Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

5 Jayhawks crack DraftExpress’ Top 12 Big 12 NBA prospects for 2017

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham, forward Carlton Bragg Jr., and Oregon State guard Gary Payton II (1) vie for a loose ball during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham, forward Carlton Bragg Jr., and Oregon State guard Gary Payton II (1) vie for a loose ball during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Projecting any given NBA Draft, like obsessing over Kansas basketball in Lawrence, has become a year-round task and no one out there does it better than Jonathan Givony and his staff at DraftExpress.com.

From player profiles, regularly updated mock drafts and traveling around the world to track both the present and the future of the NBA Draft, Givony and crew easily bring the best, most detailed and most interesting information regarding draft prospects.

However, their latest feature, The Top Draft Prospects in the Big 12, caught my attention for reasons beyond just being ultra-informative.

Five of the Top 12 players on Givony’s list call Kansas home and although four of them are guys you would expect to see, the fifth came as a bit of a surprise.

Here’s a quick look at each one, but be sure to click on the link above for the full scoop as DraftExpress sees it.

1. Josh Jackson, 6-foot-8, Freshman, Guard

Draft Express: DE used videos for Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses and included all the things you’ve heard about him already — Physical tools, offensive versatility, defensive toughness and rebounding. He’s currently listed 5th on DraftExpress’ latest 2017 NBA Mock Draft.

My take: No brainer. Not even a question. Enough said.

3. Devonte’ Graham, 6-foot-2, Junior, Point Guard

Draft Express: More videos here for Graham’s strengths and weaknesses and included among his strengths were: Quickness, Shot Maker, Capable Passer, Pesky Defender.

My take: I think Graham is a terrific college player and could be poised for a monster season. I’m just not sure I’d put him this high on this list when you’re talking about the NBA. Although I have no doubts that he can play in the league, he probably won’t be anything special when he gets there. The league is filled with guys his size who are freak athletes and can really play. Graham’s competitiveness will allow him to hold his own, but can he become more? Hard to know right now.

6. Carlton Bragg, 6-foot-9, Sophomore, Power Forward

Draft Express: While not blessed with incredible size, both vertically and physically, Bragg is quick and agile for a big man, and can use that to his advantage.

My take: Until we see exactly what Bragg can do with major minutes, it’s hard to argue for him to be higher on this list. Still, it seems a little low to me, given his versatility, good frame, skilled offensive game and potential to grow and become an even better defender. I’d probably flip Bragg and Graham, if it were up to me.

7. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 6-foot-8, Junior, Shooting Guard

Draft Express: After watching Mykhailiuk extensively this past June at the adidas Nations, and profiling his progress both in scouting report and video format, we prefer to wait and see how he performs as a junior before adding to his extensive DraftExpress profile.

My take: This pretty much sums it up perfectly. Touted as one of the top NBA prospects in a Kansas uniform even before he stepped foot on campus — and even by people named Bill Self — Svi has done very little during his first two seasons in Lawrence to show whether that kind of claim is warranted. Part of the reason for that has been a lack of opportunity, but it also has been the result of a lack of consistency on his part. Still, with his frame, size, skills and athleticism, placing Svi in the middle of this list is certainly fair.

12. Landen Lucas, 6-foot-10, Senior, Center

Draft Express: While Lucas is a limited offensive player at this stage, his work on the other end of the floor is what gives him a chance to carve out a niche at the NBA level.

My take: I was a little surprised to see Lucas crack the Top 12, but the reasoning is sound. A lot of what they’re basing it off of is his opportunity to build on a strong junior season and the fact that he does one thing really, really well. With 10 teams and a lot of top-tier coaches, it’s surprising that there aren’t more NBA prospects in the Big 12 that rank ahead of Lucas. But that’s a testament both to Lucas and the fact that the Big 12 is a little down this season.

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Jayhawks remain in hot pursuit of Orlando SG Chaundee Brown

According to 247 Sports’ “Crystal Ball” prediction, Wake Forest is now in the lead for Chaundee Brown, a 6-foot-5, shooting guard from Orlando who has narrowed his list of schools to KU, Wake and Florida.

Danny Manning-led Wake Forest currently is projected as the leader for Brown with a 60 percent clip. Kansas is second at 40 percent.

The 60-40 advantage certainly is not insurmountable even if it is accurate. In fact, according to Matt Scott of TheShiver.com, KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard was scheduled to check in on Brown in Orlando sometime Tuesday.

Brown’s official visit to Kansas came earlier this month, when he was the only undecided player in town. He joined KU commitment Marcus Garrett on the visit and Garrett said after the trip that he thought Brown thoroughly enjoyed his visit.

Ranked No. 39 by Rivals.com, the four-star prospect is slated to visit Wake Forest this weekend.

While some recruiting experts believe the big difference between these two schools is the amount of immediate playing time Wake Forest could offer Brown, that’s not exactly as big of an advantage for Wake as perceived.

With Kansas possibly losing four perimeter players from this year’s team — Frank Mason, Josh Jackson, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — there certainly would be plenty of minutes available in KU’s backcourt during the 2017-18 season.

With Garrett already in the fold and the Jayhawks likely to land one of the elite, five-star point guards they’re pursuing in the 2017 recruiting class, the addition of Brown, a true shooter, would give Self three new players to pair with returning guards Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman in KU’s backcourt a year from now.

Clearly, the opportunity for playing time would be there.

I've heard nothing but great things about the type of person Brown is and it seems to me, at least, that the biggest obstacle for Kansas here might be (a) getting Brown out of the region and (b) getting past the bond he has developed with the Wake coaching staff, which, got in on Brown before almost every other school that pursued him and surely has treated him as one of their top targets throughout this process.

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He Will, He Won’t, He Might: Josh Jackson

Blue Team guard Josh Jackson comes in for a dunk.

Blue Team guard Josh Jackson comes in for a dunk. by Nick Krug

Another week brings another entry in the "He will, He Won't, He Might" blog series and today we take a peek at freshman wing Josh Jackson.

Jackson, as you know, is the latest highly touted, likely one-and-done freshman phenom landed by KU coach Bill Self. An he figures to step right into the starting spot previously occupied by Wayne Selden.

Because Jackson was on campus all summer, working out and bond with teammates, the adjustment portion of adding Jackson into the fold should be well behind them at this point. Now it's a matter of finding a rhythm on the floor during games, which are now just a little more than a month away.

KU fans will get their first true look at Jackson under the bright lights on Saturday at Late Night in the Phog.

Until then, we'll dive into what you should expect from the 6-foot-8 forward from Detroit who came to Kansas by way of Prolific Prep Academy in Napa, California.

In case you missed the first two entries in the series, here's where you can find them.

He Will, He Won't, He Might: Frank Mason

He Will, He Won't, He Might: Devonte' Graham

Now on to Action Jackson...

He will: Start every game of his KU career

This one was easy and we could have gone a number of different ways with predicting what Jackson will accomplish while at Kansas, but the fact of the matter is we just don’t know yet. He certainly figures to be a high-level impact player on both ends of the floor and will be among the team’s leading scorers, one of its top playmakers and most likely one of the top two or three defenders, as well. But it’s still better to see exactly who he is and exactly how he’ll be used before putting too many predictions out there. The one thing we know for sure at this point is that Jackson will be at Kansas for one season and then he’ll be gone. KU coach Bill Self told me that very thing as recently as mid-August and had no reservations about saying it. Jackson will start from day one and will start in that Wayne Selden spot every time out as long as he remains healthy. His length and athleticism, killer instinct and the threat of what he can bring and how that can open up opportunities for teammates are all too great to mess around with putting him on the path that Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander or Cheick Diallo took. That said, he’s a lot more ready for his opportunity — both mentally and physically — than any of those guys were.

