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KU makes cut for two Top 40 Class of 2019 guards

None by Tre Mann

While the Kansas men's basketball program still has one scholarship to give in the 2018 recruiting class, Bill Self and the Jayhawks are making some solid progress on the 2019 class, as well.

Never was that more clear than earlier this week, when Class of 2019 point guard Tre Mann, from The Villages, Fla., included Kansas in his trimmed-down list of finalists that also included Florida and Tennessee.

Mann, a 6-foot-4, 170-pound four-star prospect, is ranked No. 37 overall by Rivals.com in the 2019 class.

Busy rehabbing an injured knee and trying to help his AAU team qualify for this summer's Peach Jam event, Mann recently talked to a couple of recruiting analysts about where he stands in his recruitment and had some flattering things to say about Kansas and Self.

“They have great guards that have come through there,” Mann told Russ Wood of Rivals site GatorTerritory.com. “They had guards with size, like tall guards, they have guards that can score from outside then they have another guard that’s also good at getting to the basket. So they were saying that I could be the guard with (incoming Class of 2018 point guard) Devon Dotson to score outside while he’s scoring inside. And really how much they know about developing players for the next level. We haven’t discussed any visits yet, we’ve just been talking and building relationships right now.”

In an interview with Pat Lawless of PrepCircuit.com, Mann added: “They told me that they will help me reach my goal, which is to get to the next level. I’ve seen them do it before with other players that are in the league now so I believe them. I know they are a really good program so why not have them in your top choices.”

Mann, who took two of his five official visits to Florida (May 1) and Tennessee (April 24) still has three visits remaining. Although nothing is on the schedule for a visit to Kansas, it seems like Mann would like to make the trek to Lawrence to take a closer look at the KU program.

Between his own AAU schedule and Self's duties coaching the USA Basketball U18 team during the first couple of weeks of June — Self leaves for training camp in Colorado Springs on Wednesday — the earliest Mann could set an official visit to Kansas would be late June.

But the playmaking point guard who is averaging 16 points, five rebounds and 2.4 assists per game so far this AAU season said he was interested in a KU visit.

“It will probably be later on,” he told Lawless. “I don’t have any set dates, but I didn’t have any set dates for Tennessee or Florida. I kind of felt like I wanted to go and I just set it up.”

As for a decision date?

“I don’t have any time in mind right now,” said Mann. “I’m just going with the flow, but I think it could be after AAU season.”

Earlier this month, KU also made the Top 6 for five-star shooting guard Cassius Stanley, a 6-5, 170-pound North Hollywood, Calif., prospect ranked No. 26 in the 2019 class by Rivals.com. Included with Kansas in Stanley's Top 6 — announced on Twitter — were Arizona, Oregon, Texas, UCLA and USC.

It's not yet clear how many scholarships the Jayhawks will have to give in the 2019 class, but the KU coaching staff seems to be operating with the idea that it will have at least three or four scholarships available for 2019 prospects.

Those would come from at least a couple of early departures from a crop that includes Udoka Azubuike, if he elects to return for his junior year — the deadline for Azubuike to decide hits Wednesday — Dedric Lawson, Silvio De Sousa and incoming freshman Quentin Grimes. Self also could still have in his pocket that remaining scholarship in the 2018 class.

None by Cassius Stanley

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Self believes 2018-19 Jayhawks could have 2 Big 12 Player of the Year candidates

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives a pat on the chest to Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) at the conclusion of the Jayhawks' practice on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives a pat on the chest to Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) at the conclusion of the Jayhawks' practice on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

As the Kansas men's basketball program closes in on one week remaining until players report back to campus for the start of summer school and summer workouts — and their leader prepares to leave campus for his stint with USA Basketball — KU coach Bill Self said his team was enjoying a quiet time of sorts in the wild and always-on modern world of college athletics.

A guest on Andy Katz's March Madness 365 podcast this week, Self said the past couple of months have been about as calm of a stretch as any he can remember.

“There have been less balls in the air this spring than there have been a lot of years,” Self said.

One of the reasons for that is the fact that Self and company nearly completed their recruiting in the 2018 class during the early period. Sure, the Jayhawks stayed in pursuit of Romeo Langford through the spring and do still have one scholarship still to give, but that was much easier to manage than it could have been, especially given the fact that the Jayhawks had five scholarships to dish out in the 2018 class.

“We signed one youngster late, but he had committed to us in January, so that wasn't really a surprise,” Self explained. “We were pretty much settled in early with our recruiting class, we signed a few early and then the one that committed to us in January. There weren't a lot of decisions to be made because four of my (2017-18 starters), two of them walked in and said they wanted to go to the combine and sign with an agent and two of them were seniors and so that left just one kid, Udoka Azubuike, to determine what he wanted to do.”

Azubuike, of course, spent last week at the NBA combine in Chicago and has until next Wednesday to decide whether to remain in the draft or pull his name out and return to Kansas for his junior season.

