Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
Within minutes, possibly even seconds, of the news breaking Wednesday night that William & Mary transfer forward Jack Whitman was leaving the Kansas basketball program, eager and uneasy KU fans alike were connecting the dots to Marvin Bagley III.
Late Thursday morning, KU coach Bill Self confirmed Whitman's departure, saying, "Jack called me last night and informed me that he would not be playing basketball at Kansas for his fifth year. I do not know what his plans are moving forward. All I know is he will not be part of our basketball program. We wish Jack the best with his future endeavors.” But that confirmation did not include anything about what the Jayhawks will do to replace him.
It sounds good on the surface, replacing Frank Mason III with Marvin Bagley III, who just so happens to be the No. 1 ranked prospect in the Class of 2018.
And, yeah, there were rumors floating around earlier this week that Bagley was at least considering reclassifying into the 2017 class so he could play college basketball this season.
But the whole thing is far from a slam dunk, and there are a lot of moves that need to happen before Jayhawk fans can even begin to dream of seeing the 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man in crimson and blue next season.
Before we look at what factors are stacked against them, let’s first look at what the Jayhawks have working in their favor.
• First and most obvious is the fact that Kansas, no matter who you talk to, is one of the few true blue blood schools in the country and one that most all of the top prospects in class after class at least like to check the temperature on to see if the program might be the right fit for them. It was recently for Josh Selby, Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson. And, in time, it could be for Bagley, too. So it’s not as if KU fans are crazy for thinking he might come to Lawrence the way it might sound silly for fans in Boulder, Colo., to think Bagley might want to be a Buff.
• Beyond that, Bagley does already have KU on his short list of finalists. Those schools, in alphabetical order, are Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and USC. Big time programs, all of them, but Kansas is on the list.
• The big-picture timing of trying to woo Bagley to town really couldn’t be better for Bill Self and the Jayhawks, as Kansas currently has the reigning college player of the year in Mason and also just put Josh Jackson into the NBA via the No. 4 pick in the draft. Seeing that kind of exposure on the college level and path to professional ball no doubt would seem awfully appealing to a player of Bagley’s caliber. Beyond that, KU’s recent surge of putting players into the NBA — often via the draft lottery — has inspired top-tier prospects to look at KU’s ability to develop NBA talent in a fresh and more favorable light.
Now, let’s take a look at what might make this less than likely, both now and in the future.
• For one, reclassifying is not a slam dunk. It happens, but it’s not automatic and there is a process that Bagley would have to go through to make it happen. Beyond that, his family recently told Eric Bossi, of Rivals.com, that those rumors about Bagley’s reclassification were just that, rumors, and that the elite talent had not yet made any such decision. So it’s possible that all of the Bagley talk was much ado about nothing. And if that’s the case, Kansas will still continue to pursue him, but it won’t be as a replacement for Whitman this season. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish is absolutely convinced that Bagley is en route to reclassifying and Parrish said on his recent radio show that he had been told that Bagley (a) had the grades to get it done and (b) was moving forward full speed ahead. Having said that, one source familiar with Bagley's recruitment told me Thursday that it'll take "a miracle" for him to be able to reclassify and added that Duke and USC were the likely front-runners.
• Even if the reclassification comes and KU gets a real crack at him in time for the 2017-18 season, it’s not as if it’s automatic that KU would get him. Bagley already may have visited Duke, and he’s scheduled to visit USC on July 26-27 and Arizona during the first week of August, when KU is playing overseas in Italy. “The Duke visit was completely geographical and we can drive, and we chose those three because we can drive to all of them,” Bagley’s father recently told FanRagSports.com. “And then we’ll get UCLA after, and then Kentucky and Kansas. We plan to visit them all. We’re going to try to get them in the best way we can.” For what it's worth, most national recruiting analysts seem to believe Duke is the team to beat for Bagley.
• The timing of this whole thing is nuts. Because summer workouts get going almost as soon as the Jayhawks get back from Italy, it’s hard to envision them putting in the kind of work necessary to land him while they’re in Italy. Then again, three members of Self’s staff did not make the trip to South Korea for the World University Games a couple of summers ago, and given that these Italian exhibitions are much less intense and important than those games, it’s not hard to imagine someone such as assistant Kurtis Townsend staying back to make a run at Bagley if that’s on the table. Having said that, Bagley’s also the type of talent that you’d easily still welcome into your program even in September or later if that’s what it takes to get him.
• Perhaps one of the most important things to remember about this deal is that Bagley’s whole motivation for reclassifying is not because he cannot wait to play college basketball for his school of choice. Instead, it’s because doing so provides him with the quickest path to the NBA and the money that awaits there. If Bagley is able to play college ball in 2017-18, he would be eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft, where he would at least be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick and certainly would be a surefire Top 5 choice. “I want to go the NBA,” Bagley recently told Andrew Slater of 247Sports. “That's my goal and those schools help get you there. They prepare you for that. That's why they made my list.”
• As for what he’s hoping to get out of whichever college program he signs with, Bagley said his whole mindset was focused on development. “I just want to get better,” he told Slater. “Wherever I feel like that is, wherever I feel like I'm around good people, around people who push me every day and tell me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear, that's where I see myself.”
