Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
Here's this week's final installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall. Look for Nos. 15-11 next week, beginning on Monday.
No. 16: Jimmay Mundine, Senior TE
Voted second-team preseason all-Big 12 by several publications that cover the Big 12, Mudine will be the first to tell you that finishing there would be a disappointment.
The senior leader from Denison, Texas, has been labeled with tremendous potential since he arrived in Lawrence and now, with his final season of college football right around the corner — and pro football aspirations still present in his mind — Mundine is hellbent on proving that he's been worth the talk.
The presence of wide receivers Nick Harwell, Tony Pierson and Rodriguez Coleman, as well as mobile quarterback Montell Cozart, should spread the field as much as possible and give Mundine all kinds of room to work in the middle. Provided he can put the drops that plagued him in 2013 behind him — and there's no doubt in my mind that he will — Mundine could be in for a monster season.
He'll need help, of course. The offensive line will have to hold up long enough to give Cozart time. And Cozart, still a rook in a lot of ways, will have to show he can both get the ball to Mundine where he needs, wants and likes it and have enough command of the offense to put pressure on opposing defenses and take advantage of making them have to cover the entire field.
With his big body, strong base and good athleticism, Mundine is a potential match-up nightmare for opponents, too big for corners to cover and more athletic than many expect. Even with all of the drops and losses during the past couple of seasons, Mundine always maintained that his never was a confidence issue. He didn't get down on himself too much and instead chose to focus on the next play, the next game, the next chance to make a key grab. That mentality should serve him well this season, when he'll likely hit the field with a nothing-to-lose mindset.
Mundine's a hard worker with a great attitude and strong drive. Winning and succeeding mean a lot to him. Senior urgency can be overplayed at times, but, in this case, I think it's a potential gold mine for the KU offense.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:
Here's the latest installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.
No. 18: JaCorey Shepherd, Senior DB
You won't find me running out of good things to say about Shepherd any time soon. And I'm not even just talking about his prowess as a football player.
Shepherd is one of the best dudes on KU's roster and although that means a lot in all other walks of life, it doesn't win football games. Luckily for the Jayhawks, Shepherd has the switch required to flip into competitor mode and rarely shows anything but all-out intensity on the field.
Last year was Shepherd's breakthrough year. He was tested time after time as opposing offenses tried to stay away from CB Dexter McDonald on the other side of the field and Shepherd passed almost every time. Two years ago, Shepherd was there athletically but still was learning how to be an instinctual corner. Last year, he took major steps forward in that department but there's no question that he still has room to improve.
I'll be dead honest: Shepherd's a little lower on this list than some might have guessed because he delivered so many times last season. If his ability as a cornerback was still a question mark, he'd probably be in the Top 10 here because the uncertainty around how he would perform would make his season incredibly critical for KU. He'd also be higher on this list if the secondary was not such a position of strength for this year's squad.
But I don't think there's any need to question whether Shepherd will perform or even how well he'll play in 2014. However, because he holds down one of the most demanding and difficult positions in the Big 12 and because KU has almost no margin for error at any position on the field, the senior from Mesquite, Texas, is still going to have to back up all of the praise he's earned and bring his best year yet if the Jayhawks hope to win more games than they've been used to of late.
Luckily for the Jayhawks, Shepherd — with his driven mindset and confident demeanor — is exactly the kind of guy you want in that position.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:
Another weekday has arrived... Here's the latest installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.
No. 20: Ben Goodman, Junior, DL
Goodman has long been one of my favorite KU players, as much for his personality, good sense of humor and big heart as his enormous potential.
A true program guy who has slowly but steadily developed and taken steps forward each year at Kansas, it's time for the big man from Beaumont, Texas, to turn in his best season yet.
He has shown flashes of being a pass-rushing menace but never done it consistently well over a long stretch of time. It's in there, though and now that he's reached veteran status it could be time to see Goodman's game reach a new level.
At one point in his career, after KU lost former five-star stud Chris Martin to off-the-field trouble prior to last summer, several Jayhawks voiced their belief that the loss was not catastrophic because Goodman's enormous potential. Goodman followed that up with the best season of his career, tallying 34 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 QB hurries and an interception.
As those number suggest, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound lineman is plenty athletic, has good size and strength and entered the offseason known for his high-revving motor. If he improved any of those areas between the last time we saw him and now, there's a chance that Goodman's best could be right around the corner. If that's the case, so could the KU defense's.
A move to the interior of the D-Line (from the Buck position he played last season) should give Goodman a chance to find some mismatches and use his quickness even better. The big question there will be if he can hold up under the pounding he's sure to take from bigger offensive linemen game in and game out.
Thanks to a recruiting haul that included all kinds of pass rushers, the Jayhawks figure to have options for getting to the quarterback this season. If Goodman isn't cutting it, it's possible that someone else will get his shot. Goodman has the experience, the understanding of the scheme, the hunger and the opportunity. The time for him to become a game-changing player is now.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:
It's now been a full week since construction began to remove the track from around the playing surface at Memorial Stadium and, as you'll see in the photos below, the crews in charge of doing the work have made significant progress.
The old track was removed quickly last on June 25 and it now appears that they're prepping the ground beneath where the track was for years for new turf and asphalt.
We'll continue to track the progress periodically during the process, which is expected to take another five weeks and be completed for the start of KU football's fall camp, which begins Aug. 8.
Here's the view from the top of the hill:
Here's the view from the south end zone toward Memorial Stadium's north end:
Here's a look at the area around the scoreboard, behind the south end zone:
Here's the view down the east sideline:
Here's the view from the top of the east stands:
Here's a look from the top of the east stands down at the scoreboard area behind the south end zone:
Here's the latest installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.
No. 22: Zach Fondal, Senior OL
A few weeks ago, Fondal would have been much higher on this list. As one of the few returning linemen with starting experience at left tackle, the former junior-college transfer likely would have entered the season as the man to beat out for the first spot at one of the game's most important positions.
But then Weis lured Iowa Western big man Larry Mazyck to join the Jayhawks and, Boom!, just like that Fondal became more of a luxury than a necessity.
Nothing has been handed to Mazyck, who stands 6-foot-8, 340 pounds (though I've heard from a couple of places that he's even bigger than that), but there are plenty of people who believe he might be the answer for the Jayhawks at left tackle.
If he is, that frees up Fondal (6-5, 295) to become a very valuable back-up at both tackle spots. It's this kind of movement that leads me to believe the KU coaching staff really has upgraded this roster. During the past couple of years, a guy like Fondal would've been an easy starter on the offensive line because of his size and athleticism alone. But now those types of players are being shifted to the second unit because Weis and company are landing better first-team talent to put ahead of them.
That's by no means a knock on Fondal. His role on this team remains important and his ability to fill in behind Mazyck or in place of Damon Martin at right tackle makes it so fellow offensive tackles Pat Lewandowski (still new to the position) and Brian Beckmann (still new to college football) don't have to be counted on quite as heavily right away.
If there's one thing I'm looking to see from Fondal this season it's mental maturity and toughness. He struggled with the mental side of the game during his first season with the Jayhawks in 2013, particularly when he was taken out of games or replaced in the starting lineup. Stuff happens. And if he figured out this offseason how to respond to that “stuff” by working harder and improving instead of getting down on himself, I think he'll have a valuable place within this year's offense.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:
Here's the second installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.
No. 24: Greg Allen, Sophomore DB –
Last spring was breakout time for Allen, who has played very little during his first three years in Lawrence but finally stopped thinking so much and began playing on instincts.
If what he showed in March and April carries over into the 2014 season, that's good news for the KU secondary, which already features some of the team's top talent but would stand to gain some serious depth if Allen can become a player.