If he elects to do the latter, the 7-foot center will bring quite a bit to the Kansas lineup that will be looking to replace those four starters Self talked about.

“First of all, Udoka's so much better than even where he was four months ago, three months ago,” Self said. “We had to have a good spring with three or four of our guys and I think that happened.”

Asked to share names of those players, Self did not hesitate to mention a handful of newcomers and one returning player poised to make a big jump.

“Dedric Lawson's a really good player. He's taken his body and (improved it) and everything,” Self said of the Memphis transfer who sat out the 2017-18 season and is a likely starter at the 4 spot during the 2018-19 season. “And his brother, K.J. Lawson, has been really solid for us. Then the two kids who have been really impressive are a freshman we had, Marcus Garrett, most kids make the biggest jump between their freshman and sophomore year, and then we had a freshman sit out this past year that started at Cal last year, Charlie Moore.”

Although three of those four will be new to game action at KU next season, Self said the Jayhawks, though young in many ways, figure to have the luxury of still feeling like a veteran club because of the presence of that trio of transfers and Garrett.

“You look at it,” Self began. “We could lose all five starters, we will lose at least four, and what do they have coming back? The reality is we've got quite a bit coming back because we had those three sitting out last year.

“The big thing with us is we've been really fortunate that when we lose a bunch of guys we've had some guys waiting in the wings who have been role players that turned out to be primary guys for us.”

Two of those players, provided Azubuike returns, which most who have tracked his NBA testing expect to happen, can give Kansas the same type of elite player they have had during the past couple of years, albeit at a different position.

Asked if he thought he had a player who could follow in the footsteps of Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham, who earned back-to-back Big 12 player of the year and All-American honors, Self said simply, “I actually think we do.”

“I actually think that, depending on what Udoka does, Dedric Lawson is a guy that could compete for conference player of the year honors in addition to Udoka,” he said. “And the freshmen we have coming in, Devon Dotson and David McCormack were McDonald's All-Americans and all of that, but we have one freshman coming in, Quentin Grimes, that may be a guy that could be mentioned as one of the premiere freshmen in our league, as well. So I think we've got a nice blend of guys but we're just going to be a lot younger and more inexperienced.”

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Kansas ties easy to find as AD search begins at KU

Incoming freshman learn how to wave the wheat  at KU Traditions Night Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium. The annual event held before the start of each new school year aims to teach incoming freshmen about the traditions that make KU unique.

Incoming freshman learn how to wave the wheat at KU Traditions Night Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium. The annual event held before the start of each new school year aims to teach incoming freshmen about the traditions that make KU unique. by Mike Yoder

The tendency, when it comes to hiring searches of any kind, is to identify a handful of candidates who have ties to the place that has the job opening and go from there.

While that makes perfect sense, and while ties to any particular institution, in this case a university like KU, certainly can't hurt a candidate's chances, the connection is not something that makes any given candidate a lock to be a finalist or even receive serious interest from those doing the hiring.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a handful of athletic administrator types with ties to KU who might come to mind for some folks as Drue Jennings, Chancellor Doug Girod and the search firm KU has hired to help find their next AD go out into the world to begin their search.

Less than 24 hours after the news of Sheahon Zenger's firing had been made public, I received a handful of phone calls from people trying to rally support for their guy. In each case, their guy had those Kansas ties we talked about above and some were more interesting options than others.

• Mike Harrity, Senior Associate AD at Notre Dame

Harrity, a Kansas City native who received a journalism degree from KU and also has a Master's degree in education, worked in both the KU and Minnesota athletic departments before moving to Notre Dame in 2011.

Since joining the Fighting Irish athletic department, Harrity has handled a number of roles and duties, most of them designed with the student-athlete experience in mind.

According to his Notre Dame bio, Harrity works “closely with the Athletics Advancement team on top priorities, including the Advisory Council for the Student-Athlete, to secure funding for key department strategic initiatives. The Advisory Council for the Student-Athlete is comprised of alumni, family and friends of Notre Dame who invest their time, talent and treasure helping fuel the vision for Athletics while building an endowment for all coaching positions, grants-in-aid and student-athlete services. Harrity serves as Athletics Chair on three of the four Advisory Council committees: Sports Science/Sports Performance, Leadership and Personal Growth, and Career Development.

A few people I spoke with said they thought Harrity would consider the KU AD position a dream job and one even called him the perfect fit for the position.

Age, Harrity was in school around the same I was and is likely in the 39-41 range, and limited experience could make it difficult for Harrity to crack the list of finalists, but he seems like a name worthy of a spot on the radar.

A few years back, I talked with Harrity about one of his crowning achievements outside of a college athletic department, his 2012 book titled “Coaching Wisdom,” in which he solicited the help of 13 college coaches who had won a combined 103 championships — including Lou Holtz and John Wooden — to examine the creation of cultures of sustained excellence.

