Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

2017 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic full of light-hearted, feel-good moments

Kansas coach Bill Self, jumps up from the stands to cheer after his son Tyler hit a 3-point basket during the 2017 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic Thursday evening at Lawrence Free State High School. The annual charity event benefits local families fighting cancer.

Kansas coach Bill Self, jumps up from the stands to cheer after his son Tyler hit a 3-point basket during the 2017 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic Thursday evening at Lawrence Free State High School. The annual charity event benefits local families fighting cancer. by Mike Yoder

The last time Kansas basketball coach Bill Self saw his son, Tyler, hit a 3-pointer as a Jayhawk, the KU coach smiled slyly but did his best to maintain his composure.

Self knew then, of course — during the Jayhawks’ 100-62 victory over UC-Davis in Round 1 of last season’s NCAA Tournament — that the cameras were rolling and, because of that, sportsmanship was a high priority.

Thursday night, at his son’s old stomping grounds of Free State High, Self again watched Tyler knock in a 3-pointer during the ninth annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, won 104-101 by the Crimson team over the Blue. This time, however, Self sat in the stands, and, as a proud parent, leapt to both feet and threw both arms and fists in the air after the former KU walk-on knocked down the open jumper.

Many in attendance at the sold-out event caught Self’s reaction — partially genuine and partially over the top — and appropriately roared with laughter.

That was merely one of the dozen or so light-hearted moments that made this year’s Roundball Classic, like all of the others before it, such a memorable and enjoyable evening for so many former Kansas players and their adoring fans.

Here are a few others:

• At halftime, when one lucky fan received an opportunity to shoot a half-court shot for a new car and six young fans were plucked from the crowd to play a quick game of knock-out, KU director of basketball operations Brennan Bechard was called to the court to advise the half-court heaver. Bechard, of course, is the reigning half-court shot champion, having knocked in half-courters in back-to-back years at Late Night for tuition money for one lucky KU student. Bechard’s advice to the man was simple: Don’t leave it short. He didn’t, but it was off to the left and missed the rim by a foot or two.

• More from the younger Self. Although he didn’t play a ton of minutes, he did make the most of his opportunity to entertain, first knocking down that open jumper and twice later overreacting in dramatic fashion to fouls called against him. The first came when he fouled Sherron Collins on a 3-point attempt. And the other came when he bear-hugged Cole Aldrich in the paint. Each time Tyler Self threw both arms high into the air in the direction of the officials to protest the calls. Not long after, a smile of pure joy quickly filled Tyler’s face. One thing that really hit me during these exchanges was how much fun it must’ve been for him to participate in this game. Sure there were a couple of guys out there, like Wayne Selden or Perry Ellis, who Tyler was teammates with. But the good majority of them, especially those from that 2008 team, were better known as guys he once looked up to and, perhaps more importantly, the crew that finally delivered his dad a national title. Cool stuff.

At the point in the night when the members of the 2008 national title team were asked to come to mid-court for a group photo, Roundball Classic leading scorer Ben McLemore (32 points), who played just the 2012-13 season at Kansas before turning pro, jokingly jumped out there to try to get into the picture. “Yeah, you seen me try to go out there,” McLemore said after the game. “I wish I could’ve won a championship. But it was great playing here for the University of Kansas and it’s always a great feeling to come back here.”

• During one timeout in the second half, when event organizer Brian Hanni was introducing a young boy named Cade, who last year was an honorary coach at the game and this year is on pace to complete his cancer treatment with a prognosis of a victorious battle on his side, Hanni learned that Thursday also was Cade’s birthday. With the teams mingling more and strategizing less, Collins grabbed the mic and led the Free State gym in a singing of “Happy Birthday.” He was no John Legend, but Collins definitely pulled off the role of lead singer with a passing grade.

• A couple of funny quick-hitters from the game itself: At one point, after Mario Little blocked a driving shot attempt by Tyshawn Taylor, Mario Chalmers waived the Dikembe Mutombo finger Taylor’s way; Late in the game, with both sides competing harder in an attempt to snag the victory, Collins asked the scorer’s table how many fouls Taylor had. The scoreboard operator was not keeping track, but Collins was sure that Taylor had six fouls and should no longer be on the floor; During one timeout midway through the second half, Collins, on the Crimson team, looked over to the Blue bench and told J.J. Howard, son of Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard, that he was with the wrong team and that he should, “Come over to the good side.” J.J. stayed put; During a two-on-none late in the first half, as Wayne Selden and Drew Gooden raced toward the unprotected rim, an easy opportunity to throw an alley-oop presented itself. Instead of tossing it to Gooden, however, Selden fired it off the glass to himself and finished the play with one of the more impressive jams of the night. Rather than call him out for not giving up the rock, Gooden simply ran back on D with a huge smile and a look on his face that suggested he might be thinking, “Yeah. Good idea.”

• Finally, on a night designed to celebrate several former Jayhawks and honor the brave fights of a handful of young cancer warriors and their families, it’s worth noting that several members of the current Kansas basketball team showed up to enjoy the event. Those spotted in the crowd on Thursday were: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Mitch Lightfoot, Marcus Garrett, Dedric Lason, Charlie Moore and the entire KU coaching staff. Several former players mentioned in throughout the postgame festivities, but this truly was a family affair.


Can Kansas sophomore Malik Newman play some point guard?

Blue Team guard Malik Newman drives to the bucket against Red Team guard Keith Langford during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Blue Team guard Malik Newman drives to the bucket against Red Team guard Keith Langford during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas sophomore Malik Newman got the opportunity on Wednesday to show off his point guard skills for a portion of the annual camp scrimmage, won, 82-75, by the current team over a star-studded cast of former Jayhawks.

And it came against some of the best point guards of the Bill Self era.

Sure, there may be an age gap. And, whether because of age or injury or both, it’s hard to imagine that any of them were in as good of shape as Newman. But still, these were big time players. Names like Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins, along with others, all took a turn at guarding and going at Newman.

