Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
• Recorded on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017
According to multiple reports that came in late Tuesday night, the Kansas men’s basketball coaching staff, which made an in-home visit with top-ranked Class of 2018 prospect Zion Williamson on Tuesday night, left Williamson’s South Carolina home with the knowledge that they’d see him again in a couple of weeks.
When that time comes, it will be on KU’s turf, as Williamson told Kansas coaches Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend that he planned to make an official visit to the KU campus the weekend of Late Night, which is slated for Sept. 30 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Williamson will be one of nearly two dozen official and unofficial visitors to make the trek to the Fieldhouse for the first official practice of the 2017-18 season later this month. Some of the notable attendees expected to visit for Late Night include: Jalen Carey (2018), David McCormack (2018), Zach Harvey (2019), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (2019), Malik Hall (2019), Samuell Williamson (2019), N'faly Dante (2020), Bryce Thompson (2020), R.J. Hampton (2020), Ty Berry (2020) and Markese Jacobs, the already-committed Class of 2019 point guard from Chicago.
As for Williamson, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound, do-it-all forward also has official visits set up at Kentucky (Sept. 22), Duke (Oct. 22) and UCLA (Oct. 27) and does not appear to have any desire to rush his decision.
“I said this before, but as far as lists and things like that I don’t see myself doing all that,” he wrote in a recent USA Today blog. “Once I feel like I’ve found the college and it feels right for me and my family I’m just gonna announce it. I don’t really have a timetable for my decision. It’s just whenever it feels right.”
Wherefore art thou?
Adam Zagoria, of zagsblog.com, reported on Tuesday afternoon that the KU coaching staff was expected to visit Class of 2018 shooting guard Romeo Langford at his school in New Albany, Indiana, on Thursday.
Langford, the No. 6-ranked player in the class according to Rivals.com, is a 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard who also is expected to host in-home visits with Louisville and UCLA later this week.
According to Zagoria, Indiana and Vanderbilt also visited Langford’s school this week. Also Thursday, KU has a scheduled in-home visit with five-star, Class of 2018 point guard Devon Dotson, who recently made an official visit to Lawrence.
It already has been a busy week for the Kansas coaching staff, which has made trips all over the country to check in with recruits and conduct in-home visits.
On Tuesday that included a quick stop in Little Elm, Texas, to watch a workout by R.J. Hampton, the No. 3 player in the Class of 2020 according to Rivals.com.
The 6-foot-4, 170-pound point guard on Tuesday Tweeted his thank-yous to coaching staffs from TCU, Texas, KU and Michigan for watching him and his team workout.
Hampton is one of more than a dozen underclassmen planning to make an unofficial visit to KU for Late Night in the Phog later this month.
As part of an ongoing project with USA Today, Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall recruit in the high school basketball Class of 2018, per 247 Sports’ composite rankings, recently dropped Part VI of his online blog with the paper.
Included in this latest edition was a detailed entry about his recent recruiting talks with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and a little info about a trip to Disney World and the start of the 2017-18 school year.
Williamson, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound, do-it-all forward who sits very high on the wish list of the Kansas basketball program, did not mention Kansas by name in this entry, but did discuss his recruitment in general.
“It’s been great getting to know all of the coaches that are recruiting me,” he wrote. “I know that the reality is that the coaches can just tell me what I want to hear because they want me to come to their school so I’ve started to ask hard questions.”
With official visits set up at Duke (Oct. 22) and UCLA (Oct. 27), Williamson no doubt will have much more time then to ask all the questions he wants.
But, according to Matt Scott, of TheShiver.com, the highly coveted small forward will get a chance to ask plenty of questions of the KU coaching staff as soon as tonight, when Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend are expected to be in Spartanburg, S.C., tonight for an in-home visit with Williamson.
This, on the same day that KU assistant coach Norm Roberts was expected to make quick check-ins with Class of 2019 guard Zach Harvey, in Topeka, and Class of 2019 forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, at nearby Bishop Miege High.
Although the in-home visit is an important part of any recruiting process — parents love to see how these coaches operate on their turf and in a family setting — there’s little doubt that the KU coaching staff is hoping to come away from the trip to South Carolina having set an official visit date for Williamson to Kansas.
While Williamson has received an offer or interest from nearly every major program in the country and will bring elite-level athleticism and explosiveness, along with a certain amount of toughness, to whatever school he picks, he does not appear to be in any particular hurry to put the recruiting process behind him.
I said this before, but as far as lists and things like that I don’t see myself doing all that,” he wrote in the USA Today blog. “Once I feel like I’ve found the college and it feels right for me and my family I’m just gonna announce it. I don’t really have a timetable for my decision. It’s just whenever it feels right.”
With Hall of Fame week and the overwhelming emotions of being inducted and celebrated by assistants and players from every step of his coaching journey now behind him, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self can again move on to the business at hand.
In the immediate, that means getting back to recruiting full-time, an endeavor that is as important this year as any because of the potential for KU to lose as many as 5 or 6 players to the NBA Draft and graduation after the 2017-18 season.
Fresh off of his return from Springfield, Mass., where on Saturday, during a private ceremony one day after his induction, Self received his Hall of Fame ring, the Kansas coach will be in The Woodlands, Texas, today, conducting an in-home visit with five-star guard Quentin Grimes.
“I've got a lot of nice rings,” Self said Saturday. “But I don't know if I have any nicer than this. It is nice and it was nice to sit on the stage with all those greats. I'm still kind of blown away by the experience but this is something I will cherish and I'm sure my family will, too."
Today, it’s all about the next big step in adding Grimes to the Kansas basketball family.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, the 6-foot-5, 180-pound Grimes recently wrapped up in-home visits with Kentucky, Marquette and Texas, but many believe the Jayhawks are the team to beat in his recruitment.
“This is one where I think BillSelf and his staff are considered the leaders headed into visits,” Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi recently wrote. “And I like where they stand.”
Borzello also reported that the Jayhawks this week were expected to make an in-home visit with fellow five-star guard Devon Dotson, the 6-1, 180-pound point guard from Charlotte who visited KU’s campus a couple of weeks ago.
Shay Wildeboor, of JayhawkSlant.com reported Monday that the Dotson visit will take place Thursday and Borzello indicated that the elite point guard also plans to host Florida, UCLA and Maryland this week after conducting an in-home visit with Clemson last weekend.
“There’s a decent chance that Kansas could get both Dotson and Grimes,” Bossi wrote. “If it doesn’t get both, though, I’d be pretty surprised if it didn’t get at least one of the two.”
Dotson and Grimes are just two on a long list of Kansas targets in the 2018 class, but, with both ranked in the Top 20 in the Rivals 150 (Grimes, No. 11, Dotson No. 17) they are two of the higher-profile players the Jayhawks are pursuing to add to a class that already includes five-star big man Silvio De Sousa.