He won’t: Be among the team’s leading three-point shooters

Josh Jackson didn’t come to Kansas to jack three-pointers. He’ll shoot a few, my guess would be somewhere in the 70-80 range, but it’ll never be his first choice, KU’s first option or a shot he knocks down at a high percentage. The way Jackson figures to factor most into KU’s three-point shooting this season is by creating opportunities for others. Picture him in the 1-4 flat set, dribbling the ball at the top of the key looking to attack. As soon as he gets by his man, which will happen a lot, the defense will be forced to react, which means it will collapse in toward the paint, thus freeing up KU’s wings to catch and shoot. Jackson’s both a skilled enough passer and unselfish enough player to make the right decision more often than not. If it’s Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk who he sees open on the wing, he’ll likely dish it to them. If it’s Carlton Bragg, Mitch Lightfoot or Landen Lucas, he’ll probably lower his head and keep driving to the rim. Jackson will shoot — and make — more than a few threes this season. But he’s not regarded as a terrific jump shooter, has a slightly strange hitch in his shot and can do so many better things with the ball than sit out there and make it easier for defenders to guard him.

He might: Be the best freshman in the country

As is the case most years, there’s a pretty strong crop of true freshmen playing college basketball this season. But whether you’re talking about the usual suspects like Duke’s trio of Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson, or Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, fast-riser Markelle Fultz, of Washington, or even UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, there is no shortage of top-tier talent in the freshman class. But few of them — if any — figure to get the same kind of opportunity that Jackson will at Kansas. That’s not to say they won’t be key and even featured parts of their respective teams, but Jackson slides into an obvious vacancy at Kansas and will be both led and set up by a pair of talented, play-making guards around him. Duke has a similar set up with Grayson Allen returning, so it’s definitely possible for any one of the Duke trio to claim the title of top freshman during the 2016-17 season. But Jackson will absolutely be in the mix, as well.

Incoming freshman Josh Jackson autographs a basketball during Bill Self camp registration on June 12 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Incoming freshman Josh Jackson autographs a basketball during Bill Self camp registration on June 12 at Allen Fieldhouse. by John Young

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KU Basketball Boot Camp Journal: Sept. 23, 2016

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches as the players rapidly shuffle across the court during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches as the players rapidly shuffle across the court during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m. by Nick Krug

You’ve heard the stories, read the accounts and probably even imagined what it’s like.

But to see it is a whole different experience.

Boot Camp, Kansas basketball style, is not for the faint of heart and on Friday a handful of local media members were invited in to watch the Jayhawks run through one of Bill Self’s signature preseason conditioning adventures, which ran for 50 minutes and left the veteran KU coach very pleased with the effort put in by his team.

The following is a blow-by-blow account of exactly what went on.

5:15 a.m. — The first players began arriving at Allen Fieldhouse a little more than 45 minutes before the action began. Most were looking to get their ankles taped and minds and bodies prepared for what was to come. Others were simply there early making sure they were awake, aware and ready for the grind.

5:50 a.m. — The Jayhawks hit the floor for some pre-Boot Camp stretching. Strength coach Andrea Hudy leads while Self’s assistants and a slew of managers and trainers are on-hand, ready to help assist the players through the fifth session of this year’s Boot Camp. Given the early hour, it’s a little surprising to see so many smiles and so much energy this early, but that seems, as much as anything, to be proof of the fact that making it through one of Self’s Boot Camps is as much about what your mind will allow as it is what your body can endure.

Kansas freshman Josh Jackson gets stretched out before the Jayhawks' fifth day of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

Kansas freshman Josh Jackson gets stretched out before the Jayhawks' fifth day of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m. by Nick Krug

6:00 a.m. — Self huddles the team at mid-court in the Jayhawks’ practice gym at exactly 6 a.m. After a brief talk outlining the day and sharing a few laughs, the team breaks with final words from senior forward Landen Lucas about finishing the week strong.

6:02 a.m. — Two minutes of jumping rope. The players alternate from one leg to two legs and back to one leg without stopping for two minutes straight. All the while managers and assistant coaches are standing in front of them all the way down the sideline on the north side of the gym, clapping and shouting encouragement to keep the energy up.

6:04 a.m. — Full-court run. This is nothing more than a way to get the body loose and the legs going. The real running will come a little later and there will be plenty of it. Two minutes of down-and-back type running with next to no rest in between.

6:06 a.m. — Dynamic warm-up. This includes everything from short, side-to-side bursts and box jumps to standing and jumping in place. Again, the clock expires after two minutes and, by now, it’s clear that the heart rate is rising and the bodies are getting into the proper position to handle what comes next.

6:08 a.m. — The first sounds of discipline from Self come complete with one of his favorite words. “Come on, guys. A little juice,” he says. For the next two minutes the Jayhawks work on slow and methodical defensive slides.

6:10 a.m. — Close-out drill. From 8-10 feet, the players work on closing out on shooters and shuffling their feet. While the drill appears to be designed with defensive principles in mind, Self says later that Boot Camp is not about fundamentals but rather about survival. So these types of close-out drills, though part of fundamentally sound defense, merely function as a way to disguise more cardio.

6:12 a.m. — KU assistant Jerrance Howard, who played for Self at Illinois, hops to the front of the group and leads the team through a defensive stance and slide drill. Moments earlier, with the team still getting going, Howard walked by the media and joked, “Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to go through this any more. Clap and yell, clap and yell.” To kickstart this drill, Self even shouts Howard’s way early on in the drill, making him start things again because he was not loud enough to be heard in every corner of the gym. Howard obliges with a strong growl and the drill gets under way. Lots of energy, grunting, call-and-response type encouragement from players and coaches all over the gym.

Assistant coach Jerrance Howard waves a towel as he signals movement from a  player during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

Assistant coach Jerrance Howard waves a towel as he signals movement from a player during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m. by Nick Krug

6:15 a.m. — The action shifts to eight minutes of station work and the players rotate between four stations, some with more defensive stance and slide work, others with simple but endless backboard and rim touches.

6:19 a.m. — It’s here, when the players are switching from station to station, that the first signs of exhaustion start to show up. The breathing gets harder, guys are bending over and there are scowls and grimaces on a few faces. Except Carlton Bragg’s, of course. Somehow, the KU sophomore managed to keep a smile on his face from start to finish, even while in the middle of some high-intensity drills at times.

6:23 a.m. — More slides. The team, in a make-shift, single-file line, works full-court slides, angling their way from one side of the court to the next all the way down and back. The clock starts with 3:00 showing but the drill ends after 90 seconds because the Jayhawks executed it flawlessly.

6:25 a.m. — Turn, run and recover. More close outs that are followed by a run-and-recover exercise, which Self says simulates those times when you’re beat by your man and you have to get back in front of him on defense. Same thing as before — the clock showed 3:00 but the drill ended after 2:00 because of solid execution.

