One day, who knows how long from now, we’ll be talking about the NBA/NCAA 2-year rule like it was always in place.
That rule, which would require any player who chooses to attend college to stay a minimum of two years, does not exist yet, of course, but after watching Thursday’s NBA Draft, during which one of four eligible former Jayhawks was selected, I could not help but think how badly a rule like this is needed.
And I’m not simply saying this because of the long looks on the faces of athletes like Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis (31), KU’s Cheick Diallo (33) and Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere (28), all freshmen during the 2015-16 college season who thought they would go much higher in this year’s draft than they did.
I’m saying it because this draft, perhaps better than any in recent memory, showed that sometimes these one-and-done players who hear for a couple of years that they’re going to be lottery picks but wind up slipping after their lone season of college ball, need something in place to help them make better decisions.
I’m not saying Diallo was crazy for going pro. In fact, even though he fell out of the first round, I still think it was the right move for him to leave. Based on what we saw during his freshman season and how raw and young he still is in the game of basketball, I’m not sure Year 2 at Kansas under coach Bill Self would have been all that different for Diallo than Year 1 was. So if they’re telling you you’re a first rounder, where guaranteed money awaits, I totally get why you’d go.
I’m sure Davis, Labissiere, Maryland’s Diamond Stone (40) and others were hearing the same thing.
But when it came down to it, all of them had to sweat it out on Thursday night, when they should not have had to. Here’s how it could have been avoided:
They could have been allowed to go pro right away. I still don’t understand how it’s legal to prevent this from happening. Diallo and Labissiere almost certainly would have been first-round picks in last year’s draft had they been allowed to enter early. It worked out for Labissiere and Diallo just missed. But think back to a couple of years ago, when former Jayhawk Wayne Selden was a projected lottery pick before his freshman season and now he leaves as an undrafted junior. That’s not to say Selden would have been better off as a basketball player had he entered the draft at 18, but he certainly would be richer.
They could have been required to return for a second season of college ball. This would help not only the players but also the coaches and programs that spend so much time, effort and money recruiting these athletes, sometimes for as few as nine months worth of time with them.
If you’re a college hoops fan and you’ve been paying attention at all, none of this is new information. I get that. Baseball has it figured out, several other sports get it right. You’ve heard all of that. And you’ll keep hearing it until the NBA and college basketball fix their system, too.
I heard a lot of talk last night from analysts saying that players who go undrafted or even those who are unhappy with where they went in the draft should be able to return to school after the fact. That, too, would fix things, although I’m not sure I truly like that system much better and think it could bring with it as many problems as solutions.
The bottom line is this: Those of us hoping for a rule change to fix this mess may wind up waiting in vain, or at least waiting for a long, long time. What it’s more likely to come down to is these athletes making better, more informed decisions so that the Diallos and Davises of the world don’t have to experience what they experienced Thursday in New York City.
Draft night should be fun. It should be life changing. It should be a celebration. And it was for so many players, a few of whom I did not expect to get drafted — Georges Niang, Abdel Nader, Marcus Paige. Wow. All three were four-year players who had great college careers and can really play but may not be your prototypical NBA guys.
Here’s hoping the rest of college basketball was paying attention to those names being called and other one-time, can’t-miss stars falling, so that instead of seeing long faces on supremely talented players, we’ll see second — maybe even third — seasons of college basketball from some of them, therein making the college game even better than it already is.
Time will tell. And I’m not holding my breath. Merely hopeful.
ESPN’s Marc Stein sent a jolt through the Kansas University basketball world on Wednesday when he Tweeted that the Houston Rockets are “intrigued” by the idea of Bill Self as their next head coach.
As many have mentioned on Twitter already, just because the Rockets are intrigued by Self does not mean Self is intrigued by the Rockets’ opening. What’s more, Stein has a long list of names on the Rockets “wish list” and most of them are guys with NBA experience, which the Rockets seem to value in their search.
Sure, it’s possible that Self could one day explore the idea of coaching in the NBA. Many believe that it’ll happen eventually in San Antonio, where his good buddy R.C. Buford runs the team. And even Self has talked about what a special situation Oklahoma City is, in his home state, with a couple of world-class talents like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But those jobs are not available at the moment and I just can’t imagine Houston being the situation that makes Self jump.
So, without further ado... 10 reasons why Bill Self is not leaving Kansas for the Houston Rockets:
1. Josh Jackson – There’s no way Self worked as hard as he did to land Jackson to say goodbye before he ever gets the chance to coach him. Especially not in exchange for the roster the Rockets have.
2. Big 12 title streak still in tact – We all know that it’s March success that gets remembered, but this Big 12 title streak is a big deal and there’s no reason to think it’s going to end any time soon. It’s not like he’ll stay to see it through the 27 in a row (or will he?) but I think passing UCLA and putting that kind of stamp on the history books is meaningful.
3. Have you seen James Harden “play defense” – Enough said. The guy is an amazing offensive talent, but he has no interest in playing defense — or even faking it — and I can’t imagine Self or anyone else getting through to him and changing that. And we all know how Self feels about players who don't play D.
4. More hardware, please – I’ve always thought (and heard) that winning a second national championship means a lot to Self. And until he gets one, I can’t see him going anywhere. There have been a lot of college coaches who have won one title. A lucky run, a hot streak or one strong recruiting class or player can deliver the trophy. But the coaches who have won multiple NCAA titles put themselves in elite company and I believe Self wants to be and belongs in that group. Add to that the fact that KU is positioned to be right there again at the end of the 2016-17 season and it’s easy to see him sticking around.
