Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
When the more than 400 women who flocked to Allen Fieldhouse for the 7th annual Ladies Night Out with Kansas basketball event got their turn to fire a few questions toward the Jayhawk players, they inquired about things like superstitions and the upcoming season and which players worked the hardest and had the best GPA.
While those questions and others created the opportunity for some entertaining answers, the most interesting bits of information came moments before the Q&A, when Kansas coach Bill Self asked his players to introduce themselves by name, where they’re from and why they chose to play basketball at Kansas.
The name and hometown bit is pretty standard and an obvious part of any introduction. But that last piece of information was included at the suggestion of junior guard Devonte’ Graham, who offered up the suggestion when Self was searching for a third piece to the intro puzzle.
The answers came out quickly and one by one. And they provided an interesting look at both the individual make-up of each player on this year’s roster as well as a big-picture glimpse into all that makes Kansas basketball such a unique program.
Here, in order, were the answers the players provided:
• Jr. Dwight Coleby - “Why not Kansas?”
• Jr. Clay Young – “I picked Kansas because it’s the best school in the nation.”
• Jr. Evan Maxwell – “I picked Kansas because it was the best fit for me.”
• Sr. Landen Lucas – “I chose Kansas because of all these beautiful ladies.”
• Jr. Tucker Vang – “I picked Kansas because of this place (motioning to Allen Fieldhouse).”
• Jr. Devonte’ Graham – “Like Dwight said, ‘Why not Kansas?’ and like Landen said, ‘The ladies here.’”
• Soph. Malik Newman – “Like Dwight said, ‘Why not Kansas?’”
• Soph. Lagerald Vick – “Just the tradition.”
• Jr. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – “I came here because Kansas is one of the best colleges in the NCAA.”
• Sr. Frank Mason III – “It’s the best tradition you could ever be a part of.”
• Fr. Josh Jackson – “I chose Kansas because I wanted to play with all these guys.”
• Fr. Udoka Azubuike – “Because of the tradition and winning.”
• Sr. Tyler Self – “Kansas is home.”
• Fr. Mitch Lightfoot – “I chose Kansas because of all the great teammates, coaches and fans.”
• Soph. Carlton Bragg Jr. – “I chose Kansas because it’s a special place.”
Someone in KU's Williams Education Fund captured the second half of Wednesday's sharing session on video and posted it to Twitter.
Kansas coach Bill Self on Wednesday night was asked by a member of the more than 400 women who attended the 7th annual Ladies Night Out with Kansas basketball event for an update on Scott “Scooter” Ward, who, two weeks ago, was rushed into emergency surgery to repair a torn aorta and has been hospitalized and on the road to recovery ever since.
Self said he and other members of the Kansas athletic family had Lawrence Memorial Hospital to thank for “getting him prepared perfectly to get him to KU Med.”
Self also referred to the life-saving treatment Ward received at both hospitals as “a total team effort” and offered the following update on Ward's current condition:
“He’s doing remarkably well," Self told the crowd. "He’s got a relatively long road (in the) short term. You know, his cavity’s gotta heal from the open-heart surgery and he’s gotta be able to get his strength back and things like that. His mind is sharp. Everything’s good. He should make a full recovery. It’s just gonna take a little bit.”
The women in attendance at the Ladies Night Out event followed up Self's news with a thunderous round of applause and Self joked that Scooter would be thrilled to hear that the ladies were asking about him.
After a little bit of a break in the series to cover media day and a few other newsy KU basketball things, we're back for a quick look at our second bench player of the series, big man Dwight Coleby.
The former Ole Miss transfer who came to Kansas prior to the 2015-16 season sat out last season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules and caught a bad break along the way, tearing his ACL early in the season.
Although the injury did nothing to limit Coleby's playing time on the floor, it did put him a step behind in the process of learning the Kansas system. He had the luxury of watching film and practice and sitting on the bench during games. And those advantages likely only helped his transition. But there's no substitute for being able to play the game, even if it is as a scout team guy against KU's starters in practice.
Because he never got that opportunity and has not played in a game since the end of the 2014-15 season, Coleby's confidence took a hit and he's currently in the process of regaining it both in his game and in his knee.
KU coach Bill Self said in late August that Coleby was fully cleared by doctors and hinted that he would like to see Coleby make some progress sooner rather than later if he hopes to be a relevant part of this year's team.
In case you missed the earlier installments of this series, follow the links below:
Now, back to what to expect from Coleby...
He will: Earn minutes if he can rebound
If there’s one glaring question about this Kansas team, it’s what happens to the Jayhawks against big teams or if Landen Lucas gets in foul trouble?
We know that Udoka Azubuike is a monster and, if he develops at the rate the coaches would like, he will go a long way toward answering that question. But he’s still just a freshman and a very young freshman at that.
That’s where Coleby enters the picture. At 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, Coleby has the necessary size to be a factor on the glass if the Jayhawks need him to. And whether or not they need him to depends (among other things) on whether or not he proves he can get the job done.
If Coleby approaches this season with the mindset that he’s an all-around player who wants to look to score as much as he plays defense and rebounds, he could be in trouble. But if he approaches the season with the mindset that he’s going to specialize in rebounding and play a sort of hybrid role of what Kevin Young and Tarik Black did during their time as Jayhawks, he could find himself filling a nice role for this talented team.
He won’t: Be a guy the Jayhawks count on for offense
Along those same lines, the Jayhawks need Coleby to realize that it’s unlikely that Self and company are going to draw up scoring plays for him. There’s a chance, if he plays within the flow of the offense and keeps from trying to force things or do too much, he could find his way into some open looks and knock down a baseline jumper from time to time or score on the offensive glass.
Beyond that, though, Coleby figures to be the fifth offensive option on the floor at all times, provided we’re not talking about garbage time here. It’s unlikely that Coleby will play next to Lucas very often, but even if he does, Lucas has shown an ability to operate in the post and appears to have improved his offensive game at least a little in the offseason.
Coleby’s numbers at Ole Miss were modest — 4.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in two seasons — and he would do well to keep that point total right where it is and focus on trying to double the rebounding mark.
He might: Get lost in the shuffle
In discussing this year’s likely rotation, Self has said that Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg and Landen Lucas are all but locked in as starters. After that it’s Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick as the perimeter players off the bench and Azubuike as the first big.
That leaves Coleby in a battle with true freshman Mitch Lightfoot for the No. 2 big man off the bench spot and ninth player in the rotation.
Because Self doesn’t like to play 10 players — and would probably prefer to avoid playing nine if the circumstances allow for it — Coleby will have to prove that he (a) is fully recovered from the ACL injury he suffered a season ago (both mentally and physically) and (b) can offer more to the lineup than Lightfoot, who is not as big or experienced as the Bahamas native but is more explosive and has not showed any lack of confidence since stepping on campus.
Most years it seems there’s an odd-man-out in the Kansas rotation. Some years it even has been some guys who went on to become terrific players (think Jeff Withey or even Thomas Robinson). It’s never anything personal and always a matter of making the numbers — and, more importantly, the chemistry — work.
Coleby has his work cut out for him to be a factor on this year’s team, but there’s no doubt that he will get a fair shot.
And so it begins.
It took less than 24 hours for the Big 12 Conference to be exposed for not being completely truthful during Monday’s press conference that revealed the conference’s decision not to expand.
And, if we’re being honest here, almost no one who has been paying any sort of attention to the latest edition of drama in the Big 12 was in the least bit surprised.
In a 714-word league memo obtained by ESPN.com on Tuesday, the conference outlined a number of “dos” and “don’ts” for commissioner Bob Bowlsby and board of directors chairman David Boren to use during their briefing with the media following the nearly six-hour meeting in Dallas that ended with the Big 12 announcing plans to stick with its 10-member lineup instead of adding schools such as Houston, Cincinnati, BYU or others.
As Boren and Bowlsby sat at the table and discussed the reasons for passing on expansion, they uttered phrases that included language like “stronger than ever,” “unified group,” and other yea-team type comments. They also made sure to point out that choosing not to expand was a unanimous decision.
As it turns out, that was one of the directives issued in the memo.
Tuesday’s report from ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy included all of the “dos” and “don’ts” outlined in the memo, which clearly was drafted in an attempt to make the Big 12 appear to be the strong and united conference it once was and not the weak, vulnerable and wandering collection of schools that many perceive it to be today.
The most damning part of McMurphy's report is the line that says, "Despite a number of schools favoring expansion, Bowlsby and Boren said the decision not to expand was unanimous."
Give the Big 12 credit for this: When dealing with such a touchy topic, it pays to be organized. And it never hurts to be on the same page.
However, as Twitter so eloquently illustrated, nearly everyone who watched or covered Monday’s event did so with one hand typing away and the other covering the laughter coming from their mouths. In short, nobody was buying what they were hearing.
The talking points that Boren and Bowlsby leaned on during the post-meeting press conference contradicted the past several months of behavior and soundbites that surfaced across the conference and likely left no one believing the Big 12 was, in fact, stronger than ever.
