Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

New KU PG Charlie Moore resembles recent part-time Jayhawk

California guard Charlie Moore (13) drives against UCLA's Aaron Holiday (3) during an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

California guard Charlie Moore (13) drives against UCLA's Aaron Holiday (3) during an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Maybe it was just the name playing tricks on my brain or it might’ve been the sly smile and smaller frame.

Either way, the first person who came to mind when I began looking into new Kansas point guard Charlie Moore was none other than Nic Moore.

You remember Nic, the former SMU point guard who led the American Athletic Conference in scoring as a senior and, the summer before that, joined the Jayhawks to bring home the gold medal from the World University Games in Korea.

That Moore started every game of the tournament that summer and this Moore might very well do the same thing when he becomes eligible for the Jayhawks during the 2018-19 season.

Both players carried a listed playing weight of 170 pounds, with Nic Moore standing two inches shorter (5-9) than Charlie Moore, who is listed by KU at 5-11.

Regardless of the specifics of their frames, their games seem awfully similar, with both guards liking to play as fast as possible and attacking the defense both to score and pass.

Although Charlie Moore hails from Chicago, which has produced some of the baddest dudes to play college and professional basketball over the years, Nic Moore came from not-too-far-away Winona Lake, Ind., which is just 122 miles east of the Windy City.

While Charlie Moore was talented and mature enough to start at point guard for Cal last season, there likely will be at least a little bit of a gap in the kind of leadership delivered by the two players. At least initially.

By the time Nic Moore joined forces with the Jayhawks for a summer, he was a grown man who had played a bunch of college basketball and had no problem taking control and running the show in Korea. He fit KU coach Bill Self’s need for that team to perfection and it seems like Charlie Moore might be ready to do the same when it really matters.

After a year in the program, watching Devonte’ Graham lead the 2017-18 team and learning both the game and the Kansas culture from Self and his staff, Charlie Moore figures to be a much more polished and mature player ready to contribute big things for the Jayhawks for the next three seasons.

What Charlie Moore lacks in veteran presence — at least at the moment — he makes up for in scoring ability. In just his second college game ever last November he scored 38 points against UC Irvine and finished the season with 13 games of 15 or more points.

Nic Moore, while capable of scoring in bunches at SMU, played more of a facilitator role during the World University Games and the newest Jayhawk point guard could find himself inheriting more of a hybrid role of the two styles.

Much like many of Self’s point guards in the past, it seems likely that Charlie Moore will be asked to score when the opportunity presents itself while setting up others the rest of the time.

Nic Moore was a born leader and carried himself with a ton of confidence. Hailing from Chicago, I’m sure Charlie Moore has plenty of confidence himself. The key for him will be bringing that to the floor day in and day out and using it to inspire peak performance and improvement in those around him.

People more familiar with both players probably could find more differences in their games than I’ve spelled out here. But I think there are enough similarities to make this a fairly decent comparison.

If you’re looking to compare Charlie Moore to Jayhawks that you might be more familiar with, consider him to be a combination of Russell Robinson and Devonte’ Graham.

Here’s a quick look at some recent highlights from both players so you can see the similarities a little more clearly.

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

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Cal PG Charlie Moore picks Kansas

California guard Charlie Moore, left, drives past Arizona State guard Tra Holder (0) to score during the first half of an NCAA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz.

California guard Charlie Moore, left, drives past Arizona State guard Tra Holder (0) to score during the first half of an NCAA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. by Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo

In past years, the Memphis-to-Kansas pipeline may have delivered Tarik Black and Lagerald Vick, but that seems tame compared with what’s going on today.

According to Evan Daniels of Scout.com, KU coach Bill Self has secured a commitment from California transfer Charlie Moore, a 5-foot-11, former four-star prospect in the Class of 2016, who averaged 12 points and 3.5 assists per game for the Bears last season.

Moore played in 34 games during his lone season with Cal and averaged 29 minutes per game during his freshman season.

Moore confirmed the news shortly after Daniels’ report via a Twitter post of him in a KU jersey — wearing No. 13 — with the words "New Chapter" written below the photo. Shortly thereafter, KU coach Bill Self offered his thoughts on the news via press release, signifying that the transfer was official.

"Charlie started at Cal this past year and averaged just over 12 points a game as a true freshman," Self said. "We think after a year sitting out that he'll be much like (KU sophomore transfer) Malik Newman will be for us this year, ready to make a serious contribution to our program."

Before heading to Cal, Moore, a Chicago native, had committed to Memphis and then-head coach Josh Pastner. Once Pastner left for Georgia Tech, Moore elected to head west and now is looking to return closer to home to be closer to his ailing father in the Windy City.

Called by Rivals.com during his recruitment, “a dynamo who can score,” Moore carries a toughness typical of Chicago prospects and is known for his explosive abilities and on-court personality.

He joins former Memphis standouts Dedric and K.J. Lawson in electing to transfer to Kansas, which, one year from now, will give Self three players who at one time seemed to be well on their way to starting together for the Tigers in Tennessee.

"We're excited about all three of these prospects," Self said in the release. "They've all had successful starts to their college careers at different institutions. Certainly, the transfers became so attractive to us, in large part because we will have guys in our program who will be ready to contribute in a year. We could lose multiple guys next year, so I think this is a great fit for the University of Kansas. Not only will we get better down the road but this will certainly make us better in practice next year."

With the grant-in-aid agreements signed by all three players, Self was able to comment for the first time on the Lawson brothers, whose decision to transfer away from their native Memphis was highly publicized a couple of weeks ago.

