Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

Jackson, Mason as motivated as any Jayhawks ever to make strong transition to NBA

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) puts his arm around teammate Frank Mason III (0) during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) puts his arm around teammate Frank Mason III (0) during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

“They will be sorry,” and “You won’t regret it.”

Two very different sounding phrases uttered by former Kansas basketball stars who on Thursday night were drafted into the NBA, Josh Jackson as the No. 4 overall pick and Frank Mason III as the fourth pick of the second round.

Provided Wayne Selden Jr., sticks with the Grizzlies and recently rehabbed point guard Mario Chalmers gets back into the league with someone, the addition of Jackson and Mason to NBA rosters brings the current total of Jayhawks in the NBA to 18.

I’ve been around all but a few of those players and it’s hard for me to imagine any of those who came before them being quite as driven and focused to make their presence felt as Jackson and Mason.

That presence may come in very different ways and at distinctly different times — hence the two different sounding phrases that kick-started this blog — but there’s no doubt that both players are well positioned to use their best skills — toughness, tenacity, work ethic, effort — to prove to their teams and others that they will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

A quick glimpse into the crystal ball has that vision looking a little different for the two Jayhawks.

For Jackson, the sky is the limit. The versatile wing, with a ridiculously talented all-around game and unending desire to polish all aspects of it, has the potential to be a 10-year NBA starter and play in at least a couple of All-Star Games.

He had that potential heading into his lone season at Kansas. He had that potential before the first pick was even made on Thursday night. And after waiting a full 31 minutes for his name to be called at No. 4 to Phoenix, that potential now has a little motivation behind it.

Jackson proved that after he was drafted by calmly proclaiming at his post-draft presser that those teams that did not draft him — all three of them — one day would be sorry.

I don’t doubt it. Because I know Jackson a little bit and I know that he’s not going to pull back one bit in his pursuit of that goal. It’s not in his DNA to ease up, and now that he has a reason, real or perceived, to go even harder than he already has, you’re talking about an exciting situation for the Phoenix franchise.

As for Mason, who took to Twitter after he was picked to thank the Kings for drafting him and promise them that they would not regret it, the idea of him becoming a force in the NBA looks a little different.

But before we examine exactly what that means, let’s remember that nine months ago this was a player who was not on anybody’s NBA radar and the young man damn near cracked the first round.

Impressive. Incredible. In every way, exactly the kind of thing that Frank Mason has done throughout his entire basketball playing life.

So for Mason, that whole force to be reckoned with talk looks a little less All-Starish and a little more like a veteran point guard who enjoys a long career and becomes one of the more respected and well-liked players on whatever roster he’s on. Think Paul Pierce meets Nick Collison.

After Thursday’s draft, KU coach Bill Self talked glowingly about the situations inherited by both of his former players. He loves the fit for Mason, who will be able to both play and help rebuild the culture with the Kings. And he thinks Jackson, no matter who he’s playing for, is ready to make a significant impact on the NBA immediately.

Regardless of how long it takes for either player to reach his full potential, there’s no doubt in my mind that few Jayhawks before them have been as ready, and at the same time as motivated, to transition to the pro game full-speed ahead.

It should be fun to watch and both Phoenix and Sacramento should benefit a great deal from that mindset and determination.

Current Jayhawks in the NBA

Cole Aldrich – Minnesota Timberwolves

Darrell Arthur – Denver Nuggets

Tarik Black – Los Angeles Lakers

Mario Chalmers – TBD

Nick Collison – Oklahoma City Thunder

Cheick Diallo – New Orleans Pelicans

Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns

Frank Mason III – Sacramento Kings

Ben McLemore – Sacramento Kings

Marcus Morris – Detroit Pistons

Markieff Morris – Washington Wizards

Kelly Oubre Jr. – Washington Wizards

Thomas Robinson – Los Angeles Lakers

Brandon Rush – Minnesota Timberwolves

Wayne Selden Jr. – Memphis Grizzlies

Andrew Wiggins – Minnesota Timberwolves

Jeff Withey – Utah Jazz

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It’s Draft Day in the NBA; everyone go wild!!!

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) raises up his arms as he leaves the court with little time remaining during the Jayhawks' 90-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) raises up his arms as he leaves the court with little time remaining during the Jayhawks' 90-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Whether you prefer to follow Chad Ford, Jeff Goodman, DraftExpress.com or any number of other NBA writers who cover the league and have done their best to predict what will happen in tonight’s draft, there’s no question that, when it comes to the rumor-mill world of the NBA Draft, there’s no shortage of entertaining and informative options out there.

But which ones will wind up being closest to right when it all goes down inside Barclays Center later tonight?

That’s impossible to predict — perhaps even tougher than predicting the picks themselves — and overall rather irrelevant since so many wild things can happen both leading up to and during the draft on one of the wildest days and nights on the NBA calendar year after year.

Personally, the NBA Draft is one of my favorite days of the sports year. Always has been. Ever since I was young and my favorite Kansas player at the time, point guard Kevin Pritchard, was drafted by Golden State on my birthday in 1989, I’ve been obsessed with the NBA Draft.

And not just the big names and popular picks either. All 60 of them. Every year.

So you can imagine my excitement when, in 2010, I actually got to cover a draft for the first time in my career. Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry were the KU picks that year and the experience was awesome. That draft started a streak of five straight NBA Drafts for me, and during that time I covered the draft night jubilation of eight lottery picks, including three Top 5 selections, twin brothers and a No. 1 overall pick in 2014.

Each experience was unique and being their for the biggest nights in all of those guys’ lives was memorable for a number of different reasons.

I haven’t been back since Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid went No. 1 and No. 3 in the 2014 draft — largely because Kansas hasn’t had another lottery pick since then — but I’m definitely wishing today that I was in the Big Apple with Josh Jackson, who was as much fun to cover and be around as any KU player I’ve worked with during my time with the paper.

Ben McLemore was by far the kindest and most accommodating of the former KU stars who I covered at the draft — Aldrich was a close second — and I think Jackson easily would’ve given him a run for his money.

But the schedule did not allow for it to happen this year, so we’ll cover it from here and try our best to keep up with all of the goings on that take place throughout the hours leading up to the 6 p.m. draft.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’m expecting to see and/or hear tonight and a quick prediction for where Jackson and Frank Mason III will wind up.

• I’m no NBA genius or insider, but I can’t see the top two picks going any other way than Markelle Fultz to Phily and Lonzo Ball to the Lakers. Recent moves by both teams seem to have cemented those picks and even though I would love to see Magic Johnson bring Jackson to L.A., I can’t see it happening. With that in mind, the draft really begins at pick No. 3 with the Boston Celtics.

• Speaking of the Celtics, I, like many people, think there’s a decent chance that the Celtics draft Josh Jackson. But the guess here is that Jackson never winds up playing for the Celtics even if they do.

• That brings me to my prediction for where Jackson will be selected and I’m going to say No. 4 to Phoenix. Because the Suns finished with one of the worst records in the league last season, I know that does not excite too many KU fans (especially those hoping Jackson somehow winds up playing with Embiid in Phily). But I think it should. Jackson would be a terrific spot for Jackson, who could flourish playing alongside guards Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, who could be to Jackson in the NBA what Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham were to him in college. Beyond that, Jackson would be a clear-cut, Day 1 starter and not face much pressure during his first year or two, which would allow him to develop his game and make the NBA adjustment while the Suns get better around him. I like it. Boston or L.A. would be more exciting, but Phoenix isn’t a disaster like falling one more spot to Sacramento would be.

• The latest mock draft put out by DraftExpress.com (3:20 p.m. Wednesday) has six Big 12 players being drafted, with four of those six going in the second round. Six out of 60 isn’t bad, but it sure seems like the league had better talent than that. DraftExpress’ latest version did not include Iowa State point guard Monte Morris, which, in my mind, is nuts. I think Morris will be a great pro and bring serious value to some team’s bench. So I’ll go with seven Big 12 players as the total number taken tonight.

• After a stellar senior season and some impressive pre-draft workouts, Frank Mason will certainly be one of them and that’s pretty darn cool considering he was nowhere to be found on these mock drafts when the 2016-17 season began. Mason’s story is as good as there has been during my time covering Kansas and that’s what makes it so easy to feel so good for him as he sits on the brink of watching his lifelong dream come true. Getting drafted is part of it. But making a roster and having an impact is part of it, too. And Mason is well aware of that. Simply getting drafted will not be good enough for him. Nor will he let the euphoria of being selected cloud his vision and allow him to become complacent. If anything, Mason will start working even harder after he’s drafted, merely as a thank you to the team that picks him and to show them that they made a good decision. With the NBA Draft, or really any draft for that manner, it’s often all about minimizing risk. There’s a lot at stake and a ton of money is invested in these extremely young players. Sometimes, their talent is so loud and impressive that you have to take on some risk. But other times, like in the second round where Mason will likely be selected, the risk taking is less prominent and teams are looking for proven commodities. There are few guys in this draft who minimize that risk like Mason and that’s why I think you’ll see him go early in the second round. Teams know what they’re getting with Mason. They know his character, his work ethic, his team-first mentality, his willingness and preference to avoid drama and, above all, his desire to win. There’s not a team in the league that would not like to add those things to its roster.

• As for my guess on which team will be the one that makes Mason their guy, I’m going to say Philadelphia at either pick No. 36 or 39. In addition to having the No. 1 overall pick, which they’ll no doubt use on Fultz, the Sixers have four other picks, which puts them in a great position to fill out some of their bench to lend support to the potentially stellar trio of Embiid, Fultz, Ben Simmons. Mason, for all of the reasons mentioned above (and then some) would be a great fit on that kind of roster, where he could use his drive, mentality and maturity in a leadership role sooner rather than later.

• One quick parting shot, before I go hop on Twitter and track what madness unfolds, if I had my choice, I’d love to see either Mason or Jackson end up with the New York Knicks. If it’s Jackson, he becomes a huge part of their rebuild and he would be willing and able to shoulder all that comes with being a star in the Big Apple. If it’s Mason, how cool would it be for him to play 41 professional games a year in the arena where he hit the biggest shot of his college career? But whether it’s one of these guys to Boston, New York or L.A., can we all just cross our fingers and hope that those three franchises make the right moves to climb back to relevance? Boston clearly is already there. And that’s exciting. But the league’s just not the same with the Knicks and Lakers stinking the way they have in recent years.