Another such player is 6-foot-3, 175-pound point guard Immanuel Quickley, who visited Kansas two weekends ago and was slated to head to Miami (Fla.) and Kentucky after that.
Not much has been learned about Quickley’s visit to KU and his trip to Miami was postponed last weekend because of Hurricane Irma.
Given that Quickley is expected to visit Kentucky this weekend — and the Wildcats are Quickley’s Crystal Ball leader, at 100 percent, according to 247 Sports — it will be interesting to see if the Miami visit gets rescheduled.
Quickley has said he would like to make his decision before the start of his senior season at John Carroll High in Bel Air, Maryland.
Throughout the past week, and, really, the past few months, we've heard from a lot of people who love Bill Self and appreciate his honor of being selected as a member of the 2017 class at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
That honor will become official a little after 6:30 tonight (on NBA TV) when Self is inducted into the Hall in front of more than 120 friends, family members, former players and former assistant coaches.
And in the past several weeks, many of those people have spoken up to let their thoughts be known about Self's achievement and what he has meant to their lives.
Many of them made sense. Here at KUsports.com we got in touch with his daughter, his father, former KU coach Larry Brown, several former players, a few former assistants, all people who know Self best.
And it made perfect sense for them to share their favorite memories or emotions about the KU coach's big honor.
But earlier this week, a video made its way to Twitter that kind of came out of nowhere.
It makes sense for the Larry Browns and Danny Mannings of the world to honor Self. But for a few dudes who competed against him and suffered some tough, tough losses to come out and do the same is a whole different deal.
That's exactly what the Iowa State men's basketball program did this week, with former ISU player and coach Fred Hoiberg — whose daughter, Paige, works in the Kansas basketball offices — leading the charge and current ISU coach Steve Prohm closing the show.
The video is short and sweet, but shows an incredible amount of class, both on an individual level and at the program level, and, no doubt, will be one of the sweeter surprises for Self whenever he sees it.
In many ways, it's things like this that make college basketball, college athletics and competition at that level so great.
Here's a look at the video, featuring Hoiberg, Monte Morris, Georges Niang, Naz Long and Prohm. Great stuff.
Springfield, Mass. — Former Kansas coach Larry Brown, who on Friday night will present Bill Self during his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has been in the game of basketball long enough to learn a few important things about players and coaches.
None of them, according to Brown, are bigger than the one fundamental truth that exists with players at all levels but has been wildly prevalent with the professional players he has coached and observed throughout the years.
“Everybody always tells me about pro players and how you can’t coach them,” Brown told the Journal-World recently when discussing Kansas coach Bill Self’s addition to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “But the first thing to pros want to find out is, does this coach know how to coach? And they can tell you that after one practice. The second thing they want to know is, can this coach make me better? And the third thing, which trumps them all, is does this coach care? And that’s what Bill has. He has the ability to be direct and hold them accountable but yet they know he cares about them.”
That trait, among dozens of others, is one that Brown admires most about Self, who actually began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Brown’s Kansas staff during the 1985-86 season.
Since then, through stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and the last 14 years at Kansas, Self has racked up 623 victories and a laundry list of achievements and accolades that would make any coach blush.
But for each trophy or trip to the Final Four or Elite Eight has been something deeper that exists within Self and the way he relates to his players. And Brown, who has witnessed this firsthand, both in practices and during games, says that trait has played a huge role in Self becoming a Hall of Famer.
“The thing, to me, that separates the really great, great coaches are the ones that can kind of tell their kids almost anything, but the kids accept it the right way because they know they care,” Brown explained. “He lets small stuff go, and he’s done that wherever he’s been. They all know the guy cares, so then they’re going to do anything for him.”
Brown, who recently penned an open letter to Self on The Players Tribune web site congratulating Self on the Hall of Fame and sharing with the world his admiration for the Kansas coach, has spent a lot of time around the KU program during the Self era and continually marveled at Self’s success.
“What he’s created there, shoot, it’s unbelievable what he’s done,” Brown said. “And he has not accepted it as him doing it, which is really unique.”
As for the kind words that Brown wrote in that letter, Self was asked about them in an interview with NBA TV earlier this week. And, in true Self fashion, he joked: “It was a nice letter. It was probably exactly the way my mother would’ve written it for him. But, no, he was way too kind with that and, certainly, he means a lot to me and he means a lot to so many that have been involved with this game.... Having him with me on Friday will be special.”
Stick with KUsports.com throughout the next two days for all kinds of coverage from Self's induction into the Hall of Fame in Massachusetts and be sure to listen to the complete Self interview with NBA TV.
Of all of the great tributes to Bill Self that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has rolled out, one left Kansas basketball fans frustrated on Thursday.
Outside of the main entrance to the Hall of Fame, just before reaching a statue of James Naismith, visitors encounter a walkway with several stone benches honoring the coaches who are in the Hall of Fame.
Larry Brown has one. Roy Williams has one. And now Bill Self has one, too.
Carved into the top of the benches, where people presumably would sit, are the coaches' names and signatures, the class they went in with, the honorees they selected to be named — most often family members or mentors — and a section at the bottom that lists all of the schools that are most important to them.
For Self, who starred at Edmond (Okla.) High before going on to play at Oklahoma State, both of those schools are on there, along with the four schools at which Self has been a head coach — Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas.
One problem. Where it lists Kansas, it reads, “Kansas University” instead of the University of Kansas.
With KU fans taking to social media to voice their displeasure, one KU official reached out to the Hall of Fame to inform it of the error.
The KU official told the Journal-World that the Hall of Fame regretted the mistake and promised to correct it as soon as possible.
All’s well that ends well. And, hey, it’s not like they spelled it “Bill Slef” on the KU coach’s official portrait or got the man the wrong jacket size.
Everything about the Hall of Fame and this induction experience has been first class and there’s no doubting that the bench will be fixed soon.
Some players develop a seamless chemistry from the first time they meet. That was not the case for Ben Johnson and Peyton Bender.
In fact, the first time the senior tight end laid eyes on his new quarterback, he never expected to catch a pass from him — at least on a football field.
“Peyton?” Johnson said, starting to laugh. “My first time meeting Peyton I thought he was a baseball player.”
As the story goes, Johnson walked up to a building on campus and saw Bender and his brother outside.
Locked out of the building, both Bender and Johnson tried to get in with their codes and then walked down to another door in an unsuccessful attempt to get inside.
At that point, Bender took action, pulling out his cellphone to make a call. As Johnson recalled, the two had a brief back and forth leading to the realization that the person standing next to him might be an important one to remember.
“Are you calling your academic advisor or something?” Johnson asked.
“Yeah, I’m calling Shanda,” Bender said, referencing Shanda Hayden, KU football’s academic and career counselor.