The Mississippi State transfer finished with 18 points and seemed both completely comfortable and wildly excited about the opportunity to face some of these former Kansas greats, many of whom walked away impressed.

“They’re gonna be great,” said Chalmers after the scrimmage of Newman and senior-to-be Devonte’ Graham. “I have high expectations for both of them, especially Malik Newman. They’ve got to pick up the slack from Frank (Mason) and they’re two good guards we need up top.”

Asked specifically if he thought Newman could play the point, Chalmers, the eight-year NBA veteran who, after a year and a half off to recover from a variety of injuries, is eagerly looking forward to his own return, was not willing to make any concrete statements either way.

“This was the first time I’ve seen Malik play,” he said. “So, just from this game, it’d be hard to tell just because this is an all-star game and everybody wants to shoot and go at it. But coach Self will make sure that he has a point guard, I’m not worried about that.”

Newman himself said playing on the ball was something he worked on a great deal during his transfer year, both to grow his own game and also for the good of the team.

“With the sit-out year, that’s something that I worked on a lot because I know Devonte’ isn’t gonna be able to bring the ball up the whole game by himself,” he said.

Regardless of who has the ball in his hands the most — all signs point to Graham running the point the majority of the time, but Newman and even Lagerald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk and freshman Marcus Garrett also may take a turn next season — the reality of Newman’s growth in that area is that the Jayhawks, as head coach Bill Self likes, now figure to feature a versatile and balanced backcourt.

As for Self’s take on Newman, he’s not all that interested in labels.

“I think Malik’s just a guard,” Self told the Journal-World earlier this spring. “He can play with the ball in his hands, but he’s probably better off the ball. He and Devonte’ could obviously be a nice combination.”

In scoring 46 points against some of KU’s biggest names of the recent past, the duo showed exactly that on Wednesday.

And from the sound of things, they’re just getting started.

“It was good,” Newman said of his pseudo first game in a Kansas uniform. “That’s why I came here, to play with an awesome group of guys and in front of a great crowd. And I think we did good for our first time together.”


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

• Recorded Tuesday, June 6, 2017


What caught my eye during Tuesday’s KU basketball camp workout

Tuesday afternoon, inside Horejsi Family Athletic Center, a few hundred Bill Self Basketball campers and small handful of media members and various members of the KU support staff were treated to a first true look at the 2017-18 Kansas men’s basketball team.

Sure, there were a couple of faces missing. Senior-to-be Svi Mykhailiuk is still in Ukraine playing with his national team and freshman Marcus Garrett did not arrive on campus until Tuesday night after graduating from Dallas’ Skyline High on Monday.

But, for the most part, this was a legitimate look at the Jayhawks that will be. Many of them — transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore — will not be eligible to play for the Jayhawks in a real game until the 2018-19 season. When they do, all three will have big time roles.

Others, like graduate transfer Jack Whitman, freshman Billy Preston and Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe (second semester) will be available to help out this season, and both should do just that.

That left the familiar faces, of which there were not quite as many as in recent years. Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman showed terrific chemistry, with Lagerald Vick right there with them. And Udoka Azubuike was back from his wrist injury with Mitch Lightfoot there next to him.

These might be new Jayhawks and this definitely will be a different team. But after a quick look at what KU will roll onto the floor during the upcoming season, one thing is clear — there is plenty of talent in place for Kansas to be as competitive as ever.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at a few other things that caught my eye at the opening practice, which included a little four-on-four, full-court action at the very end.

KU freshman Billy Preston works a drill with assistant coach Norm Roberts during Tuesday's workout.

KU freshman Billy Preston works a drill with assistant coach Norm Roberts during Tuesday's workout. by Matt Tait

• Let’s get the most pressing question out of the way first. Did William & Mary transfer Jack Whitman come sporting the mustache? You bet he did. It actually was more of a goatee look, but the ’stache most definitely was there. Whitman told me after he committed to KU this spring that he was not sure if he would keep the mustache throughout his time at Kansas or not, but he appears to be well on his way to making that happen. As for his game, there’s no doubt that he’s an explosive player around the rim — he’ll surprise more than a few opponents in that way this season — and willing to give great effort on every play, but, at least right now, he still seems to be thinking a lot about what he’s doing out there instead of just feeling it and playing free. That’s to be expected with a player learning a new system and culture and it will be worth monitoring as the summer goes along.

• While we’re talking appearances, it’s worth noting that Lagerald Vick was rocking a new look at Tuesday’s practice, opting for tiny braids instead of the blown-out, Devonte’ Graham/Josh Jackson look he favored last year. The new haircut likely did not have any impact on Vick’s game, but it did make him look even faster than we already knew he was, with the hair flopping around like mad each time he pushed the ball in transition and attacked the rim.

• We won’t see much of it this season past the summer camps and Late Night, but you can absolutely tell that Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson has massive potential. He has terrific size (6-9, 236), good footwork and an air of toughness to his game. His numbers last season at Memphis (19.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg) certainly proved what he’s capable of doing, but getting another year of working on his body and his game at Kansas should bring some pretty high expectations for his 2018-19 season.

• Freshman forward Billy Preston has a long way to go — Self said as much following Tuesday’s session — but there’s no question that the foundation is there. And I’m not just talking physically either. Preston looks physically mature beyond his years but he also appears to be a sponge, willing to soak up every instruction sent his way (from teammates and coaches) and he’s also pretty hard on himself, expecting to make every shot he takes and do every drill to perfection. What I really liked about Preston in that regard was the fact that when he did not know exactly what he was doing, he had no problem asking. A definite good start.

I wrote last week about Mitch Lightfoot’s offseason workout routine and how he already seemed to be pushing himself to the limits in an effort to take full advantage of the opportunity to bump up his minutes during his sophomore season. More performances like the one he gave on Tuesday will go a long way toward making that happen. Lightfoot gave max effort on absolutely every rep and seemed to really embrace the role of leading by example. He also was vocal — something he had no problem with last season — and willing to help the newcomers with whatever instructions he could. I’ve said it before and every time I see him or have a discussion about him, I come away thinking more and more that Lightfoot is going to have an impressive second season in KU crimson and blue.

