Posts tagged with Ku Basketball

Draft night snub sets up perfect storm for Wayne Selden

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) roars at the Jayhawks' bench after hitting a three against Iowa State during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) roars at the Jayhawks' bench after hitting a three against Iowa State during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Jump with me, for a minute, into the mind of Wayne Selden to see why not getting drafted might actually wind up being the best thing that could have happened to the former Jayhawk’s chances at a pro career.

Here’s why.

Selden, as you know, has always been the type of player who seemed to perform best when he had something to prove, someone to prove wrong or a chip of any size on either of his shoulders.

Occasionally, things got so heavy during his KU career that Selden found himself carrying rather large chips on both shoulders. Almost without fail, every time that happened, Selden performed his best.

Think about the Kentucky game at home. Think about the entire three weeks the Jayhawks spent in Korea. Think about Selden responding to a sub-par sophomore season with a solid junior year.

Although the former KU guard started 108 of the 109 games Kansas played during his three seasons as a Jayhawk, consistency often was an issue for Selden. He would take us to the mountain top and show elite-level skills, but rarely hang around long enough to enjoy the view and often found himself near the base again, climbing back to the top almost as quickly as he arrived in the first place.

Case in point: Selden responded to his stellar 33-point, 12-of-20 shooting game against Kentucky by hitting for just 10 made field goals in his next four games combined. Rarely did this hurt KU’s chances at victory — a credit to the rest of the talent Bill Self put around Selden — but it did certainly hurt Selden’s chances at becoming a true standout whom NBA teams would want, perhaps even need, to draft.

So here we are, one day after the biggest day of Selden’s life and he’s looking for a team to play for. Sixty picks came and went without Selden hearing his name called on Thursday night, and now, in order to live out his NBA dream, the former KU guard is going to have to go the free agent route, impress a team or two during summer league play and make a roster the hard way.

He must be so happy.

See, Selden has all of the physical tools necessary to play in the NBA. He’s a damn good shooter, he’s got great size, good quickness, he’s strong and he’s athletic. Put him in the right situation and he’s a ready-made rotation guy off the bench.

NBA teams might not know it yet, but, by not drafting him, they did exactly that, as the right situation for Selden is way more dependent upon what’s between his ears than it is the style of play of this team or the personnel of that one.

Today, Selden is pissed. Not just because he didn’t get drafted, but also because of some of the other players who did. Throw out the Europeans because they’re here to stay and college players are just going to have to get used to that group eating up 15-20 of the 60 available draft spots year after year. Heck, it’s already been happening for years.

But there were at least a few players taken near the end of the draft who I know Selden believes he’s better than. Think Iowa State’s Abdel Nader or even his former AAU buddy Georges Niang. Think UConn’s Daniel Hamilton, Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins, Carolina’s Marcus Paige or Maryland’s Jake Layman.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Selden respects all of those guys, but I also would bet a pretty penny that he believes he’s better than every one of them.

So to give him that kind of fuel to go along with that undrafted tag seems to be a perfect storm of sorts.

It should be fun to watch him in summer league games this month. I’m guessing we’ll see the Selden that more closely resembles the South Korea version than the one who occasionally disappeared during the other portions of his Kansas career.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr., throws down a slam dunk in the second-half of a Team USA 81-72 win over against Brazil Sunday, July 5, in Gwangju, South Korea.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr., throws down a slam dunk in the second-half of a Team USA 81-72 win over against Brazil Sunday, July 5, in Gwangju, South Korea. by Mike Yoder

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Addition of Thornton, Newman would improve Jayhawks even during red-shirt seasons

Blue Team guard Josh Jackson looks to strip the ball from Red Team guard Devonte' Graham on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center.

Blue Team guard Josh Jackson looks to strip the ball from Red Team guard Devonte' Graham on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center. by Nick Krug

Watching Kansas guards Frank Mason (blue) and Devonte’ Graham (red) get after each other again during Wednesday’s camp scrimmage took my mind to a wild place that I think KU fans would love to go.

We all know by now — and have for some time — that both Graham and Mason will start in the backcourt again in 2016-17 the way they did so successfully last season. Having those two on the floor at the same time makes up KU’s best lineup and having the luxury of having at least one of them out there at all times, in case one needs a breather or the other is in foul trouble, gives KU coach Bill Self a sense of security.

As much as it’s a great thing for them to push each other in practice the way they showed at moments during Wednesday’s scrimmage is critical to KU’s success but they also have to spend the bulk of their time in practice playing together. That leaves the challenge of pushing them, both offensively and defensively, to the rest of the roster and, though the effort from the reserves is always equal to what Mason and Graham put out, the talent and skill is not.

Imagine for a minute, though, if it were. Imagine for a minute that KU had a couple of guys on its roster that were elite-level prospects who, every day, could push Mason and Graham in every way and get the most out of them while preparing them daily for what they’ll encounter during the upcoming season.

