Shortly after becoming one of the prized signings of Kansas coach Bill Self, former KU star Andrew Wiggins became one of the premiere spokesmen for Adidas basketball.
Earlier this summer, Wiggins took another step toward becoming a mega shoe mogul when he helped Adidas launch its newest basketball shoe, the aptly named Crazy Explosive.
“You haven’t seen adidas shoes like this before,” Wiggins said in a promo. “These shoes are dope.”
The shoes, which utilize Adidas’ latest Boost technology and are said to feature equal parts comfort, performance and style, come in seven different models and colors. The “solar red” version currently is available worldwide and additional color schemes, including the Andrew Wiggins Home PE, will be rolled out throughout the rest of the year starting in October.
“Adidas came to me with a shoe to make me more explosive on the court,” Wiggins said in a recent interview with footwearnews.com. “When I tried this shoe for the first time, I really felt the difference when attacking the basket. And we all care about style.”
Picked No. 1 overall by Cleveland in the 2014 NBA Draft, Wiggins debuted his first Adidas shoe — the Crazylight Boost 2.5 — shortly after joining the Minnesota Timberwolves via trade. The shoe came in three styles and color schemes and featured on the tongue the initials AW, with a maple leaf designed to pay homage to Wiggins’ native Canada inserted into the A. That feature is also included on Wiggins’ second shoe.
His initial deal with Adidas was the largest signed by an NBA rookie in company history. Reports pegged the deal as a five-year commitment worth somewhere in the $12-13 million range. Wiggins’ agent Bill Duffy later went on record saying those numbers were inaccurate, leading many to believe they were low.
There’s nothing low about the Crazy Explosive, though, and, in June, several shoe buffs hammered the shoe on the Internet for looking more like a hiking boot or being something someone’s grandmother would knit.
The pairing of Wiggins and Adidas was a marriage that everybody knew was coming given KU’s association with the popular shoe brand and Wiggins’ status as both a bona fide college phenom and future NBA star.
With his pro career taking off — Wiggins averaged 20.7 points per game during his second NBA second, up four points a night from his rookie year — and Wiggins becoming one of the most popular and powerful young players in the league, Adidas certainly appears to be on the verge of cashing in on whatever investment it made in the former Jayhawk.
While he currently is known as an exciting and explosive scorer for an up-and-coming team, stunts like his recent attempt at a 720-degree slam dunk merely add to the buzz surrounding the young Canadian.
Like anything, though, Wiggins’ star will shine brighter if his team becomes more relevant. That, according to Wiggins, is on the way. During a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, the third-year pro declared that the Timberwolves, “can make the playoffs.”
Getting there would take quite a jump, especially in the Western Conference. But with a young core of Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine, among other young and promising talents, it’s easy to see the T’Wolves improving on their 29-53 record from a season ago.
“I think we're going to have a way better season than we had this year,” Wiggins told SI. “We've got some new pieces. I think last year we could've beat any team on any given day. This year we need to be more consistent with it.”
I know you’re out there. I can hear you all the way over here. And I don’t blame you.
But I do think you should take a brief pause from the eye-rolling and exhaling that surely hit most of you after learning about the pair of Alabama football transfers that announced plans to come to Kansas this week.
It’s not your fault that your gut reaction is to be skeptical. Heck, after all of the seemingly-promising transfers that have passed through here and never quite panned out, I would think skepticism would be a gut reaction upon learning that more were on the way.
But there’s something different about Alabama’s Daylon Charlot and Charles Baldwin that you might want to consider before writing them off.
There’s a lot different, actually.
First of all, these are not the Dayne Crists, Mike Ragones, Anthony McDonalds, Jake Heapses and Justin McCays of the world. All of those aforementioned players, and a few others just like them, came to Kansas on the heels of some serious hype because of their previous recruiting buzz and the names of the universities from which they came. Notre Dame. Oklahoma. BYU.
Players good enough to land scholarships at those schools traditionally do not come to Kansas. In each of those instances there were extra circumstances at play that paved the way for them to land in Lawrence. And while each of them had good moments and gave everything they had, none of them really proved to be the caliber of player that KU fans were expecting to get. Because of that, KU fans then built up a wall that prompted them to first laugh and scoff at the news of any transfers coming this way in the years that followed.