• As a final act for the hundreds of campers who ooh’d and ahh’d about every dunk and big time shot the Jayhawks made during their individual drill work, Self broke the Jayhawks into two units and coached ’em hard during a little four-on-four, full-court scrimmage. The match-ups for the short session included Devonte’ Graham vs. Charlie Moore, Lagerald Vick vs. Sam Cunliffe; Billy Preston vs. Mitch Lightfoot; and Malik Newman vs. K.J. Lawson. All eight players had their moments, but Newman and Moore were the two that stood out most to me.

• Speaking of Newman, it’s very clear why the coaching staff, including Self, has spoken so highly of him and his potential impact on the 2017-18 season throughout the past several months. The guy is a player. The thing that impressed me most about Newman on Tuesday was his poise. He plays hard, attacks often and is an aggressive competitor on both ends of the floor, but it never looks hard for him. He’s smooth, plays under control and displays a great deal of confidence no matter what the situation. He’s going to be a bear for opposing teams to handle.

• Sticking with the guards, I was really, really impressed by what I saw from Cal transfer Charlie Moore. The kid is fearless and, like Newman, has an aggressive mentality and a ton of confidence. He’s little, as you’ve seen and heard, but he doesn’t play that way. I think KU got an absolute steal in getting him and he’ll be more than ready to slide into that lead guard spot when the 2018-19 season rolls around.

That’s all for now. It was a great first look at the new version of your Jayhawks and two players who figure to factor into the rotation during the 2017-18 season weren’t even there.

More to come throughout the week from camp, including a Wednesday camp scrimmage of notable alums vs. the current squad, so stay logged on to KUsports.com for more videos, stories, reaction and analysis. Self said video coordinator Jeremy Case told him 13 former players were expected back for Wednesday's alumni scrimmage.


Devonte’ Graham’s Camp Q & A covers wide range of topics

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) smiles after a near breakaway and a steal during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) smiles after a near breakaway and a steal during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One of the coolest parts about the couple of weeks of Bill Self Basketball Camps that take place each summer at KU is the ability of young people to meet, interact and goof around with some of their favorite players.

At times, that means taking a shooting tip from their favorite Jayhawk or getting a pat on the back for a job well done from a current or former player.

At others, as was the case on Monday at Horejsi Family Athletics Center, a handful of lucky campers get the opportunity to ask of their favorite Jayhawks absolutely anything they want.

You should see the way these young hoopers get pumped up by just being called on to ask their question. And then, if the question is a particular hit and the gym goes nuts, the pride on their faces as they sit back down is sensational.

Monday afternoon, senior-to-be Devonte’ Graham addressed this year’s campers, first telling a little bit about his story, how he got to Kansas, why he came back for his senior season and things of the like.

After that, Graham opened it up for a 5-10 minute Q&A session with the hundreds of young Jayhawk fans who packed the bleachers.

Obviously, Graham was not able to call on everyone who put his or her hand up. But he got to as many as he could and, in doing so, gave an even greater glimpse into just who the man who wears No. 4 for the Jayhawks really is.

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the things Graham was asked, along with his answers...

Q – Do you think you can play in the NBA?

A – “Yes. I hope I do. I hope I can.”

Q – If you do make it to the NBA, is there one team you hope you’ll get drafted by?

A - “If I’m lucky enough to get drafted, I’d like to get picked by the Miami Heat or somebody like that.”

Q – Lebron James or Steph Curry?

A – “Lebron.” [crowd roars with approval]

Q – Where do you think will Josh Jackson get drafted?

A – “I’m saying Top 3. I think he might actually go to Boston (which has the No. 1 pick).”

Q – Are you better than (former UCLA star) Lonzo Ball?

A – “I’ll let him answer that. [points to kid wearing a Graham jersey sitting nearby] Kid responds with a simple, “Yeah.” [crowd applauds loudly]

Q – Can you do a back flip?

A – “No. Frank (Mason III) can, though.”

Q – How do you think Frank Mason will do in the NBA?

A – “I think he’s gonna have a good career. He’s definitely gonna get drafted and he’s gonna be good.”

Q – What size shoe do you wear?

A – “I wear size 13.”

Q – What’s been your favorite game during your time at KU so far?

A – “I’m gonna have to say the Oklahoma game here when we won in three overtimes and the West Virginia game here last year when we came back.”

Q – Can you dunk?

A – “Can I dunk? Yeah.”

Q – What do you call your hair style? (asked by J.J. Howard, son of Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard)

A – “I call it the J.J.”

Q – Did you ever think you’d end up playing at KU when you were younger?

A – “Honestly, I did not. I grew up a UNC fan, being from North Carolina, and that was my dream school before I came here.”

Q – Why do you wear No. 4?

A – “That’s when I started playing basketball, when I was 4 years old.”

Q – Who are your roommates?

A – “Svi (Mykhailiuk) and the Lawson brothers (Dedric and K.J.) from Memphis. Do you guys know them yet?”

Q – How did you guard (former Oklahoma star) Buddy Hield?

A – “How did I guard him? I just locked him up.”

And, with that, Graham was off the hot seat.

There were a couple of repeat questions mixed in there and Graham made sure to point that out, giving props to those nearby who could answer because they had been paying attention.

Before the Q&A got going, Graham asked the packed house, by a show of hands, how many there wanted to play college basketball one day? Almost every hand went up.

Next, he asked a follow-up about how many of the campers wanted to play in the NBA some day. Most of the hands stayed up.

Graham then got to the heart of the matter and asked how many of them knew what it took to play in the NBA. A few hands dropped but several stayed up.

Graham’s response?

“Can you guys tell me?”

More camp fun is slated for later today, with the first session running through the end of the week and the second session starting next week.

Stay tuned to KUsports.com for much more from camp.


KU juniors Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk made decisions to return on their own

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

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

One of the most popular rumors during the stay-or-go portion of the 2016-17 Kansas basketball team’s immediate offseason — and even throughout the season’s final couple of months — was that the NBA decisions facing junior guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk were tied together.