Enjoy draft day everybody, and stay in touch with KUsports.com, right here on the site, via Twitter or both, for any happenings that might involve your Jayhawks.

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New KU PG Charlie Moore making most of early opportunities as a Jayhawk

Charlie Moore at this week's U19 USA Basketball tryout in Colorado Springs. (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)

Charlie Moore at this week's U19 USA Basketball tryout in Colorado Springs. (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball) by Matt Tait

11:31 a.m. Update:

According a late-morning Tweet from Luke Winn of SI.com, Moore did not make the first cut at this week's tryout in Colorado Springs.

Despite falling short, which is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about given the talent and depth of those players vying for the spots, everything that was written below earlier today still applies to the opportunity Moore received.

If anything, not making the USA roster might add even more fuel to Moore's fire and inpsire him to take even better advantage of the upcoming year than he already planned to.

Time will tell, but it's important to remember two things when thinking about Moore:

1 - He's still just a freshman and seems to be very much on par with where Devonte' Graham was after his freshman season at Kansas. That's not to say Moore will become Graham, but Graham wasn't exactly the player we know him to be today back then either.

2 - Moore does have that one valuable year of experience at Cal under his belt, which should help him approach his current opportunity and what's ahead with more maturity than your average newcomer.

None by Luke Winn

Original post:

Kansas point guard Charlie Moore is in Colorado Springs this week, trying out for a spot on the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Cup Team.

Twenty-eight current college players were invited to the tryout and 12 will make the final roster to compete for Team USA at the U19 FIBA World Cup July 1-9 Cairo.

Consider this the first important step in Moore’s potentially huge transfer year.

While practicing with and playing against current Jayhawks like Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman will no doubt be big for Moore’s development, these opportunities stand to be even bigger.

Unlike KU’s practices, where Moore can play with little pressure and without the usual make-or-break urgency, this week’s environment is a high-intensity, put-your-best-foot-forward-or-go-home experience that will force the former Cal point guard to be sharp and locked in at all times.

Whether he makes the team or not, that’s a good foundation for Moore to develop as he heads into the rest of the summer with the Jayhawks and, ultimately, the 2017-18 season, where he’ll hang in the shadows but be an important part of KU’s practice puzzle.

“He’s had some good moments,” Self told the Journal-World Tuesday morning when asked about Moore’s tryout thus far. “But he probably needed to have a really good day today to put himself in position to make that team.”

Newman, who came to KU after a year at Mississippi State, talked recently about the huge advantages of his transfer year and how he was able to spend an entire year working on the parts of his game that he thought needed the most help. Doing so under the watchful eye and tutelage of coaches like Bill Self, Kurtis Townsend, Andrea Hudy and many others certainly pushed Newman to a new level and left him saying and feeling that his confidence heading into the summer was at an all-time high.

Now it’s Moore’s turn to do the same. And what better way is there to do that than by competing against some of the best young players in college basketball while trying out for a team coached, and therefore selected, by Kentucky’s John Calipari.

Former Kansas players Tad Boyle (Colorado) and Danny Manning (Wake Forest) are assistants on Calipari’s Team USA staff, so the opportunity for Moore to pick their brains — especially Manning’s — about Kansas basketball and playing for Self only adds to the enormous gains that Moore can get out of the tryout.

Every little bit helps and it has to be viewed as a great sign that KU’s newest guard — and the potential heir to the Jayhawks’ point guard throne — is jumping into life as a Jayhawk with both feet and reckless abandon.

I liked what little I saw from Moore during the recent camp scrimmages. He looks quick, poised and more than competent and should improve his all-around game a great deal during his transfer season, much in the way Newman did.

It’s hard to imagine him being talked about at this time next year the way KU’s coaches have talked about Newman, but it’s not hard to envision Moore becoming an important part of KU’s team for the next couple of years. Opportunities to both test and prove himself like the one he’s getting this week in Colorado Springs can only help.

As for Self, he has spent time in Colorado Springs this week with an eye on recruiting some of KU’s most important targets in future recruiting classes, and on Wednesday he’ll head to New York City for the NBA Draft to join Josh Jackson and watch what fate awaits his most recent one-and-done player along with Frank Mason III.

None by Overtime

None by Overtime

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Josh Jackson’s subtle statement at Lakers workout a perfect representation of his competitive grit

None by Los Angeles Lakers

I love the month leading up to the NBA Draft, largely because of two things: 1. It gives us plenty of stories to track and follow during the dog days of summer. And 2. I enjoy keeping tabs on all draft rumors and trade talks that surfac up and down the draft board because the NBA, unlike any other professional sport, is a game that can be impacted by the addition of a single player.

Add the right guy, at a position of need, and a team that missed the playoffs a year earlier could jump into the mix right away.

Add the right face to a struggling franchise and an entire city and fan base could suddenly be energized.

Whether this year’s draft — 6 p.m. Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. — has those types of players or not remains to be seen. Markelle Fultz could be one. And it sure seems like Philadelphia is counting on that. Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson could join him.

And then, of course, there’s always the possibility that there’s a Manu Ginobli or Draymond Green waiting in the second round, which is another part of the annual draft experience that makes for compelling stories.

For most KU fans, the stories worth reading only go as far as the Kansas prospects in each draft. Luckily, Bill Self has done a masterful job of putting KU players in the pros of late, delivering lottery talent in seven of the past 10 years, including a five-year streak from 2010-14.

The Jayhawks have been shut out of the lottery in each of the past two drafts — No. 15 overall pick Kelly Oubre came oh-so-close in 2015, missing lottery status by one spot — but KU will climb back in this year, making it eight of the last 11 years, when Josh Jackson is drafted, perhaps as high as second or third.

Frank Mason III also figures to be drafted this week, but it’s Jackson that we’re here to talk about today because one of my all-time favorite Jayhawks to cover recently delivered one of my favorite all-time draft moments and I’m not sure everybody picked up on it.

Pegged as a likely Top 3 pick for months, Jackson skipped the pre-draft combine in Chicago in May and limited the teams with which he worked out individually to just a couple because it’s hard to imagine him falling out of the Top 5.

One of those teams in the Top 5 is the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently run by former Michigan State & Lakers star Magic Johnson.

Magic loves Jackson. He loved him in high school, did everything in his power to convince him to go to Michigan State and has had nothing but good things to say about the Detroit native every time he’s been asked.

I know there’ll be a ton of pressure on the Lakers to pick Ball at No. 2, but there are plenty of people out there who think Jackson will end up in L.A.

I don’t blame them. Here’s why:

A couple of weeks ago, when Jackson showed up to his workout with the Lakers, he did so wearing a Kansas T-Shirt.

Big deal, right? I’m sure he’s got a hundred KU shirts, if not more, and it would make sense for him to slap one on to represent the program that helped put him in the position of being a Top 5 draft pick.

Fair.

But there was something about this particular shirt that caught my eye. Rather than simply saying Kansas basketball or Rock Chalk or any other combination of the most common words you see splattered on KU gear around here, Jackson chose one that said, “NCAA Men’s Sweet 16” and featured the year and a small Jayhawk at the bottom.

Again, big deal, right?

Actually, it was. As you’ll recall, it was Johnson’s Michigan State team that Jackson and the Jayhawks defeated to reach the Sweet 16. And there’s no doubt in my mind that Jackson chose it on purpose.

That’s just the kind of cut-throat competitor he is. Rather than being in awe of Johnson and bowing at his feet, thanking him for the mere opportunity to even show him his basketball abilities, Jackson showed up with some swagger and an edge, the kind that a guy like Johnson would probably love to have on his team.

As subtle as the gesture was, I would bet good money that Magic picked up on it.

If he did, and if the Lakers were at all actually considering taking Jackson at No. 2, a moment like that certainly could go a long way toward making the decision final.

That’s a bold move and a simple declaration from Jackson to Johnson that says, “I’m a bad man and you want me on your team.”

Time will tell if that happens.

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Tyshawn Taylor says heavy roster turnover can work at Kansas

Blue Team forward Billy Preston goes behind the back as he makes a move against Red Team guard Tyshawn Taylor during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Blue Team forward Billy Preston goes behind the back as he makes a move against Red Team guard Tyshawn Taylor during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. by Nick Krug

In the summer of 2008, a long, athletic guard from Hoboken, N.J., arrived on KU’s campus ready to take on the world.

His name was Tyshawn Taylor, he was on the heels of winning a prep national championship with St. Anthony’s after a 32-0 senior season and he was one of six players in KU’s recruiting class that offseason, a group that would become the foundation for a few wildly successful teams in the coming years.

That summer, of course, KU was just a couple of months removed from winning the 2008 national title and Taylor, along with the likes of Travis Releford, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and others were stepping into some huge shoes.

Gone to the NBA draft were six rotation players from the 2008 title team — including all five starters — and Taylor’s crew, along with title-team returners Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, would be asked to lead the Jayhawks into the future.

While not all of them are headed to the NBA, the current Jayhawks also are losing six players — three full-time starters — from last season’s opening-day roster, a fact that, at least in Taylor’s eyes, puts the upcoming team on par with his first Kansas team.

“I came in with a class kind of like this,” Taylor said of KU’s transfer-heavy 2017 recruiting class that features two freshmen and six high-profile transfers. “All the guys from the national championship team left and then like seven or eight new guys came in. So I know how it feels to kind of be the new guy in a big group. And it’s cool, man. You just gotta embrace it and enjoy it. I’m sure everybody’s showing them love and welcoming them so I’m sure they’re enjoying it.”

That much was obvious during the past couple of weeks, when old names and new faces got together for a couple of camp scrimmages and some good, old-fashioned pick-up basketball.