At this point, it’s hard to picture exactly how all of this is going to play out. Bagley has not given any kind of time frame for a decision about his school or a decision about reclassifying and, even though there still is time to iron it all out, August is quickly approaching and things get a little tighter from there.
According to Slater’s report, Duke and now Kansas, thanks to Whitman’s departure, might be in the best shape of the bunch should Bagley reclassify because they have spots available immediately.
Regardless of KU’s chances of landing him or what his immediate future holds, this much we know: For at least the next few weeks, those interested in Kansas basketball would be wise to pay attention to whatever news comes out of the Bagley camp.
Three former Kansas basketball players earned all-Summer League honors this week following strong showings in Las Vegas during the past couple of weeks.
Phoenix rookie Josh Jackson, the No. 4 overall pick in June's draft, landed on the first team while second-year pros Wayne Selden Jr., and Cheick Diallo both earned second-team nods.
The accolades represent a couple of key things for the players and their franchises, with the Suns receiving validation of a job well done after selecting Jackson when they did and Selden and Diallo gaining even more crucial confidence as they strive to find their way and make an impact on their respective rosters.
Selden was oh so close to being named a first-team selection and he easily could've been on the first team, which was made up of Jackson, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, Caleb Swanigan and John Collins.
The former KU standout was fourth in the entire league at 22.7 points per game and helped lead the Memphis Grizzlies to the semifinals of the Summer League tournament. Not only did Selden score in bunches — with deep jumpers, dazzling dunks and repeated trips to the free throw line — but he also emerged as the go-to scorer on Memphis' young squad.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t even play a dozen games with the team last season and spent three times as much time in the D League as he did on an NBA roster.
It's likely that Selden missed out on making the first team because his rebound (3.8) and assists (3.0) totals were not as high as some would've liked to see. While those areas clearly are important parts of the game, Selden's emergence as a take-over type of player was one of the better stories of the Vegas circuit.
He looked strong, confident, crazy athletic and comfortable in any and all situations. In short, he looked a lot like the guy KU fans got glimpses of during his three years at Kansas, most notably during his 33-point outburst in a home victory over Kentucky during his junior season.
While some might perceive Selden’s second-team selection as a snub or a slight, the guess here is that Selden’s just fine with it. Ever since going undrafted in 2016, the former Jayhawk guard has taken full advantage of any and all opportunities to fill his tank with fuel for motivation.
The result was his stellar summer and a two-year contract with the Grizzlies. If this latest dose of motivation delivers the same way the previous fuel did, Selden could be poised for a breakout season when NBA action returns this fall.
As for Diallo and Jackson, both used their athleticism and high motors to become big time factors in Vegas.
Jackson, as he did during his one year at Kansas, consistently flashed his all-around game, putting up points, playing tough defense and getting on the glass game in and game out. The Detroit native averaged 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in five outings with the Suns, and routinely found his way into highlight shows with his play on both ends of the floor.
Diallo, who has opened some eyes in New Orleans with his growth and maturity as a player, not only scored 18.6 points per game in Vegas, but also averaged 9.8 rebounds per night, good for third in the league. Diallo enjoyed three 20-point outings, recorded a double-double three times and never finished with fewer than five rebounds in New Orleans’ five games.
Other former KU players who recently wrapped up play in the Vegas summer league include Perry Ellis, who averaged 11.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in five games with Minnesota; Landen Lucas, who averaged 1.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in two games with Boston; Frank Mason III, who averaged 8.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 16.5 minutes per game with Sacramento; and Julian Wright, who tallied 3.0 points per game in four games with Utah.
So last week news broke that Marvin Bagley III, currently the No. 1 ranked prospect in the Class of 2018 according to Rivals.com, was considering reclassifying and heading to school this Fall for what likely would be his lone season of college basketball.
Many recruiting analysts have said that Bagley is the clear-cut No. 1 player in the 2018 class and the 6-foot-10, 220-pound, 5-star prospect brings a well-rounded and explosive game to the floor every time he suits up.
As you would expect with a player of that caliber, all of the major players in college basketball are in on him and any one of them — Kansas included — would love to have him playing in their colors when he hits the college hoops scene.
At this point, Bagley has a Top 6 of Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and USC, with only a visit to Duke scheduled so far.
He grew up in Southern California and also spent some time living in Arizona. So it’s easy to see why those three schools are in play here, as well. And then Kansas and Kentucky are, well, Kansas and Kentucky so that makes sense, too.
What does not make sense is the belief that Bagley would consider reclassifying without knowing where he wants to play his college ball.
I’m not saying it’s a done deal. Not even close. In fact, Eric Bossi, of Rivals.com, recently spoke with Bagley's family and reported that they're calling the news "rumors" and saying they have not made any such decision about jumping up a class.
I don’t know the kid and barely know the circumstances surrounding his recruitment. But I find it hard to imagine that he would make a major move — or even consider one — like reclassifying in order to attend college a full year before he previously was expected to without having a pretty good feel for where he wants to go after the paperwork is done.
The guess here is that place will be Duke.
In order for it to be Kansas, the Jayhawks likely would need Bagley to decide against reclassifying and to stay in the 2018 class, which certainly is possible and definitely would give Bill Self and company more time to make their pitch and also time to find room to add him.