• Greg Gurley, Assistant Athletic Director, Major Gifts at KU

Gurley's is another name that I received a couple of calls about in the past 24 hours and I even saw Fox Sports anaylst Doug Gottlieb out on Twitter trying to promote Gurley as a decent candidate for the job.

There are, without question, qualities that Gurley possesses that would serve him well in an athletic director role, but those qualities do not outweigh Gurley's lack of administrative experience.

Yes, he has worked closely with the Williams Fund for years in a fund-raiser role — in addition to his gig as a color analyst for KU men's basketball games on the radio with Brian Hanni — but Gurley's resume pales in comparison to the candidates who likely will be on the search committee's list, many people who have made it their life's work to pursue the path of one day winding up in an AD role.

I caught up with Gurley about the idea on Tuesday afternoon and he seemed to be in agreement that his limited experience would not make him the best candidate for the job.

“It's very flattering to hear that people think I might be good at it,” Gurley told the Journal-World. “But I'm very happy in my current position. My goal is to be a lifer in this athletic department and to eventually be in a John Hadl type of role where I've been around for a long time and done a little bit of everything. I'd like to be a guy who ends up putting my stamp on a bunch of things in college athletics, but administration is not really my thing.”

Beyond that, Gurley, who has seen some of the inner workings of the athletic director job, added that the role of an AD in today's world is “a stressful job and I respect the heck out of the guys who do it.”

• Terry Mohajir, Athletic Director at Arkansas State

Mohajir's name was on our initial list and it's possible that he might wind up on the committee's list, as well.

After spending 13 months at KU — following a stint on Glen Mason's football staff in the 1990s — Mohajir has been at ASU for the past six years in addition to his time as a Senior Associate AD at Florida Atlantic from 2004-11, when he oversaw development, ticket sales, corporate sales and the media relations department.

Mohajir's ties to KU may be somewhat limited, but his work away from Lawrence has put him in a favorable light.

While at Kansas, his duties included many of those that he handled elsewhere and expanded to include assisting in the operations for the Williams Educational Fund and directing the efforts of the Marketing and Game-Day Experience staffs.

Since landing at Arkansas State, his alma mater, Mohajir has impressed with his ability to upgrade facilities and also worked with elite football coaches, first for one year with Gus Malzahn, who now is at Auburn, and later hiring Bryan Harsin, who now leads the Boise State program.

• Banks Floodman, Sunflower Development Group

The former face of the Williams Fund who was a standout linebacker at KU during his days as a college athlete, Floodman had long been one of the more polished, popular and liked people in the KU athletic department.

However, in 2016, almost to the day, Floodman announced that he as leaving KU to get into the commercial construction business and, from talking to those who know him well, he has just started to flourish in his new role.

That does not mean that Floodman would not be interested in talking about the KU AD job. But one person told me that, while Floodman “has AD material written all over him” he might be a better candidate the next time the job comes open, when he has both more experience in the business world and more time to make connections that might serve him well.

While heading up the Williams Fund for three years, Floodman played a crucial role in raising the funds to build the relatively new basketball dorm, McCarthy Hall, the DeBruce Center, which houses James Naismith's original rules of basketball, and a $2 million renovation of the Anderson Family Football Complex next to Memorial Stadium.

• Richard Konzem, head men's and women's golf coach Rockhurst University

A familiar name and face around KU throughout the past few decades, Konzem has been involved in intercollegiate athletics for more than 35 years, including four years as the athletic director at Rockhurst University, from 2007-11, and a stint as the interim AD at KU during his days with the Kansas athletic department.

Konzem spent 23 years at KU, filling a bunch of difference roles, including Senior Associate AD who supervised men's and women's basketball, football, baseball and golf.

He also had a stint as the AD at Benedictine College in Atchison and also was the Chief Operating Officer for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

By far the biggest athletic department veteran on this list, Konzem's name would be familiar to boosters and his love of KU is well known. His time away from major college athletics might be too much of a hurdle to overcome for him to merit any serious consideration for the job. He could, however, be a valuable resource for the department after a hire is made or perhaps even during the search.

His role in the hiring of Bill Self back in 2003 was significant and he has connections and history with administrators throughout other athletic departments in the Big 12.

• Sean Lester, interim AD at Kansas

Another name on the original list, Lester is beginning his second stint as interim AD at KU and his role under both Lew Perkins and Zenger seemed to increase just about every year since he arrived in 2003.

Lester, who has played a key role in overseeing men's basketball, football and baseball, as well as special projects throughout his time at Kansas was promoted to Senior Associate AD in July of 2011 and promoted again to Deputy AD in January 2013.

The fact that he now has been twice trusted to handle the transition from one athletic director to the next says something.