Only five of the eight new players on the 2017-18 KU roster will be eligible for the upcoming season, which creates a slightly different situation than the one Taylor walked into. But with senior point guard Devonte’ Graham playing the Sherron Collins/Frank Mason III role, Taylor said the current team was poised for big things in the immediate future.

“Devonte’ is a proven guy at this point now,” Taylor said. “So I know what to expect from him. And I just loved how hard they played. They came to compete against us old guys. They really wanted to win that game and they did. I’m looking forward to watching them once Coach Self gets his hands on ’em, you know.”

That time is now. With the Jayhawks allowed to practice in small doses this summer and planning to utilize their 10 practices ahead of the August trip to Italy to go full-speed twice a week for five straight weeks, the versions of the KU team will saw earlier this month and the one that hits the floor in Italy and ultimately at Allen Fieldhouse on Halloween night will differ dramatically.

Here’s what we know already about the new faces:

• Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, who finally will be eligible when October rolls around, has shined, testing himself against Taylor, Mario Chalmers and others.

• Memphis transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson flashed the kind of potential that should — and, no doubt, will — make fans eager to see the 2018-19 team, as well. In time, of course.

• Former Cal point guard Charlie Moore proved in short bursts that he could be worthy heir to the point guard throne held first by Mason and this season by Graham.

• And Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe and William & Mary grad transfer Jack Whitman, both of whom will be playing by January (Whitman immediately and Cunliffe at the start of the second semester), showed elite-level athleticism that surely will fit into whatever the rest of the guys on the roster will do as the Jayhawks pursue a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and make another run at the big prize.

One of the biggest reasons it all works, of course, is the existence of Bill Self and his coaching staff and the consistency they bring to the table year after year in terms of expectations, approach, pace and principles. Self and company have proven time after time that it's what you do in the practice gym in front of them and not on the recruiting rankings before you arrive that determines who plays and Taylor said that's a lesson that is both hammered home and easy to accept from Day 1.

Many people, including some close to the program, have joked this month about needing a roster with faces and numbers to identify the dramatically different looking Kansas team on the court and in practices.

But different does not always mean bad. As was the case with Taylor’s class in 2008, this new group of currently unfamiliar Jayhawks soon figures to be wowing Kansas fans across the country and creating headaches for the rest of the Big 12 Conference. Just like Taylor and his crew did.

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2017 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic full of light-hearted, feel-good moments

Kansas coach Bill Self, jumps up from the stands to cheer after his son Tyler hit a 3-point basket during the 2017 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic Thursday evening at Lawrence Free State High School. The annual charity event benefits local families fighting cancer.

Kansas coach Bill Self, jumps up from the stands to cheer after his son Tyler hit a 3-point basket during the 2017 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic Thursday evening at Lawrence Free State High School. The annual charity event benefits local families fighting cancer. by Mike Yoder

The last time Kansas basketball coach Bill Self saw his son, Tyler, hit a 3-pointer as a Jayhawk, the KU coach smiled slyly but did his best to maintain his composure.

Self knew then, of course — during the Jayhawks’ 100-62 victory over UC-Davis in Round 1 of last season’s NCAA Tournament — that the cameras were rolling and, because of that, sportsmanship was a high priority.

Thursday night, at his son’s old stomping grounds of Free State High, Self again watched Tyler knock in a 3-pointer during the ninth annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, won 104-101 by the Crimson team over the Blue. This time, however, Self sat in the stands, and, as a proud parent, leapt to both feet and threw both arms and fists in the air after the former KU walk-on knocked down the open jumper.

Many in attendance at the sold-out event caught Self’s reaction — partially genuine and partially over the top — and appropriately roared with laughter.

That was merely one of the dozen or so light-hearted moments that made this year’s Roundball Classic, like all of the others before it, such a memorable and enjoyable evening for so many former Kansas players and their adoring fans.

Here are a few others:

• At halftime, when one lucky fan received an opportunity to shoot a half-court shot for a new car and six young fans were plucked from the crowd to play a quick game of knock-out, KU director of basketball operations Brennan Bechard was called to the court to advise the half-court heaver. Bechard, of course, is the reigning half-court shot champion, having knocked in half-courters in back-to-back years at Late Night for tuition money for one lucky KU student. Bechard’s advice to the man was simple: Don’t leave it short. He didn’t, but it was off to the left and missed the rim by a foot or two.

• More from the younger Self. Although he didn’t play a ton of minutes, he did make the most of his opportunity to entertain, first knocking down that open jumper and twice later overreacting in dramatic fashion to fouls called against him. The first came when he fouled Sherron Collins on a 3-point attempt. And the other came when he bear-hugged Cole Aldrich in the paint. Each time Tyler Self threw both arms high into the air in the direction of the officials to protest the calls. Not long after, a smile of pure joy quickly filled Tyler’s face. One thing that really hit me during these exchanges was how much fun it must’ve been for him to participate in this game. Sure there were a couple of guys out there, like Wayne Selden or Perry Ellis, who Tyler was teammates with. But the good majority of them, especially those from that 2008 team, were better known as guys he once looked up to and, perhaps more importantly, the crew that finally delivered his dad a national title. Cool stuff.

At the point in the night when the members of the 2008 national title team were asked to come to mid-court for a group photo, Roundball Classic leading scorer Ben McLemore (32 points), who played just the 2012-13 season at Kansas before turning pro, jokingly jumped out there to try to get into the picture. “Yeah, you seen me try to go out there,” McLemore said after the game. “I wish I could’ve won a championship. But it was great playing here for the University of Kansas and it’s always a great feeling to come back here.”

• During one timeout in the second half, when event organizer Brian Hanni was introducing a young boy named Cade, who last year was an honorary coach at the game and this year is on pace to complete his cancer treatment with a prognosis of a victorious battle on his side, Hanni learned that Thursday also was Cade’s birthday. With the teams mingling more and strategizing less, Collins grabbed the mic and led the Free State gym in a singing of “Happy Birthday.” He was no John Legend, but Collins definitely pulled off the role of lead singer with a passing grade.

• A couple of funny quick-hitters from the game itself: At one point, after Mario Little blocked a driving shot attempt by Tyshawn Taylor, Mario Chalmers waived the Dikembe Mutombo finger Taylor’s way; Late in the game, with both sides competing harder in an attempt to snag the victory, Collins asked the scorer’s table how many fouls Taylor had. The scoreboard operator was not keeping track, but Collins was sure that Taylor had six fouls and should no longer be on the floor; During one timeout midway through the second half, Collins, on the Crimson team, looked over to the Blue bench and told J.J. Howard, son of Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard, that he was with the wrong team and that he should, “Come over to the good side.” J.J. stayed put; During a two-on-none late in the first half, as Wayne Selden and Drew Gooden raced toward the unprotected rim, an easy opportunity to throw an alley-oop presented itself. Instead of tossing it to Gooden, however, Selden fired it off the glass to himself and finished the play with one of the more impressive jams of the night. Rather than call him out for not giving up the rock, Gooden simply ran back on D with a huge smile and a look on his face that suggested he might be thinking, “Yeah. Good idea.”

• Finally, on a night designed to celebrate several former Jayhawks and honor the brave fights of a handful of young cancer warriors and their families, it’s worth noting that several members of the current Kansas basketball team showed up to enjoy the event. Those spotted in the crowd on Thursday were: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Mitch Lightfoot, Marcus Garrett, Dedric Lason, Charlie Moore and the entire KU coaching staff. Several former players mentioned in throughout the postgame festivities, but this truly was a family affair.

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Can Kansas sophomore Malik Newman play some point guard?

Blue Team guard Malik Newman drives to the bucket against Red Team guard Keith Langford during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Blue Team guard Malik Newman drives to the bucket against Red Team guard Keith Langford during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas sophomore Malik Newman got the opportunity on Wednesday to show off his point guard skills for a portion of the annual camp scrimmage, won, 82-75, by the current team over a star-studded cast of former Jayhawks.

And it came against some of the best point guards of the Bill Self era.

Sure, there may be an age gap. And, whether because of age or injury or both, it’s hard to imagine that any of them were in as good of shape as Newman. But still, these were big time players. Names like Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins, along with others, all took a turn at guarding and going at Newman.

The Mississippi State transfer finished with 18 points and seemed both completely comfortable and wildly excited about the opportunity to face some of these former Kansas greats, many of whom walked away impressed.

“They’re gonna be great,” said Chalmers after the scrimmage of Newman and senior-to-be Devonte’ Graham. “I have high expectations for both of them, especially Malik Newman. They’ve got to pick up the slack from Frank (Mason) and they’re two good guards we need up top.”

Asked specifically if he thought Newman could play the point, Chalmers, the eight-year NBA veteran who, after a year and a half off to recover from a variety of injuries, is eagerly looking forward to his own return, was not willing to make any concrete statements either way.

“This was the first time I’ve seen Malik play,” he said. “So, just from this game, it’d be hard to tell just because this is an all-star game and everybody wants to shoot and go at it. But coach Self will make sure that he has a point guard, I’m not worried about that.”

Newman himself said playing on the ball was something he worked on a great deal during his transfer year, both to grow his own game and also for the good of the team.

“With the sit-out year, that’s something that I worked on a lot because I know Devonte’ isn’t gonna be able to bring the ball up the whole game by himself,” he said.

Regardless of who has the ball in his hands the most — all signs point to Graham running the point the majority of the time, but Newman and even Lagerald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk and freshman Marcus Garrett also may take a turn next season — the reality of Newman’s growth in that area is that the Jayhawks, as head coach Bill Self likes, now figure to feature a versatile and balanced backcourt.

As for Self’s take on Newman, he’s not all that interested in labels.

“I think Malik’s just a guard,” Self told the Journal-World earlier this spring. “He can play with the ball in his hands, but he’s probably better off the ball. He and Devonte’ could obviously be a nice combination.”

In scoring 46 points against some of KU’s biggest names of the recent past, the duo showed exactly that on Wednesday.

And from the sound of things, they’re just getting started.

“It was good,” Newman said of his pseudo first game in a Kansas uniform. “That’s why I came here, to play with an awesome group of guys and in front of a great crowd. And I think we did good for our first time together.”