“Oh, shoot. Are you a football player?” Johnson asked.
“Yeah,” Bender said. “I’m the new quarterback.”
Since then, the two have worked on their chemistry and the results have shown on the field.
In the Jayhawks’ 38-16 win over Southeast Missouri State on Saturday, Johnson caught three passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, making it by far his best collegiate game since joining the program.
But as was noted after the game — by both Johnson and KU coach David Beaty — it could’ve been even better.
“If he’d have run the route on the first play,” Beaty said, “he might have scored another touchdown.”
The first play
So let’s take a look at what David Beaty was talking about.
On its first offensive play from scrimmage, KU split four receivers out wide with Ben Johnson attached at the top of the line. The plan was for Johnson to start outside and get behind the linebacker. Then he would open up over the middle of the field with the hope being that the safeties would be occupied with the outside receivers.
“Oh, they were gone. They were gone,” said Johnson, watching the play unfold on a computer screen. “It would have been a touchdown. No question. Yep.”
Simple enough. Only it wasn’t.
With the linebacker so far up on the line of scrimmage, Johnson thought he could push him outside and then slip by him down the middle of the field. In theory it wasn’t a terrible idea, but Johnson admitted he should’ve just “jabbed him inside and then broke out.”
Looking at the GIF, you can almost see the moment Bender made up his mind to abandon that route and throw short to Jeremiah Booker. It’s right after he realizes Johnson isn’t going to be in the right spot, having gone to the inside of the linebacker rather than the outside.
It's also worth noting, the SEMO defensive back reacted pretty quickly to Bender in his attempt to get into the passing lane. If he had been just a step or two quicker, he might’ve even had a chance to intercept the pass, and all when the play probably should've ended up as a touchdown in the first place.
A second chance
Even though it only gained a few yards on the first attempt, the play itself actually proved quite effective. So it shouldn’t have been any surprise when the Jayhawks went back to it in the second half.
This time Johnson broke the right way and got behind the linebacker. Once again, the safety was occupied by the streaking receiver, and Johnson was able to slip down the middle of the field.
The straight-on view is even more telling.
After getting behind the linebacker, Johnson had plenty of space to make the catch and sprint down the field untouched. And the result was not only a 57-yard touchdown, but Johnson’s first ever 50-yard catch and 90-yard receiving game.
"It felt good, but at the same time I left a lot of play on the table," Johnson said. "I'm hungry. I want to go get it."
Throughout the past decade or so of Kansas basketball you’ve heard — perhaps even said — the chatter, in any given year, about how KU’s roster was so deep that its second five could finish in the Top half of the Big 12 Conference.
Although we’ve never been able to find out for sure, on many occasions, the claim certainly has seemed true, as KU coach Bill Self often has stacked his roster with such incredible depth and talent that it’s hard to believe so many talented players could be on the same team.
So what if we apply that line of thinking to Bill Self’s coaching career and imagine for a second that Self, who is set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, could actually still have a Hall of Fame career ahead of him, too.
Think about it. While the grinding Self did at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and even Illinois positioned him for the job at Kansas, where he has won at an unprecedented rate and established a pace and set records that may never been seen again, it’s possible that Self’s best years are still ahead.
That’s not to take anything away from the turnaround at Oral Roberts, the deep tournament run at Tulsa or the national runner-up roster he built at Illinois. All of those achievements played a big part in Self being selected for the Hall of Fame the first time he appeared on the ballot. But there’s no doubt that his achievements at Kansas put him over the top.
One national championship, a pair of Final Fours, seven Elite Eight appearances, and, of course, a record-tying run of 13 consecutive Big 12 titles and counting. Without those feats on his resume, Self may still be waiting for the call from the Hall. But even if he were, isn’t it conceivable that what lies ahead for Self and the Jayhawks might actually top what he’s done to this point?
OK, he probably won’t win another 13 Big 12 titles in a row and push the incredible streak to 26 — but would you bet against it? And, depending on how long he plans to continue coaching, it’s no sure thing that he’ll get to another seven Elite Eights.
But can’t you see a few more Final Fours and another national title or two in Self’s future?
If so, you know that a bunch of victories would come with them, and that alone — what Self does from this point forward — likely would be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame in and of itself.
As it stands today, though, he doesn’t have to wait.
And while we wait for the week ahead, which will include all kinds of coverage of Self’s induction into the Hall of Fame, including stories and photos from the KUsports.com staff in Springfield, Mass., here’s a quick look back at our Bill Self “Hall of Fame Material” series in late March and early April that led up to the announcement and included thoughts from some of the people who know Self best.
“I’m in awe of what he’s done.” — Larry Brown
“I’m definitely not always there and don’t understand a lot of things that go into the day to day grind of being a coach, but I know how hard he works and what’s important to him. It is incredible to see guys stand up on senior night and share not only the impact that my dad has had on them as a player but also as a man.... To pour his life into these guys, some of whom come to college really lost, the hard work isn’t just in the X’s and O’s of basketball but in helping build these people into adults and helping them make something of their lives. I really admire that about my dad. He’s always wanted to be the best. He wants to win. But I don’t think it’s ever been just about him.” — Lauren (Self) Browning
“Just look at the numbers and the history he’s been a part of here, and even before here. It’s just unbelievable what he’s been able to do.” — Frank Mason III
“I mean, he’s the most unbelievable friend. Everybody knows about his coaching. They get that. But to have the ability to get the best out of people around him is what separates him from a lot of people.” — Doc Sadler
“The things that he’s done at the University of Kansas, basketball-wise, as well as with his contribution to the community and the area in general, make me extremely proud to be an alum, not only of the school but also of the program.” — Danny Manning
“He’s the whole package. He’s a great game coach and a tremendous recruiter. The thing he does that’s different is that Bill is such a people person. He remembers everybody’s name and remembers things about them.” — Bob Davis
“I haven’t been with him for four or five years, but he’s still with me. I’m 27 and he’s the most influential male in my life, just because of the things he said to me that stuck with me.” — Tyshawn Taylor
“He can coach. He can recruit. He can relate to kids better than anybody I’ve seen. And he doesn’t motivate through all the phony grabbing of sayings from Civil War and from Patton and all that stuff. He has a way of putting everything in the context of the present and letting it motivate the kids." — Roger Morningstar
“I can give you chapter and verse of all the things he’s accomplished, as everyone else can. And that’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame. But to me, what makes him a Hall of Famer is he’s one of the most authentic people I know. He’s humble, self-deprecating, what you see is what you get, and that’s refreshing. He’s a celebrity that doesn’t act like it.” — Sheahon Zenger
“I couldn’t possibly name all the great things people have had to say about him, but if I had to pick one that stood out it would be how people appreciate the relationship with his players.” — Bill Self Sr.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has talked often about the importance of the KU football program, both for the overall health of the university and for his basketball program.
