Entries from blogs tagged with “roll”
Rob Carolla, director of communications for the Big 12, distributed interesting NBA draft facts from the conference.
The Big 12 has had 28 lottery picks since 2000, which puts the conference second behind the ACC (31). Others: Big East 27, SEC 25, Pac-12 24, Big Ten 19.
The ACC also ranks first over the same period in first-round draft picks with 40, followed by the Pac-12 (33), Big 12 and SEC (28), Big East (24) and Big Ten (20).
Big 12 players drafted in the past 19 years: Kansas 28, Texas 17, Iowa State and Oklahoma State 8, Baylor and Oklahoma 7, Texas Tech 3, Kansas State 2.
Blake Griffin in 2009 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014 are the lone Big 12 players taken with the first pick of the draft. Three players were chosen with the second overall pick: LaMarcus Aldridge, 2006, Kevin Durant, 2007, Michael Beasley, 2008.
The record for Big 12 players chosen in one draft is 10, set in 2008 and tied in 2010.
The five Kansas players chosen in 2008 is a Big 12 record for one school in one draft. Brandon Rush was the first player chosen from the reigning national champions with the 13th pick, followed by Darrell Arthur (27th), Mario Chalmers (34th), Darnell Jackson (52nd) and Sasha Kaun (56th).
Although the Big 12 has had nine players or more taken in a draft three times since 2008, nobody expects anywhere near that total this season.
Draftexpress.com projects just four players: 5. Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), 23. Cheick Diallo (Kansas), 50. Wayne Selden (Kansas), 54. Isaiah Cousins.
The consensus seems to be that Perry Ellis won’t hear his name called in tonight’s draft, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. It would enable him, with the help of his agent, to select the team that best fits his talents, the roster that gives him the best shot at making the team.
It will be interesting to look back in 10 years to see which KU player eligible for this year’s draft plays the most NBA minutes. My guess: Ellis. Your guess?
In case anyone needed any further proof of just how important the offensive line will be to the Kansas football program's chances on the field this fall, we're now encountering our second lineman in three tries during our summer series that highlights the most crucial Jayhawks for 2016.
Guard Jayson Rhodes came in at No. 25 on Monday. And today it's the only player guaranteed to touch the ball on every offensive snap.
Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.
This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.
Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.
Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we'll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.
23. Joe Gibson, Jr. Offensive Lineman
Walk-ons must play a big part in Kansas digging out of the scholarship deficit partly responsible for an 0-12 season in 2015 and Las Vegas setting the over/under for 2016 victories at 1.5.
Walk-ons who earn scholarships after two years in the program, don't count against the maximum 25 scholarships per class, just against the 85 total. It's one thing to tell walk-ons that they have a legitimate shot at earning scholarships once they prove themselves in practice. It's a far more powerful thing to be able to point to an example of a walk-on who worked his way into a scholarship and then into a starting assignment.
Joe Gibson a fourth-year junior out of Rockhurst High, projects as the team's starting center, although he faces a strong battle from emerging red-shirt freshman Mesa Ribordy, a walk-on from Louisburg.
Gibson, 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, missed the second half of last season with an injury. In his three starts before that, he showed that he was more ready for competition than as a red-shirt freshman, when he played in eight games, started seven, and at times was dominated by more athletic, bigger, veteran Big 12 behemoths. For example, his play against Baylor from freshman to sophomore season noticeably was better.
Centers have responsibilities that extend beyond blocking and snapping. Gibson has the brain to handle those, having earned Academic All-Big 12 second-team honors.
Gibson and fifth-year senior Jordan Shelley-Smith, in a battle with Clyde McCauley for the starting spot at left tackle, share the team lead for career offensive-line starts with 10.
Convincing Gibson to come to Kansas as a walk-on wasn't a tough task, thanks to his lineage. His great uncle, Ray Evans, was an all-time KU great, starring in football and basketball. Evans is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Joe's uncle, Harry Gibson, was a basketball standout for the Jayhawks. Gibson's father, Paul, played football at Pittsburg State.
Idaho, Pennsylvania and Western Michigan recruited Gibson, but walking on at KU appealed to him more. A healthy 2016 season from him would do a lot to stabilize the O-line and build chemistry on it. In the event he suffers from injuries, Ribordy or projected starting guard Jacob Bragg could slide in to replace him.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:
Just one Big 12 school has failed to reach 30 offensive touchdowns in each of the the past four seasons. It was the same school every time.
Kansas scored 27 offensive touchdowns in 2012, 22 in 2013, 25 in 2014 and 22 in 2015. Texas posted the next lowest single-season total during that span with 34 offensive touchdowns in 2014.