6:29 a.m. — Full-court close and slides, down and back. It’s more of the same for the next minute, this time with two previous drills combined into one. It seems as if this is designed to test the mental strength of the players to put multiple skills together while maintaining toughness, energy and execution without breaking down or slacking off. It worked and the 3:00-minute drill ends with 2:00 still showing on the clock.

6:30 a.m. — Time for some sprinting, which the Jayhawks will do basically for the final 20 minutes of Friday’s Boot Camp session. First up: 22s. The Jayhawks are split into guards and bigs and asked to go full-court, down and back, down and back in 22 seconds. The guards make it in 18 or 19 seconds each time. The bigs make it in around 20 seconds. After three sets, the team moves on.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some encouragement to newcomer Tucker Vang during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some encouragement to newcomer Tucker Vang during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m. by Nick Krug

6:34 a.m. — Wave drill into a sprint into motion offense and back cut simulation. Self explains clearly and carefully that if his guys do this one right and go hard, they’ll only have to do it once. “Do it right, you do it once,” he yells for emphasis. The first group of six makes it easily — Clay Young, Tyler Self, Frank Mason, Lagerald Vick, Landen Lucas and Svi. Self’s pleased and challenges the second group to match it. Led by Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson, they do, with Dwight Coleby, Evan Maxwell, Carlton Bragg, Mitch Lightfoot and Tucker Vang joining them. In all, each group needs just 75 seconds to get through the drill.

NOTE: Malik Newman (back) and Udoka Azubuike (groin) were held out of Friday’s action for precautionary reasons. Something tells me there’ll be a day when they make up for it. Self said Azubuike had done great all week leading up to Friday. Self said neither injury appeared to be serious in any way.

6:40 a.m. — After a short rest — its worth noting that Self is more than fair about giving these guys adequate time to rest and catch their breaths. He’s not going to make it easy and it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s not like he’s unreasonable in any way — the Jayhawks hit the final session of the day: Suicides. The format follows a 3-5-7-9-7-5-3 cycle and starts with down, back and down in 17 seconds. The Jayhawks make that with ease, which Self knew would happen. He told them the first two were basically gimmes. Make it and move on to the next. Miss it and do it again. If any one player does not make it in time or fails to touch the line, they all run again.

Next up, they move on to 5 lengths in 29 seconds. Again, they make it easily. Now for the tricky ones. The veterans who have done this for a while now know how to steal a few extra seconds of rest by wandering off the line or making conversation with Self or the assistant coaches. Self knows what they’re doing and gives them the best of both worlds — enough of a leash to get away with it a couple of times, but also enough of a warning to let them know that he’s on to them.

The seven-sprint portion is timed in 43 seconds and again the Jayhawks make it. It’s getting tougher and the stress and pain in their faces is starting to show more and more between sprints. After making nine lengths in 60 seconds, Self gives his team good news for the homestretch: “Now it’s easy,” he says. “You know you’re gonna make it.” Easy? Not exactly. But do they know in their minds that the times and goals are attainable? Yep. And it’s clear that they understand that.

For the second set of seven lengths, Self adds a second to the time and instead of 43 seconds they have to make it in 44. Moments earlier he explained that his sheet said they should’ve done nine lengths in 57 seconds but he added three seconds because they’ve had a good week. They took it and used it.

The final set of seven is finished and between this one and the set of five, Bragg can be found still smiling, even while bent over gasping for air. The team makes the round of five in 29 seconds, same as before, and moves on to the last sprint — three lengths, this time in 15 seconds. The reason for the two missing seconds? Howard kindly reminded Self earlier in the day that, back when he played, they used to have to do the set of three in 15 seconds.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg laughs with his teammates as he stretches out before the team's fifth day of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg laughs with his teammates as he stretches out before the team's fifth day of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m. by Nick Krug

Self emphasizes that if they do it right this will be it for the day. But that means every player touches every line and every player makes it easily. If they miss, an assistant coach or manager is going to put a hand in the air to signify they’re doing it again. On the second trip down the court, a hand goes up. And then another. The Jayhawks are doing it again. And they’re not happy. A variety of players yell encouragement — even friendly threats — before the next sprint, all to the effect of, “It’s not that hard, fellas. Just do it right and we’ll be done.” Self chimes in with his thoughts, as well. “This is where you win games in the final five minutes. Everyone just do your job.”

They do and they make the final sprint with ease. It was incredible to witness how you could actually see these guys dig a little deeper and find more to go all-out on the final sprint. They ran this one harder and with more focus than any they had done all day.

6:50 a.m. — Huddle up. Self’s pleased. He told them they did a great job and had a great week. After outlining what’s to come the rest of the day and reminding them to get to class on time, the players break and leave the gym. The coaches and support staff hang around the south wall of the practice gym and swap stories and laughs from the morning session.

Four more days of Boot Camp left.

The Jayhawks come together at center court before the start of their fifth day of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

The Jayhawks come together at center court before the start of their fifth day of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m. by Nick Krug


More news and notes from Friday morning's Boot Camp


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Behind the curtain at another KU Boot Camp

The Kansas basketball team plowed its way through Day 3 of Bill Self's annual preseason Boot Camp on Wednesday and was at it again bright and early for Day 4 on Thursday morning.

That puts the Jayhawks one day away from the halfway point of the annual ritual that players often deem to be torture while going through it and often see — and appreciate — the benefit of down the road, as they mature mentally and physically and move deeper into their college careers.

“As you go through them more and more, you really see that it’s for our benefit," KU forward Landen Lucas said after Day 1 of this year's camp. "At the beginning, you go out there and it really sucks, but, between the conditioning and just the team building and going through some adversity with teammates, it actually is something that will definitely help you in the long run.”

Asked where he keeps his mind focused, before during and after Boot Camp, Lucas offered a very direct answer.

“Just focusing on getting something out of it and building from (that)," he said.

As for the specifics of Boot Camp, Lucas provided a general overview of what each day is like and KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard recently posted a quick video that takes you behind the curtain.

“We usually start off with some stretching, some jump ropes, light warm-ups. You get tired after warm-ups," Lucas said. "And then you go to some stations and do some other drills and, really, if you can get through a day with no mistakes, it goes pretty quick. Where you hurt yourself is mess-ups and having to do stuff over again. Once you kind of get into a bad groove, it’s just a downhill spiral. You just try to make it through.”

Check back with KUsports.com on Friday for more from Boot Camp 2016, including photos and feedback from KU coach Bill Self.

None by KUsports.com

For those who didn't see the coverage from Friday, here's a quick look at some of the action via a video I made.

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

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) flashes a big smile as time runs out in the Jayhawks' 81-71 win over West Virginia, Saturday, March 12, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) flashes a big smile as time runs out in the Jayhawks' 81-71 win over West Virginia, Saturday, March 12, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

We're back for more with our new feature, "He Will, He Won't, He Might," which aims to identify something each Kansas basketball player definitely will do during the 2016-17 season, something the same player almost certainly won’t do and, of course, the wildcard, something each player actually might wind up surprising people with during the upcoming season.

All of the entries, of course, are pure speculation designed to dissect some of the more important players and aspects of the 2016-17 team.

If you missed the first in the series, be sure to check out these thoughts on senior guard Frank Mason III.

Today, we'll dive into the dynamic surrounding junior guard Devonte' Graham, Mason's running mate who is entering his third season playing for KU coach Bill Self.