Believe it or not, such a scenario may actually be possible thanks to Duke transfer Derryck Thornton and Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman both seriously considering coming to KU.

If both players — or either — joined the Jayhawks, they would have to sit out the 2016-17 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. But they would be able to practice and they would make up a heck of a “red team” backcourt that would push Mason, Graham, Josh Jackson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and the rest of the KU regulars on a regular basis.

The idea that Newman and Thornton are considering Kansas obviously is exciting for the future of Bill Self’s basketball team. Both would challenge for starting spots immediately upon gaining eligibility and, depending on how long they stuck around, each could wind up being a huge part of future Kansas teams.

If they do come to KU, even while waiting to play, their impact could be just as important during Year 1 as it could in Years 2 and 3 because they would elevate practice to a higher level and give Mason and Graham Big 12 and NCAA-Tournament-style competition on a daily basis.

Decisions from either player could come any day now and I saw at least one report on Twitter today that indicated that both really liked Kansas but had not reached the point where they were a packaged deal.

From what I've heard, KU has a great shot at getting both of them and while they would certainly push the current Jayhawks throughout the upcoming season, the opportunity to be challenged by players like Mason, Graham and Jackson also would improve their games a great deal while they waited for the 2017-18 season to roll around.

Stay in touch with KUsports.com for the latest information on both decisions.

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If you could change the outcome of one KU game in history, which would you pick?

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

I recently saw something on Deadspin that seemed like it might be a good idea to bring to Jayhawk Nation.

The article, which ran last Thursday and was inspired by a Tweet from Grantland writer @SheaSerrano, was short and sweet and asked one simple question: If You Could Change Any Championship Outcome, Which Would It Be?

For KU fans, this might be easy, but there are more than a few options:

• The 1940 or 1953 title-game losses to Indiana

• Wilt's triple-OT loss to Carolina in 1957

• The 1991 loss to Duke in Roy Williams’ third season at KU

• The 2003 loss to Syracuse in Roy’s final game

• The 2012 loss to a stacked Kentucky squad in New Orleans

And that’s just basketball.

You might even throw a football game or two in there, most notably the 2007 loss to Missouri at Arrowhead that cost the Jayhawks the Big 12 North title and a spot in the Big 12 title game but wound up working out just fine.

And, if you want to take this a step farther and include games outside of just championship-type contests, the list expands big time.

What about Mark Mangino’s final game as KU’s coach at Arrowhead against the Tigers? Could Lew Perkins really have forced him out if Mangino had just knocked off Mizzou to secure a third straight bowl berth for the Jayhawks?

How about the loss to VCU in the 2011 Elite Eight? The road to Bill Self’s second title had opened up that year and the Jayhawks were loaded.

Heck, even last year’s loss to Villanova might be the choice of some of you.

Either way, I thought it was an interesting exercise and figured it would be fun to narrow it to just Kansas athletics and bring it to KUsports.com.

So what say you? Which KU game — in any sport — would you reverse the outcome of if you had a magic wand for one day?

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Ranking KU basketball’s 2016-17 non-conference games

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. Duke won 90-60. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. Duke won 90-60. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Now that the schedule has been released and we know that KU fans only have to wait 151 more days until the exhibition opener for the 2016-17 men’s basketball season — Nov. 1 vs. Washburn at Allen Fieldhouse — let’s dive into the non-con portion of the schedule a little deeper.

As expected — and as always — the non-Big 12 portion of KU’s 2016-17 schedule is loaded with big names and potentially tough games. KU coach Bill Self always has preferred it to be this way because of the challenge the tough schedule poses and the potential for more rapid sink-or-swim type growth that it brings his team.

Every once in a while we get that season when Self says he may have been too aggressive and ambitious with the schedule and wishes he would have pulled back a little, but even then, he rarely eases up the following year. Call it a habit, part of the guy’s DNA, something that just wouldn’t seem right otherwise.

With that in mind, Self and the KU scheduling gurus were back at it again for 2016-17 and now that we know the identity of all of the opponents, we can rank the games from most difficult to easiest.

Keep in mind, many of the non-con games are played in Allen Fieldhouse, giving the Jayhawks a huge advantage right off the bat.

1. vs. Duke, Champions Classic – Even with some other marquee programs on the schedule, I don’t think there’s any debating this selection. The Blue Devils are the likely preseason No. 1 and should enter the 2016-17 season as the favorite to win it all, with their fantastic blend of talented experience and dynamic newcomers. There’s no doubting that Coach K will have this team rolling next season. The question left to answer for Kansas fans is this: Will he have the Blue Devils rolling when they face the Jayhawks in NYC? Either way, this game will be a monster.

