If you’ve been following along closely during the past couple of months, you probably can recite most of the list yourself.
More than a dozen men’s basketball recruits from the Classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019 will be in attendance Saturday night at the 32nd annual Late Night in the Phog event at Allen Fieldhouse.
The most recent player to add his name to the list is five-star point guard Trevon Duval, from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Duval, ranked No. 3 overall in the 2017 class by Rivals.com, will be on campus as an unofficial visitor and he joins point guards Collin Sexton and Tremont Waters in visiting Late Night this weekend.
Six of the prospects in town this weekend will be visitors from the Class of 2017. The rest, at least as of today, will be here on unofficial visits, simply trying to get a taste of one of the biggest nights of the year in Lawrence, Kansas.
KU coach Bill Self said last week that the program probably has too many prospects coming and added that the challenge with such a long list would be to make every player feel like he got the proper attention and a quality look at the program. That’s where the assistants, support staff and even the current players themselves come into play.
Earlier this week, KU guard Devonte’ Graham talked about his role in recruiting and it was clear that the job was one that Graham and most of his teammates take very seriously.
“I’m not too pushy as a recruiter,” Graham said. “They’re around me, a lot of them ask me questions about Coach Self, like what he’s like in practices and stuff like that and I just be as honest with them as possible.”
Asked for a more specific example of the kinds of insight he provides, Graham’s answer carried with it a strong theme.
“It’s not easy. It’s not gonna be easy. You’re gonna have to come in here and work. Nothing’s given to you. Stuff like that,” he said. “But there’s nothing like being here. That’s one thing I always say. No matter where you come from, it’s one of the best places to be. That’s what I tell ’em.”
As is common throughout college athletics, the KU coaching staff often tries to pair up hosts and visitors based on obvious connections. For some it’s the same position. For others it’s the same hometown or general area. And still for more, it’s based on common interests. Graham said the pairings of hosts and visitors absolutely can make an impact.
“I definitely have some recruits that I like better than others, that you vibe with better than others or you just like the way they play or act,” he said. “It’s definitely tough trying to get guys here. Because when they’re traveling to all the top colleges across the world, it’s tough because they hear the same thing over and over.”
While the role of the players is merely to entertain, answer questions and offer a realistic and quality look into what life as a Kansas basketball player is like, Graham said the job does not end when the prospects leave town.
“Coaches ask us, ‘Do you think they would fit well with us,’ and stuff like that,” Graham said. “And I tell ’em yes or no, what I liked about ’em or didn’t like about ’em. Stuff like that.”
Below is the list of known visitors, broken down by class, with their vital stats and Rivals.com ranking included:
Class of 2017
• SG/SF Troy Brown – Las Vegas — 5 stars, 6-foot-6, 195 pounds, No. 12 overall
• PG Trevon Duval – IMG Academy – 5 stars, 6-foot-2, 189 pounds, No. 3 overall
• PF Billy Preston – Oak Hill Academy — 5 stars, 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, No. 8 overall
• PF Cody Riley – Chatsworth, California — 4 stars, 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, No. 34 overall
• PG Collin Sexton – Mableton, Georgia — 5 stars, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, No. 7 overall
• PG Tremont Waters – West Haven, Connecticut — 4 stars, 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, No. 36 overall
Class of 2018
• PF Bol Bol – Bishop Miege (KC) — 5 stars, 6-foot-11, 180 pounds, No. 14 overall
• Kennan Fitzmorris – St. James Academy (KC) — 3 stars, 6-foot-10, 200 pounds, No. 109 overall
• PG Immanuel Quickley – Bel Air, Maryland — 5 stars, 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, No. 12 overall
Class of 2019
• SG Zach Harvey – Hayden (Topeka) — 4 stars, 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, Not yet rated
• PF Matthew Hurt – Rochester, Minnesota — 5 stars, 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, No. 5 overall
• PG Markese Jacobs – Chicago — 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, Not yet rated
• PF Jeremiah Robinson – Bishop Miege (KC) — 4 stars, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, No. 18 overall
• SG Grant Sherfield – Ft. Worth, Texas — 4 stars, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, No. 19 overall
• PG Brandon Williams – Encino, California — 4 stars, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, No. 25 overall
A handful of players on the Kansas men’s basketball team made the short trip across Naismith Drive Wednesday night to become spectators at the men’s and women’s 3-on-3 basketball tournament benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer.