As of today, the Jayhawks are full and bringing on another player — whether he’s a monster player like Bagley or a 3-star big man for added depth — would require some movement on the scholarship front in order to open up a spot.
With the trip to Italy coming in two weeks and preseason camp starting shortly after their return, it’s hard to imagine anyone from the current roster moving on for one reason or another at this point.
The Bagley thing is interesting, not because it’s rare — reclassifying has become more and more common during recent years — but because he’s such a big time talent.
But his move, should he make it, probably would not mean much for the Jayhawks at this point in time. Now, if he stays in the Class of 2018, stay tuned...
The other night, when I was perusing yet another NBA Summer League box score, a thought occurred to me that inspired a little extra examination.
Why is it that a short story about an average game by new Sacramento Kings point guard Frank Mason III gets a ton of love on our site, while a similar note about former KU forward Cheick Diallo topping 20 points and impressing New Orleans’ coaches entering Year 2 of his pro career draws far less interest?
The answer was easy to find. And it has everything to do with how long the two players were in Lawrence and what they did while they were here.
With Mason, a four-year player and three-year leader who capped his KU career with the best individual season by a guard in Big 12 history, the opportunity for fans to watch him succeed and fail, to share the ride through college basketball’s ups and downs with him, took KU fans on a long journey and provided time for them to feel a true connection with the once-quiet Petersburg, Va., native.
With Diallo, and others like him, the time was short-lived and left many Kansas fans with a ‘We hardly knew ya,’ attitude toward the once-hyped, highly coveted former prep standout.
I’ve long been a believer that the Kansas basketball players who are remembered the longest — and the fondest — are the ones with whom the fans feel a true connection.
Sure, winning a title trumps everything. So, yeah, Danny Manning, Milt Newton, Kevin Pritchard, Chris Piper, Scooter Barry and that gang, along with Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun and the 2008 crew will always be beloved for bringing home the hardware.
But there’s more to the college basketball experience than cutting down nets. Especially for the fans. And there have been more than a few KU players throughout the decades who have held a special place in the hearts of thousands of rabid KU fans for reasons beyond their basketball accomplishments.
Be them personality traits, hardships, memorable moments or unforgettable toughness and courage, those players have endeared themselves to Kansas fans everywhere for eternity and will not soon be forgotten.
For this exercise, and because KU coach Bill Self last season called Mason the greatest guard he’s ever coached, let’s take a quick look at the most memorable fan favorites of the Self era.
1. Frank Mason III
Heading into his senior season, I’m not sure I would’ve put Mason on this list, let alone this high on it. But then he became the unanimous national player of the year, turned in one of the best seasons in Big 12 history and did it all while being the face of the standard of toughness for all past and future Kansas players. Add to that his sudden rise in the NBA Draft, which came with Mason still maintaining his underdog persona, and you’re talking about a player who every KU fan felt like they knew on a personal level and rooted for like family.
2. Thomas Robinson
This is tied directly to the death of his mother, Lisa Robinson, who passed away unexpectedly during T-Rob’s sophomore season, just weeks after the powerful power forward lost two of his grandparents. At such a heartbreaking time in the young man’s life, the Kansas faithful opened their collective arms as wide as possible and wrapped them around the KU forward, who, beyond using the KU family to help him get through such a tough time, also turned in All-American numbers in leading the Jayhawks to the national title game one year later. The wins were great. But it was the bond created between player and fan — one that later even extended to Robinson’s younger sister, Jayla — that landed Robinson so high on this list.
3. Mario Chalmers
Yes, Chalmers is on this list — and dozens of others — because he hit arguably the biggest shot in the storied history of Kansas basketball. But his status as a fan favorite was cemented long before the 3-pointer to tie Memphis in the 2008 national title game. That, obviously, did not hurt his standing, but more than the shot, or any number of deadly 3-pointers and steals that Chalmers drained or swiped during his time at KU, was the smirk. The look on Chalmers’ face that surfaced when KU had an opponent beaten or when the outcome was still uncertain, but Mario wasn’t, was the stuff of legends and endeared him to KU fans everywhere. It was the kind of look that you loved if it was on your side and absolutely despised with every fiber of your being if you were on the other side.
4. Darnell Jackson
One of the true all-heart players to come through Kansas, Jackson enjoyed the perfect career trajectory, from seldom-used sub as a true freshman to national champion starter as a senior. Sometimes, simply paying your dues along that path is enough to inspire grand appreciation from the KU fan base, but, with Jackson, there was much more that went into it. For starters, his personality. A no-nonsense guy on the court, with a fun-loving and expressive personality off of it, Jackson carried with him that lovable teddy bear vibe, provided that teddy bear came in a 6-foot-8, 250-pound, rock solid frame. As was the case with Robinson, the personal tragedies Jackson endured during his life, both while at KU and after, (his grandmother died in a car wreck and mother later passed away after an overdose of pain pills) tugged at the heart strings of many KU fans and created that deeper connection between the player and the fans.
5. Sherron Collins
The perfect combination of Mario Chalmers’ swagger and Frank Mason’s toughness, with the bulk of his playing career sandwiched right between the two, Collins’ Chicago-style persona and constant willingness to sacrifice his body in any and every way for the KU basketball program in pursuit of the next bucket or victory made him one of the most beloved Jayhawks of the past couple of decades. His passion for the game, ability to play bigger than his size and raw emotion and fiery mentality provided Self’s post-title teams with the perfect leader for the next era. Add to that the huge role he played in delivering the 2008 title and it’s easy to see why Collins was so loved and still is.