It’s possible that the Big 12 could get to that point again, but there appears to be a long road ahead and reports like McMurphy’s about Monday’s memo and Tuesday’s comments from Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, who pointed the finger directly at Boren for putting the Big 12 in this mess in the first place, only figure to make things more difficult.
Many hoped that Tuesday would mark the beginning of the road to recovery for the Big 12 as it heads into this new era of college athletics.
Who knows if the recovery aspect of that will actually come to fruition? Sadly, it appears that we may be just getting started with something much less appealing for a conference that simply cannot afford to take any more hits.
OK, now that the dust has settled and we’ve all had time to let reality sink in, we know that the Big 12 Conference is not expanding and that the conference, at least on the surface, appears to be good with that.
And why not? There are those out there who really wanted to see the Big 12 expand, but I’m not so sure that it was for the right reasons. Expansion is sexy and exciting and entertaining and gives us all something to talk about, but was it really going to be something that benefited the Big 12? Was it really what this conference needed to move forward into a brighter and better future?
In many ways, the answer to that is probably not.
Adding new voices with new agendas to a conference that already has shown to be challenged in that all-for-one-and-one-for-all line of thinking was probably not the best move for the conference. Upsetting television partners who have a huge say in where the Big 12 goes for the next nine years — and perhaps beyond — was probably not the best move for the conference. Keeping the tents up and continuing with the very public circus that played out across the country in every newspaper, television station, website and talk radio show that covers sports was probably not the best move for the conference.
And now the conference can flip off the lights, close the door behind them and get back to work.
As one Big 12 source told me, “In a week, there’ll be another issue that everybody’s talking about.”
Today, that talk is fixated on the Big 12 choosing not to expand and all of the reasons why that is either good or bad, right or wrong, sensible or laughable.
But the perspective the conference should take and probably is taking today is this: Let them laugh. We’ll be over here working on our future.
What exactly that future holds remains to be seen and is the biggest reason that some people aren’t sure if standing pat was the best move for the Big 12 Conference. The general belief is that there’s strength in numbers and that, at 10 members, no matter how many ways that actually benefits its member institutions (financial and otherwise), the Big 12 simply is not big enough to survive in the new era of college athletics.
My question is this: How do we know?
Let’s be honest here. If anyone told you in 1996 or even 2006 that they knew what college athletics would look, smell and feel like in 2016 and then laid out that vision, they would’ve seemed crazy. So much has changed in the past couple of decades and change continues to happen fast, with policy, competition, rules and partnerships seemingly changing college athletics on a regular basis.
With that in mind, and to that end, the Big 12 would now do well to spend its energy and effort on becoming the first conference to take the biggest step into the new world. That does not come by adding schools that don’t really improve the make-up of your conference. That comes by striving to be industry leaders again.
The Big 12 has been criticized mightily in recent years for its reactionary approach and that criticism has been just. But now that this mess of expansion is behind them and the realignment craze is at the very least on hold for the foreseeable future, the Big 12 can — and absolutely should — get back to making a difference in the areas that matter.
Sadly, No. 1 on that list is the business of making money, but even that offers the Big 12 a golden opportunity to be brave, do something bold and change the landscape of college athletics forever and perhaps for the better.
Today, ESPN, FOX, CBS and the like are the power brokers in college athletics. The Big 12 might well have expanded this week — again, right or wrong — if its television partners had been on board or at least were indifferent. They weren’t. But it remains to be seen how much longer those organizations will have the kind of power they have today.
The informal ranking of the Power 5 conferences puts the SEC and Big Ten ahead of the Big 12 and the Big 12 ahead of the Pac-12 and ACC. Television numbers, dollar signs and power players in each conference make that an indisputable fact, at least when viewed in those terms.
But if the Big 12 wants to hold its ground or perhaps crawl closer to the top of the ladder, it has to strive to be the first conference to figure out how its product will be delivered to the consumer in the future.
On Monday, Board of Directors Chair David Boren and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby both spoke to the importance of technology on the future of college athletics and because every conference is operating on an equal playing field in that realm at this moment, the Big 12 has a golden opportunity to once again become a great influencer and shake the label of reactionary conference.
Think of it is the great space race of decades ago. And imagine how different things might be if the Russians had won that battle instead of the United States.
It’s the same concept here. Happy with 10 members, content with its current financial haul and closer than ever to having all of its ducks in a row, the Big 12 should let the rest of its business operate on cruise control for a while and spend the bulk of its time striving to become the conference that figures out what’s next for college athletics in the ever-changing world of technology, be that something as simple as utilizing Netflix, Hulu and streaming to replace the major networks or something more profound that nobody has even thought about or perhaps even developed yet.
As another Big 12 source said, “That’s important for all 65 (Power 5) schools. We’re all in a hunt for that, whatever that is.”
It’s out there. And who finds it first could dramatically change college athletics as we know it today.
3:11 p.m. Update:
The verdict is in: Big 12 not expanding
Original Post 11:31 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16:
Unless you’re one of the members of the Big 12 board of directors that will gather Monday in Dallas for a meeting that has been circled on the calendar like Christmas Day for some schools and tax day for others, it’s impossible to know exactly where the Big 12 stands on expansion.
The most recent reports from some of the best reporters covering the conference, men and women with strong source lists and an even stronger desire to get to the bottom of this mess, seem to indicate that expansion is all but dead.
And that very well may be the case.
Whether it’s because the powers that be in the Big 12, as hard as they tried, just could not convince themselves that adding Houston, BYU, Cincinnati or any other school in that realm was in the best interest of the conference or because the Big 12’s television partners paid them not to, expansion today appears to be somewhat of a long shot.
But this is the Big 12 we’re talking about and if the conference has proven nothing else during the past few months — and, really, few years — it’s that nothing is impossible and nearly everything, good and bad, is in play.
That includes one of the most recent possibilities to see the light of day — adding schools in a football-only capacity.
Multiple sources in the conference have told me in the past few weeks that the reason the conference has been so quiet and avoided making any absolute comments about the Big 12’s feelings toward expansion is because very few people, outside of the board, have full knowledge or even a solid gauge of the thinking and planning and it tends to change quickly.
Even still, the fact that the conference was not quiet about its dogged pursuit of the most intriguing schools for expansion and conducted a very public, Survivor-style interview process that featured universities falling all over themselves to get a meeting with Big 12 officials to state their case is going to make for some awfully dysfunctional commentary if the conference reveals Monday that it plans to do nothing.
Keep in mind that even if that’s what comes out of Monday’s meeting, it does not necessarily mean things are dead for good. Remember that whole tends to change quickly thing? Who’s to say it couldn’t change again?
With all that in mind, it’s at least of some interest that BYU plans to live stream the post-meeting press conference on its official web site and members of the Cincinnati media also are planning to be in Dallas.
I’m sure all of the outlets involved are just covering their butts and do not necessarily know anything about what is or is not going to happen. After all, even if all of the local media members believe that expansion is dead, they’d look foolish not being there to cover it if the Big 12 shocked, well, nobody, by announcing plans to expand.
We’ll know soon enough where this latest chapter ends. Monday’s meeting is expected to take the bulk of the day and the Big 12 Conference itself will be live streaming the post-meeting press conference on its web site for those of you interested in tuning in.
Freshman forward Josh Jackson during Thursday’s media day told reporters that he expected to play four different positions at times during what is likely to be his lone season of college basketball.
As much as that sounds like a heavy workload, it actually is a step in the other direction for the 6-8 guard who spent part of his high school career playing all five positions on the floor at one time or another.
While the prospect of Jackson playing as the Jayhawks’ center or lone big man on the floor during the upcoming season — remember KU coach Bill Self does not necessarily look at it as point guard, shooting guard, small forward, etc., but rather looks at guards and bigs — certainly is unlikely, envisioning a scenario in which he plays the one through four positions at some point is not that difficult.
At 6-foot-8, 213 pounds (and growing), Jackson adds good size to great athleticism and therefore can offer a variety of luxuries to this team on both offense and defense.
Here’s how it could look:
Jackson at the 1
1 – Josh Jackson
2 – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
3 – Lagerald Vick
4 – Carlton Bragg
5 – Landen Lucas
Analysis: This lineup certainly would be one of KU’s weaker ball-handling lineups, but Jackson said he has worked in practice as the guy bringing the ball up the floor and one assistant coach told me the Jayhawks would have in their arsenal plenty of sets that go 1-4 flat, with Jackson at the top with the ball in his hands. Can he do it? Absolutely. Will the Jayhawks want to do this for long periods of time? No. It’s likely to show up only in the case of foul trouble for Mason and Graham and on those nights when the ball is sticking and the offense is not flowing the way Self would like. It’s hard to imagine long stretches — or even short stretches — when at least one of KU’s two lead guards is not on the floor. Again, though, in the case of injuries or foul trouble, this is an option.
Jackson at the 2
1 – Devonte’ Graham (or Frank Mason)
2 – Josh Jackson
3 – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
4 – Carlton Bragg
5 – Landen Lucas
Analysis: This is a lineup I think you’ll see a lot this season, especially during the middle portion of each half. Mason and Graham no doubt are going to play together a lot of the time this season (and almost always together, with Jackson, in crunch time), but they’ll also both need breathers. When that happens, one will stay on the floor with Jackson moving to the 2 as a secondary ball handler and Svi or Vick sliding into that 3 spot to provide a third ball-handler, another shooter and another athlete. Because Bragg can run, this is a fast team, but it’s by no means KU’s fastest team. The Jayhawks can only be at their fastest with Graham and Mason on the floor together.
