Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

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

Kansas guard Josh Jackson

Kansas guard Josh Jackson by Nick Krug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Five guesses on what Svi Mykhailiuk will decide this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Matt Tait •

KU basketball beat writer/KUsports.com editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

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

• Tom Keegan •

Journal-World sports editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

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

• Benton Smith •

KU football beat writer/KU basketball blogger

Verdict: Svi stays

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

• Nick Krug •

KUsports.com/Journal-World photographer

Verdict: Svi leaves

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

• Bobby Nightengale •

KU reporter/high school sports editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

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


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

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

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

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

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

So no surprises there.

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

There were a few of those, too.

Here’s a look:

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

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

1. Bill Self is even better than you thought

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

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

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

2. We saw the true value of program guys

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

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

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

3. One-and-dones are worth it

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

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

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

4. That Big 12 title streak really is pretty cool

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

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

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

5. The game is changing

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


Perry Ellis inks contract Down Under

None by Sydney Kings

The Sydney Kings professional basketball team in the National Basketball League in Australia announced with gusto on Thursday night the signing of former KU standout Perry Ellis.

Ellis, who went undrafted after his four-year Kansas career, bounced around the NBA's D League during his first season away from Kansas before signing with the Kings this week.

Language on both the team's official web site and on Twitter clearly demonstrated just how excited the Kings were to land Ellis. "We got him," they wrote on Twitter, while the headline on the news release announcing his signing read, "Sydney Kings Sign Dream Recruit."

According to the release, Ellis will participate in a full summer schedule in the United States before joining his new teammates in Sydney unless an NBA contract is offered as a result of his summer performances.

Kings Managing Director, Jeff Van Groningen, flew to the United States to nail down negotiations with Ellis and his agent, and, clearly, came away excited about the team's newest player.

“Perry Ellis is a rare combination of very high character and very high performance wrapped into one guy," Van Groningen said. "We know that Perry has aspirations to make the NBA and we know he is an elite talent. We support his quest in that regard and he will support ours as we try to reach the upper reaches of our own league. We couldn’t be happier that Perry has signed with the Sydney Kings."

Kings coach Andrew Gaze, who is one of the most popular and often regarded as the best Australian player of all time, added his take on the team's latest signing.

“I have followed Perry’s career for a number of years and always enjoy watching Kansas play," said Gaze, who played two seasons in the NBA after his college career at Seton Hall. "As far back as this time last year Jeff and I spoke about how beneficial it would be if a guy ‘like’ Perry Ellis could join our team – so it’s fair to say we are thrilled that we have the man himself signing with us. His pedigree, versatility and basketball IQ will be key attributes that will assist us in strongly moving this program forward."


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

Recorded Tuesday, May 16, 2017


So what happens if Svi leaves Kansas?

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) pulls up for a three over Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) pulls up for a three over Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

Who would have thought a couple of weeks, or even a couple of days, ago that the Kansas men’s basketball program would be one decision away from having some flexibility?

With senior big man Dwight Coleby transferring out and junior guard Svi Mykhailiuk now a week away from having to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to school, Kansas is facing the very real possibility of actually having a scholarship to give.

For weeks, KU fans were wondering aloud just how head coach Bill Self was going to figure all of this out, with 14 players positioned to fill 13 scholarship slots. But then Coleby left and now, if Svi follows him out the door, Self actually will have something to work with.

If you’re surprised by this, you haven’t been paying attention.

For one, these things always seem to work themselves out, especially at Kansas. For two, Bill Self is a master at making sure of that. The reason? It’s not because he’s blessed with good fortune or catches every conceivable break. If that were the case, his record in Elite Eight games would be much better than it is and he’d probably have another national title or two.

Instead, it’s because he’s constantly working, always looking ahead, forever planning and preparing for any eventuality that might pop up.

In this case, those eventualities, should Svi elect to stay in the draft, would lead to Self having a scholarship to play with, which would give him the option of doing one of three things.

1. He could save it. Self’s not the kind of coach who is going to hand out scholarships just for the sake of handing out scholarships, particularly to a young player who then would be around for a few years. At this point in the game, just about all of the top talent in the 2017 class is signed, spoken for or looking elsewhere so don’t harbor any fantasies about Self pulling a Top 50 kid with that scholarship.

2. He could use it on a player to replace Svi. That’s if there’s someone out there. And, heck, with Lagerald Vick seemingly ready to slide into the starting lineup anyway, the biggest thing the Jayhawks would be needing out of a replacement for Svi is someone who can spot up and shoot the ball. Even this late in the recruiting season, that’s not that difficult to envision finding. Beyond that, there’s always the chance that Self could look to add another ball-handling guard, which he once planned to add regardless of what Devonte’ Graham decided to do. Graham and Newman appear more than capable of handling the role and Garrett could be a nice third option. So shooting probably would be the preferred skill if the Jayhawks looked to add to the backcourt.

3. He could use it on a player to replace Coleby. This one, for my money, is the most likely route. Remember, as soon as Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe is eligible second semester, the Jayhawks will have a five-deep backcourt of Graham, Garrett, Vick, Cunliffe and Malik Newman. That’s pretty salty. And more than enough to get by. At that point, you’d be looking at an opportunity to add another big man — perhaps even a project — who could add to the depth up front. If he pans out, he’s a luxury over what you would’ve had in Coleby. If not, he slides right into the role Coleby likely would’ve filled behind Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot, Billy Preston and Jack Whitman. Either way, the right player would bring added depth, which no doubt would be welcomed given how thin the Jayhawks were up front throughout the 2016-17 season.

