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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson fired up to contribute

Kansas University center Hunter Mickelson — shown in this file photo from June, 2013 — says he lost 15 pounds but became stronger and more "toned" during his NCAA-mandated year off.

Kansas University center Hunter Mickelson — shown in this file photo from June, 2013 — says he lost 15 pounds but became stronger and more "toned" during his NCAA-mandated year off.

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Kansas University center Hunter Mickelson — shown in this file photo from June, 2013 — says he lost 15 pounds but became stronger and more "toned" during his NCAA-mandated year off.

— Hunter Mickelson had a smile on his face and bounce in his steps as he worked with 100 or so youths at Wednesday’s Ed Fritz College Stars camp at the Fieldhouse of Kansas City.

Mickelson, a 6-foot-10, 225-pound Kansas University junior basketball center, has a lot to be enthused about now that his dreaded red-shirt season following his transfer from the University of Arkansas is over.

“It was pretty rough,” Mickelson said of the 2013-14 campaign, during which he practiced against the likes of Joel Embiid, Tarik Black, Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis, but could not play in games in accordance with NCAA rules. “I became good friends with guys on the team, so it made it a little bit easier. Just the aspect of me wanting to play and compete ... that part made it tough.”

He was in town for summer school last year as he is this year — he’s taking 16 hours of coursework the next six weeks or so — but now his sweat is closer to paying off in games.

“I actually kind of dropped a little bit (of weight) to kind of tone up. I put on a little too much when I was at Arkansas,” said Mickelson, who left Arkansas at 240 pounds. “My goal here was to increase strength and tone up a little bit. I feel a lot stronger. Our workouts with coach Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) have been great. I’ve been doing the best I can. I can definitely tell I’m getting stronger.”

Known as an oustanding shot blocker — he had a freshman record 72 blocks his first season at U of A — Mickelson also has a reputation as a guy who can stretch the defense with his shooting accuracy.

“Unless you came to Late Night, you haven’t seen him. Next to Andrew White, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, he probably led us in scoring at practice,” KU coach Bill Self said at the season-ending awards banquet. “He can score. He’s good. He can shoot. Anytime you have tall guys that can shoot, it’s something.”

Big-man coach Norm Roberts added Wednesday: “He’s probably a prototypical inside guy who can protect the rim with the ability to shoot from 15 to 18 and pick and pop. He has to get better at getting angles on the post. It’s all new to him. He worked hard last year. He gave us great minutes as a practice guy and everything. Now he has to take what he’s done in practice, take it to the game and competition. He will.”

Mickelson has heard the encouraging words from his coaches.

“He (Self) has been talking like I can shoot, so hopefully I’ll be able to show everybody,” Mickelson said. “I’ll do whatever I need to do to help the team. If I end up out there (playing the 4), that’s fine, but if I’m down low on the blocks, that’s fine, too. The way we play, I’m sure I’ll move around a bit.”

KU has a big-man group of Mickelson, Ellis, Cliff Alexander, Lucas and Traylor. Another big, Texas high school standout Myles Turner, chose Texas over KU late in the last signing period.

“I wasn’t really worried about it. If he could have come and helped the team or wanted to help the team, that would have been great,” Mickelson said. “I guess he ended up not coming. That’s fine, too. We’re going to go to battle with what we’ve got.”

All business so far at KU, Mickelson has not yet done any fishing or hunting in the Sunflower State. His two hobbies so far have been confined to his trips to Arkansas.

“It doesn’t matter where I’m at, I’m still going to hunt and fish,” the Jonesboro native said. “If I’m fishing, I’ll go find a river or pond somewhere. If I’m hunting, then get the 12-gauge shotgun (back in Arkansas).”

Graham arrives: KU freshman point guard Devonté Graham arrived for summer school at 2 p.m. Monday. The Raleigh, N.C., native was on the court practicing two hours later.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be hard,” he said of college. “We had my first lift and on-court workout yesterday. It was pretty tough,” he said Wednesday at the College Stars camp.

Graham, who played lead guard for national prep-tournament champion Brewster Academy (33-2) last season, will be battling Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp for the starting point-guard job.

“Those are two really good players. I think we all will make each other better throughout the year, and we all bring different things to the table,” Graham said.

“We can do big things,” he added of KU’s freshman class. “Me, Kelly (Oubre), Cliff and Svee (Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk) — I think that’s how you pronounce his name — I think we have potential to be really good as freshmen.”

Graham, who said he measured 6-foot-1 1/2 in shoes this week, is rooming with Oubre this summer.

Of what he brings to the table, the player who averaged 17.2 points and 5.0 assists for Brewster, said: “I think a guard that is able to facilitate and also create for my own, get my own shot and make others better.”