Because so many key recruiting weekends take place during football season, Self has expressed his desire for Memorial Stadium to be rocking when he and his staff bring visitors to town, many of them elite, high-profile, top-tier talent.
One such player will be in town this weekend, and, thanks to the celebration of the 10-year reunion of the 2008 Orange Bowl championship that is slated for Saturday’s game, he figures to see a better football atmosphere than most basketball recruits have during the past six or seven seasons.
Whether that, combined with what he sees and learns about the KU hoops program, will be enough to entice five-star guard Immanuel Quickley to pick Kansas or not remains to be seen. But it certainly cannot hurt and the scene at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night figures to be as good as any we’ve seen since the men who are being honored that night were lighting up scoreboards and opponents on a regular basis.
As for Quickley, his KU visit kicks off a stretch of three consecutive weeks in which he will visit his three remaining finalists. After visiting Lawrence this weekend, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound point guard from John Carroll High in Bel Air, Md., will travel to Miami (Fla.) next week and visit Kentucky the week after.
Quickley currently is ranked in the No. 9 overall slot in the 247 Sports composite rankings and No. 10 in the 2018 class by Rivals.com.
The 247 Sports crystal ball prediction lists Kentucky as the 100 percent favorite at the moment. But it’s worth noting here that Maryland was a 100 percent crystal ball pick for 2018 big man Silvio De Sousa less than a week ago and, as you all surely know by now, De Sousa committed to Kansas earlier this week.
So you never really know how these things are going to play out. Is Kentucky the favorite? Probably. Is KU a long shot? Perhaps. But as one of Quickley’s three finalists and with a shot to sell him on the Kansas campus, you have to think KU is at least genuinely in the mix until otherwise noted.
Matt Scott, of 247 Sports site TheShiver.com, recently wrote that it’s his belief that Quickley will make a decision shortly after his visit to Kentucky.
In early August, about three weeks before Quickley named KU, Kentucky and Miami as his final three, Scott provided this detailed look at the Jayhawks’ pursuit of the point guard.
“Quickley is a lethal guard that is explosive with the ball and great at setting up his teammates,” Scott wrote. “He has a good pull up game, can hit shots from behind the arc and is strong with both hands. And, yes, he’s quick too.... KU’s chances are low here. They could improve with his visit to Kansas, but with two visits immediately following his trip to Lawrence it seems that KU is on the outside looking in.”
Add to that tidbit the fact that Quickley, himself, once called Kentucky the leader for his services, and it seems like it’s going to take a heck of a weekend for the Jayhawks to pull Quickley all the way into their corner.
Still, he will be on campus and the KU coaches and players — along with the football team and Memorial Stadium crowd — will have a couple of days to put their best foot forward and show Quickley why Kansas is the place for him.
We’ve known about the marquee games for a while now — KU vs. Kentucky in the Champions Classic in Chicago; KU vs. Syracuse in Miami in early December; a return to Nebraska in mid-December and Arizona State and Washington in Lawrence and Kansas City.
But on Thursday, the Big 12 Conference released the second half of KU’s schedule, with all 18 conference games now with known dates and times.
While a lot can change over the course of a season, and, remembering that things don’t always go as predicted, it’s worth noting that what we perceive to be true today might not wind up being that way as the season plays out.
But, with that in mind, here’s my initial reaction to KU’s Big 12 Conference schedule for the 2017-18 season, which opens Dec. 29 on the road at Texas.
Most exciting game: I think you have to look at Feb. 17, Kansas vs. West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse. The clear-cut Big 12 favorite against the clear-cut top contender. It’s a Saturday evening game and it will mark the first time since KU’s improbable and incredible comeback win over the Mountaineers at home last season that the two schools will hook up at Allen Fieldhouse. The Mountaineers will be looking for revenge from that utter collapse and the Jayhawks, no doubt, will give WVU their full attention. Runner-up: I really like KU opening Big 12 play in Austin, Texas, against a super-talented (on paper) Shaka Smart team in what figures to be a fun environment on a Friday night.
Toughest stretch: There’s a four-game stretch, starting Feb. 6 and ending Feb. 17 that could be a bear. Four games in 11 days against the likes of TCU, Iowa State, Baylor and West Virginia. The Baylor and Iowa State games are on the road and TCU — which, oh by the way, beat a Josh Jackson-less KU in the Big 12 tournament last year — West Virginia proved to be two of KU’s toughest outs at home last season. Beyond that, the back-to-back road games on Saturday at Baylor and on Tuesday at Iowa State are the only time the entire season that KU will play two true road games in a row. There are two other two-game spurts away from Allen Fieldhouse this season — Dec. 2 against Syracuse in Miami and Dec. 6 against Washington in Kansas City, Mo., and Dec. 21 against Stanford in Sacramento and Dec. 29 at Texas in the Big 12 opener — but only one of those four games is a true road game.
Easiest stretch: Frankly, if anyone in the Big 12 has its eye on ending the Jayhawks’ consecutive Big 12 title streak this season, they better do the heavy lifting early. The way I see it, KU’s easiest stretch on this year’s conference schedule is the four-game run that ends the regular season. Yes, two of the four games are on the road. And, sure, Stillwater, Okla., is always a tough place to win. But at Texas Tech and at OSU aren’t nearly as scary this season as they have been in the past and when you sprinkle in home games against Oklahoma and Texas in there, it’s hard to see the Jayhawks slipping in their final four games. That means, even if the Jayhawks somehow stumble out to a 9-5 record in their first 14 Big 12 games, a 13-5 record is still easily within reach and that should at least win a share of the league yet again.
Toughest game: I don’t think there’s any question that this is Monday, Jan. 15 at West Virginia. Talented team in a Big Monday environment with a hostile crowd in a building where the Jayhawks have lost four in a row. Ending their losing streak in Morgantown will be one of the toughest tasks the Jayhawks face all season.
Easiest game: I’ll go with Saturday, Feb. 3 vs. Oklahoma State. Not only are the Cowboys picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Big 12 standings this season, they’re also rebuilding with a new head coach and a bunch of new faces in new roles. Add to that the fact that the Saturday game follows a Big Monday match-up with Kansas State at home — so KU will get a full week of rest, recovery and preparation — and you’re looking at a perfect set up for an easy home win.
Overall takeaway: This schedule is about as good as KU could ask for. Opening on the road is never easy, but the fact that it’s Texas, which fields a ton of impressive talent, should get their attention. After that, when you look at just about every spot on the schedule where a tough game might give KU trouble, trouble is nowhere to be found and those slots are filled either with favorable home games or bottom-half opponents. Consider one more advantage for the boys in crimson and blue. After getting their tougher road games out of the way early on, four of their final five games away from Allen Fieldhouse are against teams projected to finish toward the bottom of the Big 12 standings. Kansas should like this schedule a lot and should definitely feel good about making a run to Big 12 title No. 14 in a row.