After jumping back and forth between cornerback and safety during his first few seasons in town, Allen spent most of his time this spring playing nickel back, which seems to be the perfect spot for a guy with his blend of size, speed, athleticism and power.
Simply put, Allen is the type of athlete that most of the other rosters in the Big 12 are full of. He has yet to make that count during his time as a Jayhawk, but the New Orleans native who went to high school in Houston seems finally to be ready mentally to not only play a big role but also prove he can play at this level.
Allen's development is a luxury for the Jayhawks. They don't absolutely need him to pan out, but doing so would tighten up the defensive backfield, which has a real chance to be one of the best secondaries in the Big 12 this fall.
KU coach Charlie Weis said at the end of spring ball that Allen had played so well that he was pushing senior JaCorey Shepherd for reps with the first string at nickel. If that holds, Allen would create depth at nickel and also allow Weis and company to use Shepherd as a back-up at either cornerback spot should the need arise.
Credit defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, as well as DB coaches Dave Campo and Scott Vestal for creating a defensive scheme that allows Allen to use his natural abilities and just play.
It's probably either this year or never for Allen and the signs from the spring point to him finally putting his stamp on the KU program.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:
Each summer, across the country, football fans spend time watching, waiting and anticipating the arrival of another college football season. And while that might not always be a favorite pastime of KU fans, many still get sucked in to the journey.
Will this be a better season? Is this the year that things finally get going in the right direction? Will Kansas at least be competitive therein making Memorial Stadium on Saturdays in the fall the place to be instead of a place to avoid? All are common questions KU fans wrestle with every year.
So in order to help you predict the answers to those questions and more, we set out to pinpoint the 25 players that could make the biggest impact for the Jayhawks this fall.
Big seasons from these guys — be them in the form of yards and touchdowns or just consistency and perhaps overachieving — could go a long way toward increasing KU's chances at success during the upcoming season.
This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the upcoming season.
This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to crack the four-win mark for the first time since 2009.
Because it's the summer and we've got nothing but time, we'll unveil this list one player at a time each weekday in reverse order. So today we'll start with No. 25 on the list and countdown during the next five weeks to the No. 1 most crucial player on KU's roster for the 2014 season.
Tom Keegan and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. He's going to handle the blurbs on the odd-numbered players and I'll handle the even-numbered Jayhawks.
Remember, this is not an exercise designed to identify KU's best players but instead an attempt at pinpointing which players, with great seasons, could have the biggest impact for Kansas this fall.
Let's get started:
No. 25: Jake Love, Junior LB
— by Tom Keegan
Undersized at 6-foot and 220 pounds, Love never has let that stop him from acting as if he’s the biggest dog in the fight. Athletic, he turns his body into an air-borne missile to make plays, playing with a fearless mentality perfect for the linebacker position.
Sounds a little like Ben Heeney, doesn’t he? They do have similarities, although Heeney is bigger, faster and even a little crazier.
It’s tough to look athletic playing next to Heeney, which could be one reason Love doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for his physical gifts. A four-year letterman in wrestling, track, baseball and football at Tonkawa (Oklahoma) High, Love as a senior rushed for 1,761 yards and 28 touchdowns and had 122 tackles and four interceptions.
Hes’ primed for a big season and depth is a touch on the shy side at linebacker so a healthy season from Love would go far.
3:15 P.M. UPDATE:
Here are the photo highlights from Wiggins' trip to a local school for an NBA Cares event.
As high as Wiggins flies on the basketball court, jumping rope didn't seem to be part of his regimen — at least not with a rope that short.
2:05 P.M. UPDATE:
About to hey started here at PS III in Manhattan and I was just told that the mayor of NYC will be here to give a speech to the kids and athletes before we get started with the hoops stuff. That explains the extra police presence.
More to come soon.
1:55 P.M. UPDATE
We've arrived at PS 111 in Manattan, where Wiggins and other likely lottery picks will meet with some local kids for an NBA Cares event that includes handing out food from a food truck, a Q & A session and, of course, basketball.
This is always one of the best parts of the draft experience for these guys, many of whom are a little surprised by how much they enjoy the interaction with the kids.
Seems to me like this kind of thing is tailor-made for Wiggins, a big kid himself, and we'll have plenty of photos and videos from his time with the kids. It's a hot day in NYC, and we're on some old school blacktop.
Event should begin shortly...
1:40 P.M. UPDATE:
Jabari Parker and Wiggins were in the same media session, so it was tough to get to them both. I did hear some things from those who spent some time with Parker that seemed to indicate he believes he's going no. 2.
Wiggins was asked about that and didn't have much to say. As of this afternoon, he still said he had no idea what would happen and went out of his way to emphasize that he understands that anything's possible.
That said, he also made no secret of the fact that he wants to go no. 1 — badly. That's just what being a competitor has done to him, he said. "I don't want anyone to be picked ahead of me."
1:25 P.M. UPDATE:
Something that caught me off guard that shouldn't have was the amount of Canadian media here today and number of Canada questions Wiggins was asked.
The young man is proud of his country and really seems to understand that his place in this draft is about much more than one kid. It's about an entire country trying to make more of a name for itself in the NBA world, and Wiggins seems like a fantastic ambassador.
He was as relaxed and comfortable today as I've seen him all year and really seems to be enjoying the moment and soaking up the whole experience.
1:00 P.M. UPDATE
Wiggins, wearing a light blue, form-fitting shirt, navy slacks and a huge smile, just fielded 30 minutes worth of questions from the media here in NYC.
The most asked questions of Wiggins during the session were:
1. Does it mean anything to you to be the no. 1 pick?
2. Why do you feel you're ready for the NBA?
3. Specifics inquiries about individual workouts. Curiously, there was not a single mention of Milwaukee, which picks second. Plenty of inquiries about Cleveland at No. 1 and Philly at No. 3, and even one about Toronto at 20 (go figure), but not a peep about the Bucks.
Sounds to me like Wiggins really liked Cleveland and wants to go there for more than just the prestige of being the top pick...
I also snagged Wiggins before he began the Q & A so he could give a message to the KU fans out there.11:10 A.M. UPDATE
Just arrived at The Westin Times Square and it's about go time for Andrew Wiggins. He'll be talking in the first group at 11:30 and will be buried in the back right corner of the ballroom. Gonna have to elbow my way in for a good spot.
Dozens of autograph seekers are on the corner of 43rd Street & 8th Avenue and you can bet Wiggins will be a much sought after signature.
He signed for an hour last night at Champs in Times Square and it will be interesting to see where his energy is today.
Stay right here for photos, sound bites and anything else Andrew Wiggins from NYC today. As you surely know, Joel Embiid is not here today.
— ORIGINAL POST —
Several months worth of speculation, waiting and wondering have brought us to the final day of anticipation.
By this time tomorrow, former Kansas University freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will have done all they can do to convince their potential future NBA destinations that they are the right guys to pick in this year's NBA Draft, which is set for 6 p.m. Thursday night at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.
Heading into today, what will happen at the top of the draft seems very much up in the air still. Wiggins is still alive to become the No. 1 pick and, thanks to a foot injury late in the draft preparation process, Embiid appears to be out of the equation.
Then again, it is the NBA Draft, where rumors, wheeling and dealing and all kinds of craziness can take place right up until the last minute.
Some, like our own Tom Keegan, believe that all of the talk about Embiid being out of the mix for the top pick is just talk and that there might be a team or two still willing to take him there. Others believe that No. 1 position will come down to a choice by Cleveland between Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker.
All three players have been part of the so-called “Big Three” throughout the months leading up to the draft, and, on Tuesday, Parker seemed to be the guy who many experts thought was going to be this year's top dog. But by late Tuesday night, the tide had begun to swing Wiggins' way again and, as it stands now, I think that's where the Cavs will go. I know I would.
