The last time Kansas basketball coach Bill Self saw his son, Tyler, hit a 3-pointer as a Jayhawk, the KU coach smiled slyly but did his best to maintain his composure.
Self knew then, of course — during the Jayhawks’ 100-62 victory over UC-Davis in Round 1 of last season’s NCAA Tournament — that the cameras were rolling and, because of that, sportsmanship was a high priority.
Thursday night, at his son’s old stomping grounds of Free State High, Self again watched Tyler knock in a 3-pointer during the ninth annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, won 104-101 by the Crimson team over the Blue. This time, however, Self sat in the stands, and, as a proud parent, leapt to both feet and threw both arms and fists in the air after the former KU walk-on knocked down the open jumper.
Many in attendance at the sold-out event caught Self’s reaction — partially genuine and partially over the top — and appropriately roared with laughter.
That was merely one of the dozen or so light-hearted moments that made this year’s Roundball Classic, like all of the others before it, such a memorable and enjoyable evening for so many former Kansas players and their adoring fans.
Here are a few others:
• At halftime, when one lucky fan received an opportunity to shoot a half-court shot for a new car and six young fans were plucked from the crowd to play a quick game of knock-out, KU director of basketball operations Brennan Bechard was called to the court to advise the half-court heaver. Bechard, of course, is the reigning half-court shot champion, having knocked in half-courters in back-to-back years at Late Night for tuition money for one lucky KU student. Bechard’s advice to the man was simple: Don’t leave it short. He didn’t, but it was off to the left and missed the rim by a foot or two.
• More from the younger Self. Although he didn’t play a ton of minutes, he did make the most of his opportunity to entertain, first knocking down that open jumper and twice later overreacting in dramatic fashion to fouls called against him. The first came when he fouled Sherron Collins on a 3-point attempt. And the other came when he bear-hugged Cole Aldrich in the paint. Each time Tyler Self threw both arms high into the air in the direction of the officials to protest the calls. Not long after, a smile of pure joy quickly filled Tyler’s face. One thing that really hit me during these exchanges was how much fun it must’ve been for him to participate in this game. Sure there were a couple of guys out there, like Wayne Selden or Perry Ellis, who Tyler was teammates with. But the good majority of them, especially those from that 2008 team, were better known as guys he once looked up to and, perhaps more importantly, the crew that finally delivered his dad a national title. Cool stuff.
• At the point in the night when the members of the 2008 national title team were asked to come to mid-court for a group photo, Roundball Classic leading scorer Ben McLemore (32 points), who played just the 2012-13 season at Kansas before turning pro, jokingly jumped out there to try to get into the picture. “Yeah, you seen me try to go out there,” McLemore said after the game. “I wish I could’ve won a championship. But it was great playing here for the University of Kansas and it’s always a great feeling to come back here.”
• During one timeout in the second half, when event organizer Brian Hanni was introducing a young boy named Cade, who last year was an honorary coach at the game and this year is on pace to complete his cancer treatment with a prognosis of a victorious battle on his side, Hanni learned that Thursday also was Cade’s birthday. With the teams mingling more and strategizing less, Collins grabbed the mic and led the Free State gym in a singing of “Happy Birthday.” He was no John Legend, but Collins definitely pulled off the role of lead singer with a passing grade.
• A couple of funny quick-hitters from the game itself: At one point, after Mario Little blocked a driving shot attempt by Tyshawn Taylor, Mario Chalmers waived the Dikembe Mutombo finger Taylor’s way; Late in the game, with both sides competing harder in an attempt to snag the victory, Collins asked the scorer’s table how many fouls Taylor had. The scoreboard operator was not keeping track, but Collins was sure that Taylor had six fouls and should no longer be on the floor; During one timeout midway through the second half, Collins, on the Crimson team, looked over to the Blue bench and told J.J. Howard, son of Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard, that he was with the wrong team and that he should, “Come over to the good side.” J.J. stayed put; During a two-on-none late in the first half, as Wayne Selden and Drew Gooden raced toward the unprotected rim, an easy opportunity to throw an alley-oop presented itself. Instead of tossing it to Gooden, however, Selden fired it off the glass to himself and finished the play with one of the more impressive jams of the night. Rather than call him out for not giving up the rock, Gooden simply ran back on D with a huge smile and a look on his face that suggested he might be thinking, “Yeah. Good idea.”