Have an opinion about which one of these Jayhawks stands above the rest? Or maybe your guy didn't make this list? Vote here in our fan favorite poll and/or name your guy and why in the comment section below.
The best thing that ever happened to Wayne Selden Jr., came on draft night 2016, when 30 NBA teams told him for 60 picks that they did not believe he was good enough to play in their league.
Until that very moment, Selden spent most of his life thinking otherwise and doing it with pretty strong conviction.
That night, however, lit a fire under Selden that led him to last weekend, when he signed a two-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies and, in doing so, became a bona fide NBA player.
Sure Selden played a handful of games with New Orleans and Memphis during his rookie season. And, yeah, he even started two games in the freakin’ playoffs. But those moments were short-lived and did not guarantee the former Jayhawk anything.
This contract does. It guarantees Selden a real chance. It guarantees that he will be able to work and fail, grow and learn, win and lose, without having to worry about what every move he makes, good or bad, will mean for his future.
Give a guy like Selden, who stands 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and appears to have his explosive athleticism back, that kind of freedom and relief and there’s no telling what’s possible.
Is Selden going to take this chance and turn it into the first chapter in an All-Star story? Doubtful. But is it possible that this chance will be the one that allows Selden to stick around the league for the next 5-7 years, providing him the opportunity to live out a dream and make some good coin while doing it? You bet.
And speaking of betting, I’d be more than willing to bet that’s exactly the way this will go down.
Selden is talented enough to play in the NBA. He’s fast, physical, can shoot it well enough and has that inner drive that is required to keep up with the best basketball players in the world.
He showed that throughout his stint in the NBA’s Developmental League (now known as the G League), where he often looked much more angry than happy to be there.
There was a reason for all of it. Selden was angry. Angry at the ball, angry at the rim, angry at the hand the basketball gods had dealt him. But instead of allowing that anger to eat him up, Selden used every ounce of it to prove himself. Talk about a heck of a success story.
When I caught up with Selden in early June after the annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, the anger was gone. Not only was he cool to talk to and happy to share his story, but he also seemed very much at peace with his life and career. That was before the guaranteed, two-year contract. And you know what? Something tells me Selden was that way because he believed good news was coming.
Now that it has, and now that Selden appears to be comfortable with where he’s at again, don’t expect him to pull back or ease up an ounce.
Selden’s smart – one of the more intelligent KU basketball players I’ve dealt with. He knows what got him here. And he knows what it will take to stick.
Now he just has to do it.
So far so good in that department. Through the first two games of Summer League action in Las Vegas, Selden has made two starts and is averaging 25 points per game on 16-of-33 shooting (48.5 percent), including a 6-of-11 clip from 3-point range.
Selden and the Grizzlies (2-0) will return to action at 3:30 p.m. today against Utah.
The wild ride as an NBA rookie soon may be slowing down for former Kansas point guard Frank Mason III, but that does not mean the reigning national player of the year will be.
Mason, who will wrap up summer league action in Las Vegas with the Kings later this week, will jump into the camp circuit shortly thereafter.
The former KU standout will host four camps in the next couple of weeks, with three of them coming on consecutive days in late July in Kansas.
The first, July 27, will take place at Olathe Community Center. One day later, Mason will return to Lawrence for a camp at Lawrence High on July 28. And he will follow that up with a July 29 camp at Wichita Hoops. The final camp will take place Aug. 5 in Sacramento.
All three Kansas camps will feature two sessions (9 a.m.-Noon and 1-4 p.m.), will be open to young athletes in grades K-12 and will cost $50 for one day and $90 for a two-day pass in two locations. The price rises to $60 and $110 after July 18.
For more information, or to sign up, visit www.frankmasonbasketball.com.
As for Mason’s latest showing in Vegas, the reserve guard exploded for 24 points in 24 minutes during the Kings' 95-92 loss to the Lakers.
Mason, who shot 9-of-13 from the floor, was 2-of-3 from 3-point range and added five rebounds, six assists and two steals in what was easily his best game of the summer to date.
Mason looked a lot like his old, national-player-of-the-year, KU self during this one, showing extreme confidence with his handles and driving to the rim for tough finishes over the L.A. defense.
His play also led the Kings on a wild comeback. After trailing by more than 20 in the first half, Mason went off for 20 points in the second half alone and brought the Kings all the way back before watching L.A. hang on late.
One night earlier, Mason's Kings fell to former KU teammate Wayne Selden Jr., and the Memphis Grizzlies on a night when Selden kept his positive momentum going.
Mason tallied just six points, three rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes in that one, but Selden dropped in 21 points in 29 minutes on 6-of-13 shooting and a 7-of-8 mark at the free throw line.
It marked the second consecutive game of 20 or more points for Selden, who, earlier this summer, signed a two-year deal with the Grizzlies.
With a surplus of guards and a need up front, the Boston Celtics made somewhat of an inevitable move on Friday. And it involved a former Kansas basketball player.
According to multiple reports citing sources, the Celtics have agreed to send guard Avery Bradley to Detroit for former KU standout Marcus Morris. The Pistons also will be getting a future second-round draft pick in the deal.