Devonte’ Graham, Josh Jackson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Dwight Coleby and newcomer Malik Newman checked out a little of the action at the tournament that coincides with this week’s Late Night in the Phog. The top two teams on the men’s side and the top two teams on the women’s side will do battle at Allen Fieldhouse for the 3-on-3 title. KU coaches Bill Self and Brandon Schneider will dole out the trophies to the winning teams.
While the players in attendance clowned around with some of the participants and oohed and ahhed at some of the skills they saw, the most important thing about the night, according to Newman, was to show a little support the other direction.
“Those are the same people that are in the stands cheering for us night in and night out,” Newman told a group of reporters at the event. “For us to come interact with them and show them we care about their support means a lot to those guys.”
As for the action he saw during the night’s games, Newman said he was impressed by how hard everyone played.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some people. For these guys to sign up, come out, help the cause and just compete, hoping to get a shot to play in Allen Fieldhouse, I think it’s a great thing.”
As for Newman’s first few weeks at his new home, the Mississippi native and Mississippi State transfer who will be forced to sit out this season because of NCAA transfer rules had nothing but good things to say about his decision to come to the Midwest.
“I love it. I love it,” he said. “It’s been a great month, on the court, off the court, in the community and in the classroom. I’m enjoying myself right now.”
As if the excitement and expectation surrounding Kansas freshman Josh Jackson was not already large enough, now we get this.
Rob Dauster, of NBC Sports, on Wednesday released his preseason All-American college basketball teams. And there on the first team, along with a couple of veterans and a couple of fellow underclassmen, was KU's Josh Jackson.
It's no surprise that the 6-foot-8 freshman from Detroit by way of Prolific Prep in Napa, California, is getting some serious love heading into the 2016-17 season. Jackson has been projected as one of the top 3-5 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft for more than a year and also has earned several preseason all-Big 12 and Big 12 player of the year nods, as well.
But this All-American stuff takes things to a whole new level. And it's probably a level that Jackson deserves and definitely is a level that Jackson can reach.
In sliding into Wayne Selden's spot in the starting lineup, Jackson will be replacing 1,134 minutes, 399 shots (189 of them three-pointers) and 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
It's going to take more than that for Jackson to earn first-team All-American honors, but there definitely is more available. Not only did the Jayhawks lose Selden from last year's 33-5 team, they also lost leading scorer Perry Ellis and his 1,150 minutes, 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Sophomore big man Carlton Bragg certainly will be projected to pick up a lot of Ellis' load, but some of it figures to be there for Jackson, as well. And some of it — most notably the scoring and rebounding — fits right into Jackson's biggest strengths.
Selden and Ellis averaged right at 30 points per game last season and it seems safe to assume that Jackson and Bragg will average at least that this season. If Bragg can become one of those classic Bill Self 10-12 points per game scorers that would leave the rest of Ellis' numbers and all of Selden's for Jackson to pick up.
It's definitely possible that Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham and even Landen Lucas and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk could cut into some of that. But Jackson will get the best opportunity to do so and it's also possible that this year's team could score slightly more than last year's squad, which averaged 81.3 points per game.
If Jackson grabs all of Selden's production, some of Ellis' and helps the Jayhawks score even just a few points per game more this season, it's definitely easy to envision the one-and-done freshman reaching, if not topping, Andrew Wiggins' 17.1 points per game average from the 2013-14 season and conceivable to see him becoming the first KU player since Sherron Collins (18.8) in 2008-09 to average more than 18 points per game in a single season.
KU's recent leading scorers:
PERRY ELLIS — 2015-16 — 16.8
PERRY ELLIS — 2014-15 — 13.8
ANDREW WIGGINS — 2013-14 — 17.1
BEN MCLEMORE — 2012-13 — 15.9
THOMAS ROBINSON — 2011-12 — 17.9
MARCUS MORRIS — 2010-11 — 17.3
SHERRON COLLINS — 2009-10 — 15.6
SHERRON COLLINS — 2008-09 — 18.8
Here's a look at what Dauster had to say about Jackson:
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Jackson was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2016 by a number of outlets, and there are still people that believe he’ll eventually be the best NBA player out of this group. A freak athlete like Andrew Wiggins, Jackson is a bit more polished and a whole lot tougher than Wiggins was a freshman. It’s not crazy to think that he can match Wiggins’ output (17.7 points, 5.9 boards, nation’s top perimeter defender), and considering Kansas is a preseason top five team, that puts him firmly in the All-America discussion. But here’s what will limit him: If Carlton Bragg makes the improvement many expect him to, Jackson’s offense may be cut into, and considering there are a pair of alpha-dogs that will be the guys called on to make big shots in key moments, it’s hard to see him having any “Wooden Moments”.