5. Tyler Self – It’s not as if Self’s son still being on the roster would prevent the coach from taking an amazing opportunity elsewhere. But it is a factor and this is not an amazing opportunity. Tyler has come this far and I can’t imagine Self choosing to bail during his son’s final season on the team.
6. Dwight Howard has to be a factor – Self loves big guys, but I don’t think he would love Howard. The Houston center has been a big time problem everywhere he’s been for the past several years and, even though he possesses all the talent and physical skill in the world, there’s just something missing there and I can’t imagine adding the Howard headache to your daily duties would be something anyone who already has a great job would want to take on.
7. Seniors matter – Much the same way Roy Williams had a hard time saying goodbye to Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison the first time he was offered the job at North Carolina, I think it would be tough for Self to say goodbye to guys like Frank Mason and Landen Lucas. Those two might not be as talented as Hinrich and Collison, but Self has been through a lot with both of them and respects them so much. Ditching them would be tough to do.
8. Money – I’m not sure what the Rockets could or even would offer to pay Self, but you can bet Kansas would do everything in its power to get close to that number to keep him around. So don’t think that this decision — if and when it ever happens — will be about money.
9. Big fish, little pond – Self likes being the man and as long as Kansas is winning he always will be the man in Lawrence, not to mention college basketball. Moving to Houston puts him in the position of having to compete — in a much bigger market — with the likes of the up-and-coming Houston Astros and the Houston Texans. Sure, Houston will support a winner in any and every sport, but those two programs are in great shape right now and definitely steal some of the thunder from the Rockets on an annual basis. There’s nothing stealing Self’s thunder in Lawrence and it just keeps rumbling louder and louder year after year.
10. Because he’s the friggin head coach at Kansas – Year after year, people love to discuss Self heading to the NBA. And it may happen some day. But it also may not. Self has a great gig, is king of the world in Kansas and has this thing rolling. Besides, just last year he talked about how he thought the program was on the verge of turning a corner for landing a ton of big time recruits. Why would anyone leave a situation like that?
Can't speak to the NBA aspirations of either one, but sources say two college coaches who intrigue the Rockets are Shaka Smart and Bill Self— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 5, 2016
When people used to talk (and probably still do) about a school’s footwear of choice playing a role in the decision-making process of top-ranked basketball recruits, I used to think they were crazy.
I mean, are we really living in a world where a young man might pass on going to Kansas because the Jayhawks are an adidas school and he would prefer to wear Nike?
I guess in some ways we are. And as sad as that is for so many reasons, it still is not entirely true.
After all, that was the scuttlebutt during the recruitment of Andrew Wiggins a couple of years ago. Because Wiggins’ Huntington Prep crew wore Nike, there was talk that the Jayhawks had no shot at landing him because he was not going to wear adidas.
That, of course, turned out not to be true. Wiggins came to KU, wore adidas everything for 10 months and, after being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, signed a deal to have his own adidas line and become one of the few faces of the company’s basketball brand, joining such NBA stars as Derrick Rose, John Wall, Damian Lillard and, in years gone by Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant.
I’m not a huge shoe guy. Don’t get me wrong. I like the looks of so many of them and enjoy scouting out who wears what and how they look on the floor. But rarely do I commit such information to memory and, when it comes to slapping sneaks on my own two feet, I keep it pretty simple and shoot for comfort, price and functionality as my main criteria.
Benton Smith is our resident shoe guy here at KUsports.com and while I know his shoe game has helped him build a rapport with all kinds of KU athletes during the past several years, I’ve also heard from more than a few people who believe Benton may have a problem. He tends to do that. If you ever run into him or anyone who knows him, feel free to ask about last summer’s phenomenon known as “Jerseys July.”
Anyway, back to the shoes and why I’m even writing this.
As I said, I used to think that these things did not matter. After all, they’re just shoes. And it’s not as if KU, by signing a lucrative, long-term deal with adidas, is asking its athletes to wear low-top Kangaroos with the zippers on the sides that put them at a disadvantage. Nike, adidas, Under Armor, they all make quality shoes that are worn and trusted by some of the best athletes in the world.
So Nike here, adidas there, who cares, right?
Well, evidently at least one former Jayhawk does. Wayne Selden Jr., who, last month, announced that he would forego his senior year and head to the NBA Draft on Monday night posted a photo of himself working out at a training facility in California.
The post, which popped up on Selden’s Twitter feed (@WayneSeldenJ) highlighted the work Selden has been putting in leading up to the June draft and featured a photo of him shooting a jumper in a gym.
There, toward the bottom of the photo, Selden’s shoes jumped off the screen at me. Instead of the adidas kicks that he’s been wearing for the past three years, Selden was rocking a pair of black Nikes. (I’m sure Benton could tell you in two seconds what kind they were).
What does all of this mean? Nothing, I suppose. I just found it interesting that he would be working out in Nikes when he spent the past three years playing and training in adidas gear.
To be fair, this could have been a one-time thing or Selden could be wearing both brands depending on the type of workout he’s doing.
Either way, I guess the shoes really do matter to these guys.
I'm sure a much bigger concern for Selden today, however, is putting in the work required to be selected in this summer's draft.