After a solid but unspectacular freshman season, Graham enjoyed a monster year as a sophomore in 2015-16 and appears to be headed for more during the coming season.

Gifted with good size, great skill and an intense desire to compete and play with passion, Graham has become one of the main keys of this Kansas team and followed in the footsteps of some of the better versatile guards that Self has coached at KU.

Without further ado, let's dive in...

He will: Continue to be the most demonstrative Jayhawk

Whether it’s three-googles after a big shot, eyes and mouth wide open after a huge play or some sort of gesture or laugh to the bench or the crowd, Graham is, without a doubt, the player who brings the most personality to this team. And given the way KU coach Bill Self has praised him for that in the past, you can expect it to remain that way and potentially increase. The older and more comfortable Graham becomes, the more confident he’ll be in his game. And the more confident he is in his game, the more emotional he’ll be on the floor. That kind of emotion, when used properly, can bring great energy to a team and become contagious in a hurry. That’s not to say that everybody in a Kansas uniform is going to start poses and gesturing just because Graham does, but there’s no denying that the more these guys feel themselves out there, the better they’ll play. And Graham will continue to be the catalyst for it all.

He won’t: Shoot .441 from three-point range again.

It’s just not that easy to do. Think about this: A season ago, the junior from Raleigh, North Carolina, attempted 170 three-pointers and made a whopping 75. Miss a couple, make a couple; miss one, make the next two; miss two, make the next one. On and on it went, including some games when it seemed as if Graham was not going to miss at all. Maintaining that kind of clip, no matter how good of a shooter you are, is difficult to do and is dependent on a lot of things going right. All signs point to this year’s KU squad continuing to be the kind of team that moves the ball well, makes the extra pass and regularly finds open shots for its best shooters. And Graham most definitely is one of those. But you can bet that opposing defenses are going to key on Graham a little more — especially from the outside — and you can also bet that freshman Josh Jackson’s ability to attack the paint will take away a few opportunities for Graham to let it fly. I wouldn’t expect a big drop-off. After all, Graham shot .425 from behind the arc during his freshman season. But I’d expect his percentage to finish closer to the high 30s than 44.

He might: Be the Jayhawks’ best player

Frank Mason is a terrifically tough and talented player, but even he has a few limitations. And, from the sound of things, Josh Jackson is as talented as all get-out and can pretty much do anything he wants to do on either end of the floor. But he also has yet to do it at the major college level. Graham has. A lot. And, as shown by his huge jump from his freshman to sophomore season, the guy is only getting better. Graham is a terrific shooter, a great athlete, a good passer and an outstanding leader. He also can defend at a high level and plays with all-out effort night in and night out. Put all of those traits into the same package and bring that to the court on a consistent basis, and you’re looking at the best player on any team, no matter what the level or what his name is. Even on a team that features Fearless Frank Mason and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, a strong case could be made that the 6-2, 185-pound Graham is the best all-around player and his 2016-17 statistics might wind up validating that.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) shushes the crowd after hitting a three during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) shushes the crowd after hitting a three during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

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He Will, He Won’t, He Might: Frank Mason III

Blue Team guard Frank Mason III turns to save a ball headed out of bounds.

Blue Team guard Frank Mason III turns to save a ball headed out of bounds. by Nick Krug

Welcome to a new feature here at KUsports.com, where we take a little closer look at the potential for every player on the Kansas men’s basketball roster, one at a time, leading up to the start of the season next month.

Dubbed, “He will, he won’t, he might,” this feature aims to identify exactly that — something we believe each Jayhawk definitely will do during the 2016-17 season, something the same player almost certainly won’t do and, of course, the wildcard, something each player actually might wind up surprising people with during the upcoming season.

All of the entries, of course, are pure speculation designed to dissect some of the more important aspects of the 2016-17 team.

First up, let’s start with senior point guard Frank Mason III.

Poised to start for Kansas coach Bill Self for the third consecutive season, Mason finished the 2015-16 season as the team’s third leading scorer (12.9 ppg), top assists man (4.6 per game) and most used Jayhawks, playing 1,272 minutes (33.5 per game), nearly a full game more than second-place Devonte’ Graham, who played 1,238 minutes.

Known for his toughness and attacking style, Mason worked on his body in the offseason and appears to be more fit, athletic and explosive than ever before. Here’s a look at what that could mean for his 2016-17 campaign.

He Will: Continue to be the heartbeat of this team.

Mason, more than any player on this roster, exhibits the kind of toughness and determination that KU coach Bill Self has made staples of his programs dating back to his days at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois. Although the total number of games played during each of his first three years as a Jayhawk has differed, Mason has remained remarkably consistent. Many of his sophomore and junior numbers were nearly identical and Mason, during both seasons, became the type of what-you-see-is-what-you-get player that Self could rely on. That will continue — and possibly even grow — during his final season in Lawrence.

He Won’t: Play quite as many minutes as he has in the past.

Whether you’re talking about the emergence of backcourt mate Devonte’ Graham’s game, the presence of freshman phenom Josh Jackson, the opportunity that awaits likely sixth man Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk or the intrigue that surrounds the kind of minutes sophomore Lagerald Vick might be able to provide, the Jayhawks will have opportunities to give Mason more rest in games they don’t absolutely need him to play 40 minutes. It’s been proven that Self has a hard time taking Mason off the floor, especially when things are tight, but this year’s deep and experienced group of talented perimeter players should make that a little easier. Mason will still challenge for the team lead in minutes played, but getting him more rest from time to time will benefit both Mason and the Jayahwks.

He Might: Crack the all-Big 12 first team for the first time in his career.

It’s going to be tough, though. With at least two other players on his own team likely to compete for first-team all-Big 12 honors (Jackson and Graham) the opportunity could be limited. It also could be tough if Mason decides to be more of a distributor and less of a scorer now that he has more scoring punch around him. Having said that, the coaches who vote for this honor know good basketball when they see it and will not hesitate to put Mason on the first team if he’s one of the Big 12’s best players. After starting all 74 games during the past two years, Mason wound up on the all-Big 12 second team after both his sophomore and junior seasons. Could this be the year he breaks through?

Sophomore guard Frank Mason poses for a photograph during the 2014 men's basketball media day at Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014.

Sophomore guard Frank Mason poses for a photograph during the 2014 men's basketball media day at Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. by John Young

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Jayhawks survive Day 1 of Boot Camp

Carlton Bragg and Landen Lucas were living proof, and the two Kansas big men confirmed that everyone else on the team survived, as well.

Early Monday, Jayhawks old and young ran through the first day of Bill Self's annual Boot Camp, a two-week conditioning adventure that tests the mind as much as the body and often is particularly difficult for newcomers.

According to Lucas, a fifth-year senior who has been through several of these, Day 1 was a success on a lot of levels, but the KU forward believes that better days are ahead the rest of the week now that the anticipation is behind them.

“As far as getting through the conditioning, they did a good job," said Lucas when asked about how the freshmen and other newcomers performed during their first stab at the annual event. "They handled that well. We’ve gotta pick up the drills a little faster. I know it’s early in the morning, but, other than that, I think we’ll be OK, especially tomorrow once everybody gets back out there and isn’t so worried about what’s to come.”

Lucas, who now is considered one of the old men on this team, said he couldn't help but be amused by the fact that he was on the other side of the coin this year and added that he remembered his first encounters with Boot Camp very well.