As close as any two Jayhawks not named Morris during recent years and roommates during their days leading up to their respective decisions, it made sense for folks to speculate that the two Jayhawks would consult one another about their futures during the process and perhaps even agree to make the same decision one way or another.

To hear Graham tell it, that wasn’t the case at all.

“Nah, that didn’t have anything to do with it,” Graham told reporters Sunday afternoon following registration and check-in for this year’s Bill Self Basketball Camps. “We weren’t doing it for each other. He wanted to test and see where he would end up and he just made the decision to come back. He felt like that was best for him at the time.”

Graham did not need nearly as long to make up his mind, deciding to return to KU for his final season a little more than two weeks after the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss to Oregon in the Elite Eight.

Because Graham’s announcement came much quicker, a full 45 days before Mykhailuk’s, that left all eyes on the young Ukrainian, who revealed on May 24 that he would return to KU for his senior season.

Two of those eyes belonged to Graham.

“He actually had me kind of worried and I know he had everybody else kinda worried, too,” Graham said. “I was happy to hear he was coming back.”

Unlike most of the rest of the world, which found out Mykhailiuk’s decision via Instagram and Twitter, Graham got the VIP treatment, receiving a text message from his good friend about an hour before the big reveal went public.

Graham, who this season figures to slide into his biggest and most important leadership role yet, said he checked in with Mykhailiuk often throughout the process — mostly via FaceTime chats — and said he, too, learned some things about the whole pre-draft process from Mykhailiuk and other past teammates who had gone through it.

“That can definitely help me,” Graham admitted. “You know, I talked to Wayne (Selden) about it, the whole process, and Frank (Mason III) and people who did it before. So I’ll talk to (Mykhaiiluk) once he gets back about everything that he went through. I was Face-Timing him during the whole thing and stuff like that, too, so I know a little bit about what was going on.”

While Graham and the rest of his teammates will get a jumpstart on preparations for the 2017-18 season, which unofficially began Sunday and will take a massive step forward when KU begins practicing for its August trip to Italy for four exhibition games in Rome and Milan, Mykhailiuk is already overseas working out for the Ukrainian national team for a spot on Team Ukraine in this year’s FIBA Eurobasket 2017 tournament.

Mykhailiuk is not expected to be on campus any time soon but is expected to play with the Jayhawks in Italy. The FIBA event is slated for the first two weeks of September.

Graham said Sunday that he and Mykhailiuk once again would be roommates during the upcoming school year and season, which not only will give them a chance to further build their bond as friends but also to lean on one another in their quest to become senior leaders for the Jayhawks during the 2017-18 season.


A most-to-least-interesting breakdown of KU basketball’s 2017-18 non-conference schedule

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds his players during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds his players during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

The Kansas men's basketball team on Thursday released the non-conference portion of its 2017-18 schedule, complete with interesting home match-ups and a few noteworthy road games.

Included in the news release announcing the Jayhawks' non-con schedule was a game-by-game breakdown of the 15-game slate that includes exhibition games against Pitt State and Fort Hays State to get things started.

Below is a quick look at the breakdown, organized by putting the most intriguing games at the top and the least intriguing games at the bottom.

While many fans and analysts already have opined that the schedule does not have the usual bite that many of KU's past schedules have had, there are at least a couple of big time games and interesting match-ups. And there will, of course, no doubt be many, many more during the Big 12 portion of the schedule, which will be released later this summer.

Here's a look at what we know for now, from most exciting to least, at least in my opinion.

Kentucky, Champions Classic (Nov. 14, Chicago)

These two blue bloods are meeting for the fourth-consecutive season. Under Hall of Fame coach John Calipari, Kentucky is coming off a 32-6 season where it won the SEC title with a 16-2 record. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA South Regional final falling to eventual national champion North Carolina, 75-73. The Champions Classic will mark the ninth meeting between the two schools in the Kansas head coach Bill Self era at KU. The Jayhawks hold a 5-3 advantage in that span and has won the last two matchups. Kentucky leads the overall series with Kansas, 22-8. Last season, with ESPN College Gameday originating from Lexington, Kentucky, No. 2 Kansas defeated No. 4 Kentucky, 79-73, at Rupp Arena on Jan. 28 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. My take: I mean, was there any doubt?

Syracuse, Hoophall Miami Invitational (Dec. 2, Miami)

The third annual Hoophall Miami Invitational will have two Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coaches square off in Kansas’ Bill Self, a 2017 inductee, and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim who was part of the 2005 class. Last season the Orange went 19-15 and tied for seventh in the ACC with a 10-8 league record. Syracuse lost to Ole Miss, 85-80, in the second round of the postseason NIT. Boeheim is 903-354 in 41 seasons at Syracuse, his alma mater. Syracuse holds a 3-2 series advantage over Kansas, has won the last two meetings and three of the last four matchups. In the last battle the Orange defeated the Jayhawks, 89-81 in overtime on Nov. 25, 2008, in the title game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The previous was an 81-78 win in the 2003 NCAA national championship game in New Orleans. My take: Syracuse and Jim Boeheim bring big names to the table, but the reason this is second on the list is the location in which it will be played. Welcome to Miami.

Arizona State (Dec. 10, Lawrence)

KU will face its second of three Pac-12 Conference opponents when it plays host to Arizona State. The game will the first of a home-and-home series as KU will play at ASU on Dec. 22, 2018. Arizona State went 15-18 in 2016-17 and placed eighth in the Pac-12 with a 7-11 record. The Sun Devils are coached by former Duke standout Bobby Hurley who is 30-35 in two seasons at ASU and 72-55 in four seasons for his career. Kansas has a 5-4 series edge against Arizona State. The Jayhawks have won two straight and five of the last six meetings. KU last faced ASU on March 22, 2003, a 108-76 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City. KU would go on to play for the 2003 NCAA title in New Orleans. My take: If he's allowed to travel, this will be our first look at former Jayhawk Carlton Bragg Jr., who could be sitting in street clothes at Allen Fieldhouse again with his new team. New Jayhawk Sam Cunliffe will be doing the same against his old team. Even if Bragg's not there, you gotta think he'll come up once or twice.