Jackson at the 3
1 – Frank Mason
2 – Devonte’ Graham
3 – Josh Jackson
4 – Carlton Bragg
5 – Landen Lucas
Analysis: As you all surely know, this is KU’s projected starting lineup and the group that figures to log the most minutes together this season. It puts Jackson in a dream role as a third ball-handler and play maker and also puts two guards on the floor who can create space and make plays for Jackson, as well. Beyond that you’ve got two 6-10 forwards in the game who, with Jackson’s help, should be able to hit the glass and defend the paint with their strength and length, and five unselfish players, four of which are offensive threats almost anywhere on the floor. The fact that this group will get pushed in practice by lineups that include some of the other names on these lists (Svi and Vick, along with Udoka Azubuike, Dwight Coleby, Mitch Lightfoot and transfer Malik Newman) only reinforces the fact that this group is going to be battle tested and strong together.
Jackson at the 4
1 – Frank Mason
2 – Devonte’ Graham
3 – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (or Lagerald Vick)
4 – Josh Jackson
5 – Landen Lucas (or Carlton Bragg)
Analysis: This is that much-talked-about four-guard lineup that Self has hinted at playing and it’s a thing of beauty. With Mason, Graham, Jackson and either Svi or Vick on the floor at the same time, these guys are going to be able to fly. I think you’ll see Lucas in there a lot with this group because of his superior defense and rebounding ability, but if Self goes this route strictly for offense, then you could easily see Bragg in there at the 5, particularly against smaller teams or if Lucas is in foul trouble. Shooters at four spots — five if Bragg’s out there — and four guys who can handle the ball, this lineup will be a nightmare match-up for most teams.
One thing that jumps out at me after doing this exercise is just how similar these lineups actually are. The Jayhawks have some serious interchangeable parts this season — which is often the goal but not always reality for Self’s teams — and that should give Self the luxury of handling any number of calamities that could hit this team, from foul trouble and off nights to injuries and ineffective play.
The frontcourt certainly is thinner than the backcourt, but, as Self mentioned Thursday at KU’s Media Day, that’s exactly why he’s planning to play some four-guard lineups this season. Jackson and Svi, at 6-foot-8, allow Kansas to get away with playing small for short stretches because their size at least gives the Jayhawks a chance to hold their own on defense and their skill set creates match-up problems for opponents on the other end.
Regardless of how these things play out, — and let’s face it, you can never fully prepare for the ups and downs you’ll get during an entire season — this much is clear one week into KU’s practice: Mason, Graham, Jackson, Svi and Vick are the five guards in the rotation and Lucas, Bragg and Azubuike are the three bigs in the rotation, with Coleby and Lightfoot battling for that fourth forward spot, should Self need or want it.
It’s been a long time since KU’s rotation has been so crystal clear so early in the season. And the versatility of the guys on his roster is a big reason Self has that luxury heading into the 2016-17 season.
Five tiny words on the cover of USA Today’s College Basketball preview section figure to get all kinds of attention across the country and particularly in Lawrence.
With freshman guard Josh Jackson seated on the Allen Fieldhouse bleachers and dominating the cover, the words “Title Talk” appear just above his left shoulder. Below that, in white text, is a quote from Jackson, who says, in no uncertain terms, “We’re trying to go undefeated.”
It’s an ambitious goal given KU’s challenging schedule, which features games against Top 25 foes Duke and Indiana right out of the gate. And it’s exactly the kind of things Kansas fans should want to hear from Jackson and anyone else on this team.
Somewhere between Joe Namath’s Super Bowl guarantee and the dawn of the insanely politically correct world we now operate in, gunning to be the best became an anger-inducing exercise.
“You’re not supposed to say that,” people will moan. “Who does he think he is,” others will ask. “Good luck with that, man. I hope you lose every game now,” still others will say.
Heck, even some Kansas fans are probably upset by the quote. You know the type. The ones who think words on a magazine cover or uttered into a microphone actually impact the outcome of games. As if teams aren’t already fired up enough to face and try to take down Kansas.
I like that Jackson said it. And I like even more that he meant it. That should — emphasis on should — be the goal of every player on every team, especially the top dogs who actually have a decent shot of making it happen.
I remember talking to Jamari Traylor about this very topic in the recent past and his take was that that should be the goal every year. Don’t be cocky about it, Traylor clarified, but you should show up to each season expecting to win every game you play, especially at a place like Kansas.
That certainly should be true for this year’s team which not only features the addition of Jackson but also includes a core that lacks nothing in the confidence department and is as experienced as it gets in college basketball these days. Duke, Kentucky, Siena or Oklahoma, you can bet guys like Devonte’ Graham, Frank Mason and Landen Lucas are expecting KU to win every game they play this season. And the fact that Jackson not only fits in with that mentality but also was bold enough to say it, shows you exactly how much KU’s one-and-done phenom could add to this team.
KU coach Bill Self has talked about Jackson having that alpha dog mentality. He’s said it about other players in the past, too, but, in most of those cases, I always got the feeling that Self was trying to will the words to become true rather than providing commentary on something that already was fact.
With Jackson, it does not sound like any willing is being done. Self has said from Day 1 that Jackson is one of the most competitive dudes he’s ever been around, even going as far as to say that adding him to the KU roster for the 2016-17 season will significantly upgrade the competitive nature of his team.
That’s high praise. Possibly the highest praise from a guy like Self. And, with this latest splash on the USA Today cover, Jackson is off to a great start at making his coach look good for saying it. And that’s without even having played a game yet.
A few more notes and nuggets from Bill Self’s appearance on Monday's podcast with Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.
• Self was asked briefly to preview the upcoming season in the Big 12 Conference. After noting that the teams at the top of the standings in 2015-16 — most notably Kansas, Iowa State, West Virginia and Oklahoma — lost a lot of talent off of their teams from a season ago, Self pointed out that the league still figured to be an interesting race, top to bottom.
Rothstein then asked Self for a sleeper and a contender and, even though he didn’t actually get around to naming a contender — who could blame him; even Self has to know/admit that if the Jayhawks stay healthy and play well, they’ll run away with this thing in 2016-17 — Self had a few interesting things to say about two Big 12 foes.
On Oklahoma State: “Sleeper may not be the right term, but (Oklahoma State) has the potential to be a surprise because they return two all-league type guards that didn’t play last year in Jawun Evans and Phil Forte. They’re a team that could make everybody nervous.”
On Texas: “I think Texas is gonna be ridiculously young, but I think they’re ridiculously talented. They signed a couple McDonald’s (All-Americans) that could play into being all-league type performers either this year or early in their careers. So I wouldn’t sleep on the Longhorns at all.”
• Because he’s so sharp, informed and always so interesting in front of the media, Self was asked about Big 12 expansion and his thoughts covered everything from the concept of it being a football-only endeavor to the fact that he really doesn’t know anything about it.
“I don’t have any idea, I have no insight at all to what the presidents, the commissioner and really even our own AD is thinking. We talk about it, but more in general terms.”
“I think there’s a chance we expand. I don’t see it in the immediate (future), but I could see it going any three ways,” Self added. “Adding two, adding four, adding all sports. And I could also see not doing anything. Or I could see a hybrid of that — adding football only. That would be my gut hunch right now, but that’s without any inside knowledge.”
• We all know about Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Landen Lucas. And we think we have a pretty good idea about what Josh Jackson can bring to this team.
So, with that in mind, Rothstein asked Self to ID a returning player that made the biggest leap during the offseason, and, without hesitating, Self pointed to sophomores Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg.
“Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg both had great springs, summers and falls,” Self said, before adding, “Lagerald hardly played at all last year and I think he’s got a chance to be a terrific college player.”
• Speaking of Jackson, Self was asked the inevitable question about comparing Jackson to Andrew Wiggins and gave some good insight — most which we’ve heard before — on how the two are alike and how they’re different.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities from a body standpoint,” Self said. “And Josh is a terrific athlete. But Andrew was on a different planet from an athletic ability standpoint.”
“Josh is better with the ball. He can make plays for himself and he can also make plays for others.”
“Josh has been terrific shooting the ball. Defensively, he could be an elite collegiate defender first game out. He’s got some things you just can’t teach from anticipation and toughness and he’s got some alpha dog in him that every team needs.”
“I really believe that Josh is a guy that’s probably more of a jack-of-all-trades right now. He can do a lot of everything and hopefully that’ll translate to being kind of a stat-sheet-stuffer. He can get 12 points and dominate a game.”
It's time to head to the bench for the latest in our series He Will, He Won't, He Might, which has sought to outline what we should and should not expect from each member of the Kansas men's basketball team during the upcoming 2016-17 season.
We began the series with KU's projected — and almost certain — starting lineup of Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg and Landen Lucas.