Morris, if the trade goes through, will be playing for his fifth team in his first seven NBA seasons. And there’s no doubt that this next squad will represent his best opportunity at team success.
The Celtics, who earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, reached the conference finals a year ago and added prized free agent Gordon Hayward, along with No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum, during the offseason.
The key portion of the deal for Boston was to move Avery's contract so they could sign Hayward to a max deal. But getting a young forward with size and good athleticism in return certainly does not represent the Celtics walking away as the losers in this deal. It seems to have the potential to be mutually beneficial for both sides and all parties.
Bringing the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Morris twin into the fold gives Boston coach Brad Stevens even more flexibility and versatility and also brings some beef and attitude to the team trying to break through and reach the NBA Finals.
Stevens has talked recently about moving more toward positionless basketball, playing with three positions instead of five — guard, wing and big man. Morris fits into that idea very well and should give Stevens a variety of options on the perimeter and down low.
Morris made news last postseason by showing up to a Washington Wizards playoff game to support twin brother, Markieff, in an authentic Washington Markieff Morris jersey. The move opened eyes throughout the arena and even led some to speculate that Marcus may have filled in for Markieff following an injury in the postseason.
Morris enjoyed one of the better and more consistent years of his career last season, averaging 14 points and 5 rebounds in 79 games with Detroit.
He has career averages of 10.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 416 NBA games, but surrounded by all of that talent in Boston, it’s easy to see how he could carve out a key role and improve on those numbers in the coming years.
July 4, as you well know, is known as Independence Day in the United State of America, but there’s a developing situation for another, lesser-known holiday a couple of days later.
Thanks to the last-chance vote for this year’s Major League Baseball All Star Game, July 6 might forever be known as Moose Day.
All morning and afternoon, Twitter has been on fire with Kansas City Royals fans — and therefore many KU basketball and football fans, as well — Tweeting #VoteMoose in an attempt to get Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas into this year’s All Star Game next week in Miami.
While the fun has extended to all walks of life, with people adding “#VoteMoose” to the end of Tweets that have absolutely nothing to do with sports, and others getting creative and putting out movie challenges in which you replace a word or two in a popular movie with the words Vote Moose for a good laugh, the movement officially reached KU at 2:16 p.m. Thursday afternoon, when Kansas basketball coach Bill Self joined the fun.
Self, who has more than 220,000 followers but just 261 Tweets to his name — including a whopping nine so far this year — wrote simply, “Let’s get another Royal into the All Star Game. #VoteMoose.”
As of 2:57 p.m., Self’s Tweet had 1,264 likes, 667 ReTweets and 24 replies.
Self’s Tweet will only count once in the voting, but you can bet there were a few folks out there who follow the KU program and its coach that followed suit after they saw Self fire off his Tweet.
Falling in the "Go Figure" category, Self's Twitter picture is actually of him and his son, Tyler, at Kauffman Stadium.
Moustakas, who reached the All Star Game in 2015 via this very same path is expected to find out at a 5 p.m. announcement whether he received enough votes to make the team.
In 2007, Kansas forward Julian Wright, whom some called a young Magic Johnson because of his size, athletic ability and vision as a passer, became an NBA lottery pick when the New Orleans Hornets made him the No. 13 overall pick following two stellar seasons at Kansas.
Today, Wright is trying to make it back into the league as a center.
Listed on the Utah Jazz summer league roster, with a big C by his name, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound former Jayhawk Wright again is knocking on the door of the league he played in from 2007-2011.
During that time, Wright played in 231 games in three seasons with New Orleans and a fourth with Toronto, making a total of 40 starts and underwhelming most of the way.
Though plenty gifted athletically, Wright struggled to transition to the pro game, primarily because his jump shot was not where it needed to be, and that led him to more bench time than playing time. His four-year averages landed at 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, and, from there, he jumped overseas, where he has continued his playing career to this day.
Last listed as a member of Pallacanestro Reggiana, of Italy’s LBA, Serie A Basketball League, Wright has played with eight different franchises overseas from 2012 to today, with two stints in Israel, two in Italy and at least part of one season in Greece, Puerto Rico, Russia and Turkey, as well.
While it remains to be seen what comes of Wright’s summer tryout with the Jazz, Kansas coach Bill Self told the Journal-World on Wednesday that he had heard some favorable feedback on Wright already this summer.
“Somebody told me he’s big enough, he can switch screens, he could do some good things if he could get in shape, and maybe he could make a team,” Self said of his former Chicago standout. “But who knows?”
Wright’s presence on the Utah roster has caught the attention of those who cover the Jazz on a regular basis. So, too, has his physical presence. Much larger than he ever was during his days as a thin, dynamic play maker in Kansas, Wright looks like a completely different player today and, in many ways, is almost unrecognizable on the floor.
Calling him a Center might have caught some off guard, but at least one outlet, Utah’s SB Nation site, believes that Wright could be auditioning as a stretch big, which, given his height, was the way some of his overseas clubs used him during recent years.
Evidence of this guess appears in the following video clip, where Wright (No. 30) can be seen fading to the corner at the bottom of the screen.
While playing a stretch four (provided his shot has improved to that level) might be Wright’s best path toward getting a legitimate look, don’t expect it to be one that leads to a roster spot.
