency of Sacramento’s organization might have kept him from reaching his ceiling as a player.
“Sometimes people can roll their eyes at the idea of a player becoming something that they have not been yet,” Vernon said, referring to McLemore making a leap with the Grizzlies. “Clearly, you’re making an investment on Ben McLemore being better than what he has been in his first four years. It’s totally possible that Ben McLemore’s career so far has been affected in a very negative way by the situation he was in.”
Unfortunately for McLemore, Sacramento finally began to stabilize this offseason, just as he and the team that drafted him parted ways. Memphis might find it difficult to extend its streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances in the loaded Western Conference as it re-tools with a younger core. But it’s clear the young guard is excited about having a fresh start with an organization that hasn’t been the butt of jokes in NBA circles for years.