As I mentioned above, I get it. I was duped too. And maybe if things were different in some ways or if they had come at a different time, those former transfers would have enjoyed terrific careers at KU and this narrative would be completely different. But that didn’t happen. So those guys and many others who followed in their footsteps immediately were labeled as busts, has-beens or never-would-bes because the guys before them didn’t quite pan out.
In almost every one of those cases, though, we already knew what type of player Kansas was getting. Sure, the idea that they had played at OU or suited up at Notre Dame sounded like a dream scenario for a struggling KU program. But each was deep into his career and had not really shown anything at the previous stop to make people here think things were going to be different. The excitement of the shiny name and the hope of better days blinded many of us to that fact.
That’s on us. Our expectations and preconceived notions created that. Not the players.
But, guess what? These guys who are coming from ’Bama are not proven — good or bad. And we don’t know that they couldn’t cut it in Tuscaloosa. All we know is that they want to try it somewhere else.
In the case of Charlot, that was after one season and, most likely, because he wants a better chance to get on the field or to play in a different style.
In the case of Baldwin, he was dismissed for violation of team rules, so we have to be careful there. And like current Jayhawk Anthony Olobia or former Jayhawk Marquel Combs before him, he was one of the highest rated junior college prospects in the country before heading to Alabama. While that part might sound familiar and surely leaves more than a little to be desired given the way things played out with Combs and Olobia, the big difference is this: Baldwin was a player Ala-freakin-Bama wanted. The best programs on Olobia’s offer list included Texas Tech and Utah.
Besides all of those facts, this is a different era of Kansas football. Much of the failed junior college experiment and transfer route took place under Charlie Weis, who was simply trying to crawl out of the mess made by Turner Gill and wound up creating a different kind of mess because of it.
Had the transfers mentioned above panned out, Weis would’ve looked like a genius and KU would’ve won a bunch more games. Neither happened and that led to the arrival of David Beaty.
Believe me, Beaty does not go into these deals lightly. If he’s taking a transfer, it’s because he thinks — maybe even knows — that adding that player immediately makes KU better. If he doesn’t believe that’s the case, he doesn’t take the player. It’s that simple.
Transfers are tricky and there is no guarantee that any of them are ever going to be what fans and coaches hope they will be. Many of them aren’t.
There’s no doubt that both Charlot and Baldwin will forever be labeled as the former ’Bama guys and, therefore, will both be held to that standard, especially in the eyes of KU fans desperate to see this program return to its winning ways. And the scenario exists that has these two playing good but not great or even being downright busts and becoming the next in a long line of promising transfers who went on to disappoint.
But I’d say the odds that they’ll succeed are at least as good as the odds that they’ll fail and probably better. Better, because they’re coming into a whole different set of circumstances than those players from the past.
So to write these two off just because of the past failures of so many others who came to KU and underperformed is a bit premature.
Things are different now. And maybe this time it will wind up being OK to be excited about this kind of potential good fortune happening to Kansas football.
Despite being nine years apart, Kansas basketball’s 2008 recruiting class and 2017 recruiting class might wind up having a lot more in common than anyone could have predicted.
We won’t know, of course, what KU’s 2017 class looks like for several weeks, perhaps even months, but it did get off to a solid start this week when the Jayhawks landed a commitment from versatile Dallas guard Marcus Garrett, the 44th ranked player in the country according to Rivals.com.
While it remains to be seen exactly how big — or how stellar — KU’s 2017 class will be, this much we know today: It is likely going to consist of somewhere between 4 and 6 players and nearly all of them will make up key parts of the 2017-18 rotation.
Sound familiar? It should. KU coach Bill Self has rebuilt his rotation on more than one occasion during his days at Kansas. And each time he’s done it with a great deal of success.
Few were as impressive as the 2008 class, which was finalized less than a month after Self led the Jayhawks to a national title with a roster dominated by upperclassmen.
Only Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich returned as key contributors on that title team.
Five players from that 2008 national championship squad were lost to the NBA draft. And four others — Russell Robinson, Jeremy Case, Rodrick Stewart and Brad Witherspoon — left town after graduation. That’s nine players gone from a roster of 17, two of them walk-ons.