• Finally, on a night designed to celebrate several former Jayhawks and honor the brave fights of a handful of young cancer warriors and their families, it’s worth noting that several members of the current Kansas basketball team showed up to enjoy the event. Those spotted in the crowd on Thursday were: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Mitch Lightfoot, Marcus Garrett, Dedric Lason, Charlie Moore and the entire KU coaching staff. Several former players mentioned in throughout the postgame festivities, but this truly was a family affair.
One of the most popular rumors during the stay-or-go portion of the 2016-17 Kansas basketball team’s immediate offseason — and even throughout the season’s final couple of months — was that the NBA decisions facing junior guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk were tied together.
As close as any two Jayhawks not named Morris during recent years and roommates during their days leading up to their respective decisions, it made sense for folks to speculate that the two Jayhawks would consult one another about their futures during the process and perhaps even agree to make the same decision one way or another.
To hear Graham tell it, that wasn’t the case at all.
“Nah, that didn’t have anything to do with it,” Graham told reporters Sunday afternoon following registration and check-in for this year’s Bill Self Basketball Camps. “We weren’t doing it for each other. He wanted to test and see where he would end up and he just made the decision to come back. He felt like that was best for him at the time.”
Graham did not need nearly as long to make up his mind, deciding to return to KU for his final season a little more than two weeks after the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss to Oregon in the Elite Eight.
Because Graham’s announcement came much quicker, a full 45 days before Mykhailuk’s, that left all eyes on the young Ukrainian, who revealed on May 24 that he would return to KU for his senior season.
Two of those eyes belonged to Graham.
“He actually had me kind of worried and I know he had everybody else kinda worried, too,” Graham said. “I was happy to hear he was coming back.”
Unlike most of the rest of the world, which found out Mykhailiuk’s decision via Instagram and Twitter, Graham got the VIP treatment, receiving a text message from his good friend about an hour before the big reveal went public.
Graham, who this season figures to slide into his biggest and most important leadership role yet, said he checked in with Mykhailiuk often throughout the process — mostly via FaceTime chats — and said he, too, learned some things about the whole pre-draft process from Mykhailiuk and other past teammates who had gone through it.
“That can definitely help me,” Graham admitted. “You know, I talked to Wayne (Selden) about it, the whole process, and Frank (Mason III) and people who did it before. So I’ll talk to (Mykhaiiluk) once he gets back about everything that he went through. I was Face-Timing him during the whole thing and stuff like that, too, so I know a little bit about what was going on.”
While Graham and the rest of his teammates will get a jumpstart on preparations for the 2017-18 season, which unofficially began Sunday and will take a massive step forward when KU begins practicing for its August trip to Italy for four exhibition games in Rome and Milan, Mykhailiuk is already overseas working out for the Ukrainian national team for a spot on Team Ukraine in this year’s FIBA Eurobasket 2017 tournament.
Mykhailiuk is not expected to be on campus any time soon but is expected to play with the Jayhawks in Italy. The FIBA event is slated for the first two weeks of September.
Graham said Sunday that he and Mykhailiuk once again would be roommates during the upcoming school year and season, which not only will give them a chance to further build their bond as friends but also to lean on one another in their quest to become senior leaders for the Jayhawks during the 2017-18 season.
Recorded Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Thursday, the college basketball world on both sides of the Kansas/Missouri state line became a little more fired up than it normally is in late May.
See, Thursday was the day when the folks at ESPN announced the match-ups for the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge — 10 games between the two leagues on Jan. 27 — and because the Big 12 has just 10 members, compared with 14 for the SEC, four SEC schools were left out, as has been the case each year.
One of those four schools was Missouri, based on the Tigers’ woeful 2016-17 season (8-24 overall, 2-16 in conference) and finish at the bottom of the SEC standings.