“It’s funny seeing it from a different perspective because you were once thinking the same things I’m sure they were thinking," he said. "But hopefully they understand that this is an important time of the year and this is a step in a bigger picture and just kind of look at it that way. It’ll go by pretty easy if you do that.”

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Memphis loss puts backing of many KU football fans on life support

A deflated Kansas sideline watches late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

A deflated Kansas sideline watches late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. by Nick Krug

If you’ve followed Kansas football for any length of time — 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, even 50 years — you’ve seen, or perhaps even been a part of, a fan base that has suffered through all kinds of frustration, dashed hopes and disappointment.

Few stretches have been as rough as the past seven seasons, though. Kansas has won just 13 games during the dreadful run from 2010-2016 and, every year it seems as if the fan base has had to endure a handful of games — sometimes two or three, sometimes six or seven — that factor into the conversation about the lowest points in recent memory.

One such game popped up last weekend, when the Jayhawks were rocked, 43-7, by Memphis and played a big part in helping the Tigers kick tail.

I’ve covered all but two games during this stretch and, therefore, have seen and heard it all from the fan base that somehow keeps coming back with hope and optimism each season, though in dwindling droves each year.

That’s why it qualified as notable, at least to me, when I watched, saw and heard the reaction to this latest dud. Whether you’re talking about losses to K-State, whippings by Oklahoma and Baylor or no-shows against Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma State or a handful of non-conference foes, the anger and frustration coming from the fan base on Saturday was as bad as I can remember.

It’s not so much that the fans can’t handle losing. If anything, they’ve become experts on how to do that. And, for the most part, I don’t think any of them are expecting a reversal of fortunes immediately. What they are expecting, however, is progress. And, whether it’s there during the offseason and practice or not, it’s not showing up on Saturdays and that is creating quite a problem when it comes to support.

I’ve heard countless times from some of the most die-hard fans that losing is something they can handle as long as the losing comes with great effort, sound coaching and solid play. The Jayhawks are there in the effort department. Trust me. These guys — at least the great majority of them — are working and playing their butts off. But too often they’re beating themselves, imploding at the worst times and making life way, way, way too easy for their opponents.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to gauge the mindset of the fan base on Twitter a few hours after KU’s latest loss. As I expected, I received responses that included a lot of anger and frustration and even saw more than a few fans who were already willing to write off the season.

Not the “Don’t worry guys, it’s almost basketball season,” crew. They never go away. I’m talking about true blue KU football fans who seem to be incredibly frustrated about everything from the plays that are called and decisions that are made to the outcome of games and the apparent lack of growth and development.

Here’s a sampling of the variety of the opinions I encountered over the weekend, moving from the I’m done crowd to the I’m still with them folks. I realize Twitter is not the end-all, be-all platform for true sports fans, but it is the easiest place to tap into a wide variety of people and opinions. Beyond these posts, I saw similar frustration surface on message boards, Facebook and even heard quite a bit in person.

As you’ll see, it’s feelings like these that put second-year head coach David Beaty and the entire program in very dangerous and unsettled waters.

None by TJE

None by Chad Gerber

None by Rock Chalk

None by StevieT

None by Ben W

None by Michael Worner

None by Ryan Gerstner

None by Aaron Allen

None by Randy Maxwell

None by Matt Franzenburg

None by Kyle Sybesma

None by Randall W. Bond

None by Scott Patterson

None by Brett Hothan

None by Ben W.

None by Jaimes

None by Fitz

None by Tom Arbogast

None by TJ McGreevy

None by OneBuc82

None by Dustin Odum

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Waiting game roars on in Big 12 expansion saga

My favorite part about the ongoing Big 12 expansion saga is how often it compels people to state the obvious.

The most recent and notable example of that came earlier this week when Oklahoma president David Boren, speaking after the Oklahoma board of regents meeting Wednesday night, so eloquently declared that Big 12 expansion was not a given.

Terrific. Glad we got that cleared up.

Of course it’s not a given. If it were, it would’ve been done long before now.

There’s even a decent argument to be made that it SHOULD have been done long before now. If that were the case, KU might be opening its Big 12 football slate at Louisville in a couple of weeks or looking ahead to a January basketball match-up between Rick Pitino and Bill Self. Instead, the Cardinals and all-world quarterback Lamar Jackson are doing their thing in the ACC and the Big 12 is sifting through a pool of less-than-desirable expansion candidates.

I’ll give Boren this: For a man who has never been shy about opening his mouth and stoking the fires of one of the hottest topics ever to hit college athletics, his recent comments show a certain level of progress back toward reality and indicate he may have learned something from his past mistakes.

There’s nothing wrong with Boren stating the obvious if the obvious is true. And, in this case, it most certainly is.

The next meeting of the Big 12 board of directors is now just a month out and, although commissioner Bob Bowlsby has gone on record saying he would like for there to be a vote of some kind regarding expansion at that meeting, this conference hardly seems like it’s ready to move ahead with that four weeks from now.

Reports have indicated that the vote may not even happen and that all 10 members of the conference at least have some concerns about where the expansion process currently stands.

That won’t keep the speculation or politicking from running wild, though. What’s the fun in that?

Fans, coaches and administrators from those schools still deemed to be “in the running” continue to try to put their best foot forward in an effort to impress and inspire the Big 12 to bring them into the conference. Can’t blame them for that.

But the impassioned pleas of those schools desiring a spot, Boren admitted, may go for naught.

“I’m also listening to fans, not just to our coaches and AD and other people,” he said. “How do they feel about it? Are they excited about the expansion pool.... I’ve sometimes described the league moving at glacial speed in the past, but I think the main thing is for us to be thoughtful.”

The funny part about that statement is this: The fans, coaches and even ADs have next to no say in all of this. Heck, even Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby is having a difficult time in this mess and he’s the one who was hired to lead it. Instead of being an open process which equally values the input of those who run the schools and those who know the most about college athletics, the current expansion talk is being driven and decided in the offices of Big 12 presidents and chancellors, good news for some schools and awful news for others.

So again we wait. What exactly we’re waiting for certainly is open to interpretation and remains to be seen.

Some believe we’re waiting on the Big 12 to pick the schools with which it wants to move forward, be that two new members or four. Others believe we’re waiting on some kind of Hail Mary that magically presents more attractive expansion candidates. And still others believe we’re waiting for the Big 12 to do nothing.

Regardless of which of those reads is right — or, perhaps more fittingly, if they all are — the man who has been the least prudent in all of this, at least in the public eye, suddenly is banging the drum for the Big 12 to be more thoughtful.

The problem is, if you have to give too much thought to which schools you want or even whether the conference should expand at all, doesn’t that kind of answer the question for you?

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Gonzalez gaffe a good example of great mindset, poor execution

Kansas head coach David Beaty gives a pat on the back to Kansas wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) after Gonzalez fumbled a punt during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach David Beaty gives a pat on the back to Kansas wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) after Gonzalez fumbled a punt during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

When the ball bounced off of LaQuvionte Gonzalez’s shoulder pads late the second quarter of last week’s loss to Ohio, the sneaking suspicion I had at the time was that the muffed punt came because Gonzalez was dying to take another kick back to the house.

Just one kick earlier — that time on a kickoff — the Texas A&M transfer sparked the struggling Jayhawks with a 99-yard kickoff return that put Kansas on the board and back in the game.