Needless to say, Self’s work on the recruiting trail as he simultaneously attempted to guide Kansas to the title was more than a little important.
The same could be said about the current state of Kansas basketball. We don’t know yet if the 2016-17 team will bring home a title, but it certainly looks like a legit contender. What’s more, Self stands to lose a good chunk of this year’s roster at season’s end, whether the Jayhawks win it all or not.
KU’s official roster includes 15 players. Of those, we know that seniors Frank Mason, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self won’t be back.
Beyond that, we know there’s a better-than-good chance that freshman Josh Jackson, junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and possibly even Carlton Bragg and Devonte’ Graham won’t return.
(For what it’s worth, I’d bet money Graham will be back for his senior season, but you never know.)
For this exercise, let’s say Graham’s back and the rest leave; that’s six players departing from a roster of 15, or 40 percent.
In 2008, KU lost 53 percent of its roster. The big difference, though, was that just six of the nine players — 67 percent — who bolted after the national title were regular parts of the rotation, while five of the six — 83 percent — who could leave after the upcoming season figure to be key rotation guys.
There exists the possibility, of course, that Bragg, Graham and Svi all could return for the 2017-18 season. Heck, even Jackson, technically could return, though that’s much less likely. If any or all of those players were to come back, the importance of the 2017 class obviously would be lessened and Self once again would roll out a talented and experienced crew to start the 2017-18 season.
Either way, Self is staring at, in the very least, a restocking of the roster, even if he does not have a full rebuild on his hands.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see that the coach set to enter his 14th season in charge of the Kansas program is well ahead of the game compared to the way things played out in 2008.
Even though they're not traditional members of the 2017 class, Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman and Liberty transfer Evan Maxwell already are on campus and practicing with the team. Both will sit out this season and be eligible again in 2017.
Add to that the early commitment from Garrett and you’re looking at a three-player headstart for Self and the Jayhawks.
KU’s 2008 class, which consisted of guards Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrone Appleton and Travis Releford and forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris, Quintrell Thomas and Mario Little, landed its first official commitment in June of 2007 (Releford, a local prospect, committed June 20) but did not fill up until Taylor’s commitment on April 29, 2008.
So even though Garrett’s commitment came a few weeks after Releford’s on the calendar, one of the most important pieces in that 2008 class came at the very end, and the presence of Newman and Maxwell, along with Garrett, puts KU ahead of the recruiting pace from 2008.
Add to that the fact that Self and the Jayhawks still are in pursuit of some of the top talent in the country, including No. 1 overall prospect DeAndre Ayton and Top 10 prospects Kevin Knox, Billy Preston and Troy Brown, among others, and it’s safe to say that the prospects for the 2017-18 season look a lot less scary than the outlook for that 2008-09 season once did.
So how’d the Jayhawks fare in 2008-09? KU rolled to a 14-2, first-place finish in the Big 12 Conference and topped out at 27-8 overall, falling to eventual national runner-up Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
Imagine the following conversation, set well in the future, creating some serious confusion for Kansas basketball fans.
Fan 1: I still can’t believe that magical run the Jayhawks made in 1988 at Mosaic Arena.
Fan 2: Mosaic? What are you talking about?
Fan 1: You know, the venue right down the road where Danny and the Miracles capped off their run to the national title, KU’s first since 1952.
Fan 2: Yeah. I know the story. But what’s this Mosaic you’re talking about? That Final Four took place at Kemper Arena.
Fan 1: No. It was at Mosaic.
Fan 2: Umm, no. It was Kemper.
Fan 1: Nuh uh. Mosaic.
Fan 2: I’m leaving.
There’s no need to get frustrated or lose friends over this. It’s as simple as Kemper Arena, site of the 1988 Final Four and so many memorable Big Eight tournaments, finally receiving a name change after all these years.
According to a Tuesday news release, Kemper Arena will be renamed Mosaic Arena under an agreement announced by Foutch Brothers, the development company that plans to turn the arena in the West Bottoms into a regional amateur sports venue. The deal, with Mosaic Life Care, makes Mosaic the naming rights sponsor for the arena.