As things stand today, DraftExpress.com has Selden listed as a second-round pick, No. 42 overall to Utah. Seems like a safe bet that he'll fall somewhere in that range, but if he does enough to impress teams at the pre-draft workouts, he could slide into the late first round and high 20s.
It should be interesting to track his path along with the paths of fellow former Jayhawks Cheick Diallo, Perry Ellis and possibly Brannen Greene.
The speculation from most fans and observers regarding Kansas guard Frank Mason throughout the 2015-16 KU men’s basketball season was that some kind of nagging injury might have been bothering him during various portions of the Jayhawks’ run to a 33-5 record and trip to the Elite Eight.
There certainly were times when Mason, a junior from Petersburg, Virginia, looked a little off of his game and did not play at the same level that he had during his stellar sophomore season.
Mason, like the consistently solid player he has proven to be, always found a way to contribute and, more importantly, always bounced back from those rough stretches, but it seemed to me and most of the people I talked to about Mason throughout the season that he was not playing at quite the same level as a junior as he did as a sophomore.
With the season now in the past and my curiosity racing, I checked out Mason’s stats from both seasons to see how they compared.
The result? It turns out Mason is way more consistent than I even realized.
In the 25 statistical categories kept every season for each player, Mason stayed the same or improved in 20 of them.
The entire lot will be outlined a little later, but, for now, let’s focus on the five categories in which he took a step backwards.
• FG percentage — Mason shot .434 as a junior, seven tenths of a percentage point lower than his .441 average as a sophomore. The interesting thing about this stat, however, is that Mason both took and made more shots during his junior season, with the higher number of attempts creating the slightly lower shooting percentage. It’s also worth noting here that Mason, who played in and started every game during the past two seasons, received the benefit of two more games as a junior because the Jayhawks advanced two rounds farther in the NCAA Tournament. So keep that in mind when reading these stats.
• Three-pointers attempted — Depending on how you look at it, this, too, could have gone down as an “improvement” because Mason took 113 threes as a junior and just 98 as a sophomore. The reason I tossed it into the “got worse” category, though, was because the higher volume of three-point attempts led to Mason shooting a worse percentage.
• Three-point percentage — Mason shot .429 from behind the three-point line as a sophomore and dipped to a .381 three-point shooter his junior season. As mentioned above, the 15 more attempts (again, remember the two extra games) was a big factor for the lower percentage and it’s interesting to note that Mason made just one more three-pointer (43) as a junior than he did as a sophomore (42). In fact, Mason either tied or missed tying by one in seven of the 25 statistical categories: Games started (all), minutes per game (33.5), three-point makes (43-42), turnovers (73-74), steals (50) and blocks (3-4).
• Free throw percentage — As was the case with his three-point shooting, a higher volume of free throws led to a lower percentage for Mason, who shot .739 as a junior compared to .786 as a sophomore. That .739 clip came in 44 more free throw attempts and Mason made 26 more free throws in 2015-16 than he did during the 2014-15 season. Again, you have to take into account those two extra games when considering these and all of his numbers, but, even with that included, Mason exceeded what a lot of his numbers should have been based on his career averages.
• Personal fouls — Mason fouled a whopping 19 more times during the 2015-16 season, hacking opponents 84 times compared to just 65 the previous season. When you consider that his minutes per game and starts were the same as the year before, this stat is a pretty good illustration of just how the way officials emphasized the new rules for fouls (especially early in the season) impacted the game.
So what does all of this mean? As with most stats, it really can mean whatever you interpret it to mean. But one thing that cannot be argued is that Mason, injured or not, was at least as productive as a junior as he was during his sophomore season.
In fact, even his points-per-game average was nearly identical — 12.9 ppg as a junior and 12.6 ppg as a sophomore.
A couple of reasons it might not have seemed that way throughout the season? 1. The better season turned in by Wayne Selden, who replaced Mason as the Jayhawks’ second leading scorer behind Perry Ellis. 2. The emergence of sophomore Devonte’ Graham, who played a much bigger role during his second season with the Jayhawks than he did during his first, which often allowed Mason to do more blending in rather than leading the charge.
Either way you viewed it then or view it now, Mason, as any coach would like to see from his point guard, has been remarkably consistent during the past two seasons and has been the steady driving force behind the team’s recent success.
So what should we expect from Mason as a senior in 2016-17? Here’s a wild guess — more of the same.
— Here's a quick look at the comparison between the two seasons, first in overall stats and second in numbers per 40 minutes. The only stats of the 25 I referenced not shown in the table below are (totals listed in parentheses, with 2015-16 listed first): Games started (38-36), Average minutes (33.5), Average rebounds (4.3-3.9), Assist per game (4.6-3.9) and Average points (12.9-12.6) —
Mason's past two seasons
Mason's past two seasons per 40 minutes
All right. By now, you guys surely know how these highlight videos work.
They're exactly that. Highlights. You don't see the mistakes, the benchings, the rough stretches or the moments of confusion and missed steps. And, frankly, with most of the top high school prospects, guys who dominate the competition because of their superior size, athleticism and skills, there are not a ton of games that produce anything but highlights.
Such seems to be the case with Udoka Azubuike, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound center from Potter's House Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, who moments ago announced on ESPNU that he would play his college ball at Kansas University.
The five-star Azubuike is the No. 27-ranked player in the Class of 2016 and the top-rated center and he chose KU over UNC as his finalists but also seriously considered North Carolina State and Florida State.
