Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

Report says Romeo Langford’s father had issue with KU being mentioned in FBI investigation

Romeo Langford discusses his decision to continue his basketball career at Indiana University following his college announcement ceremony at New Albany High School, Monday, April 30, 2018, in New Albany, Ind.

Romeo Langford discusses his decision to continue his basketball career at Indiana University following his college announcement ceremony at New Albany High School, Monday, April 30, 2018, in New Albany, Ind. by Tyler Stewart/News and Tribune via AP

Just days after the Kansas basketball program officially became linked to a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball, five-star recruit Romeo Langford, who chose Indiana over KU and Vanderbilt on Monday night, said KU's tie to the FBI probe would not impact his decision.

“It doesn't hurt them at all,” said Langford on April 13, in an interview with USA Today.

That may have held true in the eyes of the player. But news out of Indiana on Monday night, shortly after Langford made his commitment, illustrated that the FBI investigation did have at least some impact on Langford's father.

In an interview with Mike Miller of HoosierSportsReport.com, Tim Langford discussed the impact of the FBI investigation and KU's mention in the federal indictment on his son's decision. And it's clear from Mr. Langford's words that the impact was both significant and likely shared with Romeo.

“It pushed it out for me,” Tim Langford told Miller. “Just having that name (FBI) on your school.”

According to the article, Tim Langford's biggest concern about KU being named in the federal indictment does not appear to come from the fact that the Jayhawks could find themselves in future trouble — that may or may not still be the case and also may or may not impact the 2018-19 season, which likely will be Romeo's only year of college ball — but, instead, that his son, by attending KU, could have to answer questions about whether he received money over and over again.

“I didn’t take (Kansas) out of the three verbally,” Tim Langford explained to Miller. “But in my mind, we just didn’t want him going there and anybody asking him that type of question. So we don’t want him going to school there. We don’t care how good the basketball is.”

While the FBI investigation remains ongoing, with no known time table for an ending or a resolution, it remains to be seen if this type of situation will become more common among players Kansas targets in the future.

It's worth noting that nothing has changed in terms of KU's link to the investigation. At this point, KU remains mentioned merely because it was defrauded by Adidas executive Jim Gatto and a colleague, who are said to have provided more than $100,000 to a separate parent and guardian of two KU players in exchange for those players to attend Kansas. Also worth noting here is the fact that Indiana, like Kansas, is an Adidas school.

So unless anything more concrete comes out about any wrongdoing on the part of KU, it's easy to see how both the Kansas coaching staff and prospective recruits and their families can take things at face value and say and believe that KU played no role in any of the schemes outlined in the indictment.

Because of that, it's probably unlikely to have a negative effect because most of the issue surrounding the investigation is on one-and-done players and Kansas, as well as other major college programs, only recruit a couple of those every year and do not reel one in in every class.

In the 2018 recruiting class alone, Devon Dotson, David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji all are expected to be at Kansas for multiple seasons, with only No. 8-ranked prospect Quentin Grimes projecting as a possible one-and-done player.

Grimes is currently listed as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft — one spot behind Langford — in a 2019 mock draft put together by ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony on April 20.


Five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford picks Indiana

Romeo Langford places an Indiana University cap onto his head after selecting to continue his basketball career with the Hoosiers on Monday at New Albany High School, Monday, April 30, 2018, in New Albany, Ind.

Romeo Langford places an Indiana University cap onto his head after selecting to continue his basketball career with the Hoosiers on Monday at New Albany High School, Monday, April 30, 2018, in New Albany, Ind. by Tyler Stewart/News and Tribune via AP

The recruitment of five-star guard Romeo Langford ended right where most people expected it would — with the star of the Hoosier State committing to the Hoosiers.

Monday night, in front of more than 80 credentialed media members and a jam-packed high school gymnasium buzzing with anticipation, five-star guard Romeo Langford picked up a red Indiana Hoosiers hat, placed it on his head and ended one of the most high-profile recruitments of the decade.

After thanking a laundry list of people who helped him reach that moment in his life, Langford said simply, “With that being said, I will continue my education and basketball career at... [long pause as he placed the hat on his head] Indiana University.”

With that, the place went wild and all of those rabid Hoosiers fans who showed up to the public announcement rejoiced over landing the No. 5-ranked player in the 2018 recruiting class, Indiana's Mr. Basketball, a player who many believe can single-handedly expedite Indiana's rebuilding project under head coach Archie Miller.

Left sitting on the podium in front of Langford were Kansas and Vanderbilt hats, representatives of the two programs that came oh-so-close to bringing the Hoosier hero to their campuses.

Instead, the pull of staying home and playing out a college career in front of a state full of people who already adore him proved to be too much for any other program to overcome.

The 6-foot-5 wing who has been described as “a bucket getter,” likely would have been pencilled in as a starter at Kansas.

Some speculated that Langford waited so long to make his decision because he wanted to see what would happen with KU's roster. And after both Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick elected to leave school early — making it all four of KU's starting guards departing before next season — that fueled the belief, at least locally, that Langford could pick KU.

Ultimately, it came down to his desire to help rebuild Indiana into the national powerhouse it once was while doing it in front of a state full of adoring fans who have been just as active as the IU coaching staff in recruiting Langford to stay home.

Langford's decision leaves KU with one open scholarship still to hand out before the 2018-19 season arrives and, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman, the Jayhawks will host Albany graduate transfer Joe Cremo for an official visit this weekend.

Cremo, a 6-foot-4 guard who averaged 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists during the 2017-18 season at Albany, played in all 100 games games in which he suited up during his three years at Albany, starting 67 of them.

The shooting guard from Scotia, N.Y., played 35.2 minutes per game this season and shot 48.5 percent from 3-point range.

Cremo likely is not the only Plan B option for the Jayhawks to fill that final spot, but, because of his ability to shoot the ball, he has to be considered one of the more intriguing options.

As for the rest of KU's 2018 class, it remains one of the Top 5 or 6 classes in the country, with five-star guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes expected to step in and compete for starting spots, four-star big man David McCormack adding depth and insurance inside in the form of someone who truly embraces a center's role and three-star local prospect Ochai Agbaji, of Oak Park High in Kansas City, Mo., coming in as the wild card of the class.


What’s next if KU doesn’t land Romeo Langford?

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Those of you who following Kansas basketball recruiting closely, and probably even a decent chunk of those of you who don't, surely know that today is unofficially known as Romeo Langford Day.

Today is the day the top remaining unsigned player in the Class of 2018 makes official his choice between finalists Kansas, Indiana and Vanderbilt, and, even the most die-hard KU fans who wear nothing but crimson-and-blue-colored glasses have to admit that it sure looks like this one is headed to Indiana.

The 6-foot-5 guard ranked No. 5 overall in the class is from New Albany, Ind. He recently was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball. And he — or at least his crew — has opened up his announcement to the public, with rumors of an invitation to the governor of Indiana swirling, as well.

While all of those signs point to one of the bright young stars in the Hoosier State becoming the next Hoosier, one that might be even stronger than those surfaced Monday.

Bright and early Monday morning, ESPN's Jeff Goodman sent out a Tweet that said Albany guard Joe Cremo, a graduate transfer who stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall, had told ESPN that he would visit Villanova on Wednesday and KU over the weekend.

None by Jeff Goodman

Now, it's entirely possible that Cremo's interest in visiting Kansas is completely unrelated to Langford's decision. But it sure makes a lot more sense to look at it this way: Romeo's headed to Indiana, KU knows it and the Jayhawks are making moves to fill the one available scholarship they have remaining with someone who could take some of those minutes they were hoping to give to Romeo.

Although Cremo (pronounced Cream-Oh) is no Romeo, he could be exactly what the Jayhawks are looking for.

As a junior during the 2017-18 season, Cremo started all 32 games for Albany and played 35.2 minutes per outing. He averaged 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 48.5 percent from 3-point range (76-of-166).

As a sophomore, he shot 37.6 percent from downtown while starting all 35 Albany games. And during his freshman season, in 2015-16, played in all 33 Albany games, with zero starts, while averaging 20.7 minutes per game and shooting 39.6 percent from 3-point range.

Convincing the 6-4 gunner to come to Kansas — provided Langford does not — certainly will not be automatic. Cremo hails from Scotia, N.Y., which sits just four hours north of the Villanova campus, a tad bit closer than the 19-hour trek to Kansas.

Beyond that, Villanova and head coach Jay Wright are sort of the darlings of college basketball right now. Wright has that program humming as well as any program in the country, has for a handful of years now, and also is bringing in one of the best recruiting classes he's ever signed at Villanova.

It's not hard to envision Cremo squinting his eyes and envisioning himself playing the role of Ryan Arcidiacono or Donte DiVincenzo, who both starred as fearless, gunner-type guards on Villanova national title teams.

The biggest thing KU would have to sell Cremo would be playing time and an opportunity.

With the Jayhawks losing all four guards from their starting lineup in 2017-18, there not only exists an opportunity to pick up guard minutes, but also — and more importantly — a need for someone to shoot the ball from the outside.

Five-star feshmen Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes will both get a lot of minutes — both are starters if you ask me — and back-up point guard Charlie Moore also should be a valuable fixture in the rotation given his skills and experience.

Add to that the return of sophomore-to-be Marcus Garrett and the Jayhawks have a pretty strong, albeit different, set of guards in their 2018-19 rotation. The one thing that quartet is missing however is someone who can burn the nets. Cremo can do that. And the fact that he would bring valuable experience and maturity to a pretty young team would merely be icing on the cake.

It's kind of a win-win-win for all three parties involved with Cremo at this point. If he ends up picking between KU and Villanova, he pretty much can't go wrong. And if that does in fact happen, whichever program lands him would be getting a quality piece to add to its already dangerous roster.

There is, of course, also the possibility that Cremo elects to go elsewhere. After all, as of April 2, Evan Daniels of 247 Sports reported that 15 different college programs — Arizona, Cincinnati, Creighton, Louisville, Marquette, Ohio State, Seton Hall, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s, SMU, Texas, Texas Tech, UConn, West Virginia and Wichita State — already had reached out to the 21-year-old Cremo about joining their roster. In the weeks since then, at least another dozen programs also have shown interest.