Mosaic Life Care is a health care company based in St. Joseph, Mo., that is expanding its services into the Kansas City metro area. CEO Mark Laney said in a release that he believed taking over the naming rights for Kemper Arena would help the company expand its brand. But for fans of KU basketball the move likely will be remembered as little more than the reason that one of the most important venues not named Allen Fieldhouse in Kansas basketball history now goes by a new name.
The guess here is that most KU fans will continue to refer to the arena as Kemper, but there does exist the potential for confusion like the mock conversation that played out above to one day occur between different generations of KU hoops fans.
Well, isn’t this just completely fitting?
Just when you start to think that the Big 12 Conference is making moves in the right direction regarding expansion, something pops up that completely calls into question what the conference is doing and now, if they’re not careful, the conference could have a heck of a problem on its hands.
That’s the gist of a report from Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal that indicates that the powers that be at the Big 12’s television partners are not happy with where expansion might be headed.
Before we go any farther, let’s take a quick pause for a moment of honesty. Is anybody really happy about the direction of Big 12 expansion?
I mean, yeah, there appears to be more money to be made if the conference expands from 10 to 12, or even 14 (more on that in a moment), but it’s been well documented that the pool of candidates does not include the kind of knock-your-socks-off schools that would turn the concept of expanding from something that makes sense and seems fairly practical into something about which people — fans, players, coaches and administrators — would get excited.
And therein lies the issue that the conference’s TV partners have.
For those of you who have not been keeping up with this whole saga, there’s a clause in the Big 12’s media rights agreement that automatically creates higher revenue in the event of expansion. The clause is known as “pro rata” and could be worth as much as $80 million annually to the conference. Add to that number, what the Big 12 would gain in terms of revenue from a conference championship game (which will return in 2017), and you’re looking at a potential increase of $100 million annually for the Big 12.
Throw in the fact that the new members would not immediately pull in the same percentage as the existing members and you’re looking at quite a deal for the 10 schools that already call the Big 12 home.
That’s for now, though. The clause is written in plain English and, despite reports about ESPN and FOX pursuing legal action, I can’t really see any way of them getting out of it. Of course, I’m not a lawyer and I have not studied things that closely.
What I do know, however, is that while this could be a big time gain for the Big 12 in the short term, it could wind up being a nightmare in the long term. Let’s say the Big 12 goes through with expansion against the wishes of its TV partners, who do not deem any of the “available candidates” to be sexy enough to move the television ratings needle. That might deliver big time dough through 2025, but it also might deliver a heck of a chip on the shoulders of those media giants and when the grant of rights agreements expire and the Big 12 is back at the drawing board looking for stability and partnership well into the future those powerhouses might not be there.
It’s risky. And it’s precisely the reason Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other Big 12 brass are negotiating and trying to find a peaceful and profitable resolution for all parties.
Can they get there? The guess here is no. The make-up of these schools who are seeking admission into the Big 12 is not going to change and it would be a nightmare to even consider the idea of pulling in teams from another Power 5 conference — though, that idea is not entirely crazy.
My guess is that the TV muscle wins out this time but that the Big 12 gets some sort of quiet assurance — written or otherwise — that ESPN and FOX will be there, ready to re-sign, when the current deals expire.
If that’s the case, it probably goes down as a win for the conference, which misses out on the exciting headline grab that would come with announcing expansion but also gets long-term stability and continues to be able to spread the wealth among 10 members, an enviable position as long as the money continues to rise.
During the past few decades bigger, taller, meaner, older men and all kinds in between have tried to tackle the job entrusted to second-year Kansas football coach David Beaty.
And very few of them have succeeded.
So just how difficult is the Kansas football job?
Beaty was asked that question — and dozens of others — Monday at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, and, like with most things, the KU coach gave an honest and enthusiastic answer.
“You know what? It is a difficult job,” Beaty said. “But all these jobs are difficult. But I tell you what, it's a great opportunity. We know where we are headed and our players do as well. I can't wait for you guys to hear from those guys because I think you will hear in their voices, they know where we're headed.”
Unlike a year ago, when Beaty spent a good chunk of his time on the podium subtly pushing the recruiting angle, this year he talked more about concrete proof of progress, the process and what his players have done during his first year in charge.