• Pat Warren, President Kansas Speedway

A blast from my personal past came up this afternoon when Pat Warren's name was tossed my way. Warren, who served as an Associate AD at KU under Bob Frederick when I was in school in his late 20s and early 30s was the KU official I interviewed for a story I did way back when about KU's construction of the giant press box and suites that have been a fixture at Memorial Stadium for the past couple of decades now.

Anyway, here's why he's a name worth watching. Warren is sharp. Like big time sharp. He's loaded with university and business-world experience and also has a KU law degree on top of his political science degree from KU. In addition to that, he holds a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in marketing and finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Promoted to Speedway president in March of 2010, Warren seeks to provide strategic leadership across all aspects of the facility’s operations including financial and capital planning, ticket sales, event execution, sponsorship sales, marketing and public relations. He also represents Kansas Speedway within the industry and community, continually elevating the facility’s profile both regionally and nationally.

Warren was previously Kansas Speedway’s Vice President and was responsible for developing and executing marketing plans, developing all corporate partnerships, overseeing the development and execution of media relations plans for Kansas Speedway and its events, and community relations.

Prior to his time at Kansas Speedway, Warren, an Overland Park native, worked for Embarq, a spin-off company of Sprint-Nextel, where he worked in consumer marketing after leaving KU.

• Jay Hinrichs, Development Director, Johnson County Parks and Recreation District

Don't let the current title scare you off. Hinrichs is one of the few people on this list who actually has sat in an AD's chair. He did so for eight years at Northern Colorado after leaving KU, where he served as an associate AD from 2002-04.

Prior to that, Hirnichs was the Vice President of Business Development for two years with the Kansas City Royals and he worked as the Royals' Assistant GM and Director of Stadium Operations for 15 years prior to that.

Hinrichs has been in parks and recreation for the past couple of years and holds degrees from KU in psychology and personnel administration and an MBA in finance.

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How Svi Mykhailiuk’s pro career could begin the way a future Hall of Famer’s once did

Svi Mykhailiuk at the NBA combine. (photo courtesy @NBADraft and NBA.com)

Svi Mykhailiuk at the NBA combine. (photo courtesy @NBADraft and NBA.com) by Matt Tait

It's comparison season here at KUsports.com and we have no shortage of former Kansas basketball players to pay attention to this week at the NBA combine in Chicago.

As you surely know by now, KU sharpshooter Svi Mykhailiuk went off on Thursday during his first scrimmage of the combine, knocking in 6 of 9 from 3-point range and leading his team with a game-high 20 points.

KU assistant coach Norm Roberts said Svi “opened some eyes” with his Thursday performance. And while there are still mock drafts out there that don't have him being drafted, there also are a few that do.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Svi and the draft — June 21 in Brooklyn, N.Y. — and, at this point, it's anybody's guess whether his pro basketball future lies in the NBA or in Europe.

But couldn’t that be in both places, though?

Let’s say that Svi gets drafted and is “stashed” — as the NBA Draft lingo goes — in Europe for a couple of years, with an NBA team retaining his rights while he develops overseas. His native Ukrainian status make him an easy option to send overseas for a while because teams know he could handle the cultural adjustment.

Besides, the move is good for both player and team, with the former making a little money — or perhaps even a lot — along the way.

Put aside what you know about the player I’m about to mention and just look at the potential similarities. Don’t look at skill set, style of play or, obviously, the career enjoyed by the comparison. Instead, look at how he got there.

When you do, I think you’ll see that it’s entirely possible that Svi Mykhailiuk could — again, could — go on to follow the career path of San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili.

Way back in 1999, at the age of 22, Ginobili was drafted with the No. 57 pick (of 60) by San Antonio and then promptly spent the first three years of his professional career playing overseas in Italy.

Obviously, Ginobili did enough there to catch the eye of the folks in San Antonio and the rest is history.

Over his 16-year NBA career, Ginobili won four NBA titles, was named to the All-Star team twice, earned all-NBA honors twice and also was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2008.

Even if his career goes as well as he could possibly hope, it’s hard to imagine Svi enjoying a career like that. Those are some incredible accomplishments and Ginobili is almost certain to be inducted into the Hall of Fame someday. Svi’s not there yet. Not even close.

But he is on the brink of getting drafted. And if he does it’s looking more and more likely that it will be in the mid-to-late second round. Beyond that, there’s a better-than-good chance that whichever team does draft him also will want to at least explore the idea of the soon-to-be 21-year-old playing a couple of seasons overseas to better develop his game before joining the big league club.

A lot of this, of course, depends on which team ultimately drafts him and what that franchise needs at the moment.

There’s probably a better comparison for Svi in the NBA. And probably one that doesn’t match him up against a future Hall of Famer.

But when you consider the path that Ginobili took to get to that status, it’s not hard to envision Svi’s pro career at least starting in a similar way.

Where he takes it from there is up to him. But he would do well to watch plenty of film on Ginobili and soak up as many of the skills and philosophies that made the Argentinian such a sensational player for so many seasons, not to mention a thorn in the side of so many NBA teams and superstars.