So there he was, with those heroics fresh in his mind, ready to receive a punt and hoping to do something similar after a stop by the Kansas defense on the next Ohio possession.

It never happened, though. Gonzalez either took his eyes off the ball, did not get in proper position to field the kick, or possibly even both, and the Jayhawks paid dearly for it.

KU coach David Beaty confirmed the suspicion that I and many others had about that muff on Tuesday, when looking back at Quiv’s miscue.

“I think the thing is he wants to make a play every time the ball is in the air and I think that's what happened to him,” Beaty said.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that mentality. Kansas wants and needs more players with that mindset. But only if those players can have that mindset while still playing smart football.

Gonzalez messed that up not once but twice and by doing so completely negated any advantage that killer instinct might have provided.

Gonzalez will get his opportunity to redeem himself. Heck, he’ll probably get plenty of opportunities to do so. Both Beaty and special teams coach Joe DeForest said they were not worried about his ability move on from the mistakes he made against Ohio.

“I talked earlier about not having Quiv do too much,” Beaty said. “And that's where we have to be very careful about making sure that we don't put too much on him, and really, talking to him about, ‘Hey, man, listen, you don't have to win the game for us. All you've got to do is exactly what we tell you to do.’”

Added DeForest: “We believe in Quiv, we believe in his ability.... You gotta be fearless as a punt returner and I think Quiv is. He just made a technique error and it’s our job, as coaches, to clean it up and get him ready for the next one.”

Prior to last weekend’s loss, Gonzalez elected not to speak to the media for the rest of the season. So it’s up to the coaches and his teammates to speak on his behalf. Although it would be better to hear thoughts directly from the horse’s mouth, those guys who spoke about Gonzalez following Saturday’s loss and again on Tuesday did a nice job of examining the reality of the whole situation.

“I don't think he's scared of anything to be honest with you,” Beaty said of Gonzalez. “He’s not. There are some really good punters in Division I, and the majority of the kicks are going to be fair catches. You've got to wait for them to make a mistake and, when they make a mistake, you've got to capitalize on it. But when you start being selfish and you do things off-schedule, that's where dangerous things happen. We saw it happen to our opponent (Week 1), and it happened to us (last) week.”

What happens from here will tell us a lot both about Gonzalez and Beaty and his coaching staff.

Kansas wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) runs back a kickoff for a touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) runs back a kickoff for a touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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KU hoops well represented at Rock Chalk Choice Awards

The Kansas men’s basketball team, as one might expect, received plenty of love Sunday night at the annual Rock Chalk Choice Awards at the Lied Center.

In addition to celebrating the academic and athletic achievements of the past year, along with highlighting some of the top individual plays and team moments — the volleyball team’s victory over USC in the Elite Eight in San Diego won “Moment of the Year” — several athletes received a variety of honors as well.

This year's celebration featured a "So We Think We Can Dance" theme and mixed highlights, moments of comedy, performances from the Rock Chalk Dancers and other memorable moments into the presentation of various awards.

Two of the individual awards came from the men’s basketball team. Here’s a look:

• Guard Devonte’ Graham picked up the first award of the night, The Jayhawker Award, given annually to honor the pioneers who held true to their values throughout hardship while founding the state of Kansas.

• Perry Ellis, a model student-athlete on and off the court, won Male Athlete of the Year honors and current KU guard Tyler Self accepted the award on Ellis’ behalf. Ellis, who led the Jayhawks in scoring and also helped lead the team to its 12th consecutive Big 12 title, was one of five male athletes nominated for the honor.

The event has been billed an Academy Awards-esque celebration of the seasons that were in Kansas Athletics and the evening inspires several athletes to come dressed to the nines as if they truly were hitting the red carpet in Hollywood.

None by KU Leads

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KU’s Carlton Bragg ear-marked as breakout candidate for 2016-17 season

Kansas University freshman big man Carlton Bragg gets a shot up during warm-ups, prior to the Jayhawks' exhibition opener against Pittsburg State, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas University freshman big man Carlton Bragg gets a shot up during warm-ups, prior to the Jayhawks' exhibition opener against Pittsburg State, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Of all of the sophomores in all of college basketball, Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn believes the one guy ready to make the biggest leap might reside in Lawrence, Kansas.

In the eighth edition of Winn's Sophomore Breakout Formula, KU's Carlton Bragg landed at the top of the list of players who could be in for a monster season.

Here's the way Winn comes up with the list:

— The Sophomore Breakout Formula identifies scoring potential in players who didn’t put up significant points as freshmen, yet had promising advanced-statistical profiles. The formula strives to avoid too-obvious selections, and therefore its 2016–17 picks are restricted to players that averaged single-digit points last season and played not much more than 20 minutes per game. —

The happy-go-lucky Bragg's averages of 3.8 points in 8.9 minutes a season ago put him right in the wheelhouse of the kinds of players Winn is looking for with this formula.

The list is short and aims to identify only those players who truly stand to make a meaningful jump from what they did as freshmen.

There's no doubt that Bragg is aware of the opportunity that awaits. The Cleveland native has been working as hard as anybody on his game this offseason and has added serious bulk to his lanky frame, a move that should help him be more productive — if not dangerous — all over the floor during the upcoming season.

Winn is far from the only person who expects big things from Bragg this season. The expectation in and around Lawrence is that Bragg will both start and star in his new role with the Jayhawks and his prep coach, Babe Kwasniak, said after a visit with his former player earlier this summer that Bragg was in for "a monster season."

Here's what Winn had to say about Bragg, heading into his second season as a Jayhawk:

There’s opportunity galore in the Jayhawks’ frontcourt, as departed big men Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Cheick Diallo and Hunter Mickelson combined for 59.1 minutes per game last season. Bragg is the obvious heir to Ellis’s face-up four role, and in short stints as a freshman, Bragg took a higher percentage of Kansas’s shots than everyone other than Ellis and guard Wayne Selden Jr., who’s also off to the pros.

The Jayhawks’ go-to-guys are likely to be on the perimeter—veteran point guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, and possible No. 1 NBA draft pick Josh Jackson can all score—but coach Bill Self’s offense isn’t going to abandon the post. Bragg should get plenty of touches, and his small-sample efficiency thus far in the post (he had a team-high 1.41 points per possession there last season) and as a spot-up shooter has been encouraging. He added 26 pounds of muscle this off-season to better handle the physicality of the Big 12, and it’s easy to envision his scoring average increasing from 3.8 as a freshman to double-digits as a sophomore.

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Life after Ayton: Quick look at 2017 big men still available

The Kansas men’s basketball team missed out on one of their top targets on Tuesday, when 7-foot center DeAndre Ayton, the nation’s top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2017, opted for Arizona over Kansas and Kentucky.

Ayton’s decision, though not crippling, certainly served as a blow to KU’s recruitment of a big man for the future.

Freshman big man Udoka Azubuike should be around for at least the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. So, too, will Ole Miss transfer Dwight Coleby (6-9, 240) and Liberty transfer Evan Maxwell (6-10, 235).

That trio gives KU coach Bill Self and his staff time to transition into Plan B in the pursuit of KU’s next standout big man, a plan that could involve a number of still-undecided prospects in the 2017 class or skip ahead to the 2018 crew, which features forward Bol Bol, a 6-11, 180-pound five-star prospect from nearby Bishop Miege High ranked 14th overall by Rivals.com in the 2018 class.