It's too bad, too. Because if Embiid had not injured his foot, he likely would have been the clear-cut top pick and there likely would be a lot more order in this whole thing than we currently have. Then again, it's the draft and chaos is part of the fun.
As has been the case for the past four years, I'm out here in New York City ready to track Wiggins' throughout his final day as an amateur athlete. There's media availability at the Westin Times Square scheduled for 11:30-12:30 and I'll do whatever I can to track the guy for a couple of stops after that.
So stay logged on to KUsports.com and this blog throughout the day for videos, photos, quotes, updates, Tweets and all kinds of color from the Big Apple. Embiid's not here, but I'm sure his name will come up a couple of times somewhere along the way.
In case you've missed our draft coverage leading up to today, here are a few links to get you going while you wait for the action to get started out this way.
Tom Keegan examines the chances of Tarik Black getting drafted on Thursday
Matt Tait's KU draft memories from the last 4 years in New York
Tom Keegan's column: NBA mock drafts a mockery
Gary Bedore's notebook
The curse of the NBA big man always affects drafts
NBA's one-and-done rule draws mixed reviews
Gary Bedore's update on Tarik Black's chances in the draft
Gary Bedore's report about this year's draft having plenty of Kansas flavor despite Embiid's absence
Gary Bedore's update on Bill Self's optimism about Joel Embiid's pro future
Blog Central.... Finally, blogs galore that have tried to track all of the rumors and jockeying for position leading up to the draft
Tale of the Tait — Foot injury sends Embiid falling in most NBA mock drafts
Double Chin Music — Embiid worth the risk for Cavs
Hawks in the NBA — Stock Watch 6/23
All Eyes on KU — Cavs torn between Wiggins and Parker; more on Embiid's health comes out
Andrew Wiggins workout highlights making social media rounds http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/all_eyes_ku/2014/jun/25/andrew-wiggins-workout-highlights-show-u/
How the upcoming track removal at Memorial Stadium could make fans feel closer to the action on Saturdays
The prevailing thought with most KU football fans seems to be that the biggest reason the track needed to come out of Memorial Stadium was because the seats are too far away from the action.
While the idea of lowering the field and adding seats closer to the sideline remains very possible, such a step won't come for at least a couple of years.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger told me last week that he's still got the lowering the field option on his radar. But while architects are working up preliminary plans for a major renovation at Memorial Stadium down the road — so KU can be ready to strike when the money and momentum (perhaps in the opposite order) are in hand — nothing about the bigger project is set in stone at this point. Zenger and his staff continue to kick around ideas, examine other venues and talk to professionals about what's possible, what's not and how much all of their different ideas would cost.
We'll get to that in time. But for now, the track's coming out and it's happening tomorrow.
If you ask me, that's going to do a lot more for Memorial Stadium than I think most people may realize. Here's why.
What we've had at Memorial Stadium for the past several decades, in my opinion, is a bit of an optical illusion. Because of the different color of the track, the lines that divide the lanes within it and the extra layer of separation that can be seen from the stands, the seats feel and appear to be farther from the field than they actually are.
Because the issue of getting rid of the track has been kicked around for several years now, I've often thought about it while visiting other stadiums. I can't recall exactly what the distances are at each venue I've been to but I can assure you that the distance between the stands and the sideline at Memorial Stadium is in the same ballpark as many of those other stadiums.
Take K-State's Bill Snyder Family Stadium for example. The last time I was over there to cover a game, I paced it off. Again, I don't recall exactly what the distance was but I remember it being in the 48-50-foot range. If my steps were accurate, that would actually put the seats at K-State farther away from the field than what KU fans will enjoy during the upcoming season, when the 37 feet of turf that replace the track and 10 feet of drainage asphalt will create a distance of 47 feet from the sideline to the stands.
Only time will tell if this optical illusion really existed or if the vantage point changes dramatically (or even just a little) after the removal of the track is complete.
But here's guessing that in addition to looking much nicer and much more like a big-time college football venue, the fans in the stands also will feel like they're closer to the action after this project is complete six weeks from now without KU Athletics having to move so much as a single bolt in the Memorial Stadium bleachers.
What they do from here is anyone's guess, but I'm in total agreement with Zenger and KU coach Charlie Weis that this is a fantastic first step in remaking an old stadium in a fabulous setting.
To this day, many people (myself included) are still trying to figure out how in the heck the Boston Celtics ended up getting Paul Pierce with the No. 10 pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Pierce, then a junior who lit up the Big 12 at KU and was one of the best scorers in the nation, was pencilled in as high as No. 2 or 3 in many mock drafts and seemed to be made for the NBA, where size, the ability to fill it up from the outside and versatility stand as most important above all.
But there Pierce sat on draft night, falling a little more with every pick. It's hard to trust the mock drafts. They're almost never right and they're definitely never completely right. So Pierce falling from 2 or 3 to 5 or 6 would not have been that big of a deal.
But 10 seemed insane. Still does. As you all know, the guy went on to become one of the greatest Celtics of all-time and is still doing it, albeit at a little slower pace, with the Brooklyn Nets.
Who knows how things would have gone if Pierce had been taken No. 3 by the Nuggets or No. 7 by Sacramento? Maybe he needed that snub to push and inspire him to become the all-time great that he is. We'll never know. What we do know, though, is there are a lot of teams that regret passing on him and such fate can befall any team any year when it comes to the NBA Draft.
Ain't it great?
Here's a quick look at the Top 10 from 1998 NBA Draft for your viewing (and laughing?) pleasure:
- LA Clippers -- Michael Olowokandi, C
- Vancouver Grizzlies -- Mike Bibby, PG
- Denver Nuggets -- Raef LaFrentz, PF
- Toronto Raptors -- Antawn Jamison, PF
- Golden State -- Vince Carter, SF
- Dallas Mavericks -- Robert Traylor, PF
- Sacramento Kings -- Jason Williams, PG
- Philadelphia 76ers -- Larry Hughes, SF
- Milwaukee Bucks -- Dirk Nowitzki, PF
- Boston Celtics -- Paul Pierce, SF
Jamison and Carter had great careers and were fantastic college players so it's hard to say those were bad picks. And Nowitzki's a Hall of Famer. Other than that, though, you could say that every other team in the Top 10 completely blew it by passing on Pierce.
It's funny, too, because the three teams that ended up with the three best players (Carter, Jamison and Dirk) other than Pierce in that draft didn't even draft those guys. Crafty moves by the GMs of those squads and utter failure by the GMs of the others.
There's a nice feature about the former Jayhawk falling to No. 10 on Pierce's web site right now... It's title tells it all: "The 1998 Draft Heist." It includes some great insight from the Celtics in charge of pulling the trigger on Pierce.
Here's the link: "The 1998 Draft Heist"
Thursday's news that former KU center Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and would have surgery today and miss out on attending next week's NBA Draft in New York was one of the biggest pieces of pre-draft news in recent memory.
Most years, the mock drafts that come out this late generally have a pretty good feel for what's going to happen in the draft and that certainly was the case this year before Embiid's injury popped up.
Now, all bets are off and everyone seems to be scrambling to figure out what his injury means and how far the 7-footer from Cameroon may fall next Thursday.
As has been the case during the past four years, I'll be out in the Big Apple again this year to cover the event. Until yesterday, I had some pretty big things planned for following Embiid and Andrew Wiggins as they officially transition into NBA players, but now I'll have to stick tight with Wiggins and bring you whatever I'm hearing from out there about Embiid, which, undoubtedly, figures to be quite a bit.
