Posts tagged with Basketball

Bill Self stresses 3-point defense against Duke

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) defends against a shot from Indiana guard Curtis Jones (0) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) defends against a shot from Indiana guard Curtis Jones (0) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self warned before the Jayhawks’ season-opener in Honolulu that KU would be in trouble if they did not defend Indiana’s three-point shooters.

Sixteen makes and 48 percent from three-point range later, the Hoosiers dropped KU to 0-1 on the season with a 103-99, overtime battle in the Armed Forces Classic.

Self and senior guard Frank Mason both admitted that part of the Jayhawks’ struggles against the three-point shot was that Indiana shot out of its mind and hit some very tough shots and incredibly clutch times. But that did not eliminate the fact that both believed the Jayhawks could defend better and Self said, yet again, that they better Tuesday night against No. 1 Duke in New York City.

“We’re capable of being a very good shooting team,” Self said. “But Indiana and Duke aren’t teams you probably want to get in a HORSE contest with and I think sometimes they can kind of goad you into that. They hit a three and you want to match it on the other end.”

That happened at times against the Hoosiers and Self said it easily could happen again against the Blue Devils, given the enormous stage, magnitude of the game and desire to right what went wrong in the opener.

“They’re about as good a shooting team as we’ll play all year,” Self said of 2-0 Duke. “We may play the best two shooting teams that we’ll play all year in the first two games. We didn’t do a great job defending Indiana and we’ve gotta be a lot better getting to the three-point shooters against Duke.”

One way to do that, according to Self, is to make Duke’s sharp-shooters work when they don’t have the ball.

“We need to do some different things to kind of create less rhythm for them offensively,” Self said. “And sometimes you can do that when you have the ball and make them guard you on the defensive end.

“You want to give the defense a chance to break down,” he continued. “The other thing is, when you’re in the bonus or double-bonus, a lot of times you’re bailing out the defense by not making them guard, especially when they’re calling it close. You want to put pressure on officials to make calls and the best way to do that is to put pressure on the other team to have to guard the ball.”

Self and No. 7 Kansas will face No. 1 Duke a little after 8 p.m. Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.

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Collin Sexton decision going down to the wire?

Individuals with knowledge about the recruitment of Class of 2017 point guard Collin Sexton by both Alabama and Kansas told the Journal-World on Wednesday that neither side knew, as of late Wednesday, whether the No. 7-ranked player in the country, according to Rivals.com, was going to pick them.

Rivals.com reported earlier Wednesday that sources had indicated that Sexton’s decision could come down to the wire. If it does, that should make for a very interesting afternoon Thursday, as the 6-foot-1, 170-pound, five-star prospect is slated to announce his decision on ESPNU at 5 p.m. central time.

Although the Mableton, Georgia, guard made official visits to Oklahoma State and NC State, and even kept alive in-state programs Georgia and Georgia Tech, recruiting analysts for weeks have had this pegged as a race between Alabama and Kansas.

Sexton, who has made it clear that he would sign in the early signing period — which began Wednesday and runs through next Wednesday — announced his decision date two weeks ago and has had nothing but great things to say about both Alabama and Kansas.

A source said Wednesday that Sexton came to a decision on Monday after sitting down with his family and coaches. But the same person said late Wednesday night, that it appeared that Sexton had not informed either program of his decision.

Widely regarded as one of the most dynamic and talented players in the class, Sexton is seeking immediate playing time and an opportunity to develop his game into NBA-ready status. While both Alabama, led by former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson, and Kansas, led by Mr. Draft Lottery, Bill Self, seem to have that going for them, only one has a campus located reasonably close to Sexton’s home town.

Whether that proves to be a critical factor or not remains to be seen, but unless Sexton decides to put things on hold, we’ll know one way or another later today.

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Jayhawks get strong reviews from Late Night visitors

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Class of 2019 point guard Markese Jacobs may have been impressed enough to commit to Kansas following Saturday's Late Night in the Phog event at Allen Fieldhouse, but he was not the only weekend visitor who enjoyed his trip to Kansas.

The following is a quick look at some of the feedback from the top talent in the Class of 2017, which sent six of the Top 36 players to Kansas for Late Night.

Sexton excited by atmosphere

Collin Sexton, the No. 7-ranked player in the 2017 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, took full advantage of his recent visit to Lawrence and came away with strong feelings about all aspects of the Kansas basketball program.

“It was a crazy atmosphere. I thought it was great,” Sexton told Matt Scott of TheShiver.com. “The fans really get into it and everyone at Kansas loves basketball and the players. It's not always like that.”