It's time to move on to the fourth entry in our He Will, He Won't, He Might series that examines the upcoming season for the Kansas men's basketball team, and today we take a closer look at a fourth Jayhawk projected to be in this year's starting lineup — sophomore Carlton Bragg.
As you've surely read or heard, Bragg spent the offseason adding serious bulk to his frame. He's up and inch from last year's height and has added nearly 30 pounds to his body, which is absolutely noticeable when you look at him.
Bragg says that neither addition has had a negative impact on his athleticism or the way he plays the game and both should allow him to have more success when he's forced to hang out close to the rim and compete for buckets and rebounds with the other big bodies in college basketball.
Many college basketball analysts and prognosticators have Bragg on the short list of players at big time programs who could be in for a monster year and it's the young man's skill set along with the opportunity that's now in front of him that has so many people predicting big things for Bragg.
With that said, let's take a quick look at what we should expect from Bragg during the 2016-17 season.
In case you missed the first three entries in the series, here's where you can find them.
Now, on to Carlton Bragg...
He will: Rebound and block shots better than Perry Ellis
So much of the talk this offseason regarding Bragg was how he was slated to slide into the role created by the departure of Perry Ellis and pick up where the three-year starter and No. 8 all-time scorer in Kansas history left off. And while that certainly is a worthy if not ambitious goal for the sophomore from Cleveland, there are at least a couple of areas where Bragg figures to fare better than Ellis ever dreamed.
The two biggest are rebounds and blocks. It’s no secret that KU coach Bill Self always wanted more from Ellis in the rebounding department. He should get it from Bragg. A season ago, Ellis finished with 222 rebounds in 1,150 minutes, good for a respectable average of 5.8 rebounds per game. Bragg, in just 338 minutes finished with 94 rebounds.
Average those out over 40 minutes and you’ll find Ellis’ number sits at 7.7 rebounds per 40 minutes while Bragg’s climbs to 11.1. I doubt Bragg will average double-digit rebounds per game this season, but he should be able to be more of a factor on the glass than Ellis was. Same goes for blocks, where Ellis averaged 0.66 blocks per 40 minutes and Bragg .83.
Those two stats alone should help this year’s group become a better defensive team than the 2015-16 squad and the suddenly bulkier Bragg figures to be a big reason for it.
He won’t: Be the scorer Perry Ellis was.
Having said all of that in the “He Will” section of this entry, it’s still hard to see Bragg being the same consistent scorer that Ellis was. For one, he’s nowhere near as gifted and as versatile as Ellis was by his senior season. A year ago, Ellis was a threat everywhere on the offensive half of the floor, able to catch and shoot, knock down three-pointers, drive to the rim to get his own buckets or operate in the high post to pick up points in the paint.
Bragg, though gifted and ever improving, still has a long way to go before he’s on that level. And the one trait he’s lacking that might hurt him the most in his quest to replace Ellis is assertiveness. Although Jayhawk fans constantly begged for Ellis to get tough and dunk the ball, the guy was a force of nature on the offensive end when he made up his mind that he was going to attack and no one was going to stop him.
Bragg has yet to show that type of drive and killer instinct. That’s not to say it’s not in there. But to expect it to be in Year 2 what Ellis’ was in Year 4 is a bit of a stretch.
He might: Leave KU to become a lottery pick
Earlier this summer I reached out to Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress.com to inquire about why Bragg was nowhere to be found on the site’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft. Givony said he didn’t think Bragg was quite there yet but that he certainly could — and likely would — be added to the first round if he got off to a hot start.
Such is the beauty of mock drafts, which can and do change often throughout the course of the year and can quickly make up for a mistake or an oversight in the next update. I’d expect that to happen with Bragg and DraftExpress.
At 6-10, 245 pounds, Bragg is just starting to come into his own size wise. Add to that solid frame the fact that he moves and shoots it well enough to be considered a legit offensive weapon in the NBA and it’s easy to see how Bragg could bolt KU after his second year for his shot at professional basketball. It’s possible, of course, that Bragg could decide to leave and not be picked in the lottery, even if he is a first-round pick and, therefore, gets guaranteed money.
The guess here, though, is that if Bragg goes — a likely scenario according to those who know him best — it’ll be because he’s projected to be one of the first 14 picks in the June draft.
Projecting any given NBA Draft, like obsessing over Kansas basketball in Lawrence, has become a year-round task and no one out there does it better than Jonathan Givony and his staff at DraftExpress.com.
From player profiles, regularly updated mock drafts and traveling around the world to track both the present and the future of the NBA Draft, Givony and crew easily bring the best, most detailed and most interesting information regarding draft prospects.