Texas A&M, Big 12/SEC Challenge (Jan. 27, Lawrence)

These two teams were members of the Big 12 from 1996-97 until Texas A&M moved to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) following the 2011-12 season. Head coach Billy Kennedy will enter his seventh year at Texas A&M. In 2016-17, the Aggies went 16-15 overall and finished tied for ninth in the SEC with an 8-10 league record. Kansas is 20-1 all-time against Texas A&M, including a 9-1 record in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are 3-1 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, having split with Florida in 2013-14 and 2014-15, as both teams claimed home victories, and Kansas sweeping Kentucky in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Dating back to 2007 against the Pac-12, Kansas has compiled a 5-2 record in the conference challenges. My take: It might not be Kentucky or Florida, but that whole challenge thing will inject a little life into this one, not to mention the return of former Big 12 foe A&M.

Pittsburg State (Oct. 31, Lawrence, exhibition)

Head coach Kim Anderson enters his first season at Pittsburg State. Before his three-year stint at Missouri, Anderson guided Central Missouri State to the NCAA Division II national championship in 2014. The Gorillas were 5-22 in 2016-17 and tied for 13th in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Association (MIAA) with a 3-16 record last year. Kansas is 10-0 all-time against Pittsburg State in a series that started in 1944. The Jayhawks are 6-0 against versus the Gorillas in exhibition play. My take: It's just an exhibition game but it'll be our first in-game look at the new-look Jayhawks.

Nebraska (Dec. 16, Shelter Insurance Showcase, Lincoln, Nebraska)

These two former conference foes are meeting for the second time since Nebraska left the Big 12 following the 2010-11 season. Husker head coach Tim Miles enters his sixth season and the Huskers are coming off a 12-19 season where they finished tied for 10th in the Big Ten Conference with a 6-12 record. Kansas leads the overall series with Nebraska, 171-71, and has won the last 18 meetings, from March 5, 1999, to Feb. 5, 2011, and 27 of the last 28 matchups dating back to the 1998-99 season. Last year Kansas defeated Nebraska 89-72 on Dec. 10, 2016, in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: Nebraska improved a great deal after coming to Lawrence last season and Tim Miles will have his team (and his Tweets) ready for the rematch.

Stanford (Dec. 21, Sacramento, California)

Stanford second-year head coach Jerod Haase will face his alma mater for the second-straight season. Haase’s 1,264 points rank 33rd on the KU all-time scoring list and he also ranks on the Kansas career lists in 3-point field goals made (13th at 156), 3-pointers attempted (seventh at 461), assists (19th at 343) and steals (11th at 174). Last year the Cardinal went 14-17 overall and finished tied for ninth in the Pac-12 with a 6-12 record. Kansas leads the series with Stanford, 9-3, including last season’s 89-74 win on Dec. 3, 2016, in Allen Fieldhouse, ending a Cardinal two-game winning streak against KU. This series dates back to 1932. My take: Won't be quite as cool as Haase coming back to Lawrence was this season, but being away from home will make it interesting nonetheless.

South Dakota State (Nov. 17, Lawrence)

South Dakota State won the Summit League tournament titles in 2016-17 going 18-17 and 8-8 in conference play, which tied for fourth. The Jackrabbits lost to eventual NCAA Runner-up Gonzaga, 66-46, in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. SDSU is coached by T.J. Otzelberger who took the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. Otzelberger is a former Iowa State assistant coach. Kansas won the only meeting with South Dakota State, 85-72, on Dec. 4, 1984, in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: This could be a much tougher game than the name of the opponent might suggest and, especially with it coming so early in the season, could be a real test for the Jayhawks.

Washington, Jayhawk Shootout (Dec. 6, Kansas City, Missouri)

Washington is coming off a 9-22 season where it placed 11th in the Pac-12 Conference with a 2-16 record. Mike Hopkins took over the head coaching duties on March 19, 2017, after spending 22 seasons as an assistant coach at Syracuse. Kansas is 8-1 against Washington and has won the last four meetings. The Jayhawks last defeated the Huskies, 73-54, on Nov. 24, 2008, in the semifinals of the CBE Hal of Fame Classic in Sprint Center. My take: Markelle Fultz will be playing for somebody in the NBA and Michael Porter Jr. won't be there either. Add to that the fact that it's at sometimes-sterile Sprint Center and you've got your lowest-rated game against a big-name foe.

Texas Southern, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 21, Lawrence)

Located in Houston, Texas Southern won the SWAC regular season and conference tournament in 2016-17 going 23-12 and 16-2 in league action. The Tigers lost to eventual NCAA champion, North Carolina, 103-64, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. TSU is coached by Mike Davis who is 98-68 in five seasons at TSU and 335-219 in 17 seasons overall with stints at Indiana and UAB before taking over at TSU. The Tigers have won at least one SWAC title, either regular-season or tournament, in every season Davis has been at Texas Southern. Kansas is 3-0 all-time against Texas Southern with the last meeting on Jan. 3, 1985, a KU 78-74 win in Allen Fieldhouse. My take: Another 2017 NCAA Tournament team coming to Lawrence. I love these games because both teams stand to get a great deal from them.

Tennessee State (Nov. 10, Lawrence)

Tennessee State finished tied for fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) East Division going 17-13 overall and 8-8 in 2016-17. The Tigers are coached by Dana Ford who was the 2016 OVC Coach of the Year and has guided TSU to 37 wins in the last two seasons. Kansas won the only meeting with Tennessee State, 89-54, on Nov. 21, 2006, in a campus-round game of the Las Vegas Invitational, an event KU went on to win. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and KU graduate John McClendon coached at Tennessee A&I, now Tennessee State, from 1955-59. My take: The true season opener has to be worth something and that helps move the game up on this list. This is when things get going for real.