2. at Kentucky, SEC/Big 12 Challenge – As usual, the Wildcats will be loaded — they’re bringing in three of the Top 10 players in the Class of 2016 — and, this time, they’ll have revenge on their minds when the Jayhawks come to Rupp Arena in late January. Kansas will have the more experienced team and should not be intimidated in the least to go into that type of environment. But it’ll be hopping and the buzz surrounding Big Blue Nation will make it a tough game.

3. vs. Indiana, Armed Forces Classic – Yogi Ferrell may be gone, but the Hoosiers welcome back sophomore big man Thomas Bryant and guard James Blackmon Jr., who should provide a nice 1-2 punch for a team learning to play a different brand of basketball without the tiny floor general Ferrell leading the charge. KU’s biggest strength, its backcourt, versus an Indiana backcourt trying to find itself early in the season should give the Jayhawks a huge advantage in this one. But the Hoosiers proved during last season’s run to the Sweet 16 that they were more than just Yogi and crew. If this game came later in the season and the UK game was earlier, those two games easily would flip-flop on this list.

4. vs. George Washington, CBE Classic – The defending postseason NIT champions return a deep and big lineup as well as leading scorer Tyler Cavanaugh for what can only be described as an NCAA-Tournament-or-bust type of season for the Colonials. The Jayhawks are not guaranteed to play GW in the CBE Event in Kansas City, but are likely to do so.

5. at UNLV – One of just a couple pre-Big 12 true road games, the Jayhawks will have to not only contend with a UNLV squad led by new head coach Marvin Menzies, but also manage the hype and excitement that comes with playing a game in Sin City.

6. vs. Georgia, CBE Classic – Georgia coach Mark Fox will not be bringing his best team to Kansas City, but he does have athletes and a group that is used to seeing top-level basketball against teams like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and others in the SEC. Electric forward Yante Maten made huge strides during his second year in the program, jumping from 5 points and 4.3 rebounds in Year 1 to 16.5 points and 8 rebounds per game a year ago. He’ll be the cornerstone of the young UGA squad that also features the return of senior guard J.J. Frazier, who led the team with 5 assists per game. KU will either play George Washington or Georgia in the CBE Classic but not both.

7. vs. Nebraska – Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles has always been a huge fan of Kansas basketball, so you can bet he’ll take the opportunity to coach in Allen Fieldhouse very seriously and won’t want his team to embarrass the game by bringing sub-par effort. In addition to that, the ‘Huskers will bring to Lawrence a veteran team that features former KU sharp-shooter Andrew White III, who, no doubt, will want to put on a show in his return to his former home.

8. vs. Long Beach State – Long and athletic, with eight returners standing between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-9, the 49ers team that missed an NCAA Tournament berth by four points in last season’s Big West final — and averaged 102 ppg on the season — will be much more experienced and hungry to make a statement with a strong showing against one of college basketball’s blue bloods.

9. vs. Davidson, Jayhawk Classic – He may not have Steph Curry on his roster any longer, but Davidson coach Bob McKillop is still a heck of a leader and he’ll have his team ready to play in a game that the Jayhawks sometimes struggle to get up for, mid-December in Kansas City. In fact, it was a McKillop-led Davidson club that handed the 2012 national runner-up Jayhawks a December loss at Sprint Center in this very event. And, even though both rosters have been completely remade, you can bet the Wildcats’ coach will draw on that experience when getting ready for this one.

10. vs. UNC Asheville – An NCAA Tournament team a season ago, Asheville returns all but two players from last year’s roster, including leading scorer Dylan Smith, a sophomore guard, who, as a freshman, led the Bulldogs with averages of 14 points and 5 assists per game.

11. vs. Stanford – The Cardnial may now be led by former Jayhawk Jerod Haase, but there’s a reason he got the job — last year’s team was not very good. With just a couple of players remaining from the team that upset KU in the NCAA Tournament in 2014 (role players at that) Stanford will be in full rebuilding mode and will be forced to deal with their Pac-12 membership status helping ensure Kansas will get up for the game.

12. vs. UAB, CBE Classic – UAB enjoyed a terrific 26-7 season, Conference USA regular season title and No. 81 ranking in the final RPI poll, but also lost its coach (now current Stanford coach Jerod Haase) in the offseason. That transition, along with the loss of some key players should bring the Blazers back to Earth a little bit. Like George Washington and Georgia, KU is not guaranteed to play UAB in the November event.

13. vs. Siena – The Saints finished the 2015-16 season ranked 123rd in the RPI and eight games above .500 at 21-13. Siena will bring to Lawrence several players who gained valuable experience a year ago and their recent history of playing games at Wisconsin and at Duke will make it easier for them to come into a hostile environment like Allen Fieldhouse than it is for most teams. But the Saints lack size and also said goodbye to one of their key leaders in guard Ryan Oliver.