In 2016-17, Dedric Lawson (6-foot-9, 236 pounds) led the AAC and was 19th nationally in rebound average at 9.9 boards per game. His 19.2 scoring average was second in the conference and he was fifth in the league with a 46.1 field goal percentage. Dedric recorded 19 double-doubles on the season which was 11th nationally and tops in the AAC. Dedric scored a career-high 35 points against Iowa on Nov. 26, 2016.

"Averaging almost 20 points and 10 rebounds last year, Dedric is one of the best big-man prospects in the country," Self said. "He was a double-double machine last year."

Self also said Dedric's brother, K.J. Lawson, who averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds as a small forward at Memphis last season, would add a lot to KU in the coming seasons.

"He's a very competitive athlete who we feel will add to our culture here," Self said.

None by Charles Moore

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Chris Teahan, younger brother of Conner, plans to walk-on at KU

None by Chris Teahan

Because Frank Mason III’s son is still a dozen years or so away from attending college, and with recent family ties Evan Manning, Josh Pollard and Tyler Self now gone from the program, the Kansas men’s basketball team was staring at the possibility of moving forward without a family ties connection.

That was until Tuesday when the Teahan family came through.

Chris Teahan, the younger brother of former KU player Conner Teahan, announced via Twitter Tuesday morning that he was planning to attend KU, where he would walk on to the basketball team.

Conner Teahan, a former two-sport standout at Rockhurst High, who actually tried both basketball and football at Kansas, started as a walk-on and later was put on scholarship before the 2010-11 season on his way to becoming a huge part of the Jayhawks’ run to the 2012 national title game.

Often called by Bill Self that season KU’s sixth starter, Teahan delivered deft outside shooting and, at 6-foot-6, 212 pounds, was big enough to compete with most players on the floor.

Chris Teahan, listed between 6-4 and 6-5, 175-190 pounds on various recruiting sites, is listed as a shooting guard, ranked as the 92nd best player in Missouri and, like his brother, appears to have a good outside shot.

"Chris was our leading scorer this year (and) is a tremendous 3-point shooter," Rockhurst coach Pete Campbell said. "He did a great job leading our team this year as a captain. He has a great attitude and great effort. We certainly wish him well as he walks on for the Jayhawks."

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Frank Mason III jersey retirement tour begins at Massanutten Military Academy

His trophy-hauling days may be behind him — for now — but the Frank Mason III jersey retirement circuit is just heating up.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self last season said it merely would be a matter of time before KU’s national player of the year had his number hanging alongside some of the greatest players in KU history in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.

But the Massanutten Military Academy, where Mason played a year of prep school in 2012-13 before coming to Kansas, already has gotten in on the act.

Last Friday, Mason returned to Woodstock, Va., a small town 175 miles northwest of his native Petersburg, Va., for a jersey retirement ceremony.

“It’s a great experience to come back here,” Mason told a WTVR reporter following the event. “So many great things happened over the years for me and this is a place I always try to come back to. I’m very blessed. I used to get emotional about it, but now that I look back on it, it helped me to be more responsible and become more of a man.”

Already hanging high on the wall of the school’s gymnasium was a giant banner of Mason, wearing his white No. 0 Kansas uniform taking a jump shot during a game. Below the photo read: Frank Mason – 2013 Massanutten Alum, 2017 Wooden Player of the Year, 2017 Naismith Player of the Year, 2017 AP Player of the Year.

Those, of course, were the three most prestigious of the 10 national player of the year honors that Mason won following the 2016-17 season in which he led Kansas to a 31-5 record, a 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title and an Elite Eight appearance while becoming the first player in Big 12 history to finish a season averaging 20-plus points and 5-plus assists per game.

According to a report from WTVR, Massanutten basketball coach Chad Meyers called Mason “the greatest thing to happen to Massanutten basketball,” and Mason and his parents were on hand for a small ceremony in the school’s gym that honored Mason with the jersey retirement, complete with his framed, white, No. 3 Massanutten jersey presented to him.

Mason spoke the crowd, signed autographs and enjoyed a short video recap of his sensational senior season.

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Former Jayhawk Carlton Bragg Jr. eyeing five schools for fresh start

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) flashes a smile while waiting for a free throw during the first half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) flashes a smile while waiting for a free throw during the first half, Saturday, March 4, 2017 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. by Nick Krug

ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman on Wednesday revealed five possible destinations for former Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr., who decided after two seasons as a Jayhawk to leave Lawrence during the offseason.

According to Goodman and several other reports, Bragg is considering Arizona State, Cincinnati, Illinois, North Carolina State and Xavier.

Reports last week indicated that there might be mutual interest between Ohio State and Bragg, but, at least as of now, the Buckeyes do not appear to be in the running for the former McDonald’s All-American who hails from Cleveland.

Bragg’s departure was one of the surprise storylines of the 2016-17 season, as many had him pegged as a potential early-entry NBA prospect and expected him to have a breakout season while sliding into the role vacated by departing senior Perry Ellis. It never happened, though, and Bragg’s struggles on the floor carried over to his personal life, where he twice was suspended by Bill Self for off-the-court issues.

Bragg averaged just 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game.

It does not appear that things will move too quickly here, with Bragg likely to take at least a few visits before deciding on his next school. That certainly could change with one visit, but either way it seems likely that Bragg will make a decision in time to report to his new program in time for summer workouts.

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KU one of the leaders for Cal transfer Charlie Moore?

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

According to a Tweet from college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein, Kansas and Illinois have emerged as the two favorites to land Cal point guard Charlie Moore, who plans to transfer in the offseason.

Moore, a 5-foot-11, former four-star prospect in the Class of 2016, averaged 12 points and 3.5 assists per game for the Bears this season. He played in 34 games and averaged 29 minutes per game during his freshman season.