Ranked as the No. 1 point guard in the class by 247 Sports, Sexton was one of 15 visitors during last weekend’s Late Night festivities. Hosted by guards Frank Mason and Malik Newman, Sexton spent time with the team both on and off the court, bonding at the team’s dorm and in the locker room and watching the Jayhawks run through a workout before leaving town.

Sexton said KU coach Bill Self emphasized the impact the 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard could have on the program if he were to pick Kansas and added that leaving Georgia for the Midwest would not be that difficult for him to do.

"It's not a factor at all,” he told Scott. “I want to go where I have the best fit and where I can grow on and off the court.”

One way he could do that would be by playing with top-level talent and that fact was not lost on Sexton, who said he could see himself playing next to fellow five-star 2017 point guard Trae Young, should the Oklahoma prospect pick Kansas.

"We could definitely play together," said Sexton, noting that he and Young could become KU’s next Fank Mason-Devonte’ Graham duo. "We can both score and play either guard position. It would be real good. Real, real good.”

With just one visit left to take — Sexton already has visited NC State, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Kansas — Sexton said he hoped to make a decision by the end of the month or the beginning of November and could sign during the early signing period in mid-November.

Brown eyes November signing

Five-star Las Vegas prospect Troy Brown, the No. 12-ranked player in the Class of 2017 according to Rivals.com, is planning to end his recruitment in November.

Brown, who was in town for an official visit for last weekend’s Late Night, told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com that he would take his final visit this weekend to Georgetown and then get busy deciding on his future.

“In November, I will sign for sure,” Brown said. “I don't know how much more of the recruiting process I can handle. I would say, since being recruited since the eighth grade, it's just really worn on me. I wish I would have cut (my list) to less schools, honestly, because it just kind of made it more hectic.”

That said, Brown told Wildeboor that he loved every second of his KU visit and added that, now that he’s a senior, things seemed much more real.

“With it being an official visit, we kind of understand why I'm here,” he said. “I know all of the players and I hung out with everybody.... I had a really good time with them.”

Riley raves

Power forward Cody Riley, another Class of 2017 prospect in for an official at Late Night, was blown away by his trip to Lawrence.

"My visit to Kansas was just unbelievable," the four-star prospect told JayhawkSlant.com. "The atmosphere at Late Night in the Phog was that best that I've ever seen and I know that it's the best atmosphere in college basketball. The fans make that place so special and they really support and care about the players. I really didn't expect to see what I saw at Late Night.”

Riley, 6-7, 225 pounds, is ranked No. 34 overall in the 2017 class by Rivals.com and, thus far, only has visits planned to Kansas and UCLA.

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Wiggins’ star continues to shine brighter with new shoe release

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, left, races down court as Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green gives chase in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, left, races down court as Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green gives chase in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Shortly after becoming one of the prized signings of Kansas coach Bill Self, former KU star Andrew Wiggins became one of the premiere spokesmen for Adidas basketball.

Earlier this summer, Wiggins took another step toward becoming a mega shoe mogul when he helped Adidas launch its newest basketball shoe, the aptly named Crazy Explosive.

“You haven’t seen adidas shoes like this before,” Wiggins said in a promo. “These shoes are dope.”

The shoes, which utilize Adidas’ latest Boost technology and are said to feature equal parts comfort, performance and style, come in seven different models and colors. The “solar red” version currently is available worldwide and additional color schemes, including the Andrew Wiggins Home PE, will be rolled out throughout the rest of the year starting in October.

“Adidas came to me with a shoe to make me more explosive on the court,” Wiggins said in a recent interview with footwearnews.com. “When I tried this shoe for the first time, I really felt the difference when attacking the basket. And we all care about style.”

Picked No. 1 overall by Cleveland in the 2014 NBA Draft, Wiggins debuted his first Adidas shoe — the Crazylight Boost 2.5 — shortly after joining the Minnesota Timberwolves via trade. The shoe came in three styles and color schemes and featured on the tongue the initials AW, with a maple leaf designed to pay homage to Wiggins’ native Canada inserted into the A. That feature is also included on Wiggins’ second shoe.

A quick look at the new Crazy Explosive shoe from Adidas.

A quick look at the new Crazy Explosive shoe from Adidas. by Matt Tait

His initial deal with Adidas was the largest signed by an NBA rookie in company history. Reports pegged the deal as a five-year commitment worth somewhere in the $12-13 million range. Wiggins’ agent Bill Duffy later went on record saying those numbers were inaccurate, leading many to believe they were low.