Evidently, he’s already well on his way.

None by Sviat Mykhailiuk

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NBA Combine 2018: The measurements are in

The NBA Combine 2018 is under way in Chicago

The NBA Combine 2018 is under way in Chicago by Matt Tait

Just before Noon on Thursday, the NBA started releasing the various measurements of the 69 NBA Draft hopefuls participating at this week's combine in Chicago.

Most of the measurements — height, weight, hand size, body fat, etc. — were taken Wednesday but some had to finish up on Thursday morning before getting to the fun part of the combine this afternoon — on-court drills, athletic testing and, of course, 5-on-5 scrimmages.

While we wait for that stuff to get going, the numbers are worth looking at. First a chart to track the notable measurements of the five Jayhawks in attendance. And then a few quick thoughts about what you're looking at.

It's always interesting to look at these numbers and then compare them — heights and weights, at least — to the numbers these guys carried with them throughout their college careers on KU's official team rosters.

Without further ado, here's a quick look at the five Jayhawks in Chicago, by the numbers:

Kansas
Player
Height
(in shoes)
Height
(w/o shoes)
Body Fat
Percentage
Body
Weight
Wing
Span
Standing
Reach
Hand
Length
Hand
Width
Udoka
Azubuike, C
7' .25" 6' 10" 7.95% 273.8 lbs 7' 7" 9' 4.5" 9.5" 10"
Devonte'
Graham, PG
6' 1.5" 6' .25" 4.80% 186.4 lbs 6' 6.25" 8' 0" 8.5" 9.5"
Svi
Mykhailiuk, SG
6' 7.75" 6' 6.5" 8.45% 211.6 lbs 6' 4.75" 8' 4" 8.25" 9.5"
Malik
Newman, SG
6' 3.25" 6' 2.5" 6.25% 189.2 lbs 6' 5.5" 8' 2.5" 8.5" 9.5"
Billy
Preston, PF
6' 10.5" 6' 8.75" 5.45% 222.4 lbs 7' 2" 9' 0" 9.25" 9.5"

Now, a few quick thoughts on those numbers (as well as relevant comparisons for perspective) before hopping on to watch some of the workouts, which can be seen from 2-6 p.m. today on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app.

• First off, Graham's 4.8% body fat is just insane. I mean, wow. There's a reason that guy was able to play 40 minutes — or at least 38+ — during most of KU's games last season and it has everything to do with his conditioning and the way he took care of his body. He did not carry any extra weight, which often is the reason behind injuries, and was a physical specimen out there running all over the floor. For perspective, I recently joined Genesis Health Clubs, will be 40 this summer and my body fat percentage is a shade over 22%, which my trainer said still puts me in the healthy range for my age, height and weight. And I'm a pretty active guy who still plays ball twice a week and works out 3 or 4 times a week. Graham's 4.8 percent, along with Azubuike's 7.95 number for that matter, just blows my mind.

• Let's stick with Graham for a quick minute. It's always a big moment for guards when they register taller than 6 feet and Graham got there, both in shoes and out of shoes. I know there's not a huge difference between 5-11 and 3/4 and 6-0 1/4 in terms of actual height, but there is when it comes to the sound of it. A lot of NBA execs are turned off immediately by guys who are listed under 6 feet tall. Big news for Graham that he got over that benchmark. As for the other heights, I thought it was interesting that Preston was nearly 6-11 in shoes and also think it's good news for Azubuike than he is a legit 7-footer in shoes. Newman topping the 6-3 mark was a little bit of a surprise but not much.

• Let's look at wing span real quick. If you've looked at him even just once in your life, it should come as no surprise to you that Azubuike's wing span was massive. When that guy walks up and down the floor, his arms hang down past his quads and his long arms have played a huge role in him getting good position and scoring with such ease inside. Azubuike's wing span was the second biggest as the entire combine, second only to Texas' Mo Bamba, who checked in at 7 feet, 10 inches. Graham's 6-6 wing span was pretty impressive for a guard who barely topped the 6-foot mark and, as I'm sure most of you have heard throughout the past couple of years, Svi checked in with the shortest wing span of all of KU's players at a shade under 6-5. Although that does not have a huge impact on his game, it is one of the things that hurts Svi a little in the eyes of the scouts.

• I know hand measurements are important, that whole being able to grip the ball and get into passing lanes and such thing, but I've never really paid much attention to them. So today I went out and measured mine just for comparison's sake. Again, I'm a 6-foot tall, pretty average 40-year-old dude when it comes to height, weight and things of that nature. So keep that in mind here. My hand width, fingers spread from outside of the thumb to outside of the pinky: Just under 8.5 inches. My hand length, top of my middle finger to where my wrist meets my palm: Right about 8 inches even. So take those measurements into account when you consider that all of these guys had hands of 9.5 inches wide or better and most were 8.5 inches long or better. It might not seem by much, but it makes a big difference when it comes to release and handling the ball. I can palm a ball, but have never been able to dunk. That's mostly because of the flat feet and lack of vertical jumping ability my parents blessed me with.