No one can say Beaty was pleased with the winless season and the final record, but there were elements of that first season that made him happy.
“For us to go through a season that we went through, if you would have come to that last practice before that last game you would have never thought we hadn't won a game,” he said. “That was probably what I was most proud of. Our guys worked and enjoyed everything they did with regard to development. They know where we are heading and they can see the future.
“Is it difficult? Yes, but every job is difficult, doesn't really matter where you're coaching, everything has their own unique set of characteristics that make it difficult, but there is a lot of great things about 'em, too, and there is a lot of tremendous support at KU. They want to win. They give us what we need. We're finishing up a $2 million renovation and our fans want it and they know it's coming and our guys know it's coming, too.”
In a lot of ways, it seems like much longer than one year ago that the Kansas men’s basketball players were standing on a podium in South Korea with USA splashed across their chests awaiting the presentation of their gold medals.
So much happened between now and then, from KU turning in a fabulous 33-5 2015-16 season and reaching the Elite Eight to the fight for Cheick Diallo’s eligibility, the NBA Draft and, of course, the departure of stars like Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden and the arrival of their successors Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike, that it hardly seems possible that the World University Games wrapped up just one year ago.
Such is life at the highest level of college basketball in today’s world, where things change quickly and only a few elements of each program remain consistent from year to year — coaching staffs, venues, fan base, etc.
Adding support to that point, Kansas returns just five members from that gold-medal squad at the 2015 Games to its 2016-17 roster: Frank Mason, Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg, Lagerald Vick and Tyler Self.
Ellis, Diallo, Selden and Brannen Greene all entered the NBA Draft following the 2015-16 season. Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Evan Manning graduated. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was ineligible because he was born outside of the United States. Devonte’ Graham did not play because he was injured. And SMU’s Nic Moore and Florida Gulf Coast’s Julian DeBose returned to their programs after the trip to Korea.
While many, including KU coach Bill Self, expected the Jayhawks to go over to Korea and suffer at least a couple of losses playing against grown men with international experience, the Jayhawks themselves never did. KU’s experienced and talented roster talked before it went about going over there with one thing in mind and that was winning a gold medal. Even those who believed that was possible did not envision a scenario in which KU would win eight games in 10 days without taking a loss.
That stretch included a double-overtime victory over Germany in the Gold Medal Game that ended early in the morning, Kansas time, and led to a day-long celebration by the team in Korea and KU fans back in Lawrence.
KU won its eight games overseas by an average of 20 points per game, with three of the eight victories coming by nine points, the closest being a one-point win over Serbia that put KU into the quarterfinals and the biggest blowout coming by way of a 65-point drubbing of Chile.
The Journal-World’s Bobby Nightengale and Mike Yoder were the only Kansas media members who made the trip to Korea and they chronicled every aspect of the Jayahwks’ experience, from the wins and stats on the court to the discovery of Korean culture and a little down time off the court.
For those KU fans feeling particularly nostalgic on this one-year anniversary of one of the more memorable summers in Kansas hoops history, be sure to check out our KU in Korea page which provides links and chronicles all of Mike and Bobby’s coverage from KU's quest to bring home the gold.
One day, who knows how long from now, we’ll be talking about the NBA/NCAA 2-year rule like it was always in place.
That rule, which would require any player who chooses to attend college to stay a minimum of two years, does not exist yet, of course, but after watching Thursday’s NBA Draft, during which one of four eligible former Jayhawks was selected, I could not help but think how badly a rule like this is needed.
And I’m not simply saying this because of the long looks on the faces of athletes like Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis (31), KU’s Cheick Diallo (33) and Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere (28), all freshmen during the 2015-16 college season who thought they would go much higher in this year’s draft than they did.
I’m saying it because this draft, perhaps better than any in recent memory, showed that sometimes these one-and-done players who hear for a couple of years that they’re going to be lottery picks but wind up slipping after their lone season of college ball, need something in place to help them make better decisions.