His addition to the KU program not only gives KU an exciting prospect to look forward to in the future, but also someone Jayhawk fans can salivate over right now. That's because, if it were allowed, Azubuike absolutely would be able to suit up and help this program today. He might not be a star, mind you (we've learned our lesson there, right?) but with that frame, he certainly would help.
At 6-11, 260, he's considerably bigger than anything the Jayhawks have down low today, standing an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier than the Jayhawks' biggest body (6-10, 240-pound Landen Lucas).
Beyond that, Azubuike plays a style that none of KU's current players seem to be able to play. In short, he likes to dunk and he likes to dunk very, very hard.
Like most of you, I have not actually seen Azubuike play. But I have watched plenty of film on him and have been impressed by how well he moves. Sure, in these highlights, you're mostly treated to an endless buffet of Azubuike dunking the ball with authority and anger — and let's face it, KU could use some of that — but in some of the clips (and even when you're watching him hurt the rim) you can see how well this guy moves on his feet, how well he runs the floor, how good his balance is and how you could see him turning into a handful in the paint with the proper training.
He figures to get that and more at Kansas and his arrival will be one of the more exciting things to look forward to before the 2016-17 season.
Now that you've watched those, I want you to take a look at this gem I found — God bless the Internet — that was taken when Azubuike was just 14 years old.
He stood 6 feet, 10 inches tall and already showed strong affection for the slam dunk.
The thing I want you to pay attention to in the following clip is not his ferocious form or how mind-blowing it is that a 14-year-old can dunk like that, but instead look at his frame.
Watching this clip and then watching the one above shows you just how much Azubuike's body has developed in the past few years. And that's without the help of Andrea Hudy. Imagine what the KU body-shaping guru will do with this guy when he gets here.
Finally, for a little better perspective on Azubuike's actual skills and talent, here are a couple of videos where you can actually see Azubuike go up against players of similar size and skill.
In the next couple of videos, Azubuike is facing off against DeAndre Ayton, the No. 4 ranked player in the Class of 2017.
In the first one, Ayton is No. 0 in black and Azubuike is No. 35 in white. In the second clip, Ayton is No. 92 in white and Azubuike is No. 105 in red.
Here's another one, from 2014, of Azubuike going up against Stephen Zimmerman, who last year chose UNLV over Kansas.
Just when things were lining up for the Big 12 Conference to have one heck of a trio of men's basketball coaches at the top of the list — and an even deeper top-tier lineup farther down — Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg went and did something everybody knew he eventually would do anyway.
Hoiberg, who has agreed to leave his alma mater to take over the head coaching role with the Chicago Bulls, is bolting college basketball for the chance to work for a close friend, with a stacked team in a league that is so well suited to his style and skills.
Anyone calling Hoiberg anything other than brilliant right now just doesn't get it.
Unfortunately, though, his departure from the Big 12 is a significant blow to the coaching power in the conference.
That's not to say the Cyclones won't find a worthy replacement. The guess here is this search will be a lot like the one K-State had when Bob Huggins left and some guy named Frank Martin, who at the time was known as little more than a former high school coach in Florida, took over the Wildcats' program and continued the momentum that Huggins had started.
With or without Hoiberg, Iowa State would have a terrific team heading into the 2015-16 season. They return a ton of experience, some serious talent and should be ranked in the Top 10 when the preseason polls come out.
Add to that the idea that people probably will be doubting them a little bit now that Hoiberg is gone and you're looking at a potentially more dangerous team that before, whether they make a big name hire, go with Hoiberg's top assistant (T.J. Otzelberger) or hand the keys to Melvin Weatherwax.
So this season is not the issue. And if things go as well for the Cyclones as they did for K-State with Martin, then there's still plenty of reason to believe that Ames, Iowa, can remain relevant in the college basketball world for years to come.
That, of course, is not a given, though, and to call it anything close to that is to not give enough credit to what Hoiberg did and the culture he built there.
There's no doubt that the next guy running things in Ames, whoever he is, will do his best to follow in Hoiberg's footsteps and run things the way The Mayor did so successfully for all these years. That's a solid blueprint, but one that's much easier to want to follow than to execute.
Whether the new coach can get the same kind of transfers, recruit the same caliber of player or run the same kind of program — both in terms of practices and in-game demeanor — is all up in the air and those will be the biggest questions to answer when wondering whether Iowa State hoops can keep its spot as one of KU's top challengers year after year.
What is known already, though, is that, no matter who replaces Hoiberg, the program definitely just lost a lot of its national shine. There's just something appealing about the All-American, hometown kid coaching his alma mater and doing it with a smoothness and confidence that makes him easy to root for.
The loss of Hoiberg is a blow to Iowa State. But it's also a blow to the Big 12 both in terms of the competitive team the Cyclones can field and how bright the spotlight lit up Ames because of Hoiberg's presence.
All of this right after Texas did its part by adding Shaka Smart to the lineup.
Not too long ago, the Big 12 Conference's spring meetings were all about conference realignment, athletic directors and presidents ducking out of back exits and reporters stalking the halls of some hotels near the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, hoping to discover some sort of breaking news.
Times have changed since then, of course, and with the spring meetings back in Dallas, some pretty interesting breaking news was dropped into the laps of the laptop jockeys in attendance.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Wednesday announced that the conference had passed a measure regarding potentially serious penalties for court-storming following men's and women's basketball games. This, no doubt, was a reaction to the scene that unfolded last winter in Manhattan after a K-State victory over KU in which Bill Self was pinned against the scorer's table and Jamari Traylor was trucked by a wild KSU fan.