Now it's time to move to the bench, where there are at least a few questions about roles, production and depth.
We'll start the look at the bench with Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a foreign-born player who, despite not having a consistent role during his first two seasons as a Jayhawk, has remained one of KU's most intriguing players and a bona fide NBA prospect.
In case you missed the first few installments of the series, be sure to click on the links below to check out our look at the starting five.
Now... On to Svi.
He will: Have the best season of his KU career
During his two seasons as a member of the Kansas men’s basketball team, the young Ukrainian guard has played a total of 740 minutes in 61 games. That averages out to 12.1 minutes per game but the total is barely half of what KU senior Frank Mason logged as both a sophomore and junior with the Jayhawks.
The point? As he enters his third season with the Jayhawks, the 19-year-old guard is staring at his best opportunity to truly contribute to the Jayhawks’ rotation.
Mason’s still here. So are Graham and freshman phenom Josh Jackson. But Svi figures to get every opportunity to become the first perimeter player off the bench and could push for major minutes in some games, depending on foul trouble to teammates.
What’s more, KU coach Bill Self has said that he could play a lot of four-guard lineups this season and that gives Svi another golden opportunity to contribute. At 6-foot-8, 205 pounds, the junior who led the Ukrainian national team in nearly everything this summer provides good size and guard skills in one package.
Known mostly as a three-point shooter by Kansa fans — he shot .361, 52-of-144, from downtown during his first two seasons in Lawrence — Svi has the skills to do more but thus far has not been given the consistent opportunity to deliver.
Not only will the opportunity be there in 2016-17, the need might be, as well. Svi could wind up being the most important player on Kansas’ bench and should be poised to eclipse his career averages of 4.3 points, 1.3 rebounds and 12.1 minutes this season.
He won’t: Disappear for long stretches of the season
Part of the reason Mykhailiuk disappeared for long stretches during his first two seasons was that he just wasn’t needed. Self gave the young man multiple opportunities to prove he belonged in the rotation, but KU’s depth and Self’s trust, or lack thereof, continually got in the way of Svi carving out a consistent role.
While starting six games as a 17-year-old freshman (the youngest player ever to start in the Bill Self era), Svi began his career with double-digit minutes in seven straight games. He played just 26 total that season, however, and reached double digits in just 14 of those. His longest dry spell came during the heart of conference play when he played single-digit minutes eight times in a nine-game stretch at one point.
Last year, although he did not record a start, his minutes and appearances went up and Svi played in 35 games, reaching double digit minutes in 26 of them. His dry spells became less frequent as he played single-digit minutes in three of four games twice, once in late December and again in mid-February.
The numbers all point to Svi trending in the right direction and with little perimeter depth on the bench and Svi being, by far, the most experienced player on KU’s bench, he not only figures to get more time but also to be counted on to deliver.
He might: Wind up being one of KU’s primary ball handlers
Svi played with the ball in his hands a lot this summer, leading his national team to an eighth-place finish at the Under-20 European Championships in Finland. While that led to his leading the team in turnovers, it also led to the return of his confidence as a play-maker.
With Devonte' Graham, Frank Mason and Josh Jackson all on the roster — and in the starting lineup — Svi's ability to handle the ball and do it well is not critical for this team. But when those guys rotate out or find foul trouble, the scenario exists that easily could make Svi's ability to handle the ball an important factor for this team.
It's unlikely that he'll ever be the primary ball handler on the floor, at least not during a game that is still in doubt. But it seems just as likely that, as teams try to harass Graham and Mason, Svi will need to at least be available to pick up some of that pressure in order to keep KU's offense humming.
We've seen what Svi can do with the ball and, from time to time, he has looked more than capable. Add those glimpses to the confidence he got this summer and the fact that he's a veteran now and it seems safe to say that even if his turnovers go up, Svi's importance as a ball handler will go up with them.
With another season of Kansas basketball officially under way and the Jayhawks slated to host their first actual practice of the 2016-17 season today, all of the usual questions surrounding the Jayhawks have started to pop up.
Will Kansas keep alive its streak of 12 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles?
How good will the new hot-shot freshman (in this case Josh Jackson) be for this team during the upcoming season?
Will this be the year that the Jayhawks get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2012 and second time since 2008?
Will the Jayhawks win it all this season?
You've heard all of them. And while some of them are easy to speculate about, most require time to reveal the true answer.
There's another, however, that is a little more interesting in the here and now and it's one that's open for all kinds of debate and speculation. Heck, even KU coach Bill Self himself is wondering about this one. And, by now, you've surely heard the quote from Self following last weekend's Late Night about it.
If not, here's a look.
“I asked our guys the other day who they thought would lead us in scoring," Self said. "I think Frank had five votes, Devonte’ had four, Josh had three, Carlton had three, I think Landen had two. The bottom line is, I think we could have six or seven guys that could lead us in scoring at different times throughout the season.”
Outside of the fact that it's hard to believe that anybody actually voted for Lucas to lead this ultra-talented team in scoring — not even Lucas himself would predict that — Self's words inspired a Twiter poll and the more than 1,100 KU fans who voted in the 24-hour poll gave one player more than 50% of the vote.
Here's a look:
Self's exercise and that poll present a very interesting opportunity for us to dive into some serious speculation as we sit less than four weeks away from the Jayhawks' exhibition opener on Nov. 1 against Washburn at Allen Fieldhouse.
In the spirit of the percentage wheel, here it goes...
Let's project, throughout the course of the upcoming season, who will lead the Jayhawks in scoring — how many different players and how many times for each guy.
For this exercise, we'll just go with the Jayhawks' regular season since we don't know yet who they will play and how far they will advance in the postseason.
The basis for the following predictions clearly is not scientific, rather based on common sense and a little bit of history. It'll definitely be interesting to see how close to accurate this is at the end of the season.
For now, though, let's dive in to a game-by-game look at projected leading scorers for the 2016-17 season and a brief explanation of why. Keep in mind that Self also said last Saturday that he could see "six or seven" different guys leading the Jayhawks in scoring at one point or another this season, so we'll try to fit that guess, from the man who would know better than any of us, into the following exercise.
Real quick before moving on, here's a quick look at who led the team in scoring last season and how many times: Perry Ellis (17), Wayne Selden (9), Frank Mason (5), Devonte' Graham (3), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (3), Brannen Greene (1).
Now, moving on to 2016-17...
Indiana (Honolulu) - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - Season openers are for veterans and with Indiana having some serious size and talent inside, I think this one comes down to guard play. Graham has more confidence than ever and will be eager to get his season off to a great start.
Duke (NYC) - JOSH JACKSON - The Blue Devils, like Indiana, have some bulk down low, so we'll go with the rookie in this one. Like Andrew Wiggins three years ago, Jackson will shine on the big stage.
Siena - CARLTON BRAGG - His combination of size and quickness along with his ability to play inside and out will be too much for the Saints to handle.
UAB - UDOKA AZUBUIKE - The Blazers were nearly out-rebounded by opponents last season and feature a roster with just one player (sophomore Thomas Smallwood) taller than 6-foot-9. Could be the perfect recipe for a coming out party for Azubuike in late November.
CBE Final - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - Graham was great in KC last season at the Big 12 tournament and he'll have that mojo going again in this one, regardless of if the Jayhawks are playing Georgia or George Washington.
UNC Ashville - FRANK MASON - The Bulldogs are young in the backcourt, so this will be the perfect time for KU's own Bulldog to lead his team to victory.
Long Beach State - CARLTON BRAGG - The 49ers lack size and will likely be so focused in slowing down KU's perimeter players that they could leave Bragg wide open for some easy jumpers. He'll knock 'em down and lead the Jayhawks in this one.
Stanford - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - Jerod Haase's first Cardinal team has some decent guard play and athleticism, but those guys will have their hands full with Mason and Jackson. That should make Graham the beneficiary and lead to a big night.
UMKC - SVIATOSLAV MYKHAILIUK - On a night when KU should wrap this one up early, look for some of the reserves to play extended minutes.
Nebraska - LANDEN LUCAS - All four of the The Huskers' who stand 6-foot-8 or taller are freshmen or sophomores. Give the nod to the crafty veteran on a night when his teammates make it very easy for him.
Davidson - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - Graham shines back in KC, where the Wildcats' big front line makes this a game in which the KU guards have to deliver.
at UNLV - JOSH JACKSON - Another game with a prime time feel, Jackson is too good and too much for the Runnin' Rebels in Sin City.
at TCU - FRANK MASON - Balance was the name of the game in two meetings with the Horned Frogs last season, and Mason has a knack for scoring in the 10-12 point range most nights. That could do it in this one.
Kansas State - SVIATOSLAV MYKHAILIUK - None of the returning players really stood out in three meetings with KSU last season and Svi hit a combined 6-of-12 three-pointers in his three games against the Wildcats.
Texas Tech - FRANK MASON - Averaged 16.5 points per game against the Red Raiders last year and got to the free throw line a lot in both games.
at Oklahoma - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - The last time Graham played at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, he was the best player on the floor in a game that included three NBA draft picks including OU stud Buddy Hield. Graham will be fired up for this game.