• As for body weights, most of those are right where we expected them. Graham and Newman are both built very solidly. Having all of that muscle and less body fat will do that for you. Azubuike's low-270 number shows he's been putting in some serious work in recent weeks. He was listed at 280 on KU's 2017-18 roster. And Preston, who also is really lean at 222 pounds, was listed near 240 when he arrived at KU. I've seen some stuff from his trainers and those watching his workouts who have said that he looked like the best athlete in the gym during the combine prep.

More to come later this afternoon after drills and such get going.

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NBA Combine 2018: Interviews & measurements under way, on-court action to begin Thursday afternoon

Devonte' Graham promotional photo courtesy of @NBADraft and NBA.com.

Devonte' Graham promotional photo courtesy of @NBADraft and NBA.com. by Matt Tait

While Wednesday marked the first day of the NBA's pre-draft combine, it almost exclusively featured the off-the-court action at the five-day event that flies a bit under the radar in terms of media coverage.

From interviews with NBA team officials and photo shoots in front of the camera to player measurements, Wednesday's activity, which began early Wednesday afternoon and runs through the evening, was merely an orientation of sorts for the nearly 70 draft hopefuls who made the trip to Chicago this week for the combine.

The Kansas basketball program will be well represented throughout the week, with former Jayhawks Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman, along with current KU center Udoka Azubuike and never-was Jayhawk Billy Preston also at the showcase.

The action will pick up substantially throughout the day today, when the players run through shooting drills, athletic testing and live scrimmages in front of front office types and NBA coaches and scouts for much of the afternoon. The live action stuff will follow a second round of team interviews Thursday morning. Check ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app for coverage of the drills and scrimmages from 2-6 p.m.

Thursday is the day when most of the elite prospects who attended the combine will get their longest looks before moving on and paving the way for the players who are likely to be taken in the late-first and second round of the June 21 NBA Draft to take center stage.

Friday will feature more interviews, drills, testing and scrimmages and throughout the day and a meeting with representatives from the NBA's Players Association in the evening.

On Saturday and Sunday, it's more meetings with NBPA reps and the NBA's player development group along with medical testing for all combine participants who remain.

From there, the former Jayhawks and their peers will leave Chicago to return to their agents and trainers to prepare for team workouts that will take place during the next couple of weeks.

Graham will be one of the few players who will stick around The Windy City an extra day to attend a Chicago Bulls team workout on Monday.

Graham also will be one of those players who figures to really benefit from the off-the-court aspects of the combine as much as what he's able to do on the court.

“I've heard they ask you crazy questions,” said Graham while laughing about the memory of his former KU teammate, Frank Mason III, being asked last year how he would like to die. “But I feel like my personality and all the media training we did here will help me out.”

As for the physical aspects. People know Graham can shoot, they know he's tough, they know he's a natural-born leader and they know he now has true point guard skills. But the recent KU graduate from Raleigh, N.C., said recently that the combine could provide him the platform to flash a few elements of his game that NBA evaluators may not be aware of at this point.

“Some of the agility stuff,” he said. “People might not how quick you can move laterally and stuff like that. I mean, my (vertical jump) test might not be the best ever, but I still feel like just getting out there in front of the GMs and scouts and stuff will just help me.”

Watch Svi hit 13 3-pointers in a row during a light shoot-around Wednesday night:

None by Jonathan Givony

Watch Malik Newman fly high during the vertical test on Thursday:

None by NBA Draft

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KU coach Bill Self to rappel down a 7-story building for charity later this summer

Kansas head coach Bill Self lauds his players before 14 Big 12 conference championship trophies during the celebration following their 80-70 win over Texas on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. The win gave the Jayhawks an outright win of their 14th-straight Big 12 Conference title.

Kansas head coach Bill Self lauds his players before 14 Big 12 conference championship trophies during the celebration following their 80-70 win over Texas on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. The win gave the Jayhawks an outright win of their 14th-straight Big 12 Conference title. by Nick Krug

Later this summer, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self will be literally stepping out of his comfort zone in an effort to help raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.

Self, on Aug. 25, will be rappelling down the side of a seven-story building in Downtown Lawrence as the featured guest in an “Over the Edge Global” fund-raiser to benefit the local chapter of the Boys & Girls club.

According to a press release, Self was among the first people to sign up for the event, which asks participants to raise at least $1,000 from their friends, family and fans to sponsor the act of bravery.