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

• Recorded Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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What caught my eye during Tuesday’s KU basketball camp workout

Tuesday afternoon, inside Horejsi Family Athletic Center, a few hundred Bill Self Basketball campers and small handful of media members and various members of the KU support staff were treated to a first true look at the 2017-18 Kansas men’s basketball team.

Sure, there were a couple of faces missing. Senior-to-be Svi Mykhailiuk is still in Ukraine playing with his national team and freshman Marcus Garrett did not arrive on campus until Tuesday night after graduating from Dallas’ Skyline High on Monday.

But, for the most part, this was a legitimate look at the Jayhawks that will be. Many of them — transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore — will not be eligible to play for the Jayhawks in a real game until the 2018-19 season. When they do, all three will have big time roles.

Others, like graduate transfer Jack Whitman, freshman Billy Preston and Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe (second semester) will be available to help out this season, and both should do just that.

That left the familiar faces, of which there were not quite as many as in recent years. Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman showed terrific chemistry, with Lagerald Vick right there with them. And Udoka Azubuike was back from his wrist injury with Mitch Lightfoot there next to him.

These might be new Jayhawks and this definitely will be a different team. But after a quick look at what KU will roll onto the floor during the upcoming season, one thing is clear — there is plenty of talent in place for Kansas to be as competitive as ever.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at a few other things that caught my eye at the opening practice, which included a little four-on-four, full-court action at the very end.

KU freshman Billy Preston works a drill with assistant coach Norm Roberts during Tuesday's workout.

KU freshman Billy Preston works a drill with assistant coach Norm Roberts during Tuesday's workout. by Matt Tait

• Let’s get the most pressing question out of the way first. Did William & Mary transfer Jack Whitman come sporting the mustache? You bet he did. It actually was more of a goatee look, but the ’stache most definitely was there. Whitman told me after he committed to KU this spring that he was not sure if he would keep the mustache throughout his time at Kansas or not, but he appears to be well on his way to making that happen. As for his game, there’s no doubt that he’s an explosive player around the rim — he’ll surprise more than a few opponents in that way this season — and willing to give great effort on every play, but, at least right now, he still seems to be thinking a lot about what he’s doing out there instead of just feeling it and playing free. That’s to be expected with a player learning a new system and culture and it will be worth monitoring as the summer goes along.

• While we’re talking appearances, it’s worth noting that Lagerald Vick was rocking a new look at Tuesday’s practice, opting for tiny braids instead of the blown-out, Devonte’ Graham/Josh Jackson look he favored last year. The new haircut likely did not have any impact on Vick’s game, but it did make him look even faster than we already knew he was, with the hair flopping around like mad each time he pushed the ball in transition and attacked the rim.

• We won’t see much of it this season past the summer camps and Late Night, but you can absolutely tell that Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson has massive potential. He has terrific size (6-9, 236), good footwork and an air of toughness to his game. His numbers last season at Memphis (19.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg) certainly proved what he’s capable of doing, but getting another year of working on his body and his game at Kansas should bring some pretty high expectations for his 2018-19 season.

• Freshman forward Billy Preston has a long way to go — Self said as much following Tuesday’s session — but there’s no question that the foundation is there. And I’m not just talking physically either. Preston looks physically mature beyond his years but he also appears to be a sponge, willing to soak up every instruction sent his way (from teammates and coaches) and he’s also pretty hard on himself, expecting to make every shot he takes and do every drill to perfection. What I really liked about Preston in that regard was the fact that when he did not know exactly what he was doing, he had no problem asking. A definite good start.

I wrote last week about Mitch Lightfoot’s offseason workout routine and how he already seemed to be pushing himself to the limits in an effort to take full advantage of the opportunity to bump up his minutes during his sophomore season. More performances like the one he gave on Tuesday will go a long way toward making that happen. Lightfoot gave max effort on absolutely every rep and seemed to really embrace the role of leading by example. He also was vocal — something he had no problem with last season — and willing to help the newcomers with whatever instructions he could. I’ve said it before and every time I see him or have a discussion about him, I come away thinking more and more that Lightfoot is going to have an impressive second season in KU crimson and blue.

• As a final act for the hundreds of campers who ooh’d and ahh’d about every dunk and big time shot the Jayhawks made during their individual drill work, Self broke the Jayhawks into two units and coached ’em hard during a little four-on-four, full-court scrimmage. The match-ups for the short session included Devonte’ Graham vs. Charlie Moore, Lagerald Vick vs. Sam Cunliffe; Billy Preston vs. Mitch Lightfoot; and Malik Newman vs. K.J. Lawson. All eight players had their moments, but Newman and Moore were the two that stood out most to me.

• Speaking of Newman, it’s very clear why the coaching staff, including Self, has spoken so highly of him and his potential impact on the 2017-18 season throughout the past several months. The guy is a player. The thing that impressed me most about Newman on Tuesday was his poise. He plays hard, attacks often and is an aggressive competitor on both ends of the floor, but it never looks hard for him. He’s smooth, plays under control and displays a great deal of confidence no matter what the situation. He’s going to be a bear for opposing teams to handle.

• Sticking with the guards, I was really, really impressed by what I saw from Cal transfer Charlie Moore. The kid is fearless and, like Newman, has an aggressive mentality and a ton of confidence. He’s little, as you’ve seen and heard, but he doesn’t play that way. I think KU got an absolute steal in getting him and he’ll be more than ready to slide into that lead guard spot when the 2018-19 season rolls around.

That’s all for now. It was a great first look at the new version of your Jayhawks and two players who figure to factor into the rotation during the 2017-18 season weren’t even there.

More to come throughout the week from camp, including a Wednesday camp scrimmage of notable alums vs. the current squad, so stay logged on to KUsports.com for more videos, stories, reaction and analysis. Self said video coordinator Jeremy Case told him 13 former players were expected back for Wednesday's alumni scrimmage.

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Devonte’ Graham’s Camp Q & A covers wide range of topics

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) smiles after a near breakaway and a steal during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) smiles after a near breakaway and a steal during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One of the coolest parts about the couple of weeks of Bill Self Basketball Camps that take place each summer at KU is the ability of young people to meet, interact and goof around with some of their favorite players.

At times, that means taking a shooting tip from their favorite Jayhawk or getting a pat on the back for a job well done from a current or former player.

At others, as was the case on Monday at Horejsi Family Athletics Center, a handful of lucky campers get the opportunity to ask of their favorite Jayhawks absolutely anything they want.

You should see the way these young hoopers get pumped up by just being called on to ask their question. And then, if the question is a particular hit and the gym goes nuts, the pride on their faces as they sit back down is sensational.

Monday afternoon, senior-to-be Devonte’ Graham addressed this year’s campers, first telling a little bit about his story, how he got to Kansas, why he came back for his senior season and things of the like.

After that, Graham opened it up for a 5-10 minute Q&A session with the hundreds of young Jayhawk fans who packed the bleachers.

Obviously, Graham was not able to call on everyone who put his or her hand up. But he got to as many as he could and, in doing so, gave an even greater glimpse into just who the man who wears No. 4 for the Jayhawks really is.

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the things Graham was asked, along with his answers...

Q – Do you think you can play in the NBA?

A – “Yes. I hope I do. I hope I can.”

Q – If you do make it to the NBA, is there one team you hope you’ll get drafted by?

A - “If I’m lucky enough to get drafted, I’d like to get picked by the Miami Heat or somebody like that.”

Q – Lebron James or Steph Curry?

A – “Lebron.” [crowd roars with approval]

Q – Where do you think will Josh Jackson get drafted?

A – “I’m saying Top 3. I think he might actually go to Boston (which has the No. 1 pick).”

Q – Are you better than (former UCLA star) Lonzo Ball?

A – “I’ll let him answer that. [points to kid wearing a Graham jersey sitting nearby] Kid responds with a simple, “Yeah.” [crowd applauds loudly]

Q – Can you do a back flip?

A – “No. Frank (Mason III) can, though.”

Q – How do you think Frank Mason will do in the NBA?

A – “I think he’s gonna have a good career. He’s definitely gonna get drafted and he’s gonna be good.”

Q – What size shoe do you wear?

A – “I wear size 13.”

Q – What’s been your favorite game during your time at KU so far?

A – “I’m gonna have to say the Oklahoma game here when we won in three overtimes and the West Virginia game here last year when we came back.”

Q – Can you dunk?

A – “Can I dunk? Yeah.”

Q – What do you call your hair style? (asked by J.J. Howard, son of Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard)

A – “I call it the J.J.”

Q – Did you ever think you’d end up playing at KU when you were younger?

A – “Honestly, I did not. I grew up a UNC fan, being from North Carolina, and that was my dream school before I came here.”

Q – Why do you wear No. 4?

A – “That’s when I started playing basketball, when I was 4 years old.”

Q – Who are your roommates?

A – “Svi (Mykhailiuk) and the Lawson brothers (Dedric and K.J.) from Memphis. Do you guys know them yet?”

Q – How did you guard (former Oklahoma star) Buddy Hield?

A – “How did I guard him? I just locked him up.”

And, with that, Graham was off the hot seat.

There were a couple of repeat questions mixed in there and Graham made sure to point that out, giving props to those nearby who could answer because they had been paying attention.

Before the Q&A got going, Graham asked the packed house, by a show of hands, how many there wanted to play college basketball one day? Almost every hand went up.

Next, he asked a follow-up about how many of the campers wanted to play in the NBA some day. Most of the hands stayed up.

Graham then got to the heart of the matter and asked how many of them knew what it took to play in the NBA. A few hands dropped but several stayed up.

Graham’s response?

“Can you guys tell me?”

More camp fun is slated for later today, with the first session running through the end of the week and the second session starting next week.

Stay tuned to KUsports.com for much more from camp.

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KU juniors Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk made decisions to return on their own

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

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

One of the most popular rumors during the stay-or-go portion of the 2016-17 Kansas basketball team’s immediate offseason — and even throughout the season’s final couple of months — was that the NBA decisions facing junior guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk were tied together.