First things first, though. KU has to hear, for sure, what Langford is doing. If the answer is suiting up in red-and-white candy-striped IU pants next season, the pursuit of Cremo will begin. And if the Jayhawks don't land Cremo, be it because he picks another program or they move on, Bill Self and his staff no doubt have other players on their radar to fill that final scholarship.


Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Udoka Azubuike

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) roars after a foul by Kentucky late in the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at United Center.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) roars after a foul by Kentucky late in the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at United Center. by Nick Krug

For the past couple of years, I've kick-started yet another season of KU basketball coverage with a series known as “He Will, He Won't, He Might,” which looks at each individual Jayhawk expected to be in the rotation and tosses out a prediction in each of those categories about the player's upcoming season.

For the second year in a row, the guesses were pretty spot on, with just a couple of misses and mostly a good look at what was to be for the Jayhawks.

Before we completely put the 2017-18 season to bed, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at each one from KU's Final Four season.

We'll go in reverse order here, I'll give a quick recap and grade my predictions and we'll try to get to all eight of them this week so keep an eye out and be sure to click the links inside each to go back and look at the original entry.

Next up: Sophomore center Udoka Azubuike:

Operating for a large part of the season as KU's only true big man, Azubuike's role and importance on KU's 2017-18 squad was only eclipsed by that held by senior point guard Devonte' Graham.

Unlike Graham, who simply could not come off the floor on most nights, Azubuike spent a fair amount of time on the bench this season, be it because of foul issues or needing a breather. That kept his numbers down a tad and limited his minutes to 23 a game.

Still, in those 23 minutes, few players in the country had the kind of impact in that short amount of time as Azubuike did for Kansas. When he was on the floor, the Jayhawks were almost a completely different team and his size, strength and power on both offense and defense proved to be huge assets for the Jayhawks.

Azubuike, who led the nation in field goal percentage at 77 percent, finished the season with averages of 13 points and seven rebounds per game. He also was the team leader in blocked shots (60) and became a phenomenon unto himself for his up-and-down exploits at the free throw line.

He Will: Break a rim this season – It never happened and I have to admit, I am kind of surprised. As pointed out in the original “He Will, He Won't, He Might” entry, I did not expect Azubuike to shatter the glass or rip the rim clean off of the backboard. But I did envision a scenario in which the brut force of his dunks would rattle the rim so hard that it would slip out of place a quarter or an inch or two and have to be addressed by whatever arena's facilities people. Same could have gone for the support structure behind the basket. But neither were compromised during the 2017-18 season, perhaps because Azubuike learned his lesson and adjusted a little after Italy and perhaps because of the quality of the goals used in college basketball these days. Either way, it was not for lack of trying. Azubuike finished with nearly 120 dunks on the season and got his money's worth on just about every one.

He Won't: Be in the conversation for all-Big 12 honors unless he develops better post moves – While this sort of held true in the sense that Azubuike did not land on the first or second all-Big 12 squads at season's end, he did pick up a third-team nod and, at times, was as dominant a player as there was in the conference. A factor that opposing coaches had to account for every night, it was Azubuike's inconsistency and not necessarily his limited and still-developing post moves that dropped him down a couple of notches. Of course, the fact that the league was as good as it has been in a long time, with serious talent on just about every squad, didn't help him any.

He Might: Be known as much for constant foul trouble as his monster dunks – I'd say this is a fair claim. Those 120 dunks were pretty remarkable, but it seemed to make like KU fans — along with the KU coaching staff — spent more time worrying about Azubuike's fouls than they did celebrating his vicious dunks. The sophomore center, who played in 36 of 39 games and 848 minutes, committed 108 fouls during that time. He finished with four or more fouls 11 times and often picked up those silly fouls that seemed completely unnecessary and drove Self crazy. He has a lot of room to grow still and will have no shortage of things to work on this offseason. But finding a way to keep himself from committing those types of fouls will be just about as important as anything he works on.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 2 out of 3.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Azubuike stories from the 2017-18 season

• The Road to Recovery: Inside KU center Udoka Azubuike’s journey back to full health

• Back to where it all began, when Azubuike almost ripped down an Italian goal during KU's exhibition tour overseas in August

• Tom Keegan: Jayhawks far more effective with Azubuike on the floor


Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Billy Preston

Kansas forward Billy Preston

Kansas forward Billy Preston by Nick Krug

For the past couple of years, I've kick-started yet another season of KU basketball coverage with a series known as “He Will, He Won't, He Might,” which looks at each individual Jayhawk expected to be in the rotation and tosses out a prediction in each of those categories about the player's upcoming season.

For the second year in a row, the guesses were pretty spot on, with just a couple of misses and mostly a good look at what was to be for the Jayhawks.

Before we completely put the 2017-18 season to bed, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at each one from KU's Final Four season.

We'll go in reverse order here, I'll give a quick recap and grade my predictions and we'll try to get to all eight of them this week so keep an eye out and be sure to click the links inside each to go back and look at the original entry.

Next up: Freshman forward Billy Preston:

Although Preston never played in an actual game for the Jayhawks, we did have the pleasure of watching him in six exhibition games, which, at varying points, only showed us glimpses of what could have been.

Preston averaged 15 minutes a game in the three games he played for KU in Italy — including one start — and looked good at times and young at others.

Things changed a bit back in the States, as Preston averaged the same number of minutes per game in KU's three preseason exhibition games but also scored in double figures each time out, shooting 14-of-16 from the floor in wins over Missouri, Pitt State and Fort Hays State.

Although they'll never show up in any history books, Preston's final numbers as a Jayhawk went like this: 9.2 points and four rebounds per game on 61 percent shooting in 15 minutes per outing. And that all came before Preston really had much time to get comfortable or work with KU's coaches.

No one's crying over the way things went down, especially given the fact that Preston went overseas and got paid and KU went on to the Final Four. But his name will likely forever be associated with the phrase, “What could have been.”

He Will: Frustrate the Kansas coaches for most, if not all, of the 2017-18 season – My guess here was that Preston would be one of those players with enormous potential but trouble getting it and understanding how to consistently play hard and give the kind of effort the coaches demand from all of their players. That, in itself, would have been frustrating. What went down instead was a whole different level of frustration, with both the KU coaches and Preston's teammates, not to mention Preston himself, kept in limbo for months over his eligibility and whether they would ever get him back. They didn't, of course, and all parties involved deserve some major credit for keeping the whole situation from being the huge distraction it could have been.

He Won't: Stop working to try and improve – There's no doubt that this one was spot on. And give credit to Preston for that. For weeks, the guy's only game day came in the shoot-around portion of KU's games. And, for weeks, Preston continually went hard and always had by far the biggest sweat going after those pre-game shoot-arounds. And that's to say nothing of the effort he put in during practices, both as a member of KU's red team that helped pushed the starters and during those times when they thought they were close to getting him back and were trying to work him into the rotation.

He Might: Figure it all out by Big 12 play and be the X Factor for this KU team – Perhaps “He Might Have” would have been the better way to put this one. There's no doubt that getting Preston back, at any point in the season but particularly at the start of Big 12 play, would have been a huge lift for the Jayhawks. But it did not happen and his opportunity to become any kind of factor, X or otherwise, never arrived.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 2.5 out of 3. I won't take full credit for these because they weren't all exactly right. But it's wild to look at how close they were even though I was talking about him playing and that never happened.

In case you missed the other preseason predictions revisited:

- Revisiting previous predictions: Marcus Garrett

- Revisiting previous predictions: Mitch Lightfoot

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Preston stories from the 2017-18 season

• Billy Preston's mom opens up on situation involving her son

• VICE Sports recently caught up with former Jayhawk Billy Preston to talk about what could have been and what never was

• Tom Keegan: Billy Preston and Michael Porter Jr., foes for a day, friends the rest of the way


KU notebook: Agbaji to make official visit, offering future classes and barn storming and charity events featuring Frank Mason

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Class of 2018 shooting guard Ochai Agbaji is finally taking that official visit to Kansas.

Consider it a bit of a victory lap for the incoming freshman from Oak Park High in Kansas City, Mo., who committed to KU and officially signed earlier this year.

According to JayhawkSlant.com, Agbaji will make his official visit to KU's campus the weekend of May 4-6. While the visit may be a little different than those roll-out-the-red-carpet visits that come with prospects who are still in the decision-making process, that does not mean it will not be just as valuable.

In fact, Agbaji, who said recently that he expected to move to Lawrence on June 1, could actually get more out of this than an actual official visit in that it will give him an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with the KU coaches and support staff, therein preparing him even better for what's to come when he arrives in June.

Agbaji, you may have seen, recently made a monster jump in the Rivals.com rankings for players in the Class of 2018, from unranked a couple of months ago to No. 141 overall in the site's most recent rankings.

Agbaji, who earned a handful of Kansas City-area player of the year honors came onto the scene late in the recruiting process, but quickly drew the interest of some of the top programs around the country.

With his options growing by the day earlier this year, Agbaji's recruitment came to an abrupt end when KU jumped into the picture and offered him a scholarship after KU coach Bill Self saw him in late January, following a few viewings by KU assistant Norm Roberts.

He committed just a few days after the offer, saying then, "What more are we really looking for," and Self discussed the 6-foot-5 guard's potential after receiving his letter of intent earlier this month.

"Ochai could be a high major defender early in his career," Self said. "And his skill set is such that I think he could be an immediate impact player for us."

Offers flying

As you might have read, it was a big recruiting weekend down in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and some of the moves since Sunday seem to back that up.

With coaches already having pinpointed the players they wanted to get a second or third look at heading into the weekend, the aftermath created a situation where those second and third looks became offers.