There’s nothing low about the Crazy Explosive, though, and, in June, several shoe buffs hammered the shoe on the Internet for looking more like a hiking boot or being something someone’s grandmother would knit.

The pairing of Wiggins and Adidas was a marriage that everybody knew was coming given KU’s association with the popular shoe brand and Wiggins’ status as both a bona fide college phenom and future NBA star.

With his pro career taking off — Wiggins averaged 20.7 points per game during his second NBA second, up four points a night from his rookie year — and Wiggins becoming one of the most popular and powerful young players in the league, Adidas certainly appears to be on the verge of cashing in on whatever investment it made in the former Jayhawk.

While he currently is known as an exciting and explosive scorer for an up-and-coming team, stunts like his recent attempt at a 720-degree slam dunk merely add to the buzz surrounding the young Canadian.

Like anything, though, Wiggins’ star will shine brighter if his team becomes more relevant. That, according to Wiggins, is on the way. During a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, the third-year pro declared that the Timberwolves, “can make the playoffs.”

Getting there would take quite a jump, especially in the Western Conference. But with a young core of Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine, among other young and promising talents, it’s easy to see the T’Wolves improving on their 29-53 record from a season ago.

“I think we're going to have a way better season than we had this year,” Wiggins told SI. “We've got some new pieces. I think last year we could've beat any team on any given day. This year we need to be more consistent with it.”

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Early start to potentially key 2017 recruiting class puts KU basketball ahead of the game

Despite being nine years apart, Kansas basketball’s 2008 recruiting class and 2017 recruiting class might wind up having a lot more in common than anyone could have predicted.

We won’t know, of course, what KU’s 2017 class looks like for several weeks, perhaps even months, but it did get off to a solid start this week when the Jayhawks landed a commitment from versatile Dallas guard Marcus Garrett, the 44th ranked player in the country according to Rivals.com.

While it remains to be seen exactly how big — or how stellar — KU’s 2017 class will be, this much we know today: It is likely going to consist of somewhere between 4 and 6 players and nearly all of them will make up key parts of the 2017-18 rotation.

Sound familiar? It should. KU coach Bill Self has rebuilt his rotation on more than one occasion during his days at Kansas. And each time he’s done it with a great deal of success.

Few were as impressive as the 2008 class, which was finalized less than a month after Self led the Jayhawks to a national title with a roster dominated by upperclassmen.

Only Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich returned as key contributors on that title team.

Five players from that 2008 national championship squad were lost to the NBA draft. And four others — Russell Robinson, Jeremy Case, Rodrick Stewart and Brad Witherspoon — left town after graduation. That’s nine players gone from a roster of 17, two of them walk-ons.

Needless to say, Self’s work on the recruiting trail as he simultaneously attempted to guide Kansas to the title was more than a little important.

Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo.Kansas newcomers front row sitting: Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrone Appleton and Quintrell Thomas. Back row from left are Markieff Morris, Mario Little and Marcus Morris.

Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo.Kansas newcomers front row sitting: Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrone Appleton and Quintrell Thomas. Back row from left are Markieff Morris, Mario Little and Marcus Morris. by Nick Krug

The same could be said about the current state of Kansas basketball. We don’t know yet if the 2016-17 team will bring home a title, but it certainly looks like a legit contender. What’s more, Self stands to lose a good chunk of this year’s roster at season’s end, whether the Jayhawks win it all or not.

KU’s official roster includes 15 players. Of those, we know that seniors Frank Mason, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self won’t be back.

Beyond that, we know there’s a better-than-good chance that freshman Josh Jackson, junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and possibly even Carlton Bragg and Devonte’ Graham won’t return.

(For what it’s worth, I’d bet money Graham will be back for his senior season, but you never know.)

For this exercise, let’s say Graham’s back and the rest leave; that’s six players departing from a roster of 15, or 40 percent.

In 2008, KU lost 53 percent of its roster. The big difference, though, was that just six of the nine players — 67 percent — who bolted after the national title were regular parts of the rotation, while five of the six — 83 percent — who could leave after the upcoming season figure to be key rotation guys.

There exists the possibility, of course, that Bragg, Graham and Svi all could return for the 2017-18 season. Heck, even Jackson, technically could return, though that’s much less likely. If any or all of those players were to come back, the importance of the 2017 class obviously would be lessened and Self once again would roll out a talented and experienced crew to start the 2017-18 season.