Makes sense, right? Why would ESPN want to put a team like that on television when the whole goal of the challenge is to attract viewers and make money?
According to those on the Missouri side of things, the easy answer is this: Thanks to the addition of No. 1 overall recruit Michael Porter and a couple of other highly ranked and highly rated Class of 2017 prospects, the Tigers are no longer that team.
They’re talking NCAA Tournament over there now and I’ve even heard mention of the words national championship and Final Four. Good for them. That’s how it should be and that’s what they should be striving for.
Now that the Tigers figure to be at least decent again, the interest in renewing the rivalry is ramped up. Makes sense. I mean, much in the way that Kansas football would have been stomped by Mizzou during the first few years of MU’s time in the SEC, the Jayhawks would’ve handed the Tigers a couple of 30-point losses in the past few years in basketball had the two schools played each other. And what’s the fun in that for either side?
So the claim from the Mizzou side is that ESPN missed an opportunity to revive the Border War and pit Missouri against Kansas in the made-for-TV showcase, a move that no doubt would have injected some serious life and excitement into the region and created a game that would have been nearly as hyped and anticipated as the past two Kansas-Kentucky match-ups if not more in some ways.
But let’s face it; adding a player like Porter or even a coach like Cuonzo Martin, who already seems to be well on his way to turning things around in Columbia, is no reason for the rivalry to all of a sudden start back up.
Sure, it’s plenty of reason for folks on the Missouri side. And who could blame them for feeling that way?
But nothing has changed for Kansas. The powers that be in the Kansas athletic department, from AD Sheahon Zenger to basketball coach Bill Self and on down the line, is (and always has been) that it was the Tigers who left the Big 12, sold out their brothers and ended the Border War. Kansas did not do that and, therefore, does not feel responsible for the end nor obligated to clamor for a new beginning.
Besides that, Kansas does not actually need Missouri. That may be a harsh reality for two programs who share so much history and have created so many great moments throughout the past several decades, but it is the truth.
The Jayhawks, especially in basketball, are a national brand and stand to gain very little by playing the Tigers again. Sure it would fire up both fan bases and there could be some money to be made in terms of marketing, T-Shirt sales and that kind of thing. But it’s not as if KU is struggling to pay its bills. So instead of taking the quick cash grab, the Jayhawks appear to be content standing on principle.
You left us, they say, and we don’t need you back. Seems fair. Seems logical. Whether fans on either side like it or not, seems like it’s the way it’s going to be.
So all of this fuss about how KU and Mizzou should have been paired up in the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge is little more than white noise. For one, the rules of the challenge do not allow for it because of where Missouri finished in the SEC standings last season. For two, it really was never an option because Kansas is not interested.
That’s nothing new and the reasons have been clearly stated for the past several years.
If you’re one of those who wants to see it and is still holding out hope that it’ll happen, Bracketology’s your best bet for now.
And, hey, never say never. Kansas and Wichita State finally played a couple of years ago, right?
Those familiar with basketball, at just about any level, know that there typically are five positions on the floor – point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.
There are, of course, variations of each position — point forward and stretch 4 are two of the better examples — and not every team uses all five positions all the time.
While that tends to be important when coaches are putting together rosters and formulating game plans, it seems to have less importance at the highest level of basketball, where players are picked and pursued based on potential and production.
“In the NBA, they think play-makers more than positions,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla told the Journal-World, noting that Jackson’s attacking mentality and versatility made him a dream prospect for any team.
There are still, of course, guards, forwards and centers throughout the league, but Fraschilla said NBA talent evaluators often tag young players with different descriptions, especially ahead of the draft.
“All-Star, starter, rotation guy, fringe guy,” Fraschilla explained.
Jackson’s potential to fit into the first two slots — perhaps immediately — is just one of the many reasons Fraschilla believes KU's freshman All-American is so highly coveted and sits on the brink of a long pro career.
“If I were doing a mock draft, he would be in my Top 3,” Fraschilla said, echoing what several draft and pro basketball analysts believe will be the case in the June Draft.