As close as any two Jayhawks not named Morris during recent years and roommates during their days leading up to their respective decisions, it made sense for folks to speculate that the two Jayhawks would consult one another about their futures during the process and perhaps even agree to make the same decision one way or another.

To hear Graham tell it, that wasn’t the case at all.

“Nah, that didn’t have anything to do with it,” Graham told reporters Sunday afternoon following registration and check-in for this year’s Bill Self Basketball Camps. “We weren’t doing it for each other. He wanted to test and see where he would end up and he just made the decision to come back. He felt like that was best for him at the time.”

Graham did not need nearly as long to make up his mind, deciding to return to KU for his final season a little more than two weeks after the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss to Oregon in the Elite Eight.

Because Graham’s announcement came much quicker, a full 45 days before Mykhailuk’s, that left all eyes on the young Ukrainian, who revealed on May 24 that he would return to KU for his senior season.

Two of those eyes belonged to Graham.

“He actually had me kind of worried and I know he had everybody else kinda worried, too,” Graham said. “I was happy to hear he was coming back.”

Unlike most of the rest of the world, which found out Mykhailiuk’s decision via Instagram and Twitter, Graham got the VIP treatment, receiving a text message from his good friend about an hour before the big reveal went public.

Graham, who this season figures to slide into his biggest and most important leadership role yet, said he checked in with Mykhailiuk often throughout the process — mostly via FaceTime chats — and said he, too, learned some things about the whole pre-draft process from Mykhailiuk and other past teammates who had gone through it.

“That can definitely help me,” Graham admitted. “You know, I talked to Wayne (Selden) about it, the whole process, and Frank (Mason III) and people who did it before. So I’ll talk to (Mykhaiiluk) once he gets back about everything that he went through. I was Face-Timing him during the whole thing and stuff like that, too, so I know a little bit about what was going on.”

While Graham and the rest of his teammates will get a jumpstart on preparations for the 2017-18 season, which unofficially began Sunday and will take a massive step forward when KU begins practicing for its August trip to Italy for four exhibition games in Rome and Milan, Mykhailiuk is already overseas working out for the Ukrainian national team for a spot on Team Ukraine in this year’s FIBA Eurobasket 2017 tournament.

Mykhailiuk is not expected to be on campus any time soon but is expected to play with the Jayhawks in Italy. The FIBA event is slated for the first two weeks of September.

Graham said Sunday that he and Mykhailiuk once again would be roommates during the upcoming school year and season, which not only will give them a chance to further build their bond as friends but also to lean on one another in their quest to become senior leaders for the Jayhawks during the 2017-18 season.

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A most-to-least-interesting breakdown of KU basketball’s 2017-18 non-conference schedule

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds his players during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds his players during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

The Kansas men's basketball team on Thursday released the non-conference portion of its 2017-18 schedule, complete with interesting home match-ups and a few noteworthy road games.

Included in the news release announcing the Jayhawks' non-con schedule was a game-by-game breakdown of the 15-game slate that includes exhibition games against Pitt State and Fort Hays State to get things started.

Below is a quick look at the breakdown, organized by putting the most intriguing games at the top and the least intriguing games at the bottom.

While many fans and analysts already have opined that the schedule does not have the usual bite that many of KU's past schedules have had, there are at least a couple of big time games and interesting match-ups. And there will, of course, no doubt be many, many more during the Big 12 portion of the schedule, which will be released later this summer.

Here's a look at what we know for now, from most exciting to least, at least in my opinion.

Kentucky, Champions Classic (Nov. 14, Chicago)

These two blue bloods are meeting for the fourth-consecutive season. Under Hall of Fame coach John Calipari, Kentucky is coming off a 32-6 season where it won the SEC title with a 16-2 record. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA South Regional final falling to eventual national champion North Carolina, 75-73. The Champions Classic will mark the ninth meeting between the two schools in the Kansas head coach Bill Self era at KU. The Jayhawks hold a 5-3 advantage in that span and has won the last two matchups. Kentucky leads the overall series with Kansas, 22-8. Last season, with ESPN College Gameday originating from Lexington, Kentucky, No. 2 Kansas defeated No. 4 Kentucky, 79-73, at Rupp Arena on Jan. 28 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. My take: I mean, was there any doubt?

Syracuse, Hoophall Miami Invitational (Dec. 2, Miami)

The third annual Hoophall Miami Invitational will have two Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coaches square off in Kansas’ Bill Self, a 2017 inductee, and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim who was part of the 2005 class. Last season the Orange went 19-15 and tied for seventh in the ACC with a 10-8 league record. Syracuse lost to Ole Miss, 85-80, in the second round of the postseason NIT. Boeheim is 903-354 in 41 seasons at Syracuse, his alma mater. Syracuse holds a 3-2 series advantage over Kansas, has won the last two meetings and three of the last four matchups. In the last battle the Orange defeated the Jayhawks, 89-81 in overtime on Nov. 25, 2008, in the title game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The previous was an 81-78 win in the 2003 NCAA national championship game in New Orleans. My take: Syracuse and Jim Boeheim bring big names to the table, but the reason this is second on the list is the location in which it will be played. Welcome to Miami.

Arizona State (Dec. 10, Lawrence)

KU will face its second of three Pac-12 Conference opponents when it plays host to Arizona State. The game will the first of a home-and-home series as KU will play at ASU on Dec. 22, 2018. Arizona State went 15-18 in 2016-17 and placed eighth in the Pac-12 with a 7-11 record. The Sun Devils are coached by former Duke standout Bobby Hurley who is 30-35 in two seasons at ASU and 72-55 in four seasons for his career. Kansas has a 5-4 series edge against Arizona State. The Jayhawks have won two straight and five of the last six meetings. KU last faced ASU on March 22, 2003, a 108-76 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City. KU would go on to play for the 2003 NCAA title in New Orleans. My take: If he's allowed to travel, this will be our first look at former Jayhawk Carlton Bragg Jr., who could be sitting in street clothes at Allen Fieldhouse again with his new team. New Jayhawk Sam Cunliffe will be doing the same against his old team. Even if Bragg's not there, you gotta think he'll come up once or twice.

Texas A&M, Big 12/SEC Challenge (Jan. 27, Lawrence)

These two teams were members of the Big 12 from 1996-97 until Texas A&M moved to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) following the 2011-12 season. Head coach Billy Kennedy will enter his seventh year at Texas A&M. In 2016-17, the Aggies went 16-15 overall and finished tied for ninth in the SEC with an 8-10 league record. Kansas is 20-1 all-time against Texas A&M, including a 9-1 record in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are 3-1 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, having split with Florida in 2013-14 and 2014-15, as both teams claimed home victories, and Kansas sweeping Kentucky in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Dating back to 2007 against the Pac-12, Kansas has compiled a 5-2 record in the conference challenges. My take: It might not be Kentucky or Florida, but that whole challenge thing will inject a little life into this one, not to mention the return of former Big 12 foe A&M.

Pittsburg State (Oct. 31, Lawrence, exhibition)

Head coach Kim Anderson enters his first season at Pittsburg State. Before his three-year stint at Missouri, Anderson guided Central Missouri State to the NCAA Division II national championship in 2014. The Gorillas were 5-22 in 2016-17 and tied for 13th in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Association (MIAA) with a 3-16 record last year. Kansas is 10-0 all-time against Pittsburg State in a series that started in 1944. The Jayhawks are 6-0 against versus the Gorillas in exhibition play. My take: It's just an exhibition game but it'll be our first in-game look at the new-look Jayhawks.

Nebraska (Dec. 16, Shelter Insurance Showcase, Lincoln, Nebraska)

These two former conference foes are meeting for the second time since Nebraska left the Big 12 following the 2010-11 season. Husker head coach Tim Miles enters his sixth season and the Huskers are coming off a 12-19 season where they finished tied for 10th in the Big Ten Conference with a 6-12 record. Kansas leads the overall series with Nebraska, 171-71, and has won the last 18 meetings, from March 5, 1999, to Feb. 5, 2011, and 27 of the last 28 matchups dating back to the 1998-99 season. Last year Kansas defeated Nebraska 89-72 on Dec. 10, 2016, in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: Nebraska improved a great deal after coming to Lawrence last season and Tim Miles will have his team (and his Tweets) ready for the rematch.

Stanford (Dec. 21, Sacramento, California)

Stanford second-year head coach Jerod Haase will face his alma mater for the second-straight season. Haase’s 1,264 points rank 33rd on the KU all-time scoring list and he also ranks on the Kansas career lists in 3-point field goals made (13th at 156), 3-pointers attempted (seventh at 461), assists (19th at 343) and steals (11th at 174). Last year the Cardinal went 14-17 overall and finished tied for ninth in the Pac-12 with a 6-12 record. Kansas leads the series with Stanford, 9-3, including last season’s 89-74 win on Dec. 3, 2016, in Allen Fieldhouse, ending a Cardinal two-game winning streak against KU. This series dates back to 1932. My take: Won't be quite as cool as Haase coming back to Lawrence was this season, but being away from home will make it interesting nonetheless.

South Dakota State (Nov. 17, Lawrence)

South Dakota State won the Summit League tournament titles in 2016-17 going 18-17 and 8-8 in conference play, which tied for fourth. The Jackrabbits lost to eventual NCAA Runner-up Gonzaga, 66-46, in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. SDSU is coached by T.J. Otzelberger who took the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. Otzelberger is a former Iowa State assistant coach. Kansas won the only meeting with South Dakota State, 85-72, on Dec. 4, 1984, in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: This could be a much tougher game than the name of the opponent might suggest and, especially with it coming so early in the season, could be a real test for the Jayhawks.

Washington, Jayhawk Shootout (Dec. 6, Kansas City, Missouri)

Washington is coming off a 9-22 season where it placed 11th in the Pac-12 Conference with a 2-16 record. Mike Hopkins took over the head coaching duties on March 19, 2017, after spending 22 seasons as an assistant coach at Syracuse. Kansas is 8-1 against Washington and has won the last four meetings. The Jayhawks last defeated the Huskies, 73-54, on Nov. 24, 2008, in the semifinals of the CBE Hal of Fame Classic in Sprint Center. My take: Markelle Fultz will be playing for somebody in the NBA and Michael Porter Jr. won't be there either. Add to that the fact that it's at sometimes-sterile Sprint Center and you've got your lowest-rated game against a big-name foe.