Either way, Self is staring at, in the very least, a restocking of the roster, even if he does not have a full rebuild on his hands.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see that the coach set to enter his 14th season in charge of the Kansas program is well ahead of the game compared to the way things played out in 2008.

KU basketball commitment Malik Newman signed with the Jayhawks on Friday, July 1 and will transfer to Kansas from Mississippi State.

KU basketball commitment Malik Newman signed with the Jayhawks on Friday, July 1 and will transfer to Kansas from Mississippi State. by Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics

Even though they're not traditional members of the 2017 class, Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman and Liberty transfer Evan Maxwell already are on campus and practicing with the team. Both will sit out this season and be eligible again in 2017.

Add to that the early commitment from Garrett and you’re looking at a three-player headstart for Self and the Jayhawks.

KU’s 2008 class, which consisted of guards Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrone Appleton and Travis Releford and forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris, Quintrell Thomas and Mario Little, landed its first official commitment in June of 2007 (Releford, a local prospect, committed June 20) but did not fill up until Taylor’s commitment on April 29, 2008.

So even though Garrett’s commitment came a few weeks after Releford’s on the calendar, one of the most important pieces in that 2008 class came at the very end, and the presence of Newman and Maxwell, along with Garrett, puts KU ahead of the recruiting pace from 2008.

Add to that the fact that Self and the Jayhawks still are in pursuit of some of the top talent in the country, including No. 1 overall prospect DeAndre Ayton and Top 10 prospects Kevin Knox, Billy Preston and Troy Brown, among others, and it’s safe to say that the prospects for the 2017-18 season look a lot less scary than the outlook for that 2008-09 season once did.

So how’d the Jayhawks fare in 2008-09? KU rolled to a 14-2, first-place finish in the Big 12 Conference and topped out at 27-8 overall, falling to eventual national runner-up Michigan State in the Sweet 16.

Blue Team center Evan Maxwell gets a bucket over against Red Team guard LaGerald Vick during the Bill Self basketball camp alumni scrimmage, Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center.

Blue Team center Evan Maxwell gets a bucket over against Red Team guard LaGerald Vick during the Bill Self basketball camp alumni scrimmage, Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center. by Nick Krug

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Kemper Arena soon will have a new name

Sophomore guard Jeff Gueldner, right, embraces a teammate following KU's NCAA Championship game victory over Oklahoma, 83-79, in Kansas City's Kemper Arena.

Sophomore guard Jeff Gueldner, right, embraces a teammate following KU's NCAA Championship game victory over Oklahoma, 83-79, in Kansas City's Kemper Arena.

Imagine the following conversation, set well in the future, creating some serious confusion for Kansas basketball fans.

Fan 1: I still can’t believe that magical run the Jayhawks made in 1988 at Mosaic Arena.

Fan 2: Mosaic? What are you talking about?

Fan 1: You know, the venue right down the road where Danny and the Miracles capped off their run to the national title, KU’s first since 1952.

Fan 2: Yeah. I know the story. But what’s this Mosaic you’re talking about? That Final Four took place at Kemper Arena.

Fan 1: No. It was at Mosaic.

Fan 2: Umm, no. It was Kemper.

Fan 1: Nuh uh. Mosaic.

Fan 2: I’m leaving.

There’s no need to get frustrated or lose friends over this. It’s as simple as Kemper Arena, site of the 1988 Final Four and so many memorable Big Eight tournaments, finally receiving a name change after all these years.

According to a Tuesday news release, Kemper Arena will be renamed Mosaic Arena under an agreement announced by Foutch Brothers, the development company that plans to turn the arena in the West Bottoms into a regional amateur sports venue. The deal, with Mosaic Life Care, makes Mosaic the naming rights sponsor for the arena.

Mosaic Life Care is a health care company based in St. Joseph, Mo., that is expanding its services into the Kansas City metro area. CEO Mark Laney said in a release that he believed taking over the naming rights for Kemper Arena would help the company expand its brand. But for fans of KU basketball the move likely will be remembered as little more than the reason that one of the most important venues not named Allen Fieldhouse in Kansas basketball history now goes by a new name.

The guess here is that most KU fans will continue to refer to the arena as Kemper, but there does exist the potential for confusion like the mock conversation that played out above to one day occur between different generations of KU hoops fans.

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Sizing up what the top Big 12 expansion candidates mean for Kansas

If you’ve followed any of the Big 12 expansion talk, whether in the past few years or just the past few days, you’ve probably heard it all.