14. vs. UMKC – The Roos were a wreck a season ago, finishing with an RPI rating of 288 and a 12-19 record while playing in the WAC. UMKC has brought some tough teams into Allen Fieldhouse in the past, but this won’t be one of them.

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Break time: KU basketball irrelevant in NBA Draft lottery for first time since 2009

Think back for a minute, if you will, to the summer of 2009, when Barack Obama was in his first year in the White House, the swine flu was causing a panic throughout the United States, the world said goodbye to Michael Jackson and the Kansas basketball program was irrelevant in the NBA Draft lottery.

That’s right. What has become somewhat of an annual ritual around here in the years since — and several years before it — was almost completely irrelevant during the summer of 2009, when KU fans had absolutely no reason to tune in to the NBA Draft.

Matt Kleinmann and Brennan Bechard were the only seniors on that 2008-09 team, junior Sherron Collins made a no-brainer choice to return to school and sophomore Cole Aldrich and freshmen Makieff and Marcus Morris still were coming into their own as future NBA lottery picks.

That makes this summer the first since that ‘09 draft that KU will not have some kind of presence in the lottery.

I realize that neither Cliff Alexander nor Kelly Oubre wound up being selected in the Draft lottery (Top 14 picks) a year ago, but Oubre was a fringe pick throughout the months leading up to the draft and was included in the lottery in just as many mock drafts as those that had him on the outside looking in. Ultimately, Oubre was drafted 15th by Washington, one spot out of lottery and Alexander went undrafted.

With former Jayhawks Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Cheick Diallo and Brannen Greene all eligible, KU figures to have at least a couple of alums drafted in this year’s draft. But none of those names figure to pop in the Top 14 — possibly not even in the first round — thus ending KU’s stretch of six consecutive years of lottery relevance.

During the five-year period from 2010-14, the Jayhawks had a total of eight players drafted in the lottery, including No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft.

Only Kentucky, which has had a total of 13 former Wildcats drafted in the past six lotteries — and figures to make that seven straight in June, with Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere both going in the top 10 in most mock drafts — can boast a bigger number and a longer streak.

Go figure.

Bill Self and John Calipari certainly have dominated the draft lottery in recent years, not only by putting players in the pros in that prestigious spot, but also by landing some of the best talent on the recruiting trail year after year.

The Jayhawks may be forced to sit this one out, but you can bet that KU’s time away from the lottery won’t last long. Incoming freshman Josh Jackson already is being touted as the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and, even if Jackson doesn’t live up to that lofty expectation, it’s all but certain that as long as he enters the draft he’ll be selected in the lottery. In addition to Jackson, sophomore-to-be Carlton Bragg certainly could be a lottery pick after the 2016-17 college basketball season if he continues to develop at the rate he has been and shines in his expanded role. And a case could even be made for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to be a lottery pick, should he have a strong junior season.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at some of the other regulars in the draft lottery from 2009-15. As you can see, Self and the Jayhawks are right there at the top of the list, just as they are in so many other relevant college basketball categories.

As for this year and the 2016 NBA Draft, don’t worry too much about the Jayhawks not being represented. With the Philadelphia 76ers getting the No. 1 overall pick — the order was determined Tuesday night — you can bet former KU big man Joel Embiid, he of Twitter fame and mastery, will have plenty to say about what his team will do and who his team will pick.

School Total Lottery Picks 2009-15 Longest Streak
Kentucky 13 6 years
Kansas 8 5 years
Duke 6 2 years
North Carolina 5 2 years
Syracuse 4 2 years
UConn 4 2 years
Arizona 3 2 years
Indiana 3 2 years
Louisville 2 1 year
Ohio State 2 1 year
Texas 2 1 year
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Thunder fans show off college atmosphere vibe

Remember those times during the past few years when KU basketball coach Bill Self was asked about jumping to the NBA and responded with something about the situation in Oklahoma City, with their beloved Thunder, being as close as there is to a college atmosphere in the NBA?

Well, the Thunder fans were at it again on Tuesday night. And after a road game, no less.

Playing Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Spurs in San Antonio, the Thunder gritted out a 95-91 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. All-world point guard Russell Westbrook went off for 35 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists and fellow member of the all-world squad — and former Longhorn — Kevin Durant touched the Spurs for 23, 6 and 5.

The come-from-behind triumph was a huge victory and put the Thunder in position to close out the series at home on Thursday night.

But it was when the Thunder returned home, after the short flight from San Antonio to OKC, where the Thunder fans started showing off their college spirit. Hundreds of energized Oklahoma City fans showed up to greet the team at the airport and several members of the Thunder roster documented the scene on social media.

This kind of thing is all but unheard of in the NBA and it happens every year in college, particularly in March after teams make good or deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

To see it happen at the NBA level was incredible and merely added credence to Self's claim about OKC being as close to a college environment as there is in the league.