Regardless of which way the Jayhawks would go — and, remember, this is all if Svi decides to stay in the draft — Self and company have positioned themselves well to add the best available player regardless of position.

For a team that very recently appeared to be over the scholarship limit and scrambling to make the numbers work, that’s a nice spot to be in.


This time around, Williams hires Frederick

Brad Frederick, left, speaks about his father during a memorial for Bob Frederick, former KU athletic director, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at the Lied Center. Brad's brothers, all of whom spoke about their father, are from left Brian, Mark and Chris.

Brad Frederick, left, speaks about his father during a memorial for Bob Frederick, former KU athletic director, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at the Lied Center. Brad's brothers, all of whom spoke about their father, are from left Brian, Mark and Chris. by Mike Yoder

College athletics can be a funny place if you’re around them long enough.

Take the latest situation at North Carolina for example, where the defending national champion Tar Heels have been looking for a replacement on the coaching staff of Roy Williams ever since C.B. McGrath left to become the head coach at UNC-Wilmington following the end of the season.

Turns out, Williams and company did not have to look far. The successor to McGrath, who was a fan-favorite walk-on at Kansas during his playing days, was sitting on the Tar Heels’ bench all along.

According to multiple reports out of North Carolina, Brad Frederick soon will replace McGrath as the newest UNC assistant coach.

And with that, Williams will be hiring the son of the man who gave Williams his first big break as a college head coach nearly 30 years ago.

Frederick, a 1995 graduate of Lawrence High, who played his college basketball at Carolina, is the son of the late Bob Frederick, who served as the KU athletic director from 1987-2001.

While he was known in all worlds for his wonderful smile, caring personality and tremendous kindness, by far Frederick’s biggest move in the athletic world was hiring Williams in 1988 after the departure of Larry Brown following the Jayhawks’ run to the national championship.

A little-known, No. 2 assistant coach to Dean Smith at the time, Williams often marveled about Frederick’s bold move and has famously said that the number of ADs who would have hired Roy Williams to coach Kansas basketball in 1988 was one — Bob Frederick.

Today, or at least when it becomes official, which could be as late as July 1 for business reasons, Williams will be returning the gesture in a not-so-small way.

It’s not as if Frederick isn’t ready for and worthy of the post. After serving for 14 seasons as an assistant coach under Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt (he left as the longest tenured assistant coach in the SEC at the time), Frederick returned to his alma mater to take over the director of basketball operations role in 2013.

His relationship with Williams made him the perfect fit at that time and makes this transition as easy and obvious as one could be.

Although this promotion — Williams recently said Frederick already has been out on the road recruiting and also added last month that interested parties did not need to contact him about the coaching vacancy because he was going to fill it by readjusting his current staff — is significant both for Frederick and the program, it will have the greatest impact on Frederick’s immediate future in that it will allow him to go on the road, recruit, coach and execute all other duties given to each NCAA Div. I program’s three full-time assistant coaches.

Other than that, though, Frederick’s recent impact in other, more administrative-oriented ways already has been all over the program and played a huge role in North Carolina’s recent success.


5-star point guard Trevon Duval commits to Duke

The long and drawn out recruitment of five-star point guard Trevon Duval ended Monday morning with a video and an announcement that surprised nobody.

Duval, the No. 4-ranked player in the Class of 2017 and the top point guard in the country according to Rivals.com, confirmed his intention to play his college basketball at Duke, giving the Blue Devils another impressive piece in a stellar recruiting class.

Landing Duval gives Duke the No. 1 ranked point guard, shooting guard (Gary Trent Jr.) and power forward (Wendell Carter Jr.) in the 2017 class, per Scout.com, and also gives the Blue Devils the point guard they desperately needed.

The addition of Duval bumps Duke's 2017 recruiting class up to No. 2 in the nation, right behind, you guessed it, Kentucky's stellar class that includes seven of the top 28 players.

Duval's announcement came via a video released by The Players Tribune. In it, he chronicled his life in basketball, from birth to this decision. There were no hats, no television special and no actual images of Duval himself. Just him doing a voice over on an animated video titled "Hungry and Humble," which ended with his commitment.

"Next year, I'm going to be playing basketball at Duke University," he said. "I'm excited to evolve as a student, as a basketball player and now, and forever, as a Blue Devil."


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

Recorded Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Ankle injury forces Mykhailiuk to withdraw from rest of NBA combine

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) gets up for a bucket over UNLV guard Kris Clyburn (1) during the second half, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. At right is UNLV forward Tyrell Green (3).

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) gets up for a bucket over UNLV guard Kris Clyburn (1) during the second half, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. At right is UNLV forward Tyrell Green (3). by Nick Krug

One day after warming up and improving as the competition went on, Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk has withdrawn from the rest of the NBA combine because of an ankle injury he suffered Thursday.

Mykhailiuk, the 6-7 wing who is one of 14 players at the 67-man combine who has not yet hired an agent, thus leaving open the possibility of a return to KU for his senior season, delivered a mixed bag of results during Thursday’s action in Chicago.

His measurements were neither wildly impressive nor disappointing and his play on the floor, which featured a couple of bad misses early on during the 5-on-5 scrimmage along with a hot streak later in the game and even a defensive highlight when he blocked KU teammate Frank Mason III, left most scouts and NBA executives curious to see more.

Unfortunately for Mykhailiuk, that will not happen. Jonathan Givony, who runs DraftExpress.com, Tweeted around 10:30 Friday morning that Mykhailiuk had withdrawn from the rest of the combine because of the injury.

So now the entire focus shifts to his stay-or-go decision.