That’s in the future. For now, let’s take a quick look at a few of the bigs still attainable in the 2017 class.

There are, of course, a number of other forwards and centers across the country that could suddenly vault up KU’s wish list, but the following list includes a few of the most likely targets for the Jayhawks.

Once you look over this list, be sure to check out our latest Recruiting Trail podcast, this week with recruiting analyst Matt Scott of TheShiver.com breaking down what comes next for Kansas after missing out on Ayton.

• Billy Preston •

— 6-9, 220, Oak Hill Academy, Virginia – 5 stars, No. 8 overall, according to Rivals.com

Regarded as a point forward, Preston, for the past several weeks, has pretty much zeroed in on Arizona, Kansas, Maryland and USC as his top choices. Given Ayton’s commitment to Arizona, it may be down to a final three for Preston, who has said that the most important factor in his decision will be finding the place that can develop him, both physically and mentally, for a jump to the NBA.

• Brandon McCoy •

— 6-11, 220, Cathedral Catholic, San Diego — 5 stars, No. 11 overall

Dubbed a true post player, McCoy has an exceptionally long reach which gives him the ability to cause problems in the paint as a rim protector and also plays well with his back to the basket on the other end. He can hit the baby hook over each shoulder and also moves very well for a player his size. McCoy’s Rivals profile indicates he has offers from Arizona, Cal, UConn, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan State, Oregon and San Diego State.

• P.J. Washington •

— 6-7, 200, Findlay Prep, Las Vegas — 5 stars, No. 17 overall

Considered a bring-your-lunch-pail-to-work type of player on both ends, Washington is a versatile big man with room to grow and an attitude that’s ready-made for college basketball. His final eight includes Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, NC State, Texas, UNLV and UCLA. And, in early August, Rivals.com predicted that Washington would wind up at Kentucky.

• Cody Riley •

— 6-7, 225, Sierra Canyon, California – 4 stars, No. 34 overall

More of a true power forward, with offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Kansas, Maryland and USC, Riley is the only one on this list who currently has an official visit to KU scheduled.

• Deng Gak •

— 6-9, 210, Blair Academy, New Jersey, 4 stars, No. 91 overall

Rugged power forward trimmed his list to five in early August — Kansas, Duke, Indiana, Miami and Florida — and told JayhawkSlant.com’s Shay Wildeboor earlier this summer that he’s looking for a place he can play immediately and make an early impact.

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Top-ranked 2017 hoops prospect DeAndre Ayton set to announce decision at 5 p.m.

DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1-ranked player in the 2017 high school basketball recruiting class, announced on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that he will be revealing the identity of his future school on ESPN's SportsCenter at 5 p.m.

Ayton, a 7-foot, 250-pound center from Phoenix's Hillcrest Academy will choose between Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona.

If the Jayhawks land Ayton, it will give KU coach Bill Self and his staff the nation's No.-1-ranked player in three of the past five recruiting classes — Andrew Wiggins (2013), Josh Jackson (2016) and Ayton (2017).

Many recruiting analysts believe Kansas is and has been the leader for Ayton's services all along because Self and his staff were the first ones to go all-in on Ayton during the recruiting process and also because they stuck with him when almost nobody else was on him.

The reasons for the lack of interest in a player that many believe could have a monster impact during the 2017-18 season was (a) eligibility concerns due to his moving around to several different high schools and (b) the fact that many believe he had no plans or desire to attend college.

Ayton cleared that up earlier this year when he claimed in interviews that he had no eligibility concerns and that his mother wanted him to go to school so that's what he was going to do.

“They think I’m not going to college, but I have to go to college. My mom wants me to go to college and that’s what I’m looking for," Ayton told reporters this summer.

Ayton, in a July interview with FloHoops, added: “Kansas has been there since ninth grade. They show me a lot of love, sending me letters and stuff like that. They have been coming to every game since I was in ninth grade, and that's big, man. I want to see the full experience at Kansas. I saw their weight room and stuff like that, but I want to see the whole campus.”

Stay tuned to KUsports.com for updates and reaction to Ayton's decision.

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KU guard Frank Mason needs your help

The hair's a bit longer than it was a year ago, but that's the least of senior guard Frank Mason's concerns heading into the 2016-17 season.

Mason, who appears to be in the best shape of his life and — believe it or not — looks leaner, stronger and more explosive than ever before, took to Twitter on Thursday night to ask his 36,484 Twitter followers one simple question.

So what say you, KU fans? Are you guys feeling Frank with or without the headband for the 2016-17 season?

Remember, KU coach Bill Self's general rule on the accessory is that players can wear one if they come to KU having worn one throughout high school and AAU. It would be interesting to see if he would amend the rule for a veteran like Mason, if it comes down to that.

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Even as things change, it’s more of the same with Big 12 expansion talk

I’m as interested as the next guy in seeing exactly what happens with all of this Big 12 expansion talk, chatter that makes the possibility of new schools joining the league seem more and more real every day.

Wednesday, news surfaced across the country from various Big 12 expansion candidates who made it known they were officially no longer being considered by the Big 12 Conference.

My question is this: Did you really have to let us know?

With all due respect to all of these institutions, which surely have some wonderful attributes and attractions, I’m not sure that very many people out there actually thought or even considered that you had a chance of joining the Big 12 in the first place.

That’s not to sound snobby, but did anyone actually think that East Carolina, UNLV, New Mexico, Boise State, Arkansas State, Northern Illinois or even San Diego State truly had a shot at getting in?

If those schools were real candidates — which they weren't — the Big 12 would’ve done better to just shut the doors, sell off the remaining 10 members to the four other Power 5 conferences for cash and then use the money to take the Big 12 administrative staff on the mother of all year-long cruises.

Those seven schools mentioned above, according to a report from ESPN.com, were the schools that were told this week that they were out. Some of them decided to send out press releases or hold news conferences and others simply let the dream die quietly.

I’ve got nothing against any of those schools and actually think each one has a lot going for it. But the Big 12 simply cannot — and obviously will not — add any school as a full-time member because it is located in a nice climate or has a short history of world-beating football success or is close to other relevant schools in other conferences.

This is too big of a decision and too much is at stake. Heck, even the dozen or so schools that remain in the hunt for a possible invite still leave more than a little to be desired, which is why the idea of the Big 12 staying put at 10 teams remains in play, even if it’s not the most likely outcome.

At this point, there are more than a few people out there who believe that adding two teams — most likely two of the trio of BYU, Cincinnati and Houston — will be the way the Big 12 goes. And the time is coming when we will find out — one way or another.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby continues to explore and vet candidates and that same ESPN.com report indicated that Bowlsby and the Big 12 would like to make a final decision on expansion by the next board of directors meeting scheduled for Oct. 17.

Therein lies the one key thing to remember about all of this: It’s the board of directors and university chancellors and presidents who ultimately will make this call.

Remember the last time conference realignment was so hot? Back then, you heard athletic directors from just about every Big 12 Conference institution speaking their minds, sharing their thoughts and even offering thinly veiled threats whenever someone stuck a recorder in their faces. Missouri’s Mike Alden. Texas’ DeLoss Dodds. Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione. Heck, even athletic directors from Kansas State and Baylor and Iowa State had little problem sharing their thoughts.