“I’ve never scaled a building or bungee jumped or done anything that is remotely comparable to what we’ll be doing on this day,” said Self, who will be scaling down the side of the 888 Lofts building (888 New Hampshire) along with others on that day in late August. “But I’m excited and it’s for a good cause. Hopefully it will generate a lot of interest from a lot of people.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence is still seeking others to join Self as “edgers” for their big event and the fun is open to people of all ages.

No experience is required in order to rappel, and there is no age requirement. Over The Edge will send professional, certified technicians to install and supervise all rappelling equipment and participants. The only requirement is that participants must be between 100-300 pounds. Even people in wheelchairs are able to rappel for charity but must contact Alissa Bauer — abauer@bgclk.org — at the Boys & Girls Club to arrange the proper accommodations ahead of time.

For Self and his wife, Cindy, who have been longtime supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, the fun of stepping off of a building is about much more than tackling something he never has done.

“I participated actively in the Boys & Girls Club in Oklahoma City when I was young,” Self said. “With coaching, I’ve seen so many players, especially from the inner cities, that were involved — and in many cases saved — by the efforts of Boys & Girls Club. It’s something that is very near and dear to us.”

Since 2008, Over The Edge Global has helped non-profits raise more than $70 million and put 52,000 people safely “Over The Edge.”

While the August event will be the first of its kind in Lawrence, the closest OTE rappel session happened at the Westar Energy building in Topeka back in September of 2015, when funds were raised to benefit the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.

“This is not your everyday auction or golf tournament,” said Boys & Girls Club CEO Colby Wilson. “We wanted to expand our already awesome group of supporters. I’m really looking forward to seeing who we can engage with this. The timing lines up perfectly with the grand opening of our new facility, and we will have a lot of people we want to thank and have fun with. This event will help us do both.”

To register to join Self in climbing down the building or to learn more about the event, check out the Over The Edge Lawrence web site.

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KU point-guards-in-waiting confident enough to get the job done

Freshman point guard Devon Dotson will be asked to both play and fill a big role for the Jayhawks during the 2018-19 season.

Freshman point guard Devon Dotson will be asked to both play and fill a big role for the Jayhawks during the 2018-19 season. by Matt Tait

There's this notion out there that it's going to be tough for the Kansas men's basketball team to move forward with somebody new in the driver's seat, playing point guard for Bill Self's team during the 2018-19 season.

Makes sense, if you ask me.

After all, the next KU basketball season will be the first in four seasons that did not feature either Frank Mason III, Devonte' Graham or both handling point guard duties for the Jayhawks.

Big shoes to fill. A tough adjustment for the coaching staff, players and, probably most obviously, the adoring Kansas fan base.

But KU fans need not worry about whether the Jayhawks have pieces in place who are capable of handling the role.

We may not yet know if Cal transfer Charlie Moore or incoming freshman Devon Dotson will be able to put up the kind of numbers that Graham and Mason did during their best seasons as Jayhawks.

In case you have not yet grown tired of hearing about those two, here's one way to look at their careers that you might not yet have considered. In the five seasons where KU's latest dynamic duo ran the show in the Jayhawks' backcourt, Mason and Graham's combined averages were: 15.2 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 4.9 assists per game and a 41.8 percent clip from 3-point range.

Getting numbers like those from either Moore or Dotson this season — or even the two of them combined — while not impossible to foresee will not be easy.

But forget about numbers for a minute. One of the strengths of the 2018-19 team will be its depth and when you've got nine or 10 guys who can log minutes on the court, the pressure is off of any one or two guys to put up big numbers.

So let's focus on that other element of what being a point guard is all about — confidence, leadership, style and sizzle.

Moore, a tough and crafty guard from Chicago with an outgoing personality, had enough of those qualities to earn the start in all 34 games for Cal during his freshman season in 2016-17. He also was named Mr. Basketball Illinois following his stellar senior season of high school, when he averaged 28 points, 7 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds per game.

Kansas sophomore point guard Charlie Moore pulls up for a shot during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Kansas sophomore point guard Charlie Moore pulls up for a shot during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. by Nick Krug

And then there's Dotson. We don't know exactly what he's capable of yet in terms of delivering at the Division I level. But we do know he has style. Lots of it.

Look no further than the recent graduation video he released to see that for yourself.

Regardless of who's running point for Kansas next season, Self's squad appears to be in good hands in natural leadership and confidence department.

And in case you're entertaining the idea of comparing either of these players to Graham or Mason for the next couple of seasons, do yourself a favor and cast that idea aside today.

Both of those guys, in terms of statistics and what they brought to the program, are all-time greats in program history and asking anyone to replicate their careers is an awfully difficult thing to ask for.

Be sure to check out that Dotson video in the link provided above to get a real feel for the young man's flare.

It should be a fun battle to see which one of these two players wins the starting job — my money's still on Dotson — and how they work together to try to fill Graham and Mason's shoes.