He said he won’t be homesick, thanks to his year at Brewster in New Hampshire, far from his Raleigh home.

“It’s beautiful,” Graham said of KU’s campus. “I haven’t been around as much, but now that classes have started, I’ll be around it more often.

“Winning,” he added with a smile, asked what he was most looking forward to. “That’s all I can say.”

Bouncin’: KU sophomore Wayne Selden, who is close to 100 percent following offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, posted an amazing photo of his leaping ability on Instagram this week, taken in KU’s practice gym. “Bounce coming back,” Selden stated at http://ljw.bz/1xaaYDK

Comments

Joe Ross 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Ill reserve opinion on Mickelson until I see him play. I hope he's as good in basketball as his father Phil is in golf.

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Suzi Marshall 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I'm really curious how Self will use the big combination at the 4/5 with Mickelson Ellis, Alexander, Traylor and perhaps Lucas. If Mickelson can play games like some of his practices, I can see him starting at the post. Self always says he wants to play the best players, which will be Alexander, Ellis, Oubre and what seems to be a renewed Selden. If Self tries that combo, that puts Selden as our PG. My bet is Frankamp takes the point if his D improves, which it will.

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Brett McCabe 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I also think that CF wins the point - many are underestimating the value of work ethic, basketball IQ and skill when it comes to Frankamp.

Mickelson sounds to me to be similar to Withey in skill set: good shot-blocking and shooting touch but not necessarily strong offensively on the block. Though Jeff didn't take a lot of outside shots, he was very strong at the line for a big man.

JW benefitted from Danny's tutoring. Let's hope that Coach Roberts can bring Mickelson along in the same way.

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Mick Allen 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Brett and Suzi I respectfully disagree with your contention that Conner will ultimately be our point guard. Brett, I agree that Conner is a smart player and we all believe he will develop into the fine shooter we know he can be. He takes care of the ball, but last year, yes I know he was just a freshman, he played not to make a mistake, rather than to make a play. I realize with our spotty point guard play, taking care of the ball and not turning it over was a significant concern for HCBS. I realize that saying he played not to make a mistake rather than to make a play seems nonsensical but my point is a point guard often has to initiate a play when the offensive set is not producing. I believe both Graham and Mason, yes I didn't name Mason first, are quicker off the bounce and are more likely to be more efficient getting into the gaps and lane off the bounce and causing help double teams to hopefully free up shooters. I believe both Graham and Mason will turn the ball over more than Conner, but both are capable of beating their defender off the dribble more than Conner. I agree that Mason needs to shift down a gear occasionally, not force and make better decisions. I have not seen Graham yet, but from the little I do know, he wants the ball in his hands to create shots for his teammates and himself. I do think Conner could play some significant minutes at point at crunch time in the last 5 minutes when we have a lead and are trying to run some clock and get to the line. He does take care of the ball and I'm sure we can agree he will be one of our best at the line. Conner is more of an undersized 2 guard. I can see him occasionally at the 2 with Graham or Mason at point, although the thought of 2 smalls on the court together causes me concern defensively, the possibility of penetration from the point with the defender of the point getting help defensively from the defender guarding our 2, could create open looks from 3 for Conner. I think all 3 will get minutes at the point early in the season and it will be up to one of them to establish who gives us the most and takes away the least. I am confident that position is going to be significantly better than last year and it is imperative to our team's success that this occurs. Just my opinion. We'll see how it plays out.

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Suzi Marshall 1 month, 3 weeks ago

We will all agree that the PG position will be improved. The Stanford game left a big positive impression on my mind for both Frankamp and Mason. Although Mason went 0-5 his penetration and setting up opponents, even if they all missed at the rim, was impressive. However, shooting is Mason's Achilles heel and Frankamp's métier. I know nothing about Graham or Mykhailiuk and not expecting much from the later will be of much help this year. We will see.

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Bernard Gregory 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I often hear comment about Frank not being able to shoot and how great a shooter Conner is, what is this being base on because its not statistics.I dare say that Conner was put in the game to shoot where as Frank had to assume a different role.Granted his stroke looks better than Franks ,but what matter is whether it goes in the hole.

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Brian Wilson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I like you assessment of Graham and Mason, but I think you underestimate Connor. Connor has already proved in summer ball before he came to KU that he could play in competition with the big boys. He was "THE" summer surprise when he led his team in scoring while playing with and against players like Wiggiins, Oubre, Parker, etc.. That's not true of Mason, or Graham.
Connor just didn't receive much playing time last year due to being a freshman behind a senior.