According to recruiting analysts across the country, at least two players received that kind of treatment from the Kansas coaching staff, with Class of 2019 big man Kofi Cockburn (6-11, 300 pounds, 4-stars, ranked No. 31) and Class of 2020 shooting guard Bryce Thompson (6-3, 160, 4 stars, ranked No. 45) picking up offers from KU.

Cockburn is in that true center mold, a dominant shot blocker who can rebound, be physical and control the paint.

Thompson, meanwhile, who sounded like he had been waiting on an offer from KU for quite sometime, is more of a scorer with good length and athleticism.

Thompson, who topped 20 points twice last weekend, is attracting all kinds of attention from across college basketball and, in a recent interview with Pat Lawless of PrepCircuit.com, he explained what he liked about KU.

“I like their fans,” he told Lawless. They have a great fan base and coach Bill Self is a Hall of Fame-caliber coach. There's a lot to like about them. I went to Late Night in the Phog at the beginning of the year. It was amazing and something I've never experienced before.”

Jayhawks set to go barn storming

In keeping with tradition, the departing seniors from this year's Kansas men's basketball team will be playing together one more time, Saturday night at Lansing High in their annual barn storming fun.

Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Clay Young, who graduated from Lansing High, will team with other collegiate players from around the area to take on a group of 810 Varsity high school all-stars, including future KU walk-on Garrett Luinstra, of Free State High, in a game that will tip off at 7:30 p.m., and feature a night of fun on and off the court.

"For KU or basketball fans not able to go to Allen Fieldhouse, this will be a fun event, watching some of KU's best players in recent years up close and getting an autograph for cheaper than a movie,” said event organizer and Lansing High and KU graduate Chad Rader. “This will be a great event for Kansas fans, as well as the Lansing community and Leavenworth County.”

Tickets will be sold at the door and will cost $10 for adults and $7 for children 10 and under. An autograph session will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Mason back on the mound

Former KU point guard Frank Mason III will be returning to the area for the first of two times this summer on May 22, when he will throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2018 season for the Kansas City T-Bones minor league baseball team.

Mason, who has a history of toeing the rubber to toss out a first pitch, will be on hand for the T-Bones' home opener and also will stick around to sign autographs during the game.

Later in the summer, Mason will return to Kansas City to host his first Frank Mason III Charity Softball Game at T-Bones Stadium on June 16. For tickets to that event, log on to www.FM3softballcharitygame.com. Proceeds from that event will help benefit the Children’s Mercy Kansas City & National Youth Foundation.


Diving deeper on the Commission on College Basketball’s recommendation to allow undrafted players to return to school

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) converse during a break in the first half on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) converse during a break in the first half on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

While Kansas coach Bill Self has been known for putting players in the NBA Draft lottery, there also have been a handful of ultra-talented Jayhawks who have gone undrafted after leaving KU.

Some of them, such as point guard Sherron Collins or power forward Perry Ellis, were seniors and had reached the end of the road on their college careers.

But a few of the undrafted Jayhawks have been underclassmen, who, because they kept their name in the draft and signed with an agent, were forced to start their professional careers elsewhere, outside of the glitz and glamour and guaranteed big-money contracts offered by the NBA.

While the immediate future of the NBA Draft now means nothing to those players, it could get quite interesting for players like them in the near future.

Although the overwhelming response to The Commission on College Basketball's recommendations to the NCAA to help clean up the sport was that the committee fell short and missed a great opportunity to do something meaningful, there were a couple of aspects of the 60-page report that could be deemed as good for the game if installed properly.

Sure, getting rid of the one-and-done rule or better transparency from shoe companies and agents would be good for the game, as well. But implementing those recommendations, at least the way the commission sees it, is a bit of a pipe dream and would be both costly and dependent on outside help.

One recommendation that appears to be entirely up to the NCAA, however, is the idea that undrafted players could return to college after the NBA Draft.

There are, of course, a couple of conditions here. 1. The player must remain academically eligible. 2. The player must return to the same school. 3. The player must request an evaluation from the NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee before entering the draft.

All of those are fairly standard practices in the first place, at least at Kansas. So maintaining them in the presence of this type of new rule would not be all that difficult.

The commission contends that “elite high school and college basketball players tend to misjudge their professional prospects,” and that better vetting of that on the front end would lead to better decisions being made. While that certainly seems true — according to NCAA research conducted in 2017, 59 percent of Division I basketball players believe that they will play professionally — having a safety net in place would be both good for the players and for the college game.

The only con I can see here is that it might make the recruiting game a little tougher for coaches whose rosters might be in limbo a little longer.

As it stands today, Udoka Azubuike has until May 30 to decide if he wants to stay in the draft or pull his name out. Under a new rule based off the recommendation, KU would have to wait at least three more weeks — until after the June 21 draft — to know Azubuike's status for sure.

But coaches adjust. And as long as the playing field is somewhat level, which, for the most part, would be the case with this rule in place, finding a way to adapt to this idea would not take that long or be all that difficult.

So enough about why the rule would be good or has been recommended. Let's look at some more practical examples of what this could mean.

By my count, and including this year, there have been just three (with the potential for that to increase to four or five) players in the Bill Self era at Kansas who have tried to turn pro and could have come back after not getting drafted.

Cliff Alexander in 2015. Wayne Selden in 2016. Brannen Greene in 2016. And Azubuike and Lagerald Vick this year, should Azubuike decide to stay in the draft and both players go undrafted.

Looking back, it seems unlikely that Alexander (eligibility), Selden (roster availability) or Greene (roster availability) would have been able to return had this rule been in place in the past, so it's not exactly as if KU has missed out. Besides, both Selden (still with Memphis) and Alexander (in the NBA and G League from 2015-18) did well for themselves despite not getting drafted.

There have been some who suggest that the rule should expand to include allowing players drafted in the second round to return to school, but that, in my opinion, is a tougher case to make. Getting drafted is getting drafted. And in an era when more than 200 players are eligible for the draft on an annual basis, being one of the lucky 60 to get selected seems like a pretty sweet reward. What they do with it from there is up to them.

As mentioned at the top, Self and his staff have done a fantastic job of developing KU players for the next level and Kansas is an enjoying a rich era of former Jayhawks playing big roles in the NBA. So it's not a huge surprise that this number is so small.

What might be more interesting to examine, however, is the number of former KU players in the Self era who would have tried their luck in the draft earlier if this recommended rule had been in place.

That list is much longer and makes it easy to see how (a) such a situation would have changed the look of several KU teams and (b) could have changed the pro prospects for a handful of former Jayhawks.

Before getting carried away and assuming that everyone would have tried to go early and just returned to school if they weren't drafted — which very well could be the case unless the rule is carefully crafted should it go into effect — let's take a quick look at former Jayhawks who had the best case for truly expecting to be drafted earlier than they were.

• Wayne Simien, 2004 – If Simien had left after his junior season (his first under Self), no one would have been shocked. The former KU All-American averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per game his junior year and easily would have drawn interest from the NBA. As it went, Simien returned for his senior season, averaged 20 and 11 and became a first-round draft pick of the Miami Heat (No. 29 overall) in the 2005 NBA Draft.

• Cole Aldrich, 2009 – After following up his NCAA Tournament coming-out party as a freshman with a strong sophomore season that produced 15 points and 11 rebounds per game averages, Aldrich, at 6-foot-11, with great instincts and good skills, easily would have been drafted — and almost certainly in the first round — had he elected to leave school after two seasons. Instead, he came back for a third year, teamed with Sherron Collins to produce a monster season in 2009-10 and became a lottery pick, going No. 11 overall, in the 2010 NBA Draft.

• Marcus and Markieff Morris, 2010 – The Twins were probably ready to roll after their second seasons at KU, with Marcus being more of a bona fide star and Markieff still coming into his own. Either way, both players would've been first-round picks and risked nothing by leaving. Instead, they returned for their junior seasons, helped lead KU to the Elite Eight and then became back-to-back lottery picks in the 2011 NBA Draft. It turned out to be a brilliant move and making the jump a year earlier would not have led to the same type of lucrative contracts they got by waiting.

• Jeff Withey, 2012 – Looking back, I still can't quite believe Withey did not leave after his junior year. After all, he was coming off of a monster NCAA Tournament in which he set the record for most blocks in a single tournament and had helped lead KU all the way to the title game. He would've been drafted. And he would not have been able to return for a senior season that saw him produce better numbers (14 and 9 vs. 9 and 6) and wind up drafted No. 39 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. I'm sure playing as more of the man helped his confidence and all-around game, but it probably had little impact on his draft stock.

• Carlton Bragg Jr., 2016 – This seems like one that would have happened. After a solid end to his freshman season, Bragg easily could have elected to try things out in the draft, knowing that his size, length and skills likely would have landed him a spot in the Top 60. That does not mean he would have done it, but the option would have been there had he known he could return to school if he went undrafted. Instead, he came back for his sophomore season and never turned into the player people believed he would become before transferring to Arizona State and again to New Mexico after leaving the KU program.

• Svi Mykhailiuk, 2017 – Of all of these, this one seems, to me, like the surest bet. It's no secret that Svi wanted to head to the NBA last Spring and was willing to make the jump if just one team had given him any kind of assurance that they would draft him. It never came, he pulled his name out of the draft and had a stellar senior season and is poised to get drafted this June. Clearly, he made the right move. But had this rule been in place, Svi would have been in the perfect position to take advantage of it. Unlike a lot of guys, who are hellbent on becoming first-rounders (for the obvious reason of guaranteed money), Svi likely would have been content as a second-round pick. So, for him, the rule would have been perfect. It's either get drafted in the Top 60 or return to school. No regrets about being picked 45th and being stuck when you hoped and thought you were a first-rounder.

• Udoka Azubuike, 2018 – If this rule were in place today, I don't think there's any doubt that Azubuike would declare and see what happens. Knowing he could return to KU if undrafted would be a great fall-back plan, but this guy, at least to me, seems like someone who wants to make the jump and, like Svi a year ago, is not all that worried about whether he's a first-round or second-round pick. Being in the Top 60 would be good enough and he'd be OK moving forward from there. Since the recommended rule is not in place, however, Azubuike needs some kind of assurance from an NBA team that he will be drafted. Otherwise, he will likely elect to return to KU for another season and see what happens after another year under Self and Andrea Hudy and as the focal point for a talented KU team. It's a win-win in many ways, but the recommendation would make it a much less stressful scenario for the big fella.