I'll have much more on the draft next week — live blogs, audio, video and sights and sounds from the big city and draft night — but, while we wait, let's take a quick look at what people around the NBA world are saying about Embiid and his injury.
First up, our own Tom Keegan, who has been in the Embiid should go No. 1 camp for six or seven months, says the Cleveland Cavaliers should be bold and stick with the big guy at the top of the draft.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford dropped Embiid ever so slightly in his latest mock draft, from No. 1 to Orlando at No. 4...
If Embiid falls to No. 4, he might be too tantalizing for them to pass up. Orlando is in desperate need of a rim protector and an athletic frontcourt player to pair with Nikola Vucevic. While drafting Embiid will be a risk, he might have too much upside for them to pass up, especially when they have another pick in the lottery. If the Magic are scared off by Embiid's injury, Noah Vonleh is also a possibility here.
CBS.com NBA writer Matt Moore dropped Embiid from No. 1 all the way to the Boston Celtics at No. 6 — boy, does that have a nice ring to it...
Danny Ainge disses the draft for six months and winds up with the best player in it. Typical Celtics. Remember, the Celtics took Jared Sullinger with a medical red flag, and they've been pleased with the results. They trust their training staff. Kelly Olynyk is not the future, nor is Vitor Faverani. And if you're looking to eventually deal a combination of assets for starpower, like they did in 2007, Embiid is the guy who in two years could net that kind of player, beyond any other available at this spot. Unbelievably, Embiid goes green.
Like Ford, CBS.com's Garry Parrish dropped Embiid from No. 1 to No. 4...
If you're Orlando, I guess, you're more nervous than thrilled here, but you're still kinda thrilled because you're getting the best talent in the draft with the fourth pick, and, man, if this turns out OK it really could be a boon for the franchise. On the other hand, if Embiid proves to be basically injured forever, then you'll forever be the franchise that wasted the fourth pick in a deep draft on a center with documented back and foot problems, and that would stink. Regardless, Orlando has another lottery pick in this draft, meaning the Magic are in a position to gamble, and I think a roll of the so-called dice on Embiid here is a bet worth making.
And then there's fellow-CBS.com NBA writer Zach Harper, who still believes the big fella belongs in the Top 3. He's got Embiid going No. 3 to Philadelphia, down two spots from his previous prediction of No. 1...
I don't think the foot injury scares off the Sixers at all. They're fine being bad for a couple years and we've already seen them wait a year with Nerlens Noel to make sure he recovers properly. They could do the same with Embiid and have a twin towers ready to deny anybody who wants to grab a rebound or take a shot inside against the Sixers. Assuming the foot injury isn't a long-term issue for Embiid, this is best-case scenario for the Sixers.
The guys at DraftExpress.com have Embiid going fourth to Orlando, NBADraft.net has him going No. 3 to Philly and MyNBADraft.com also has him going No. 4 to Orlando.
While dropping from No. 1 to No. 3, No. 4 or No. 6 certainly qualifies as big news — and big money — it looks as if Embiid's camp can feel confident Embiid won't fall farther than the Celtics at 6. That idea becomes especially interesting given that the rival Los Angeles Lakers pick right behind the Celtics at No. 7.
Here's Celtics director of player personnel Danny Ainge talking to Boston.com....
“Those are always concerns,” Ainge said of Embiid’s injuries, “especially when it’s a player like that we won’t be able to have in to evaluate, to really get the risks from our medical staff. There’s a lot of guesswork involved, but you are always trying to weigh short-term and long-term. We try to think long-term that if a guy has to miss a couple months, it shouldn’t deter us from taking him if he is going to be the best player long-term. We’ve had some success with that with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. There can be some value there, but there’s always risk.”
Personally, I think Harper and NBADraft.net have got it right. I could very much see Embiid falling but I can't see him falling past Philly.
It makes sense, to me, for the Cavs to be concerned about Embiid's injuries mostly because of all of the pressure that goes into having the No. 1 pick. If you miss with No. 2, No. 5 or No. 9, it's not as big of a failure as missing with No. 1. So unless the Cavs are absolutely in love with him, I could see them going the safe route and picking Wiggins or Parker.
That leaves the Milwaukee Bucks to take whichever one of those two Cleveland doesn't grab and puts Philly in the enviable position of being able to snag Embiid without the pressure of putting a No. 1 pick on the line.
If he falls farther down the board than No. 3, I won't be shocked, but, if it were me making the decisions, I definitely wouldn't let him slip past that.
Should be fun to see how it plays out. Be sure to check back throughout Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week for all kinds of tidbits from NYC.
Now that quarterback Jake Heaps' transfer out of the Kansas University football program is official, it's time to put the finishing touches on the former top-rated high school prospect's time at Kansas.
If there's one wish I could grant Heaps before his college career is over, it would be for him to finish his career by having fun again. The guy deserves it.
By all accounts, Heaps, who came to KU from BYU and sat out the 2012 season before becoming the Jayhawks' starter in 2013, was a fantastic teammate while at Kansas and a great leader both in terms of being that veteran presence the younger guys could look up to and a lead-by-example kind of guy both on the field and in the weight room.
Never one to say too much or over-promise in any area, Heaps simply showed up, worked his butt off and did the best he could while in a KU uniform. He always had something positive to say and remained upbeat and optimistic even while the losses mounted and his own game struggled to get going.
I've done a lot of thinking about what went wrong with Heaps while at Kansas and, outside of the obvious ways in which his skill set did not fit what the Jayhawks had on the roster — inexperienced offensive line, unreliable receivers, offense that could not stay on the filed — I came to a conclusion that speaks more to the big picture of college football and less to Heaps' shortcomings.
In many ways, Jake Heaps was a victim of his era. Ten years ago, a guy like Heaps would have been just about every offensive coordinator's dream — big arm, poised, intelligent and ultra-competitive. But in today's college game, those traits do not mean quite as much as the one Heaps lacks — mobility.
I'll be honest, I always thought Heaps was a little more mobile and agile than he proved to be on Saturdays. Maybe I was comparing him too much to Dayne Crist or maybe I put too much stock into his first spring game when he ran around and made plays but did so while wearing a red, no-contact jersey.
Once he became KU's starter, and as the offensive line broke down around him, Heaps simply did not have enough escapability to avoid trouble and keep plays alive. To be fair, half the time he didn't have much of a chance, but that's perhaps the biggest reason that sophomore Montell Cozart beat him out for the 2014 starting job this spring and also why Cozart started the final three games of 2013 as a true freshman.
Coming out of high school, Heaps was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 pro-style passer in the country. In just about any other era, the top-ranked pocket passer in the country would have been a lock as a Top 10 guy overall. Not Heaps, though. Heaps ranked 63rd on Rivals.com's Top 100 during his senior season of high school, and, although hindsight is 20/20, it seems that we should have been onto something back then.
Not that Heaps was not good enough. I still don't believe that's the case. More, though, that pro-style passers, particularly those trying to play in the Big 12, would simply not be en vogue a few years down the road.
That time has arrived and it's not hard to see. Whether you're talking Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel or any number of other quarterbacks like them, the dual-threat option has become the preferred choice in college football and appears to be the direction the Jayhawks are headed under new offensive coordinator John Reagan and Cozart.
Cozart's emergence spelled the end of Heaps at Kansas and although no one made him transfer — think about this, by the way; when is the last time you can remember a major Div. I school losing its senior-to-be point guard and senior-to-be quarterback in the same offseason? — he felt it was in his best interest to find another school that might give him a chance to start. I can't blame the guy. And I hope it works out for him.
I know Heaps still has NFL aspirations. But he's also a very grounded dude and I'm sure somewhere in his head he realizes that 2014 could be his final chance to play the game he's loved since childhood. If that's the way it shakes out, I'm sure the idea of sitting behind Cozart and only taking meaningful snaps in practice was not the way Heaps envisioned his career ending and that's why he's moving on.
