Friday, May 16, 2008

Mayer: Jayhawks, be like Ostertag


I've never pulled harder for Kansas senior basketball players to reach the big-bucks level of the NBA than I'm rooting for Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson and Russell Robinson. They've contributed greatly and reflected high credit on KU. I'd like to see patient pro teams sign them, refine their skills and give them a full chance.

Their prospects of going even as high as the second round in the coming draft are considered marginal. Glamour boys Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush are aiming for first-round selections and guaranteed contracts, though recent draft predictions are that Chalmers won't make the first round. He could return to team with Sherron Collins and give KU the nation's best college guard duet.

There never was doubt about the pro-draftability of Jayhawks like Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce and Julian Wright. It's the more modestly touted guys I really want to make it, especially this year's classy trio.

The less-heralded Robinson may wind up with some European team; Kaun and Jackson could, too. Yet the latter two have all it takes to make it in the NBA. Somebody like Jerry Sloan at Utah needs to open the door so they can be coached, developed and gain the roster permanence that befell Greg Ostertag. Trouble is, NBA teams always are rushing for instant achievement, so it's tough for a work in progress, like Kaun, to get a decent break.

Occasionally the window of fate cracks open and lets in a stunner. Grab onto your chair! In 11 seasons in the NBA, the erratic Ostertag amassed a salary total of $48,251,390, honest! Back to this monetary miracle later. Robinson, Kaun and Jackson should be half as lucky. Sasha and Darnell also have the bodies to persist in the pro ranks if they just wind up with a coach who can bring out more good things as Danny Manning did here.

Darnell is 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, can jump and bang with the best, has a great attitude. He has much to offer. The Russian-born Kaun is 6-11, 260 with the chance to reach a solid 280. He has been playing organized basketball only six years.

I'm particularly intrigued by the future for Sasha. He's smart as a whip, eager to learn and never will be the kind of troublemaker so many prima donnas become. To Jerry Sloan: If you could tolerate the eccentricities of the 7-2, 290-pound Ostertag for 10 seasons, why wouldn't you grab Kaun and produce a better prospect?

Ostertag averaged 7.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in four years at Kansas. In the NBA, he averaged 4.6 points, 5.5 boards and 1.7 blocks. The active Sasha wound up at KU with senior averages of 7.1 points, 3.9 boards, 49 blocks and 17 steals. He's better now than Ostertag was and will keep emerging.

Ostertag was drafted by Utah late in the first round in 1995, spent nine seasons with the Jazz, one year with Sacramento and a final year back with the Jazz. He and superstars Karl Malone and John Stockton often clashed, and Greg at times drove Sloan nuts with his goofiness.

Ostertag's salary the first three years ranged from $498,000 to $647,000. Then, in a real shocker, he got a six-year, $39 million contract with a peak of $8,666,666 in 2003-04. A year at Sacramento brought $4 million and his final season at Utah $4,400,000. Total: $48,253,390, plus endorsements.

Hang in there, Sasha and Darnell: Impossible dreams can come true.


kcphantom 11 years, 6 months ago

"Glamour boys "?!?!?!Those are definitely not the words that I think of when refering to those three.And I'm not sure that Sasha is as good as the "Big O"...yet. Ostertag averaged 10 / 9 his junior year and 10 / 8 his senior year and received a number of conference and national awards (Hon Mention All American) and is the KU career leader in blocks, most of them coming in two years.But I do agree that with the right coaching and a chance Sasha can definitely be a better pro just because he won't squander the opportunity.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 6 months ago

hmm, I don't think I would call playing 11 years in the NBA and inking a 6 year deal worth nearly $40 million a squandered opportunity.Kaun is a tremendous athlete and because he's only been playing for 6 years he is going to hone his skills, but he's definitely not NBA-ready right now. I think that he could hold his own based on his defensive intensity, but I don't see him being a fixture on any NBA roster in the next couple of years.

yates33333 11 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Mayer's desire to see the three make it. I think Robinson and Kaun ought to be locks as bench players who can contribute quickly. I hope Jackson has what it takes as well.

prairie_rattler 11 years, 6 months ago

Kaun is great... but he doesn't have near the presence inside that Ostertag did... The key missing stat in this article is 'altered shots', that was Ostertag's greatest contribution... and the reason he stayed in the League for so long.

Timmay97 11 years, 6 months ago

The gist of it all........YOU CAN'T TEACH SIZE! And Kaun has size.

Jacobpaul81 11 years, 6 months ago

What Mayer doesn't write, is that Robinson, and another long term NBA player have very similar stats, and are very similar guards. Jacques Vaughn and Russell Robinson are essentially the same type of player. Both were academic all americans. Both defensive minded point guards, with excellent hands, superior passing abuilities, and good court intelligence. Watching Robinson, was pretty much like watching Vaughn. Vaughn got lots of press, while Robinson was more of a quiet contributor. But don't think scouts and teams didn't notice. The draft has changed since 1996. Too many young punks and foreigners jumping and throwing off the system. Robinson won't go in the draft. He's to quiet for teams to spend one of their draft picks on. They all know he's going under the radar, and will be available afterwords. I'd look for Robinson to be an early post-draft pickup by a team looking for an intelligent backup G.