Although those KU numbers are ugly, that does not violate the title of this blog. Those numbers are facts and facts are indisputable and can’t be categorized as either mean or nice. They are kindness-neutral.
Given the horrific nature of the numbers, saying something nice about the Kansas offense presents quite the challenge.
Heading into the 2015 season, Kansas did not have a single player on the roster who had scored a single offensive touchdown in 2014. All the players who had accounted for the 25 six-pointers were unavailable for action, whether it be from exhausting their eligibility, suffering an injury or in the case of Corey Avery, doing something to earn a dismissal: Avery (six), Nick Harwell (five), Michael Cummings (four), Jimmay Mundine (three), Tony Pierson (three), Justin McCay (two), Nigel King and Trent Smiley (one).
Heading into this coming season, 6 of the 10 rushing touchdowns return (Ke’aun Kinner five, Montell Cozart one), as do half of the 12 receiving touchdowns (Steven Sims and Tyler Patrick two, Shakiem Barbel and Bobby Hartzog one.)
Departed players who reached the end zone via rush or pass reception: Tre’ Parmalee four, Taylor Cox and Darious Crawley two, De’Andre Mann and Kent Taylor one).
So 12 touchdowns return and 10 are gone. That’s not a good number, but it’s far better than not having a single player who creased the end zone the previous season returning to the offense, as was the case heading into 2015.
So even though Kansas still is the safe bet to have the least productive offense in the Big 12, it should be better than last year’s anemic attack, in part because the offensive line will bring a little bit more experience.
Enough better to reach the 30-TD milestone for the first time since
producing 35 in 2011 when Turner Gill was head coach, Chuck Long was offensive coordinator and the roster was filled with recruits from Mark Mangino and Gill? Possibly.
There, I said something nice about Kansas football.
Kansas head football coach David Beaty's desire to increase his team's tempo seems to be taking root. Spring practices picked up the pace, and after I spent 45 minutes watching the Jayhawks work with weights Friday, the thing that stood out most was how swiftly it all happened with no standing around and waiting.
"You have to match what you're trying to do on the field," KU's strength and conditioning coach Je'Ney Jackson said. "You have to match the head coach's philosophy with the way you train. So now they don't know any other way but to do anything at a high rate. No one should ever be idle. Once you get done with one exercise, usually you're going to another exercise. So we're constantly moving, constantly moving."
Red-shirt sophomore defensive tackle Daniel Wise, the team's reigning Workout Warrior of the Week, makes sure all the new faces know there is only one speed during workouts and that speed is pedal to the metal.
“We have to change the momentum around on the team, pick up the pace,” Wise said. “Some new guys coming in may not know what to expect and you have to let them know from Day 1.”
As team speed increases through recruiting, the fast-pace at which Beaty wants to play will result in more big plays. For now, fast or slow, the players' job is to do everything as fast as they can.
“Yes, sir, that’s how it is," Wise said. "That’s how it’s going to be on the field too in the Big 12. Tempo, tempo, tempo. So we have to practice tempo, tempo, tempo. As soon as coach Jackson came in he instilled that tempo. As soon as coach Beaty came in he instilled that tempo. Tempo walking around in the meeting room. Tempo in the weight room. Tempo on the field. Tempo all the time.”
The pace is picking up.
There, I said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn.
For years, I have been guilty of looking for the slightest reason to believe that help is on the way for Kansas’ too-often invisible pass rush.
I look at the schools who recruited the player. Or I see the quick first step or the long arms and convince myself that this is an athlete built to harass quarterbacks. Usually it’s a junior-college or graduate transfer, sometimes one straight out of high school, who fools me. I hype him because I believe he will change things. And nothing changes.
Naturally, the proof will come on 12 autumn Saturdays, but it looks as if the Jayhawks actually do have a legitimate Big 12 pass-rusher with the potential to become the secondary’s best friend for the next three seasons.
I can’t recall a KU coaching staff being as excited about a defensive end as this staff is about sophomore Dorance Armstrong since transfer Charlton Keith, whose final year of eligibility came in 2005. Based on his size -- they both stand 6-foot-4, and the thicker Armstrong already weighs more than Keith as a senior — Armstrong has an even higher upside.
The staff considered Armstrong the top signee of the Class of 2015 and nothing about his serious approach and coachability, promise shown as a true freshman (3.5 sacks as a part-time player), and ability to take on pounds without losing speed has changed anyone’s mind.