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KU coach Bill Self talks about his options for the Jayhawks’ 13th scholarship for 2018-19

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches over during a shoot around on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches over during a shoot around on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

As graduation 2018 comes and goes and next season's Kansas men's basketball players head home for a few weeks before reporting back to campus on June 2 for the start of summer classes and workouts, Bill Self's Jayhawks remain in possession of a valuable commodity — an unused scholarship.

Thanks to the departure of five scholarship players from last year's team — six, if sophomore center Udoka Azubuike elects to keep his name in the draft — and the fact that the 2018 recruiting class features just four replacements, KU still has one spot left to fill before the 2018-19 season arrives.

But don't bank on the Jayhawks filling that spot. So says KU coach Bill Self, who discussed his options with the Journal-World this week and said the potential for him to keep the 13th scholarship in his pocket was a “good possibility.”

“Oh yeah,” Self said when asked about hanging on to the 13th scholarship. “Especially because we won't have any seniors next year.”

Because there are no seniors on the 2018-19 roster, there is no guarantee that Kansas will get any scholarships back to use on prospects in the loaded 2019 recruiting class.

With that said, it seems likely that KU will have at least two or three open spots after next season because of the potential for early departures from players like Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa and Quentin Grimes.

As of today, the scholarship players on the 2018-19 roster are:

• 4 freshmen — Grimes, Ochai Agbaji, Devon Dotson and David McCormack
• 4 sophomores — Silvio De Sousa, Marcus Garrett, K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore
• 4 juniors — Azubuike, Sam Cunliffe, Dedric Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot

That's not to say the Jayhawks definitely will hold on to the scholarship instead of giving it out. Just last week, KU welcomed grad transfer Joe Cremo to town for a visit — Cremo ultimately committed to Villanova — and Self and his coaching staff remain on the lookout for the right addition to the 2018-19 roster.

Finding that player is easier said than done, however, given the fact that most of the 2018 talent is already spoken for and very few high-major prospects, if any, remain available.

“We'd have to have something fall out of the sky right now,” Self said. “But we could go with what we've got. There's no problem with that.”

The other option for the Jayhawks, as they have shown a willingness to do in recent years, is to take a transfer who would have to sit out the 2018-19 season the way Malik Newman sat out 2016-17 and Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore sat out the recently completed 2017-18 season.

“That's a possibility,” Self said. “But there's no panic on the deal, though.”

The bottom line, at least as of today, is this: While Self and company would be open to filling the spot if the right player surfaced, they have no plans to use the scholarship just to do it and also feel no pressure to get it done quickly.

While there are players out there who might be considered intriguing options, Self said he and his staff were still in the starting blocks for the few players who are on their radar.

And with Self leaving to coach the U18 USA Basketball team on May 30 through the middle of June, things could be put on hold for a while anyway.

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NBA Draft combine alternate Lagerald Vick invited to alternative pro hoops combine May 22-23

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) dives for a ball during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) dives for a ball during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. by Nick Krug

Former KU guard Lagerald Vick may just be listed as an alternate for next week's pre-draft NBA Combine, May 16-20 in Chicago, but that won't keep the 6-foot-5 Memphis native from showcasing his skills for pro basketball talent evaluators this month.

According to a press release sent out on Tuesday, Vick has agreed to participate at the 2018 Professional Basketball Combine presented by Hfactor May 22 and 23 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Much like its NBA-sanctioned counterpart, those who participate will have their accommodations and food expenses covered for the two nights they are there. In addition, the PBC sponsors will provide media training, a marketing consultation, a photo shoot, a branding workshop and access to IMG's trainers and staff, weight room and training facilities during their stay.

The PBC web site touts the experience as an “opportunity to workout, do combine testing and interview for NBA GMs, NBA scouts, G-League personnel and overseas opportunities in what could be a life changing experience.”

According to the site, “A player may only attend the Professional Basketball Combine if they have entered their name into the 2018 NBA Draft or have given up their amateur status.”

As of Tuesday, Vick had not yet signed with an agent but still planned to do so.

As for the reason the PBC was founded in the first place? That, too, is spelled out clearly on the web site.

“We believe that elite athletes should have another avenue to showcase their abilities and increase marketability. Will we find the NBA’s next superstar? We hope so.”

Twenty-three participants who attended the combine in 2017 and four of them landed two-way contracts between the NBA and G League, 11 signed with G League teams and eight secured opportunities overseas.

“We are excited to welcome Lagerald to the 2018 PBC and look forward to seeing him compete in a few weeks,” the release read.

Beyond Vick, Jonathan Williams, of Gonzaga, and internationally famous Ball Brother, LiAngelo Ball, are the biggest names committed to this year's PBC as of today.

Five of Vick's former KU teammates — Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman, Udoka Azubuike and Billy Preston — all are scheduled to participate in next week's NBA combine in Chicago. All of them but Azubuike have exhausted their eligibility at Kansas.

The KU center, who will be a junior next season, should he return to school, has until May 30 to pull his name out of the draft.

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