Moore originally committed to Memphis prior to last season but backed out of that commitment when then-Memphis coach Josh Pastner left for Georgia Tech.

That sent Moore to Cal, where he played one year for Cuonzo Martin, who left this offseason to take over at Missouri. Despite praising Cal’s promotion of assistant coach Wyking Jones into the head coach’s office, Moore elected to transfer in order to be closer to his ailing father, who, in 2015, suffered a stroke.

“After many discussions with my family, I’ve made the decision to transfer to be closer to home,” Moore said in a statement earlier this month. “This was an extremely difficult decision for me, but the opportunity to be closer to my family is one that I feel is necessary for me at this time. I am grateful for my first year at California and for teammates, who became my brothers.”

Called by Rivals.com during his recruitment, “a dynamo who can score,” Moore carries a toughness typical of Chicago prospects and is known for his explosive abilities and on-court personality.

Although Rothstein’s report merely mentioned KU as one of two frontrunners for Moore, there’s a lot about the link to Kansas that makes sense.

For one, signing with KU would give him the opportunity to play with former Memphis players Dedric and K.J. Lawson, who also are transferring to KU this offseason. Although the trio never played together at Memphis, the Lawson brothers no doubt had an impact during Memphis recruitment of Moore.

For two, with KU losing Devonte’ Graham and possibly Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk following the 2017-18 season, the Jayhawks will be looking to restock the cupboard with guards heading into the 2018-19 season, when Moore would become eligible after sitting out in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.

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More final rankings for the Class of 2017

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

As Kansas coach Bill Self and his staff continue to try to put the finishing touches on the 2017 recruiting classes, recruiting services everywhere are doing the same.

This week, both ESPN and 247 Sports released their final rankings of the 2017 class, which, to date, includes two KU commitments and a couple of known targets still trying to make their decisions.

6-foot-5 combo guard Marcus Garrett, who committed to KU last August, finished ranked as the No. 47-ranked player in the class according to 247 Sports and 61st in the ESPN rankings.

Five-star prospect Billy Preston, a 6-9, 220-pound forward from Oak Hill Academy finished ranked No. 21 on the 247 list and No. 17 according to ESPN.

Those two players finished ranked No. 10 and No. 37 in the final Rivals.com rankings for the 2017 class.

Other notable names and rankings on the final 247 Sports list include KU targets Trevon Duval (No. 6), recently released Illinois big man Jeremiah Tilmon (No. 39) and guard Thomas Allen, another player who recently was given a release from his previous choice after a coaching change, who came in ranked 126th on the final list.

Duval, who has been one of KU's top targets for months and would pair nicely in the Kansas backcourt next to Devonte' Graham and Malik Newman, was rumored to be making an unofficial visit to Duke this week — the Blue Devils may represent KU's stiffest challenge for the dynamic guard — but Duval wrote on Twitter that such reports were untrue.

It should be noted that this is the same Duval, who earlier this month, Tweeted that he would announce a final two only to reveal later that his plans of narrowing down his list from five (Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Kansas and Seton Hall) to two were merely an April Fool's joke.

Thanks to Josh Jackson's formal announcement that he would enter the NBA Draft, the Jayhawks now have one remaining scholarship to pass out. Should Svi Mykhailiuk, who is testing his merits but has not yet hired an agent, elect to stay in the draft, Kansas would have two scholarships to give in the current class.

As always, Self and his staff also are lining up visits and making the rounds with players in an ultra-talented 2018 class, with power forward Marvin Bagley III, small forward Zion Williamson, shooting guard Romeo Langford, power forward Jordan Brown, power forward Bol Bol and point guard Darius Garland representing a few of the highest-ranked names to keep an eye on.

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

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Most memorable Josh Jackson moments of 2016-17 season

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

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

With Josh Jackson announcing his inevitable decision to turn pro on Monday, it seems like a good time to take a quick look back at the Detroit native’s short but oh-so-sweet Kansas career.

In one year, Jackson cemented himself in KU history by sticking his name all over the freshman record book.

He set the KU freshman record for double-doubles in a single season (13), shots made (220) and shots attempted (429) and also tied Danny Manning for second among all KU freshmen with 258 rebounds.

His 572 points were the third most in KU freshman history, 25 points behind Andrew Wiggins’ record, and his 16.3 points-per-game averaged ranks second to Wiggins’ mark of 17.1.

Jackson also attempted the second most free throws in a single season by a freshman (173) and, believe it or not, made the third most free throws (98). His 1,077 minutes played were the fourth most in KU history by a freshman and his 55 steals put him fifth on KU’s all-time freshman list.

In short, Jackson, as you all surely saw with your own eyes, was nothing shy of remarkable during his lone season of college basketball, getting better month after month and week after week and providing Kansas with an incredible advantage most nights out.

His presence in the uniform and on the floor will be missed by the program and the fans, who finally got to see a one-and-done Jayhawk live up to the expectations they have for these types of players.

Before Jackson’s name merely becomes a part of the record books, let’s take one look back at some of his best moments at Kansas, followed by a few highlight videos that, after watching them, reminded me just how good he was and how lucky we were to get to see him play, up close and personal, 36 times last season.

Jackson is destined for big things in the NBA and it should fun to watch how his career unfolds, starting with this June’s draft and the unveiling of what NBA city he’s headed to next.

Although there were dozens of memorable Josh Jackson moments this season, from monster dunks to sweet dimes and everything in between, here are 10 that stood out to me as both big time highlights and moments or plays that fully encapsulate the kind of player Jackson is.