Provided he finishes his requirements for graduation this month — and there's no reason to think he won't — Heaps will be eligible to play immediately at Miami, which seems to have a need for a guy just like Heaps, a one-year player who has some experience and can help the three freshmen QBs on the roster learn the ropes of college football.
Either way, here's hoping Heaps gets the chance to play and, perhaps more to the point, hoping that his next stop has the kind of offensive line that will allow him to showcase his skills one final time.
It was just one scrimmage and there were no coaches involved and not many sets run, but since when has that stopped any of us from sharing some observations about KU basketball?
Wednesday's scrimmage, which mostly boiled down to the returners in blue against the alums and newcomers in red (give or take a couple of exceptions) provided a good first look at a few of the new guys that KU coach Bill Self picked up in the offseason and an opportunity to see what improvements some of the returners made to their games since March.
The Blue squad led start to finish and won by a dozen, which, when you think about it, made perfect sense because most of those guys have played together plenty in the past while many of the red squad, even the alums, hadn't logged as many minutes together.
More than anything, that was what stood out to me on Wednesday. Don't get me wrong, I think Cliff Alexander, Devonte' Graham and Kelly Oubre are going to be big-time players at Kansas and probably will reach that status during the upcoming season, but they're not there yet. Far from it. The raw skills, size and athleticism are easy to see in all three, but they still need to learn to play at this level.
Each guy looked a step slow — both mentally and physically — and flashed inexperience, which was easy to spot out there next to the returning guys and former Jayhawks. As they get into the swing of the season and the coaches can start working them, that will change quickly, especially because all three appear eager to learn.
While their newcomer status jumped out to me on Wednesday, it really was not a knock on them. If anything, it said more about where the veterans are and why last year was a bit of a struggle by Kansas standards. For all that talent on last year's roster, those guys were young and inexperienced. And there's something to be said for knowing how things go at the college level, feeling comfortable in Bill Self's system and understanding what it takes to compete with guys equally as talented.
Even though former KU greats Ben McLemore and Cole Aldrich never played together as Jayhawks, they showed good chemistry during the scrimmage and made it look like they were old teammates. That's experience at work. And even though talent is a wonderful thing to have, there's really no substitute for having been there, which is just one of the reasons KU fans should be looking forward to the 2014-15 season.
Before we cut out, here are a few more quick thoughts from the Wednesday scrimmage at Self's camp:
• Sophomore Brannen Greene appears to be playing with a ton of confidence and looks poised for a breakout year. He shot the ball well in the scrimmage and that led to him being the leading scorer, but we already knew the guy could shoot. What impressed me most was how in rhythm everything looked. Last year, he looked to be thinking a lot and on Wednesday there wasn't too much of that. Instead, it was a lot of catch and go, catch and fire, dig in and defend. Greene said after the scrimmage that he's much more confident now that he's been through a year with the program and it definitely showed on Wednesday.
• By now, you've surely all heard about sophomore Wayne Selden getting his explosiveness back after offseason knee surgery. But it wasn't his bounce that impressed me most on Wednesday, though that was on full display. What caught my eye was Selden's intensity. After deciding to return for a second season a few months ago, Selden cited unfinished business as a big reason for his wanting to come back. Even in a fun and friendly team scrimmage in front of a bunch campers, Selden played with that kind of chip on his shoulder. When he does that and stays aggressive, he looks pretty tough to handle.
• Sophomore guard Frank Mason also had a nice day on Wednesday and a big reason for it was his jump shot. Mason made more than his share of big shots a season ago, but his release was slow at times and he often seemed to want to make sure to gather himself before going up. Not Wednesday. He let go of it much quicker and knocked down a few three-pointers in rhythm and over an extended hand. Don't worry, Mason still showed that bulldog ability to get to the rim, too.
• Junior forward Jamari Traylor has been working on his jump shot a lot this offseason and, although he didn't unleash it a ton during the scrimmage, he did step out to about 14 feet along the baseline and knock one down. If he hits that with any consistency, his whole world could change.
• Sophomore guard Conner Frankamp didn't hit for a great percentage, but he did knock down a couple of deep threes and also looked much more aggressive in looking for his shot than he did throughout most of last season. I also thought Frankamp's upper body looked noticeably bigger.
• Finally, my quick initial read on each of the freshmen in 12 words or fewer.... PF Cliff Alexander – He's a load but some time with Hudy will serve him well; PG Devonte' Graham – Has the look of a guard who likes playing defense; SF Kelly Oubre – Seems to play better when he's a little ticked off.
5:59 p.m. Update:
Here's the audio from Jamari Traylor and Brannen Greene talking after Wednesday's camp scrimmage:
And here's the Nick Krug photo gallery:
4:16 p.m. Update: FINAL: Blue 79, Red 67
The Blue squad led from start to finish. Here are a few unofficial totals.
Brannen Greene led all scorers with 23, Selden had 17 and Mason had 16 to lead the Blue squad.
For the Red team, McLemore finished with 16, Aldrich 14, Frankamp had 13, Reed had 9, Oubre had 7 and Alexander had 6. Devonte' Graham did not score.
More to come, including photos and audio so check back throughout the afternoon...
4:13 p.m. Update: Blue 77, Red 62
A bucket by Reed trimmed the lead to 10, but Ellis, who has been quiet, answered, with a runner on the other end and Mason fired an alley-oop pass to Selden who showed those hops have come back by soaring high into the air and throwing it down with one hand.
That play probably drew the loudest reaction of the afternoon.
Mason with another three-pointer from the top of the key gives him 16 and puts the Blue squad back up 15.
4:08 p.m. Update: Blue 68, Red 56
Greene now with 21 points and Selden with 15 to lead the Blue squad. Both guys have looked very strong today, as has Frank Mason, who has 11.
Frankamp has been looking to force the issue with his shot a little more here in the second half.
McLemore just flew high for a one-handed flush over Greene to cut the lead to 14 but an alley-oop from Selden to Traylor answered it.
4:06 p.m. Update: Blue 57, Red 47
After misfiring on most of his early three-point tries (short), Oubre knocked one down from teh wing to pull the Red squad to within 12. Perry Ellis answered on the other end though to keep the lead from shrinking.
A nice pick-and-roll by McLemore and Aldrich and a tip-in by Alexander and a break-away dunk by Oubre cut the Blue lead to 10.
4:03 p.m. Update Blue 51, Red 38
Greene switches ends but doesn't cool down. He knocks another three-pointer to keep Blue's lead at double digits.
4:00 p.m. Update: Blue 48, Red 34
McLemore and Selden checking each other has been a pretty entertaining match-up. Most of the young guys have shown their youth while trying to hang out there.
A step slow here, a missed cut or seal there. Nothing they won't improve upon, it just really shows you what experience means.
Traylor just showed a little outside shooting touch and knocked down an open 15 footer on the baseline.
3:56 p.m. Update, HALFTIME: Blue 36, Red 27
Noticed a couple of minutes ago that Sherron Collins is here, too... But he is not playing. He did, however, have a nice moment with fellow-Chicago boy Cliff Alexander just before halftime.
Greene leads the Blue team with 16 points at halftime.
McLemore and Reed lead the Red team with 7 apiece.
3:52 p.m. Update, Blue 33, Red 23
Greene with another three-pointer. He's been the standout so far and by far.
Wesley with a follow-dunk pulls red to within eight but Selden followed it up with an athletic take to the rim on the other end.
Not very much energy in the gym overall. Last year's game, which featured the first appearance as a Jayhawk by Andrew Wiggins, had much more buzz.