However, their latest feature, The Top Draft Prospects in the Big 12, caught my attention for reasons beyond just being ultra-informative.
Five of the Top 12 players on Givony’s list call Kansas home and although four of them are guys you would expect to see, the fifth came as a bit of a surprise.
Here’s a quick look at each one, but be sure to click on the link above for the full scoop as DraftExpress sees it.
1. Josh Jackson, 6-foot-8, Freshman, Guard
Draft Express: DE used videos for Jackson’s strengths and weaknesses and included all the things you’ve heard about him already — Physical tools, offensive versatility, defensive toughness and rebounding. He’s currently listed 5th on DraftExpress’ latest 2017 NBA Mock Draft.
My take: No brainer. Not even a question. Enough said.
3. Devonte’ Graham, 6-foot-2, Junior, Point Guard
Draft Express: More videos here for Graham’s strengths and weaknesses and included among his strengths were: Quickness, Shot Maker, Capable Passer, Pesky Defender.
My take: I think Graham is a terrific college player and could be poised for a monster season. I’m just not sure I’d put him this high on this list when you’re talking about the NBA. Although I have no doubts that he can play in the league, he probably won’t be anything special when he gets there. The league is filled with guys his size who are freak athletes and can really play. Graham’s competitiveness will allow him to hold his own, but can he become more? Hard to know right now.
6. Carlton Bragg, 6-foot-9, Sophomore, Power Forward
Draft Express: While not blessed with incredible size, both vertically and physically, Bragg is quick and agile for a big man, and can use that to his advantage.
My take: Until we see exactly what Bragg can do with major minutes, it’s hard to argue for him to be higher on this list. Still, it seems a little low to me, given his versatility, good frame, skilled offensive game and potential to grow and become an even better defender. I’d probably flip Bragg and Graham, if it were up to me.
7. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 6-foot-8, Junior, Shooting Guard
Draft Express: After watching Mykhailiuk extensively this past June at the adidas Nations, and profiling his progress both in scouting report and video format, we prefer to wait and see how he performs as a junior before adding to his extensive DraftExpress profile.
My take: This pretty much sums it up perfectly. Touted as one of the top NBA prospects in a Kansas uniform even before he stepped foot on campus — and even by people named Bill Self — Svi has done very little during his first two seasons in Lawrence to show whether that kind of claim is warranted. Part of the reason for that has been a lack of opportunity, but it also has been the result of a lack of consistency on his part. Still, with his frame, size, skills and athleticism, placing Svi in the middle of this list is certainly fair.
12. Landen Lucas, 6-foot-10, Senior, Center
Draft Express: While Lucas is a limited offensive player at this stage, his work on the other end of the floor is what gives him a chance to carve out a niche at the NBA level.
My take: I was a little surprised to see Lucas crack the Top 12, but the reasoning is sound. A lot of what they’re basing it off of is his opportunity to build on a strong junior season and the fact that he does one thing really, really well. With 10 teams and a lot of top-tier coaches, it’s surprising that there aren’t more NBA prospects in the Big 12 that rank ahead of Lucas. But that’s a testament both to Lucas and the fact that the Big 12 is a little down this season.
According to 247 Sports’ “Crystal Ball” prediction, Wake Forest is now in the lead for Chaundee Brown, a 6-foot-5, shooting guard from Orlando who has narrowed his list of schools to KU, Wake and Florida.
Danny Manning-led Wake Forest currently is projected as the leader for Brown with a 60 percent clip. Kansas is second at 40 percent.
The 60-40 advantage certainly is not insurmountable even if it is accurate. In fact, according to Matt Scott of TheShiver.com, KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard was scheduled to check in on Brown in Orlando sometime Tuesday.
Brown’s official visit to Kansas came earlier this month, when he was the only undecided player in town. He joined KU commitment Marcus Garrett on the visit and Garrett said after the trip that he thought Brown thoroughly enjoyed his visit.
Ranked No. 39 by Rivals.com, the four-star prospect is slated to visit Wake Forest this weekend.
While some recruiting experts believe the big difference between these two schools is the amount of immediate playing time Wake Forest could offer Brown, that’s not exactly as big of an advantage for Wake as perceived.
With Kansas possibly losing four perimeter players from this year’s team — Frank Mason, Josh Jackson, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — there certainly would be plenty of minutes available in KU’s backcourt during the 2017-18 season.
With Garrett already in the fold and the Jayhawks likely to land one of the elite, five-star point guards they’re pursuing in the 2017 recruiting class, the addition of Brown, a true shooter, would give Self three new players to pair with returning guards Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman in KU’s backcourt a year from now.