Here’s another quick video in which you get a little closer look at Wright, with that beard that has been a part of his signature look for the past several years.
And here's a video interview from a couple of years ago, which opens with Wright talking about his Kansas experience.
With recent draft picks Josh Jackson and Frank Mason III preparing for their first taste of life in the NBA during their upcoming summer league sessions, former Jackson and Mason teammate Landen Lucas will be beating both draftees to the punch.
Lucas, an undrafted free agent center with the Boston Celtics’ summer league squad, will kick off his extended tryout today in Salt Lake City, when the Celtics take on Philadelphia at 6 p.m. central time.
Lucas is one of just three players on the Celtics’ summer league roster who stands 6-foot-10 or taller — Boston’s 2016 first-round pick, 7-footer Ante Zizic is another — and he will be wearing No. 63 in green and white.
A couple of quick tidbits about Lucas’ situation heading into his first crack at pro basketball:
• Although Lucas’ ultimate dream is to play in the NBA, this is far from a Celtics-or-bust situation for the former Jayhawk. Lucas entered the draft process with heavy interest and even guaranteed offers from a handful of foreign teams and would no doubt be scooped up quickly overseas if things don’t work out in Boston.
• Lucas is the only player in this year’s draft class on the Celtics’ entire summer league roster who went through an individual workout with the team prior to the June 22 draft. Celtics boss Danny Ainge has long been known to appreciate toughness, maturity and character in the players he signs and drafts and Lucas grades out highly in all three areas.
• One thing worth keeping an eye on with Boston is the status of free agent forward Gordon Hayward. If Hayward decides to sign with Boston, likely on a max deal or something close to it, the Celtics would have much less room under the salary cap and could be looking to fill the final couple of spots on their roster with less expensive options. Hayward to the C’s certainly would not guarantee Lucas anything. And he likely remains a long shot to make the roster anyway. But Boston adding Hayward would be noteworthy for Lucas provided he plays well during the next couple of weeks.
• Boston will play in two summer league sessions, with the first running July 3-6 in Salt Lake City and the second coming July 7-17 in Las Vegas. Mason and Jackson will kick off their summer league careers Friday in Vegas against one another.
• As for his work with the Landen Lucas Foundation, it continues at full speed even with its namesake busy trying to catch on in the NBA. The foundation already has given out nearly 40 scholarships to young people in Lawrence and continues to search for ways to raise more money to sustain the vision and help as many local children as possible in their quest to get involved with their chosen sports. The Foundation’s goal is to raise $100,000 and give away 200 more scholarships in the next year.
Although it's unlikely that he’ll be asked to fill Frank Mason III’s shoes in Kansas’ starting lineup, KU freshman Marcus Garrett will be looking to do just that in his chosen jersey.
Garrett, one of nine newcomers on this year’s Kansas basketball team, will wear No. 0 during his first season with the Jayhawks.
KU Athletics last weekend released a short video with the newcomers — six of which will be eligible during the 2017-18 season — revealing their jersey numbers and talking about the experience of wearing a KU uniform for the first time.
“Today we’re taking action shots to put up in our locker and just to feel the Jayhawk uniform,” said Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, who will wear No. 1, the same number he wore at Memphis.
Added Cal transfer Charlie Moore, who wore No. 13 with the Golden Bears and will wear No. 5 at Kansas: “I’m just excited to put on this uniform and represent.”
The other newcomers featured in the video were William & Mary graduate transfer Jack Whitman, who will wear No. 41, Memphis transfer K.J. Lawson, who has chosen to wear No. 13; freshman Billy Preston, who picked No. 23; and walk-on Chris Teahan, the younger brother of Conner Teahan, who will wear No. 12 during the upcoming season.
Although Garrett did not address wearing the same number as the reigning national player of the year, the group expressed similar thoughts when talking about putting a KU uniform for the first time.
“I’m thrilled to be here and can’t wait to get started,” said Whitman, who will be eligible to play immediately.
Added Preston: “I’m excited to play in front of the crowd, the most crazy fans and the best fans in the country.”
As for Garrett and K.J. Lawson, they seemed most excited about joining the tradition-rich Kansas program.
“This town loves basketball,” K.J. Lawson said. “And I’m just excited to be a part of a great tradition.”
Added Garrett: “I’m very excited for Late Night. Everybody tells me how many people are gonna be there and I just can’t wait.”
Two other newly eligible faces on this year’s roster are guard Malik Newman, who will wear No. 14, and Sam Cunliffe, who will wear No. 3 when he’s eligible to play following the end of the first semester.
Here’s a quick look at the entire numerical roster:
0 – Marcus Garrett, Fr. G
1 – Dedric Lawson, Jr. F
2 – Lagerald Vick, Jr. G
3 – Sam Cunliffe, Soph. G
4 – Devonte’ Graham, Sr. G
5 – Charlie Moore, Soph. G
10 – Svi Mykhailiuk, Sr. G
12 – Chris Teahan, Fr. G
13 – K.J. Lawson, Soph. F
14 – Malik Newman, Jr. G
21 – Clay Young, Sr. G
23 – Billy Preston, Fr. F
35 – Udoka Azubuike, Soph. C
41 – Jack Whitman, Sr. F
44 – Mitch Lightfoot, Soph. F
Last week, while Kansas fans were speculating, dreaming and debating about what the $300 million announced renovation budget for Memorial Stadium could look like and include, Dennis Dodd of CBSsports.com had another thought.