I’m not saying Diallo was crazy for going pro. In fact, even though he fell out of the first round, I still think it was the right move for him to leave. Based on what we saw during his freshman season and how raw and young he still is in the game of basketball, I’m not sure Year 2 at Kansas under coach Bill Self would have been all that different for Diallo than Year 1 was. So if they’re telling you you’re a first rounder, where guaranteed money awaits, I totally get why you’d go.
I’m sure Davis, Labissiere, Maryland’s Diamond Stone (40) and others were hearing the same thing.
But when it came down to it, all of them had to sweat it out on Thursday night, when they should not have had to. Here’s how it could have been avoided:
They could have been allowed to go pro right away. I still don’t understand how it’s legal to prevent this from happening. Diallo and Labissiere almost certainly would have been first-round picks in last year’s draft had they been allowed to enter early. It worked out for Labissiere and Diallo just missed. But think back to a couple of years ago, when former Jayhawk Wayne Selden was a projected lottery pick before his freshman season and now he leaves as an undrafted junior. That’s not to say Selden would have been better off as a basketball player had he entered the draft at 18, but he certainly would be richer.
They could have been required to return for a second season of college ball. This would help not only the players but also the coaches and programs that spend so much time, effort and money recruiting these athletes, sometimes for as few as nine months worth of time with them.
If you’re a college hoops fan and you’ve been paying attention at all, none of this is new information. I get that. Baseball has it figured out, several other sports get it right. You’ve heard all of that. And you’ll keep hearing it until the NBA and college basketball fix their system, too.
I heard a lot of talk last night from analysts saying that players who go undrafted or even those who are unhappy with where they went in the draft should be able to return to school after the fact. That, too, would fix things, although I’m not sure I truly like that system much better and think it could bring with it as many problems as solutions.
The bottom line is this: Those of us hoping for a rule change to fix this mess may wind up waiting in vain, or at least waiting for a long, long time. What it’s more likely to come down to is these athletes making better, more informed decisions so that the Diallos and Davises of the world don’t have to experience what they experienced Thursday in New York City.
Draft night should be fun. It should be life changing. It should be a celebration. And it was for so many players, a few of whom I did not expect to get drafted — Georges Niang, Abdel Nader, Marcus Paige. Wow. All three were four-year players who had great college careers and can really play but may not be your prototypical NBA guys.
Here’s hoping the rest of college basketball was paying attention to those names being called and other one-time, can’t-miss stars falling, so that instead of seeing long faces on supremely talented players, we’ll see second — maybe even third — seasons of college basketball from some of them, therein making the college game even better than it already is.
Time will tell. And I’m not holding my breath. Merely hopeful.
It's time for the second installment of this summer's Most Crucial Jayhawks list and, after starting off on the offensive side of the ball at arguably the most important position on the team on Monday, we hop over to defense for No. 24.
When you're coming off of an 0-12 season, every position is important. And while KU's defense should feature an improved group of players with decent experience, the KU coaching staff (and fan base) is always looking for ways to add top-tier talent to the roster.
That, regardless of how it arrives, would expedite KU's battle to rebuild the program and, also would give the Jayhawks and their fans something to get excited about.
That brings us to No. 24 on the list, a true freshman from Oklahoma, who promises to excite and plans to deliver, not just during his Kansas career, but as soon as he steps onto the field for Game 1 as a Jayhawk on Sept. 3.
Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.
This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.
Tom Keegan and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.
Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we'll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.
24. Kyle Mayberry, Fr. Cornerback
When it comes to playing cornerback in the Big 12 Conference, the target is always on your back, there are no down times and all eyes are on you from start to finish of most conference games.
That’s what makes the addition of Kyle Mayberry so important to this Kansas squad and why so many people in the program and in Mayberry’s camp believe the top-rated cornerback in Oklahoma in the prep class of 2016 may be a star in the making with the Jayhawks.
Tall, physical, long and athletic, Mayberry’s skill set transfers well to the Big 12, where he will face world-class athletes week after week disguised as wide receivers.
However, while Mayberry is gifted in all of those physical areas, his biggest strength might be his confidence. This young man believes he can cover anybody at any time and, upon meeting fellow-Oklahoman and former Jayhawk Chris Harris at Harris’ camp a couple of summers ago, Mayberry told him, point blank, that he was the best CB in the state.