Clearly, the opportunity for playing time would be there.
I've heard nothing but great things about the type of person Brown is and it seems to me, at least, that the biggest obstacle for Kansas here might be (a) getting Brown out of the region and (b) getting past the bond he has developed with the Wake coaching staff, which, got in on Brown before almost every other school that pursued him and surely has treated him as one of their top targets throughout this process.
Another week brings another entry in the "He will, He Won't, He Might" blog series and today we take a peek at freshman wing Josh Jackson.
Jackson, as you know, is the latest highly touted, likely one-and-done freshman phenom landed by KU coach Bill Self. An he figures to step right into the starting spot previously occupied by Wayne Selden.
Because Jackson was on campus all summer, working out and bond with teammates, the adjustment portion of adding Jackson into the fold should be well behind them at this point. Now it's a matter of finding a rhythm on the floor during games, which are now just a little more than a month away.
KU fans will get their first true look at Jackson under the bright lights on Saturday at Late Night in the Phog.
Until then, we'll dive into what you should expect from the 6-foot-8 forward from Detroit who came to Kansas by way of Prolific Prep Academy in Napa, California.
In case you missed the first two entries in the series, here's where you can find them.
Now on to Action Jackson...
He will: Start every game of his KU career
This one was easy and we could have gone a number of different ways with predicting what Jackson will accomplish while at Kansas, but the fact of the matter is we just don’t know yet. He certainly figures to be a high-level impact player on both ends of the floor and will be among the team’s leading scorers, one of its top playmakers and most likely one of the top two or three defenders, as well. But it’s still better to see exactly who he is and exactly how he’ll be used before putting too many predictions out there. The one thing we know for sure at this point is that Jackson will be at Kansas for one season and then he’ll be gone. KU coach Bill Self told me that very thing as recently as mid-August and had no reservations about saying it. Jackson will start from day one and will start in that Wayne Selden spot every time out as long as he remains healthy. His length and athleticism, killer instinct and the threat of what he can bring and how that can open up opportunities for teammates are all too great to mess around with putting him on the path that Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander or Cheick Diallo took. That said, he’s a lot more ready for his opportunity — both mentally and physically — than any of those guys were.
He won’t: Be among the team’s leading three-point shooters
Josh Jackson didn’t come to Kansas to jack three-pointers. He’ll shoot a few, my guess would be somewhere in the 70-80 range, but it’ll never be his first choice, KU’s first option or a shot he knocks down at a high percentage. The way Jackson figures to factor most into KU’s three-point shooting this season is by creating opportunities for others. Picture him in the 1-4 flat set, dribbling the ball at the top of the key looking to attack. As soon as he gets by his man, which will happen a lot, the defense will be forced to react, which means it will collapse in toward the paint, thus freeing up KU’s wings to catch and shoot. Jackson’s both a skilled enough passer and unselfish enough player to make the right decision more often than not. If it’s Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk who he sees open on the wing, he’ll likely dish it to them. If it’s Carlton Bragg, Mitch Lightfoot or Landen Lucas, he’ll probably lower his head and keep driving to the rim. Jackson will shoot — and make — more than a few threes this season. But he’s not regarded as a terrific jump shooter, has a slightly strange hitch in his shot and can do so many better things with the ball than sit out there and make it easier for defenders to guard him.
He might: Be the best freshman in the country
As is the case most years, there’s a pretty strong crop of true freshmen playing college basketball this season. But whether you’re talking about the usual suspects like Duke’s trio of Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson, or Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, fast-riser Markelle Fultz, of Washington, or even UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, there is no shortage of top-tier talent in the freshman class. But few of them — if any — figure to get the same kind of opportunity that Jackson will at Kansas. That’s not to say they won’t be key and even featured parts of their respective teams, but Jackson slides into an obvious vacancy at Kansas and will be both led and set up by a pair of talented, play-making guards around him. Duke has a similar set up with Grayson Allen returning, so it’s definitely possible for any one of the Duke trio to claim the title of top freshman during the 2016-17 season. But Jackson will absolutely be in the mix, as well.
You’ve heard the stories, read the accounts and probably even imagined what it’s like.
But to see it is a whole different experience.
Boot Camp, Kansas basketball style, is not for the faint of heart and on Friday a handful of local media members were invited in to watch the Jayhawks run through one of Bill Self’s signature preseason conditioning adventures, which ran for 50 minutes and left the veteran KU coach very pleased with the effort put in by his team.