Texas Southern, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 21, Lawrence)

Located in Houston, Texas Southern won the SWAC regular season and conference tournament in 2016-17 going 23-12 and 16-2 in league action. The Tigers lost to eventual NCAA champion, North Carolina, 103-64, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. TSU is coached by Mike Davis who is 98-68 in five seasons at TSU and 335-219 in 17 seasons overall with stints at Indiana and UAB before taking over at TSU. The Tigers have won at least one SWAC title, either regular-season or tournament, in every season Davis has been at Texas Southern. Kansas is 3-0 all-time against Texas Southern with the last meeting on Jan. 3, 1985, a KU 78-74 win in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: Another 2017 NCAA Tournament team coming to Lawrence. I love these games because both teams stand to get a great deal from them.

Tennessee State (Nov. 10, Lawrence)

Tennessee State finished tied for fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) East Division going 17-13 overall and 8-8 in 2016-17. The Tigers are coached by Dana Ford who was the 2016 OVC Coach of the Year and has guided TSU to 37 wins in the last two seasons. Kansas won the only meeting with Tennessee State, 89-54, on Nov. 21, 2006, in a campus-round game of the Las Vegas Invitational, an event KU went on to win. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and KU graduate John McClendon coached at Tennessee A&I, now Tennessee State, from 1955-59. My take: The true season opener has to be worth something and that helps move the game up on this list. This is when things get going for real.

Oakland, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 24, Lawrence)

Oakland went 25-9 last season and tied Valparaiso for the Horizon League title with a 14-4 conference record. The Grizzlies defeated Clemson in the opening round of the postseason NIT before falling at Richmond in the second round. Oakland is coached by Greg Kampe who has coached 33 seasons at Oakland with a 583-424 record. His 33 seasons at Oakland are the third-most seasons with a current school behind Jim Boeheim of Syracuse (41 seasons) and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (37 seasons). Kansas won the only meeting with Oakland, 89-59, on Nov. 25, 2009, in Allen Fieldhouse. The game was a campus round contest which was part of the Hall of Fame Showcase. My take: Quietly, this Oakland team has become one of the tougher mid-major programs in the country, thanks mostly to the consistency delivered by Kampe.

Toledo, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 28, Lawrence)

Toledo is coming off a 17-17 season where it finished third in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 9-9 record and competed in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) postseason losing at George Washington in the first round. The Rockets are coached by Tod Kowalczyk who will be entering his eighth season at Toledo with a 119-110 record. Kansas has won both meetings with Toledo with the last being a 93-83 win on Dec. 30, 2013, in Allen Fieldhouse. The other was a 68-58 KU win on Dec. 9, 2006, in KU’s final game in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. My take: Unless this game is better than I'm expecting, I'll still think Kerry Meier and Kansas football first when I think Toledo.

Omaha (Dec. 18, Lawrence)

Omaha is coming off an 18-14 season in which it placed third in the Summit League with a 9-7 league record. The Mavericks lost to South Dakota State, 79-77, in the title game of the Summit League Tournament. Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen is 197-166 in 12 seasons with the Mavericks. KU and Omaha will be meeting for the first time in men’s basketball. My take: Crazy to think the Jayhawks will be in Lincoln, Neb., on Dec. 16 and home against Omaha two days later.

Fort Hays State (Nov. 7, Lawrence, exhibition)

Last season, the Tigers tied for fourth in the MIAA going 18-11 overall and 11-8 in conference play. Head coach Mark Johnson has a 322-149 record in 16 seasons at FHSU. Kansas is 9-0 all-time against Fort Hays State, including 6-0 in exhibition play. My take: The second exhibition game is only interesting if the Jayhawks are terrible in the first one. Otherwise, it's just let's get on with the season.

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

Recorded Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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Eyeing some movement of Kansas targets in the 2018 recruiting class

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

The calendar may still read 2017, but, with all of its scholarships now officially spoken for, the Kansas basketball team can and has moved forward, full speed ahead in its recruitment of the Class of 2018.

Because the Jayhawks are in on almost all of the elite talent in the 2018 class (what’s new, right?), many of the names are ones which you probably already have heard.

And while there still may be a long way to go before anything is closed to finalized with any of those players, the Jayhawks are off to a good start in their pursuit of the next crop of Kansas basketball players.

Here’s a quick look at some recent news from a couple of KU’s key targets in the class:

• Immanuel Quickley – 5-star point guard, ranked No. 15 by Rivals.com

The 6-foot-4, 180-pound lead guard from John Carroll High in Bel Air, Md., recently made news by narrowing his list down to a final four. Along with Kentucky, Maryland and Miami (Fla.), the Jayhawks made that cut and appear to be in as good of shape as anybody in the pursuit of Quickley, who actually already has made an unofficial visit to Lawrence.

"I think those four schools fit me the most as a person and as a player," Quickley recently told Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. "I think off and on the court those schools fit me the best."

As for his specific stance on the Jayhawks, Quickley had this to say: "Coach Bill Self is great on and off the floor. I really liked the feel of Allen Fieldhiuse when I visited. The feel there was cool to see."

Quickley told Daniels that he was now in the process of scheduling official visits to his final four and that he would like to make a decision before he begins his senior year of high school.

• Marvin Bagley Jr. — 5-star forward, ranked No. 1 by Rivals.com

The 6-foot-10 big man from Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth, Calif., has narrowed his list to a final six full of some of college basketball’s biggest power players.

Kansas is on that list, along with Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA and USC.

Through the first few sessions of the Nike EYBL tournament, Bagley has backed up his Rivals ranking, averaging 25 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks in 30 minutes per game.

There has been some talk of whether Bagley might want to reclassify and join the 2017 class, but the athletic big man told Zagsblog over the weekend that he was not worried about reclassifying and would let his future play out however it was supposed to.

As for his specific thoughts on each of his finalists, Bagley delivered similar thoughts on each of them while talking to Zagsblog.

“They’re all great schools,” he said. “I could say the same thing about each of the schools. They’re all great. They speak for themselves. They’re in the tournament. They play in big time tournaments and games every year on ESPN.... I’m looking for somewhere I could go and get better. That’s my main focus. That’s what I tell everybody. It’s not about the name. It’s not about all the news and the hype. It’s about where I can go and get better. Wherever that place may be out of my list is where I’ll go.”

• Quentin Grimes, 5-star combo guard, ranked No. 12 by Rivals

Andrew Slater, of 247 Sports, recently caught up with the 6-foot-5, 180-pound guard from College Park High in The Woodlands, Texas, for an update on the current status of his list.

Grimes is the rare top tier prospect to not have at least two of the three or four top college programs on his offer list. That’s not to say he’s being ignored. Far from it. But, according to the Rivals data base, Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina all are absent from his offer list, leaving Kansas as the biggest blue blood program pursuing him, with Arizona, Florida and five other Big 12 schools also in pursuit.

Grimes recently told Slater that he was in the process of narrowing his list down to eight and then would like to get it down to a final five in the next couple of weeks.

In his lengthy interview with Grimes, Slater points out that Duke has made contact during recent weeks but it’s clear that Arizona and KU have stood out as much as anyone.

“Coach Self called and said I'm a top priority and that he plays a lot of guards and sees me bringing in something different than the other guards because of my size,” Grimes told Slater. “He said they’re known now for their guards, but that I would be unique because of being able to play point guard at that size.”

Grimes said he views himself as a scoring point guard and is looking forward to surrounding himself with lots of talent in college so he can showcase both his scoring and passing skills.

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Recent fuss over potential KU-Mizzou reunion in Big 12/SEC Challenge much ado about nothing

Thomas Robinson (0) blocks the Tigers Phil Pressey's shot with 3.3 seconds in regulation to force the game into overtime. The Jayhawks won the game 87-86 against the Missouri Tigers, Saturday, Feb 25, 2012..

Thomas Robinson (0) blocks the Tigers Phil Pressey's shot with 3.3 seconds in regulation to force the game into overtime. The Jayhawks won the game 87-86 against the Missouri Tigers, Saturday, Feb 25, 2012.. by Mike Yoder

Thursday, the college basketball world on both sides of the Kansas/Missouri state line became a little more fired up than it normally is in late May.

See, Thursday was the day when the folks at ESPN announced the match-ups for the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge — 10 games between the two leagues on Jan. 27 — and because the Big 12 has just 10 members, compared with 14 for the SEC, four SEC schools were left out, as has been the case each year.

One of those four schools was Missouri, based on the Tigers’ woeful 2016-17 season (8-24 overall, 2-16 in conference) and finish at the bottom of the SEC standings.

Makes sense, right? Why would ESPN want to put a team like that on television when the whole goal of the challenge is to attract viewers and make money?

According to those on the Missouri side of things, the easy answer is this: Thanks to the addition of No. 1 overall recruit Michael Porter and a couple of other highly ranked and highly rated Class of 2017 prospects, the Tigers are no longer that team.

They’re talking NCAA Tournament over there now and I’ve even heard mention of the words national championship and Final Four. Good for them. That’s how it should be and that’s what they should be striving for.

Now that the Tigers figure to be at least decent again, the interest in renewing the rivalry is ramped up. Makes sense. I mean, much in the way that Kansas football would have been stomped by Mizzou during the first few years of MU’s time in the SEC, the Jayhawks would’ve handed the Tigers a couple of 30-point losses in the past few years in basketball had the two schools played each other. And what’s the fun in that for either side?

So the claim from the Mizzou side is that ESPN missed an opportunity to revive the Border War and pit Missouri against Kansas in the made-for-TV showcase, a move that no doubt would have injected some serious life and excitement into the region and created a game that would have been nearly as hyped and anticipated as the past two Kansas-Kentucky match-ups if not more in some ways.