Although there are not specific consequences laid out for court-storming incidents the way there are in the SEC — where the schools are fined increasing amounts of money depending on the number of the offense — Bowlsby said he has been given "broad authority" to implement penalties against programs who can't keep their fans off the floor.
Now, obviously this never has been and likely won't be an issue at Allen Fieldhouse, where court-storming just doesn't happen these days. But it's definitely an issue that the rest of the conference should and will take note of, especially when KU comes to town. It's been an all-too familiar scene in recent years to see home fans storm the floor after their squad pulls off the upset over Kansas. Heck, some of those schools have even been ranked in the Top 20 and still seen their fans storm the floor after the emotional win over the conference king.
So be it. But when things boiled over to the point of physical harm and/or danger for the visiting players, something had to be done and the Big 12 has done it.
Bowlsby said the penalties could range from fines to the loss of future home games, both of which surely will get the attention of administrators, coaches and even fans throughout the league.
According to Big 12 rules, it's the responsibility of the home team, not the league, to protect players and team personnel in the event of a court storming.
Bowlsby having the power to hand out such severe punishments should future incidents occur, should create an environment free of rushing the floor throughout the Big 12 in years to come.
With Cliff Alexander officially announcing his decision to leave school after one season on Tuesday, we can finish the chapter of Kansas University's one-and-done players, at least for another year.
Alexander and teammate Kelly Oubre, who announced his decision to turn pro a week earlier, become the sixth and seventh KU players to go the one-and-done route and, as many of you surely know, the results of those one-year runs by some incredibly talented players have been fairly mixed.
Despite the high rankings, McDonald's All-American tags and enormous hype and hope surrounding all seven of these players, very few of them actually lived up to what you expect from these types of players or, in some ways, what you see from one-and-done ballers at other schools.
There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is simply bad luck, but it's definitely not necessarily a KU problem.
Take Alexander, for instance. He would've been welcomed onto the roster of pretty much any program in the country, and, although he might have performed better at different places, his overall adjustment to the college game seemed like a struggle. It's safe to say then that Alexander may just have ended up being a bust no matter where he went to school. Then again, maybe not.
Such is life when covering, coaching and predicting one-and-done players. And it will be that way until something drastic changes, which may never happen.
With that in mind, here's a quick look back at the one-and-dones KU has welcomed into the fold throughout the past several seasons along with my ranking of how they performed while at Kansas.
• JOEL EMBIID • Injury limited the 7-footer from Cameroon to just 28 games during his lone season at Kansas, but boy was he impressive during those 28 games. After a relatively slow start in which he came off the bench for the first seven games of the 2013-14 season, Embiid finished with 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Modest numbers, to be sure, but when you project those out over 40 minutes (19.4, 14.0, 4.5) or 100 possessions (28.2, 20.5, 6.5) it clearly demonstrates the impact that Embiid had on the game. Of course, you did not need numbers to see that for yourself. It was very obvious that KU was a completely different team with Embiid and without him and his absence in the NCAA Tournament played a huge role in the Jayhawks going home early. As good and as important to that team as Andrew Wiggins was, one could make the case that had he been the one who was injured and Embiid stayed healthy, KU would've advanced to the second weekend. Drafted: No. 3 overall in 2014 draft by Philadelphia.
• BEN MCLEMORE • McLemore was on a darn good team during the one season he was eligible to play at Kansas, but his all-around game was a huge reason for that. The smooth shooting St. Louis native averaged 15.9 points per game and made 42 percent of his three-point shots. There were times during the middle of the 2012-13 season when McLemore was in such a zone that it seemed like 15 points per night was automatic. He also rebounded well for his position (5.2 per game) and worked defensively. Sure, he fit well into the veteran team around him, but McLemore rarely passed up shots he needed to take and was an absolute highlight machine in transition. Drafted: No. 7 overall in 2013 draft by Sacramento.
• ANDREW WIGGINS • As was the case throughout his time at KU, Wiggins probably fell to third on this list because it was impossible for him to live up to the ridiculous hype that surrounded him when he arrived in Lawrence. I was never one who thought Wiggins was anything other than fantastic as a Jayhawk, I just think those two guys above him had better seasons. Wiggins' importance to his team was undeniable. He led KU in scoring, free throw shooting, played lock-down defense and ripped down six rebounds a game, many of them coming on the offensive end on his own misses. The truth of the matter is Wiggins and McLemore finished their KU careers with incredibly similar single-season statistics, but because McLemore's came without much hype and Wiggins' numbers were “disappointing” given that most of the free world believed he would average 30 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 dunks per game. Unfair? You bet. But you'd have a hard time convincing me that Wiggins' one season in Lawrence was anything other than extremely solid. The early tournament exit and his no-show in his final game in a KU uniform certainly hurt people's memory of his time here. Drafted: No. 1 overall by Cleveland.
• XAVIER HENRY • On a team loaded with veterans, Henry was actually pretty solid. He finished with 13.4 points-per-game average and also chipped in 4.4 rebounds, a couple of steals and a couple of assists per game, all while drilling 42 percent of his three-point shots. The thing is, on a different team or even in a different time, Henry could have — and likely would have — been a guy that a coach built an entire offense around. He was a great spot-up shooter, had the frame needed to drive to the rim, hit 78 percent of his free throws and was athletic and quick in transition. He could've been an amazing player who put up huge numbers and delivered highlights night in and night out. But because he was such a good dude, such a solid team player and, let's face it, still such a kid, he happily deferred to guys like Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Marcus Morris. Henry left KU with tears. Based on the way his pro career has played out, it might not have been a bad idea for him to come back for his sophomore season and fine-tune those alpha dog skills. Drafted: No. 12 overall by Memphis.