The following is a blow-by-blow account of exactly what went on.
5:15 a.m. — The first players began arriving at Allen Fieldhouse a little more than 45 minutes before the action began. Most were looking to get their ankles taped and minds and bodies prepared for what was to come. Others were simply there early making sure they were awake, aware and ready for the grind.
5:50 a.m. — The Jayhawks hit the floor for some pre-Boot Camp stretching. Strength coach Andrea Hudy leads while Self’s assistants and a slew of managers and trainers are on-hand, ready to help assist the players through the fifth session of this year’s Boot Camp. Given the early hour, it’s a little surprising to see so many smiles and so much energy this early, but that seems, as much as anything, to be proof of the fact that making it through one of Self’s Boot Camps is as much about what your mind will allow as it is what your body can endure.
6:00 a.m. — Self huddles the team at mid-court in the Jayhawks’ practice gym at exactly 6 a.m. After a brief talk outlining the day and sharing a few laughs, the team breaks with final words from senior forward Landen Lucas about finishing the week strong.
6:02 a.m. — Two minutes of jumping rope. The players alternate from one leg to two legs and back to one leg without stopping for two minutes straight. All the while managers and assistant coaches are standing in front of them all the way down the sideline on the north side of the gym, clapping and shouting encouragement to keep the energy up.
6:04 a.m. — Full-court run. This is nothing more than a way to get the body loose and the legs going. The real running will come a little later and there will be plenty of it. Two minutes of down-and-back type running with next to no rest in between.
6:06 a.m. — Dynamic warm-up. This includes everything from short, side-to-side bursts and box jumps to standing and jumping in place. Again, the clock expires after two minutes and, by now, it’s clear that the heart rate is rising and the bodies are getting into the proper position to handle what comes next.
6:08 a.m. — The first sounds of discipline from Self come complete with one of his favorite words. “Come on, guys. A little juice,” he says. For the next two minutes the Jayhawks work on slow and methodical defensive slides.
6:10 a.m. — Close-out drill. From 8-10 feet, the players work on closing out on shooters and shuffling their feet. While the drill appears to be designed with defensive principles in mind, Self says later that Boot Camp is not about fundamentals but rather about survival. So these types of close-out drills, though part of fundamentally sound defense, merely function as a way to disguise more cardio.
6:12 a.m. — KU assistant Jerrance Howard, who played for Self at Illinois, hops to the front of the group and leads the team through a defensive stance and slide drill. Moments earlier, with the team still getting going, Howard walked by the media and joked, “Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to go through this any more. Clap and yell, clap and yell.” To kickstart this drill, Self even shouts Howard’s way early on in the drill, making him start things again because he was not loud enough to be heard in every corner of the gym. Howard obliges with a strong growl and the drill gets under way. Lots of energy, grunting, call-and-response type encouragement from players and coaches all over the gym.
6:15 a.m. — The action shifts to eight minutes of station work and the players rotate between four stations, some with more defensive stance and slide work, others with simple but endless backboard and rim touches.
6:19 a.m. — It’s here, when the players are switching from station to station, that the first signs of exhaustion start to show up. The breathing gets harder, guys are bending over and there are scowls and grimaces on a few faces. Except Carlton Bragg’s, of course. Somehow, the KU sophomore managed to keep a smile on his face from start to finish, even while in the middle of some high-intensity drills at times.
6:23 a.m. — More slides. The team, in a make-shift, single-file line, works full-court slides, angling their way from one side of the court to the next all the way down and back. The clock starts with 3:00 showing but the drill ends after 90 seconds because the Jayhawks executed it flawlessly.
6:25 a.m. — Turn, run and recover. More close outs that are followed by a run-and-recover exercise, which Self says simulates those times when you’re beat by your man and you have to get back in front of him on defense. Same thing as before — the clock showed 3:00 but the drill ended after 2:00 because of solid execution.
6:29 a.m. — Full-court close and slides, down and back. It’s more of the same for the next minute, this time with two previous drills combined into one. It seems as if this is designed to test the mental strength of the players to put multiple skills together while maintaining toughness, energy and execution without breaking down or slacking off. It worked and the 3:00-minute drill ends with 2:00 still showing on the clock.
6:30 a.m. — Time for some sprinting, which the Jayhawks will do basically for the final 20 minutes of Friday’s Boot Camp session. First up: 22s. The Jayhawks are split into guards and bigs and asked to go full-court, down and back, down and back in 22 seconds. The guards make it in 18 or 19 seconds each time. The bigs make it in around 20 seconds. After three sets, the team moves on.