Mykhailiuk, whom multiple sources told the Journal-World earlier this week was leaning toward staying in the draft, now has to evaluate whether his brief showing, body of work at Kansas and interaction with NBA people during the past couple of weeks was enough for him to feel confident that he would get drafted.

One source said the main question surrounding Mykhailiuk entering the week was exactly that — whether some team would take him in the second round, not whether he could sneak into the first round.

Earlier this week, ESPN.com anonymously polled multiple NBA executives about what they thought each of the 14 players at the combine who had not yet hired an agent should do after the combine is over and their advice to Mykhailiuk was for him to return to Kansas.

Whether he takes that path or not should be known in the next week or so. But don't expect a grand announcement either way. The soon-to-be-20-year-old Ukrainian, like his best buddy on the team Devonte' Graham, is not a flashy, attention-seeking kind of guy. His announcement, whatever he decides, figures to be short and sweet and not a media spectacle.

Mykhailiuk, who likely will stay in Chicago to continue conversations and interviews with team executives through the weekend, still will have until May 24 to make a final decision about his future. And although many of the pros and cons he will be weighing remain the same, the ankle injury likely makes the whole process a little more difficult.


Anonymous poll of NBA executives pegs return to school as best move for Svi, others

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) drives against Georgia guard William Jackson II (0) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) drives against Georgia guard William Jackson II (0) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman on Wednesday identified the 14 college players attending this year’s pre-draft combine who have not hired an agent and then anonymously polled “multiple” NBA executives and asked them whether each player should stay in the draft or return to school for the 2017-18 season.

A whopping 12 of the 14 players identified — including KU junior Svi Mykhailiuk — were “told” to return to school, with only Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and SMU forward Semi Ojeleye (from nearby Ottawa High) drawing anything other than advice to stay in school.

Swanigan, who was in the running for national player of the year and enjoyed a monster season for the Boilermakers was encouraged flat-out to turn pro now. Ojeleye, who started his college career at Duke before transferring to SMU, drew a mixed reaction, with half of the execs polled suggesting he should stay in the draft and the other half recommending that he return to school.

It’s an interesting exercise and it shows, at least in some small way, just how maddening the whole early-entry culture can be.

Remember, these 14 players are all underclassmen. And what is it we’ve learned about the NBA more and more during the past decade than ever before? That the NBA drafts based largely on potential, upside and where a player will be 3-5 years down the road not necessarily where a player is on draft night.

By that standard, you would think that a bunch of NBA executives would tell nearly every underclassman to give it a shot because the younger the player the better the prospect.

But that obviously is not entirely true, and it’s funny that it took an anonymous exercise such as this one to reveal that.

I don’t know the exact circumstances of all 14 players involved in this deal but I am familiar with all of them and, in my opinion, they’re giving great advice to darn near every one of them — including Swanigan and Ojeleye.

With that said, it does not change the fact that every year far too many players declare for the draft, watch the 60 picks on draft night come and go without hearing their names called and then move forward with their lives and/or careers only to wonder — at least a little, somewhere in the recesses of their minds — what might have happened had they played another year of college ball.

The NBA, through its recent loosening up of the pre-draft rules, which has allowed more underclassmen to test, gather good information and then pull out of the draft so long as they do it before the deadline and do not hire an agent, is a big time step in the right direction toward getting this kind of information in the right hands.

More players staying more years at their respective universities is obviously a good thing for the college game no matter what perspective you’re taking — fans, coaches, administrators, TV networks.

But I’d argue that it’s also a good thing for the professional game, as well.

These days, far too many players are entering the league who simply are not ready and that, at least in some manner, is watering down the pro game because of the guaranteed money given out each year to 30 first-round picks.

Whether it’s from a basketball perspective, or, more to the point, from a maturity standpoint, these young dudes are rarely ready for the real world, all that money, all those distractions and all those obligations, responsibilities and temptations that come with turning pro.

I’m not sure that there’s a huge difference between a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old when it comes to that, but every little bit of seasoning helps. And there’s no disputing that another year’s worth of life lessons and wisdom can only help prepare these young men for that professional athlete life.

As for Mykhailiuk, as you surely have gathered by now, he was advised by the anonymous NBA execs to return to Kansas for his senior season.

"I still hold out hope on him," one NBA executive told ESPN when asked about Mykhailiuk. "He's still really young and can be a catch-and-shoot guy. The question is whether he has a bigger role at Kansas next year than he did the past couple years."

That’s definitely the question. And the answer is not easy to come by.

With Malik Newman, Devonte’ Graham and Lagerald Vick all primed for big time roles in the Kansas backcourt and freshman-to-be Marcus Garrett and Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe also factoring into the mix, it’s worth wondering just how much more Mykhailiuk can be featured in a Kansas uniform.

He’s a returning starter and that’s more than four of the five players mentioned above have going for them, but he does have limitations and, as well all know already, Bill Self’s system is not one that often showcases one or two individual players. Even if that were the case next season, would Svi be one of those one or two players? Probably not.

So with that in mind, the return to school advice might not be all that sound. Sure it could help him. But how much is the question.

And if there’s a team or two or five or 10 out there right now that is willing to take Svi in the second round this year, a definite case could be made that following that path is the right move for Svi.

Time will tell. And we’ll know more — about Svi and all of these players — after the combine’s main events today and tomorrow.


Mykhailiuk puts best skill on full display during workout with the Celtics

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three from the corner over Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby (15) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three from the corner over Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby (15) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

As many of you probably saw on Twitter on Tuesday, I was told by someone closely connected to Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk that the KU guard knocked down 85 of 100 NBA-range 3-point attempts during a recent workout with the Boston Celtics.

Obviously, that’s damn good.