3:50 p.m. Update, Blue 24, Red 17
Selden and Reed exchange long-range jumpers and Traylor throws one in with his left hand on a nice drive to the bucket.
The pace is still kind of slow but both teams are playing more cleanly at the moment.
3:46 p.m. Update, Blue 17, Red 9
Frankamp hits a three on his second attempt of the game to pull red close and the Blue team answered on the other end with a three pointer from Selden.
Jamari Traylor then flushed a nasty dunk with his right hand over Kelly Oubre, who simply ducked out of the way as the rim was still rattling.
3:41 p.m. Update, Blue 11, Red 2
Slow start to the scrimmage so far. Sloppy play on the red end. McLemore tried for a highlight reel dunk and came up short and Cole Aldrich followed that up a couple of possessions later with an easy dunk to put the Red Team on the board.
Brannen Green is off to a hot start shooting the ball.
3:38 p.m. Update:
Red Team (with alums):
Kelly Oubre, Devonte' Graham, Cliff Alexander, Conner Frankamp, Ben McLemore, Justin Wesley, Tyrel Reed and Cole Aldrich.
Perry Ellis, Jamari, Frank Mason, Jamari Traylor, Evan Manning, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Hunter Mickelson.
Landen Lucas and Tyler Self are not playing today.
3:32 p.m. Update:
Warm-up time now that intros are finished. Remember, Self has to leave the gym when the scrimmage is going on, so he won't get to see what he's got just yet.
I think he's got a pretty good idea, though.
3:24 p.m. Update
The campers beat the counselors in a tight one and KU coach Bill Self is now introducing next year's team to the campers in the stands... Lots of cheers, as you might imagine.
As for the alums, the only guys I've seen out there so far, wearing red, are:
Not a bad group if they can find a point guard.
We'll add to the list if/when more guys show up but it's possible the alumni team might need to pick up a few of the current guys, which is pretty typical.
3:08 p.m. Update
The campers, youngest to oldest, are scrimmaging a few managers right now in what has become an annual tradition.
They'll do a few 8-minute quarters of this and then the KU guys will take the floor.
Check back often because they've been known to wind the clock and skip ahead here and there during this one.
As you might already have noticed, it's that time of year again, time for the annual Bill Self basketball camps to dominate Lawrence's hoops scene for a few weeks.
Every summer, Self, with the help of current and former Jayhawks, welcomes hundreds of young hoopers to town for several days of instruction, entertainment and, of course, autographs.
In addition to featuring the fundamentals of basketball and some of the ins and outs of what goes on within the KU program, the camps often include some of the more entertaining alumni games in college basketball.
Today, sometime after 3 p.m., will be the first such game and its lineup figures to be as impressive as any we've seen in a while thanks to its proximity to the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, which is set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at Lawrence High.
Each year that game, which, in the past, has included a ton of big names from KU history, treats fans to a fun night of good memories and laughable moments. With a lot of those guys being in town for that game tomorrow night, it ought to be interesting to see how many of them make it to today's camp game, which usually pits the alums against the current crew.
That means an extended look at newcomers Cliff Alexander, Devonte' Graham and Kelly Oubre, which we'll document right here and have plenty more on after the scrimmage. Ukrainian sensation Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is not yet in town, but those three other guys also figure to be key members of next year's team and it will be interesting to see both how they mesh with KU's returning roster as well as how well they hold their own against some crafty veterans from the past.
We'll be up there to keep you updated on who made it to camp and I'll also be doing a live blog of the camp scrimmage while Gary Bedore tracks down as many past greats as possible for interviews and our photography staff tries to capture all of the action.
Check back right here throughout the afternoon.
A couple of quick notes and newsy items while we continue to wait for the outcome of senior quarterback Jake Heaps' decision whether to stay at Kansas or go play elsewhere...
• It's been pretty quiet on the Heaps front for the past few weeks but the more people I've talked to about the situation, the more I'm believing Heaps will in fact leave KU.
A couple of schools that were rumored to be his next landing spot when reports of his potential transfer first came out have been crossed off the list for various reasons, but at least a couple remain, with the University of Miami, Fla., being, by far, the biggest name and a couple of other smaller schools maybe still in the running.
Heaps, a senior-to-be who is within striking distance of graduating this summer, would be eligible to play immediately at his new school if he chooses to leave Kansas because of the same senior-transfer rule that brought Dayne Crist and others to KU during the past couple of seasons.
Heaps has to graduate before becoming eligible immediately, however, so it's likely that that's the hold-up in this whole deal.
There's still an outside shot that he could remain at KU and battle to be an incredibly valuable back-up to sophomore starter Montell Cozart, but provided some other school and coach out there is willing to give him an opportunity to compete to be a starter, I'd be surprised if he stayed.
• I saw on Twitter last week that former KU wide receiver Ishmael Hyman is transferring to James Madison University and will be eligible to play immediately because of JMU's status as an FCS program.
Its official after deciding to transfer from KU, I will be attending and playing football for JMU this upcoming season! #GoDukes 🐶👑— Ish Hyman (@HollyWood_Ish13) June 3, 2014
Hyman's departure from KU caught many fans by surprise and disappointed several people who had high hopes for the 6-foot, 170-pound receiver from Manalapan, N.J.
Hyman has talent and is sort of a natural play-maker, but it seems like the situation at JMU, which is located in Harrisonburg, Va., fits him much better than KU did. He red-shirted in 2013 and was removed from the Kansas roster just before spring practices a couple of months ago.
• This weekend figures to be a big weekend for KU's Class of 2015 recruiting efforts.
Thus far, KU has just one commitment in the class (Bishop Miege quarterback Ryan Willis) but that could change in a hurry after this weekend.
Somewhere around a half dozen junior-college prospects are expected to make their official visits to KU over the weekend — a move that's allowed under the new recruiting rules — and a couple of them seem to be just waiting to see campus and the football facilities before making their decisions official.
Defensive tackle Jacky Dezir (6-foot-3, 305 pounds from the College of DuPage) and offensive tackle Jarek Smalley (6-6, 315, Garden City C.C.) both are very high on KU and could be in line to pick the Jayhawks by the end of the weekend.
• Speaking of recruiting, there's been plenty of message board activity during recent weeks about KU potentially adding a couple of late pick-ups to the roster in time for the 2014 season. I don't have a clue who those players might be, if they exist at all, but it would not surprise me for a second if KU coach Charlie Weis found a couple of diamonds in the rough somewhere and brought them to Kansas for the upcoming season.
You know the deal with Weis by now.... He's always on the lookout for talent and the bottom line with this kind of thing is this: If Weis believes a guy can help the program and can make a positive impact on the field right away, he'll search high and low for a way to bring that guy to Lawrence.
We'll see if anything materializes, but, if it does, my best guess is that any newcomers might play wide receiver or on the offensive line.
• Former KU wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt is out at Texas, a coaching casualty of the Mack Brown movement in the offseason.
Wyatt, who enjoyed two stints at KU before spending the past three years at Texas as the Longhorns' wide receivers coach, is rumored to be in line to become a candidate for the offensive coordinator opening at North Carolina. Wyatt previously served as the offensive coordinator for current UNC head coach Larry Fedora, when the two were together at Southern Miss in 2008-09.
• And, finally, in case you missed it yesterday or earlier today, offensive lineman Joe Gibson, a former walk-on from Rockhurst High who red-shirted in 2013, was given a scholarship for the 2014 season on Monday afternoon.
College football analyst and magazine guru Phil Steele released his preseason all-Big 12 teams earlier today and the Jayhawks, believe it or not, were fairly well represented.
Now, it's not as if KU landed as many guys on Steele's four preseason teams as Baylor, K-State or Oklahoma, but Charlie Weis' squad was given a fair amount of respect.