Oakland, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 24, Lawrence)

Oakland went 25-9 last season and tied Valparaiso for the Horizon League title with a 14-4 conference record. The Grizzlies defeated Clemson in the opening round of the postseason NIT before falling at Richmond in the second round. Oakland is coached by Greg Kampe who has coached 33 seasons at Oakland with a 583-424 record. His 33 seasons at Oakland are the third-most seasons with a current school behind Jim Boeheim of Syracuse (41 seasons) and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (37 seasons). Kansas won the only meeting with Oakland, 89-59, on Nov. 25, 2009, in Allen Fieldhouse. The game was a campus round contest which was part of the Hall of Fame Showcase. My take: Quietly, this Oakland team has become one of the tougher mid-major programs in the country, thanks mostly to the consistency delivered by Kampe.

Toledo, Hoophall Miami Invitational campus round (Nov. 28, Lawrence)

Toledo is coming off a 17-17 season where it finished third in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 9-9 record and competed in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) postseason losing at George Washington in the first round. The Rockets are coached by Tod Kowalczyk who will be entering his eighth season at Toledo with a 119-110 record. Kansas has won both meetings with Toledo with the last being a 93-83 win on Dec. 30, 2013, in Allen Fieldhouse. The other was a 68-58 KU win on Dec. 9, 2006, in KU’s final game in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. My take: Unless this game is better than I'm expecting, I'll still think Kerry Meier and Kansas football first when I think Toledo.

Omaha (Dec. 18, Lawrence)

Omaha is coming off an 18-14 season in which it placed third in the Summit League with a 9-7 league record. The Mavericks lost to South Dakota State, 79-77, in the title game of the Summit League Tournament. Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen is 197-166 in 12 seasons with the Mavericks. KU and Omaha will be meeting for the first time in men’s basketball. My take: Crazy to think the Jayhawks will be in Lincoln, Neb., on Dec. 16 and home against Omaha two days later.

Fort Hays State (Nov. 7, Lawrence, exhibition)

Last season, the Tigers tied for fourth in the MIAA going 18-11 overall and 11-8 in conference play. Head coach Mark Johnson has a 322-149 record in 16 seasons at FHSU. Kansas is 9-0 all-time against Fort Hays State, including 6-0 in exhibition play. My take: The second exhibition game is only interesting if the Jayhawks are terrible in the first one. Otherwise, it's just let's get on with the season.


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

Recorded Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Eyeing some movement of Kansas targets in the 2018 recruiting class

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

The calendar may still read 2017, but, with all of its scholarships now officially spoken for, the Kansas basketball team can and has moved forward, full speed ahead in its recruitment of the Class of 2018.

Because the Jayhawks are in on almost all of the elite talent in the 2018 class (what’s new, right?), many of the names are ones which you probably already have heard.

And while there still may be a long way to go before anything is closed to finalized with any of those players, the Jayhawks are off to a good start in their pursuit of the next crop of Kansas basketball players.

Here’s a quick look at some recent news from a couple of KU’s key targets in the class:

• Immanuel Quickley – 5-star point guard, ranked No. 15 by Rivals.com

The 6-foot-4, 180-pound lead guard from John Carroll High in Bel Air, Md., recently made news by narrowing his list down to a final four. Along with Kentucky, Maryland and Miami (Fla.), the Jayhawks made that cut and appear to be in as good of shape as anybody in the pursuit of Quickley, who actually already has made an unofficial visit to Lawrence.

"I think those four schools fit me the most as a person and as a player," Quickley recently told Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. "I think off and on the court those schools fit me the best."

As for his specific stance on the Jayhawks, Quickley had this to say: "Coach Bill Self is great on and off the floor. I really liked the feel of Allen Fieldhiuse when I visited. The feel there was cool to see."

Quickley told Daniels that he was now in the process of scheduling official visits to his final four and that he would like to make a decision before he begins his senior year of high school.

• Marvin Bagley Jr. — 5-star forward, ranked No. 1 by Rivals.com

The 6-foot-10 big man from Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth, Calif., has narrowed his list to a final six full of some of college basketball’s biggest power players.

Kansas is on that list, along with Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA and USC.

Through the first few sessions of the Nike EYBL tournament, Bagley has backed up his Rivals ranking, averaging 25 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks in 30 minutes per game.

There has been some talk of whether Bagley might want to reclassify and join the 2017 class, but the athletic big man told Zagsblog over the weekend that he was not worried about reclassifying and would let his future play out however it was supposed to.

As for his specific thoughts on each of his finalists, Bagley delivered similar thoughts on each of them while talking to Zagsblog.

“They’re all great schools,” he said. “I could say the same thing about each of the schools. They’re all great. They speak for themselves. They’re in the tournament. They play in big time tournaments and games every year on ESPN.... I’m looking for somewhere I could go and get better. That’s my main focus. That’s what I tell everybody. It’s not about the name. It’s not about all the news and the hype. It’s about where I can go and get better. Wherever that place may be out of my list is where I’ll go.”

• Quentin Grimes, 5-star combo guard, ranked No. 12 by Rivals

Andrew Slater, of 247 Sports, recently caught up with the 6-foot-5, 180-pound guard from College Park High in The Woodlands, Texas, for an update on the current status of his list.

Grimes is the rare top tier prospect to not have at least two of the three or four top college programs on his offer list. That’s not to say he’s being ignored. Far from it. But, according to the Rivals data base, Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina all are absent from his offer list, leaving Kansas as the biggest blue blood program pursuing him, with Arizona, Florida and five other Big 12 schools also in pursuit.

Grimes recently told Slater that he was in the process of narrowing his list down to eight and then would like to get it down to a final five in the next couple of weeks.

In his lengthy interview with Grimes, Slater points out that Duke has made contact during recent weeks but it’s clear that Arizona and KU have stood out as much as anyone.

“Coach Self called and said I'm a top priority and that he plays a lot of guards and sees me bringing in something different than the other guards because of my size,” Grimes told Slater. “He said they’re known now for their guards, but that I would be unique because of being able to play point guard at that size.”