And, while I’m sure there are those of you out there who might not believe the number, I have no doubt about the validity of the claim because I’ve seen Svi light it up, shot after shot, swish after swish, in an open gym with nobody guarding him.

That, essentially, was the drill he ran through during his recent workout with the Celtics, and, evidently, it’s something Boston — and probably other teams — does on an annual basis.

A year ago, former Oklahoma star Buddy Hield went through the same drill and, believe it or not, also knocked down 85 of the 100 3-pointers he shot. Also last year, former Kentucky guard Jamal Murray did the same drill and drained 79 triples and, a couple of months before that, former Gonzaga big man Kyle Wiltjer made 77. You get the point.

Along with just about every other team in the NBA, the Celtics clearly like to see just how well guys can shoot before they even consider drafting them.

And while this one drill is certainly an eye-opener when you first hear about the results, it’s not exactly a great predictor of future NBA success. Hield, for instance was drafted in the lottery last year, while Wiltjer went undrafted.

So, obviously, there are many more factors that go into whether a player is draft worthy, and it’s those factors that make Svi more of a question mark as he embarks upon his path to the draft and juggles the decision whether to stay in it or return to Kansas for his senior year.

As has been my belief throughout the process, I really don’t think Svi knows yet whether he will stay or go. This week’s combine likely will play a huge role in helping him determine the answer and I don’t think people should be looking at this thing in the scope of whether Svi is a first-round draft pick or not.

Sure, that’s where the guaranteed money is made. But getting drafted in the second round does not mean you’re not going to make a roster. It just means it’s going to be a lot harder and the money you’ll be getting will be money that you will have earned through toughness and grit and hunger and prayer.

My take on Svi is this: No matter how well he does this week at the combine, he’s probably a second-round pick. So the question for him isn’t really about money and earning potential. It’s about a gamble.

Does he think he’s good enough to make a roster from a second-round slot or does he think he should come back, be more aggressive as a senior, attempt to showcase more of his all-around game and hope that improves his draft stock?

It’s a tough question. And one I’m glad I don’t have to answer.

Because, at the end of the day, no matter how much Svi does or does not show, either this week at the combine or next season at Kansas, he’s either going to make the NBA or not make it because he can shoot the basketball.

Going 85-for-100 in a drill in front of some important people who can directly impact your future certainly doesn’t hurt anything.

But the guess here is that those people have already forgotten about it. What they want to know is simple: Can he do it again?

Other quick combine notes:

• Josh Jackson, a projected Top 3 pick in this summer's NBA Draft, will not even attend the combine for interviews. He's been working out in Los Angeles and will stay there instead of traveling to Chicago to interview with teams. One source said Jackson would eventually meet one-on-one with NBA teams but added that the list would likely be five or less given his status as a high lottery pick.

• Frank Mason III will join Svi in Chicago for the combine and the two biggest days for both players will come Thursday and Friday when they participate in 5-on-5 scrimmages and a variety of skills and agility tests.

• In a recent interview with the Journal-World, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said that, when he first came to the United States many scouts viewed Mykhailiuk as a future college and/or NBA point guard. Things have not played out that way during his three-year KU career, however, and Mykhailiuk's best path to the draft, should he stay in it, is as an athletic, instant-offense type of wing player with a deadly shot. Svi has until 10 days after the end of the combine (May 24) to decide whether to leave his name in the draft pool or return to KU for his senior year.


Comparing the recruiting strategies at Kentucky and Kansas

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

It’s no secret that Lexington, Ky., has become to one-and-done college basketball players what Cancun, South Padre Island and Daytona Beach are to spring breakers.

And it’s not exactly breaking news that Kentucky coach John Calipari has figured out how to coach these players, be it one or two of them or a team with six or seven.

Good thing.

This weekend’s news that Kevin Knox was joining the Wildcats gives Kentucky a whopping seven of the top 28 players in the 2017 class, according to the 247 Sports rankings (see Tweet below for details).

Seven. That’s five starters and two more off the bench. Basically, that’s the entire KU rotation from the 2016-17 season. And, any way you slice it, that’s downright impressive.

I’m sure there are KU fans out there who rolled their eyes at that last sentence and thought to themselves, big frickin’ whoop. But if you’re one of them, ask yourself this question: If KU had signed seven of the top 28 players in this (or any) recruiting class wouldn’t you be (a) ridiculously fired up and (b) more inclined to call the feat impressive?

I’m not saying landing one-fourth of the best players in all the land in the 2017 recruiting class guarantees Calipari’s Wildcats a thing. It doesn’t. You never know how these things are going to play out. Some could become busts or get injured. Others could fail to crack Kentucky’s rotation and become two-, three- or even four-year players. It happens. And not just at Kentucky. Look no further than Carlton Bragg Jr., for proof of unfulfilled potential happening at Kansas during recent years.

Beyond the fact that landing all of those talented prospects does not guarantee Kentucky a thing is the realization that there is more than one way to skin a cat and programs all over the country — really good, really successful, really attractive programs — tend to prove that year after year.

Kansas is one of them. Again, I can all but guarantee you that if the Jayhawks had landed seven of the 28 best players in any recruiting class, the coaching staff would be jacked and the fan base would be clearing calendars to make sure they were off of work, in Lawrence or both during Final Four weekend. And those are just the humble ones. The more braggadocious KU fans already would be boasting about the Jayhawks being a lock to win the 2018 national championship.

And maybe they would win it. Maybe Kentucky will. Who knows? And that is the beauty of it all.

Right now, on May 8, 2017, the Jayhawks and Wildcats — as always — are among the betting favorites in Las Vegas to cut down the nets next April in San Antonio, separated at the top by just a couple of spots on the future betting odds.