6:34 a.m. — Wave drill into a sprint into motion offense and back cut simulation. Self explains clearly and carefully that if his guys do this one right and go hard, they’ll only have to do it once. “Do it right, you do it once,” he yells for emphasis. The first group of six makes it easily — Clay Young, Tyler Self, Frank Mason, Lagerald Vick, Landen Lucas and Svi. Self’s pleased and challenges the second group to match it. Led by Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson, they do, with Dwight Coleby, Evan Maxwell, Carlton Bragg, Mitch Lightfoot and Tucker Vang joining them. In all, each group needs just 75 seconds to get through the drill.
NOTE: Malik Newman (back) and Udoka Azubuike (groin) were held out of Friday’s action for precautionary reasons. Something tells me there’ll be a day when they make up for it. Self said Azubuike had done great all week leading up to Friday. Self said neither injury appeared to be serious in any way.
6:40 a.m. — After a short rest — its worth noting that Self is more than fair about giving these guys adequate time to rest and catch their breaths. He’s not going to make it easy and it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s not like he’s unreasonable in any way — the Jayhawks hit the final session of the day: Suicides. The format follows a 3-5-7-9-7-5-3 cycle and starts with down, back and down in 17 seconds. The Jayhawks make that with ease, which Self knew would happen. He told them the first two were basically gimmes. Make it and move on to the next. Miss it and do it again. If any one player does not make it in time or fails to touch the line, they all run again.
Next up, they move on to 5 lengths in 29 seconds. Again, they make it easily. Now for the tricky ones. The veterans who have done this for a while now know how to steal a few extra seconds of rest by wandering off the line or making conversation with Self or the assistant coaches. Self knows what they’re doing and gives them the best of both worlds — enough of a leash to get away with it a couple of times, but also enough of a warning to let them know that he’s on to them.
The seven-sprint portion is timed in 43 seconds and again the Jayhawks make it. It’s getting tougher and the stress and pain in their faces is starting to show more and more between sprints. After making nine lengths in 60 seconds, Self gives his team good news for the homestretch: “Now it’s easy,” he says. “You know you’re gonna make it.” Easy? Not exactly. But do they know in their minds that the times and goals are attainable? Yep. And it’s clear that they understand that.
For the second set of seven lengths, Self adds a second to the time and instead of 43 seconds they have to make it in 44. Moments earlier he explained that his sheet said they should’ve done nine lengths in 57 seconds but he added three seconds because they’ve had a good week. They took it and used it.
The final set of seven is finished and between this one and the set of five, Bragg can be found still smiling, even while bent over gasping for air. The team makes the round of five in 29 seconds, same as before, and moves on to the last sprint — three lengths, this time in 15 seconds. The reason for the two missing seconds? Howard kindly reminded Self earlier in the day that, back when he played, they used to have to do the set of three in 15 seconds.
Self emphasizes that if they do it right this will be it for the day. But that means every player touches every line and every player makes it easily. If they miss, an assistant coach or manager is going to put a hand in the air to signify they’re doing it again. On the second trip down the court, a hand goes up. And then another. The Jayhawks are doing it again. And they’re not happy. A variety of players yell encouragement — even friendly threats — before the next sprint, all to the effect of, “It’s not that hard, fellas. Just do it right and we’ll be done.” Self chimes in with his thoughts, as well. “This is where you win games in the final five minutes. Everyone just do your job.”
They do and they make the final sprint with ease. It was incredible to witness how you could actually see these guys dig a little deeper and find more to go all-out on the final sprint. They ran this one harder and with more focus than any they had done all day.
6:50 a.m. — Huddle up. Self’s pleased. He told them they did a great job and had a great week. After outlining what’s to come the rest of the day and reminding them to get to class on time, the players break and leave the gym. The coaches and support staff hang around the south wall of the practice gym and swap stories and laughs from the morning session.
Four more days of Boot Camp left.
More news and notes from Friday morning's Boot Camp
- Bill Self on the career of KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little
- Nick Krug's Boot Camp photo gallery
- Sophomore guard Lagerald Vick 'hard to beat' during Week 1
The Kansas basketball team plowed its way through Day 3 of Bill Self's annual preseason Boot Camp on Wednesday and was at it again bright and early for Day 4 on Thursday morning.
That puts the Jayhawks one day away from the halfway point of the annual ritual that players often deem to be torture while going through it and often see — and appreciate — the benefit of down the road, as they mature mentally and physically and move deeper into their college careers.
