Jayhawk notes: Bien chosen for top amateur volleyball squad; KU basketball transfer and recruiting updates; track an field prepare for Big 12 championships
photo by: Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics
Here’s a look at some news and notes from Jayhawk athletic programs:
• Kansas volleyball standout Caroline Bien has been chosen for one of the top amateur volleyball squads in the country.
Bien, an Overland Park junior, is one of 18 players in the country selected for USA Volleyball’s U21 National Training Team. The squad, made up of players under 21 years of age, will be in Anaheim, California, next week to train at USA Volleyball’s National Team Training Center. From there, USA Volleyball will select 12 players to compete in the 2023 Women’s U21 NORCECA Pan American Cup in Mexico in late May.
This is the second year in a row that Bien has been chosen for the select squad.
“Training with Team USA is always such a cool experience because you get to learn from the best of the best and play with the best of the best,” said Bien, who was a multi-sport star in high school at Saint Thomas Aquinas in the KC metro area.
The under-21 team that Bien will work with is considered by many as a proving ground for volleyball athletes who are under consideration to represent the U.S. in future Olympic contests. USA Volleyball is the organization responsible for fielding a team in Olympic competitions.
Bien, an outside hitter, finished her sophomore season at KU with 274 kills, second on the team, and 244 digs, third on the team. In her freshman season at KU, she was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and a member of the All-Big 12 First Team.
• A reported loss for the Kansas basketball team has become an official one. After multiple media outlets last week reported KU forward Zuby Ejiofor had decided to enter the transfer portal, Ejiofor announced on Thursday that he completed the paperwork to transfer from KU.
However, Ejiofor has not yet signed with a new team. Thursday was the last day for athletes to enter the portal. Reportedly, Ejiofor is receiving strong interest from multiple teams. National basketball writer Adam Zagoria reports that Ejiofor will visit Villanova, St. John’s, TCU and San Diego State in the coming days.
Ejiofor played limited minutes for KU last season. During his first year at KU, he logged 127 minutes over 25 games. But he showed flashes as a Jayhawk. His best game for KU was in December against Indiana, where he recorded 8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 12 minutes of action.
Ejiofor, though, found himself behind both KJ Adams Jr. and Ernest Udeh Jr. in playing time. With the arrival of Michigan transfer and All-Big Ten performer Hunter Dickinson, minutes for Ejiofor likely were going to be harder to find in the upcoming season.
• College basketball insiders expect Friday will be when KU learns whether it has landed one of the top-ranked recruits in the class of 2023. National basketball insider Andrew Slater reports Mackenzie Mgbako will announce his decision on Friday. He reportedly has two finalists, KU and Indiana University.
The 6-foot-8 forward from New Jersey was once a top signee for Duke but recently was released from his letter of intent. Mgbako was the highest-rated prospect in Duke’s recruiting class, which was ranked second in the nation by ESPN. Mgbako consistently has been ranked in the top 10 of ESPN’s top 100 rankings of players in the class of 2023.
Mgbako is considered to be a strong shooting prospect. He averaged 16.3 points and 9.2 rebounds last season for his high school team, Roselle Catholic, en route to picking up All-State honors in New Jersey and winning a state championship.
• The Kansas men’s and women’s track and field teams will begin competing for a Big 12 championship on Friday. The Big 12 Championships are set for Friday through Sunday in Norman, Oklahoma.
The men’s team is ranked 21st in the country in by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. That’s third among all Big 12 schools. Texas Tech is ranked No. 2 in the country, and Texas is ranked No. 8.
Kansas enters the meet full of highly-ranked athletes in the field events. Dimitrios Pavlidis is ranked No. 4 in the country in the discus, and teammate Patrick Larrison is ranked No. 17. Clayton Simms is No. 6 nationally in the pole vault, and KU has three other vaulters in the top 30. Jaden Patterson is the No. 16 ranked triple jumper in the nation. On the track, KU’s top-ranked performer is Chandler Gibbens, who is ranked No. 7 nationally in the 5,000 meters. KU also has one of the top decathlon competitors, No. 10-ranked Alexander Jung.
The women’s team is ranked No. 56 in the country. It faces major competition in the Big 12, with Texas ranked No. 1 in the country. Texas Tech, No. 13, Oklahoma, No. 16, Baylor, No. 36, and Oklahoma State, No. 51, all rank above the Jayhawks in the conference.
The women will have a strong championship contender in the high jump. Rylee Anderson is ranked No. 4 in the country and is the top-ranked high jumper in the Big 12.