That's just a short list of the guys who I deem most likely to have tried to go earlier had this proposed rule change been in place during their days.

Are there others? No doubt. Mario Chalmers might have tried to go after his sophomore year when both Julian Wright and Brandon Rush (pre-injury) were headed down that road themselves. Sherron Collins might have given it a hard look after his junior season. Even Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham might have considered it after Year 3 instead of coming back for Year 4. But I don't think any of those guys — or any others you can think of — would have had as strong of a case as the ones mentioned above.

Regardless of what would have been, what's important from here on out is what will be. And while the CCB's recommendations in many ways had a fair amount of holes in them, this one seems like something that would be fairly easy to implement and a move that everyone can get behind.


ESPN report says NBA not likely to change age limit rule before 2020

Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson drives as Dallas Mavericks forward Maximilian Kleber (42)) defends, while Suns forward TJ Warren (12) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson drives as Dallas Mavericks forward Maximilian Kleber (42)) defends, while Suns forward TJ Warren (12) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Early Wednesday morning, inside a ballroom in Indianapolis, Condoleeza Rice and the rest of The Commission on College Basketball sat at the front of the room and unveiled their recommendations for how to clean up the mess that has made its way to the forefront of college basketball.

After first explaining the how and why of reaching their conclusions, Rice and company listed off the specific recommendations and kicked things off with a doozy — getting rid the one-and-done rule.

Doing that, of course, is up to the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, not the NCAA or a special committee designed to get answers. And it does not appear that the NBA is quite ready to give them.

While the commission's report was the result of nearly seven months of hard work and investigation, the NBA's reaction came in roughly five hours. Just after 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski released a story citing sources that said the NBA and NBPA had no plans to lower the age requirement before the 2020 draft.

That would mean two more full draft classes would have to operate under the current rules, which, according to Wojnarowksi, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts have discussed in the past. Wojnarowski wrote: "Silver and Roberts have both expressed a desire to change the rule, but it remains to be seen how the process of negotiating a rule change between the league and players will unfold."

Rice and the college basketball commission said Wednesday that their recommendation was for something to change by the start of next basketball season. If it hasn't, Rice said, the committee would be prepared to reconvene and examine a number of possible alternatives that range from ruling freshmen to be ineligible or locking in scholarships for three or four years.

The NBA does allow high school players to make the jump directly to the ever-improving and expanding G League without waiting and a couple of players, including former Syracuse commitment and McDonald's All-American, Darius Bazley, in this year's class already are planning to take advantage of that rule.

Whether there's more of that ahead depends almost entirely on how firm the NBA is in his stance about no changes before 2020 and college basketball's reaction to it.

According to Wojnarowksi's article, the NBA has a record 236 early-entry candidates for the 2018 NBA Draft, which includes 181 NCAA and 81 international players, which is a 30 percent increase on the 2017 draft.


How one recommendation from The Commission on College Basketball might have affected KU in the past

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) dribbles the ball up the court during a practice on Friday, March 30, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) dribbles the ball up the court during a practice on Friday, March 30, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. by Nick Krug

Raise your hand if you think the Kansas men's basketball team could have been a No. 1 seed and reached the Elite Eight in 2017 with just eight scholarship players.

Keep your hand up if you think the 2017-18 squad could have followed that up by breaking down the door to the Final Four with a less-talented crop of eight or nine scholarship players the following year.

Those of you with your hands up are either blindly loyal or flat-out lying. But in the wake of Wednesday morning's recommendations on how to address a laundry list of issues plaguing the sport, The Commission on College Basketball, headed up by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, unveiled a list of how to fix the game.

While their suggestions ranged from eliminating the one-and-done rule to addressing transparency among AAU programs and shoe companies, one of the more interesting aspects of what amounted to be a 25-minute statement read by Rice in Indianapolis early Wednesday morning had to do with what might happen if the NBA and NBA Players Association are not interested in allowing 18-year-olds into their league.

Make no mistake about it; this was a power play by Rice and college basketball in an effort to put the onus on the NBA.

The gist of it goes like this: Eliminate the 19-year-old age requirement and allow high school graduates to enter the draft or run the risk of (a) losing the marketing that has made such players so attractive following their freshman seasons or (b) run the risk of not getting them until they have a college degree in their hands.

Whether the NBA brass caves to the pressure or laughs in its face, Rice's panel made it clear that they are expecting the NBA to make some kind of decision, sooner rather than later — by the start of next basketball season is the way it was worded. If that does not happen, they promised to reconvene and explore the idea of implementing options A or B into their bylaws.

Here is the exact language from the report explaining that scenario.

"We must emphasize that only the NBA and the NBPA can change the one-and-done rule. If they choose not to do so by the end of 2018, the NCAA must still find a way to address this situation. In that circumstance, the Commission will reconvene and consider the other tools at its disposal. These could range from the baseball rule, to freshman ineligibility, to “locking up” scholarships for three or four years if the recipient leaves the program for the NBA after a single year. That would be a disincentive to recruit an athlete for a one-year run at the title. In short, the current situation is untenable."

For the sake of this blog, let's assume the NBA does not want 18-year-olds in its league — the reasons for this run deep, are too many to list and are probably best explained in another blog — and college basketball reacts by saying that, regardless of how long players actually stay in college, scholarships are locked in for four years as soon as the player signs, a move that could significantly impact the way coaches recruit and, worse yet, would impact the way college rosters look for years to come.

Think less scholarships available and more preferred walk-ons playing more minutes.

There are alternatives to this same concept, with a three-year lock being possible or a plus-one model, meaning that the scholarship is off limits for one season after the player leaves for the NBA. But all three possibilities focus on the same outcome — to make college programs value the players they're bringing to campus.

Had a four-year version of the rule been in effect five years ago, Kansas basketball would have been affected dramatically in the two cases mentioned at the top of this blog.

Take the 2016-17 team for starters.

With five Jayhawks — Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo — from the three previous teams leaving for the NBA as one-and-done players, the rule would have made all five of those spots unavailable for additional players and kept those scholarships “locked” for the 2016-17 season.

Provided recruits would not have changed their minds in any way and decided not to come to KU because of the roster limitations, that means that Kansas would have been forced to operate with just eight scholarship players during the 2016-17 season.

It's worth noting here that any time a university has one of its scholarships taken away because of some kind of rules violation, it's viewed as a major blow. This would be five times that and probably have people losing their minds.

While the eight on scholarship would have been a solid group — Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Carlton Bragg and Udoka Azubuike, Landen Lucas and Lagerald Vick is my guess — the team's depth would have been limited and made up of walk-ons willing to pay their own way.

Mitch Lightfoot might have been an option there, but that also might be a pipe dream. After all, there were plenty of other Division I schools willing to give Lightfoot a free ride to come play for them.

Assuming all other things stayed the same and Bragg turned into a shell of the player he was as a freshman and Azubuike still hurt his wrist 11 games in, it's tough to picture that team surviving the season with Mason, Graham, Jackson, Svi and Lucas being backed by Clay Young, Tyler Self and Tucker Vang.

Remember, those five spots being locked up means no Dwight Coleby, likely no Lightfoot and no Malik Newman waiting in the wings. There simply would not have been room for KU coach Bill Self to have those guys.

Speaking of Newman, that brings us to the 2017-18 team and KU's Final Four run. No Newman in 2016-17 means no Newman in 2017-18 — he likely would have gone pro after his freshman season if he were still intent on leaving Mississippi State — and KU, once again, would have had less than the maximum number of 13 scholarships available to hand out because of four or five spots being “locked” up by the four-year commitments of players long gone.

In that case, KU would have been left with a top eight of Graham, Mykhailiuk, Vick, Azubuike, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe and maybe Silvio De Sousa.

Considering Preston never played and Cunliffe and De Sousa were only eligible for half of the season, that hardly looks like a Final Four team. Especially without Newman.

Beyond that, the damage done to the 2018-19 team would have been enormous. Down a few scholarships to begin with, KU would not have had the luxury of stashing Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson or Charlie Moore as scholarship players red-shirting the 2017-18 season. Add to that the fact that neither Newman and probably Lightfoot would never have made it to Lawrence in the first place and you're looking at a 2018-19 team that would have had 10 scholarships available — Diallo, Jackson and Vick's would all be taken — and filled them with almost all new players.

The lone exceptions on the inexperienced roster would be Azubuike and Garrett. And that's only if the KU center were to pull his name out of the draft instead of turning pro.

So what you would have for next season is a roster that, again, looks somewhat similar to what KU will have, but lacks any real experience.

Provided Self were able to stay solid on the recruiting trail, the 2018-19 roster waiting in the wings would include: Guards Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe and Ochai Agbaji, along with big men Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.

That would leave the Jayhawks with three spots still to fill. If you think KU trying to land Romeo Langford is a big deal now, it would be absolutely enormous under those rules.

Getting the scholarships back and having 10 again instead of just seven or eight no doubt would have felt like hitting the lottery. But it would still force KU to play three scholarship players shy of the maximum number allowed by the NCAA.

All of this is, of course, is pure speculation. And there's no way of knowing how things really would have played out or what adjustments Self and his staff might have made to handle the realities of those rules. Leaving KU altogether might have been one of them.

But it does go to show that even the smallest aspect of what can only be described as a massive set of recommendations could have a pretty profound impact on the sport as we know it

Will all of those recommendations be implemented? Nope. Even if they were, could they all be enforced? Nope. And even if those two obstacles were deemed manageable, would the NCAA be willing to shell out the money it would take to make sure they're effective? Unlikely.

So it remains to be seen what actually will come from all of the time and effort put in by Rice and the commission of 11 other people who seem to care a great deal about college basketball.

But one thing that does seem clear is that this group, for better or worse, is expecting to see something happen fairly quickly.