Not this time. If you notice, you’re not hearing much of anything from any of the conference athletic directors and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

That’s not to say the ADs don’t have a say in any of this. They do. But how much say and just how far that goes depends upon their relationship with their presidents and chancellors.

At KU, the relationship between Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and athletic director Sheahon Zenger always has been stellar. There is a great deal of mutual respect between the two and Gray-Little has a lot of faith in Zenger’s ability to run the athletic department while she offers guidance and a sounding board for any issues, questions or concerns Zenger might have.

That type of relationship works because both people have the best interest of both KU and the Big 12 at heart.

So now we wait.

While folks at UConn, South Florida, Central Florida, Colorado State, Air Force, SMU, Temple and Tulane join BYU, Cincinnati and Houston in continuing to try to convince Bowlsby and company that their school is the right one to expand with, everything remains up in the air and on the table.

By this time next month, we may be closer to a resolution. But we also may still be wondering if the future of the Big 12 Conference will include 10, 12 or even 14 institutions.

In short, the fun is just beginning. Still.

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Bottoms up with Bill Self?

Kansas head coach Bill Self casts a smile down his bench in the second half, as the Jayhawks near victory against the University of Oklahoma on Feb. 22, 2010, in Allen Fieldhouse. Self participates in the Coaches vs. Cancer program. He encourages fans to participate in the American Cancer Society's 3-Point Attack contest during the NCAA tournament.

Kansas head coach Bill Self casts a smile down his bench in the second half, as the Jayhawks near victory against the University of Oklahoma on Feb. 22, 2010, in Allen Fieldhouse. Self participates in the Coaches vs. Cancer program. He encourages fans to participate in the American Cancer Society's 3-Point Attack contest during the NCAA tournament. by Nick Krug

More feedback from CBSsports.com, which has been conducting a “Candid Coaches” series all summer long.

After revealing earlier this week that Self was one of the top three vote-getters among his peers to the question, “Which college coach would you want coaching your own son,” it seems that there’s some interest in hanging out with Self, as well.

The KU coach set to begin his 14th season in charge of the program, was the No. 2 vote-getter in CBS’s most recent edition of the series, “Who’s the college coach you’d most like to have a beer with?”

Self received 15 percent of the vote in a poll that included more than 100 coaches.

West Virginia’s Bob Huggins was the run-away winner, with 29 percent of the vote.

As for why Self, the following quotes that stood out to CBSsports.com’s Matt Norlander summed it all up perfectly.

“Bill Self is the best because you can have a beer with him and completely forget you're drinking with one of the all-time great coaches,” one coach told Norlander. “He just carries himself like a normal guy. It's why everybody likes him.”

Added another coach: “Bill Self. Draught beer in a dive bar.”

Be sure to check out the full CBS story for some of the quotes that stood out about Huggins. Absolute classics.

Kansas head coach Bill Self laughs with West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins while Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford and his players, Le'Bryan Nash, left, and Marcus Smart await a television interview during Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Coaches and players representing each school in the conference were available for interviews.

Kansas head coach Bill Self laughs with West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins while Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford and his players, Le'Bryan Nash, left, and Marcus Smart await a television interview during Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Coaches and players representing each school in the conference were available for interviews. by Nick Krug

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KU’s Bill Self tapped by peers as one of the coaches they’d want their sons to play for

Kansas head coach Bill Self puts his arm around guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the postgame interview with Holly Rowe of ESPN.

Kansas head coach Bill Self puts his arm around guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the postgame interview with Holly Rowe of ESPN. by Nick Krug

When CBSsports.com’s Gary Parrish asked his latest Candid Coaches question of the summer, just three college basketball coaches received double-digit votes.

The question, asked of more than 100 college hoops coaches across the country, read: “Which college coach would you want coaching your own son?”

Answering under the condition of anonymity, 10 coaches voted for KU’s Bill Self, who, as you all know, already is coaching his own son, Tyler.

Self was joined by Michigan State’s Tom Izzo (18) and Virginia’s Tony Bennett (16) as the only coaches to crack double digits.

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (9), Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger (7) and Texas’ Shaka Smart (6), were the only other coaches to receive more than five votes.

As if the compliment of having that many of his peers vote to send their son to play for him was not enough of a nod Self’s way, Parrish included a section called, “Quotes that stood out,” and in it was a comment about Self.

"Bill Self doesn't take himself too seriously and understands the entire experience is supposed to be fun,” one coach said.

Talk about high praise. And talk about an absolute gold mine to add to his recruiting repertoire. Here another college coach, quite possibly someone whom Self recruits against, is laying out one heck of a reason why a young man should want to play at Kansas.

Add to that KU’s history and tradition, track record of winning and ability to put players into the NBA, and it’s easy to see why Self and the Jayhawks have been so successful on the recruiting trail in recent years and don’t appear to be slowing down.

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Why KU freshman Josh Jackson wears No. 11 and how he got it

Blue Team guard Josh Jackson comes in for a dunk.

Blue Team guard Josh Jackson comes in for a dunk. by Nick Krug

If you’re like most fans, you occasionally find yourself wondering why some of your favorite athletes wear the numbers they wear.

It’s pretty much automatic to assume that a basketball player wearing No. 23 is doing so to honor Michael Jordan, even if that’s not the case. And there are certainly other numbers that trigger immediate thoughts of legendary athletes who wore that number once upon a time. Magic Johnson and No. 32. John Elway and No. 7. George Brett and No. 5. The list goes on and on.

It’s not always the case, of course, but before you can even begin to wonder what the reason is, the names and visions of those former greats often flood your mind.

That brings us to the current Kansas men’s basketball team, which will feature a strong group of returning veterans and one newcomer who comes with as much hype as just about anybody in college basketball.

We learned a few weeks back that freshman Josh Jackson would wear No. 11 and that senior Tyler Self, the former No. 11, would give up the jersey and switch to No. 20.

I haven’t heard yet why Self chose 20 — although someone did point out to me that his dad wore No. 20 at Oklahoma State, so that's as good of a guess as any — but I recently was able to find out why Jackson wanted No. 11.

“My favorite player is Jamal Crawford and Jamal Crawford wears 11,” Jackson recently told the Journal-World.

Jamal Crawford? Not exactly the Isaiah Thomas answer I was expecting to hear.

Although Crawford, now in his 18th NBA season with his seventh different pro team, hails from Seattle and, therefore did not play anywhere near Jackson’s hometown of Detroit, there is a connection. Crawford played his college ball at Michigan and was a lottery pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. Although Jackson still would have been too young to truly follow Crawford’s Wolverines career, the 6-foot-5 guard is still talked about in Ann Arbor and it’s safe to assume that Jackson at least grew up hearing about him.

The love for No. 11 goes beyond Crawford’s time at Michigan, though. Jackson said he has long been a fan of Crawford’s pro game, as well.

“Just the way he plays,” he said. “He’s really exciting and, when he’s got the ball, there’s no telling what he’s about to. He’s so unpredictable.”

What was not predictable was the manner in which Jackson went about acquiring No. 11 from Self.

“I had to ask,” Jackson said with a grin.

After asking, though, KU’s latest likely one-and-done standout got no resistance from Self, who gladly offered to change jerseys for his final season on his dad’s squad.

“I do owe him dinner,” Jackson revealed. “But he was all right with it and let me go ahead and get it. He’d known I’ve been wearing this number for the past four years now, so he let me have it.”

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