• KELLY OUBRE • It took Oubre a while to get going, but once he did, he had plenty of nights where he looked like the Jayhawks' most valuable player. For the first 10 or so games of the season, Oubre could barely get off the bench. But after cracking the starting lineup mid-way through the season, Oubre started every Big 12 game except one (Senior night) and started every game of the postseason. When he was on, he was on, whether that meant getting to the free throw line or raining from three-point range. And, defensively, he used his length and drive to frustrate opponents and help on the boards. But he never truly developed into a highly skilled offensive player and struggled to use his off hand throughout the season. Those skills are the type that can be honed in the NBA, where working on his game will be his full-time job, and Oubre's time as KU likely will be remembered by most as solid but not spectacular. Drafted: To Be Determined in June.
• CLIFF ALEXANDER • Alexander avoided the cellar on this list because of his solid production out of the gate and the way he impacted games when he was able to play double-digit minutes or greater. His double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds against Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse was critical and his early-season strategy of go-get-the-rebound-and-dunk-it helped him break out quickly. But as the demands from the coaching staff grew, Alexander struggled to stay caught up and that left him watching from the bench more often than not. Add to that his eligibility mess that kept him out of the final eight games of the season and it's hard to call Alexander's lone season as a Jayhawk anything other than a disappointment. Drafted: To Be Determined in June.
• JOSH SELBY • The No. 1 ranked player in his recruiting class sure knew how to make an entrance. But after his hot-shooting, 21-point game against USC in his first game as a Jayhawk (after a nine-game suspension due to eligibility concerns) Selby pretty much disappeared for the rest of the 2010-11 season. A lingering foot injury contributed to some of his lack of production, but the Baltimore native never appeared to fully buy in or get into the flow during his one year of college ball. He averaged 7.9 points per game and made 36 percent of his three-point attempts but played just 20.4 minutes per game and shot just 38 percent from the field overall. Drafted: No. 49 overall by Memphis in second round of 2011 NBA Draft.
While the addition of new Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart to the Big 12 certainly figures to have a major impact on the balance of power in the conference, it still will take the new kid on the block several years to unseat KU coach Bill Self as the best in the league.
That much is almost impossible to argue, save for a few Iowa State fans who probably really like their guy and even a few Baylor people who believe Scott Drew does not get enough credit.
Outside of that, though, it's Self and everyone else. I mean, look no further than the 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles for all the support you need. Oh, and Self's record outside of the conference, in the tournament and on the recruiting trail is pretty decent, as well.
Having said that, adding Smart to the Big 12 is an incredibly exciting prospect that got me thinking about just how good the coaches in this league were. I hopped on Twitter a couple of nights ago to explain how impressive I thought the top-tier trio of Self, Fred Hoiberg and Smart was and, while several of my fabulous followers whole-heartedly agreed, others quickly came to the defense of the guys I did not mention. What about this guy? What about that guy?
What about a blog explaining exactly how I think the men's basketball coaching rankings unfold in the Big 12.
I asked a couple other guys in the office to give me their lists as well and will include those at the end. For now, though, here's how I think the Big 12's hoops bosses stack up.
In case you can't tell, I'm incredibly excited about seeing Smart join the conference and I don't think I'm alone.
1. BILL SELF, KANSAS – For the reasons outlined above and so many others, the guy easily sits at the top of the coaching food chain in what has proven to be a heck of a regular season conference. His accomplishments speak for themselves, but one thing that really hammers home his place at the top of this list is the fact that Self won Big 12 title No. 11 this year, guided an incredibly young team to 27 victories against the nation's toughest schedule, entered the Big Dance as a 2 seed — the sixth year in a row KU had been either a 1 or a 2 — and yet the season was wildly regarded throughout Jayhawk nation and in other parts of the world as an extreme disappointment. That's incredible. That's some Godfather stuff, right there.
2. FRED HOIBERG, IOWA STATE – You can't argue with what Hoiberg has done at his alma mater. He's a fantastic X's and O's coach, recruits the right players for his system and is a master at finding talented transfers to plug into his roster in order to assure that there will be no drop off from year to year. His head-to-head record against Self is pretty impressive during the past few years and you kind of get the feeling that Hoiberg's only getting better.
3. SHAKA SMART, TEXAS – I think this guy will be a beast at Texas. He'll get players. His players will love him. And he'll bring a tenacious style of play and provide the program with a serious and much-needed dose of excitement and enthusiasm that, basically overnight, could turn UT back into a place that will be incredibly tough to play and a potential sleeping giant on the national scene. It may not happen immediately, but don't be surprised if it does. How cool is it that Shaka's coming to Allen Fieldhouse every year for the foreseeable future.
4. LON KRUGER, OKLAHOMA – All he's done everywhere he's been is win. From K-State to Florida, to Illinois, UNLV and now OU, you don't rack up 561 victories over 29 seasons without knowing what you're doing and doing it well. And you don't get jobs at all of those places without being the kind of guy who gets kids to play the right way and also takes care of all of those other elements of what it means to be a student-athlete unless you can flat-out coach. Kruger's teams typically are tough, gritty teams that run good offense and always find a way to win ballgames. Kruger-coached teams have won fewer than 20 games just one time in the last nine years. And that was his first season at OU, where he has increased his win total during each of his four seasons.