But let’s face it; adding a player like Porter or even a coach like Cuonzo Martin, who already seems to be well on his way to turning things around in Columbia, is no reason for the rivalry to all of a sudden start back up.

Sure, it’s plenty of reason for folks on the Missouri side. And who could blame them for feeling that way?

But nothing has changed for Kansas. The powers that be in the Kansas athletic department, from AD Sheahon Zenger to basketball coach Bill Self and on down the line, is (and always has been) that it was the Tigers who left the Big 12, sold out their brothers and ended the Border War. Kansas did not do that and, therefore, does not feel responsible for the end nor obligated to clamor for a new beginning.

Besides that, Kansas does not actually need Missouri. That may be a harsh reality for two programs who share so much history and have created so many great moments throughout the past several decades, but it is the truth.

The Jayhawks, especially in basketball, are a national brand and stand to gain very little by playing the Tigers again. Sure it would fire up both fan bases and there could be some money to be made in terms of marketing, T-Shirt sales and that kind of thing. But it’s not as if KU is struggling to pay its bills. So instead of taking the quick cash grab, the Jayhawks appear to be content standing on principle.

You left us, they say, and we don’t need you back. Seems fair. Seems logical. Whether fans on either side like it or not, seems like it’s the way it’s going to be.

So all of this fuss about how KU and Mizzou should have been paired up in the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge is little more than white noise. For one, the rules of the challenge do not allow for it because of where Missouri finished in the SEC standings last season. For two, it really was never an option because Kansas is not interested.

That’s nothing new and the reasons have been clearly stated for the past several years.

If you’re one of those who wants to see it and is still holding out hope that it’ll happen, Bracketology’s your best bet for now.

And, hey, never say never. Kansas and Wichita State finally played a couple of years ago, right?

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Mason says goodbye in Players’ Tribune tribute to KU

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) roars after an and-one bucket during the second half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) roars after an and-one bucket during the second half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

By now, you all know the story of former Kansas standout Frank Mason III.

From how his rough upbringing to his failed government class to that showcase in Vegas where assistant coach Kurtis Townsend first saw him and, of course, through his incredible KU career that left him in the Top 10 on KU's all-time scoring list and was capped by the point guard doing something no other Jayhawk in history had done — sweeping the national player of the year honors during the 2016-17 season.

Although stoic by nature, Mason has more personality than most realize and, throughout his sensational senior season, was able to show more and more of that as the weeks went on.

You also know the special relationship that exists between KU coach Bill Self and Mason. From player-coach to father-figure and friend, the two developed a unique bond during the past four years that at times moved each to tears and will no doubt last a lifetime.

So there's not a whole lot of new information about the Mason-Self dynamic that can be learned. I'm sure there are stories for days that could be told but probably won't be. At least not publicly. And I'm sure each guy remembers the journey a little differently, mostly thanks to the differing perspectives, one of a college-aged basketball player doing everything in his power to stay on the climb and the other of a wildly successful coach 30 years his senior.

But there's something cool about all of that — the early years, the Kansas years, the wins, the relationship with coach — in this Players' Tribune article penned by Mason and released Thursday.

Some of these are short but Mason goes deep in this one. He takes you all the way back to his youth and the good and the bad of all of it. He talks Kansas and Self and being a father and the NBA, but more than anything his story, in his words, titled, "Goodbye, Kansas," shows, in a short and sweet, 1,500-word manner the maturation process and incredible road Mason has traveled these past few years.

"It didn’t end how I wanted — after the Oregon loss, I tweeted that it felt like my life was over—and, man, it’s still hard to shake that feeling of disappointment. Sitting back in the locker room, where guys were crying and feeling terrible, I had no choice but to focus on the positives and on what’s next. Graduation. The opportunity to give my son a better life than I had growing up. I thought about how far I’d come, from being a guy who couldn’t qualify to play at Towson to the Wooden National Player of the Year at one of the best programs in the country."

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks for a foul from an official during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks for a foul from an official during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

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Why Svi Mykhailiuk’s decision to stay at Kansas is an even bigger deal than some may think

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) shoots in one of his two three-point baskets in the Jayhawks 95-57 win against UNC Asheville Friday night, Nov. 25, in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) shoots in one of his two three-point baskets in the Jayhawks 95-57 win against UNC Asheville Friday night, Nov. 25, in Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

While most people I talked to, both in our business and others, eventually came to believe that Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk would stay in the NBA Draft and skip his senior season at Kansas, nearly everyone I talked to seemed to think that Svi’s return to Kansas, should it happen, would have been little more than a luxury for the Jayhawks.

Now that we know the verdict, a deeper look shows that the junior guard’s decision to stick around for one more season — Svi announced Wednesday evening that he would return to KU for his senior year — was actually pretty crucial for KU.

Here’s why.

Say what you will about Svi’s game, his defense or his mindset on the floor. The guy did enough during the 2016-17 season to inspire KU coach Bill Self to put him in the starting lineup for 25 of the 36 games Kansas played. When taking into account the fact that five of those 11 non-starts were games in which Self elected to start just three guards instead of four, the young Ukrainian actually really started more like 81 percent of KU’s games a season ago.

Given the number of new and young faces that will make up the Kansas roster during the 2017-18 season, bringing a player like that back is absolutely huge.

Had Svi left, Devonte’ Graham’s 36 starts and six apiece for Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike would have represented all of KU’s starting experience on the roster. Now, instead of just 48 starts, the Jayhawks are returning nearly 30 more.

And that’s important whether Svi even stays in the starting lineup or not.

Enough of a possibility exists that has Lagerald Vick taking another monster step and becoming so talented and productive that it’s impossible to keep him out of the starting lineup.

If that happens, Svi’s return becomes even more important because he will represent a legitimate and experienced body on the bench.

Had he decided to leave, Vick would’ve almost certainly slid into the starting lineup, leaving only incoming freshman Marcus Garrett and second-semester transfer Sam Cunliffe as backcourt options for Self off the bench. Both are going to be good, perhaps very good, players at Kansas. And they might each have big roles as soon as next season. But neither could come anywhere close to bringing the same kind of savvy, experience and veteran presence to the team as Svi can.

And let’s face it; when you’re talking about a team coached by Self, that’s worth a lot. There are few things Self likes more than reliable players whom he can trust. And if he trusted Svi enough to start him 25 times last season, you know he’ll trust him enough to play just about whatever role one can imagine as a senior.

Included in that last thought is the potential for Svi and Vick to play on the floor at the same time some next season.

Graham and Newman next year will be what Frank Mason III and Graham were this year. At least in terms of minutes. So they’re gonna play a ton. But that four-guard look, which worked so well for KU last winter, is no doubt something Self will look to use again next season and Svi will play a huge role in making that possible.

He’s no Josh Jackson. Very few are. But he has the necessary size and, more importantly, the experience in that system to make it an option for the Jayhawks, who once again will have limited depth and experience in the front court.

Don’t expect Self to use the four-guard look anywhere close to as often as he did this season, but he already has said this offseason that his team’s personnel in 2017-18 will dictate that he’ll have to use it at least some. Svi’s return makes that a much more comfortable thought.

Could the Jayhawks have fielded a damn good team next season without Svi on the roster, one that would have been well positioned to challenge for all of the accomplishments Kansas basketball fans have become to celebrating for years? You bet.

Newman and Graham are a dynamic one-two punch, Udoka Azubuike stands to be a different maker down low and with Vick poised to take another huge step and five-star freshman Billy Preston in the mix, the Jayhawks, right there, would have had five pieces that most teams would kill for.

But bringing Svi back as a sixth piece gives the Jayhawks the one thing that has helped set them apart from so many others during Self’s first 14 seasons in town — enviable depth.

Beyond that, the Svi the Jayhawks are getting just might be — and probably should and will be — the best version of the young gun that Kansas fans ever have seen.

Armed with the senior urgency that comes with knowing it’s your last shot to win a title (which should inspire him to take more ownership and be more of a leader for the young guys and newcomers), and also with fresh and rock solid feedback from NBA folks about what they want to see more of, Svi is in line to make his biggest jump yet, both of the physical and mental variety.

If he does, Kansas once again will be a tough out from beginning to end and the young Ukrainian who took his decision all the way down to the wire will be glad he did and even more glad he chose to come back.

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Former Jayhawk Josh Jackson projects as more than just KU’s latest Top 5 pick

Kansas guard Josh Jackson

Kansas guard Josh Jackson by Nick Krug

Those familiar with basketball, at just about any level, know that there typically are five positions on the floor – point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.

There are, of course, variations of each position — point forward and stretch 4 are two of the better examples — and not every team uses all five positions all the time.

While that tends to be important when coaches are putting together rosters and formulating game plans, it seems to have less importance at the highest level of basketball, where players are picked and pursued based on potential and production.

“In the NBA, they think play-makers more than positions,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla told the Journal-World, noting that Jackson’s attacking mentality and versatility made him a dream prospect for any team.

There are still, of course, guards, forwards and centers throughout the league, but Fraschilla said NBA talent evaluators often tag young players with different descriptions, especially ahead of the draft.

“All-Star, starter, rotation guy, fringe guy,” Fraschilla explained.

Jackson’s potential to fit into the first two slots — perhaps immediately — is just one of the many reasons Fraschilla believes KU's freshman All-American is so highly coveted and sits on the brink of a long pro career.

“If I were doing a mock draft, he would be in my Top 3,” Fraschilla said, echoing what several draft and pro basketball analysts believe will be the case in the June Draft.

But the reason for Fraschilla’s appreciation of where Jackson fits into the NBA game go beyond his 6-foot-8 frame, elite athleticism, intense motor and individual skills.

“You know right away if you need a small forward, you’re plugging in a 10 year starter,” Fraschilla said of Jackson. “I don’t know how many times he’ll be an all-star, there aren’t many all-stars. But everything he’s done on the court to this point is a complete positive for him. Teams already know he’s an alpha dog.”

And regardless of where he's drafted, the Detroit native only figures to carry that mentality with him while building on it at the highest level.

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Five guesses on what Svi Mykhailiuk will decide this week

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

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

It’s a big week for Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk, perhaps his biggest since the end of the 2016-17 season.