“He asked who I was,” Mayberry told the Journal-World earlier this year. “And I told him I was the best cornerback in the state of Oklahoma. He said, ‘Oh, really.’ And then that season I had a great year, and he found out I really was.”
Mayberry, who goes by the nickname "Money," has the talent and skills to challenge for a starting spot immediately. The big question surrounding how successful that quest will be comes in the form of how quickly Mayberry will adjust to college life, the speed of the college game and KU’s defensive schemes and game plan.
If that comes as naturally as making plays did during his high school career, Mayberry could make a big early splash and that could pay big time dividends for the team. Even if he doesn’t, it’s easy to see Mayberry playing a significant number of snaps in a reserve role, rotating into the cornerback mix with Brandon Stewart, Marnez Ogletree and Stephan Robinson among others.
Although he won’t be in the spotlight off the field because of KU’s policy against freshmen talking to the media, Mayberry easily could find the spotlight on the field and could quickly develop into a fan favorite if his play holds up.
He has one of the brightest long term futures in the program and if he can get off to a solid start in Year 1, it would go a long way toward helping KU field a much more competitive team in 2016.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:
Finally, the Kansas football team may be catching a break.
It’s been a rough six seasons for the Jayhawks, who have piled up losses at a record pace since enjoying wild success under former head coach Mark Mangino. And there’s no doubting that in order to crawl out from under the mess the Jayhawks could benefit from a helping hand.
That’s exactly what they’ll get in 2016, according to FOX Sports writer Bruce Feldman, who ranks the Jayhawks’ 2016 non-conference schedule as the second easiest among Power 5 Conference football programs.
Here’s the criteria Feldman used...
"I've based this on my evaluation of opponents' merits for 2016 based on the following points system: 5 points for a Top 5 caliber team; 4.5 for a Top 15; 4 for a Top 25; 3.5 for a Top 40; 3 for a Top 60; 2.5 for a Top 80; 2 for a Top 100; 1.5 for a fringe FBS program or strong FCS team; a 1 for a complete cupcake. Also, I've added bonus points for a road game (0.5) or a neutral site game (0.25)."
After tallying it all up, KU’s non-con schedule strength index number came in at 1.83, tied with Washington for second lowest and just .02 behind Boston College, which claimed the No. 1 spot.
Feldman likes the way things set up for KU during its first three games before the grueling Big 12 schedule, with a pair of home games against Rhode Island and Ohio and a trip to Memphis that became a little bit easier to swallow this offseason, when former Memphis coach Justin Fuente left for Virginia Tech and several seniors exhausted their eligibility and followed him out the door.
Here’s Feldman’s take...
"The Jayhawks have a great chance to start the season with a win by opening at home against woeful URI, which was 1-10 in 2015. After that, Ohio, which has only 11 starters back, visits, followed by a trip to play a rebuilding Memphis team that not only lost its star QB but also its head coach and has only 12 starters returning."
Earlier this summer, though not as high, I also saw ESPN ranked KU's non-conference schedule as the eighth easiest among Power 5 programs.
Clearly, the mere thought that KU may have a couple of easy games in the early going qualifies as good news for the Jayhawks. But if there's one thing KU fans have learned during one of the roughest stretches in college football history it's that nothing comes easy and easy definitely is a relative term.
Still, having a schedule that people don't deem one of the most difficult in the country, which has been the case during a couple of the past few seasons, should give KU hope that the turnaround could begin sooner rather than later.
Really, though, this fact qualifies as both good and bad news. Good because it gives KU a chance. Bad because if the Jayhawks stumble against this group, they won't really have any excuses.
That's not to say anybody should expect Kansas to be 3-0 after the non-con portion of the schedule passes on Sept. 17 — 2-1 would certainly register as a fantastic start and, according to Vegas and many college football analysts, 1-2 is the more likely result.
But momentum can be a funny thing. And if KU can get that first one against a woeful Rhode Island team, the Ohio game the following week looks a little more attainable and things can build from there.
The whole thing adds intrigue to something that KU fans already are keeping a close eye on anyway — how quickly can second-year coach David Beaty get things back on the right track and when will Saturdays at Memorial Stadium start to be fun again?