Cool stuff.

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Did Brannen Greene make the right decision in leaving Kansas?

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) pumps up the crowd during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) pumps up the crowd during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

With the NBA combine kicking off today, we already know that former Kansas University sharp-shooter Brannen Greene did not receive an invitation to the event, which runs today through Sunday in Chicago, and, therefore, will have to go about earning a spot in the NBA through team workouts and the old school grind.

The news came as no real surprise, and leaves Greene, who hired an agent and is not eligible to return to school, on the outside looking in when it comes to hoping for an NBA future.

Those facts got me thinking: Did Greene make the right decision in leaving Kansas?

Let’s take a look.

Invites to the combine were sent out to a little more than 70 players regardless of age. We learned Tuesday that an injury will keep Wayne Selden out of the combine, leaving former Jayhawks Perry Ellis and Cheick Diallo as the only KU players competing. And some fantastically talented college players — namely Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell — were not invited. Like Greene, those players will be hoping to catch the eye of the right team at the right time through pre-draft workouts.

What’s more, the NBA announced recently that 162 early-entry players had declared for this year’s Draft — June 23 in New York — with 117 of them being from the college ranks and 45 being international players.

That’s 162 players, not counting college seniors. And there are only 60 selections in the NBA Draft.

Needless to say, that makes the chances of landing a spot on an NBA roster a long shot for roughly 75 percent of those players hoping they’ll hear their names called in this year’s draft.

OK. So now that we’ve established all of that, let’s get back to Greene. Did he make the right choice in leaving?

The numbers above might suggest no, but the correct answer is yes. Why? Because it was simply time for him to leave.

Greene had three years to earn a regular spot in the rotation and, outside of a stretch here or a stretch there, did not do it. What’s more, he seemed to be in constant conflict with KU coach Bill Self — that’s rarely the way to go about getting more playing time — and, with the arrival of freshman phenom Josh Jackson, likely would have been, at best, the fifth man in KU’s perimeter rotation next season, behind Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Jackson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

Would there have been minutes for Greene next year? Probably. But would they have been consistent? Probably not. And would he have made the most of them? To that, too, you’d have to say probably not.

During his three-year career at Kansas, Greene recorded more suspensions than starts. In all, he played in 93 games and averaged a little more than 11 minutes per contest. That’s barely a quarter per game and anyone who watched those three seasons closely knows that he played single-digit minutes in roughly half of those 93 appearances. To think any of that was going to change next year is a reach.

I’m betting Greene knew that. Give him credit for that. A naïve player would’ve returned with the false hope and misguided belief that said, “Hey, it’s my senior year and it’s time to really make it count.” With Wayne Selden departing and the Josh Jackson commitment coming after he made his decision to bolt, Greene easily could’ve thought that way. But he’s too smart for that and clearly knew better.

He also could’ve believed that, because he would’ve been a senior, Self would’ve leaned on him for experience and that fact alone would have increased his minutes. But it’s not so much experience that gets you on the floor for Self as it is trust. And there’s no two ways about it; Self never trusted Greene.

That is merely one more factor that made leaving Kansas, regardless of what his pro basketball future becomes, the right move for Greene. He’s going to make it — or not — based on his ability to shoot the basketball at a world-class level. And nothing he would have done during one more season at Kansas was going to change that.

As stated above, Greene is one heck of a shooter and the NBA has proven that it has a place for players with that kind of specialized skill.

Nobody’s going to sign him for his defense or attitude or leadership. If Greene makes it, it’s going to be because he can square up, flick his right wrist and knock it down with the best of them.

So let’s say Greene gets picked up by an NBA team as a free agent and winds up making a roster after lighting up the summer league circuit. If that happens, he clearly made the right decision, that whole right place, right time thing, you know? From there, he begins an NBA career, that, with his skill set, could last a number of years and deliver big time bucks.

But even if that doesn’t happen and Greene is forced to give up his NBA dream and heads overseas to shoot the rock, he’s still going to be better off than he would’ve been playing 11 minutes off the bench at Kansas. He’ll be getting paid to play basketball and travel the world and he’ll actually be playing.

Greene needed a fresh start and KU needed a break from Greene.

Combine invitation or not, both the program and the player got what they needed from Greene making the decision he made and it should be interesting to see where Greene takes things from here.

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Breaking down Bill Self’s comments on newly signed KU guard Josh Jackson

Although it never was in doubt, the Kansas basketball fan base no doubt breathed a little sigh of relief on Tuesday, when KU officially announced the signing of freshman-to-be Josh Jackson.

Jackson, the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals.com, already is pegged as the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and, barring something crazy, will spend just one season as a member of the Jayhawks.

