Shawnee The coaches of the Missouri Valley Conference didn't know what to expect of Illinois State under a new head coach last season, picking the men's basketball team to finish fifth in the league.
Tim Jankovich didn't know what to expect of his Redbirds squad either.
So when former Kansas University men's basketball assistant coach Jankovich led his new team to a 13-5 conference record - second-best in The Valley - and an overall record of 25-10, even he was caught a little off guard.
"It went a lot better than I expected, I've got to tell you," said Jankovich, who is back in Kansas scouting the Price Chopper AAU Tournament in Shawnee. "Going in, they'd really struggled for five straight years and been at the bottom of the league, so really my expectations were not all that high. But luckily our players' expectations were and we just kind of took off from there. And I just had a lot of fun coaching this group."
The year was also made fun by the fact that he had few issues with the players on the roster having to adjust to a new coach.
"It was unbelievably easy. They were so receptive from the very first minute that I was there, that I couldn't believe it," Jankovich said. "I was expecting to have to pull teeth and counsel and sell. And I didn't have to do any of that. It was just very matter of fact and their attitude was, 'Just tell us what to do and we're going to do it.'"
Jankovich's second year at Illinois State could be a more daunting task than his first as he graduated five seniors, including three of his top four scorers.
"There's a lot of unknown there and we have some injuries this summer that aren't very good either," the former KU assistant said. "So there's a lot of things up in the air right now. If I do one thing well, it's that I don't get caught up in expectations. When the season starts, I just try to take the team a day at a time and try to direct the team in the right direction."
As for watching the team he left behind make a run to the national championship?
"It was nothing but fantastic. I'm just so happy for everybody involved," Jankovich said. "Just wonderful people to work with and the players I was lucky enough to coach, I couldn't be happier for them. It was just a great feeling to watch it in person and see it all unfold. So I've got to say, it was a little surreal."
Parade of champions: KU assistant coach Joe Dooley wasn't the only NCAA national champion representing their university at the Price Chopper Tournament on Monday.
Former championship coach Tubby Smith, now with Minnesota and current St. Louis coach Rick Majerus were out scouting the talent. Two-time national champ Billy Donovan of Florida was also on hand.
Dooley was surrounded by plenty of Big 12 Conference opponents as well with Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, Texas Tech coach Pat Knight and Kansas State coach Frank Martin, among others, showing up at Okun Fieldhouse.
Kaun an Olympian: Former KU center Sasha Kaun on Monday was named a member of Russia's 2008 Olympic men's basketball team. The 12-player list has been described as preliminary, according to CSKA Moscow's Web site. That's because forward Viktor Khryapa will fly with the Russian team to China and play if he recovers from an ankle injury.
Other members of the Russian Olympic team: Andrei Kirilenko, J.R. Holden, Viktor Keiru, Zakhar Pashutin, Petr Samoilenko, Sergei Bykov, Vitaly Fridzon, Andrei Vorontsevich, Sergei Monya, Aleksey Savrasenko and Nikita Morgunov.
New name in recruiting: Thomas Robinson, a 6-8 senior forward from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., tells Rivals.com he's received a scholarship offer from KU. Robinson, the No. 82-rated player in the Class of 2009, said he will visit KU, Texas and Memphis. He also is considering Miami, Kentucky, Louisville and others.