10 – Baseline, under-the-basket scoop shot vs. UC Davis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Jackson filled the highlight reel in his first ever NCAA tourney game, finishing with a number of athletic plays on both ends of the floor and filling up the stat sheet. For my money, though, it was this shot that stood out above all of them. Midway through the game, Jackson drove right and was funneled to the baseline by the Davis defender. Undeterred, he kept going through the lane and kissed a reverse layup off the glass with reverse english. Dr. J it was not, but it was close, just as athletic and a good look at just how many tricks this guy had in his repertoire.

9 – Step-back 3 over Miles Bridges in NCAA Tournament second round. Another game filled with Jackson highlights — most of them at his good buddy Bridges’ expense — this smooth 3-pointer gave KU a 60-53 with 11 minutes to play and demonstrated just how confident Jackson had become in his 3-point shot. After catching it with his back to the basket outside of the paint, Jackson used his dribble to face up and get Bridges on his heels, took one quick jab step and then a long hop back behind line for 3-pointer right in front of KU bench.

8 – One-handed, transition bounce pass to Svi in traffic vs. Long Beach State. Often called the best passer on the team, Jackson showed it time and time again, finding the open man and setting up teammates inside for easy buckets. None of his passes were as impressive as this one, though, when he found Svi streaking to the rim just a couple of steps past half-court and, in one motion, picked up his dribble with his right hand and fired a pass from right to left between two guys and around another that hit Svi in stride for the layup.

7 – Vicious alley-oop dunk vs TCU at home. I’ll always remember this one because of Jackson’s explanation of it. Flying down the floor with Frank Mason III in a two-on-one fastbreak, Jackson rose high and flushed it with force like he had done so many times this season. This one though, was a little different. He went up and caught it with two hands and looked like he was going to flush it quickly without making much fuss. But in mid air he decided to turn it into a one-handed hammer because, as he said, he wanted to give the fans a little show. Oh to be able to do things like that on the basketball court.

6 – Deep 3-pointer to close the 1st half at Baylor. Not exactly known for his outside shot, Jackson, who shot well above 40 percent from 3-point range in conference play, improved so much in that area throughout the season and hit some big ones along the way. Few were as big as this one against Baylor that just beat the buzzer and helped pull the Jayhawks within six points at the break instead of being down nine.

5 – Game-winning free throw at Texas Tech. A day after his 20th birthday and on an afternoon when he scored a career-high 31 points, it was a Jackson free throw in the final seconds of a tough road win at Texas Tech that stole the headlines. Just a 57 percent shooter from the free throw line all season, Jackson stepped up big time in this moment, knocking down the second of two free throws with 2.8 seconds to play to break a tie and give Kansas the win.

4 – Back-to-back 3-pointers to open 2nd half at Kentucky. After trailing by double digits in the first half in hostile Rupp Arena, the Jayhawks hung tough and went to the locker room down just five at the break. That in itself gave Kansas a bit of momentum, but the fact that the Kentucky lead was gone altogether one minute into the second half was what really propelled the Jayhawks to victory. And Josh Jackson, almost single-handedly was to thank for that. He buried a couple of 3-pointers, one from the left wing 15 seconds into the half and the other from the right wing 45 seconds later.

3 – Late dunk at Baylor. Jackson actually had four monster dunks in this tough road win, but the most critical came in the final two minutes on a sweet drive and dish by Mason, who found Jackson slipping behind Baylor 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil. Jackson did the rest, destroying the rim with one hand to pull KU within two in yet another dramatic, late-game comeback that delivered a tough road victory.

2 – Steal and flush at Kentucky that kept Kansas in it. Jackson had a similar play against Duke in New York City — proving that he likes the big stage just a little — but in this one he flashed his defensive effort, intensity and motor to pick up some easy points for Kansas. After jumping in front of a D’Aaron Fox pass intended for Derek Willis, Jackson cruised in for the uncontested, right-handed hammer jam to pull KU within eight instead of falling behind by 12 or 13.

1 – One-handed exclamation point vs. Michigan State. It was a game that meant a lot to him on a personal level and he showed it. Playing brilliantly all over the floor in KU’s second-round NCAA Tournament victory over the Spartans, Jackson capped his monster night with a come-fly-with-me dunk down the heart of the lane that served as the exclamation point on KU’s second victory in Tulsa. After catching a pass from a scrambling Lagerald Vick at top of the key, Jackson gave a quick hesitation move to make old pal Miles Bridges think jumper, and then blew by Bridges and elevated over everyone to send it in and seal the KU victory.

• NCAA Tournament 2017

• KU at Kentucky

• General Jackson highlights from 2016-17 season

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K.J. Lawson delivers harsh goodbye

South Carolina forward Mindaugas Kacinas (25) fouls Memphis forward K.J. Lawson, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

South Carolina forward Mindaugas Kacinas (25) fouls Memphis forward K.J. Lawson, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Call it a parting shot or a bad way to make a first impression, either way a snapchat video of newly acquired Kansas forward K.J. Lawson, the former Memphis Tiger who, along with his brother, Dedric, committed to KU earlier this week, recently surfaced that showed Lawson using profanity which seems to be directed at Memphis coach Tubby Smith.

If Smith was indeed the target of Lawson's rant, the reason is likely his frustration with the way his father, Keelon Lawson, was treated during the Lawson brothers' final season with the program.

Hired by former Memphis coach Josh Pastner as a full-time assistant coach, Keelon Lawson was demoted to director of player development by Smith for the one season that the two sides were together.

That, in part, led to the transfer of his two sons, both Memphis natives, and may have cost the Tigers a heck of a lot more. Not only do K.J. and Dedric have two younger brothers who are rated among the top players in their classes, the whole thing serves a serious blow to Smith's standing in talent-rich Memphis, which has been vital in the Tigers' success for years.