Here's a quick look.
For starters, putting senior Ben Heeney as one of the top linebackers in the conference was pretty obvious and, had Steele not had him, the whole list would have been suspect.
Heeney has been one of the top tacklers and the leader of the KU defense for the past two seasons and there's no reason to think he'll be anything but that in 2014 as well. If anything, seeing how it's his last season at KU, one might make a strong case for Heeney having his best season yet.
Newcomer Nick Harwell earned the nod here, with Steele putting the Miami (Ohio) transfer just behind Baylor's Antwan Goodley, K-State's Tyler Lockett and Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant. Not going to argue with any of those.
Given Harwell's past performance and his importance to KU's offense, it seems to make sense for Steele to put him here. He's got the talent to move into that first tier by season's end but Montell Cozart and the offensive line are going to have to have big seasons for that to happen.
Senior Jimmay Mundine also earned a second-team nod at tight end, a position that is wide open in the Big 12 this season. Iowa State's E.J. Bibbs earned first-team honors, but, again, if that KU offense shows up this season, Mundine could be productive enough to earn a promotion by December.
Senior offensive guard Ngalu Fusimalohi, the lone lineman to start all 12 games at the same position in 2013, landed on Steele's second-team O-Line, largely based on last year's performance and his reputation as KU's most reliable and proven returning lineman.
Two KU defenders also made the second team, with last year's defensive newcomer of the year, Isaiah Johnson, holding down one safety spot and senior Dexter McDonald picked as one of the two second-team cornerbacks. Can't argue with either choice, as both guys have a ton of talent and have proven themselves in Big 12 play before.
Defensive End/Buck Michael Reynolds landed on Steele's third team, a testament to both his performance last season and development and maturity since arriving on campus, and he was joined by senior punter Trevor Pardula, who spent time as one of the top punters in the nation last season before coming back to Earth a little bit toward the end of the season.
All in all, it's a pretty good showing for the Jayhawks, who, if things go well, easily could have a couple of other guys crack the all-Big 12 lists by the end of 2014.
The omitted names most likely to show up on similar lists in the postseason include: senior wide receiver Tony Pierson, defensive backs Kevin Short and JaCorey Shepherd, right tackle Damon Martin and defensive tackle Keon Stowers.
In order for any of them to make the leap, though, they're going to have to turn in monster seasons and, perhaps more importantly, KU is going to have to win games.
Here's a complete look at Phil Steele's 2014 preseason all-Big 12 teams.
Tuesday was head shot day for the Kansas University football program and 81 Jayhawks paraded through the photo shoot decked out in their Sunday best to pose for pictures that will appear in this year's media guide and other promotional materials for the upcoming season.
Most years, it's a snooze fest. Guys show up, throw on a suit jacket and tie, choose whether they want to smile that nice smile that mom would be proud of or give one of those tough, football-player glares and then head back to the basement of the Anderson Family Football Complex to hit the weights.
Generally speaking, it always looks something like this:
However, this year's photo session came with a twist — quite literally.
Instead of regular suits and ties, the Jayhawks donned bow ties and were allowed to wear their choice of five different crimson-and-blue-themed tuxedo toppers.
Most guys were OK with the change, a few were extremely excited, a handful didn't like the idea until they saw themselves in them and a couple started and stayed steadfastly against the whole idea.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly who was responsible for the change-up, but, even though KU coach Charlie Weis almost certainly had to approve the idea, he probably was not the one who came up with it.
After all, Weis maintained throughout the 2013 season that he had absolutely no say in what uniform combination the Jayhawks went with on game days. If he didn't care about that, I can't imagine he cared much about this.
Personally, I think it's a nice touch. It's not something you see every day and it adds something unique to the same old mug shots that show up in the same old media guides. It also adds a hint of what the fun-loving attitude many on this team are known for and, who knows, maybe that whole "look good, feel good, play good" mantra might come into play, as well.
After the session wrapped, several Jayhawks threw their bow-tie looks onto various social media sites, but before we get to the photos, here are a couple more facts I learned about the new endeavor.
• None of the bow ties used in the photo shoot were of the clip-on variety.
• At the same time, not a single Jayhawk actually tied the bow tie himself.
• The most popular choices among the players photographed thus far — more newcomers will get their photos snapped later this summer — were the striped options (shown below on Keon Stowers, Mike Smithburg, Bobby Hartzog and Jimmay Mundine).
• It is believed that of all the thousands and thousands of head shots taken for KU media guides during KU photographer Jeff Jacobsen's time at KU, this was the first time that any KU team has gone with the bow-tie look.
Here's a look at a few of the best dressed Jayhawks from Tuesday's photo day:
Now that the first wave of the Class of 2014 has made its way to campus and started summer school — a little more than half of the 20 guys left to report in the incoming class are here and all but a couple of them should be here by July — there is one thing worth remembering as fans start to analyze how well Charlie Weis and company did this time around.
The Class of 2013 is the Class of 2014's best friend.
There's no question that some of the guys in the incoming class leave a little to be desired, be it because they have low star ratings, were late commitments or have offer lists made up of smaller schools. But after making a splash with several guys in last year's recruiting endeavor, the Jayhawks appear to have bypassed the hype and sought out the best fits at positions of need.
Six of the 23 commitments are on the defensive line. Four are guys who figure to play in the secondary and the Jayhawks also added four offensive linemen and three wide receivers, both areas of need.
The reason searching for guys with the mentality and make-up the coaching staff desires can work is because several of those guys figure to be given the time they need to develop. Why? Because there are still a bunch of players in the Class of 2013 who have yet to put their stamp on the program and will be counted on during the 2014 season.
Think about it: At least eight guys from last year's class did not play a down in 2013 (15 players in the class, or about half, played significant snaps) but will be expected to be contributors in 2014, some as potential difference makers.
• Defensive end Andrew Bolton, a juco transfer who red-shirted last season and spent the year rehabbing and injury while also getting bigger, stronger and better acclimated to Div. I grind.
• Defensive back Kevin Short, a juco transfer who was forced to sit out the 2013 season because of academic confusion, which only made one of the top talents on the roster even more hungry than he was already.
• Wide receiver Nick Harwell, who sat out after transferring from Miami (Ohio) and is expected to step in as the Jayhawks' much-needed No. 1 option in the passing game immediately.
• Tight end Ben Johnson, a true freshman about whom whispers surfaced last summer that said no one had a better preseason in terms of physical improvement and on-the-field performance.
• Offensive lineman Joe Gibson, a red-shirt freshman who came to KU as a walk-on and battled juco newcomer Keyon Haughton all spring for the starting spot at center. Haughton seemed to emerge from spring ball with the lead, but Gibson is well liked and, at the very least, could help spell Haughton from time to time if needed.
• Offensive tackle Brian Beckmann, a sophomore now in his third season who has great potential and figures to start 2014 as a valuable back-up at either tackle spot.
• Linebacker Colton Goeas, who came with the reputation as a big hitter and spent his first year in town adding size and speed and working on his game rather than worrying about opponents.
• Buck Marcus Jenkins-Moore, a juco transfer who came to town with all kinds of hype and speed but injured his knee shortly after arriving on campus and missed the season.
When you consider that four of those players call the defensive side of the ball home and will be plugged into a defense that returns nine starters from its 2013 Week 12 depth chart, it's clear that KU will need very few of the defensive players it signs in 2014 to play right away. If any.
That's good news because it figures to give all of the new guys time to work on their minds and bodies with strength coach Scott Holsopple without the stress and pressure of being asked to deliver on Saturdays, too.
For a program in the position Kansas finds itself in today, having the luxury of allowing guys to develop is almost unheard of. And it's also key to sustained success in the rebuilding process.