5. BOB HUGGINS, WEST VIRGINIA – A master at taking the players he has and fitting them into a system that can win, Huggins, despite his wild and crazy persona, is so often overlooked in today's game. This guy is still one of the best in the business and the reason is simple — he demands perfection from his players and settles for nothing less. That doesn't mean he always gets it, but more times than not he gets the kind of effort that can lead to some seriously good basketball.
6. SCOTT DREW, BAYLOR – KU fans like to clown Drew, but I think it's tough to argue that the guy's pretty good at what he does. Of late, this season notwithstanding, Drew's Baylor teams, of all the squads in the conference, have most consistently played deep into the NCAA Tournament. Two Elite Eights and one Sweet 16 in five seasons has a pretty nice ring to it. And I don't think anyone will argue his ability to get talented players to Waco.
7. TRENT JOHNSON, TCU – This guy should probably be higher. He's a fantastic coach who started at TCU with a light deck and has scratched and clawed and grinded his way into fielding competitive teams. The jump the Frogs made from 2013-14 to 2014-15 was as impressive as any team in the conference. Part of that was Johnson working his butt off on the recruiting trail and the other part of it was the way he runs his program, practices, in-game coaching and off-the-court responsibilities. A demanding coach with winning records at Nevada, Stanford and LSU, Johnson is well on his way to following suit in Fort Worth.
8. TRAVIS FORD, OKLAHOMA STATE – It's not just our site that has its doubts about Ford, just last week news broke out of Stillwater that said the school was looking into whether moving forward with Ford as the leader of the basketball program was the right move. Ouch. Ford's had some great moments at OSU, and he, too, has been able to attract some serious talent to a not-so-attractive place. But his ability to get that talent playing on the same page consistently and with the kind of effort needed to be a top-half program night in and night out has left a little to be desired. That said, he still has a darn good basketball mind and the fact that he's listed eighth here is just another sign of how good of a basketball conference the Big 12 is.
9. BRUCE WEBER, K-STATE – Give him some talent and he'll coach it to great things. Ask him to build something of substance that will stand the test of time and you might find yourself wishing you hadn't. That's been the book on Weber at both Illinois and K-State and it's hard to call it anything other than fair. He did a great job with Self's players at Illinois and with Frank Martin's guys at K-State, but as soon as those wells ran dry, things got a little testy and people started to question Weber. He heads into his fourth season desperately needing to reverse the trend of watching his win total dip each season. If he doesn't, it could be on to head coach No. 4 in the past 10 seasons for the Wildcats.
10. TUBBY SMITH, TEXAS TECH — Unfortunately for Smith, we're talking about Big 12 coaches as they stand today. Otherwise, with his track record, he clearly would be higher on this list for his achievements at Minnesota, Kentucky, Georgia and Tulsa. But now is now and Smith definitely does not seem like the same coach he once was. Don't get me wrong, the Red Raiders should be thrilled to have him and you never know, with all of that past success, when he'll be able to get things rolling again. But the Red Raiders roster I saw this season was among the worst I've seen since the Big 12 was formed and it doesn't exactly look as if that's going to change drastically any time soon.
With that, I give you a quick look at the way Benton Smith and Tom Keegan rank the Big 12's men's basketball coaches.
— BENTON SMITH —
- Bill Self, KU
- Shaka Smart, UT
- Fred Hoiberg, ISU
- Bob Huggins, WVU
- Lon Kruger, OU
- Scott Drew, BU
- Trent Johnson, TCU
- Tubby Smith, TTU
- Travis Ford, OSU
- Bruce Weber, KSU
— TOM KEEGAN —
- Bill Self, KU
- Bob Huggins, WVU
- Fred Hoiberg, ISU
- Shaka Smart, UT
- Lon Kruger, OU
- Trent Johnson, TCU
- Tubby Smith, TTU
- Scott Drew, BU
- Travis Ford, OSU
- Bruce Weber, KSU
5:59 p.m. Update:
Here's the audio from Jamari Traylor and Brannen Greene talking after Wednesday's camp scrimmage:
And here's the Nick Krug photo gallery:
4:16 p.m. Update: FINAL: Blue 79, Red 67
The Blue squad led from start to finish. Here are a few unofficial totals.
Brannen Greene led all scorers with 23, Selden had 17 and Mason had 16 to lead the Blue squad.
For the Red team, McLemore finished with 16, Aldrich 14, Frankamp had 13, Reed had 9, Oubre had 7 and Alexander had 6. Devonte' Graham did not score.
More to come, including photos and audio so check back throughout the afternoon...
4:13 p.m. Update: Blue 77, Red 62
A bucket by Reed trimmed the lead to 10, but Ellis, who has been quiet, answered, with a runner on the other end and Mason fired an alley-oop pass to Selden who showed those hops have come back by soaring high into the air and throwing it down with one hand.
That play probably drew the loudest reaction of the afternoon.
Mason with another three-pointer from the top of the key gives him 16 and puts the Blue squad back up 15.
4:08 p.m. Update: Blue 68, Red 56
Greene now with 21 points and Selden with 15 to lead the Blue squad. Both guys have looked very strong today, as has Frank Mason, who has 11.