Armstrong already has packed on 16 pounds of muscle in the past year, has shown an ability to develop pass-rush moves, plays with fire and has speed that will impress NFL scouts a couple of years down the road.
If Armstrong does develop into an NFL prospect, he will get paid to play a year earlier than he would have if he had gone to a powerhouse program that would have put a redshirt on him as a freshman. Maybe the staff can use that to entice another talented recruit.
Armstrong said no to Illinois, Michigan State, Texas Tech and several other programs to come to Kansas. That’s impressive recruiting by KU and sound coaching to get him to the point he appears to have reached already.
There, I said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn.
Linebacker Joe Dineen not only had a productive season as a sophomore at a brand-new position for him, he showed during the spring that it pays to work hard during the offseason.
Dineen improved his speed noticeably, which will put him in position to make more plays on runs and perform better in coverage.
A rising junior out of Lawrence Free State High, Dineen played quarterback and safety in high school and depth issues during his freshman season forced a temporary move to running back. He found a home in the middle of Kansas' defense and has emerged as a leader for the defense.
Dineen put on weight during his first two seasons, which kept him from getting faster. He has grown accustomed to carrying the weight and has trained so hard that his latest stop-watch time and spring playing speed has coaches excited about his prospects for the coming season.
Dineen's personality and quarterback background make him a perfect mentor for Maciah Long, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound incoming freshman who played QB at Houston North Shore High. KU recruited him to play linebacker, where new linebackers coach Todd Bradford, a highly regarded football mind, will teach him the position and Dineen will be there to encourage him to fight through growing pains.
KU plays with two linebackers and seniors Marcquis Roberts and Courtney Arnick bring an abundance of experience, so if Long needs time to learn the position without burning a year of eligibility, KU can afford to go that route.
There, for the fourth consecutive Monday, I said something nice about Kansas football.
SportsDayHS.com ranked the top 100 high school football recruits in North Texas and three of them already have committed to Kansas. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, one of them is a running back.
Kansas will need to have a little luck to make it through the season with enough healthy backs and the best of the lot, Ke’aun Kinner, has just one year of eligibility remaining.
All of that makes the recruitment of Dominic Williams from Parish Episcopal in Dallas a huge one.
A 5-foot-9, 186-pound shifty back with breakaway speed, Williams has transferred to Independence High in Frisco, Texas, for his senior season. He rushed for more than 2,400 yards and 30 touchdowns in each of his past two seasons.
Dominic Williams is ranked nationally by Rivals as the 31st-best running back in the Class of 2017. To put that in perspective, consider that the No. 29 running back is headed to Michigan State and the No. 30 is bound for LSU.
Kansas was the first school to offer Williams a scholarship, which gave the Jayhawks the edge on schools that offered later, including Arizona State, Illinois, Purdue and SMU.
Kansas also has received commitments from top 100 North Texas recruits
Jared Hocker, a 6-5, 295-pound offensive lineman, and Reggie Roberson, a 6-0, 180 wide receiver.
Recruiting appears to be ahead of last year’s schedule, as evidenced by 4 of the 6 verbal commitments receiving three-star rankings from Rivals.
There, for the third consecutive Monday, I said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn. Are you up to the task?
Only five schools from the state of Louisiana compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision: LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Tech and Tulane.
Only one of those five schools, LSU, is a member of one of college football’s Power Five conferences. The SEC is recruiting the state of Texas harder than ever, a benefit of enticing Texas A&M into the conference. More Texas recruits means fewer from Louisiana, which translates to opportunity for other schools.
The state has far more Div. I prospects than LSU can recruit and Kansas head coach David Beaty has made an aggressive play to become a place for Cajun Country recruits to visit. Beaty hired Tony Hull, former head coach of Warren Easton High in New Orleans, as his running backs coach.
Kansas gained a commitment from dual-threat QB Class of 2016 recruit Tyriek Starks, who played for Hull, before Hull joined the staff. Travis Jordan, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound, three-star athlete from Louisiana, committed to KU in early April. Nebraska reportedly wanted him and Kansas landed him. Take a bow, coach Hull.
Just last weekend, Hull brought in two more Louisiana prospects for a visit. Wide receiver L’Dontrae Davis is being recruited by LSU, Ole Miss, etc. And he visited Kansas and was quoted as saying he loved it. That doesn’t mean Kansas will land him. It does mean he will spread the word in Louisiana about a Big 12 school that otherwise might not have been on their radar. His cousin, defensive end prospect Justin Harris, joined him on the visit.