If it doesn't, they've promised to go back behind closed doors, reach out a little bit more and who knows what they'll come up with then?


Future Jayhawk David McCormack quietly having an impressive spring

Future KU center David McCormack, one of four players in KU's 2018 recruiting class, recently took part in the Iverson Roundball Classic last weekend in Philadelphia.

Future KU center David McCormack, one of four players in KU's 2018 recruiting class, recently took part in the Iverson Roundball Classic last weekend in Philadelphia. by Matt Tait

Maybe it's because he's a big man in a guard-dominated game.

Maybe it's because his name carries four stars next to it instead of five.

Maybe it's because he's entering a situation where he won't be counted on heavily right away because of the depth that's already in place at his position.

Regardless of the reasons for it, Class of 2018 Kansas signee David McCormack has flown under the radar a little bit while quietly having a monster Spring.

Playing in some of the same games as his future KU teammates Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson, McCormack's numbers and time on the court have not been quite as noteworthy as his counterparts.

But the 6-foot-10, 260-pound center from Oak Hill Academy has been just as active on the All-Star circuit, playing in the McDonald's All-American Game and at the Nike Hoop Summit and also playing at the Iverson Classic, the second-year All Star event put on by former NBA legend and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.

Dubbed on the game's official Twitter page as “the most competitive, exciting and disruptive game on earth, the Iverson Classic took place last weekend in Philadelphia and featured some of the top talent in the 2018 class.

In true All-Star game fashion, McCormack's Team Loyalty topped Team Honor, 148-134, and the future Jayhawk had the honor of hearing this postgame speech from The Answer himself.

That was not the only place McCormack distinguished himself from his future teammates this Spring. In addition to being the only future Jayhawk to play in Iverson's event, McCormack also was selected for membership into the Oak Hill chapter of the National Honor Society, which, according to NHS advisor Steve Hebold, is “one of the highest honors that can be awarded to a high school student.”

According to a news release, the National Honor Society “strives to recognize the total student, one who excels in several areas,” including academic performance, leadership, service to one's community and character.

None of this came as any kind of surprise to Paul Biancardi, the national director of recruiting for the ESPN 100, which ranked McCormack at No. 25 overall in its latest Class of 2018 rankings. That was the highest of all of the recruiting rankings for the player whom Biancardi said “embraces being a true center.”

Both Rivals.com and 247 Sports ranked McCormack No. 33 overall in the Class of 2018.

McCormack committed to KU last September and made his pledge official in November, with KU coach Bill Self saying simply, "the more we watched, the more we liked."

“I love that kid. I truly love him,” Biancardi told the Journal-World on Monday.

Although Biancardi knew McCormack long before this Spring, he had the opportunity to fly home him with him following the Hoop Summit in Portland and the added quality time simply reminded him what a solid young man McCormack is.

“Anybody who loses 50-some-odd pounds and dedicates himself physically to his craft shows me that he's a willing worker, he's dedicated and he has no problem sacrificing because he did all three of those things,” Biancardi said.

As for what type of player the Jayhawks are getting in McCormack, Biancardi's description sounded like anything but a flashy All Star.

“He's going to defend the post, he's going rebound on both ends, — he's very active rebounder — he's a great screener and he's a guy who can develop a post-up game,” Biancardi said. “I love him, I love his work ethic and I love his humility.”


Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Marcus Garrett

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) soars in for a dunk over Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith (2) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) soars in for a dunk over Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith (2) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena. by Nick Krug

For the past couple of years, I've kick-started yet another season of KU basketball coverage with a series known as “He Will, He Won't, He Might,” which looks at each individual Jayhawk expected to be in the rotation and tosses out a prediction in each of those categories about the player's upcoming season.

For the second year in a row, the guesses were pretty spot on, with just a couple of misses and mostly a good look at what was to be for the Jayhawks.

Before we completely put the 2017-18 season to bed, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at each one from KU's Final Four season.

We'll go in reverse order here, I'll give a quick recap and grade my predictions and we'll try to get to all eight of them this week so keep an eye out and be sure to click the links inside each to go back and look at the original entry.

Next up: Freshman guard Marcus Garrett:

Garrett played in all 39 games for the Jayhawks during their run to the Final Four, starting seven and playing a big role as the top reserve to all four of KU's starting guards.

He finished the season averaging 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, had a couple of big games and became known as the player who did all of those intangible things that did not show up on the stat sheet but often made the difference in a game or a half.

It cannot be overstated how valuable this year's experience was for Garrett. After taking all of that knowledge and information into the offseason, the versatile guard should emerge by entering the 2018-19 season with a ton of confidence and some serious leadership potential.

He Will: Become a fan favorite almost immediately – Given the fact that I've never heard a single KU fan say a single negative thing about the freshman from Dallas, it seems like this is at least mostly correct. On a roster that included Devonte' Graham, it's hard to become the fan favorite, but there's no doubt that people came away from his freshman season impressed by Garrett's game and contributions to the team. I expect his fan favorite status to grow as his career moves along.

He Won't: Play enough minutes to put up big numbers in any category – Not exactly. My guess was that Garrett would log somewhere in the 10-12 minute range on a nightly basis and all he did was double that. In 39 games, the freshman guard played 748 minutes and averaged 19.2 minutes per game. He played 20 or more minutes in 18 games and occasionally found himself playing some pretty important minutes in place of KU's regular guards who found foul trouble or were ineffective on a given night. Garrett's numbers were not huge, but it wasn't because of a lack of playing time. He simply found his role player niche and played it to perfection most of the time.

He Might: Be this team's best defender – Hard to argue with this one. Garrett was always up for whatever challenge was thrown his way and, in limited minutes, finished fourth on the team in steals, with 35, one better than full-time starter Lagerald Vick and just seven behind fellow-starter Malik Newman. Garrett used his active hands, good instincts and physical size and toughness to create problems for offensive players throughout the season. His specialty became immediately getting the possession back after any particularly careless turnovers. Because they were on the floor more and, therefore, drew tougher defensive assignments in bigger moments, I'm only going to take partial credit for this one. But it's clear that the foundation for a solid Bill-Self-defender has been laid by Garrett.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 1.5 out of 3.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Lightfoot stories from the 2017-18 season

• KU freshman Marcus Garrett guides KU to key bucket in relief of Devonte’ Graham, March 18, 2018

• 'He never gives up:' Marcus Garrett’s hustle propels KU to Big 12 title game

• Keegan: Playing for an Eddie Sutton disciple prepared Marcus Garrett for Bill Self


Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Mitch Lightfoot

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) celebrates with Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during a timeout in the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) celebrates with Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during a timeout in the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

For the past couple of years, I've kick-started yet another season of KU basketball coverage with a series known as “He Will, He Won't, He Might,” which looks at each individual Jayhawk expected to be in the rotation and tosses out a prediction in each of those categories about the player's upcoming season.

For the second year in a row, the guesses were pretty spot on, with just a couple of misses and mostly a good look at what was to be for the Jayhawks.

Before we completely put the 2017-18 season to bed, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at each one from KU's Final Four season.

We'll go in reverse order here, I'll give a quick recap and grade my predictions and we'll try to get to all eight of them this week so keep an eye out and be sure to click the links inside each to go back and look at the original entry.

First up: Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot.

Lightfoot played in 38 of KU's 39 games this season — missing only the Duke game in the Elite Eight — and made seven starts along the way, including KU's first- and second-round NCAA Tournament victories.

He finished the season averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, had a couple of monster efforts (at TCU is the first one that comes to mind and the Big 12 tourney win over Oklahoma State also is up there) while carving out a key role in the Jayhawks' thin front court.

He Will: Be the leader of the KU big men – This one is hard to grade because being a leader means different things to different people. While there's no doubt that sophomore center Udoka Azubuike was KU's most important big man and also the leader of the group in terms of statistics, Lightfoot definitely took a step forward in trying to lead the unit in practices, with his voice and by working hard and setting a good example. We'll go with half credit on this one.

He Won't: Average more than 15 minutes a game – Nailed it. Despite being KU's only big man who was available for every game this season, the sophomore forward played 531 minutes in 38 games for an average of 13.97 minutes per night. And despite the low overall average, there were 15 games this season in which Lightfoot played more than 15 minutes. But those were offset by 13 games in which Lightfoot played single-digit minutes or did not play at all.

He Might: Increase his playing time if he can hit the outside shot – I'm going to call this a miss. Lightfoot did improve his shot and made six of 17 from 3-point range this season, but his ability to shoot better from the outside had nothing to do with his usage. Lightfoot was a big man through and through this season. It will be interesting to see where his role goes in the future, as KU restocks its front court and if Lightfoot continues to work on his outside game.

All in all, Lightfoot had a solid season during his second year as a Jayhawk and first real season as a rotation guy. He wasn't perfect, but he competed hard, did whatever was asked of him and helped keep KU afloat on nights when Azubuike got in foul trouble.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of his career from here. But armed with valuable experience and an ever-improving game, it's not hard to see him finding some sort of role during the next two, or perhaps even three, seasons.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 1.5 out of 3.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Lightfoot stories from the 2017-18 season

• Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot logging valuable minutes and delivering for Kansas, Jan. 30, 2018

• Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot delivers strong performance in debut as a KU starter, Feb. 7, 2018

• KU coach Bill Self hopes adding Mitch Lightfoot’s effort to starting lineup will kick-start Kansas, Feb. 5, 2018

• Keegan column: Backup Mitch Lightfoot saves Jayhawks at TCU, Jan. 6, 2018


Basketball recruiting back in full swing as KU turns attention to Class of 2019

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Dallas, Texas, became the center of the recruiting universe this weekend, with major AAU events on the EYBL (Nike), Under Armour and Adidas circuits all taking place in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area during the first live evaluation period of the spring, which opened Friday night.

For college basketball staffs around the country, including the crew at Kansas, that means another opportunity to forge ahead in the 2019 and 2020 classes with an eye on future talent.