But the reason for Fraschilla’s appreciation of where Jackson fits into the NBA game go beyond his 6-foot-8 frame, elite athleticism, intense motor and individual skills.
“You know right away if you need a small forward, you’re plugging in a 10 year starter,” Fraschilla said of Jackson. “I don’t know how many times he’ll be an all-star, there aren’t many all-stars. But everything he’s done on the court to this point is a complete positive for him. Teams already know he’s an alpha dog.”
And regardless of where he's drafted, the Detroit native only figures to carry that mentality with him while building on it at the highest level.
It’s a big week for Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk, perhaps his biggest since the end of the 2016-17 season.
Mykhailiuk, who has spent the past two months working on his game and working toward the goal of catching the eye of any number of NBA teams, has until Wednesday to make a final decision about whether to remain in the draft or return to KU for his senior season.
And Kansas coach Bill Self told the Journal-World Monday night that Mykhailiuk would in fact announce his intentions Wednesday.
Self did not indicate which was Mykhailiuk was leaning or whether he knew one way or another.
If the soon-to-be 20-year-old Ukrainian stays in the draft — June 22 in Brooklyn, New York — his career at Kansas will be over.
If he elects to return, he’ll jump back onto a talented roster that yet again is set to begin the process of gunning for a national title in 2018 here in a couple of weeks.
But for now, it’s Mykhailiuk's decision that is the most important part of the equation. With that in mind, here’s a quick look at the thoughts — guesses, if you will — from the KUsports.com world on what the KU junior will decide to do.
• Matt Tait •
KU basketball beat writer/KUsports.com editor
Verdict: Svi leaves
Reason: The fact that Svi entered the week still undecided tells me all I need to know about his desire to stay in the draft. I think he wants to leave. And it’s not because he doesn’t love KU. There’s no doubt he does and always will. But I think he’s reached a point in his career where he’s ready to gamble on himself. There’s a better than good chance that Svi won’t actually get drafted, but I don’t think that’s driving him. Of course, that’s the goal. But I’m betting that his workouts with individual teams and time at the combine earlier this month convinced him that, drafted or not, he’d get a fair shot via the summer league and getting even just a taste of that NBA life could be hard to walk away from. The reasons for his odds of getting drafted being good include his young age and his potential as a draft-and-stash European player. Even though playing in Europe is something Svi would rather not do, getting there through that route would at least keep his name tied to the NBA and could wind up being the best thing for him in the long run.
• Tom Keegan •
Journal-World sports editor
Verdict: Svi leaves
Reason: First, full disclosure: I have no inside information and am purely guessing. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I’ll share my guess. I think he stays in the NBA Draft, is selected in the second round and doesn’t appear on an NBA roster next season. NBA teams are fond of using second-round draft choices to select European players. They then follow their development in Europe and if they see a need arise for the player, they sign him. Svi doesn’t turn 20 until June 10, so it would make since for an NBA team to take that path with him. As for what makes the most sense for Svi, I’d have to know more about his family’s financial situation to answer that with conviction. It’s my understanding that there is some financial pressure and, if that’s the case, I’m sure Svi would like to help out as soon as he can. The chances of him showing a great deal more to the NBA in a fourth year at KU than he already has are probably not great. They already know he can shot because he shot great at the combine. They also know he needs to get stronger, which only time can accomplish.
• Benton Smith •
KU football beat writer/KU basketball blogger
Verdict: Svi stays
Reason: My best guess is Mykhailiuk will return to Kansas for one final year of college basketball. He hasn't quite met the expectations Self had for him when the young wing got to KU from Ukraine before his freshman season. And he's definitely not ready to play in the NBA yet. As a senior, Mykhailiuk has a chance at contributing more offensively than he has in each of the past three seasons, draining 3-pointers while also making some defensive progress. He'll need to do all of that if he wants to make it in the NBA. And because he will only be 20 during a senior year at KU, teams will still think he has a chance to further blossom at the next level when they're looking at him for the 2018 draft.