In my opinion, Connor is the fastest ball handler on the team. It may be true that Graham and Mason have greater reach, jump higher, run faster, but with ball in hand Connor is quickest with greatest control. In reviewing Connors last year's gametapes, easy to do, not many minutes, I didn't see any defender even come close to really stealing it from Connor. The only time it happened is when they came from Connor's blind side, from behind him while they were returning on defense. While Mason and probbly Graham does break to the basket quicker, Connor can cut back on the dribble quicker, which forces the defense to be cautious and play back which opens passing lanes and creates opportunities for his patented step back jumpers.

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Robert Brock 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Selden won't play the point. This year, I am hoping he can play the deuce (last season he spent a lot of time on the pine while Tharpe and Mason handled the guard spots). Selden is just not quick enough to defend PGs.

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Jack Wilson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I have learned not to comment on who I think is going to start at point guard.

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Rodney Crain 1 month, 3 weeks ago

PG will be an open battle and I think that is the best we can hope for. We will also have to hope one of them wins the starting job outright. If we go with a by committee approach, it will mean inconsistent play, I believe. My hope is that Graham wins the job, with Mason in backup. This leaves Selden and CF to work as a 3 or 4 if we go small. We can play mix or match with the wings and bigs all we want but without a steering wheel controlling the car, well we saw how that looks last year. It ain't pretty.

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John Fitzgerald 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I agree I would like to see CF as a SG. His shooting ability is insane and we've seen he's a natural scorer. We need him in position to get open not trying to get other people open. I think Graham and Mason will hold down the pg spot for us and I bet Svi gets some time in there too. Selden won't touch the pg spot unless we have an injury. He'll spend his time as the 2 or 3 as well. My starting lineup if all goes well:

PG Graham w/ backup Mason/Svi SG Selden w/ backup Frankamp/Svi SF Oubre w/ backup Greene/Svi PF Ellis w/ backup Traylor/Alexander C Alexander w/ backup Mickelson/Lucas

*I have Svi in 3 possible positions because I feel he will be our most dynamic player. I don't see him getting more than 10 minutes a game but he will be a nice filler and watching his tape he can definitely play the 1, 2, or 3.

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Alan Dickey 1 month, 3 weeks ago

OMG!!! One of the funniest and only slightly-subtle swipes at the Arkansas basketball program is only barely concealed in Norm Robert’s hilarious comments:

“Big-man coach Norm Roberts added Wednesday: ‘He’s probably a prototypical inside guy who can protect the rim with the ability to shoot from 15 to 18 and pick and pop. He has to get better at getting angles on the post. It’s all new to him. He worked hard last year. He gave us great minutes as a practice guy and everything. Now he has to take what he’s done in practice, take it to the game and competition. He will.’”

For a center who played two years at Arkansas, “getting angles on the post” is “all new to him”? Funny.

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Jay Beakum 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I don’t think it was a swipe at Arkansas. Mike Anderson runs “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball”, and we run a high-low. It’s the reason Hunter transferred to begin with.

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Alan Dickey 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Fair point, and I don't think it was an intentional dig. But even transition-oriented offenses have to play a half court game a lot of the time when they don't score on their first shot or are stopped by transition defense. So, I can't believe that a center in any offense should not be taught how to leverage angles in the post.

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Titus Canby 1 month, 3 weeks ago

It's kind of like if one our wide receivers transferred to another school and it's coach said he needs to learn how to catch the ball.

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Lance Cheney 1 month, 3 weeks ago

There it is, first football post on a basketball article! (See what I did there?)

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Dirk Medema 1 month, 3 weeks ago

So much hope for improvement in our WR's.

(Let's take over the BB thread!)

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Joe Baker 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Can we get LaFrentz or Ostertag come to host Mickelson?

Where in the world is Raef LaFrentz? He's fallen off the face of the earth.

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Joe Joseph 1 month, 3 weeks ago

How does Graham go from 6'3 to 6'1 1/2 in shoes?

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John Fitzgerald 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I just read an article about how so many athletes in the draft lied about their heights. It's something I feel will change shortly, but the gist of the article was eventually requiring all colleges to measure kids with shoes off and that will be their official height.

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Tony Bandle 1 month, 3 weeks ago

ODDITIES FROM OAKVILLE:

1] Hunter will answer the age old question.." Can white men jump??" :).

2] Even if Devonte is only 6'-1 1/2", he's still 2" - 3" taller than the guys we got now.

3] Looking back on last season, you wonder if Wayne was ever really healthy????

4] I totally agree with Brett...I watched, in person, the Stanford game and saw the leadership, potential with Conner. This kid is sharp, smart, under control yet aggressive plus having the best first or final option for a point guard...a killer outside shot.

5] The '14/'15 KU twelve man rotation may be the most talented from top to bottom in a long time. Top Seven Conner, Perry, Wayne, Cliff, Kelly, Jamari, Svi...Second Five Hunter, Landon, Frank, Devonte, Brannen.......and these groupings could change dramatically as the season progresses.