One of them will be looking to do so with a team full of freshmen. And the other will be trying to do it with a mixed bag of four-year players, veteran transfers and talented newcomers.

Again, I’m not saying one way is right and the other is wrong. But, for my money, I sure like the roster construction KU coach Bill Self seems to shoot for — a couple of talented and proven veterans mixed with a few program guys all buoyed by highly rated incoming freshmen like last year’s Josh Jackson and this year’s Billy Preston.

There’s just something cool about a roster that has a little natural order to it.

Just look at the work the KU coaching staff did on the recruiting trail this year alone. The 2017 class includes a potential one-and-done player in Preston, a likely multi-year player in combo guard Marcus Garrett and a graduate transfer in Jack Whitman. Three players from various different places coming together to join the Jayhawks.

Beyond that, Self and company also brought in three more transfers in Memphis’ Lawson brothers and former Cal point guard Charlie Moore and their future paths at Kansas also figure to run different courses.

Bringing in that kind of diversity helps with roster balance and, perhaps most importantly, helps ensure that each future team will have at least a couple of veterans with the potential to become key leaders.

Could you even imagine the Jayhawks knocking on the door of national titles during the past couple of years without guys like Perry Ellis or Frank Mason? No chance.

Time will tell if that knock is answered in 2018. But, with Devonte’ Graham leading the way and the KU roster filling out from there, the Jayhawks certainly will have all of the pieces they need to make it happen.

Yet again.

In other, somewhat related recruited, we received another Trevon Duval update over the weekend and, believe it or not, it seems like the 5-star point guard’s big announcement is finally coming.

After revealing two weekends ago that he would make a decision, “soon,” Duval took that one step farther this past weekend by telling Krysten Peek, of Rivals.com, that he would announce his decision date in the next “couple days.”

Who knows if that means we’ll know where he’s headed by the end of the week or not, but it seems like we should at least know when he’s going to tell us.

Baby steps.

None by Chris Fisher


Did the Morris twins pull a fast one?

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) defends Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 8, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) defends Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 8, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The NBA is full of conspiracy theories, from people thinking the games and postseason results are predetermined by the league office to others believing that the officials have an interest in deciding the outcome of games on a regular basis to fit that agenda.

But of all of the wild scenarios and weird happenings that have led people to ask questions, there might not be one more incredible than the one floating around the NBA right now. And it involves former Kansas players Marcus and Markieff Morris.

Twin brothers from Philadelphia who played three seasons at Kansas from 2008-11, the Morris twins have gone on to enjoy solid NBA careers, both making a ton of money and becoming key contributors to their respective teams.

For a short stint — from 2012-15 — the two were teammates again in Phoenix, but today Marcus plays for the Detroit Pistons and Markieff plays for the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards are currently involved in a second-round series with top-seeded Boston and that’s where the scene of the latest conspiracy first showed up.

Markieff injured his ankle during Washington’s Game 1 loss and appeared to be in pretty bad shape. Despite his insistence that he would play in Game 2 and that nothing would keep him out, people still wondered if he would be healthy enough to play or at least be effective. It turns out he was. Despite the bum ankle, Markieff started and tallied 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals on 6-of-11 shooting in 27 minutes. All in all, a darn good night that registered slightly above his season averages in most categories.

Boston Celtics' Avery Bradley (0) defends against Washington Wizards' Markieff Morris (5) during the first quarter of a second-round NBA playoff series basketball game, Sunday, April, 30, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Boston Celtics' Avery Bradley (0) defends against Washington Wizards' Markieff Morris (5) during the first quarter of a second-round NBA playoff series basketball game, Sunday, April, 30, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Beyond that, Markieff looked good, too. Like really good. Almost like the ankle wasn’t bothering him at all.

And that’s when the conspiracy junkies ran wild.

With Detroit out of the playoffs and Marcus free from obligations with the Pistons, there was some speculation that Marcus may have filled in for Markieff during Game 2. And, hey, it’s not entirely crazy. After all, the two are twins and even have almost the exact same tattoos plastered all over their bodies.

Making matters worse, Marcus recently showed up to a Wizards playoff game wearing a Markieff Morris Washington jersey to support his brother and, obviously, his appearance was strikingly similar to his brother.

While the whole thing is fun to joke about or even scratch your head and wonder if it was even possible, the reality is it probably wasn’t. I mean, as much as they are twins and do look alike, their games are different — Markieff plays more of a true forward role down low while Marcus is more of a wing forward — and there are small but noticeable features that distinguish them from one another that those who know them best would easily see.

Beyond that, I can’t see how Markieff’s Washington teammates would’ve been able to go along with this and still execute. Basketball’s an instinctual game, but they still run plays and sets and do things that would be far too difficult to pick up on a day’s notice.

One final part of the whole ordeal that might lend the conspiracy theorists the most credible evidence for their claim is the fact that the Morris twins actually have done this before. Granted, that was during an AAU game, but something similar did happen.

Now that another game has been played — a 116-89 Wizards’ victory on Thursday night that cut Boston’s lead in the series to 2-1 — it seems like things have calmed down and nobody really thinks the switch happened.

A recent Tweet from Marcus also helped calm down the craziness.

“I wouldn’t play for another team unless I’m on that team,” he wrote. “Smooth (Markieff) playing on a sprained ankle. I didn’t expect anything less.”

Game 4 of the suddenly dramatic series is set for Sunday night in Washington.