Sure, Kansas fans everywhere would like to know what that money will be used for and how the project will look when completed.
Will Memorial Stadium receive a facelift or a complete overhaul? Are we talking about something like what happened at K-State with Bill Snyder Family Stadium or something like what happened at TCU, where they basically built the entire thing from scratch?
For what it’s worth, both are sharp, modern venues and either direction would go a long way toward improving the Kansas football experience.
But, as Dodd pointed out, there’s much, much more to the story here than the fact that all of that coin can deliver shiny new concession stands, an upgraded wireless experience and a much better looking stadium, inside and out, top to bottom.
There’s also the statement about what this kind of commitment means for the program and the university. And there’s no denying that it means a ton.
One of the more popular groans I’ve heard throughout the years about the Kansas football program is that athletic director Sheahon Zenger and his department are not committed to football. Those who know him and have been paying attention know that could not be farther from the truth. Suggesting otherwise is laughable.
But in the world we live in today, it’s dollars not determination that shows commitment, so all of that behind-the-scenes stuff and all of those hours of sleepless nights or endless meetings don’t mean nearly as much to the general public as the sound of a $300 million commitment to renovating the stadium.
Today you’ve got both, and now the real fun can begin.
While the public won’t know exactly what the plan is until blueprints are released by KU sometime in September, what is known today is that the Jayhawks are serious about positioning the program to be in as good of shape as possible for the near future and beyond.
The reason that’s so important, as Dodd points out, is something we’ve all heard for years now, so much so that it almost has become common knowledge for fans of all ages — it’s football that drives realignment and will shape the college athletics landscape of the future. Not having your shop in order in that area could be devastating.
Zenger knows this. He always has. And he’s spent hundreds of hours contemplating all of the things Kansas can do to get on the right track in the event that realignment rears its ugly head once more sometime in the near future.
While things have been calm and quiet at the Power 5 level for the past few years, those grant of rights agreements are eventually going to expire and, when they do, it’s anybody’s guess as to where things go from there. Better to be prepared well in advance than to be forced to scramble if/when it all goes down.
And so the Jayhawks are doing just that. Forget the $300 million stadium plans for a second. That’s big. Huge, in fact. And it will go a long way toward showing the world — read: television networks and Power 5 conferences — that KU is serious about football again.
But there have been plenty of smaller, less-talked-about signs that say the same thing along the way.
The first was hiring Beaty in the first place. In doing so, Zenger put an end to the idea of dishing out disproportionate salaries to football coaches taking the Jayhawks nowhere and provided the program with the foundation it needed for a true rebuild. As was said when Beaty was hired, the process was going to take time and patience would be important, but as Beaty and company head into Year 3, things definitely appear to be headed in a better direction.
The second came last year, when Zenger extended Beaty’s contract and doubled his salary. While that meant bumping his compensation from $800,000 to $1.6 million, numbers that pale in comparison to the $300 million renovation budget, it also meant that the Jayhawks were serious about providing this guy what he needs to keep the momentum moving.
Don't overlook Zenger's recent extension itself in this whole thing, too. It's much easier for an AD to ask for $300 million in donations if there's an indication that he's going to be around long enough to make sure the money is used the way donors are told it will be.
The third and most overlooked aspect of KU's commitment to football was to Beaty’s coaching staff. Rather than using money to make hires elsewhere in the department — needed or otherwise — Zenger set aside a significant amount of cash for Beaty to use on his staff. While a big chunk of that went to new offensive coordinator Doug Meachem — who, for what it’s worth, absolutely could be a difference-maker right away — it also allowed Beaty to bump up the salaries of several other assistant coaches, most notable of which was Tony Hull, whose ties to Louisiana have been an enormous part of KU’s recruiting success of late.
Those three things were all in place well before any kind of $300 million stadium announcement saw the light of day. And together, those moves, along with a handful of others, (most notably the million-dollar renovation of the football locker room) should put an end, once and for all, to the ridiculous talk about KU and Zenger not being committed to the football program.
They are. It’s as clear as can be. And, if Dodd is right and realignment does hit hard again in the next 5-8 years, it’s moves like these that could keep Kansas — and, therefore, it’s blue blood basketball program — relevant among the rest of the power players in college athletics.
It’s not a complete rarity just yet, and some very, very good Kansas basketball players recently have stuck around to play all four seasons at KU.
While that often endears them to the hearts and minds of KU fans much more than those phenoms who come and go in a year or two — think recently beloved ballers Frank Mason III, Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas, Devonte’ Graham, Tyshawn Taylor and more — it also gives them quite an advantage in their assault on the record books.
Sticking around for four years gives a player, on average, 35 more games to rack up stats than a player who left after his junior season, 70 more than a two-year player and more than 100 more games to rack up stats than the one-and-done superstars who no doubt would have a much more prominent place in the KU record books if four-year college careers were required or the norm.
Just think about the numbers Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson would’ve put up. (Wiggins, by the way, would have just finished his senior season at KU if that were the case).