According to a recent column from Gary Parrish, Memphis is now down to just two returning scholarship players, after a couple of graduations and mass transfers decimated the program.

While cleaning up that mess will be Smith's responsibility, the Lawson brothers soon will be the responsibility of KU and the guess here is that K.J. will learn sooner rather than later that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in Lawrence.

Keelon Lawson said on Parrish's radio show earlier this week that his sons would have stayed at Memphis had he been allowed to keep his job as a full-time assistant. Instead, they're now Kansas bound.

Dedric and K.J. Lawson will sit out the 2017-18 college basketball season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules and become eligible to play before the start of the 2018-19 season. They will be able to practice with the Jayhawks throughout their transfer season, which should give Kansas' eligible players an added edge in practices.

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Update: Lawson took to Twitter Thursday night to issue an apology for the video and his comments.

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Miles Bridges news unlikely to have any impact on Josh Jackson’s decision

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) lofts a shot over Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) lofts a shot over Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

I get it. I really do. And I’m right there with you. Sort of.

The idea of Kansas freshman Josh Jackson returning for his sophomore season is wonderful to think about. But it’s a total waste of time and, therefore, is hazardous to the health of Kansas basketball fans.

Like so many one-and-done Jayhawks before him, I’d love nothing more than to see Jackson return so we can watch a player of his ability, up close and personal, for another year.

But it’s not happening.

Not might. Not maybe he’ll be the guy who does it differently. Not Lloyd Christmas’ “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” line. Just not.

I’m sure most people know this. And I’m sure you all know the reasons why, so I won’t waste your time or mine rehashing that here. Jackson’s lifelong dream has been to play in the NBA and he’s about to be one of the top players picked in the draft. Easy decision.

With that said, I can’t blame those KU fans who do know it but are such die-hard Jayhawks that they can’t help but wish for even the longest of long shots to come through. That’s part of what being a fan is all about. As long as you can handle it when the bubble bursts.

In a move that has shocked all kinds of college basketball analysts, Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges, a likely lottery pick himself, appears to be returning for his sophomore year. He’ll make an announcement at Michigan State’s arena tonight, and, much like Roy Williams’ announcement the first time he was courted by North Carolina, you generally don’t get a bunch of people together to give them bad news.

So the likely assumption is that Bridges is staying. Good for him. He’s got Top 3 potential and could — could — help himself a little by returning for a second season in East Lansing.

His return, if that’s what’s happening, will be great for college basketball and, obviously, even greater for Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

Because Bridges and Jackson grew up together and come from the same environment, many KU fans have spun the Bridges news into having some kind of impact on Jackson’s decision.

I also get that. But I don’t really see it changing anything for the Big 12 freshman of the year.

Let me put it this way: Before I heard about Bridges, I thought there was a 0.0 percent chance that Jackson would return to Kansas. Now that I know about Bridges’ upcoming announcement, I’ve moved my thinking about a possible Jackson return to 0.5 percent. That’s still less than 1 percent and every inch of my brain believes Jackson is leaving.

And good for him. He’s ready. He’ll be an incredible pro and I think he’ll wind up being even better in the NBA than Andrew Wiggins already is. He may never be the scorer that Wiggins is — although I wouldn’t rule it out — but I think he’ll be a much, much better all-around player and he’ll be in position to make a big time impact on whatever team is lucky enough to land him as soon as next season.

For the selfish side of getting to cover and watch Jackson play for one more season, and for the incredible story side of covering the guy who, like Tim Duncan 20 years ago, would be turning down an opportunity to be a Top 3 pick and all of that money for another season of college basketball, I’d love for Jackson to return.

But I haven’t spent even a total of one minute thinking it was going to happen and I don’t think those close to him have either. Remember, KU coach Bill Self has said repeatedly, both recently and as far back as last fall, that Jackson's a one-year guy and that he's not holding his breath for him to return. That's not a coach guarding his heart. That's a coach being realistic.

Bridges news or not, Jackson’s turning pro and the delay in his announcement, which has contributed to the sliver of hope that KU fans still have for him to shock the world, is merely circumstantial. He’s in no hurry. Nor does he need to be. He’ll announce it when he’s ready, just like he’ll be turning pro when he’s ready.

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Say What? Tait’s Wednesday appearance on 810 WHB’s Sports Night with Cody Tapp

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News, notes and updated Rivals.com rankings for the KU recruiting Class of 2017

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

While the Kansas basketball program’s 2017 recruiting class remains incomplete and a work in progress, the folks at Rivals.com have released their updated and final Rivals 150 rankings for the current class.

The two future Jayhawks on the list who already have signed with Kansas both dropped a couple of spots but more or less held their ground and maintained their status in the same tiers they were in during the previous update.

Billy Preston, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound McDonald’s All-American from Oak Hill Academy landed in the No. 10 spot in the final rankings. That was two spots down from his previous ranking of No. 8 but allowed Preston to maintain the distinction by which many had known him throughout the recruiting process — a Top 10 player in the class. Preston also remained a 5-star prospect.

Of Preston, who averaged a double-double (15.3 points and 10.4 rebounds) during his final prep season, KU coach Bill Self recently said: “He’s a prototypical 4 man. He’s a big guy that can handle the ball and shoot. He’s really a good prospect.”

Marcus Garrett, a 6-foot-5, combo guard from Dallas’ Skyline High, dropped one spot from No. 37 to 38 but remained higher than his initial ranking of No. 44 when he committed to Kansas last August. Garrett also held his status as a 4-star recruit.