With four players signed in the Class of 2018 — and just one spot still to fill in the current class — KU coach Bill Self and his assistants have been on the 2019 and 2020 athletes for a while. In fact, point guard Markese Jacobs, one of the 20 or so top-tier KU targets in the next two classes who will be competing in the Lone Star State this weekend already committed to KU months ago.

According to recruiting analyst Matt Scott, the idea behind this weekend's events — which essentially function as opening day for the recruiting season — is not to find new players, but to further evaluate and break down the targets they've been tracking for a while.

“They already have an idea of guys going into it, from the high school seasons,” Scott said. “A lot of it is they want to see how much guys have improved from the last time they saw them. It's really about who fits what they're looking for and what the program's needs are. Are they looking to fit more bigs or more wings? And personality and style of play also are a big factor.”

Scott said that constant tracking of a player's progress is the reason there are multiple evaluation periods.

“They really want to see how kids are improving and if they're ascending,” he said. While some of that can be done by word of mouth, talking to coaches and watching film, Scott said there is no substitute for seeing it live and that's why weekend extravaganzas like the one happening around Dallas this weekend draw so much attention.

Coaches from just about every major program, and dozens of smaller schools as well, sent huge chunks of their coaching staffs to maximize the opportunity to see all of that talent in roughly the same area.

“When there's a college coach with a shirt that says Duke or Kansas or North Carolina on it, that kind of ramps things up,” Scott said. “It really is different for these kids when those kinds of coaches are there in person.”

With that in mind, here's a quick glance at some of the key names for the 2019 class who Self and company are evaluating this weekend.

Adidas circuit

• Matthew Hurt – The No. 5-ranked player in the class and a KU target for the past few years, this 6-foot-9, 200-pound athletic power forward from Rochester, Minn., is drawing serious interest from every Big Ten program and all of college basketball's bluebloods.

• Onyeka Okongwu - 5-star power forward ranked No. 18 in the 2019 class stands 6-foot-8, 215 pounds with serious room to grow. Hails from Chino Hills, Calif., and is receiving offers up and down the West Coast. Also has Big 12 offers from KU, Oklahoma State and TCU. His Top 5, as of January, was Arizona State, KU, UCLA, Washington and USC.

Nike EYBL circuit

• Cole Anthony – Ranked as the No. 4 player in the 2019 class, this 6-foot-2, 180-pound 5-star point guard from New York City is drawing major interest from Georgetown, Oregon, Pitt, St. John's, Kansas, Wake Forest and UCLA.

• Chandler Lawson – Ranked No. 73 in the class but holding a 5-star rating nonetheless, the younger brother of KU's Lawson brothers stands 6-8, 200 pounds and is listed as a power forward. His top suitors at this point appear to be Baylor, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Memphis.

• Malik Hall – A local prospect from Wichita's Sunrise Academy, this 4-star, 6-7, 210-pound wing is drawing interest from a wide range of more than two dozen schools, including Kansas. Hall is ranked No. 49 in the Rivals 150.

• Markese Jacobs – KU commitment who orally pledged his services to the Jayhawks after Late Night 2016, is a 4-star, point guard from Chicago who has a strong connection with current Kansas player Charlie Moore and former KU legend Sherron Collins, both Chicago natives, as well. Jacobs is listed at 5-11, 170 pounds and was recruited mostly by KU assistant Jerrance Howard.

• Vernon Carey Jr. – The No. 1-ranked player in the 2019 class, according to Rivals, Carey is a 5-star, 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is wide open at this point and drawing interest from all of the big players.

• James Wiseman – Ranked No. 2 overall by Rivals, this 7-foot, 210-pound 5-star power forward from Memphis is rumored to be eyeing an attempt to reclassify for 2018 class, which would make him eligible this fall. Kentucky and Memphis are two of the major players here.

• Jalen Lecque – Ranked No. 9 in the class, Lecque is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound 5-star point guard who has more than two dozen of the country's top basketball schools pursuing him. KU assistant Norm Roberts is listed as the lead recruiter for Lecque, who hails from Arden, N.C.

• Isaiah Stewart – 5-star prospect from Indiana who is ranked as the No. 10 overall player in the class, Stewart is listed at 6-8, 230 pounds and has more than three dozen schools trying to convince him that they are the right fit. Has been compared to a young Elton Brand, who starred at Duke and in the NBA.

• Kofi Cockburn – Ranked No. 31 overall, this 6-foot-10, 300-pound monster of a man hails from Middle Village, N.Y., and is drawing major interest from more than 30 programs, most of them from back east.

Under Armour circuit

• Bryan Antoine – A 5-star shooting guard in the Top 20, Antoine, who plays for the Mario Chalmers-backed Team Rio, is a 6-4, 170-pound teammate of Scottie Lewis' at Ranney Prep School in Tinton Falls, N.J., who is drawing the same kind of interest as his close friend.

• Scottie Lewis – One of the few shooting guards in the top of Rivals' rankings, Lewis is a 6-4, 170-pound 5-star scorer from Tinton Falls, N.J., who is ranked No. 11 overall and holds 18 offers from all of the country's powerhouse programs. Also plays for Team Rio.

• Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – Local prospect from nearby Bishop Miege High, who is the son of former KU forward Lester Earl, the 5-star Robinson-Earl has bulked up during recent months and now stands at a solid 6-10, 236 pounds. Ranked No. 16 overall, JRE has been on KU's target list for years and has continued to improve and impress each year.

• Zach Harvey – Four-star shooting guard from nearby Hayden High in Topeka, Harvey stands 6-4, 170 pounds and has made several unofficial visits to Kansas throughout his prep career.

• Precious Achiuwa – Ranked No. 6 in the class and rising, this 6-9, 200-pound small forward from Newark, N.J. is a 5-star prospect who is drawing heavy interest from several schools back east and Big 12 programs Kansas, Oklahoma State and TCU.

• Christian Brown – Five-star small forward from Columbia, S.C., is ranked No. 27 in the class and has nearly that many offers from schools throughout the south, east coast and Midwest. Stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds.

• Wendell Moore – Another small forward from the Carolinas, this 5-star wing who stands 6-4, 190 pounds hails from Concord, N.C., and has offers from Duke and North Carolina and interest from KU and Kentucky.

• Josh Green – Tall, long shooting guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this 5-star, 6-5, 185-pound scorer ranks No. 19 in the class and is drawing the most interest from the West Coast.

There are, of course, other players who the Jayhawks will be watching and potentially targeting in the 2019 class, but this group represents the best of the best among those that Kansas has its eye on.

One thing worth pointing out is that the Jayhawks don't actually have any scholarship seniors on the 2018-19 roster so, at this point, it is uncertain how many players they will need to/be able to take in the 2019 class.

Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike (if he returns) and Quentin Grimes all could be candidates to leave early. Plus, KU still has one unfilled scholarship in the Class of 2018 — which has been ear-marked for five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford or another shooter if the Jayhawks don't get him — and there is at least a little uncertainty surrounding the status of sophomore-to-be Silvio De Sousa given his status in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.

All of that added together means Self's squad could be in the market for anywhere between 2-4 players in the 2019 class, which already includes one scholarship headed to Jacobs.


Breaking down KU center Udoka Azubuike’s chances in the NBA Draft

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

So now that we know that Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is going to test the water and find out where he stands with NBA scouts and executives, it's time to examine Azubuike's chances of making the jump.

According to ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony, who runs ESPN's mock drafts and predraft coverage — and used to run DraftExpress.com — the competition to be one of the 60 players selected in the June draft is more intense than ever.

"There are 175 guys currently who are testing the waters according to my count, so the field is getting pretty crowded at this point," Givony told the Journal-World. "He had a good year for KU, outside of after he got injured, but the market for centers in his mold has almost completely evaporated at this stage."

Instead, the NBA has placed a premium on players like Joel Embiid, who, even at that enormous size, still can operate with guard-like skills. Embiid, obviously, is the class of that crop and on pace to become one of the young faces of the NBA's future. But even among the lesser-known big men on multiple teams, it's those skills that translate to roster spots and playing time.

"I think anyone watching the NBA playoffs can see that," Givony explained. "Guys who can't pass, shoot, block shots prolifically or reliably step outside of the paint defensively are essentially dinosaurs these days."

That, of course, does not mean that Azubuike does not have a shot at attracting attention from the powers that be in the NBA. Anyone who stands 7 feet tall and 280 pounds is immediately going to get noticed.

But the change in the game has created a different demand at the center position and the way Givony sees it, the modern game does not make a player Azubuike's size as automatic as it once was.

There was a time, not that long ago, when a man with Azubuike's measurements would have been an automatic lottery pick, with NBA teams valuing a big body to clog up the paint and create problems for opposing defenses on the other end.

But today, with the game moving faster than ever and becoming more of a shooter's game, those Greg Oden-, Spencer Hawes-, Hasheem Thabeet-type players who all were lottery picks within in the past 12 years, are no longer as attractive because they, in many ways, are viewed as one dimensional and a step slow to play today's game.

That's not to say Azubuike can't become the type of player the NBA wants. Even though it's unlikely that he ever will transform himself into an elite shooter, he moves his feet well for a man his size and certainly has the size and drive required to become a force in the paint. And there are plenty of people who believe that the easiest way to make it in the NBA is to find one thing you do well and become elite at it. For Azubuike, that could become shot blocking and/or rebounding.

But Givony, who has not had the KU center on any of his two-round, 60-pick mock drafts in the past two years, does not believe Azubuike has reached that level yet.

"He is a heck of a college player, and I do think he has a chance to develop into a NBA player eventually," Givony said. "But the appetite for taking on a project big man in his mold just isn't where it was 10-15 years ago."


Is KU big man Udoka Azubuike nearing a decision?

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike by Nick Krug

It appears as if decision time may have arrived for Kansas center Udoka Azubuike.

Sources told the Journal-World on Wednesday that the KU big man could announce his decision about testing the NBA draft waters or returning to KU for his junior season by the end of the week, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

Thanks to a new rule put in place in 2016, underclassmen are now allowed to test their standing with NBA teams and still return to school if they do not like what they hear, provided they do not hire an agent.