Regardless of how limited his time will be in Lawrence, Jackson still figures to make a major impact on the KU roster, the Big 12 and college basketball in general.

KU coach Bill Self said as much on Tuesday when announcing the signing and it’s clear that the college basketball ceiling for Jackson is as high as any we’ve seen around here in recent years, including Andrew Wiggins.

Since it was the first we’ve heard from Self about his new star-in-the-making, let’s take a little deeper look at what Self said about Jackson and break those comments down into why and how Jackson fits so well at KU.

Self's comments are in bold below, my commentary is in italics after.

Josh Jackson competes in the dunk contest in the Under Armour Elite 24 Skills Competition on Friday, August 21 in Brooklyn, New York.

Josh Jackson competes in the dunk contest in the Under Armour Elite 24 Skills Competition on Friday, August 21 in Brooklyn, New York. by Associated Press

“Josh has been a guy that is so respected in all high school circles the last four years.”

This, to me, is a sure sign that KU is getting a young man who is ready for everything that will be thrown at him in the next 10-12 months. Media barrage? Check. Face of the program? You bet. Pressure of playing at KU? No doubt. Chatter about being KU’s latest one-and-done stud and turning pro? Yep. The maturity seems to be off the charts with this guy and I don’t think this will turn into a case of KU getting a player who is a little immature and not ready for life on his own let alone big time college basketball. Jackson seems already to be a grown man and it should be interesting to observe that in the wake of players like Carlton Bragg, Cliff Alexander and even Wiggins.

“He is very similar to Andrew Wiggins. He’s a tall guard that can do a lot of everything. We feel his impact on our program next year will be as much as any freshman will have on any college program.”

Many, including our own Tom Keegan, already have written the inevitable Andrew Wiggins comparison, but it was noteworthy that Self went there. He certainly didn’t have to. And comparing Jackson to a player who was the runner-up in the Big 12 player of the year voting and wound up going No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft certainly is no subtle thing. That, to me, tells you exactly how much faith Self has in Jackson’s ability to handle the spotlight. We all know that Self is a master at handling the mental side of the game and pushing exactly the right buttons with his players at precisely the right times. Starting out with Jackson on this note tells me that Self believes this young man can handle anything.

“He’s extremely athletic but, more importantly, extremely competitive.”

This was interesting to me because I’ve seen it debated a few different places among fans on the Internet. Some have called Jackson an incredible athlete and others have said that he’s more of a quality basketball player and not quite in the category of freak athlete. So here you’ve got Self calling the kid “extremely athletic” and I’m guessing that pretty much ends the debate. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Jackson is anywhere near as athletic as Wiggins (who is?) and that easily could be the part of the debate that’s getting lost in translation.

“He is probably as highly thought of as any recent player to come out of high school because of his competitive nature. We have a very competitive culture at Kansas, but I think it just got improved with the signing of Josh.”

Throughout the years we’ve heard some big time comment and compliments from Self about his teams and individual players. But this might be one of the best. And the kid hasn’t even suited up in a KU uniform yet. We all know how much competing means to Self so to pay a young player like Jackson this kind of a compliment at this stage in his career is about as big as it gets. The important thing to remember here, too, is that Self already signed him and won the recruiting battle. It’s not as if this was just some comment he made to try to woo him to Kansas.

“He’s a guy that everybody enjoys playing with because he is so unselfish but also a guy that can take a game over.”

I’ve been trying to think of a former KU player who also fit this mold and it’s been difficult. A few guys who come to mind include Jacque Vaughn, Paul Pierce, Keith Langford, Wayne Simien, Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis. If Jackson winds up anywhere near that company, his one year at Kansas will be memorable.

“Josh has a great feel for basketball...”

This is one area where Jackson seems to differ a little from Wiggins. Wiggins, as you all know, was a freak athlete who dominated competition both in high school and at Kansas by using his physical tools. Simply put, he could run faster, jump higher, jump quicker, and move better than most players on the floor every time he played. If Jackson truly does have a better feel for the game, he should be able to impact the action in ways that go beyond athleticism. We’ve heard he’s a great passer and a better ball-handler than Wiggins. And based on what I’ve learned and what little I’ve seen, he seems to have very good command of what everyone on the court is and/or should be doing. It will be interesting to see if that same “feel” that he already seems to possess translates to Kansas and major college basketball right away.

“His recruitment was fierce and deservedly so. Coach Townsend has done such a good job for a long period of time of making sure Josh and (his mom) were both comfortable and educated on our situation and how Kansas could be a good fit for them.”