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

~ Recorded Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Former KU center Landen Lucas believes in transfer path for future Jayhawks

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) powers in a dunk against Purdue guard Carsen Edwards (3) and Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) powers in a dunk against Purdue guard Carsen Edwards (3) and Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Former Kansas basketball player Landen Lucas never actually transferred to or from KU.

But with his career broken into two different pieces — during his red-shirt year and after it — Lucas was able to experience the benefits of what a lot of transfers gain while sitting out during their first season at their new schools.

At Kansas in the coming months, three such players will be walking down that path, with former Memphis standouts Dedric and K.J. Lawson and former Cal point guard Charlie Moore all joining the Jayhawks this summer without being eligible to play in games for more than a year.

And that’s to say nothing of new acquisition Jack Whitman or 2017 transfer Sam Cunliffe, who came from Arizona State just after the new year and still has eight months to go before he’s eligible to join the Jayhawks following the first semester of the 2017-18 season.

Although Lucas, who red-shirted during his first season with the Jayhawks (2012-13), was not exactly in the position of starting his college career over, he said recently that he approached his year on the bench like many transfers should approach theirs.

“I think it’s huge,” he said during a Monday evening appearance on KLWN’s Rock Chalk Sports Talk. “Just speaking for myself, as far as my red-shirt year, you’re going against great competition and it gives you a chance, without a whole bunch of stress, to sit back and really see what coach wants, see what coach is looking for, be competitive, work on different things in practice. If guys use that year right and work on yourself that’s a big part of how you can help contribute. If you take advantage of it, it could be huge.”

“If” was the operative word in that last sentence, but Lucas said, for the most part, the players who transferred to KU during his five-year stint with the program have done exactly that.

Most notable among them, according to Lucas, was former Mississippi State standout Malik Newman, who sat out the recently completed 2016-17 season and now appears poised and ready for big things when he returns to action this fall.

“Malik, he’s really taken advantage of it,” Lucas said. “And it allows him to really step in and shine right away because he understands what coach wants (and) coach has seen him enough. Now that he’s in that new role he can really embrace it.”

During his playing days, Lucas teamed with six of the 14 players to transfer to Kansas to date during the Bill Self era. And Lucas said each one of them did his absolute best to take advantage of his transfer year.

He also competed with five players who elected to leave KU, and Lucas also said he could see the appeal of a fresh start and held nothing against any of the guys who left.

“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t (think about it early on when playing time was tough to come by),” Lucas said. “When you come out of high school and you competed at the level I did and then to come to school and have to sit out and not play very much, it was tough. Obviously (leaving) crosses your mind, but then I had to reel it back in and just remember that I came here for a reason and when it does work out, when it does happen, it might not be as quick, but it’s gonna be greater. And that’s truly how it was. I just decided to stick with it. I was at the right spot. And that’s just how I kind of approached it.”

Lucas on Graham

Also on Rock Chalk Sports Talk on Monday evening, Lucas covered a number of other topics, from his KU career to his current quest to impress NBA scouts and the creation of his Landen Lucas Foundation that will raise money to help fund athletic endeavors of young people in and around Lawrence and in his hometown of Portland.

Lucas, on Sunday, will host a couple of fund-raising events in Lawrence (at Johnny’s West, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and in Topeka (at R&D Sports, from 6-8 p.m.). Fans will be able to meet and get autographs from Lucas and purchase some of the gear he wore during his playing days with the Jayhawks. All of the money raised will go toward the foundation.

Curious about Lucas’ take on the return of his former teammate Devonte’ Graham, who announced last month that he would stick around for his senior season, Lucas said he was thrilled with Graham’s decision.

“I think it’s huge,” Lucas said. “For him, it was a great decision. He’s such a great player and I think everybody knows that, but the level (he is) might be kind of hidden just because of how fantastic Frank (Mason III) was. Having him back, having him as a senior, hungry to take over, it’s huge. I enjoyed playing with him. He’s always the life of the team and for him to kind of go into his last go around as the man, I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to just watching him. “I don’t know if there’s a recruit you could’ve got from high school who would’ve made as big of an impact as having Devonte’ back for his senior year.”

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) keep it loose during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) keep it loose during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug


New Jayhawk Jack Whitman dishes on the mustache

New Kansas forward Jack Whitman already has made a name for himself with his signature mustache. (AP photo)

New Kansas forward Jack Whitman already has made a name for himself with his signature mustache. (AP photo) by Matt Tait

So now that we know who Jack Whitman is, — a 6-foot-9, 235-pound transfer forward — where he comes from — Lexington, Ky., by way of William & Mary — and what his goals are at Kansas — to come in and contribute to the rotation while developing and testing himself as a player — we can get into the most important part of this whole deal.

The ’stache.

Surely, by now, you’ve all seen the pictures we’ve run, or others floating around the Internet of Whitman sporting a pretty healthy mustache during his junior season at William & Mary.

Good for him. Hey, if a guy can pull it off, he kind of has to do it. At least once in his life.

I talked to Whitman yesterday specifically about the ’stache and got a little bit of information about its origins and what his future plans are for the look.

For one, Whitman told me that the mustache has not been a permanent thing in his life and the current edition residing on his upper lip is not quite as intense as the one you saw in the photos.

“I’ve got a little something there now,” he said, “but nothing quite like I had last season.”

So where did the beast come from and what inspired the look? Whitman said it just kind of happened organically because he’s always been a fan of playing around with different facial hair looks and after messing around with a mustache it kind of took on a life of its own.

He said he really had it going good during the middle of last season and he wasn’t exactly sure if he’d go to that level again or not.

Judging by reaction from KU fans, he might want to. People exploded yesterday, on Twitter and message boards alike, with chatter about the ’stache and Whitman, who has yet to even suit up for the Jayhawks already has paved the way to becoming a cult hero.