6] Depending on that 13th schollie, don't be surprised if we see more transfers after next season. The only guaranteed departure is Wayne, although Cliff and Kelly may be as well. That still leaves ten plus three new guys.

7] Thon Maker would look really, really, really really good in Crimson and Blue!! He would be worth using three scholarships if you could bid for talent!

8] Spent the last four days in Manhattan, New York visiting my nephew. Outside of being old, dirty, crowded, wall-to-wall wackos, loud, smelly, expensive and manic, it was great. [Actually, if you drop the "crowded" and "great" part, this describes Manhattan, Kansas as well !! :) }

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Mick Allen 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Conner did look good against Stanford but coming into the game all the commentators including the best, Jay Bilas all acknowledged that the Cardinals greatest weakness was their backcourt which was not quick and they had no real point guard. Their inability to take care of the ball was evident when we finally picked them up all over the court and they tried to let us back in the game with more than a few turn overs.

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Suzi Marshall 1 month, 3 weeks ago

6) As long as NBA Mock Drafts have Alexander, Oubre and Selden going 3,4, and 5, I will consider them gone for '15/16.

7) Do you think if Alexander went in the top 5 it would make a strong positive impression on him?

8) Shanghai puts NCY to shame. I get in-out of NYC as fast as humanly possible. Hard to believe I used to take weekend trip just to visit the place.

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Scott Yessen 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I also agree that CF is our best option at this point. I think he more athletic and quick than some believe. It gives us a great shooter on the floor if Selden is playing the 2, because i also agree that Selden will not play the point. He is a leader but he looked horrible handling the ball against pressure last season. Now all this changes if Graham and Svee are better than expected from day one.

One more thing - I predict CF and Greene have big years.

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Scott Yessen 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Anyone think there is a chance of redshirt? Mason, Graham, or even Svee?

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Suzi Marshall 1 month, 3 weeks ago

If Mason loses out to Frankamp for the PG position, he should then redshirt. Mason will never take minutes at the 2 whereas Frankamp will be.

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Dirk Medema 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Svee didn't come half way around the world to sit. The only freshmen that sit are the ones that are forced to by those outside the team. Everyone gets a chance their first year. 2nd/3rd year is where there are decisions to be made about whether the extra year will help you graduate (Travis).

It would seem that Mason & Graham are also less likely to sit because they have already waited a year in prep-school. I'm guessing there is a greater likelihood of an AWIII.

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Jonathan Allison 1 month, 3 weeks ago

no redshirts. Mason was a contributor last year and will be again this year. Graham was brought in in strengthen the PG position, which he will. Svee is likely 2AD to the NBA, no chance he sits out.

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Dirk Medema 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Is Hunter the older, pale version of Turner?

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Priest Fontaine 1 month, 3 weeks ago

With Tharpe and White gone, not a chance anyone redshirts.

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Brian Wilson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Sometimes I wonder where everyone gets their info!? Please read, Connor is a #1.
By Rivals, Scout, And ESPN at the Point Guard Position for KU:

Naadir Tharpe was/is listed at 5'11" and his averaged postion rank was 16 and 83 overall.
Frank mason is listed at 6'0" and his averaged position rank was 20th and 96th overall.
Devonte Graham is listed at 6'1" and his average postion rank is 29th and 58th overall.
Connor Frankamp is listed at 6'1" and his average position rank is 10th and 43rd overall.

Yes that's right!! Connor has been and is the tallest point guard on the team. Connor's defense was much improved in the tournament and it will continue that way only getting better going forward. In addition he was and has always been the highest ranked point guard on the team for the past two years. Scott Yessen is correct. Connor is deceptively fast with the ball in his hands. His ball control is exceptional. No opponent last year could get a hand on the ball and steal it from him unless they came from his blind side and surprised him. Connor is a smart player and makes few mistakes. He would have been starting had he not been a freshman and had the team not committed to Tharpe so heavily. At thet time, it was Tharpe's turn and it was what it was.

Answering a question from above: Regarding Red shirting. Probably not. We have only 12 players competing for a spot in a 9 to 10 man rotation. God forbid, one injury could change everything.

Who knows how things will pan out...one scenario:
For this year, Connor starts at PG with Graham off the bench by year's end. Then next year, KU has higly rated prospects at PG next year that if one comes the postion gets crowded. If things get crowded, then Connor in his junior year could potentially move to splitting time at PG and the #2 spot behind Mykhailuk while not losing much playing time since Mykhailuk could also play back up at the 3 spot. Then in two years, Mykhailuk goes pro, Connor then end up starting at the #2 spot his senior year. A possible big disappointment to me, because I like FM, he could be man out and end up tranferring next year due to overcrowding and bad timing. But who knows how the wind blows.

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