From which universities are most likely to join the conference to which are the best fit and whether those who already are in the conference are planning to stay there, you’ve likely heard it all.

Of course, a good chunk of that time was spent deciphering whether the Big 12 was even going to expand at all. And, although we still do not know with 100 percent certainty that that is going to happen, the conference’s recent vote that authorized commissioner Bob Bowlsby to strongly dissect the pros and cons of all interested parties leads many to believe that Big 12 expansion is coming.

We may know more as soon as September and the big questions now are this: Who’s joining and will the Big 12 expand to 12 or 14?

Hindsight many years from now may tell us otherwise, but as things stand today, it does not seem like expansion will be a bad thing for KU. There’s the fear by some that the revenue split will go down, which certainly would be bad for KU, but if the TV contracts are renegotiated then the bottom line number may not drop that much and could even go up.

With that element of this whole situation understood and still as vague as it can be, let’s take a quick look at what the addition of each rumored contender would mean for Kansas.

BYU – Adding the Cougars does not really do anything for Kansas that it doesn’t do for the rest of the conference. If anything, it would bring another tough football program that KU will have to contend with as it attempts to climb out of the Big 12 basement and rebuild its football program into something respectable. BYU’s national brand would bring a few more eyeballs and television sets to Lawrence, Kansas, but not so much that it makes the BYU addition a reason to celebrate.

CINCINNATI - Cincy’s a much bigger city — 65th largest city in the US, 34th largest TV market — than the rest of the Big 12 home bases, which are described as college towns and not metropolitan areas, and adding the Bearcats would bring respectable football of late, a historically solid basketball program and inroads into a strong football recruiting base. That recruiting door sliding open — both for football and basketball — would probably be the most noteworthy aspect of this addition for Kansas.

COLORADO STATE - Kansas is already used to this trip, having partnered with Colorado in the Big 8 and Big 12 for years, so expansion to its neighbor to the west would not be as big of a transition for KU as it would for others. At least today, KU has a bigger athletic department budget than CSU and would be well positioned to stay ahead of the Rams in the Big 12 pecking order. But CSU is in the process of bringing to Fort Collins a $200-million on-campus football stadium and, under former Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy, who is more than a little familiar with Kansas basketball, has enjoyed a strong and somewhat silent stretch of basketball during the past few seasons. Clearly, this is a program on the rise and, if what I’ve heard about their campaign for Big 12 inclusion is accurate, this is going to be one of the more aggressive schools out there when it comes to bidding for a Big 12 spot.

HOUSTON - I’m a big fan of what Houston is doing right now, but I’m not sure Kansas should be. Houston, in many ways, is a bit of a sleeping giant and could really blow up if it lands under the Big 12 umbrella. That would not necessarily be good news for Kansas, especially the football program. Right now, KU football can go into Houston and get some of those athletes who do not choose to sign with Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Baylor, occasionally even beating out UH for some of the same recruits. But if the Cougars are added to the conference, KU’s edge of being in a Power 5 conference goes away and it would make sense to assume that more than a few of those athletes would decide to stay home.

MEMPHIS - That high-dollar FedEx sponsorship that has been promised, should Memphis get in, would be a great thing for the Big 12 Conference and every single school in the league would benefit big time from that. From a competition perspective, it doesn’t seem like the Tigers would be too much of a threat to what KU can do. We’ll find out more about that in mid-September, when the Jayhawks head to Memphis for their third football game of the season. If anything, adding the Tigers would be a boost for the KU basketball program, provided that new head coach, Tubby Smith, can do in Memphis what he was starting to do at Texas Tech, giving KU an even greater strength of schedule than it already would have and another quality component to battle with in the weeks leading up to the Big Dance.

TULANE - Like the addition of Houston, this would be another blow to KU football, given KU’s recent success in recruiting the New Orleans area. If Tulane gets in, it joins LSU in becoming the only other Power 5 program in the state. That would do wonders for the Tulane football program, which, after inclusion, would have a lot more to offer all of that in-state talent that now is looking elsewhere for its college football needs. There are two sides to every coin, though, so as much as adding Tulane could hurt, it also could help make the mileage gap between Lawrence and Louisiana seem a little smaller given the conference brotherhood.