“As you go through them more and more, you really see that it’s for our benefit," KU forward Landen Lucas said after Day 1 of this year's camp. "At the beginning, you go out there and it really sucks, but, between the conditioning and just the team building and going through some adversity with teammates, it actually is something that will definitely help you in the long run.”
Asked where he keeps his mind focused, before during and after Boot Camp, Lucas offered a very direct answer.
“Just focusing on getting something out of it and building from (that)," he said.
As for the specifics of Boot Camp, Lucas provided a general overview of what each day is like and KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard recently posted a quick video that takes you behind the curtain.
“We usually start off with some stretching, some jump ropes, light warm-ups. You get tired after warm-ups," Lucas said. "And then you go to some stations and do some other drills and, really, if you can get through a day with no mistakes, it goes pretty quick. Where you hurt yourself is mess-ups and having to do stuff over again. Once you kind of get into a bad groove, it’s just a downhill spiral. You just try to make it through.”
Check back with KUsports.com on Friday for more from Boot Camp 2016, including photos and feedback from KU coach Bill Self.
For those who didn't see the coverage from Friday, here's a quick look at some of the action via a video I made.
We're back for more with our new feature, "He Will, He Won't, He Might," which aims to identify something each Kansas basketball player definitely will do during the 2016-17 season, something the same player almost certainly won’t do and, of course, the wildcard, something each player actually might wind up surprising people with during the upcoming season.
All of the entries, of course, are pure speculation designed to dissect some of the more important players and aspects of the 2016-17 team.
If you missed the first in the series, be sure to check out these thoughts on senior guard Frank Mason III.
Today, we'll dive into the dynamic surrounding junior guard Devonte' Graham, Mason's running mate who is entering his third season playing for KU coach Bill Self.
After a solid but unspectacular freshman season, Graham enjoyed a monster year as a sophomore in 2015-16 and appears to be headed for more during the coming season.
Gifted with good size, great skill and an intense desire to compete and play with passion, Graham has become one of the main keys of this Kansas team and followed in the footsteps of some of the better versatile guards that Self has coached at KU.
Without further ado, let's dive in...
He will: Continue to be the most demonstrative Jayhawk
Whether it’s three-googles after a big shot, eyes and mouth wide open after a huge play or some sort of gesture or laugh to the bench or the crowd, Graham is, without a doubt, the player who brings the most personality to this team. And given the way KU coach Bill Self has praised him for that in the past, you can expect it to remain that way and potentially increase. The older and more comfortable Graham becomes, the more confident he’ll be in his game. And the more confident he is in his game, the more emotional he’ll be on the floor. That kind of emotion, when used properly, can bring great energy to a team and become contagious in a hurry. That’s not to say that everybody in a Kansas uniform is going to start poses and gesturing just because Graham does, but there’s no denying that the more these guys feel themselves out there, the better they’ll play. And Graham will continue to be the catalyst for it all.
He won’t: Shoot .441 from three-point range again.
It’s just not that easy to do. Think about this: A season ago, the junior from Raleigh, North Carolina, attempted 170 three-pointers and made a whopping 75. Miss a couple, make a couple; miss one, make the next two; miss two, make the next one. On and on it went, including some games when it seemed as if Graham was not going to miss at all. Maintaining that kind of clip, no matter how good of a shooter you are, is difficult to do and is dependent on a lot of things going right. All signs point to this year’s KU squad continuing to be the kind of team that moves the ball well, makes the extra pass and regularly finds open shots for its best shooters. And Graham most definitely is one of those. But you can bet that opposing defenses are going to key on Graham a little more — especially from the outside — and you can also bet that freshman Josh Jackson’s ability to attack the paint will take away a few opportunities for Graham to let it fly. I wouldn’t expect a big drop-off. After all, Graham shot .425 from behind the arc during his freshman season. But I’d expect his percentage to finish closer to the high 30s than 44.
He might: Be the Jayhawks’ best player
Frank Mason is a terrifically tough and talented player, but even he has a few limitations. And, from the sound of things, Josh Jackson is as talented as all get-out and can pretty much do anything he wants to do on either end of the floor. But he also has yet to do it at the major college level. Graham has. A lot. And, as shown by his huge jump from his freshman to sophomore season, the guy is only getting better. Graham is a terrific shooter, a great athlete, a good passer and an outstanding leader. He also can defend at a high level and plays with all-out effort night in and night out. Put all of those traits into the same package and bring that to the court on a consistent basis, and you’re looking at the best player on any team, no matter what the level or what his name is. Even on a team that features Fearless Frank Mason and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, a strong case could be made that the 6-2, 185-pound Graham is the best all-around player and his 2016-17 statistics might wind up validating that.