Thursday, May 1, 2014


Column: Texas wins recruiting battle, but KU still team to beat in Big 12

McDonald's East All-American Myles Turner, of Bedford, Texas, competes in the three-point shootout during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest at the University of Chicago in Chicago, on Monday, March 31, 2014.

McDonald's East All-American Myles Turner, of Bedford, Texas, competes in the three-point shootout during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest at the University of Chicago in Chicago, on Monday, March 31, 2014.


Sometimes the best tonic for trying to overcome your school’s failure to land a coveted recruit lies in turning on the young superstar with a barrage of insults.

“Didn’t want him anyway.”

“Seemed like a real spoiled jerk on TV.”

“I can’t see him cutting it academically at my school.”

“I’ve had it with one-and-done players. I’d rather take my chances with four-year players.”

It’s difficult to imagine fans of any of the six schools that did not land Myles Turner, including Kansas University, reaching into the sore-loser bag to fire the typical darts.

Nothing about Turner’s signing ceremony suggested he is anything but a late-blooming, bright young talent crazy about his sister and parents and eager to make himself a better basketball player. In short, he seemed like the sort of guy any school in America would love to have competing for it.

You can’t win them all. Kansas has won enough recruiting battles to win at least a share of 10 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles. Texas landed Turner, which makes KU’s attempt to push the title streak to 11 all the more difficult. Is that such a bad thing? The harder a team has to work for something, the more it means, and the better it prepares that team for the next challenge.

The Big 12 has felt like a three-tiered conference in recent seasons: Kansas alone at the top, a huge block of good but not great teams in the middle and a small block of schools not worthy of the NCAA Tournament at the bottom.

Not this upcoming season. Plenty will pick Texas to win the Big 12. Others will put Kansas at the top of preseason predictions. Here’s what’s good for the Big 12: Tons of people in offices across America will advance both schools to the Final Four on their brackets.

Possible matchups for anywhere from two to four Kansas vs. Texas games in the 2014-2015 season:

Point guard: Likely KU recruit Devonte Graham vs. sophomore Isaiah Taylor.

Shooting guard: Wayne Selden, his explosiveness restored by offeseason knee surgery, vs. Javan Felix or Demarcus Holland.

Small forward: Kelly Oubre vs. Jonathan Holmes.

Power forward: Perry Ellis vs. Turner.

Center: Cliff Alexander vs. Cameron Ridley.

Texas has the experience edge and probably even the talent advantage. It won’t be the first time in the past decade someone other than Kansas looked like the best of the Big 12 on paper. A lot has changed, but last I checked, the games still are played on hardwood, not on paper. It’s tough to bet against such a long streak.


Dirk Medema 4 years ago

Graham hasn't even committed, and he's already being listed ahead of Conner, Frank and Tharpe. That's a stretch. Mudiay, yes, or maybe if he was another top 10, but not a 30-something.

And not the talent edge when you consider the depth that we have.

Jonathan Allison 4 years ago

Also interesting that Keegan was one of the ones in June last year touting Frank Mason as the starter over Tharpe. He did have a valid argument with Mason though, who proved his mettle in some tough minutes last year and even started some games. My guess about that is that Keegan was getting some insights from some people who were watching scrimmages and pick-up games, in this case he can't be basing his opinion on anything other than scouting reports, highlight videos, and lack of trust in the current players on the roster.

Robert Rauktis 4 years ago

Who's Graham? Why is anybody "new" always replacing someone "old'? Is this some sort of fever caught from ESPN?

"“Teams that play together beat those teams with superior players who play more as individuals.” -Dr. Jack Ramsey

Michael Maris 4 years ago

San Antonio Spurs would be a prime example of Dr. Jack Ramsey's statement.

Walter Bridges 4 years ago

We might have lost the recruiting battle over Turner but we have another top 10 recruiting class while Texas is not even in the top 30 despite signing Turner. Rick Barnes and his staff has an abysmal incoming recruiting class...

Also, why would Turner and Ellis be matched up against each other? Turner is a true center and that is where he will play under Rick Barnes. Ellis is a undersized power forward and would be completely overmatched despite Ellis being a third-year player. I don't see HCBS leaving Ellis on Turner where he would likely pick up too many cheap fouls.

Rob Chestnut 4 years ago

I think the article missed what I consider the most important match up. Bill Self v. Rick Barnes. KU wins that one hands down.

The guards will be better next year, and I hope Graham will come in and help shore up a weakness we had last year.

Robert Brown 4 years ago

Barnes has a respectable record versus KU. Self does not win hands down. I'm not sure I follow your logic. There tends to be a tendency on this board to dinigrate other coaches in the Big 12 which is really unfair, especially given the advantage KU usually has in recruiting.

Jay Beakum 4 years ago

Self is 13-4 vs. Texas in the last 10 years. He owns Barnes. He takes his lunch money. He kicks sand in his face. etc. etc.

Remember too, that just last season, Barnes was a basketball coach on the hotseat... at a football school.