Because Kansas lacks a winning tradition, convincing prospects to visit campus always has been the toughest challenge for football coaches throughout the decades. Once they make the visit, most are pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the campus, the family feel, and in recent years, the Anderson Family Football Complex.
Developing talent, putting it in the right place on the field, and playing smart football with a nasty edge still rank as the biggest keys to establishing a winning culture, but upgrading recruiting certainly plays a big role as well. I believe starting from scratch in Louisiana is well worth the gamble.
There, I just said something nice about Kansas football, which is coming off an 0-12 season. Now it’s your turn. Say something nice about Kansas football.
I agree with colleague Matt Tait's opinion that Brannen Greene made the right decision in leaving Kansas, but disagree that he did the right thing by declaring for the NBA draft and hiring an agent.
Transferring to a school that would have built its offense around his three-point shooting touch, spending two more years in school, improving his ball-handling, earning credits toward a graduate degree and proving he can go two years without a suspension, all would have served to pique the curiosity of NBA talent scouts, maybe even enough for him to earn an invitation to the NBA combine.
As it is, he was left off the guest list, despite having one of the prettier jumpers on the planet. He carries the baggage of never having established himself as a major-minutes player, the baggage of multiple suspensions.
Greene wasn't the right player for Bill Self and Self wasn't the right coach for Greene. But that doesn't mean that with a long look in his mirror and fresh start, he could not have succeeded at another school.
Davidson and Wyoming are two programs that jump to mind as ones Greene could have explored as potential destinations. Davidson's Jack Gibbs averaged 23.5 points per game as a junior, and averaged 18.2 shots, 7.9 from beyond the three-point line. Wyoming's Josh Adams averaged 24.2 points, 16.1 shots and 8.4 three-pointers in his junior season. Greene could have practiced with either player for a year then inherited the available shots.
Those are just two examples of schools that might have been interested. An NBA franchise would be more interested in Greene coming off a stellar senior year. He wasn't going to get that at Kansas, where he had exhausted his chances.
Transferring would have required patience, a quality in short supply among basketball players seeking paychecks.
Welcome to the first “Say something nice about Kansas football,” blog, which will appear here every Monday.
Here’s how it works: I’ll say something nice about the KU football program and challenge you to do the same.
Sure, it’s not necessarily easy given that the Jayhawks have gone 4-57 in the Big 12 in the past sevens seasons and have lost their last 38 games played outside of Lawrence. Going 0-12 in 2015 and losing their conference games by an average of 35.7 points doesn’t make it easy. Who said life is supposed to be easy all the time?
To ease the challenge, nice comments unrelated to on-field performance count. For example, you might like a certain uniform combination, a particular food or drink from your friend’s tailgate, a specific chant from the students, etc.
All nice words, provided they aren’t linked in any way to basketball, are welcome. This is a football blog. Jokes about basketball season starting early are so stale and weren’t particularly funny in the first place. No basketball comments of any kind allowed in the “Say something nice about Kansas football” blog.
Sarcasm, although not encouraged, is not discouraged. For example, if someone were to write, “I like the bathrooms in Memorial Stadium because I can’t see the scoreboard from them,” that might not be within the spirit of the blog, but certainly is within the letter of the law.
One more rule: If you disagree with someone who says something nice, that’s fine, but you must then say two nice things about Kansas football to make your contribution a net positive, twice the challenge. Here’s your chance to prove you can say something nice about KU football.
Here goes: Coach David Beaty has parted from recent reliance on recruiting offensive linemen from junior colleges. More than any position, O-linemen must be recruited out of high school and grown in the weight room. That takes five years, the first as a redshirt, in most cases the first few as a backup building strength and polishing technique.
Beaty’s recruiting class of 2016 included four offensive linemen (Cam Durley, Antione Frazier, Hunter Harris, Chris Hughes), all from Texas high schools.
Kansas already has received a verbal commitment from a Texas high school O-lineman, Jared Hocker, in the Class of 2017. Grant Polley, another prep O-lineman, withdrew his commitment.
Beaty gets that it’s impossible to rebuild a football program without building the foundation with high school blockers. I like that.
Your turn. Say something nice about Kansas football.
Starting with Bob Frederick, late athletic director of Kansas University, the Frederick family has built a rich Final Four tradition.
Bob served as the chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee and hired Roy Williams, who took the Jayhawks to four Final Fours.
Bob’s son, Brad Frederick, director of operations on Williams’ staff at North Carolina, went to two Final Fours as a player at North Carolina and earlier this month was in Houston, where the Tar Heels lost at the buzzer to Villanova in the national-title game.