Most of you surely remember T.J. Whatley and his solid mustache. The walk-on from Arkansas did not play much during his KU days, but he was a fan favorite and always seemed to be remembered for the mustache.

Who knows if the same path will hold true for Whitman — he may play more than Whatley did; he may not keep the ’stache — but there’s no doubt that the whole thing definitely has his attention.

“I had it a little bit last season, middle of the year, and, obviously, I played with it when we played at Duke so that got a lot of attention,” Whitman said. “Who knows what’s going to happen. I might have to bring it back. We’ll see.”


An overview of KU’s scholarship situation and why the Jayhawks are all right

Let me start by saying that I don’t know all of the details or exact plans that currently are in place for the Kansas men’s basketball team, which on Tuesday added another transfer — William & Mary forward Jack Whitman — and yet still appears to be open to adding Class of 2017 big man Jeremiah Tilmon or 5-star point guard Trevon Duval, should either player choose Kansas.

But you know who does know the ins and outs of everything going on?

Bill Self.

Yep. The same guy who so many of you put your complete and undying faith in to lead your favorite basketball program has all the answers, knows all the options and no doubt has a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C for every possible scenario you can think of and even a few you haven’t.

That does not mean any of it is going to be easy. Juggling a roster from year to year and managing recruiting for a team that hundreds, if not thousands, of young athletes want to play for never is. And it becomes especially tricky if Tilmon or Duval were to choose Kansas at the end of their recruitment.

But, you know what? Even if that were to happen Self would figure it out.

And there are a million ways for him to get it done.

A huge percentage of KU fans who made their thoughts known on Twitter on Tuesday jumped to the (very logical) conclusion that the addition of Whitman spells the end of Svi Mykhailiuk.

It doesn’t. In fact, I would not be surprised if the two situations are not related in any way, shape or form.

Svi, as you know, is testing the waters of the NBA Draft and has gone about it without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility for his return to Kansas for his senior season.

Svi might very well stay in the draft. A killer showing at the combine (May 9-14 in Chicago) surely would help inspire him to do so and, if that were to happen, his departure would free up a scholarship and make things much, much easier.

But the thing about Svi and this Whitman news that doesn’t make sense to me is that absolutely nothing has changed on Svi’s end to make me think that he has made any kind of decision to leave. The combine hasn’t even started yet and we’ve heard all along that the whole point of Svi testing was to find out what NBA people think of him at the combine.

While we’re on that topic, I also found it funny how many people thought Svi merely being invited to the combine signified that he was gone. Everything I had heard was that everyone involved — Self, Svi, his teammates, his family — fully expected him to get that invitation and the news that it came was merely confirmation of something they already were planning for anyway. Remember, that was the whole reason he decided to test in the first place.

OK. So back to the situation at hand, where KU might be running out of scholarships.

If Svi returns for his senior season — which I still fully expect — then KU’s 13 scholarships are spoken for and Whitman, who told me tonight that he was coming on an athletic scholarship, would put KU one over the limit.

What happens then?

A bunch of things could and I’ll quickly outline them here. I haven’t heard anything concrete about any of the following scenarios being in the works or anything like that, but, having seen these types of things happen elsewhere throughout the years offers proof that they are possible solutions.

Beyond that, it all goes back to what we started with at the beginning of this blog. Bill Self knows his way around these situations like the ushers at Allen Fieldhouse. He’s not going to get into a situation where his back is against the wall and he doesn’t know what to do. He always knows what to do, often well before he ever needs to do it.

With that in mind, here are a few scenarios that could open up space for Whitman, if necessary, or Duval or Tilmon, should either (or both... Gasp!) pick Kansas.

• It’s rare, but one of the players currently on scholarship could offer or elect to pay his way for one year. Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, who might soon be a millionaire anyway, could be a candidate to do it. So could Mitch Lightfoot, who so clearly loves KU and probably would both not mind and benefit from being around here as long as possible. Why would Lawson do it, you might ask? Good question. And I’m not saying he would. But he might. And it could be to help his younger brothers have a better path to a bluebood program like Kansas down the road. You scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours, you know? Long shot, maybe. But it has happened.

• There’s always a chance that Whitman himself could wind up paying his own way. I know he said he was coming on scholarship, but he’s not exactly the one with the best leverage here. Let’s say the Jayhawks learned they were getting Duval. (I still don’t see it happening, for what that’s worth). In an effort to make room for him, they could ask Whitman if he were interested in footing the bill for his time at KU. As a graduate transfer, I don’t think he has to be enrolled in a full 12 hours of graduate school to be eligible, so the financial burden might not be that bad. Plus, if it were to play out this way, he’d still be getting an opportunity to play at Kansas. Not many people are going to turn that down, especially competitors who want to test themselves at the highest level like Whitman does.

• It’s also possible someone else could transfer out, opening up another spot with the scholarship they would leave behind. If I were to make a guess about a leading candidate for this option, I’d have to say it’s senior-to-be Dwight Coleby. I don’t know where he’s at in terms of graduation, but if he’s close, maybe he could knock out his remaining hours this summer and go the grad transfer route himself. Instead of being one of five — or possibly even six — big men on a roster, he surely could find another good program that would make him one of three or four. I like Coleby. He’s a great dude, a terrific teammate and I think a bunch of people would love to see what he could do if fully healthy. But he also wants to play and if he thinks his chances of doing that are better elsewhere it could wind up being mutually beneficial for him and the program.