Of Garrett, who nearly averaged a triple-double (17.3 points, 10.4 points and 9.1 assists) during his senior season while earning Texas Gatorade Player of the Year honors, Self recently said: “I think Marcus is gonna be good. Marcus is a 6-5 guard, he’s strong and he’s gonna be a really good player.”

The two players already officially committed to the program were not the only noteworthy prospects listed in the final Rivals 150 rankings.

Trevon Duval, the top-ranked point guard in the class who has narrowed down his list to a final five of Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Kansas and Seton Hall, dropped one spot, from No. 3 to No. 4 as he reached the homestretch of his recruitment.

The arrival of the spring signing period, which opened Wednesday and runs through May 17, creates a situation where Duval will not have to wait to sign whenever he makes his final decision. He can both commit and sign on the same day or, possibly even sign an official letter of intent with his chosen school before making his choice public.

Most recruiting analysts believe that Duval’s decision will come sometime later this month or early in May. But the reality is that it could come any day.

KU target Jeremiah Tilmon, a 6-10, 235-pound big man from East St. Louis, Ill., also received a new ranking in the updated list, falling from No. 25 to No. 42. Tilmon, who had committed to Illinois but asked for a release after the Illini changed coaches, is expected to receive a visit from Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard on Friday.

Self recently told the Journal-World that he would like to add a “quick-twitch 4 man” in the current class to back-up Preston, but added that, “If he’s not a quick-twitch guy, then hopefully (he’s) a guy that’s big enough to play the five. But there’s some guys out there and there’s gonna be a lot of seniors that will look to transfer so hopefully we’ll find one.”

Other names of note on the list include: Brewster Academy guard Thomas Allen, who recently was released from his commitment to NC State after the Wolfpack coaching change. Allen jumped from No. 149 on the list to No. 99.

Former Arizona State commitment Kenny Wooten, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward who recently reopened his recruitment and checks in at No. 140 on the list. Wooten, according to Rivals, had an offer from KU prior to committing to Arizona State.

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Highlights and one-liners from Tuesday’s KU basketball banquet

The news last night came from the opportunity to talk to Devonte’ Graham for the first time since he announced on Twitter last Sunday that he was returning for his senior season.

So that’s what I wrote. But there were plenty of moments from last night’s Kansas basketball banquet that were more of the light-hearted variety and produced some memorable laughs and good one-liners.

KU coach Bill Self, not surprisingly, was the source of several of those and here’s a quick recap of some of the highlights.

• As the featured speaker of the event, Self took the stage after the season highlight video had finished. He was introduced as a first-ballot Hall of Famer and received a standing ovation when he went to grab the mic. His response? “I appreciate that deeply,” he said. “But I know it was a long video and everybody just needed to stretch.”

• In talking about strength coach Andrea Hudy, who has worked wonders with dozens of Jayhawks during her time at Kansas, Self referenced Devonte’ Graham and his tendency to flex after big plays, be them by him or a teammate. Self’s jab? “You need to get in the weight room if you’re gonna do that,” he joked.

• And then there was Josh Jackson, the Big 12 freshman of the year and second-team All-American whom Self marveled about for his strong season and steady growth and improvement. “I don’t tell our guys very often how good they are,” Self began. “But do you guys realize how good Josh Jackson is? Danny was a really good player here and he averaged 14 as a freshman. (Andrew Wiggins) was a really good player here and averaged a little bit more, he averaged 17 and Josh averaged 16.5. But Josh came in here and this dude shot 44 percent in league play from 3. He has unbelievable vision. And we asked him to guard (Purdue big man) Caleb Swanigan. And what’d he do? He locked him up. That’s just who he is. So competitive. And to see him grow as the season went on was so fun to watch.” Then, never missing an opportunity to take a shot at former Jayhawk and current KU broadcaster Greg Gurley, Self jokingly said to Jackson, “You passed Greg Gurley in freshman scoring, which was kind of a goal of ours...... in Game 1.” Naturally, the crowd of more than 600 on hand cracked up at that line, Gurley included. Looking back, it actually took Jackson four games before he passed Gurley’s freshman output of 47 points, but the point still stands.

• Scott “Scooter” Ward was in attendance at Tuesday’s banquet and Self said KU’s academic counselor was, “close to being 100 percent and back at work with us.... One wasn’t enough, he had to have two torn aortas to prove how tough he was, as if we didn’t know that already.”

• After going through the roster, player by player, with a funny story, memorable moment or both about each guy, Self got to the seniors and explained how the 2016-17 KU basketball team had a solid trio of senior leaders. “They say your team is only as good as your seniors allow ‘em to be and we had three studs as seniors,” Self began. “One of ’em, obviously, his mother wished he’d play a heck of a lot more,” Self grumbled. “But he did have his shining moment in the NCAA Tournament.” That senior, of course, was Self’s son, Tyler.

• There were, as you know, a couple of players on the roster who did not play this season, in transfers Sam Cunliffe (Arizona State) and Malik Newman (Mississippi State), and Self addressed both of them while sounding optimistic and excited about their potential for the future. “Sam Cunliffe is as good a athlete as we have in our gym,” Self began. “He won’t be eligible until next Christmas, but, Sam, you’ve got a huge responsibility ahead of you to work like the guys before you to put yourself in a position to help win trophies like this. And then one other transfer, Malik Newman, you know, I’ll be disappointed if Malik’s not an all-league or All-American player next year. I mean, he’s talented. He’s good. And these guys played such a huge role in any success we had this year as far as competing and pushing guys and making ’em better.” Self added: “To think that you’ve got Udoka (Azubuike) and Sam and Malik sitting out, that brings me so much excitement about what’s getting ready to happen next year with our program.”