When Class of 2018 big man Silvio De Sousa arrived in Lawrence last weekend for his official campus visit, it marked the beginning of something for which the native of Angola had been waiting a long time.
The chance to play college basketball, De Sousa knew, would come in time and there was no doubt in his mind that he would have plenty of quality offers from first-class programs to mull over when making decision about where to attend school.
But there was always something about Kansas that stuck in De Sousa’s mind.
Perhaps it was the past success and buzz that surrounded former KU players Joel Embiid and Cheick Diallo, both African-born players who made a big impact during their lone seasons at Kansas and now are playing in the NBA.
“I never got a chance to meet them,” De Sousa told the Journal-World on Wednesday of Embiid, who hails from Cameroon, and Diallo, who came to the U.S. from Mali. “But I know who they are and that’s one of the things that made me move on to Kansas. They had such great success there and it seemed to be a good fit for them.”
And while that did not hurt the way the 6-foot-9, 244-pound Angolan viewed the KU program, something more recent that took Lawrence by storm sparked in De Sousa visions of his name on the back of a KU jersey and him calling Lawrence home for a while.
“I always looked forward to getting an offer from Kansas and ever since Josh Jackson committed to Kansas I told myself I could be the next one-and-done there,” De Sousa said Wednesday after sharing the news that he had committed to KU. “I had a lot of offers and stuff like that but I decided to keep quiet and just let everything come in time.”
That “everything” arrived earlier this year, when KU officially offered De Sousa a scholarship at the outset of the summer AAU season. And it reached an exciting conclusion when De Sousa committed to the Kansas coaches before he left town last Sunday.
Set to turn 19 on Oct. 7, De Sousa is not in any way new to basketball. He began playing at age 9 and, according to those who have seen him in action, has a feel for the game and versatile skill set that bring to mind thoughts of a polished prep standout.
ESPN broadcaster Fran Fraschilla — a former head coach at Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico — told the Journal-World this week that De Sousa was “destined to play in the NBA,” but the power forward who has been compared to former KU star Thomas Robinson and, going way back, to former Alabama beast Antonio McDyess, does not appear at all focused on anything other than what’s in front of him at Kansas.
“I told Coach Bill (Self) Kansas is the place where I want to be and I made my decision when I was there,” De Sousa said Wednesday. “I met all of the team when I was there. I knew a couple of guys; we played against each other sometimes, with the national team, so I kind of knew them and they were real cool with me. They made me feel like I had been there for the past three years.”
With that vibe fresh in his mind, thoughts of Embiid and Diallo permanently planted there and the image of Jackson becoming a star and jumping to the NBA as the No. 4 overall pick in last June’s draft, the case for KU was too strong for De Sousa to pass up.
Asked if he would sum up his recruitment by saying that things worked out exactly the way he had hoped, De Sousa answered without hesitating.
“It really did,” he said. “I’m excited to get to Kansas.”
He announced his commitment from an airport in Germany and spent most of the past couple of days traveling from Florida back home to Angola.
But those facts perfectly illustrate the kind of tenacity possessed by Class of 2018 big man Silvio De Sousa, who made his oral commitment to Kansas official on Wednesday in an interview with the Journal-World.
At 6-foot-9, 244 pounds out of IMG Academy, by way of Angola, De Sousa will bring to Kansas the kind of power and speed that have earned him comparisons to former Kentucky forward Julius Randle and former KU All-American Thomas Robinson.
Ranked No. 18 nationally by Rivals.com, and No. 30 overall by the 247 Sports composite rankings, De Sousa chose Kansas over heavy interest from Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, Syracuse and others.
Those rankings are not high enough, according to ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who got to know De Sousa at the Steph Curry select camp in August.
“I think this kid is one of the 10 best players coming into college next year,” Fraschilla told the Journal-World. “There’s not 5 big men in the country I’d take ahead of him.”
In De Sousa, the Jayhawks are getting a player whom Fraschilla describes as “a beast.”
“He is an absolute stud,” Fraschilla said. “He’s not only high-energy, but he’s an outstanding athlete. And he is going to be a pro. There were things about (former Jayhawks) Carlton Bragg and Cliff Alexander that I worried about and questioned. And other guys who come in a little bit more raw like (Udoka Azubuike) did last year. But this kid is a stud. He has a good feel for the game. He’s, you know, Body By Jake, plays with incredible intensity and, for his size and age, he is very polished. There’s not a lot to not like,”
Wrote 247 Sports recruiting analyst Matt Scott during a recent look at the 2018 class, “Silvio is a strong and rugged power forward. He isn’t flashy, but he is a hard worker who gets a lot of easy baskets by crashing the offensive glass. He can handle the ball a bit and can finish with authority at the rim. He is a good shot blocker and he uses his impressive strength to wall up on defenders making it tough to get a good look at the basket.”
Fraschilla, who has called several Big 12 and KU games for ESPN throughout the past few years and has seen plenty of elite players in his day, both as a broadcaster and a head coach, said De Sousa one day would add his name to the list of NBA prospects to come out of KU.
“Just on his energy and athleticism he’s destined to play in the NBA,” Fraschilla said. “Bill’s gonna love this kid. And Kansas fans are gonna fall in love with his combination of freak athleticism, size, strength and then he’s got a motor that will not quit. He’s a warrior with a smile on his face.”
It may have been a busy weekend in Lawrence, with five-star prospects Devon Dotson and Silvio De Sousa officially visiting the Kansas basketball program, but the excitement on the recruiting trail did not end when the two talented prospects left town.
Before getting on to some other news that already has surfaced around the country this week, let’s take a quick look back at Dotson’s visit.
Dotson, the 6-foot-2 point guard from Charlotte, N.C., told Matt Scott of TheShiver.com that he spent quite a bit of time with Devonte’ Graham during his visit in an attempt to find out as much as he possibly could about the ins and outs of the KU program.
“I asked him a bunch of questions about the school,” Dotson told Scott. “He said he loved it there and that it’s a great place. He’s from North Carolina too and he said the transition to Kansas was smooth and easy.... He said they play fast and that it’s great for guards there.”
None of that, of course, is much of a surprise, but, from a KU perspective, Graham is exactly the kind of guy the Jayhawks want answering those questions and talking to recruits about the Kansas experience. The fact that these two play the same position and grew up in the same state likely only added to the connection and the positivity that Dotson took away from his visit.
That’s not to say it’s all KU all the time now for the talented guard. Dotson plans to visit Florida this coming weekend and told Scott that he might take a couple of more visits, too.
As for a time table on his decision, Dotson said he would like to announce his choice before his senior season begins in November.