Oklahoma State - JOSH JACKSON - With Jawun Evans and Phil Forte scrapping and clawing in the Cowboys' backcourt, the floor will be open for Jackson to take over. And he will.
at Iowa State - CARLTON BRAGG - Bragg didn't do much against the Cyclones last season, but he also didn't play much, recording just eight total minutes in two games. He'll play much more than that this time around and he'll be a match-up nightmare for the Cyclones.
Texas - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - KU's guards were effective in both meetings with Shaka Smart's Longhorns last year. Although UT will be a year older and deeper into Smart's system, they won't quite be ready for the KU duo and their veteran ways. Flipped a coin here and it came up Graham.
at West Virginia - JOSH JACKSON - Huggy Bear's team makes life miserable on guards and both Mason and Graham have fallen victim to Press Virginia's ways in the recent past. That's where Jackson's cool, calm and collected demeanor — and freakish athleticism — will take over for the Jayhawks.
at Kentucky - JOSH JACKSON - Back-to-back big games for the standout freshman, who gets jacked up by the challenge of facing Big Blue Nation and once again shows the country why he's a one-and-done player.
Baylor - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - Graham and Selden both fared well against the Bears during the 2015-16 season, and with Selden gone that opens the door for Graham to have a big night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Iowa State - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - Graham was great in No. 1 KU's win over the Cyclones in Lawrence last year. He'll be great again this time around in out-dueling ISU guard Monte' Morris.
at Kansas State - FRANK MASON - The Wildcats had a hard time staying in front of Mason a year ago and staying with his grind-it-out style of play. Mason has no plans to lose his last game in Manhattan and steps up to lead the team in this one.
at Texas Tech - CARLTON BRAGG - Ellis was great in one game against the Red Raiders last season and got plenty of opportunities to be great in the other. Bragg will get the same.
West Virginia - LANDEN LUCAS - Much to the chagrin of Bob Huggins, Lucas was a man among boys in the WVU game at Allen Fieldhouse last season. He'll remember that feeling this time around and be overjoyed that former WVU hoss Devon Williams is no longer in a Mountaineers uniform as his teammates set him up for easy buckets all night and he gets more than a few of his own doing on the offensive glass and at the free throw line.
at Baylor - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - The Bears always bring it physically, particularly at home. So look for Mason and Jackson to be facilitators in this one and for Graham to be the beneficiary and zone buster against that BU defense.
TCU - FRANK MASON - Mason's toughness and ability to attack the rim could be called upon against first-year TCU coach Jamie Dixon's scrappy defense.
at Texas - CARLTON BRAGG - The UT guards will be jacked for this rematch on their home court. But somebody better remind them that stopping KU's guards is not all that's required to beat Kansas. Bragg benefits from all of that attention on the KU backcourt and has a monster game.
Oklahoma - CARLTON BRAGG - Fresh off of the Texas game and with OU big man Khadeem Lattin having his hands full with Lucas and Azubuike, Bragg is freed up for another big game as the Sooners make sure Graham doesn't get 'em again.
at Oklahoma State - DEVONTE' GRAHAM - Perhaps more than any player on this roster, Graham likes the feeling of going into another team's home arena and quieting the crowd. He'll do that here in hostile Gallagher-Iba Arena to send the Jayhawks into the postseason on a high note.
Now for a few final notes...
• Here's a look at the final tally for those of you who don't want to scroll up and add them up yourselves: Graham (10), Bragg (6), Jackson (5), Mason (5), Lucas (2), Svi (2) and Azubuike (1).
• Last year, KU guards led the Jayhawks in scoring 55 percent of the time. These projections have that number going up to 71 percent of KU's regular season games. That's what losing a guy like Perry Ellis can do for a program.
• As Self suggested, these projections have seven different Jayhawks leading the team in scoring at one point or another this season. The number drops to six if you don't believe Azubuike will get it done, but that's still right in that "six or seven" wheel house that Self talked about.
• Finally, like more than half of those who voted in the Twitter poll, I, too, am on board with the idea that Devonte' Graham will lead the Jayhawks in scoring this season.
The arrival of Late Night, which I'm sure you all read and watched plenty about in the past several days, brought a momentary interruption to our He Will, He Won't, He Might series, but we'll pick back up today with one of the unquestioned leaders of this Kansas team.
Senior Landen Lucas enters his final season as a Jayhawk as one of the most important pieces on the team because of his veteran presence, understanding of how the program runs and willingness to do whatever is asked of him.
After an up-and-down first few seasons in Lawrence, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward from Portland, by way of Japan, broke through in a major way last season and prepares to enter his final year in crimson and blue with a new mindset.
Not only that, but Lucas also appears to have put in some serious work in the weight room and looks leaner and even a little quicker and more explosive than ever before.
Here's a quick look at a few things you should and should not expect from Lucas during the 2016-17 season.
In case you missed the first few installments of the series, be sure to click on the links to check out those.
Now, on to Landen Lucas...
He will: Be KU’s most reliable big man
This much seems to be a given. Not only is Lucas a veteran playing his fifth season in the program, but he also has the temperament and demeanor of an unflappable force. Rarely do you see Lucas lose his cool or even express his emotions, good or bad. He remains even-keeled at all times and maintains his focus on the task at hand as well as anybody on the floor.
Beyond that, he’s always incredibly well prepared and pays close attention to scouting report as well as his own strengths and limitations.
Lucas always has made defense and rebounding the area in which he hangs his hat and, in a program run by Bill Self, that’s the easiest and best way to get significant playing time and carve out a crucial role.
Heading into the 2015-16 season, Lucas remained an unknown and seemed destined to be a role player at best. But after a monster season, the senior enters the 2016-17 season as an obvious starter, one of the team leaders and a crucial member of this deep and talented Kansas roster.
He won’t: Be statistically as good as he was last season
That stretch that Lucas enjoyed toward the end of the season was beyond ridiculous. After being reinserted into the starting lineup, midway through the season, Lucas became a monster on the glass.
Starting with a 16-rebound performance against West Virginia in a revenge game for an earlier loss to the Mountaineers, Lucas enjoyed a stretch of double-digit rebounds in four of the next five games and recorded 7 or more boards in 17 of 18 games to finish the season, including the final three in the NCAA Tournament.
There’s no doubt that Lucas is capable of delivering numbers like those again. He’s so smart on the floor, plays so big and strong and knows that rebounding is the No. 1 reason he’s on the floor. But this year he’ll have more help. Not only will guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham continue to chip in on the defensive glass, but newcomer Josh Jackson and sophomore Carlton Bragg also should do their share of damage on the glass, as well. That will limit the opportunities for Lucas’ rebounds and, in many ways, could be a blessing in that it will help keep him fresher for his always-tough defensive assignments.
In 18.3 minutes per game last season, Lucas averaged 5.8 points on 64.3 percent shooting and 6.8 rebounds per game. Those numbers are certainly attainable again in 2016-17, but don’t be surprised if he falls a little shy of both of them. Doing so, however, will not mean that he doesn’t have a similar impact on the upcoming season.
He might: Be more of a scoring threat
Whether that means he actually scores more remains to be seen — and is probably rather unlikely. But Lucas worked hard on his offensive game this offseason, if for no other reason than just to give the Jayhawks the option to be able to throw it in to him and make opponents respect that.
Lucas, though a little slow in his execution, has good post moves and uses his strength well in the post. His problem always has been finishing at the rim. That’s why most of his buckets have come as a result of easy put-backs or dunks set up by solid plays made by KU’s guards. Look for that to continue, but don’t be surprised if Lucas shows the ability to hit that mid-range jumper with a little more regularity. It’s a shot he has a great deal of confidence in and believes he can hit.
Lucas' offense rarely will be the first or even second option for Kansas on any given possession, and the fact that Lucas is down the food chain in terms of scoring options for this team is what makes it most likely that he’ll continue to be a defense/rebounding-first kind of player who, from time to time, will provide the bonus of a few quality offensive nights.
Last season, Lucas reached double-digits just four times in 36 games. Two of them came in the NCAA Tournament, though, and Lucas, now more secure than ever in his game and role on this team, should carry a lot of confidence from that into the upcoming season.
Class of 2019 point guard Markese Jacobs may have been impressed enough to commit to Kansas following Saturday's Late Night in the Phog event at Allen Fieldhouse, but he was not the only weekend visitor who enjoyed his trip to Kansas.
The following is a quick look at some of the feedback from the top talent in the Class of 2017, which sent six of the Top 36 players to Kansas for Late Night.
Sexton excited by atmosphere
Collin Sexton, the No. 7-ranked player in the 2017 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, took full advantage of his recent visit to Lawrence and came away with strong feelings about all aspects of the Kansas basketball program.
“It was a crazy atmosphere. I thought it was great,” Sexton told Matt Scott of TheShiver.com. “The fans really get into it and everyone at Kansas loves basketball and the players. It's not always like that.”
Ranked as the No. 1 point guard in the class by 247 Sports, Sexton was one of 15 visitors during last weekend’s Late Night festivities. Hosted by guards Frank Mason and Malik Newman, Sexton spent time with the team both on and off the court, bonding at the team’s dorm and in the locker room and watching the Jayhawks run through a workout before leaving town.