But a pint-sized patriot by the name of Sawyer Frederick, the youngest of Brad and Jocelyn’s three children, has become the most famous of all the Fredericks.
A video of Sawyer, all of 2 years old, shaking the hands of several military personnel on the tarmac after the North Carolina basketball team’s chartered flight landed for the Final Four has gone viral.
Jocelyn took the video with her phone, and her brother-in-law, Chris Frederick, a KU graduate student and bartender at The Sandbar, posted it on Youtube, triggering a frenzy of interest from global media outlets, including (London-based) The Telegraph.
“Sawyer is really funny because he is adorable to look at, but he doesn’t talk a whole lot,” Jocelyn said by phone from North Carolina. “But he’s a busy body, toddles around like a pint-sized version of an adult, so he’s very funny.”
Jocelyn said the "Pint-Sized Patriot," nickname has caught on in North Carolina.
Jocelyn and Sawyer appeared Thursday on “Fox and Friends,” and the video appears on the ABC news website.
Margey Frederick, Sawyer’s grandmother and a Lawrence resident, said she is “incredibly proud. We are a family that always supported the military. It was really fun. I had no idea it would mushroom into this much attention.”
Chris Frederick, the youngest of Bob and Margey's four sons, said that at last check, one of the Youtube postings had reached 1.3 million views.
“I read the comments under it and so many people posted that watching it brought them to tears,” Chris said. “So I sent my sister-in-law a text saying, ‘I bet you didn’t imagine when you were filming this you would make people all over the world cry.’ ”
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops comes from the tree of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, so Stoops knows how to keep a secret.
That makes it difficult to gauge what Stoops will do to hire a defensive line coach for the third time in less than 13 months.
The last thing Kansas coach David Beaty needs is for Stoops to raid his staff and hire former Sooner Calvin Thibodeaux, one of two candidates who seem to make the sense. The other is Thibodeaux’s former teammate C.J. Ah You. Thibodeaux and Ah You roomed together when they were Oklahoma’s starting defensive ends.
Stoops likes to hire his former players, and in Thibodeaux and Ah You he has a pair of impressive candidates from which to choose.
Ah You knows what it's like to play and coach for Stoops, who lost Diron Reynolds on Feb. 10, the one-year anniversary of losing Reynolds' predecessor, Jerry Montgomery. Reynolds returned to Stanford to reunite with his family, which never made the move with him to Oklahoma. Montgomery left OU to work for the Green Bay Packers. Ah You spent the past two seasons on Stoops’ staff as quality control coach for defense and special teams.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason hired Ah You as his defensive line coach a few weeks before Reynolds left OU. Reynolds, who had worked with Mason as a defensive assistant with the Minnesota Vikings, recommended Ah You to Mason. So did Stoops, whose powerful backing of his former player is quoted in Ah You’s official bio on vucommodores.com.
“First and foremost,” Stoops said, “Vanderbilt is getting a great person in C.J. All of his former teammates and all of our current staff love and respect him. He was a great player for us and a valuable member of our staff.”
Stoops went on to say that Ah You “has tremendous knowledge of the game and relates so well with players. He’s got a bright future in the coaching world and I’m very happy for him.”
Ah You shapes up as KU’s best chance to avoid another hit to Beaty’s coaching staff.
Linebackers coach Kevin Kane left for a promotion to defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. Recruiting coordinator/running backs coach Reggie Mitchell bolted over the weekend for Arkansas. Wide receivers coach Klint Kubiak left Tuesday for a job with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
Losing Kane, a KU alum with rich Kansas City recruiting ties, a great work ethic and a strong presence, hurt. Beaty hired former Southern Miss and Maryland defensive coordinator Todd Bradford, out of the game since 2012, to replace him. Finding someone with Mitchell’s natural recruiting instincts won’t be easy.
Beaty won’t need to hire a wide receivers coach because well before Kubiak left, Beaty already had recruited Jason Phillips to join Kubiak in coaching wide receivers. Phillips had worked at SMU (2012-14) under June Jones and for three different stints totaling eight seasons at Houston, including three years under Kevin Sumlin. A former NFL receiver, Phillips has experience as a recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator and receivers coach. Beaty made room for Phillips on the staff by reassigning special teams coach Gary Hyman.
Beaty has flexibility in how to fill his two full-time coaching vacancies. For example, he could hire a running backs coach and a special teams coach and make one of them the recruiting coordinator or he could hire a second receivers coach and add recruiting coordinator to the duties of Phillips.