McCormack down to 6
On Monday, Class of 2018 big man David McCormack, who recently made his own visit to the KU campus, narrowed his list to a final six.
Kansas made the cut along with Duke, NC State, Oklahoma State, Xavier and UCLA.
McCormack, 6-9, 290 pounds, plays at Oak Hill Academy, and was a teammate of current KU freshman Billy Preston last year.
Ranked No. 41 in the class according to the 247 Sports composite rankings, McCormack told Scott after his trip to Lawrence that his visit went “great” and added that he had yet to set up any official visits.
Langford picks Final 7
Class of 2018 shooting guard Romeo Langford announced on Twitter this week that he has narrowed his list down to a group of seven schools, with Kansas being one of them.
The 6-4, 185-pound guard from New Albany, Indiana, is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 5 player in the 2018 class. He also has Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and UCLA on his list of finalists.
Jerrance Howard is listed by Scout.com as KU’s lead recruiter for Langford.
Another Late Night visitor
According to the Twitter accout for Basketball Unlimited (@txbunation), Class of 2020 point guard RJ Hampton, of Little Elm, Texas, is planning to make an unofficial visit to Kansas for the 33rd annual Late Night in the Phog, Sept. 30.
247 Sports lists Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Cal, LSU and UCLA as the programs to have offered Hampton, 6-4, 170, and currently has the Longhorns pegged as the team to beat.
With Kansas football's season opener against Southeast Missouri State less than a week away, here's your chance to test your knowledge against the KUsports.com staff.
At the bottom of this page you'll find a list of 35 questions about the team, players and upcoming season. Some of them are pretty self-explanatory...
Will KU football score 50 points in a game? Who will record the first catch of the season?
Others may require a little more thought...
Which total will be higher: Mike Lee interceptions or Peyton Bender rushing touchdowns? Who will record more sacks: Dorance Armstrong + Daniel Wise or the rest of the team?
Perhaps a little luck, too...
What color will David Beaty's hat be for the opener? Predict the coin toss for the first game.
The challenge for you is to fill out the form and see how you stack up against other KU football fans, as well as the KUsports.com staff. We'll be compiling the results throughout the season and will post some of the leaders at the end of the year.
And if you need a little help, the staff will be giving their picks on our new podcast, which gets started later this week. Make sure you're following along with KUsports.com on Twitter and Facebook so you don't miss any of it.
While Late Night in The Phog — 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at Allen Fieldhouse — consistently draws the most attention when it comes to recruiting visits, sometimes it’s better — both for the player and the program — for a prospect to visit campus when very little is going on and he is the only show in town.
Such is the case this weekend for the Kansas men’s basketball program, which is welcoming Class of 2018 point guard Devon Dotson and Class of 2018 big man Silvio De Sousa to town for official visits.
Currently ranked as the seventh best point guard in his class by 247 Sports and as the No. 33 overall prospect (and rising) in the 2018 class by Rivals.com, Dotson is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard from Charlotte, N.C., known for his speed, athleticism and toughness.
In June, he narrowed his list down to eight but, according to Eric Bossi, of Rivals.com, his recruitment appears to be headed toward a three-team race between Kansas, Florida and Maryland.
The trip to KU this weekend will be Dotson’s second official visit. He also visited Arizona earlier this summer, but the Wildcats have since received commitments from two point guards, leading many to believe the U of A is no longer on Dotson’s list.
Also included in that top eight were: Miami (Fla.), Ohio State, USC, Wake Forest, with UCLA recently trying to jump into that group, as well, according to Bossi.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at how Dotson might fit into the three programs that Bossi believes will be his finalists. One note of interest, particularly with his visit to KU set for this weekend, is that Dotson does not currently have any other officials visits scheduled. And while that does not mean he won’t schedule them, it could mean that if he’s impressed enough by what he sees and hears this weekend, he might not feel the need to do so.
Dotson and Florida
According to Russ Wood, of InsideTheGators.com, “The Gators are in very good shape with Dotson.”
His relationships with Florida head coach Mike White and assistant Darris Nichols, who both have been recruiting Dotson to UF since they arrived in 2015, are viewed to be strong points for Florida and, with starting point guard Chris Chiozza graduating after the upcoming season, the Gators are preaching that Dotson could step into that role right away.
Wood also notes that the Gators are selling Dotson and his family on the combination of athletics, academics, proximity to home and style of play, all things you would expect a program to promote while pursuing a top-tier player.
Having said all of that, Wood also notes that while Dotson to Florida makes a lot of sense, “there is still work to be done by the Gators staff.”
Dotson and Maryland
Scott Greene, of TerrapinSportsReport.com, notes that Maryland and head coach Mark Turgeon have made no secret about their desire to land Dotson, sending coaches to his events throughout the summer in waves to make sure the Maryland presence is felt.
Greene also writes that Dotson recently told him in Philadelphia, at the Under Armor camp, that Maryland assistant Kevin Broadus had stayed in contact with him more frequently than any college coach out there. Add to that the fact that current AAU teammate Aaron Wiggins already has committed to Maryland and many believe those are two awfully strong selling points.
In a recent update, Greene also pointed out that Turgeon has shown a desire of late to play with more than one primary ball handler on the floor and the Terps may be closing in on one of the best recruiting classes in Maryland history, which could potentially be attractive to Dotson.
Dotson and Kansas
The fact that KU was second on Dotson’s list when it came down to setting his visits could bode well for the Jayhawks. It can be dangerous to read too much into those things, as, often times, it’s merely scheduling logistics that determine when and where visits take place. But the fact that Dotson does not have any other visits currently set beyond Kansas leads me to believe this was more of a priority scheduling.
KU coach Bill Self has talked a lot about the potential for his current team to lose as many as six players to the draft after the upcoming season, making his ability to bring in big time players to replace them an absolute must.
Even if all six do not leave, we already know there will be a need in the backcourt by virtue of the upcoming graduation of Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. Their departure would leave Kansas with Cal transfer Charlie Moore as the only point guard on the roster entering the 2018-19 season, so, clearly, there is plenty of playing time available for a point guard in the 2018 class.
Beyond that, Bossi points out that Kansas has been on Dotson since very early in his recruitment, which often plays an important role in these decisions.
Still close enough to the monster season turned in by reigning national player of the year Frank Mason III, Kansas is in a great position to use Mason’s role and production as something to point to for future point guards. While it’s not likely that Kansas will find another Mason in every recruiting class, it makes sense for the coaching staff to show recruits what Mason did and to help them visualize how they could fill a similar role for Kansas.
As of right now, Bossi believes the Jayhawks have a slight lead in the race for Dotson. And, if things go well this weekend, it’s entirely possible that the lead could grow.
As Bossi recently wrote, “From the outside looking in, Dotson appears to be nearing a decision. There's no doubt that the battle for him has gotten fierce... I would imagine (Kansas) is hoping for this weekend’s visit to go well enough that Dotson never sets any other visits.”