Sexton said KU coach Bill Self emphasized the impact the 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard could have on the program if he were to pick Kansas and added that leaving Georgia for the Midwest would not be that difficult for him to do.
"It's not a factor at all,” he told Scott. “I want to go where I have the best fit and where I can grow on and off the court.”
One way he could do that would be by playing with top-level talent and that fact was not lost on Sexton, who said he could see himself playing next to fellow five-star 2017 point guard Trae Young, should the Oklahoma prospect pick Kansas.
"We could definitely play together," said Sexton, noting that he and Young could become KU’s next Fank Mason-Devonte’ Graham duo. "We can both score and play either guard position. It would be real good. Real, real good.”
With just one visit left to take — Sexton already has visited NC State, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Kansas — Sexton said he hoped to make a decision by the end of the month or the beginning of November and could sign during the early signing period in mid-November.
Brown eyes November signing
Five-star Las Vegas prospect Troy Brown, the No. 12-ranked player in the Class of 2017 according to Rivals.com, is planning to end his recruitment in November.
Brown, who was in town for an official visit for last weekend’s Late Night, told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com that he would take his final visit this weekend to Georgetown and then get busy deciding on his future.
“In November, I will sign for sure,” Brown said. “I don't know how much more of the recruiting process I can handle. I would say, since being recruited since the eighth grade, it's just really worn on me. I wish I would have cut (my list) to less schools, honestly, because it just kind of made it more hectic.”
That said, Brown told Wildeboor that he loved every second of his KU visit and added that, now that he’s a senior, things seemed much more real.
“With it being an official visit, we kind of understand why I'm here,” he said. “I know all of the players and I hung out with everybody.... I had a really good time with them.”
Power forward Cody Riley, another Class of 2017 prospect in for an official at Late Night, was blown away by his trip to Lawrence.
"My visit to Kansas was just unbelievable," the four-star prospect told JayhawkSlant.com. "The atmosphere at Late Night in the Phog was that best that I've ever seen and I know that it's the best atmosphere in college basketball. The fans make that place so special and they really support and care about the players. I really didn't expect to see what I saw at Late Night.”
Riley, 6-7, 225 pounds, is ranked No. 34 overall in the 2017 class by Rivals.com and, thus far, only has visits planned to Kansas and UCLA.
It was just a scrimmage, one Kansas coach Bill Self dubbed “pick-up ball.”
But there still were enough reasons to watch and dissect what was happening on the Allen Fieldhouse floor Saturday night during the men’s basketball portion of the 32nd annual Late Night in the Phog extravaganza.
It’s dangerous — even silly — to read too much into what the Jayhawks displayed during the up-and-down, 20-minute game that got fans fired up and featured highlight-style offense. But it’s also impossible to ignore that some of what we saw on Saturday might actually be a sign of things to come during the 2016-17 KU basketball season.
With that in mind, here, in no particular order, are a few quick thoughts from KU’s first official practice of the new season.
The Jayhawks will play more pick-up games today and Tuesday before diving into a real practice Wednesday.
• It might be difficult to find him minutes, but there’s no doubt in my mind that freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot could play — and contribute — if needed. Lightfoot is long, athletic, ultra-aggressive and looks very comfortable in just about every imaginable situation. In many ways, he already reminds me of Hunter Mickelson and it took Mickelson a few seasons to reach the point he was at during his senior year. Whether Lightfoot is called upon for minutes this season or not, the young man definitely has the look of a future star and a guy I think fans will come to love.
• We all know that Frank Mason can score, and he showed that plenty during Saturday’s scrimmage, recording 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting. But for a good chunk of the action, Mason looked, at least to me, like he was much more interested in distributing and setting up teammates. With weapons galore around him on the floor at all times, Mason’s dual role of scorer and creator could really be key for this year’s team. Get this: Mason had eight assists the other night, nearly as many as the rest of the team combined. I hesitate to read too much into it, but based on what I saw Saturday night, I’m expecting Mason to be a score-when-required assist man this season.
• Maybe it was just the nature of the game — get up and down the floor, push the pace, hunt highlights — but I really thought the KU guards looked to emphasize attacking the paint on just about every possession. We know that won’t be exclusively the way things run with a Bill Self offense — high-low, get the bigs involved, play inside-out — but you can bet that the trust he has in his top three perimeter players to turn the corner and get to the rim whenever possible will be a big part of this season. As it was Saturday night.
• The numbers didn’t show the desired results, but I thought Landen Lucas looked much more aggressive on the offensive end than he was most of last season. Chalk that up to confidence. Lucas was not a stranger of the scoring column last season, but he became so skilled on the defensive glass and defense in general that his offensive contributions were often overlooked. Most of them came on easy buckets off of plays made by teammates or put-backs at the rim. But Saturday, you saw a glimpse of what Lucas might be able to do in the post. Again, the numbers don’t necessarily illustrate that point, but if you watched him, you saw a guy who’s not scared to operate on the offensive end when needed.
• Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason have been and will continue to be absolute luxuries on the defensive glass. Mason has made a point of hitting the glass for years. So much so that KUsports.com’s Tom Keegan even sought to create a new stat for Mason’s defensive rebounding prowess. Don’t be surprised, however, if Graham, who is equally as adept in all the right areas, records more than a few of those new stats himself this season. It’s such a luxury for those guys to be able to go up and get it because when they do, they can immediately transition into the fastbreak without having to give the ball up.
• Josh Jackson’s first basket in Saturday’s scrimmage came 14:07 into the action. He still finished with nine points and five rebounds and showed that he can make a major impact any time he wants to. But he also showed that he’s more than happy to play within the flow of the offense. Self has said all along that Jackson is a guy who “gets it.” And few things illustrate that better than Jackson’s unselfish nature and ability and willingness to play with others. The best news? Three of Jackson’s five rebounds came on the offensive glass.
• Self mentioned this briefly, but you also saw it out there a couple of times if you were looking for it. The Kansas defense this season has the potential to be a nasty trapping team. With so much length, athleticism and quickness at so many positions, KU should be in the position to give teams fits if Self wants to utilize that approach. Just think about Jackson and Carlton Bragg trapping an opposing guard. Or Svi and Vick. Or Vick and Bragg. Or Jackson and Vick. The possibilities are endless and, even if Self only chooses to pull the trigger a couple of times a game, this tenacity could pay huge dividends.
• It was just a first look, but I'm wondering if Dwight Coleby is going to figure out that the best way for him to carve out a role on this team is to duplicate what Landen Lucas did in 2015-16 — play defense and rebound. Coleby, who is coming off of ACL surgery, had some decent offensive skills during his time at Ole Miss. But it's highly likely that those won't be needed at Kansas and the sooner he figures that out, the better his chances of playing will be.
• Good news for KU fans on the Svi front: The junior guard played 18 minutes and didn't commit a single turnover. Given the style of the game and the fact that Svi turned the ball over often during his summer action with the Ukrainian national team, this qualifies as good news. He made just 2-of-7 shots (including 1-of-5 from downtown) but the shot will come. The better news was that he avoided careless turnovers and looked comfortable doing so.
• And, in case you missed it (and therefore would think I'm crazy for not including them), Carlton Bragg and Lagerald Vick were our featured Jayhawks from our Saturday night coverage, so be sure to click on each name for those links in case you didn't check them out yet.
It was almost as if Kansas football coach David Beaty checked Twitter or a couple of KU message boards before hitting the postgame press conference following Thursday night’s 55-19 loss at Texas Tech.
Without hesitating, and with a certain amount of conviction, Beaty came off a little defensive when asked about KU’s quarterback problems, which, at this point, are not in any way, shape or form a minor deal.
“Everybody thinks they know who should be our quarterback, but I’m with them every day in practice,” Beaty told reporters who asked about the ongoing, back-and-forth dance between fourth-year junior Montell Cozart and sophomore Ryan Willis. “We evaluate them every day. We make our decision based on what we see every day.”
That’s great. But for the third straight game, and what seems like the 1,000th consecutive season, the Jayhawks are not getting the production they need from that position.
Is there more to winning football games than quarterback play? You bet. The offensive line has to show up, running backs and receivers have to make plays, the defense has to get stops and you even have to catch a couple breaks here and there.
So, yeah, there’s more to winning football than what happens under center, and you can’t blame all of 1-3 KU’s problems on what’s happening at quarterback. But you’re also not going to fix very many of those problems if you can’t find a quarterback who can do better than what we’ve seen in recent weeks.
I’m not one to claim I know more than a man who has spent nearly his entire adult life coaching football. I’ve never coached it. I’ve never really played it either. And even though that’s often the role and the right of any sports fan, from the extremely casual to the most die-hard, I don’t think that’s the motivation of the angry Jayhawk supporters sounding off about KU’s poor quarterback play.
But here’s the problem with Beaty emphasizing that he’s with KU’s QBs every day: What he is seeing when he’s with those guys every day is not what the rest of us are seeing on game days. Not even close. And, sadly for Kansas, that’s when it counts.