Mykhailiuk, who has spent the past two months working on his game and working toward the goal of catching the eye of any number of NBA teams, has until Wednesday to make a final decision about whether to remain in the draft or return to KU for his senior season.

And Kansas coach Bill Self told the Journal-World Monday night that Mykhailiuk would in fact announce his intentions Wednesday.

Self did not indicate which was Mykhailiuk was leaning or whether he knew one way or another.

If the soon-to-be 20-year-old Ukrainian stays in the draft — June 22 in Brooklyn, New York — his career at Kansas will be over.

If he elects to return, he’ll jump back onto a talented roster that yet again is set to begin the process of gunning for a national title in 2018 here in a couple of weeks.

But for now, it’s Mykhailiuk's decision that is the most important part of the equation. With that in mind, here’s a quick look at the thoughts — guesses, if you will — from the KUsports.com world on what the KU junior will decide to do.

• Matt Tait •

KU basketball beat writer/KUsports.com editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

Reason: The fact that Svi entered the week still undecided tells me all I need to know about his desire to stay in the draft. I think he wants to leave. And it’s not because he doesn’t love KU. There’s no doubt he does and always will. But I think he’s reached a point in his career where he’s ready to gamble on himself. There’s a better than good chance that Svi won’t actually get drafted, but I don’t think that’s driving him. Of course, that’s the goal. But I’m betting that his workouts with individual teams and time at the combine earlier this month convinced him that, drafted or not, he’d get a fair shot via the summer league and getting even just a taste of that NBA life could be hard to walk away from. The reasons for his odds of getting drafted being good include his young age and his potential as a draft-and-stash European player. Even though playing in Europe is something Svi would rather not do, getting there through that route would at least keep his name tied to the NBA and could wind up being the best thing for him in the long run.

• Tom Keegan •

Journal-World sports editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

Reason: First, full disclosure: I have no inside information and am purely guessing. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I’ll share my guess. I think he stays in the NBA Draft, is selected in the second round and doesn’t appear on an NBA roster next season. NBA teams are fond of using second-round draft choices to select European players. They then follow their development in Europe and if they see a need arise for the player, they sign him. Svi doesn’t turn 20 until June 10, so it would make since for an NBA team to take that path with him. As for what makes the most sense for Svi, I’d have to know more about his family’s financial situation to answer that with conviction. It’s my understanding that there is some financial pressure and, if that’s the case, I’m sure Svi would like to help out as soon as he can. The chances of him showing a great deal more to the NBA in a fourth year at KU than he already has are probably not great. They already know he can shot because he shot great at the combine. They also know he needs to get stronger, which only time can accomplish.

• Benton Smith •

KU football beat writer/KU basketball blogger

Verdict: Svi stays

Reason: My best guess is Mykhailiuk will return to Kansas for one final year of college basketball. He hasn't quite met the expectations Self had for him when the young wing got to KU from Ukraine before his freshman season. And he's definitely not ready to play in the NBA yet. As a senior, Mykhailiuk has a chance at contributing more offensively than he has in each of the past three seasons, draining 3-pointers while also making some defensive progress. He'll need to do all of that if he wants to make it in the NBA. And because he will only be 20 during a senior year at KU, teams will still think he has a chance to further blossom at the next level when they're looking at him for the 2018 draft.

• Nick Krug •

KUsports.com/Journal-World photographer

Verdict: Svi leaves

Reason: I think Svi is going to follow in the footsteps of his former teammate Wayne Selden and forego his final year at Kansas to remain in the NBA Draft, likely knowing that another year in college won't likely improve the areas where he is most deficient. Even though he’s not projected to be in the first round, his shooting numbers were impressive enough before an ankle injury sidelined him from further pre-draft workouts.

• Bobby Nightengale •

KU reporter/high school sports editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

Reason: Despite bad timing with an ankle injury at the combine, I think Svi will keep his name in the NBA Draft, bypassing his senior season at Kansas. I think it's hard to go through the entire process, that close to reaching your dream, and return to school. There's a reason so many underclassmen kept their name in the draft last season with the new NCAA rule that allowed players to attend the combine and more workouts. All it takes is one team to give him positive feedback, as much as a guarantee to pick him or as little as a spot on a summer league roster, to give him confidence that he should enter the draft.

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Five things we learned from the 2016-17 KU basketball season

The Jayhawks come together in a huddle with little time remaining during the second half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The Jayhawks come together in a huddle with little time remaining during the second half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. by Nick Krug

Now that enough time has passed — for most — between the rough ending to another amazing season of Kansas basketball and today, it’s time to take a quick look back at what we learned about the KU program during the 2016-17 season.

These things we already knew: Kansas is king of the Big 12 Conference; the Jayhawks are perennial national title contenders; Bill Self is one heck of a basketball coach.

So no surprises there.

But what about the things that were a little surprising, or at least proved to be realities that we don’t necessarily see every season at Kansas?

There were a few of those, too.

Here’s a look:

Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles as he barbs an official during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles as he barbs an official during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

1. Bill Self is even better than you thought

Anyone who has followed Kansas basketball closely over the years — and even many who haven’t — knows what Bill Self basketball looks like. Inside-out, playing through big men, preferably with a big time shot blocker and a bunch of long and athletic guards who are fast and interchangeable. With a roster that lacked in some of those areas, Self adjusted to the four-guard lineup (more on that in the coming days as we’ll take one last look back at how that whole thing came to be) and watched the Jayhawks play a fast and exciting brand of basketball that made them a nightmare to match-up with throughout most of the season. Forget the X’s and O’s aspect of it, the bottom line about the 2016-17 season was that it proved further to what end Self will go to ensure his team is successful. There's a reason the guy's a Hall of Famer now. Actually, there are a bunch of reasons. Doing what he did with his roster and rotation in 2016-17 certainly qualifies as one of them.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) charges up the court past Oklahoma guard Rashard Odomes (1) and teammate Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) charges up the court past Oklahoma guard Rashard Odomes (1) and teammate Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

2. We saw the true value of program guys

Imagine for a second where last year’s team would’ve been without Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas. Sure, maybe some other player or two would’ve come along and filled their spots, but would they have done it so well? Doubtful. And one of the biggest reasons for Mason and Lucas’ success was their experience. The two had been through so much during their four and five years in Lawrence and seen just about everything that they operated with a certain sense of calm. That experience also produced a great deal of confidence in both players, who often stood tallest against the toughest challenges. One-and-done and early-entry prospects are exciting and entertaining and, like it or not, probably will be the future of the sport for a long time. But that fact makes players like Mason and Lucas and seasons like the ones they had all the more special when they happen.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) raises up his arms as he leaves the court with little time remaining during the Jayhawks' 90-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) raises up his arms as he leaves the court with little time remaining during the Jayhawks' 90-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

3. One-and-dones are worth it

Speaking of one-and-dones, KU fans have been left wanting more from recent freshmen for quite some time now but they finally got their payoff. Josh Jackson was sensational in just about every aspect of the game throughout the 2016-17 season and got better each month. Imagine if it were called May Madness instead of March Madness. Jackson would be a monster by now. And he probably is anyway. That’s why he’ll be a Top 3 pick in the NBA Draft next month and also why you take guys like him, year after year, class after class. I’m not sure the idea of loading up with one-and-dones like they do at Kentucky would ever work at Kansas. It doesn’t fit Self, it doesn’t fit the fan base and, as mentioned above, there’s legitimate value in program guys who carry a little veteran moxie with them. But taking one or two every year is absolutely worth considering and Jackson is the reason why. Even if you have to put four or five years of effort into recruiting them to get that nine months of time with them in your program, it can be worth it. They don’t all turn out like Cliff Alexander, Cheick Diallo and Josh Selby. It may be a while before KU has another freshman like Jackson. Heck, it may never happen again. The guy was a special player. But you can bet that Self and company will keep going after ’em and now you’ve seen up-close-and-personal why it’s worth it.

The Jayhawks' 13-straight Big 12 conference trophies are lined up along the court, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks' 13-straight Big 12 conference trophies are lined up along the court, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

4. That Big 12 title streak really is pretty cool

It’s celebrated and stressed over every year by the fans and I haven’t met one yet who is tired of adding to their T-Shirt collection at the end of another Big 12 season. But because it has been so long since someone other than Kansas won the Big 12, it does get taken for granted a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, each February or March, when another title is clinched, the celebration is cool. But this one, which tied the UCLA dynasty at 13 in a row, carried with it a little more of that special feeling. And understandably so. Year 10 was cool because it was double-digits. Years 1-5 were cool because the streak was just forming. And by Years 11 and 12 the whole thing became a feat we all just sort of marveled over. But those middle years, Year 7, Year 9, those sort of had that, “Oh, cool, they did it again” vibe to them and a little less euphoria and pride. Not this one. Tying UCLA was big. Passing the Bruins next season, should KU be fortunate enough to do so will be even bigger. And I really thought that fact was palpable throughout the 2016-17 Big 12 race.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) help up Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after Graham hit a three during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) help up Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after Graham hit a three during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

5. The game is changing

Remember that four-guard lineup talk from No. 1? Back to that for a second. The game of basketball is changing and it’s starting to filter down to the college game in a big way. Small ball, quick guards, excellent shooters. All are becoming more and more important in the modern game. Look no further than the upcoming NBA Draft for proof, as five of the Top 10 projected picks are 6-foot-6 or smaller and two more, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum, stand 6-8 and have a more perimeter-oriented flavor to their game. That means seven of the Top 10 picks in this year’s draft could very well be guys who are the poster boys for the modern game. Heck, even Florida State big man Jonathan Isaac, who stands 6-11, likes to play and looks incredibly comfortable on the perimeter. These things tend to go in cycles, so I’m not saying the game has changed forever. But thanks to the recent success enjoyed by the Golden State Warriors, teams at all levels have started to tweak how they play, looking to take advantage of tempo, quickness and the 3-point shot more than ever. Kansas is one of them and it worked tremendously well for the Jayhawks in 2016-17. The question now is where do things go from here?

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