The deadline to declare for early entry in this year's draft arrives Sunday. The date to for early entries to pull their name out of the draft is May 30. This year's NBA Draft will take place June 21 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The 7-foot, 280-pound center who started 34 of 39 games for Kansas this season has not appeared on any mock drafts throughout his time as a Jayhawk.

Azubuike, who missed time because of injuries during both his freshman and sophomore seasons at KU, averaged 13 points and seven rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game this season while leading the nation with a 77 percent field goal percentage.

Azubuike said at last week's team banquet that he hoped to make a decision in the next week or so.

“Yeah it is. It definitely is,” he said when asked if it was a tough decision. “Like I said, I spoke to my family about it and all that, and right now it's pretty much my decision. Probably the next couple of days or the next week, I'll make my decision about what I'm going to do.”

Graham, Svi pick agents

Former Kansas guards Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte' Graham have selected the agencies that will represent them throughout the upcoming NBA Draft process and the early part of the pro careers.

Graham, who leaves Kansas as one of the most beloved players of all-time and the reigning Big 12 player of the year, signed with CAA Sports, an agency that has a client list of more than 1,700 professional athletes, including some of the best NBA players in today's game.

Those players include: Former Jayhawk Joel Embiid, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Karl-Anthony Towns, Paul George, Tony Parker and dozens more.

Mykhailiuk, who finished his career as the single-season record holder for 3-point makes, with 115 this season, and in fourth place on KU's all-time list with 237 threes, has signed with SIG Sports as his representation ahead of this summer's NBA Draft.

SIG also represents former Jayhawk Tarik Black, who boasts on the agency's web site that, “SIG is not just an agency, it’s a family. From Day 1, everyone in the agency has accepted me, not only as a client, but into the bond that they all share. I know I’m not supposed to be anywhere else or with anyone else. With this agency is where I belong. They’ve worked extremely hard and have been very professional in representing me. They are a major part of my success.”

Early entrees Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman, who announced earlier this month that they would forego the rest of their college eligibility, have yet to sign with agents.

Vick's mother, LaLa Vick, said she and her son were discussing his options Wednesday night. And Malik Newman's father, Horatio Webster, said his son could have his plans finalized by the end of the week.

ESPN updates rankings

The 2018 KU recruiting class features a trio of Top 25 prospects, according to ESPN.com's recruiting rankings, which were updated and released this week.

Five-star guard Quentin Grimes (No. 8) made the Top 10, while five-star point guard Devon Dotson (No. 22) and four-star center David McCormack (No. 25) both cracked the Top 25.

Earlier in the week, Rivals.com also released its updated player rankings, with Grimes, Dotson and McCormack ranking Nos. 8, 18 and 33.

That group puts KU's overall haul at No. 6 in ESPN's team standings, with Duke and Kentucky finishing 1-2 for the fifth consecutive year.


G League salary bump good news for KU’s current and future NBA draft hopefuls

NBA G League logo

NBA G League logo by Matt Tait

Wednesday morning, SIG Sports announced on Twitter that it had signed on to represent KU senior Svi Mykhailiuk in the upcoming NBA Draft process.

Mykhailiuk is one of four players from KU's 2017-18 Final Four roster who will be trying to make it in the NBA this summer — five if you count freshman-who-never-was Billy Preston — and that group will joined by dozens of other seniors, Europeans and college underclassmen who will be trying to earn one of the 60 spots available in the two-round NBA Draft.

In reality, it's those first 30 spots that are coveted most because they represent guaranteed money. Any deals made after that are non-guaranteed and do not give the player — whether drafted in the second round or signed on as an undrafted free agent — any promise of NBA paychecks.

It remains to be seen how the KU crew — Mykhailiuk, Preston, Devonte' Graham, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick — will fare in this year's draft, but even if things don't go as well as they might hope, those players will have other options as they pursue the start of their pro careers.

And thanks to some news from the NBA's G League on Tuesday, one of those options just became a little sweeter.

Although the G League does not function in quite the same way as Major League Baseball's minor league system, where players are supposed to pay their dues, spend their time and work their way up through the ranks, the NBA's de facto minor league is becoming more and more of a viable option for professional basketball players in this country to make a decent living.

The league announced on Tuesday that it was raising its base salary per player for the 2018-19 season to $7,000 per month for the five-month season, which works out to $35,000 salary for any given player. That's in five months. Not bad for less than half a year of work.

Right now on glassdoor.com, you can find the following jobs that offer a starting salary of $35,000 a year — Front Desk Associate, Administrative Assistant, Data Entry Clerk, Assistant Restaurant Manager, Warehouse Clerk and more.

I don't know about you, but I know I'd rather make that kind of money as a five-months-a-year ballplayer than any of those other options.

The point is this: Even though it can be seen as risky for guys like Malik Newman or Lagerald Vick to leave school early in search of a pro contract, there are now better and better options, even right here in this country, that significantly increase the odds of their decision being a good one.

Let's say those two guys don't get drafted by an NBA team this summer but some franchise likes them and tries to sign them to its G League affiliate. Could be worse. In addition to a pretty solid living for a young man fresh out of college, G League players also receive a housing stipend, travel per diem and health insurance.

That's a pretty good life in a hurry.

And that's to say nothing of the handful of guys who are lucky enough to receive two-way contracts from the G League and the NBA, which sets their salary at $77,250 (also up from last year's rate) and gives them a better shot of making the jump up to the NBA at some point.

What's more, with the G League now having official NBA affiliates in 28 cities, Tuesday's announcement of higher salaries promised that the amount would go up when the NBA gets all 30 franchises locked in with affiliates. So even more money is on the way.

As the NBA heads toward the elimination of its minimum age rule that often requires players to spend at least one year in college, this whole trend will become even more important.

As high school stars such as Darius Bazley, a McDonald's All-American who was headed to Syracuse but now plans to jump right to the G League, start to explore the option of skipping college altogether even if the NBA is not in their immediate future, the financial part of the equation begins to make better sense.

And all of this does not even include the idea of playing overseas, where even bigger contracts can be found.

It's no longer a situation where life after college basketball (or high school in some cases) has to come with an NBA or bust mentality. Yeah, that's where you'll become a star and that's where players become millionaires.

But other pro contracts throughout Europe, in Australia and now even in the G League can provide a pretty good living.

Here's a quick look at the official release about the increase in salaries from the G League, which includes some interesting statistics about the rise in G League players getting a crack at the NBA. Oh, and for what it's worth, I do think Newman, Graham and Mykhailiuk will all be drafted in this June's NBA Draft.


NEW YORK, April 17, 2018 – The NBA G League announced today the salaries for the 2018-19 season: players under NBA G League contracts will earn a base salary of $7,000 per month – or $35,000 – for the five-month regular season.

In addition to their salaries, players under NBA G League contracts will continue to have the opportunity to earn additional money through affiliate player bonuses and NBA Call-Ups. This season, about one quarter of players under NBA G League contracts also earned an average of $44,000 in NBA affiliate player bonuses – a total of more than $3 million on top of their NBA G League salaries. A record 50 NBA G League players earned a record 60 GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA this season, generating earnings of more than $11 million, or approximately $225,000 per player.

The NBA G League also pays bonuses to players on NBA G League playoff teams and to those recognized as end-of-season performance award winners. The league awarded more than $225,000 in bonus money this season.

Further, in accordance with the NBA and National Basketball Players Association collective bargaining agreement, NBA players will continue to be able to enter into two-way contracts. NBA two-way players will earn $77,250, prorated for days spent on an NBA G League roster, and the NBA rookie minimum salary, prorated for the days with their NBA team, for maximum potential earnings of $385,000 next season. This season, 83 players across all 30 NBA teams signed two-way contracts.

A record 53 percent of players on 2017-18 NBA end-of-season rosters have spent time in the NBA G League during their careers. Every NBA team had at least six NBA G League veterans on its end-of-season roster and seven had 10 or more such players. A record 101 NBA players were assigned to the NBA G League for development or rehabilitation this season, including 13 players selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 50-game NBA G League regular season – which includes the NBA G League Showcase, the league’s premier in-season scouting event – runs from November to March. All NBA G League players receive in-season housing, travel day per diem, continuing education opportunities, life skills development offerings and health insurance benefits.


Father of KU’s Lawson brothers talks Memphis return

None by John Martin

File this away under the category: Worth Keeping an Eye On.

Keelon Lawson, the father of Kansas transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson appeared on Memphis' 92.9 ESPN Radio recently and told sports talk host John Martin that he would not rule out a return to Memphis by the KU forwards should things go south with Kansas and the FBI.

To date, there is no reason to believe that will happen, as the Kansas program has merely been listed as having been defrauded by an Adidas executive in a federal indictment that outlines some of the details into the FBI's ongoing investigation into corruption in college basketball.

But it's definitely worth noting that these kinds of thoughts are (a) being considered and (b) being tossed out there publicly.

In the interest of full disclosure here, Keelon Lawson is on 92.9 FM ESPN Radio every Monday to talk with Martin about the ins and outs of basketball in the city of Memphis. During today's segment, Lawson was talking about the return of Penny Hardaway to Memphis as the Tigers head coach and hinted at some more exciting recruiting news coming in the near future for Hardaway's program.

When asked then, by Martin, if that meant the return of Dedric and K.J. to their hometown, Keelon Lawson laughed.

"Oh, nah. Ha ha ha ha," he said before elaborating on what his sons have been told by KU coach Bill Self about the FBI investigation.

"The only thing I could tell when talking to Dedric, he just said Coach Self said everything is fine," Keelon Lawson said on the air. "You could read the report that says Kansas is a victim, meaning somebody did something behind Kansas' back to make us be a victim. But he said, as far as everything with the coaching staff, they didn't have anything to do with it. And then they'll just let their attorneys handle the procedure.

"He told Dedric, if something were to come down, they (Dedric and K.J.) would be the first ones to know because, you know, they would be the first ones to know so they could have the opportunity to do whatever they have to do."