Grimes said he views himself as a scoring point guard and is looking forward to surrounding himself with lots of talent in college so he can showcase both his scoring and passing skills.


Recent fuss over potential KU-Mizzou reunion in Big 12/SEC Challenge much ado about nothing

Thomas Robinson (0) blocks the Tigers Phil Pressey's shot with 3.3 seconds in regulation to force the game into overtime. The Jayhawks won the game 87-86 against the Missouri Tigers, Saturday, Feb 25, 2012..

Thomas Robinson (0) blocks the Tigers Phil Pressey's shot with 3.3 seconds in regulation to force the game into overtime. The Jayhawks won the game 87-86 against the Missouri Tigers, Saturday, Feb 25, 2012.. by Mike Yoder

Thursday, the college basketball world on both sides of the Kansas/Missouri state line became a little more fired up than it normally is in late May.

See, Thursday was the day when the folks at ESPN announced the match-ups for the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge — 10 games between the two leagues on Jan. 27 — and because the Big 12 has just 10 members, compared with 14 for the SEC, four SEC schools were left out, as has been the case each year.

One of those four schools was Missouri, based on the Tigers’ woeful 2016-17 season (8-24 overall, 2-16 in conference) and finish at the bottom of the SEC standings.

Makes sense, right? Why would ESPN want to put a team like that on television when the whole goal of the challenge is to attract viewers and make money?

According to those on the Missouri side of things, the easy answer is this: Thanks to the addition of No. 1 overall recruit Michael Porter and a couple of other highly ranked and highly rated Class of 2017 prospects, the Tigers are no longer that team.

They’re talking NCAA Tournament over there now and I’ve even heard mention of the words national championship and Final Four. Good for them. That’s how it should be and that’s what they should be striving for.

Now that the Tigers figure to be at least decent again, the interest in renewing the rivalry is ramped up. Makes sense. I mean, much in the way that Kansas football would have been stomped by Mizzou during the first few years of MU’s time in the SEC, the Jayhawks would’ve handed the Tigers a couple of 30-point losses in the past few years in basketball had the two schools played each other. And what’s the fun in that for either side?

So the claim from the Mizzou side is that ESPN missed an opportunity to revive the Border War and pit Missouri against Kansas in the made-for-TV showcase, a move that no doubt would have injected some serious life and excitement into the region and created a game that would have been nearly as hyped and anticipated as the past two Kansas-Kentucky match-ups if not more in some ways.

But let’s face it; adding a player like Porter or even a coach like Cuonzo Martin, who already seems to be well on his way to turning things around in Columbia, is no reason for the rivalry to all of a sudden start back up.

Sure, it’s plenty of reason for folks on the Missouri side. And who could blame them for feeling that way?

But nothing has changed for Kansas. The powers that be in the Kansas athletic department, from AD Sheahon Zenger to basketball coach Bill Self and on down the line, is (and always has been) that it was the Tigers who left the Big 12, sold out their brothers and ended the Border War. Kansas did not do that and, therefore, does not feel responsible for the end nor obligated to clamor for a new beginning.

Besides that, Kansas does not actually need Missouri. That may be a harsh reality for two programs who share so much history and have created so many great moments throughout the past several decades, but it is the truth.

The Jayhawks, especially in basketball, are a national brand and stand to gain very little by playing the Tigers again. Sure it would fire up both fan bases and there could be some money to be made in terms of marketing, T-Shirt sales and that kind of thing. But it’s not as if KU is struggling to pay its bills. So instead of taking the quick cash grab, the Jayhawks appear to be content standing on principle.

You left us, they say, and we don’t need you back. Seems fair. Seems logical. Whether fans on either side like it or not, seems like it’s the way it’s going to be.

So all of this fuss about how KU and Mizzou should have been paired up in the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge is little more than white noise. For one, the rules of the challenge do not allow for it because of where Missouri finished in the SEC standings last season. For two, it really was never an option because Kansas is not interested.

That’s nothing new and the reasons have been clearly stated for the past several years.

If you’re one of those who wants to see it and is still holding out hope that it’ll happen, Bracketology’s your best bet for now.

And, hey, never say never. Kansas and Wichita State finally played a couple of years ago, right?


Mason says goodbye in Players’ Tribune tribute to KU

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) roars after an and-one bucket during the second half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) roars after an and-one bucket during the second half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

By now, you all know the story of former Kansas standout Frank Mason III.

From how his rough upbringing to his failed government class to that showcase in Vegas where assistant coach Kurtis Townsend first saw him and, of course, through his incredible KU career that left him in the Top 10 on KU's all-time scoring list and was capped by the point guard doing something no other Jayhawk in history had done — sweeping the national player of the year honors during the 2016-17 season.

Although stoic by nature, Mason has more personality than most realize and, throughout his sensational senior season, was able to show more and more of that as the weeks went on.

You also know the special relationship that exists between KU coach Bill Self and Mason. From player-coach to father-figure and friend, the two developed a unique bond during the past four years that at times moved each to tears and will no doubt last a lifetime.

So there's not a whole lot of new information about the Mason-Self dynamic that can be learned. I'm sure there are stories for days that could be told but probably won't be. At least not publicly. And I'm sure each guy remembers the journey a little differently, mostly thanks to the differing perspectives, one of a college-aged basketball player doing everything in his power to stay on the climb and the other of a wildly successful coach 30 years his senior.

But there's something cool about all of that — the early years, the Kansas years, the wins, the relationship with coach — in this Players' Tribune article penned by Mason and released Thursday.

Some of these are short but Mason goes deep in this one. He takes you all the way back to his youth and the good and the bad of all of it. He talks Kansas and Self and being a father and the NBA, but more than anything his story, in his words, titled, "Goodbye, Kansas," shows, in a short and sweet, 1,500-word manner the maturation process and incredible road Mason has traveled these past few years.