I don’t doubt for a second that both Cozart and Willis, overall, look pretty good during KU’s practices. I’ve seen it. Just like I saw Dayne Crist throw darts back in 2011 and just like I saw Jake Heaps complete nearly everything at practice a year later.
But performance in practice, though an important part of the evaluation, does not get the job done on Saturdays. So maybe it’s time for Beaty and company to start putting more weight on what happens in live action against an actual opponent. Evaluate that. Base the decision about the position on what’s happening when it really counts.
Who looks better against the blitz? Which QB throws more accurate, catchable balls with the defense breathing down his neck? Which player inspires his teammates to play hardest, dig deepest and sell out for the team?
Answer those questions and then pick that guy to play quarterback the rest of the way.
Beaty likes to talk about the need for depth at quarterback and often has mentioned how many Big 12 teams needed more than one quarterback a season ago. Heck, Texas Tech needed two QBs on Thursday night.
But in almost all of those situations, the dynamic between starter and back-up had been clearly established and the second QB, as was the case on Thursday, came into the game when he was needed, not on a whim or as part of a predetermined two-QB system.
I don’t think Beaty wants to go with the two-quarterback system. But, for some reason, I don’t think he wants to decide on one player over the other either.
Losing games is one thing. It happens. It’s been happening. And it’s going to keep happening, at least for a little while.
But losing the fan base is something completely different, something far more dangerous and difficult to bounce back from.
And Beaty’s handling of the QB position four games into his second season in charge of the Jayhawks — that and that alone — has some of the biggest KU football fans I know checking out.
This is not the time to be stubborn or indecisive. It’s time to pick one and play on, win or lose, good or bad.
If you’ve been following along closely during the past couple of months, you probably can recite most of the list yourself.
More than a dozen men’s basketball recruits from the Classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019 will be in attendance Saturday night at the 32nd annual Late Night in the Phog event at Allen Fieldhouse.
The most recent player to add his name to the list is five-star point guard Trevon Duval, from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Duval, ranked No. 3 overall in the 2017 class by Rivals.com, will be on campus as an unofficial visitor and he joins point guards Collin Sexton and Tremont Waters in visiting Late Night this weekend.
Six of the prospects in town this weekend will be visitors from the Class of 2017. The rest, at least as of today, will be here on unofficial visits, simply trying to get a taste of one of the biggest nights of the year in Lawrence, Kansas.
KU coach Bill Self said last week that the program probably has too many prospects coming and added that the challenge with such a long list would be to make every player feel like he got the proper attention and a quality look at the program. That’s where the assistants, support staff and even the current players themselves come into play.
Earlier this week, KU guard Devonte’ Graham talked about his role in recruiting and it was clear that the job was one that Graham and most of his teammates take very seriously.
“I’m not too pushy as a recruiter,” Graham said. “They’re around me, a lot of them ask me questions about Coach Self, like what he’s like in practices and stuff like that and I just be as honest with them as possible.”
Asked for a more specific example of the kinds of insight he provides, Graham’s answer carried with it a strong theme.
“It’s not easy. It’s not gonna be easy. You’re gonna have to come in here and work. Nothing’s given to you. Stuff like that,” he said. “But there’s nothing like being here. That’s one thing I always say. No matter where you come from, it’s one of the best places to be. That’s what I tell ’em.”
As is common throughout college athletics, the KU coaching staff often tries to pair up hosts and visitors based on obvious connections. For some it’s the same position. For others it’s the same hometown or general area. And still for more, it’s based on common interests. Graham said the pairings of hosts and visitors absolutely can make an impact.
“I definitely have some recruits that I like better than others, that you vibe with better than others or you just like the way they play or act,” he said. “It’s definitely tough trying to get guys here. Because when they’re traveling to all the top colleges across the world, it’s tough because they hear the same thing over and over.”
While the role of the players is merely to entertain, answer questions and offer a realistic and quality look into what life as a Kansas basketball player is like, Graham said the job does not end when the prospects leave town.
“Coaches ask us, ‘Do you think they would fit well with us,’ and stuff like that,” Graham said. “And I tell ’em yes or no, what I liked about ’em or didn’t like about ’em. Stuff like that.”
Below is the list of known visitors, broken down by class, with their vital stats and Rivals.com ranking included:
Class of 2017
• SG/SF Troy Brown – Las Vegas — 5 stars, 6-foot-6, 195 pounds, No. 12 overall
• PG Trevon Duval – IMG Academy – 5 stars, 6-foot-2, 189 pounds, No. 3 overall
• PF Billy Preston – Oak Hill Academy — 5 stars, 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, No. 8 overall
• PF Cody Riley – Chatsworth, California — 4 stars, 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, No. 34 overall
• PG Collin Sexton – Mableton, Georgia — 5 stars, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, No. 7 overall
• PG Tremont Waters – West Haven, Connecticut — 4 stars, 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, No. 36 overall
Class of 2018
• PF Bol Bol – Bishop Miege (KC) — 5 stars, 6-foot-11, 180 pounds, No. 14 overall
• Kennan Fitzmorris – St. James Academy (KC) — 3 stars, 6-foot-10, 200 pounds, No. 109 overall
• PG Immanuel Quickley – Bel Air, Maryland — 5 stars, 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, No. 12 overall
Class of 2019
• SG Zach Harvey – Hayden (Topeka) — 4 stars, 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, Not yet rated
• PF Matthew Hurt – Rochester, Minnesota — 5 stars, 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, No. 5 overall
• PG Markese Jacobs – Chicago — 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, Not yet rated
• PF Jeremiah Robinson – Bishop Miege (KC) — 4 stars, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, No. 18 overall
• SG Grant Sherfield – Ft. Worth, Texas — 4 stars, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, No. 19 overall
• PG Brandon Williams – Encino, California — 4 stars, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, No. 25 overall
A handful of players on the Kansas men’s basketball team made the short trip across Naismith Drive Wednesday night to become spectators at the men’s and women’s 3-on-3 basketball tournament benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer.
Devonte’ Graham, Josh Jackson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Dwight Coleby and newcomer Malik Newman checked out a little of the action at the tournament that coincides with this week’s Late Night in the Phog. The top two teams on the men’s side and the top two teams on the women’s side will do battle at Allen Fieldhouse for the 3-on-3 title. KU coaches Bill Self and Brandon Schneider will dole out the trophies to the winning teams.
While the players in attendance clowned around with some of the participants and oohed and ahhed at some of the skills they saw, the most important thing about the night, according to Newman, was to show a little support the other direction.
“Those are the same people that are in the stands cheering for us night in and night out,” Newman told a group of reporters at the event. “For us to come interact with them and show them we care about their support means a lot to those guys.”
As for the action he saw during the night’s games, Newman said he was impressed by how hard everyone played.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some people. For these guys to sign up, come out, help the cause and just compete, hoping to get a shot to play in Allen Fieldhouse, I think it’s a great thing.”
As for Newman’s first few weeks at his new home, the Mississippi native and Mississippi State transfer who will be forced to sit out this season because of NCAA transfer rules had nothing but good things to say about his decision to come to the Midwest.
“I love it. I love it,” he said. “It’s been a great month, on the court, off the court, in the community and in the classroom. I’m enjoying myself right now.”
As if the excitement and expectation surrounding Kansas freshman Josh Jackson was not already large enough, now we get this.
Rob Dauster, of NBC Sports, on Wednesday released his preseason All-American college basketball teams. And there on the first team, along with a couple of veterans and a couple of fellow underclassmen, was KU's Josh Jackson.
It's no surprise that the 6-foot-8 freshman from Detroit by way of Prolific Prep in Napa, California, is getting some serious love heading into the 2016-17 season. Jackson has been projected as one of the top 3-5 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft for more than a year and also has earned several preseason all-Big 12 and Big 12 player of the year nods, as well.
But this All-American stuff takes things to a whole new level. And it's probably a level that Jackson deserves and definitely is a level that Jackson can reach.
In sliding into Wayne Selden's spot in the starting lineup, Jackson will be replacing 1,134 minutes, 399 shots (189 of them three-pointers) and 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
It's going to take more than that for Jackson to earn first-team All-American honors, but there definitely is more available. Not only did the Jayhawks lose Selden from last year's 33-5 team, they also lost leading scorer Perry Ellis and his 1,150 minutes, 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Sophomore big man Carlton Bragg certainly will be projected to pick up a lot of Ellis' load, but some of it figures to be there for Jackson, as well. And some of it — most notably the scoring and rebounding — fits right into Jackson's biggest strengths.
Selden and Ellis averaged right at 30 points per game last season and it seems safe to assume that Jackson and Bragg will average at least that this season. If Bragg can become one of those classic Bill Self 10-12 points per game scorers that would leave the rest of Ellis' numbers and all of Selden's for Jackson to pick up.
It's definitely possible that Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham and even Landen Lucas and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk could cut into some of that. But Jackson will get the best opportunity to do so and it's also possible that this year's team could score slightly more than last year's squad, which averaged 81.3 points per game.