Recruit the parents, land the player. It doesn’t always work this way, of course, but it often plays a huge role. And Self and his staff know this — and do this — as well as anybody out there. I also think it’s worth noting Self’s praise for Townsend in these comments. Clearly, Self is the closer when it comes to landing these types of players. But without a strong effort from his staff to lay the foundation and, more importantly, stick with the recruitment every minute of every day and as much as needed, his success rate of landing these highly coveted one-and-dones would not be near what it is. Cool to see Self share the love. It’s that kind of feedback and praise that keeps these assistant coaches working so damn hard in a cut-throat and never-ending endeavor such as pounding the pavement on the recruiting grind.

Reply 1 comment from Pius Waldman

Josh Jackson better set up to succeed than previous KU wings

It’s a dangerous and somewhat foolish endeavor to put expectations of any kind on incoming college freshmen, but most of us just can’t help ourselves, can we?

Whether you’re talking about the type of insane hype that surrounded Andrew Wiggins — which would’ve been there wherever he chose to go to school — or the more tempered hopes put on guys like Wayne Selden, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden and dozens of others, fans, media members and even the coaches and players always seem to have some notion of what they expect to get from their shiny new Jayhawks.

That certainly is and will continue to be true of Josh Jackson, the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2016, who, minutes ago, picked Kansas over Arizona and Michigan State.

But it seems to me that whatever lofty expectations are tossed onto the shoulders of the 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing player who likely will fill Selden’s role in KU’s starting lineup next season, Jackson is in the best position of any KU wing in recent memory to live up to them.

Here’s why.

Team EZ Pass' Josh Jackson #11 in action against Team Doo Be Doo in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Team EZ Pass' Josh Jackson #11 in action against Team Doo Be Doo in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Jackson will be set up to succeed better at Kansas than any wing player since Ben McLemore because of the supporting cast around him.

And, with all due respect to how great McLemore was as a red-shirt freshman during the 2012-13 season, the hype attached to him was not anything close to what we saw with Wiggins, Selden, Kelly Oubre and, of course, now Jackson.

Like McLemore, though, Jackson will be surrounded by a veteran group of quality players who not only know how to play for KU coach Bill Self but also how to navigate the wild world of college basketball.

That can only help — be it in terms of taking the target off of Jackson’s back or in the mentor-student capacity — as Jackson brings his insane athleticism, killer outside shot and all-around impressive game to Lawrence for what figures to be his only season of college basketball.

Just think about KU’s backcourt for a minute. From Day 1, Jackson will be playing next to Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, a senior and a junior who have the skills and mindset to make plays for themselves and others and the experience to help show Jackson the way and push him to match their focus, tenacity and hunger.

Picture this: Mason attacks the paint and kicks to a wide open Jackson on the wing. After the catch, Jackson will have a few options. 1. Knock down the open jumper with space and time to step into that smooth shot. 2. Attack the rim while the collapsing defense scrambles to recover. 3. Become a facilitator himself by driving to create and then kicking to Mason, Graham or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, all of whom can bury open jumpers from anywhere on the floor.

Beyond those on-the-court, in-game advantages, Jackson also will benefit from playing under the leadership of a couple of strong seniors in Mason and Landen Lucas.

McLemore enjoyed similar riches by being plugged into a starting lineup that included seniors Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and Kevin Young, four Jayhawks who finished the previous season on the doorstep of a national championship.

While that team was crazy talented in terms of toughness and experience, the 2016-17 team figures to have the edge in terms of guards who can make plays off the bounce.

Just think about what having one lead guard like that (Sherron Collins) did for all of those players around him on the 2009-10 team. Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed and the Morris Twins all consistently got easy looks and open attack lanes because of the way Collins played the game.

If the combination of Mason and Graham can do that for Jackson — and, in turn, him for them — then KU’s newest one-and-done sensation could easily surpass the production of the others who came before him.

West forward Josh Jackson, from Justin-Siena in Napa, Calif., dunks against the East team during the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Chicago. The West beat the East 114-107.

West forward Josh Jackson, from Justin-Siena in Napa, Calif., dunks against the East team during the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Chicago. The West beat the East 114-107.

Here’s a quick look back at the hand dealt to each of KU’s high-profile wings in the past 10 years.

• Wayne Selden (2013-16) — Selden came in at the same time as Wiggins and played with the same lineup. What’s more, because of the presence of Wiggins himself, Selden was forced to play out of position his first season in Lawrence, which not only hurt his own growth and development but also created issues for the team. It was not until his junior year that Selden finally shined and, even then, he had plenty of moments when he disappeared. Though not as physical, Jackson seems to be coming to Kansas with a more advanced game than Selden brought.

• Kelly Oubre (2014-15) — Like Wiggins, Oubre held down the three spot in KU’s lineup and that, again, forced Selden to play the two. Although most of the key players on the roster were a year older than they were when Wiggins played, that did not necessarily make them a year wiser. Mason was much improved, but the Jayhawks replaced the experienced Tharpe with a rookie in Devonte’ Graham and still had a very young core group.