As for the visit of De Sousa, his arrival in Lawrence caught many recruiting analysts by surprise. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound bruiser is the No. 7-ranked power forward in the 2018 class and, like Dotson, also is considering Maryland, which is the current leader in the 247 Sports crystal ball rankings.
De Sousa attends IMG Academy in Florida and is originally from Angola.
While that duo will get the most attention from the Kansas program because they are on official visits, a handful of other unofficial visitors turned what figured to be a fairly quiet weekend into a big one for the Jayhawks.
Sunrise Christian Academy forward N’faly Dante (6-11, 230, No. 2 player in 2020 class) and teammate Malik Hall (6-7, 190, No. 92 in 2019 class) also were in Lawrence on Friday. Both Hall and Dante are expected to return to KU for unofficial visits the weekend of Late Night.
It’s no secret that Kansas basketball coach Bill Self can go to just about any part of the world and come home with a talented basketball player to plug into his KU roster.
From Ukraine to Cameroon and Canada to Chicago, Self has had success with prospects from all parts of the country and the world.
So it comes as no surprise then that Self has had little trouble landing players from the Sunflower State, who (a) often grew up wanting to be Jayhawks and (b) love the idea of playing major college basketball close to home so their friends and family members can enjoy the experience with them.
Tyrel Reed did it. Brady Morningstar and Perry Ellis did it, too. And those are just a couple of Kansans who went on to enjoy terrific careers in crimson and blue.
Across campus, where David Beaty is set to enter Year 3 of his time leading the KU football program, putting a greater emphasis on recruiting Kansas kids has been a big part of his plan to rebuild that program and, for the most part, Beaty and company have done a fantastic job of backing up their claim that they will make their home state a priority.
While Self does not have to be so emphatic with any such claims, he has always talked fondly of his appreciation for local talent and the impact it has had and can have on his program.
Whether they all have similar traits or bring something different to the table, putting Kansas kids in a KU uniform has a way of making fans from all corners of the state feel good about life. And with that in mind, now is as good of a time as any for Self to be mining the state for talent.
Matt Scott, of 247 Sports site TheShiver.com, recently put together an article that pointed out the number of elite-level players in Kansas during the next couple of recruiting classes.
While none of them are available in the 2018 class, things get rolling in a hurry in 2019 and 2020, where some of the top players in the country — at least as of today — have Kansas zip codes.
Here’s a quick look at the names. For more, including highlights and even more insight, be sure to check out Scott’s article, dubbed “Kansas Is The New Hoop State: The state of Kansas has more KU-level talent than ever. See what players are becoming can’t miss prospects for the Jayhawks.”
Class of 2019
• PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – Ranked No. 23 in the 247 composite rankings for the 2019 class, the 6-foot-9 son of former KU forward Lester Earl from Bishop Miege High is an athletic play maker with a wide range of skills who likes to play fast and hit the glass.
• CG Zach Harvey – Ranked No. 25 in the 247 composite rankings for the 2019 class, the combo guard from Topeka’s Hayden High is a bona fide scorer who is deadly outside but has become just as tough as an inside scorer.
• SF/PF Malik Hall – Ranked No. 92 and rising in the 247 rankings, the versatile forward from Sunrise Christian in Wichita, who can play on the wing or in the post, had a great summer and is as good a defender as he is a scorer.
• SF Blake Hinson – Ranked No. 65 on the 247 list, Hinson, a teammate of Hall’s at Sunrise Christian who originally hails from Florida, is a talented two-sport athlete worth keeping an eye on.
Note: Robinson-Earl, Harvey and Hall are all expected to be in attendance at Late Night in the Phog on Sept. 30 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Class of 2020
• PG Ty Berry — The Newton prospect who is known for his length and quickness is a player Scott says could wind up being the No. 1 ranked PG in the Class of 2020.
• PF N’faly Dante — 6-foot-11, runs like crazy and uses his athleticism all over the floor. Scott suggests that Dante, originally from Mali and currently playing at Sunrise Christian in Wichita, could wind up being the top-ranked player in the entire class by the time it’s all said and done.
Note: Both Berry and Dante are also expected to attend Late Night on unofficial visits in late September.
• CG K.T. Raimey — Olathe East prospect who, at 6-foot-4, is long and rangy and utilizes his speed while playing either on or off the ball.
• SG Jonathan Jackson — 6-foot-3 and the younger brother of former North Carolina standout Justin Jackson, this Jackson is known as a deadly shooter from 3-point range and he spent the summer playing up a division on the AAU circuit.
In case you missed the announcement on Tuesday, you might want to sit down before you read this.
The Final Four, as we know it, is changing.
No, the NCAA is not reseeding the teams when they get there (a great idea); no, they haven’t decided to limit the rotation of Final Four sites to New Orleans, San Antonio and Indianapolis (an even better idea); and, no, they aren’t turning college basketball’s grand finale into three best-of-three series showdowns to make it more closely resemble the NBA playoffs (a terrible idea, one I’ve never heard suggested and I don’t even know why I wrote it).
In the interest of clarity, it should be pointed out that the Final Four itself is not actually changing at all. But the Final Four experience, the weekend of hype and excitement and music and contests and give-aways that surround the main event is adding a wrinkle that figures to draw some interest and up the fun level for fans and players alike.
Here’s the gist:
• Intersport, a marketing company based out of Chicago, on Tuesday announced the creation of a 3-on-3 tournament at the Final Four, which Intersport will host. The event will be dubbed the “3-on-3 College Hoops Invitational.” Sounds cool. But it gets better.
• The participants will be current seniors who have exhausted their college eligibility — i.e. did not reach the Final Four with their teams — and teams will be formed with members of the same conference playing together. Think Frank Mason III teaming up with fellow Big 12 seniors Monte Morris and Deonte Burton had they created this event last year.
• The rules will be standard, international, 3-on-3 rules: one point for a basket inside the 3-point line and two points for a bucket behind the line, with 12-second shot clocks and games played to 21 or whichever team has the highest score after 10 minutes of play.
• Each team will feature four players, three starters and one substitute, and, together, they will be competing in a three-day bracketed tournament — March 30-April 1 in San Antonio — for a cash prize of $100,000. Think about that as a graduation present — all four players on the winning team receive $25,000 apiece. Pretty sweet!
David Worlock, NCAA director of media coordination, told CBS Sports that the Intersport event was in no way directly associated with the NCAA or the Final Four, which is what allows the existence of a cash prize. Intersport also is the company that puts on the dunk contest and 3-point contest held in conjunction with the Final Four each year for the past 29 years.
This event is the latest to join the 3-on-3 craze that has reemerged as a big player in the game of basketball. The 3-on-3 format was added to the 2020 Olympics, of all places, and The Big Three event, created by Ice Cube and featuring some big and bright names from the NBA’s recent past, was a hit with fans, both in person and watching from home.