The intent of this blog is not to say that none of the guys in the Class of 2014 are capable of playing right away. There are several guys who could — and probably will — work their way onto the field immediately. And, if they do, that won't be a bad thing for the Jayhawks.
But if they don't, be it because they're not ready or because they're not needed, slapping a red-shirt on them and letting them fortify whatever the Class of 2015 recruiting haul looks like can only add depth and stability to the program in the years to come.
For your amusement, here are a couple of links to KU's most recent recruiting classes:
A more in-depth look at the DeBruce Center, which will house James Naismith’s original ‘Rules of Basket Ball’
A few weeks ago, administrators and coaches at Kansas University joined the DeBruce family and members of the community and officially broke ground on the forthcoming $18 million facility just north of Allen Fieldhouse that will house James Naismith's original rules of basketball.
In addition to being the permanent home of the rules, which Naismith penned in 1891, the new 32,000-square-foot facility, also will serve as a student activity center built to accommodate seating for 320 that includes retail dining, café seating, a new training table setting for both the KU men's and women's basketball teams and a catered event space.
The DeBruce Center, which also will support future KU basketball exhibits, will be directly connected to Allen Fieldhouse through the second-floor concourse, which will provide access to the Booth Hall of Athletics.
This week, Gould Evans, the architectural firm in charge of designing the building released a dozen artistic renderings that provide a sneak peek at what the DeBruce Center will look like. Construction is expected to begin this summer and the target date for completion is the beginning of the 2015-16 basketball season.
Big 12 spring meetings under way in Dallas; not surprisingly, expansion not among topics being discussed
Every year, right around the time when the weather reaches the point where it's just too uncomfortable to don long pants and a dress shirt and walk across the Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., an alarm clock goes off inside my head.
That ring-a-ding-ding sounded loudly the other day, when, after a Memorial Day spent tracking the KU baseball team's draw in the NCAA Tournament, I wondered when the Big 12 Conference's spring meetings were coming to KC.
The answer? They're not. They're in Dallas this year, Irving, Texas, to be exact, and they kicked off Wednesday, with athletic directors from all 10 conference schools and various league reps joining together to talk about all of the issues and items of interest currently impacting the conference and college athletics.
On the outside, everyone wants this year's meetings to be about the recent rumors regarding BYU's interest in joining the Big 12. But that won't be anywhere near the agenda and there certainly won't be any kind of formal discussions about adding BYU or any other team for that matter. The Big 12, as you surely know by now, is happy with its 10-school membership. Adding more would simply force the conference to share its annual revenue from television and other deals with another university. And at this point in time, who would vote in favor of giving up cash?
The reason BYU and expansion is on the mind of anyone who chooses to follow these meetings is simply because before the whole conference realignment craze hit a few years back, no one even knew that these meetings took place. Sure, media members in charge of covering the conference were acutely aware of the business conducted at such annual get-togethers. But outside of that, nobody cared. The reason? Historically speaking, what always had taken place at these deals prior to the realignment frenzy was pretty boring. Consultations with lawyers here, an amendment of conference bylaws there and so on and so forth. Yawwwwn.
When realignment hit and media members, including yours truly, began stalking hotel conference rooms and parking garages hoping to get some sort of comment relating to the goings on from the sports world's equivalent of As the World Turns, the public began to take notice. And who could blame them? Even though Big 12 ADs and commissioners did their best to say that everything was fine and that nobody was going anywhere, we all knew what really was happening and, even if we didn't at the time, we all know by now that four teams left the Big 12 (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M) and two others (TCU and West Virginia) joined.
In many ways, the increased interest in these types of annual meetings has fallen in line with the overexposed sports world we know and love. With the 24-hour-a-day news cycle and social media networks like Twitter and others shining a much brighter light on even the smallest issues, it's almost impossible not to care if you're at all passionate about college athletics.
With that in mind, here's a quick look at some of the more interesting notes and quotes, taken mostly from Twitter, that came up on Day 1 of the Big 12 spring meetings.
• As they've done for a few years now, Big 12 officials continued to bang the drum for the round-robin scheduling format in football and double-round-robin in men's and women's basketball being the best way to crown a true conference champion.
This is particularly interesting given the SEC's recent fight to keep its football schedule flexible and avoid playing every team in the conference each year.
• Various reports from the media in Dallas indicated that the NCAA's new rule allowing universities to provide student-athletes with unlimited meals — which goes into effect Aug. 1 — could cost each institution between $700,000 and $2 million annually. I've talked to some people at KU recently about this very topic and they estimate that KU's number could be right around $1 million.
While that's obviously a lot of money, it pales in comparison to what each school would be on the hook for if paying players were allowed and certainly seems like a good move given that these athletes are required to burn so much energy to represent their chosen schools at practices and during games.
• Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was asked about the upcoming college football playoff system, which will pit the nation's top four teams, as chosen by a selection committee, against one another in what's essentially a plus-one format, with the 1 seed playing the 4 and the 2 seed playing the 3, with the winners meeting for the national title. Not long after the playoff system put an end to the BCS era, people began clamoring for the format to expand from four teams to eight or even 16. Bowlsby said Wednesday he did not see that happening any time soon, saying doing so would decimate the existing bowl system.
• Scheduling, in general, was another big topic on Wednesday, and several Big 12 representatives were more than happy to point out that the Big 12, in all sports, would not be afraid to play and/or schedule any program from any conference in the country.
This comes, most likely, in reaction to the recent moves by the ACC and SEC to dictate which teams its schools play during the non-conference portion of the season. In the near future, programs in those leagues will be required to schedule more schools from the so-called “Big Five” conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-12) as non-conference foes, a move that directly led to some of the speculation about mid-major program BYU becoming more desperate to hitch its wagon to one of the big conferences.
• Speaking of the power conferences, Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben noted on Twitter that nearly everyone who spoke Wednesday took great care to make sure they referred to such a grouping as “high visibility conferences” and not “Big Five.”
Nothing major there, but, much like we saw with conference realignment where even the smallest words or details wound up playing major roles, it seems the Big 12 is being careful not to create too much of a power play regarding the ongoing speculation that the nation's biggest, richest and most powerful conferences may be moving closer and closer to gaining autonomy from the NCAA and functioning more as its own governing body.
• K-State athletic director John Currie, whose turn it is to serve as the chair of the Big 12 ADs, said he did not envision the Big 12 pushing for an early signing day in football like the SEC wants.
• Another strong soundbite from Currie on Wednesday came in support of the Big 12's coaches: “Top to bottom, 1 to 10, we have the strongest group of (football and men's basketball) coaches of any league in the country,” he said.
• Other topics that were addressed Wednesday and will continue to be discussed today and Friday include: a closer look at the fifth-year senior transfer rule that has become wildly popular across the country; discussion about pending lawsuits against the NCAA which may have a major impact on the future of college athletics; returning the conference's postseason men's and women's basketball tournaments to the same city in the near future; and full disclosure of the financial gains made under the Big 12's newest television deals, which, though solid at $198 million in 2012-13, ranked behind the recently reported totals of the Pac-12 ($334 million, not all of which was distributed to its members), Big Ten ($318.4 million) and SEC ($315.4 million) in total haul. However, because the Big 12 is splitting its revenues just 10 ways, the longstanding conference schools still brought home about as much as the rest of the schools in the other Big Five conferences. Only TCU and West Virginia, which are still in the process of being eased into the conference, earned less than the $22 million the eight other programs earned. (These revenues do not include gains from third-tier rights deals) TCU and West Virginia brought home a 50 percent share of the conference earnings from 2012-13 and that percentage will go up to 67 percent this coming year and 84 percent for 2014-15 before becoming equal in 2015-16.