UCF – Orlando’s a big time market and there’s a lot to gain for the entire conference, should the Big 12 brass believe that now is the time to expand its footprint into Florida. The guess here is that it won’t be, but UCF recently has upgraded its coaching by bringing in Johnny Dawkins (of Stanford and Duke fame) to coach hoops and Scott Frost (of Nebraska and Oregon fame) to coach football. If that doesn’t tell you how serious the Knights are about upgrading their athletic department, nothing will. Adding a Florida-based program would be a bigger lift for KU football than KU hoops. Right now, Bill Self can go anywhere on the planet to recruit an athlete, while KU football has a more focused recruiting region. Adding UCF to the Big 12 would probably be the push KU needed to start exploring with a little more regularity what it can do in the Sunshine State.

UCONN – By far the biggest basketball program on the list that would add buzz to the Big 12, bringing UConn in would give Kansas its first truly elite conference partner in the college basketball world. Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas during the past decade or so all have been big time in the college basketball world. But those three combined can’t touch what UConn has done on the college basketball landscapre. National titles — both men’s and women’s — and Hall of Fame coaches are commonplace in Storrs, Connecticut. Add to that the fact that the UConn campus is less than an hour from ESPN headquarters in Bristol. The travel hit here would be significant. Storrs is 524 miles east of West Virginia (think Lawrence to Dallas), but the advantages seem to far outweigh the disadvantages.

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When They Were Gold: Today marks 1-year anniversary of KU’s World University Games triumph

Fans shout and reach out to Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. after Team USA's 78-68 semifinal victory over Russia on Sunday, July 12, 2015, at the World University Games in South Korea. Selden scored 22 points in the win.

Fans shout and reach out to Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. after Team USA's 78-68 semifinal victory over Russia on Sunday, July 12, 2015, at the World University Games in South Korea. Selden scored 22 points in the win. by Mike Yoder

In a lot of ways, it seems like much longer than one year ago that the Kansas men’s basketball players were standing on a podium in South Korea with USA splashed across their chests awaiting the presentation of their gold medals.

So much happened between now and then, from KU turning in a fabulous 33-5 2015-16 season and reaching the Elite Eight to the fight for Cheick Diallo’s eligibility, the NBA Draft and, of course, the departure of stars like Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden and the arrival of their successors Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike, that it hardly seems possible that the World University Games wrapped up just one year ago.

Such is life at the highest level of college basketball in today’s world, where things change quickly and only a few elements of each program remain consistent from year to year — coaching staffs, venues, fan base, etc.

Adding support to that point, Kansas returns just five members from that gold-medal squad at the 2015 Games to its 2016-17 roster: Frank Mason, Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg, Lagerald Vick and Tyler Self.

Ellis, Diallo, Selden and Brannen Greene all entered the NBA Draft following the 2015-16 season. Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Evan Manning graduated. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was ineligible because he was born outside of the United States. Devonte’ Graham did not play because he was injured. And SMU’s Nic Moore and Florida Gulf Coast’s Julian DeBose returned to their programs after the trip to Korea.

While many, including KU coach Bill Self, expected the Jayhawks to go over to Korea and suffer at least a couple of losses playing against grown men with international experience, the Jayhawks themselves never did. KU’s experienced and talented roster talked before it went about going over there with one thing in mind and that was winning a gold medal. Even those who believed that was possible did not envision a scenario in which KU would win eight games in 10 days without taking a loss.

That stretch included a double-overtime victory over Germany in the Gold Medal Game that ended early in the morning, Kansas time, and led to a day-long celebration by the team in Korea and KU fans back in Lawrence.

Devonte Graham, left, joins other Team USA players as they pile on Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. to celebrate their double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Devonte Graham, left, joins other Team USA players as they pile on Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. to celebrate their double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

KU won its eight games overseas by an average of 20 points per game, with three of the eight victories coming by nine points, the closest being a one-point win over Serbia that put KU into the quarterfinals and the biggest blowout coming by way of a 65-point drubbing of Chile.

The Journal-World’s Bobby Nightengale and Mike Yoder were the only Kansas media members who made the trip to Korea and they chronicled every aspect of the Jayahwks’ experience, from the wins and stats on the court to the discovery of Korean culture and a little down time off the court.

For those KU fans feeling particularly nostalgic on this one-year anniversary of one of the more memorable summers in Kansas hoops history, be sure to check out our KU in Korea page which provides links and chronicles all of Mike and Bobby’s coverage from KU's quest to bring home the gold.

Team USA players bite on their gold medals after a win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Team USA players bite on their gold medals after a win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

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NBA Draft delivers latest reasons NBA, NCAA should tweak draft rules

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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10 reasons why Bill Self is not leaving Kansas for the Houston Rockets

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?

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