“The game of 3-on-3 basketball continues to gain momentum thanks to its recent addition to the Olympics and further development at the professional and grassroots levels,” Intersport vice president of sports properties Drew Russell said in a statement. “Based on our storied and successful history of creating and producing live college events for more than 30 years, Intersport is perfectly positioned to bring 3-on-3 basketball to the college game. We've been in the planning stages for months and are excited to bring this new and exciting opportunity to market for the very first time.”
While the event has some punch to it, fans of college programs across the country obviously will be rooting against the idea of having any of their players playing in the event.
Still, for those fans with intense conference pride and for those who would like idea of seeing their seniors play one more time after elimination from the NCAA Tournament, the 3-on-3 College Hoops Invitational has some serious potential.
One of the biggest potential pitfalls, of course, is the idea of players passing on the opportunity for fear of injury a couple of months ahead of the NBA Draft. And while that, no doubt, will keep a bunch of seniors from playing in the tournament, the mere fact that seniors being taken in the two-round NBA Draft has been on a steady decline for years at least brings back into play the possibility of a bunch of notable seniors deeming it worth their while, especially with that cash prize sitting there for the taking.
Who knows if this idea will have the staying power of the dunk contest and 3-point shootout, but it sure seems like it will be fun to find out.
What once looked like a promising option for a Kansas basketball program thin on big men now looks much less likely.
Jon Rothstein, of FanRag Sports, reported earlier this week that “multiple sources” had told him that 7-foot center Mitchell Robinson — the McDonald’s All-American who was released from his commitment to Western Kentucky and visited LSU, Kansas and New Orleans during recent weeks — was considering skipping the 2017-18 season altogether in order to prepare for the 2018 NBA Draft.
No Kansas. No New Orleans. No return to Western Kentucky. No basketball.
Sure, Robinson, if he does go this route, will spend the next 10 months working out and preparing for the draft, but is that really his best path to NBA success?
I get that being ineligible due to transfer rules, and therefore being unable to play in a game for whichever school he chose, would keep him from playing meaningful basketball. But isn’t the idea of learning from Bill Self or any other legitimate college basketball coach worth something to a young man in Robinson’s position? Malik Newman sure seemed to think so.
That’s not to say that Newman would have been a likely lottery pick had he sat out last year and then jumped into the 2017 NBA Draft before ever playing a minute at KU. He’s not 7 feet tall or that might have been the case. Either way, Newman still would have been drafted. But instead, he chose to come to Kansas to play for Kansas and now his name is all over the place, from coast to coast, as a part of potentially one of the best college backcourts in America.
It sure seems, at least to me, that going anywhere — Kansas, UNO, back to WKU, wherever — and getting the kind of structure one gets from regular practices, pick-up games, travel, film study and help in the weight room and with nutrition, would be a better move for Robinson than sitting out altogether.
Doing the opposite would not only keep Robinson from getting those benefits, but also would be another blow to the current NBA age limit rule, which states that players are not eligible to join the league until they turn 19.
While that rule gained support early on because it helped prevent players who were not ready for pro ball from jumping to the NBA right out of high school, situations like Robinson’s likely were not what they had in mind.
And I can’t imagine current NBA coaches or general managers like it much either.
Lottery picks are worth their weight in gold in the NBA, and, although Robinson would be sitting out hoping to preserve his status as a potential lottery selection — which he was on Jonathan Givony's most recent 2018 NBA mock draft — it’s hard to envision an NBA franchise picking a guy that high who had not played competitive basketball in more than a year.
Forget about the one-and-done trend’s impact on the college game for a second and think about it from the NBA perspective. Having a potential franchise player playing in college — or even overseas — for a full year before you draft him has to be much more appealing than picking a young man who has just been in the gym working out.
That’s not to say Robinson could not get better or position himself to be an attractive option for NBA franchises by getting after it for the next 10 months. In fact, Rothstein’s report mentions that Robinson’s camp is hoping he follows the path taken by Sudanese big man Thon Maker, who became the No. 10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft after doing a year of post-graduate prep school in 2015 while waiting to fulfill the NBA’s age requirement.
But these two situations are not exactly the same and I can’t imagine this is the direction any of the other parties involved — college basketball, the NBA or NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who recently said the age 19 rule was “not working” — want to see the game go.
Time will tell what happens to Robinson. But, as of today, it’s looking less and less likely that college basketball will be a part of his story.
With visits to Kansas and the University of New Orleans officially out of the way, the New Orleans Times Picayune reported earlier this week that 7-foot McDonald's All-American Mitchell Robinson soon would make a decision between KU and UNO.
But close followers of Twitter who have been observing Robinson's behavior of late are aware that there might be a third school in the picture. And, no, it's not LSU, which Robinson also visited before trips to Kansas and New Orleans.
Instead, it's Western Kentucky. That's right... the same Western Kentucky program that Robinson initially had committed to but, in July, from which he asked for a release.
There's nothing official out there saying that WKU is back in the mix. But @BarstoolWestern, a Twitter account with 6,000 followers that tracks Western Kentucky sports, Tweeted this week that it had sources that confirmed that Robinson was "seriously considering returning to WKU."
Big deal, right? Fan site hopes for the best and tries to create a little buzz and/or hope that the return of the Top 10 prospect and potential future NBA lottery pick is a real option for the Hilltoppers.
That would be the logical conclusion. But add to that the fact that Robinson himself (@kodakmitch23) ReTweeted that claim and one that urged WKU fans with the following: "Hearing a lot of different thoughts from Tops fans about this. If you want to see him play for WKU, give him a shout"
Robinson also ReTweeted a Twitter poll put up by @100MilesofHate (sweet name, smh) that asked: "If you're @WKUBasketball & Coach Stansbury, do you welcome back Mitchell Robinson if he wishes to return?"
As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, with 1,092 votes counted, "Absolutely" was leading "Nope" 64-36. And that's far closer than I thought it would've been.
Robinson also ReTweeted at least three or four other Tweets referencing his possible return to WKU, including one person who took the ultimate leap and said Robinson going back to Western Kentucky "would be like Lebron coming back to Cleveland."
Robinson, as you surely know by now, is from Chalmette, La., so him going to UNO would be a lot more like him returning to Cleveland than him electing to stick with his initial commitment to WKU.
There's no telling just how serious this chatter about the 7-footer changing his mind (again?) and staying with Western Kentucky for the 2017-18 season really is. But it's at least worth tracking, even if Twitter is not the most official and scientific place to do such things.
Either way, if that Times Picayune report was accurate and Robinson is planning to decided soon, we'll know one way or another in the fairly near future and can move on from Robinson Watch 2017 regardless of the outcome.