"It didn’t end how I wanted — after the Oregon loss, I tweeted that it felt like my life was over—and, man, it’s still hard to shake that feeling of disappointment. Sitting back in the locker room, where guys were crying and feeling terrible, I had no choice but to focus on the positives and on what’s next. Graduation. The opportunity to give my son a better life than I had growing up. I thought about how far I’d come, from being a guy who couldn’t qualify to play at Towson to the Wooden National Player of the Year at one of the best programs in the country."

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks for a foul from an official during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks for a foul from an official during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug


Why Svi Mykhailiuk’s decision to stay at Kansas is an even bigger deal than some may think

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) shoots in one of his two three-point baskets in the Jayhawks 95-57 win against UNC Asheville Friday night, Nov. 25, in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) shoots in one of his two three-point baskets in the Jayhawks 95-57 win against UNC Asheville Friday night, Nov. 25, in Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

While most people I talked to, both in our business and others, eventually came to believe that Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk would stay in the NBA Draft and skip his senior season at Kansas, nearly everyone I talked to seemed to think that Svi’s return to Kansas, should it happen, would have been little more than a luxury for the Jayhawks.

Now that we know the verdict, a deeper look shows that the junior guard’s decision to stick around for one more season — Svi announced Wednesday evening that he would return to KU for his senior year — was actually pretty crucial for KU.

Here’s why.

Say what you will about Svi’s game, his defense or his mindset on the floor. The guy did enough during the 2016-17 season to inspire KU coach Bill Self to put him in the starting lineup for 25 of the 36 games Kansas played. When taking into account the fact that five of those 11 non-starts were games in which Self elected to start just three guards instead of four, the young Ukrainian actually really started more like 81 percent of KU’s games a season ago.

Given the number of new and young faces that will make up the Kansas roster during the 2017-18 season, bringing a player like that back is absolutely huge.

Had Svi left, Devonte’ Graham’s 36 starts and six apiece for Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike would have represented all of KU’s starting experience on the roster. Now, instead of just 48 starts, the Jayhawks are returning nearly 30 more.

And that’s important whether Svi even stays in the starting lineup or not.

Enough of a possibility exists that has Lagerald Vick taking another monster step and becoming so talented and productive that it’s impossible to keep him out of the starting lineup.

If that happens, Svi’s return becomes even more important because he will represent a legitimate and experienced body on the bench.

Had he decided to leave, Vick would’ve almost certainly slid into the starting lineup, leaving only incoming freshman Marcus Garrett and second-semester transfer Sam Cunliffe as backcourt options for Self off the bench. Both are going to be good, perhaps very good, players at Kansas. And they might each have big roles as soon as next season. But neither could come anywhere close to bringing the same kind of savvy, experience and veteran presence to the team as Svi can.

And let’s face it; when you’re talking about a team coached by Self, that’s worth a lot. There are few things Self likes more than reliable players whom he can trust. And if he trusted Svi enough to start him 25 times last season, you know he’ll trust him enough to play just about whatever role one can imagine as a senior.

Included in that last thought is the potential for Svi and Vick to play on the floor at the same time some next season.

Graham and Newman next year will be what Frank Mason III and Graham were this year. At least in terms of minutes. So they’re gonna play a ton. But that four-guard look, which worked so well for KU last winter, is no doubt something Self will look to use again next season and Svi will play a huge role in making that possible.

He’s no Josh Jackson. Very few are. But he has the necessary size and, more importantly, the experience in that system to make it an option for the Jayhawks, who once again will have limited depth and experience in the front court.

Don’t expect Self to use the four-guard look anywhere close to as often as he did this season, but he already has said this offseason that his team’s personnel in 2017-18 will dictate that he’ll have to use it at least some. Svi’s return makes that a much more comfortable thought.

Could the Jayhawks have fielded a damn good team next season without Svi on the roster, one that would have been well positioned to challenge for all of the accomplishments Kansas basketball fans have become to celebrating for years? You bet.

Newman and Graham are a dynamic one-two punch, Udoka Azubuike stands to be a different maker down low and with Vick poised to take another huge step and five-star freshman Billy Preston in the mix, the Jayhawks, right there, would have had five pieces that most teams would kill for.

But bringing Svi back as a sixth piece gives the Jayhawks the one thing that has helped set them apart from so many others during Self’s first 14 seasons in town — enviable depth.

Beyond that, the Svi the Jayhawks are getting just might be — and probably should and will be — the best version of the young gun that Kansas fans ever have seen.

Armed with the senior urgency that comes with knowing it’s your last shot to win a title (which should inspire him to take more ownership and be more of a leader for the young guys and newcomers), and also with fresh and rock solid feedback from NBA folks about what they want to see more of, Svi is in line to make his biggest jump yet, both of the physical and mental variety.

If he does, Kansas once again will be a tough out from beginning to end and the young Ukrainian who took his decision all the way down to the wire will be glad he did and even more glad he chose to come back.


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

Kansas guard Josh Jackson

Kansas guard Josh Jackson by Nick Krug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Five guesses on what Svi Mykhailiuk will decide this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Matt Tait •

KU basketball beat writer/KUsports.com editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

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

• Tom Keegan •

Journal-World sports editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

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

• Benton Smith •

KU football beat writer/KU basketball blogger

Verdict: Svi stays

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

• Nick Krug •

KUsports.com/Journal-World photographer

Verdict: Svi leaves

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

• Bobby Nightengale •

KU reporter/high school sports editor

Verdict: Svi leaves

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


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

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

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

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

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

So no surprises there.

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

There were a few of those, too.

Here’s a look:

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

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

1. Bill Self is even better than you thought

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

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

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

2. We saw the true value of program guys

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

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

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

3. One-and-dones are worth it

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

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

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

4. That Big 12 title streak really is pretty cool

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

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

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

5. The game is changing

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


Perry Ellis inks contract Down Under

None by Sydney Kings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Recorded Tuesday, May 16, 2017


So what happens if Svi leaves Kansas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This time around, Williams hires Frederick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


5-star point guard Trevon Duval commits to Duke

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

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

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

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

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

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