• Another rarity here, but what about academic scholarships? I’m not knowledgeable enough about Whitman, Duval or Tilmon’s academic standing to know whether either player would be a candidate for that — and therefore could essentially walk on while having school paid for via academics — but, unless there's a rule against it, it’s something that surely has been done. I'll have to look into it at the Div. I level. I know for sure that it happens at lower levels of college athletics all the time.

Those are just a handful of possibilities that could — again, could — make it all work and those are just the ones I can think of. As mentioned twice above, there’s no doubt that Self and his associates at KU know of at least a few other avenues that were not outlined here.

Regardless of how it all plays out, know this: Self’s got it 100 percent under control. And there is no scenario possible in which he’s going to head into summer workouts or the first practice of the season with one or two too many guys and have to ask for a show of hands of those willing to volunteer to give up their scholarship.

Self’s way too good of a general manager to let that happen. So you know if he took Charlie Moore and if he took Jack Whitman, he’s got a plan at the ready for a way to move forward in case he needs to take someone else in the coming days or weeks.

So sit tight, breathe easy and let’s see how this thing plays out. Fascinating stuff.


Lawson pipeline appears to be in good shape

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

It’s still early, and there’s a lot of basketball to be played and recruiting to be done before anything becomes official.

But the Kansas basketball program already seems to be in better shape than ever for 6-foot-8 forward Chandler Lawson, one of the top players in the Class of 2019.

The reason?

Lawson’s two older brothers, Dedric and K.J., just recently became Jayhawks, furthering the younger Lawson’s love of a school that already registered high marks on his radar.

“I always liked Kansas," Chandler Lawson recently told Matt Scott of TheShiver.com. "They have always been on my list. Now they have made a way for me.”

With Dedric and K.J. transferring to KU from Memphis during the offseason, the two older Lawson brothers will have to sit out the 2017-18 season and first will be eligible during the 2018-19 season. That will be Chandler Lawson’s senior season in high school.

Because Dedric has the potential to turn pro after his first season in Lawrence — after averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis last season, he probably could be a first-round pick in this year’s draft — it’s a bit of a longshot that the trio will ever play together in Lawrence should Chandler decide to commit to KU.

But the odds are better that Chandler, a 4-star prospect currently ranked No. 34 in the 2019 class by Rivals.com, and K.J. would get a chance to play together as Jayhawks if the younger Lawson elects to come to Kansas.

Regardless of what the future holds for his own career, Chandler told Scott that he would be keeping a closer eye on the Kansas program now that he has two terrific reasons to pay even more attention than he already did.

"I think it's great for them," Chandler told Scott of his brothers heading to Kansas. "I think it gives them a better chance at their future. They can be around more people that are focused on basketball, and be around more people that want to get better and make each other better.”

If Chandler does wind up joining his brothers as Jayhawks a couple of years from now, all eyes then would shift toward the 2021 class, where Jonathan, the youngest of the Lawson brothers, already has opened eyes as one of the most talented players in the country in that class.

It might still be a couple of years still before any of them can suit up in crimson and blue when the games count for real, but there’s no disputing that the Lawson name is one worth committing to memory for fans of Kansas basketball.

Both Dedric and K.J. will be eligible to play with the Jayhawks this summer in Italy and also will be allowed to practice with the team throughout the 2017-18 season. Chandler told Scott he likely would make his way to Lawrence for a few games next season and may even make it to Late Night in the Phog, where his brothers would be able to participate in the team scrimmage that kicks off the 2017-18 season.


Trevon Duval decision coming ‘soon’

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

At this point in the recruiting game, with the 2017 class preparing to finish out high school and report to its chosen schools in just over a month, most of the focus is on the Class of 2018 and getting things lined up to make a run at the next crop of top talent.

There are, as always, a few in the Class of 2017 who remain undecided and none are bigger than 5-star point guard Trevon Duval, who has been on the Kansas radar for a long time and has pulled KU fans — as well as those at finalists Arizona, Baylor, Duke and Seton Hall — through weeks of waiting and wondering.

Duval, who is ranked as the No. 4 overall player in the class by Rivals.com, initially said he would like to commit and sign sometime in April. But it’s May. And he’s still undecided. Or, perhaps more likely, if he has decided he has yet to make that decision public.

That all may be changing soon, though — perhaps as soon as any day this week.

Over the weekend, Duval told Jason Jordan of USA Today that he was close to ending the madness and announcing his decision.

“I’m ready to get it over with. I’m gonna do it soon,” Duval told Jordan.

Soon, of course, is a relative thing and Duval technically has until the end of the spring signing period on May 17. But something about this latest batch of news sure makes it sound like Duval is ready to make his decision known.

From the sound of things, I don’t think the Jayhawks are expecting Duval to pick KU. There’s no doubt that they’d love to have him and, if he does want to play for Kansas, there’s also no doubt that they’d make it a priority to find him a spot.

The idea of pairing Duval with Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman in KU’s backcourt remains awfully appealing.

Right now, though, with junior Svi Mykhailiuk preparing to go through the NBA combine May 9-14 in Chicago, the Jayhawks are in flux. If Mykhailiuk stays in the draft, Kansas would have one more scholarship to give before the 2017-18 season. If Svi elects to return for his senior season, Kansas is full.

There are always ways around this situation, particularly for a player of Duval’s caliber. But all indications right now are that Duke is the definite leader for Duval and Kansas won’t have to make any moves any time soon.

If Svi does decide to leave early, look for Kansas to use his scholarship on another big man, unless of course Duval decides that Lawrence is the place for him and then it’s an easy decision.

The waiting continues for now, but, at least today there does actually appear to be an end in sight.

None by Jason Jordan