• Nick Krug •
Verdict: Svi leaves
Reason: I think Svi is going to follow in the footsteps of his former teammate Wayne Selden and forego his final year at Kansas to remain in the NBA Draft, likely knowing that another year in college won't likely improve the areas where he is most deficient. Even though he’s not projected to be in the first round, his shooting numbers were impressive enough before an ankle injury sidelined him from further pre-draft workouts.
• Bobby Nightengale •
KU reporter/high school sports editor
Verdict: Svi leaves
Reason: Despite bad timing with an ankle injury at the combine, I think Svi will keep his name in the NBA Draft, bypassing his senior season at Kansas. I think it's hard to go through the entire process, that close to reaching your dream, and return to school. There's a reason so many underclassmen kept their name in the draft last season with the new NCAA rule that allowed players to attend the combine and more workouts. All it takes is one team to give him positive feedback, as much as a guarantee to pick him or as little as a spot on a summer league roster, to give him confidence that he should enter the draft.
The Sydney Kings professional basketball team in the National Basketball League in Australia announced with gusto on Thursday night the signing of former KU standout Perry Ellis.
Ellis, who went undrafted after his four-year Kansas career, bounced around the NBA's D League during his first season away from Kansas before signing with the Kings this week.
Language on both the team's official web site and on Twitter clearly demonstrated just how excited the Kings were to land Ellis. "We got him," they wrote on Twitter, while the headline on the news release announcing his signing read, "Sydney Kings Sign Dream Recruit."
According to the release, Ellis will participate in a full summer schedule in the United States before joining his new teammates in Sydney unless an NBA contract is offered as a result of his summer performances.
Kings Managing Director, Jeff Van Groningen, flew to the United States to nail down negotiations with Ellis and his agent, and, clearly, came away excited about the team's newest player.
“Perry Ellis is a rare combination of very high character and very high performance wrapped into one guy," Van Groningen said. "We know that Perry has aspirations to make the NBA and we know he is an elite talent. We support his quest in that regard and he will support ours as we try to reach the upper reaches of our own league. We couldn’t be happier that Perry has signed with the Sydney Kings."
Kings coach Andrew Gaze, who is one of the most popular and often regarded as the best Australian player of all time, added his take on the team's latest signing.
“I have followed Perry’s career for a number of years and always enjoy watching Kansas play," said Gaze, who played two seasons in the NBA after his college career at Seton Hall. "As far back as this time last year Jeff and I spoke about how beneficial it would be if a guy ‘like’ Perry Ellis could join our team – so it’s fair to say we are thrilled that we have the man himself signing with us. His pedigree, versatility and basketball IQ will be key attributes that will assist us in strongly moving this program forward."
Recorded Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Who would have thought a couple of weeks, or even a couple of days, ago that the Kansas men’s basketball program would be one decision away from having some flexibility?
With senior big man Dwight Coleby transferring out and junior guard Svi Mykhailiuk now a week away from having to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to school, Kansas is facing the very real possibility of actually having a scholarship to give.
For weeks, KU fans were wondering aloud just how head coach Bill Self was going to figure all of this out, with 14 players positioned to fill 13 scholarship slots. But then Coleby left and now, if Svi follows him out the door, Self actually will have something to work with.
If you’re surprised by this, you haven’t been paying attention.
For one, these things always seem to work themselves out, especially at Kansas. For two, Bill Self is a master at making sure of that. The reason? It’s not because he’s blessed with good fortune or catches every conceivable break. If that were the case, his record in Elite Eight games would be much better than it is and he’d probably have another national title or two.
Instead, it’s because he’s constantly working, always looking ahead, forever planning and preparing for any eventuality that might pop up.
In this case, those eventualities, should Svi elect to stay in the draft, would lead to Self having a scholarship to play with, which would give him the option of doing one of three things.
1. He could save it. Self’s not the kind of coach who is going to hand out scholarships just for the sake of handing out scholarships, particularly to a young player who then would be around for a few years. At this point in the game, just about all of the top talent in the 2017 class is signed, spoken for or looking elsewhere so don’t harbor any fantasies about Self pulling a Top 50 kid with that scholarship.