Don’t forget to include never having coached an NBA All-Star at Kansas on your list of reasons you are grateful Bill Self is your school’s basketball coach.
After all, if a Kansas player participated in the game you might be tempted to watch it and your eyes might never recover.
The NBA All-Star Game, once a worthwhile exhibition, has gone the way of the Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star exhibition. In a word, unwatchable. The West defeated the East, 196-173, Sunday, but the real victim was not a team, rather an important facet of basketball, defense.
It’s just as well that none of Self’s Kansas players has played in All-Star Game because they play defense and they wouldn’t know what to do in a game where it’s not allowed.
In the next year or two or three, second-year pro Andrew Wiggins, averaging 20.8 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, likely will make the West roster. By then, he might have reason to show off his defensive skills. By then, maybe someone with influence will convince the NBA it needs to go the way of Major League Baseball Midsummer Classic and incentivize winning, the only way to resurrect the integrity of the game.
Give the home-court advantage in the NBA Finals to the winner of the All-Star Game. Please!
Watching video clips of the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Udoka Azubuike, calls to mind Cliff Alexander dominating Chicago high school competitors with a series of dunks, plus three inches in height, 20 pounds in weight, less body fat, and broader shoulders.
In other words, he is tall enough, big enough and aggressive enough to give Kansas what it hasn’t had since Joel Embiid’s back injury ended his college career late in his freshman season: A legitimate center.
It’s easy to picture Azubuike playing alongside Cheick Diallo and/or Carlton Bragg. Either 6-10, 250-pound center Marques Bolden (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) of DeSoto, Texas (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) or 6-9 forward Jarrett Allen (ranked 20th) of Austin could be added to a recruiting class that started with 6-8 forward Mitch Lightfoot (No. 117) of Gilbert, Ariz. Strong rebounder Landen Lucas also returns for Kansas.
As Alexander and Diallo illustrated, high school dominance doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing as a freshman, but physically, at the very least, Azubuike looks like more advanced than most teenage post players.
Azubuike chose Kansas over North Carolina, which puts a premium on a big man’s ability to run the floor, so he should fit KU’s desire to pick up the pace as well.
Skid row brims with men who relied too heavily on hollow hunches, so when I tell you I have a hunch, wish me luck. But I do have a strong one heading into today’s basketball game between Kansas and TCU, a 1 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse.
Something tells me freshman forward Carlton Bragg will get a long run today, make the most of it and produce his first double-figures scoring game.
For one thing, the opportunity likely will present itself since not one of the other four big men vying for playing time alongside senior Perry Ellis has established himself as the unquestioned leader of the pack.
In the loss at West Virginia, Cheick Diallo, Landen Lucas, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor combined for 35 minutes, six points, 13 rebounds, nine personal fouls and two turnovers.
In his four Big 12 games, Bragg has combined for 33 minutes, 15 points, 10 rebounds, four fouls and five turnovers.
The most skilled of the bunch, Bragg sometimes looks a little too eager to make something happen right away and ends up rushing himself into a bad pass or a missed shot from close range.
If Kansas can take control of today’s game early, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Bragg might be allowed to play through a mistake or two, get a good sweat going, compete with a free mind, settle down and not look so much like he's rushing to make it somewhere on time. It's tough to imagine any more welcome development for the Jayhawks than Bragg emerging.
Ellis could use the help. As the season wears on and the aches and pains mount for the players, it wouldn’t hurt for Ellis to get more rest. Bragg by far is the best option to replace Ellis’ scoring punch when he rests, so a breakthrough performance for the freshman could be a big step forward for the team.
Whereas Diallo is relatively new to the game, hasn’t yet developed a great feel, and sometimes finds himself in the wrong spot to lend help defensively or space the floor properly offensively, it’s clear Bragg knows how to play the game. He just too often plays it sped up. The latter takes less time to fix with experience than the former.
Among the five bigs not named Ellis, Bragg ranks third in minutes (174), behind Traylor (215) and Lucas (190), first in points (70), fourth in rebounds with 45, behind Lucas (68), Traylor (54) and Mickelson (46) and first in turnovers with 17.
My very specific hunch says Bragg will produce 12 points and six rebounds to send 16,300 home happy while they put the pedal to the metal to try to settle in front of their TV sets in time for the Chiefs' 3:35 p.m. kickoff.
Kansas University head football coach David Beaty has chosen Todd Bradford, former defensive coordinator at University of Maryland, to replace Kevin Kane as the Jayhawks’ linebackers coach.
Kane left for the defensive coordinator job at Northern Illinois, where he had worked before coming to Kansas.