Frankamp has been looking to force the issue with his shot a little more here in the second half.
McLemore just flew high for a one-handed flush over Greene to cut the lead to 14 but an alley-oop from Selden to Traylor answered it.
4:06 p.m. Update: Blue 57, Red 47
After misfiring on most of his early three-point tries (short), Oubre knocked one down from teh wing to pull the Red squad to within 12. Perry Ellis answered on the other end though to keep the lead from shrinking.
A nice pick-and-roll by McLemore and Aldrich and a tip-in by Alexander and a break-away dunk by Oubre cut the Blue lead to 10.
4:03 p.m. Update Blue 51, Red 38
Greene switches ends but doesn't cool down. He knocks another three-pointer to keep Blue's lead at double digits.
4:00 p.m. Update: Blue 48, Red 34
McLemore and Selden checking each other has been a pretty entertaining match-up. Most of the young guys have shown their youth while trying to hang out there.
A step slow here, a missed cut or seal there. Nothing they won't improve upon, it just really shows you what experience means.
Traylor just showed a little outside shooting touch and knocked down an open 15 footer on the baseline.
3:56 p.m. Update, HALFTIME: Blue 36, Red 27
Noticed a couple of minutes ago that Sherron Collins is here, too... But he is not playing. He did, however, have a nice moment with fellow-Chicago boy Cliff Alexander just before halftime.
Greene leads the Blue team with 16 points at halftime.
McLemore and Reed lead the Red team with 7 apiece.
3:52 p.m. Update, Blue 33, Red 23
Greene with another three-pointer. He's been the standout so far and by far.
Wesley with a follow-dunk pulls red to within eight but Selden followed it up with an athletic take to the rim on the other end.
Not very much energy in the gym overall. Last year's game, which featured the first appearance as a Jayhawk by Andrew Wiggins, had much more buzz.
3:50 p.m. Update, Blue 24, Red 17
Selden and Reed exchange long-range jumpers and Traylor throws one in with his left hand on a nice drive to the bucket.
The pace is still kind of slow but both teams are playing more cleanly at the moment.
3:46 p.m. Update, Blue 17, Red 9
Frankamp hits a three on his second attempt of the game to pull red close and the Blue team answered on the other end with a three pointer from Selden.
Jamari Traylor then flushed a nasty dunk with his right hand over Kelly Oubre, who simply ducked out of the way as the rim was still rattling.
3:41 p.m. Update, Blue 11, Red 2
Slow start to the scrimmage so far. Sloppy play on the red end. McLemore tried for a highlight reel dunk and came up short and Cole Aldrich followed that up a couple of possessions later with an easy dunk to put the Red Team on the board.
Brannen Green is off to a hot start shooting the ball.
3:38 p.m. Update:
Red Team (with alums):
Kelly Oubre, Devonte' Graham, Cliff Alexander, Conner Frankamp, Ben McLemore, Justin Wesley, Tyrel Reed and Cole Aldrich.
Perry Ellis, Jamari, Frank Mason, Jamari Traylor, Evan Manning, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Hunter Mickelson.
Landen Lucas and Tyler Self are not playing today.
3:32 p.m. Update:
Warm-up time now that intros are finished. Remember, Self has to leave the gym when the scrimmage is going on, so he won't get to see what he's got just yet.
I think he's got a pretty good idea, though.
3:24 p.m. Update
The campers beat the counselors in a tight one and KU coach Bill Self is now introducing next year's team to the campers in the stands... Lots of cheers, as you might imagine.
As for the alums, the only guys I've seen out there so far, wearing red, are:
Not a bad group if they can find a point guard.
We'll add to the list if/when more guys show up but it's possible the alumni team might need to pick up a few of the current guys, which is pretty typical.
3:08 p.m. Update
The campers, youngest to oldest, are scrimmaging a few managers right now in what has become an annual tradition.
They'll do a few 8-minute quarters of this and then the KU guys will take the floor.
Check back often because they've been known to wind the clock and skip ahead here and there during this one.
As you might already have noticed, it's that time of year again, time for the annual Bill Self basketball camps to dominate Lawrence's hoops scene for a few weeks.
Every summer, Self, with the help of current and former Jayhawks, welcomes hundreds of young hoopers to town for several days of instruction, entertainment and, of course, autographs.
In addition to featuring the fundamentals of basketball and some of the ins and outs of what goes on within the KU program, the camps often include some of the more entertaining alumni games in college basketball.
Today, sometime after 3 p.m., will be the first such game and its lineup figures to be as impressive as any we've seen in a while thanks to its proximity to the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, which is set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at Lawrence High.
Each year that game, which, in the past, has included a ton of big names from KU history, treats fans to a fun night of good memories and laughable moments. With a lot of those guys being in town for that game tomorrow night, it ought to be interesting to see how many of them make it to today's camp game, which usually pits the alums against the current crew.
That means an extended look at newcomers Cliff Alexander, Devonte' Graham and Kelly Oubre, which we'll document right here and have plenty more on after the scrimmage. Ukrainian sensation Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is not yet in town, but those three other guys also figure to be key members of next year's team and it will be interesting to see both how they mesh with KU's returning roster as well as how well they hold their own against some crafty veterans from the past.
We'll be up there to keep you updated on who made it to camp and I'll also be doing a live blog of the camp scrimmage while Gary Bedore tracks down as many past greats as possible for interviews and our photography staff tries to capture all of the action.
Check back right here throughout the afternoon.