2. He could use it on a player to replace Svi. That’s if there’s someone out there. And, heck, with Lagerald Vick seemingly ready to slide into the starting lineup anyway, the biggest thing the Jayhawks would be needing out of a replacement for Svi is someone who can spot up and shoot the ball. Even this late in the recruiting season, that’s not that difficult to envision finding. Beyond that, there’s always the chance that Self could look to add another ball-handling guard, which he once planned to add regardless of what Devonte’ Graham decided to do. Graham and Newman appear more than capable of handling the role and Garrett could be a nice third option. So shooting probably would be the preferred skill if the Jayhawks looked to add to the backcourt.
3. He could use it on a player to replace Coleby. This one, for my money, is the most likely route. Remember, as soon as Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe is eligible second semester, the Jayhawks will have a five-deep backcourt of Graham, Garrett, Vick, Cunliffe and Malik Newman. That’s pretty salty. And more than enough to get by. At that point, you’d be looking at an opportunity to add another big man — perhaps even a project — who could add to the depth up front. If he pans out, he’s a luxury over what you would’ve had in Coleby. If not, he slides right into the role Coleby likely would’ve filled behind Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot, Billy Preston and Jack Whitman. Either way, the right player would bring added depth, which no doubt would be welcomed given how thin the Jayhawks were up front throughout the 2016-17 season.
Regardless of which way the Jayhawks would go — and, remember, this is all if Svi decides to stay in the draft — Self and company have positioned themselves well to add the best available player regardless of position.
For a team that very recently appeared to be over the scholarship limit and scrambling to make the numbers work, that’s a nice spot to be in.
College athletics can be a funny place if you’re around them long enough.
Take the latest situation at North Carolina for example, where the defending national champion Tar Heels have been looking for a replacement on the coaching staff of Roy Williams ever since C.B. McGrath left to become the head coach at UNC-Wilmington following the end of the season.
Turns out, Williams and company did not have to look far. The successor to McGrath, who was a fan-favorite walk-on at Kansas during his playing days, was sitting on the Tar Heels’ bench all along.
According to multiple reports out of North Carolina, Brad Frederick soon will replace McGrath as the newest UNC assistant coach.
And with that, Williams will be hiring the son of the man who gave Williams his first big break as a college head coach nearly 30 years ago.
Frederick, a 1995 graduate of Lawrence High, who played his college basketball at Carolina, is the son of the late Bob Frederick, who served as the KU athletic director from 1987-2001.
While he was known in all worlds for his wonderful smile, caring personality and tremendous kindness, by far Frederick’s biggest move in the athletic world was hiring Williams in 1988 after the departure of Larry Brown following the Jayhawks’ run to the national championship.
A little-known, No. 2 assistant coach to Dean Smith at the time, Williams often marveled about Frederick’s bold move and has famously said that the number of ADs who would have hired Roy Williams to coach Kansas basketball in 1988 was one — Bob Frederick.
Today, or at least when it becomes official, which could be as late as July 1 for business reasons, Williams will be returning the gesture in a not-so-small way.
It’s not as if Frederick isn’t ready for and worthy of the post. After serving for 14 seasons as an assistant coach under Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt (he left as the longest tenured assistant coach in the SEC at the time), Frederick returned to his alma mater to take over the director of basketball operations role in 2013.
His relationship with Williams made him the perfect fit at that time and makes this transition as easy and obvious as one could be.
Although this promotion — Williams recently said Frederick already has been out on the road recruiting and also added last month that interested parties did not need to contact him about the coaching vacancy because he was going to fill it by readjusting his current staff — is significant both for Frederick and the program, it will have the greatest impact on Frederick’s immediate future in that it will allow him to go on the road, recruit, coach and execute all other duties given to each NCAA Div. I program’s three full-time assistant coaches.
Other than that, though, Frederick’s recent impact in other, more administrative-oriented ways already has been all over the program and played a huge role in North Carolina’s recent success.