Bradford, 52, last worked in college football as DC at Maryland in 2011. After one season with the Terps, Bradford was bought out of the remaining two years of his contract for $300,000.
Bradford had put his career on hold to focus on caring for his mother, Sandra Hampshire, who died Jan. 3, in St. George, Utah, after suffering for seven years from multiple myeloma.
Bradford has worked 25 years in college football, including three as defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2008-10). Working under current North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, Bradford guided the 2010 Southern Miss defense to a 31-16 victory against Kansas and a No. 13 national ranking (113 yards allowed per game).
At Maryland, his defense was ranked last in the ACC.
Bradford last worked in the Big 12 for Oklahoma State (2005-07) when he coached linebackers.
He also worked at his almater mater, Southern Utah, as well as New Hampshirie, Lehigh, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State and BYU (his only job on the offensive side).
My baseball Hall of Fame ballot:
Two of my nine choices, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza, received the required 75 percent of votes to gain enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The players for whom I voted, listed in the order of how easy it was to put an X next to the name:
1 - Ken Griffey, Jr.: A Hall of Fame baseball player asked me in 1999 in Fenway Park which hitter I thought would win the Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game. Since Mark McGwire had hit 13 home runs to take a big lead after the first round, I gave the obvious answer: “Mark McGwire.” The Hall of Famer shook his head. “Why not?” I asked. I’ll never forget his answer: “Too long a wait (between sessions at the plate). The steroid guys tighten up when the sit down. The natural guys stay loose. Junior will win it.” Sure enough, Griffey won it. The identity of the accurate forecaster? Sorry. It was off the record then and off the record then equates to off the record forever.
2 - Barry Bonds: Did steroids inflate his numbers? Yes, greatly. Was he the best hitter in the game before the juice increased his head size, his muscles, his power? You better believe he was. This is not a tough call. Keeping players who sought an edge through performance enhancing drugs strikes me as short-sighted as not deflating the numbers of those I believe juiced. A Hall of Fame ballot does not equate to a juror’s vote in a court of law. It requires an informed opinion, so I do my homework with the help of former players, managers, coaches, etc. and then decide to deflate the numbers of those I believe cheated and then decide whether they deserve induction. Bonds requires no thought whatsoever.
3 - Roger Clemens: See Bonds explanation.
4 - Mike Piazza: Always suspected of using steroids but never directly linked, Piazza was such a gifted hitter his numbers still stand up even after deflation.
5 - Mike Mussina: Other than having won 54 more games, why Mussina and not Curt Schilling. Mussina was at the top of his profession for a longer period of time. He ranked in the top six in Cy Young Award voting nine seasons, Schilling in four seasons.
6 - Mark McGwire: His blasting of writers who called into question home run numbers, stated with such moral indignation, was a low point, but the guy hit 49 home runs as a rookie well before his muscles grew muscles. Steroids inflated his numbers, which makes him less than an easy call, but I believe he would have been one of the game’s top power hitters if steroids never became all the rage and nobody did them. He’s a 12-time All-Star.
7 - Tim Raines: Always a tough call, Raines knew how to get on base and steal bases as well as anybody of his era not named Rickey Henderson.
8 - Edgar Martinez: I went back and forth on Edgar and then I pictured the prettiest right-handed swing rapping doubles in big spots over and over and I put an X next to his name.
9 - Alan Trammell: The toughest call of all, he was such a good hitter for a shortstop that it sometimes overshadowed just how slick he was with the glove.
Crowded out of prominence by the drama that unfolded over and over and over again later in a Big Monday night, Jamari Traylor’s terrific stretch at the opening of the second half of a 109-106, triple overtime victory over Oklahoma was not lost on his coach.
“I thought Mari was great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the fifth-year senior from Chicago. “Second half, he was about the only one playing start of the second half, and of course Landen (Lucas) down the stretch was awesome.”
Traylor came off the bench in the first half and started the second. It’s a good thing he did because without him using his explosive leaping ability near the hoop, the game could have gotten away from the Jayhawks.
Kansas made just four field goals in the opening 7:19 of the second half and Traylor had two of them. Traylor’s biggest contributions weren’t the points he scored. They never are. He’s a limited offensive player, but has a tendency to make defensive plays that fire up the crowd.
For sheer out-of-nowhere shock value, Traylor had the game’s two most amazing plays. Ninety seconds into the second half, Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard drove to the hoop for a bucket that would have given the Sooners a nine-point lead. Traylor somehow snatched the shot out of mid-air with two hands and came crashing to the floor, landing on his back, where he stayed for a nervous moment.