If Jackson grabs all of Selden's production, some of Ellis' and helps the Jayhawks score even just a few points per game more this season, it's definitely easy to envision the one-and-done freshman reaching, if not topping, Andrew Wiggins' 17.1 points per game average from the 2013-14 season and conceivable to see him becoming the first KU player since Sherron Collins (18.8) in 2008-09 to average more than 18 points per game in a single season.
KU's recent leading scorers:
PERRY ELLIS — 2015-16 — 16.8
PERRY ELLIS — 2014-15 — 13.8
ANDREW WIGGINS — 2013-14 — 17.1
BEN MCLEMORE — 2012-13 — 15.9
THOMAS ROBINSON — 2011-12 — 17.9
MARCUS MORRIS — 2010-11 — 17.3
SHERRON COLLINS — 2009-10 — 15.6
SHERRON COLLINS — 2008-09 — 18.8
Here's a look at what Dauster had to say about Jackson:
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Jackson was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2016 by a number of outlets, and there are still people that believe he’ll eventually be the best NBA player out of this group. A freak athlete like Andrew Wiggins, Jackson is a bit more polished and a whole lot tougher than Wiggins was a freshman. It’s not crazy to think that he can match Wiggins’ output (17.7 points, 5.9 boards, nation’s top perimeter defender), and considering Kansas is a preseason top five team, that puts him firmly in the All-America discussion. But here’s what will limit him: If Carlton Bragg makes the improvement many expect him to, Jackson’s offense may be cut into, and considering there are a pair of alpha-dogs that will be the guys called on to make big shots in key moments, it’s hard to see him having any “Wooden Moments”.
It's time to move on to the fourth entry in our He Will, He Won't, He Might series that examines the upcoming season for the Kansas men's basketball team, and today we take a closer look at a fourth Jayhawk projected to be in this year's starting lineup — sophomore Carlton Bragg.
As you've surely read or heard, Bragg spent the offseason adding serious bulk to his frame. He's up and inch from last year's height and has added nearly 30 pounds to his body, which is absolutely noticeable when you look at him.
Bragg says that neither addition has had a negative impact on his athleticism or the way he plays the game and both should allow him to have more success when he's forced to hang out close to the rim and compete for buckets and rebounds with the other big bodies in college basketball.
Many college basketball analysts and prognosticators have Bragg on the short list of players at big time programs who could be in for a monster year and it's the young man's skill set along with the opportunity that's now in front of him that has so many people predicting big things for Bragg.
With that said, let's take a quick look at what we should expect from Bragg during the 2016-17 season.
In case you missed the first three entries in the series, here's where you can find them.
Now, on to Carlton Bragg...
He will: Rebound and block shots better than Perry Ellis
So much of the talk this offseason regarding Bragg was how he was slated to slide into the role created by the departure of Perry Ellis and pick up where the three-year starter and No. 8 all-time scorer in Kansas history left off. And while that certainly is a worthy if not ambitious goal for the sophomore from Cleveland, there are at least a couple of areas where Bragg figures to fare better than Ellis ever dreamed.
The two biggest are rebounds and blocks. It’s no secret that KU coach Bill Self always wanted more from Ellis in the rebounding department. He should get it from Bragg. A season ago, Ellis finished with 222 rebounds in 1,150 minutes, good for a respectable average of 5.8 rebounds per game. Bragg, in just 338 minutes finished with 94 rebounds.
Average those out over 40 minutes and you’ll find Ellis’ number sits at 7.7 rebounds per 40 minutes while Bragg’s climbs to 11.1. I doubt Bragg will average double-digit rebounds per game this season, but he should be able to be more of a factor on the glass than Ellis was. Same goes for blocks, where Ellis averaged 0.66 blocks per 40 minutes and Bragg .83.
Those two stats alone should help this year’s group become a better defensive team than the 2015-16 squad and the suddenly bulkier Bragg figures to be a big reason for it.
He won’t: Be the scorer Perry Ellis was.
Having said all of that in the “He Will” section of this entry, it’s still hard to see Bragg being the same consistent scorer that Ellis was. For one, he’s nowhere near as gifted and as versatile as Ellis was by his senior season. A year ago, Ellis was a threat everywhere on the offensive half of the floor, able to catch and shoot, knock down three-pointers, drive to the rim to get his own buckets or operate in the high post to pick up points in the paint.
Bragg, though gifted and ever improving, still has a long way to go before he’s on that level. And the one trait he’s lacking that might hurt him the most in his quest to replace Ellis is assertiveness. Although Jayhawk fans constantly begged for Ellis to get tough and dunk the ball, the guy was a force of nature on the offensive end when he made up his mind that he was going to attack and no one was going to stop him.
Bragg has yet to show that type of drive and killer instinct. That’s not to say it’s not in there. But to expect it to be in Year 2 what Ellis’ was in Year 4 is a bit of a stretch.
He might: Leave KU to become a lottery pick
Earlier this summer I reached out to Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress.com to inquire about why Bragg was nowhere to be found on the site’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft. Givony said he didn’t think Bragg was quite there yet but that he certainly could — and likely would — be added to the first round if he got off to a hot start.
Such is the beauty of mock drafts, which can and do change often throughout the course of the year and can quickly make up for a mistake or an oversight in the next update. I’d expect that to happen with Bragg and DraftExpress.
At 6-10, 245 pounds, Bragg is just starting to come into his own size wise. Add to that solid frame the fact that he moves and shoots it well enough to be considered a legit offensive weapon in the NBA and it’s easy to see how Bragg could bolt KU after his second year for his shot at professional basketball. It’s possible, of course, that Bragg could decide to leave and not be picked in the lottery, even if he is a first-round pick and, therefore, gets guaranteed money.
The guess here, though, is that if Bragg goes — a likely scenario according to those who know him best — it’ll be because he’s projected to be one of the first 14 picks in the June draft.
Projecting any given NBA Draft, like obsessing over Kansas basketball in Lawrence, has become a year-round task and no one out there does it better than Jonathan Givony and his staff at DraftExpress.com.
From player profiles, regularly updated mock drafts and traveling around the world to track both the present and the future of the NBA Draft, Givony and crew easily bring the best, most detailed and most interesting information regarding draft prospects.
However, their latest feature, The Top Draft Prospects in the Big 12, caught my attention for reasons beyond just being ultra-informative.
Five of the Top 12 players on Givony’s list call Kansas home and although four of them are guys you would expect to see, the fifth came as a bit of a surprise.
Here’s a quick look at each one, but be sure to click on the link above for the full scoop as DraftExpress sees it.
1. Josh Jackson, 6-foot-8, Freshman, Guard
Draft Express: DE used videos for Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses and included all the things you’ve heard about him already — Physical tools, offensive versatility, defensive toughness and rebounding. He’s currently listed 5th on DraftExpress’ latest 2017 NBA Mock Draft.
My take: No brainer. Not even a question. Enough said.
3. Devonte’ Graham, 6-foot-2, Junior, Point Guard
Draft Express: More videos here for Graham’s strengths and weaknesses and included among his strengths were: Quickness, Shot Maker, Capable Passer, Pesky Defender.
My take: I think Graham is a terrific college player and could be poised for a monster season. I’m just not sure I’d put him this high on this list when you’re talking about the NBA. Although I have no doubts that he can play in the league, he probably won’t be anything special when he gets there. The league is filled with guys his size who are freak athletes and can really play. Graham’s competitiveness will allow him to hold his own, but can he become more? Hard to know right now.
6. Carlton Bragg, 6-foot-9, Sophomore, Power Forward
Draft Express: While not blessed with incredible size, both vertically and physically, Bragg is quick and agile for a big man, and can use that to his advantage.
My take: Until we see exactly what Bragg can do with major minutes, it’s hard to argue for him to be higher on this list. Still, it seems a little low to me, given his versatility, good frame, skilled offensive game and potential to grow and become an even better defender. I’d probably flip Bragg and Graham, if it were up to me.
7. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 6-foot-8, Junior, Shooting Guard
Draft Express: After watching Mykhailiuk extensively this past June at the adidas Nations, and profiling his progress both in scouting report and video format, we prefer to wait and see how he performs as a junior before adding to his extensive DraftExpress profile.
My take: This pretty much sums it up perfectly. Touted as one of the top NBA prospects in a Kansas uniform even before he stepped foot on campus — and even by people named Bill Self — Svi has done very little during his first two seasons in Lawrence to show whether that kind of claim is warranted. Part of the reason for that has been a lack of opportunity, but it also has been the result of a lack of consistency on his part. Still, with his frame, size, skills and athleticism, placing Svi in the middle of this list is certainly fair.
12. Landen Lucas, 6-foot-10, Senior, Center
Draft Express: While Lucas is a limited offensive player at this stage, his work on the other end of the floor is what gives him a chance to carve out a niche at the NBA level.
My take: I was a little surprised to see Lucas crack the Top 12, but the reasoning is sound. A lot of what they’re basing it off of is his opportunity to build on a strong junior season and the fact that he does one thing really, really well. With 10 teams and a lot of top-tier coaches, it’s surprising that there aren’t more NBA prospects in the Big 12 that rank ahead of Lucas. But that’s a testament both to Lucas and the fact that the Big 12 is a little down this season.