• And then there was Frank Mason III, whose national player of the year trophies sparkled on the stage and ferocious competitive spirit served as one of the themes of the night. Self became emotional and occasionally had to fight back tears when talking about Mason to close the banquet. I can’t remember ever seeing that. Self is not a guy who is easily moved to emotion and to see it happen while he was talking about the player that he has called before the toughest player and best guard he’s ever coached. “You always want good things to happen to good people,” Self began, with his voice cracking toward the end of that sentence. “I think we all wanted Frank to win these awards, but it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. What he’s given us goes way beyond an award or awards. He’s just so damn tough and he’s so competitive and he has done as much for our culture as anybody that we’ve ever been around. I’m not gonna sit here and say that Frank’s the best player to ever play at Kansas. No offense, Frank; you’re not. I know everybody’s kissed your tail and said you’re the greatest, but, nah, nah. Wilt played at Kansas. To just think about the consistency and everything.... to think about the break we got. Thank God for that government teacher.”

• Before giving Mason the team MVP award known as the Danny Manning “Mr. Jayhawk” Award, Self also shared a story about Mason’s stubborn nature. “You can’t tell him anything at all without him thinking he knows better,” Self said. “He’s having one of his practices that he was maybe a little moody, a little stubborn and I said, ‘Frank, you don’t get it. If you would just, basically, pull your head out, your name’s gonna live up in the rafters forever. Because you’re gonna be Big 12 player of the year.’ Little did we all know, he was the best player in our league, but he was the best player in the United States, and, Frank, I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

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

* Recorded the afternoon of Tuesday, April 11, before the men's basketball banuqet.

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

  • Recorded Tuesday afternoon, before the men's basketball banuqet.
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Report: Jayhawks expected to land Memphis transfers

Memphis’ Dedric Lawson in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Memphis’ Dedric Lawson in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) by Matt Tait

Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported Monday, through information obtained from their father, that former Memphis standouts Dedric and K.J. Lawson plan to transfer to Kansas.

The two brothers, who are natives of Memphis, where they attended Hamilton High, will sit out the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules and be eligible in time for the 2018-19 season,

Last season, they combined to average more than 30 points, 18 rebounds and 6 assists per game for Tubby Smith's Tigers, who finished the season 19-13.

Dedric Lawson, a 6-foot-9, 236-pound sophomore and former McDonald's All-American, averaged a double-double — 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game — while his brother, K.J Lawson, a 6-7, 210-pound, red-shirt freshman, averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

Both players committed to former Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who has since moved on to Georgia Tech. Their father, Keelon Lawson, held a position on Pastner's staff but was demoted after Smith arrived in town.

Just after noon on Monday, K.J. confirmed the news with a Tweet that read, "ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK"

None by Keelon Lawson

According to Parish's report, the latest recruiting haul by Kansas might pay dividends beyond the next two seasons, as Dedric and K.J. have two younger brothers — Chandler and Johnathan — who are top prospects in the 2019 and 2021 classes. Beyond that, a cousin, D.J. Jeffries, also is a Top 10 player in the 2019 class.

Though ineligible next season, the Lawson brothers will be able to practice with the team all year, providing some tough competition for KU's rotation players to battle on a daily basis throughout the year.

Dedric Lawson will have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming season and K.J. Lawson, if he applies for and is granted a sixth year of eligibility because of injury issues earlier in his career, would have three years of eligibility remaining.

Stay tuned to KUsports.com for more...

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Tonight’s Wooden Award ceremony will mark the final act of Frank Mason’s magical season

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) smiles during the Senior Night speeches following the JayhawksÕ 73-63, comeback win over Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) smiles during the Senior Night speeches following the JayhawksÕ 73-63, comeback win over Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Kansas senior Frank Mason III is in Los Angeles today for the annual ceremony that announces the Wooden Award winner (7 p.m. on ESPN2).

Given the fact that Mason already has swept nine of nine national player of the year awards in the past few weeks and the regularity with which the Naismith and Associated Press players of the year also have won the Wooden (18 of the past 20 seasons), it seems likely that Mason has one more acceptance speech to make.

With that, his Kansas career will officially be over, when the walk to accept the Wooden Award — should he win it — will mark the final time that Mason represents KU on a national stage.

Sure there will be other times that Mason will be mentioned as “that stud from Kansas,” and he always will be a Jayhawk. But, from tomorrow on, Frank Mason will be representing himself, working his butt off morning, noon and night to impress pro scouts and become an NBA player.

For a guy who was all about the team during his four-year Kansas career, ending with so many individual moments is not the way he pictured it. But he is deserving and it’s for more than just the work he put in or the numbers he put up.

See, in the middle of all of that blood, sweat and tears, between the monster games and memorable moments, Mason actually made it a point to soak all of this up. And that was cool to see.

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I knew that Frank Mason III was going to have a national player of the year kind of season. Heck, before the year began, if you would’ve told me that Kansas would have one player sweep the national player of the year awards, I probably would’ve made Mason my third guess, behind Josh Jackson and Devonte’ Graham.

My bad. And, boy am I glad.

Watching Mason do his thing from courtside all season long, from Honolulu to New York City and the Big 12 backyards to the NCAA Tournament, was an absolute pleasure.

KU, as you know, tends to bring in the best of the best and puts players on the floor that have incredible skills and talent. From Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor to Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid to Josh Jackson this year and dozens of others in the past decade, I’ve enjoyed covering them all and have been wowed by their wizardry on the basketball court.

But I’m not sure I’ve appreciated anyone quite the way I appreciated Mason this season. Maybe it was because he was so consistent and so solid from start to finish. Maybe it was because, no matter what the night or who the opponent, I almost always was amazed when I looked down at his final line and saw huge totals in nearly every category. Offensive efficiency at its finest, right there.