A couple of minutes later, the Sooners’ high-flying Khadeem Lattin went in for a dunk that would have given OU a 12-point lead. Traylor had the body control to go up with Lattin, and without touching the would-be dunker, put his hand on the ball to block the shot and snuff the bucket. This time, Traylor landed out of bounds, near the stanchion and Lattin had the harder crash. Incredible play.
A couple of Kanas possessions later, Traylor caught a pass in the lane and decisively drove right, throwing a shot off the glass for a bucket that drew Kansas within seven points. After OU pumped it back to a nine-point lead, Traylor shaved it to seven again, crashing the glass from straight on to put back a Wayne Selden miss.
Traylor’s minutes are down a little this season (14.8 average, compared to 20.4 as a junior and 16.1 as a sophomore), but his spirits seem up. His body language is better and he has been a consistent positive, energetic force.
Tensions ran high in a game that both sides badly wanted.
"Some of those loose balls, diving, sacrificing bodies, that was two teams really, really competing,” Self said.
In other words, the game was right in Traylor's wheelhouse.
Sometimes the best moments at sporting events take place before the main attractions start.
The worst moment of the Kansas spring football game happened when Michael Cummings suffered a career-ending knee injury. The best came on the last play of the annual alumni football game. World War II veteran Bryan Sperry, 89, found the holes and sprinted to glory for a touchdown captured by the KU athletic department's talented video team. Sperry and brother Kenneth Sperry played Kansas football from 1946-48.
The presence of UC Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye made Tuesday night more interesting than the average nonconference basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse. But even he couldn't steal the show because the show had been stolen before the opening tip by Kurtis Townsend's daughter, Myka, shown above in a photo snapped by the Journal-World's Nick Krug.
Myka didn't miss a note and to the amazement of the customary crowd of 16,300 belted out a really strong version of the Star Spangled Banner. I kept waiting for her dad to break into tears, but all he broke into was a huge smile as his daughter triggered a huge ovation from the crowd and Fred Quartlebaum, director of student-athlete development for the basketball program, pinned a bear hug on the proud father.
"She told me she wasn't nervous, so I wasn't nervous," Townsend said. "She did great."
That she did. Kurtis bears a facial resemblance to one of music's most talented stars, peerless guitarist Carlos Santana. Myka is a talented star in the making. Advantage Myka on the music front.
Last-minute Christmas shoppers seeking ideas to put a smile on the faces of sports fans on their lists ought to think Kansas volleyball and Kansas City Royals because everybody loves a winner.
1 - Two season tickets for Kansas volleyball, 2016: After becoming the first in the program’s history to make it to the Elite Eight, the Jayhawks (shown above in John Young photo from NCAA tournament victory against Furman) then became just the 18th school in the history of the NCAA tournament to reach a Final Four.
Both of KU’s All-American selections, setter Ainise Havili and right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, have two remaining years of eligibility and just two seniors participated in KU’s five post-season matches.
The Final Four is scheduled to take place at Sprint Center in 2017, when Havili and Payne will be seniors. Might as well catch their junior seasons, learn the nuances of the sport as I plan to do, and enjoy watching as exciting a spectator sport as there is.
Watching women’s college basketball doesn’t do justice to the athleticism of the players because the game is played below the net. Volleyball is played above the net Kansas plays an exceptionally exciting brand of it.
If season tickets aren’t for sale yet, I’m sure someone can put your name on a list and call you when they are available. It’s dollar-for-dollar the best sports entertainment in Lawrence.
2 -A CD of highlight calls by Denny Matthews, Voice of the Royals: Pat Huges, voice of the Chicago Cubs, has done a series of “Commemorative Audio Tributes to Baseball’s Greatest Announcers.” His latest is on Matthews. Hughes narrates it, interviews Matthews about big moments and runs unedited clips of calls from famous moments in Royals history.
I wrote the biography of the late, great Ernie Harwell, long-time voice of the Detroit Tigers and it was a great experience getting to know such a kind, talented man. But the problem with a book about a broadcaster is that it’s impossible to capture the voice in the printed word. This format does a better job telling the story of a broadcaster’s career.
Hughes’ series also includes compact discs (and digital downloads) on the careers of Mel Allen, Red Barber, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Milo Hamilton, Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Harry Kalas, Dave Niehaus, Bob Prince, Ron Santo, Chuck Thompson and Bob Uecker.
The series is a cool idea well executed by Hughes.
Shop at www.baseballvoices.com or call (847) 867-3682.