Another one in this area that always gets me is Paul Pierce, who played three stellar seasons at KU before turning pro and would no doubt have been the second leading scorer in KU history (behind only Danny Manning) had he stayed for his senior year. As it is, Pierce, in three seasons, climbed all the way to sixth place on KU’s scoring chart and currently sits 10th after Keith Langford, Sherron Collins, Perry Ellis and, of course, Frank Mason III all passed him. All four were four-year players.
And that brings me to my point. With Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham announcing this spring that they would be back for their senior seasons, both have a chance to move up on a handful of KU all-time lists, including total points, 3-point shooting and games played.
Graham, who eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone during his junior season, figures to be in position for a jump in scoring with several other big time scorers who he called teammates now gone.
After a modest, 164-point freshman year, the senior from Raleigh, N.C., has averaged 456 points per season during the past two seasons and sits in 45th place on KU’s all-time scoring list, a few points ahead of Rex Walters.
Assuming Graham at least hits his two-year average during the 2017-18 season, that would move him into the Top 20, just ahead of Drew Gooden, who capped his three-year KU career with 1,526 points.
If Graham is able to even come close to duplicating what Mason did during national-player-of-the-year campaign last season, that would give Graham a shot at cracking the Top 10.
The best guess here is that he’ll land somewhere between his 456 average and that 700-point ceiling, putting him comfortably in the Top 15 by the time he says goodbye to Lawrence.
Now let’s turn our attention to KU’s all-time 3-point shooting records, an area in which both Graham and Mykhailiuk can do some damage before they’re done.
Neither player is going to come anywhere close to catching all-time leader Jeff Boschee, whose 338 career 3-pointers are 69 (a good season) more than second-place Billy Thomas.
But there’s a shot that Graham could catch Thomas for second and Svi could move into the Top 5.
To do so, Graham would need to knock down 84 triples during his senior season. While that’s far from a given, considering the amount of attention Graham figures to get from opposing defenses during his final season as a Jayhawk, it’s certainly possible. As a sophomore, Graham drilled 75 3-pointers and, last season, while playing third fiddle to Mason and Josh Jackson, Graham upped the total to 94.
Given the presence of Malik Newman and the fact that KU coach Bill Self has said next season’s team is likely to play a little more inside out than last year’s team did, it’s certainly possible that Graham could get free enough times to knock down the 84 shots he needs to slide into second place. If not, third place seems all but certain, as he needs just 51 3-point makes to move past Kirk Hinrich.
For what it’s worth, Frank Mason III currently sits in seventh place (185), five 3-point makes ahead of Mario Chalmers.
Graham’s 94 3-point makes as a junior was good for the fourth best single-season mark in KU history. And his .411 career percentage has him on the brink of the Top 10 in all-time 3-point percentage already.
And then there’s Svi, who, after a relatively slow start to his career, stepped up big time with 70 3-point makes during his junior season. Another season like that would put the young Ukrainian on the doorstep of the Top 5, as he needs 84 3-point makes as a senior to pass Brandon Rush (205) for fifth place on KU’s 3-point chart.
Regardless of how it all plays out, both Graham and Mykhailiuk, thanks largely to their status as four-year players, should be mainstays in the KU record books for quite a while.
That’s not a knock on the one-and-done phenomenon or me saying one way is better than the other. The bottom line is this: It’s every player’s goal to make it to the NBA and if you’re ready you should be able to go.
But it’s cool to see that, beyond getting an education and enjoying the college experience, there are a few other perks of staying in school for all four years.
Records are cool anywhere, but at a place like Kansas, with all of its rich history and tradition, being a part of them, can wind up being even more meaningful later in life.
Thanks to their decisions to return for one more go — not to mention one more stab at a national title — Graham and Mykhailiuk now are in position to experience that.
Last Friday night, at a ballpark full of more than 30,000 Arizona Diamondbacks fans, the baseball crowd was treated to a little basketball flavor when former Kansas standout Josh Jackson was invited to toss out the ceremonial first pitch.
Jackson, who was the No. 4 overall pick in last Thursday’s NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, was there, decked out in a Diamondbacks jersey, ready to meet his newest fans and have a little fun.
The fun certainly came, but not exactly in the way anyone was expecting.
If you haven’t seen or heard anything about this, you simply have to keep reading. If you have, it’s probably worth revisiting because the whole spectacle was so hilarious.
From his spot on the mound next to Haason Reddick, the first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in last spring’s NFL Draft, Jackson waved to the crowd and then prepared to fire his pitch.
That’s where it all fell apart.
Jackson was a good sport about the whole thing, but this was 50 Cent bad. And Jackson knew it.
Despite the toss conjuring up memories of Bob Uker’s famous call of “Juuussssssst a bit outside” from the movie Major League, Jackson doubled over in laughter and then walked off the field explaining exactly what went wrong to the Diamondbacks player designated to catch the pitch.
“I shoot basketballs,” Jackson joked while making the motion of shooting a jumper.
Later in the night, Jackson was again at the center of the Diamondbacks’ fun when he exchanged hats with the D-Backs mascot, D. Baxter the Bobcat, whose oversized hat fit over Jackson’s hair much better than the MLB issued hat he had been wearing.
Clearly, Jackson already has made steps toward endearing himself to the Phoenix community and, a day later, he was at a Suns outreach event working with young people at a basketball camp in the area.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.