But, again, it also was about more than basketball. My appreciation for Mason’s season grew from week to week in large part because I could tell, in just about every way, how much it meant to him. That’s cool. That’s something I’ll always remember.

I first sensed there was something different about Mason early in the season, when his answers to questions after a number of non-conference games were more engaging and even longer than in years past. Instead of being the quiet guy who didn’t like to say much, Mason spoke up and spoke for the team the way real leaders do.

But it wasn’t just the way Mason responded to questions or handled interviews that put Mason’s monster season on my radar.

In Honolulu, Mason openly invited Journal-World photographer Nick Krug into a Facebook Live session with him on the beach when Nick was trying to get a few shots of the team relaxing in paradise.

Later, at the team’s annual holiday shopping session in late December, Mason jumped at the opportunity to talk to the couple of media members there, making sure that a KU basketball official captured the moment on his cell phone, presumably for some kind of digital scrapbook of his last go ’round as a Jayhawk.

And, again, toward the end of the regular season, as I interviewed Mason while walking with him out of the locker room and down the halls toward the weight room, I caught a quick glimpse of him capturing the whole thing on Snap Chat.

These moments, and many others like them I’m sure, as much as the clutch 3-pointers, ridiculous finishes in traffic or dagger jumpers that buried teams all season, were a huge part of Frank Mason’s memorable senior year. And it was fun to see him embrace them instead of carrying a too-cool-for-school attitude into his final season in Lawrence.

What he did on the floor made him an All-American and led to all of that hardware he collected during the past few weeks.

But what he did off of it, made those words he uttered on Senior Night ring true. “If I had the chance to play four more years here, I swear I would,” he said.

Frank Mason clearly will miss Kansas. But not nearly as much as Kansas will miss him.

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With Bragg gone, where will the Jayhawks look to fill his role?

Kansas sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr. throws down a dunk prior to Friday's game at TCU in the Jayhawks' Big 12 opener.

Kansas sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr. throws down a dunk prior to Friday's game at TCU in the Jayhawks' Big 12 opener. by Nick Krug

Now that it’s all over, it’s hard to believe that the Carlton Bragg Jr. era in Kansas basketball will go down as an experiment.

But that’s exactly what it was.

Despite earning high praise throughout his prep career and becoming another in a long line of McDonald’s All-Americans to join the Jayhawks, Bragg’s two years in Lawrence were mostly about unfilled potential and missed opportunities.

As a freshman, when he showed promise and seemed to be smiling all the time, Bragg went into games with little pressure and often gave the Jayhawks solid minutes when he was on the floor.

Playing him then was not much of a gamble for the Jayhawks, but on a veteran team with so much talent in the front court, there really was no need for Bragg to be a big time player.

That all changed during his sophomore season, when the Cleveland native was in perfect position to pick up the slack left by Perry Ellis’ departure but could never get it done, mentally or physically, off the court or on.

Bragg’s entire sophomore season was a mess and he rarely — if ever — looked like the kind of player many expected and hoped he would be.

That reality, along with his inability to deliver when the pressure was on — and, really, even when it wasn’t — led to today and Bragg’s decision to leave KU for a fresh start.

It’s a good decision. And it will benefit both sides. While Bragg gets a chance to start over at a program that no doubt will be excited about his physical tools, wherever that may be, Kansas gets his scholarship back and can add another body in the 2017 recruiting class.

Already with combo guard Marcus Garrett and Oak Hill big man Billy Preston in the mix, the Jayhawks now can address both need and desire with the remaining spots.

KU coach Bill Self said the other night that he’d like to add another ball handler for insurance at the guard position and a quick-twitch 4 man to back up Preston.

That was before Bragg’s scholarship was available. Now, with another offer to hand out if Self so chooses (and as long as Josh Jackson declares for the NBA Draft) the Jayhawks can double up on either position and take the best available player out there, be that a high school senior or a college transfer.

By quick-twitch 4 man, Self is talking about a player who owns everything that everyone thought Bragg had and everything former KU stud Kevin Young did have.

If Self could find a Kevin Young type of player, he would almost immediately have some kind of role and impact on next year’s team.

The extra energy, toughness inside and ability to keep up with the fast pace set by KU’s talented backcourt would be an absolute bonus and a nice change from what Bragg offered on the floor.

There are others who have filled this role in recent years, with Jamari Traylor, Cheick Diallo and even Thomas Robinson (before his monster junior season) also fitting that description while playing a supporting role.

Whether Self can find a guy like Young, Traylor, Robinson or Diallo at this point in the process remains to be seen. And with the spring signing period beginning next Wednesday, it seems more likely that such a player would come via the graduate transfer route that delivered Tarik Black a couple of years back.

Here are a couple of names worth familiarizing yourselves with as Self and his assistants scan the country for a player who could fill this role.

• Jeremiah Tilmon, 6-foot-10, 235-pound center from East St. Louis, Ill., recently requested his release from Illinois, where he committed last July. With the coaching change to Brad Underwood, Tilmon, a 5-star prospect and the No. 25-ranked player in the 2017 class according to Rivals.com, reconsidered his commitment and, given that he had Kansas on his list initially, may eventually be on the Jayhawks’ radar again.

• Shakur Juiston, 6-foot-7, 215-pound prospect from Hutchinson Community College has been on KU’s radar for a while and, according to 247 Sports, he received an offer from Kansas on March 6. In fact, Matt Scott of TheShiver.com, reported earlier today that Self and KU assistant Norm Roberts paid Juiston a visit today.

There are, of course, many more names that might surface in the coming days and weeks, as the Jayhawks look to finalize their 2017 class and set their roster entering the offseason.

Stay tuned...

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