Ted Toulouse 11 years, 6 months ago

I personally think that Jackson is a struggle for the NBA. You could see at the end of the tournament that his back was bothering him again. Knees and feet are fixable - back pain is harder to get rid of, and the NBA doesn't have room for fagile players. But that's not to say he couldn't contribute somewhere.Mayer's desire for "the right coach" is very skewed. Using Sloan as an example points to an extremely rare situation in the NBA today (and he's an old foagie). There aren't "patient" coaches anymore. Hell, they're worrying more for their jobs than the players! I love Sasha as a pro! He has 10-times more athleticism than Ostertag ever dreamed of and offense gets better every year. His up-side is the key. I think his NBA averages could be better than Ostertag's in the end, but unfortunately, these types of centers will never make the $$ that Ostertag made. THAT was ridiculous and completely based off of one year of top production. Plus he's a tall white guys that DOESN'T shoot threes. I agree with Jacobpaul that Robinson will go undrafted and sign with a team. The comparisons to Vaughn are a bit of a stretch - Vaughn's assist totals were more consistent and he was THE point guard. But that could be attributed to the differing styles of coaching for sure.

Jacobpaul81 11 years, 6 months ago

Just to offer up the reasoning behind my comparison: Vaughn had to pass the ball. Who else was going to? If you look at their senior seasons:1996-1997 Guards: Vaughn - 162 Assists - 64 turnovers Min: 31 GP 26Haas - 111 Assists - 92 turnovers Min: 25Thomas - 27 Assists - 37 Turnovers Min: 15Pierce - 77 assists - 108 turnovers Min: 28Robertson - 99 assists - 46 turnovers Min: 18 (started 11 games for Vaughn. In other 25 games, avg: 11 min)Team: 578-571 Who other than Vaughn could be trusted to handle the ball? He had to! That team couldn't move the ball, unless it went through Jacque or Robertson's hands. Comparatively,2007-2008 Guards: Robinson - 162 assists - 83 turnovers Min: 27.5 GP 40Chalmers - 169 assists - 75 turnovers Min: 30Collins - 105 assists - 68 turnovers Min: 23.8Rush - 81 assists - 69 turnovers Min: 30Stewart: 47 assists - 27 turnovers Min: 11.6Team: 721-529 Robinson simply put, was on a better passing team. He didn't have to move the ball as much, because, quite frankily, the whole team could move the ball.Comparing other stats:Points: Only a field goal difference.Vaughn: 10.2 pg - 264 ptsRobinson: 7.3 pg - 291ptsFree Throws:Vaughn: 88-113: 77.9%Robinson: 88-113: 77.9%Rebounds:Vaughn: 62 - 2.4 per gameRobinson: 113 - 2.8 per game Steals:Vaughn: 46 - 1.7 per gameRobinson: 79 - 2.0 per gameBlocks:Vaughn: 4Robinson: 163Pt Field Goals: 2008 boys relied on the 3 more, which meant Robinson had to shoot it more than Vaughn.Vaughn: 18-54 33.3% Team: 192-506Robinson: 35-110 31.8% Team: 271-683There are certainly some similarities. If you think of the player, playing in the others shoes, would you doubt that Robinson could have been just as effective in 1997, or Vaughn just as effective in 2008? They were both the backbones of very highly successful teams. I realize it's an impossible comparison to completly convince people of, but I personaly feel like it's justifiable.

rcaltrider 11 years, 6 months ago

I'm not trying to belittle RussRob in any way because I loved watching him for 4 years at Kansas and I think he was the backbone of this team. However, comparing him to Jaque Vaughn is not accurate. Vaughn was much more of a pure passing PG. Neither one of the two has a great shot but Vaughn was quicker and more skilled in handling the ball. That is not to say that Robinson can't play in the NBA, I hope he does, but I don't think the two had comparable games.

Gary Denning 11 years, 6 months ago

Dumbest article ever. The NBA doesn't draft based on instant results. They draft on what is their concept of potential.And I like Darnell Jackson a lot, but he can't "jump with the best of them". And for as big as he was, his game wasn't "banging" as much as it was shooting the 15 footer (at least on offense, he wasn't a banger). I don't see him being an NBA player because he isn't an NBA-quick defender.Sasha has the size and athleticism to play D and was improving on his ability to rebound. I'm thinking he could survive to play a lot of years in an Ostertag role--play D, rebound, slowly give up 6 fouls and don't throw the ball away.

Lance Hobson 11 years, 6 months ago

RR will never play a game in the NBA. He'll have a productive life and make money overseas, but he can't shoot and therefore can't play in the NBA. Reference Aaron Miles. Kaun will make it, and Jackson could get a cup of coffee with some luck.Jaque Vaugh was a waste of talent at KU. He was always out of control when it counted, trying to do too much and screwing everything up. We could have beaten Arizona in '97 had Ryan Robertson been playing. Four years, no Final 4.

ChicagoJHawk 11 years, 6 months ago

I definitely think Sasha, Darnell & Robinson can play in the NBA. They all play great defense and that's what every basketball coach loves to see; you can always teach offense. The main question, as ttoulouse pointed out, is whether or not those NBA coaches are willing to be patient & work with them. They want instant results in the NBA! Out of those 3 I would say Sasha has the best chance of going, just because he's a 7 footer (never thought I'd ever say that!) but we'll see what happens...

actorman 11 years, 6 months ago

KU7679, you really think this was the dumbest article ever??? Common, there are so many to choose from, especially from Mayer. This one was only average by comparison. (I did enjoy the fact that I had actually read an article on this website without a single negative comment, so thanks for ruining that, KU7679.)

actorman 11 years, 6 months ago

Vaughn couldn't shoot any better than RR, so how has HE played in the NBA so many years?

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