• Andrew Wiggins (2013-14) — Seven players in KU’s rotation during Wiggins’ lone year in Lawrence were sophomores or younger. That includes Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis. The only player on that KU team with any kind of veteran hue to him was junior guard Naadir Tharpe and, although I always thought Tharpe was a good leader, he was not the kind of guard who made others better with his play on the floor. Because of that, Wiggins often had to do too much and even though his insane talent led to some pretty darn good numbers (17 points, 6 rebounds in 33 minutes per game), you can’t help but wonder what those numbers might’ve been with a few tried and tested teammates taking off some of the pressure.

• Ben McLemore (2012-13) — After sitting out the 2011-12 season, McLemore was a star during the 2012-13 season but he benefitted big time from being eased into the role of hot shooter and highlight dunker because of the talent around him. Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford were tough proven perimeter players who were deadly in transition. And Jeff Withey and Kevin Young were so go inside (especially on the glass) that it allowed McLemore to roam free and play wherever he was most comfortable. Jackson could enjoy similar freedom.

• Josh Selby (2010-11) — Though more of a true guard than a wing, Selby’s issue (other than his personal shortcomings) was that he joined a team with too many quality veterans. Don’t get me wrong, if Selby had been as good as advertised, he would’ve played a ton and probably would’ve found his way into the starting lineup. But after a one-game explosion, the Baltimore guard who was ranked by some recruiting services as the No. 1 player in his class did little to back up that ranking and, instead, watched heady veterans like Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar, Travis Releford and Mario Little dominate the minutes on the perimeter.

• Xavier Henry (2009-10) — Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich were a dominant one-two, inside-out punch and everything else kind of fell in line around them. In fact, I’ve heard plenty of talk throughout the past several years from people wondering just how much more Henry could have shown/produced if he had been on a team like the one Wiggins was on. Instead of being leaned on as a primary piece, Henry spent most of his short KU career trying to fit in and fill a small role, which he did well.

• Brandon Rush (2005-08) — Many believed Rush was a one-and-done prospect when he came to Kansas, but he quickly showed that he needed at least a couple of seasons. A big reason for that was the fact that he came in with a bunch of guys who also were learning on the fly. Granted, that group made up the core of Bill Self’s 2008 national title team, but not having a single veteran who did not start out as a walk-on (Jeff Hawkins, Christian Moody and Stephen Vinson all played an unexpectedly big role on this young team) put Rush in the position of having to do more than he might have been ready for back in an era when other college teams still featured upperclassmen with some regularity.

• Julian Wright (2005-07) — Like Rush, Wright came in with that young core of future national champions and although Wright’s confidence and fearless approach to the game helped make him a lottery pick a year before his classmates won it all, Wright also would have benefitted from playing with a couple of veterans like Jackson will during the 2016-17 season.

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KU’s NCAA tourney success, failure tied to title game in 14 of past 30 seasons

While watching Villanova celebrate and cut down the nets after Monday night’s thrilling victory over North Carolina in the national title game, a topic popped up on Twitter that I felt was worth looking into a little deeper.

Seeing how Kansas was knocked out of this year’s tourney by the Wildcats, I and dozens of other people in the Twitterverse began wondering how many times that had happened to KU in the past.

The answer? Quite a lot. In fact, since 1991, KU’s tournament fate has been tied to teams playing for the national title on the last Monday of the college basketball season nearly half the time.

Breaking it down further, KU has lost to the eventual national champion 7 times since 1991. What’s more, KU has lost to the eventual runner-up 5 more times in that same stretch. And, of course, the Jayhawks themselves have been the national runner-up 3 times in that span (1991, 2003 and 2012) and, of course, won one national title themselves (2008).

Take it back a few years farther and you can add another national title (1988) and another loss to the eventual runner-up (Duke in 1986).

I know a lot has been made about KU’s early exits, both under Roy Williams and Bill Self, and these facts certainly don’t eliminate those losses. But it sure seems like the following list proves, in yet another way, just how consistently strong Kansas basketball has been in the past 30 years.

Here’s a more detailed look:

1986 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Duke in national semifinals.

1988 – KU beats Oklahoma for the national championship.

1991 - KU loses to Duke in national title game.

1993 – KU loses to eventual national champion North Carolina in national semifinals.

1996 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Syracuse in Elite Eight.

1997 – KU loses to eventual champ Arizona in Sweet 16.

2002 – KU loses to eventual champ Maryland in national semifinals.

2003 – KU loses to Syracuse in national title game.

2004 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Georgia Tech in Elite Eight.

2008 – KU beats Memphis for the national championship.

2009 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Michigan State in Sweet 16.

2012 – KU loses to Kentucky in national title game.

2013 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Michigan in Sweet 16.

2016 – KU loses to eventual champ Villanova in Elite Eight.

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