Asked, point blank, if he were ruling out a return to Memphis by his sons, Lawson said: "If something goes down with Kansas, if Penny would open the door to them to come back, as far as Coach Self being fired, I think the boys would entertain it. But as of right now, they're at Kansas."

The Lawson father was not shy about going on the radio and discussing his son's very public departure from Memphis and then-coach Tubby Smith last spring. On both the local airwaves and a national podcast with CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, Keelon Lawson talked openly about his sons' plans and the reason behind them.

With Hardaway, one of Memphis' favorite sons, now leading the Tigers program, a return to their hometown cannot be ruled out the way it might be if Smith were still leading the program.

But that's a lot of ifs and it seems as if there still would be a lot that would need to happen for this to become something other than idle chatter by the father of a couple of KU players. Beyond that, even if the Lawson brothers eventually did want to head back home, they would have to sit out yet another season before being eligible to play again.

Both Dedric and K.J. Lawson are in line for big roles with the 2018-19 Jayhawks, with Dedric, a potential future NBA Lottery pick, expected to start alongside KU center Udoka Azubuike, should he return for his junior season as many expect, in the KU front court next season.


LISTEN FOR YOURSELF: Jason & John Hour 3, 4/16/18 — Keelon Lawson, who appears on the show every Monday to talk about the ins and outs of basketball in the city of Memphis, jumps into the mix around the 30:00 mark and the specific stuff about KU starts around 37:00 and goes to about 41:00.


Kansas basketball signee makes major jump in updated Rivals rankings

Oak Park High guard Ochai Agbaji drives to the rim during a recent high school game against Liberty North in the William Jewell Tourney last December. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound wing recently became one of the hottest unsigned prospects in the country after picking up offers from Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. On Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, Agbaji committed to KU during a ceremony at his high school.

Oak Park High guard Ochai Agbaji drives to the rim during a recent high school game against Liberty North in the William Jewell Tourney last December. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound wing recently became one of the hottest unsigned prospects in the country after picking up offers from Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. On Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, Agbaji committed to KU during a ceremony at his high school. by Darryl Woods/810 Varsity

The updated Rivals.com recruiting rankings for the Class of 2018 came out on Monday and one future Jayhawk made a monster jump.

Unranked when he committed to Kansas earlier this year, three-star guard Ochai Agbaji, of Oak Park High in Kansas City, Mo., cracked the Top 150 in Rivals' latest release, moving all the way up to No. 141.

Agbaji, a shooting guard with good size and a versatile skill set that inspired KU coach Bill Self to compare him to former Jayhawk Travis Releford, officially signed with the Jayhawks last week. He became the fourth player in the 2018 class to make his commitment official and sign a letter of intent with KU.

Two of the other three prospects — combo guard Quentin Grimes and center David McCormack — moved up, with Grimes jumping two spots from No. 10 to No. 8 and McCormack moving up one spot to No. 33.

Point guard Devon Dotson was the only future Jayhawk in the 2018 class — for now — who dropped in the updated rankings, falling one spot from No. 17 to No. 18.

Dotson, Grimes and McCormack all played in last month's McDonald's All-American Game, while Grimes and McCormack followed that up by playing in the Nike Hoop Summit game for Team USA.

Grimes also competed in the Jordan Brand Classic.

One other notable ranking for the Jayhawks came in the form of the top remaining player in the class, five-star guard Romeo Langford, staying in the No. 6 spot overall.

Duke, which previously had locked down the top three players in the class — R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish and Zion Williamson — now has the Nos. 1, 3 and 5, as Williamson dropped two spots from No. 3 to No. 5 and UNC-bound small forward Nassir Little jumped up to No. 2.


Could KU freshman Silvio De Sousa’s situation become Billy Preston Part II?

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa comes in for a dunk during practice on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa comes in for a dunk during practice on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

When it comes to the concept of worst case scenarios, the thought is so subjective that it can mean different things to different people.

In the world of sports, when you're talking worst case scenarios, you could be talking about outcomes, injuries, seasons and more.

For the Kansas men's basketball team, which is coming off of its first trip to the Final Four in six years and facing the very real scenario of losing four of its five starters from that team — with one more, in sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, still contemplating his future — the idea of worst case scenario for the 2018-19 season has quickly morphed from wondering who would start and how the team would look, into bringing the FBI's investigation of college basketball into the picture.

To this point, according to a superseding indictment released last week by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, KU's link to the investigation is limited to a couple of unnamed players and their parents/guardians allegedly taking money from one of the defendants named in the indictment.

While the identity of the two KU players referenced in the document is unknown, specific dates, sources at other news outlets and general speculation have pegged Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa as the likely identities of those two unnamed players.

Time will tell if that is accurate, but let's assume for a second, while looking ahead to next season, that it is.

It remains to be seen whether KU (a) will find itself linked further in the ongoing investigation, (b) will face any NCAA penalties as a result of the investigation when all is said and done, whenever that is, or (c) will move forward with any kind of internal investigation that might lead to a better understanding of KU's link to this mess.

And it's far too early to know or even speculate about any of that at this point.

But getting back to the idea of worst case scenarios, let's dive into that topic a little more, as it pertains to the two players mentioned in the indictment.

If one of them is Preston, KU may be in the clear on that one, at least moving forward. For one, the indictment does not allege any wrongdoing by KU. For two, Preston never played an official minute for that Jayhawks. So his involvement, if proven and later revealed, is almost irrelevant for Kansas at this point.

If De Sousa is the other player, that becomes a different story. The biggest reason many believe that the 6-foot-9 freshman from IMG Academy who joined KU midway through the 2017-18 season is one of the two players referenced stems from the date of his commitment — Aug. 30, 2017 — which the indictment uses when introducing a second player.

Because De Sousa did play in several games — 20 to be exact — and because he could be deemed ineligible if the allegations are proven true, De Sousa's future with the Jayhawks becomes a little bit murky.

Again, with the FBI investigation still ongoing, it's unlikely that KU or any other university will face any kind of penalty from the NCAA until there is concrete proof of an infraction or some kind of ruling.

Sources told the Journal-World that the FBI, in no uncertain terms, has told the NCAA to stay far away from its investigation until it is closed.

That leaves the De Sousa situation in a strange spot.

In monitoring Twitter, messages boards and general conversation about De Sousa, it seems clear that most people believe that the worst case scenario for KU — again, as things stand today — would be that De Sousa eventually is ruled ineligible and does not play another game for the Jayhawks.

While that would be a blow to KU's roster, there actually is a worse worst case scenario out there. And it involves De Sousa staying on the roster.

Here's how that would play out.

If the investigation somehow wraps up and the allegations are proven true — or worse — and KU is forced to part ways with De Sousa, the KU program would get his scholarship back — provided KU is not found to be culpable in any way — and Bill Self and company would at least be able to find a replacement for his spot.

Granted, that replacement probably would not be a 6-9, 245-pound physical specimen with serious skills and a pro basketball future, but somebody is better than nobody.

The real worst case scenario for Kansas has the case still ongoing and De Sousa's status in limbo entering the 2018-19 season. And it's not hard to envision that happening. Sure, the 2017-18 season just ended, but the start of next season is just six months away and I have yet to talk to anybody who believes the FBI will be wrapped up in six months.

So what KU could be facing is Billy Preston Part II, a situation where the Kansas coaching staff has to decide whether to play De Sousa and risk using an ineligible player or hold him out, like they did Preston, until the whole thing is cleared up.

That, at least in my eyes, would be the true worst case scenario because it not only would keep a player's status in limbo, but it also would eat up a scholarship and keep a major distraction hovering around the program.

Time will tell how it all plays out. On one hand, KU could be cleared entirely and, on the other, KU could be dragged down a path that has the program wishing for the De Sousa dilemma. And then there's the in between.

Regardless of where KU falls on that spectrum, the guess here is that none of it is going to be resolved quickly.


Former Jayhawk Nick Collison shown some love by Russell Westbrook, OKC fans

His NBA career may not have matched what people would expect from the No. 12 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, but there's not a person alive who can say that former Jayhawk Nick Collison's pro career has not been a rousing success.

Success, of course, can be defined in a number of different ways. Rings. Wins. Stats. And even fame are the most often talked about measurements when it comes to pinpointing the success of professional athletes.

But Collison has become a star in much different way, one that seemingly will have a lasting impression on those he played with for years to come.

Drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (five years before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City) after a stellar four-year career at Kansas, Collison recently completed his 15th season with the same franchise, though playing more of a bench-coach role on a one-year, minimum-contract salary during the 2017-18 season.

Collison's career with the Sonics/Thunder included 895 appearances — 177 of them starts — and career averages of 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. Collison's career totals include more than 5,300 points and 4,700 rebounds.

But those numbers — including a career year in 2007-08 when he played in 78 games, started 35 and finished the season averaging 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game — pale in comparison to the measure of the impact Collison has had on his teammates throughout the years.

Never was that more obvious than earlier this week, after the final regular season game of the season, when OKC guard Russell Westbrook, who had just completed becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in back-to-back seasons, was on the microphone thanking the fans and took a moment to bring Collison onto the floor with him.

In doing so, Westbrook referred to Collison as his "friend, mentor and brother," and told the roaring Thunder crowd, "He's somebody I always looked up to, it's a real pleasure to have him here. I just wanted to make sure you guys show him some love."

With that, Westbrook lowered the mic and raised his arms, encouraging the crowd to get even louder in their ovation for the former Jayhawk and franchise's favorite son.

"I'm not sure if it's his last season or not," Westbrook continued. "But he's somebody I always looked up to as a brother. He's done so much for this organization, I just wanted to make sure you guys gave him a standing ovation for the things he's done for this city."

As for whether this will be Collison's final season in the NBA, the former KU standout addressed that with reporters prior to the Thunder victory in that regular season finale.

"I still enjoy playing, enjoy being out there," Collison said. "And we've got one regular season game (and then) the playoffs and I'll figure out what I'm doing after that."

None by Royce Young