Self wins hands down.

Robert Brown 4 years ago

It is actually 13-6 with two shared titles and while 13-6 is still dominant, it is a much lower percentage than the rest of the league and KU has a losing record in Austin under Self. That doesn't sound like kicking sand in the face

Walter Bridges 4 years ago

If Rob is talking about the recruiting war between Barnes and HCBS, especially in the latter years, then I completely agree. Four of this year's Texas's 6 recruits are low ranked three-star recruits. Even when Barnes gets a top recruiting class, he never seems to get anywhere near his recruits full potential.

Although not getting his recruits full potential could also be applied to HCBS last year, Self more often than not gets his players to surpass most analysts projections. Self has gotten more players into the NBA who never would have had a shot under the majority of other coaches. They might not always succeed past their initial contracts but most will make enough money to get a good financial start in their lives.

I hope HCBS goes back to developing players/teams while adding an OAD to address an immediate need. Self has made his name from developing players from the top 60 to the top 20. These players tend to stick around 3 to 4 years, learning Self's system and are you the type of teams that tend to go far in the NCAA. There was not a single OAD on either the 2008 or 2012 team.

Suzi Marshall 4 years ago

When comparing where Kansas stands relative to the rest of the Big 12, let's start with this:

A) Coach - We have Bill Self and the other teams don't! Self has shown the ability to grow as a coach over the years. I expect that to continue next year and believe we will see the guys shooting 3s freer and with more confidence, especially Frankamp, Ellis, Greene, Oubre and even Mickelson (from the top of the key).

B) Players Skills : One look at the 2015 NBA mock draft boards says plenty. ( projects Oubre, Alexander, Selden and Ellis as first rounder picks going 3,4,5, 26 respectively. The rest of the Big 12 has two projected picks over the first two rounds - OU's Hield at 20 and ISU's Jones leading off the second round at 31. Note that none of the UT players, including Turner, do not project, by some, as first or second round draft potentials.

Kansas fans have learned a bitter lesson that NBA potential and on-court collegiate performances do not fully link up. Nevertheless, they are talented and if a fire can be lit and sustained, we can be great.

C) Line-up. Am I in a different world here? Selden was a dynamic PG in HS, the McD game and will be as a pro. Why the reluctance to give him the ball in college? If he heels up, his leadership skills will take the team to the NC. Additionally....Oubre and Ellis can play the 2 and 3, respectively, very well. This lineup will open the 4/5 to Alexander and Mickelson. Do not sleep on Mickelson. Mason is far to quiet to play PG. Self can do a lot with lineup, including getting CF and Greene about 20 mpg.

From the first exhibition game, I'll be watching the team D and finishes around the rim. I'd like to see this team come out with some heart and play with the will to win.

Robert Brock 4 years ago

I don't think Selden can be a college PG; however, I expect him to be a lot better playing the 2 next season (and that will help the team exponentially).

Glen Miller 4 years ago

Why do all of you people think Ellis would be a good 3? Seriously, the guy is not quick enough to guard the athletic wings he'd go up against or to get past them on the offensive end. He also does not have the ball handling skills. I do not know what games you watched that he played the 3 very well?? I would love for Selden to run the point as well, but his decision making would have to improve dramatically and I think his defense would take a hit a bit due to being more involved in every possession on the offensive end.

My very early lineup as our team stands right now

1 - Frankamp, Mason 2 - Selden, Tharpe 3 - Oubre, Greene, White 4 - Ellis, Traylor 5 - Alexander, Mickelson, Lucas

Suzi Marshall 4 years ago

Yes Ellis most certainly does have the quickness, speed, handle and stroke to play the 3. What he lacks is the toughness to play the 4.

Walter Bridges 4 years ago

On this, I cannot agree. Although I have seen Ellis make perimeter shots, it simply is not his game. At 6'8, and hopefully a lot stronger, Ellis can be an effective 4.

This is where I think not signing Turner hurts the most. Alexander has the size and strength (physically close to Kentucky's Randall) to be an excellent power forward but I have the feeling Self will use him at the 5 which doesn't really fit his skill set. I'm hoping Hunter and Lucas can fill the 5 spot and use this time to develop their game towards this goal.

Walter Bridges 4 years ago

I would switch White to the 2 guard but I think you might have nailed next year's starting lineup... At least for the first half of the season.

Walter Bridges 4 years ago

Enjoyed the post Suzi but I agree with Robert that it is unlikely Selden will ever play the point at KU. He does have good ball handling skills and good decision-making but making the jump from the 2 to the PG is difficult even for those who have the ability just because it forces the player to look at the game differently.

Brian Mellor 4 years ago

ESPN's board yesterday reminded me of the UNC and UK folk last year who spent all of April crowing about how they were going to land Wiggins, and then decided that they didn't want him when he chose KU.

He worked out really well, but honestly I'm still in the boat where I'd prefer our existing players like Lucas and Traylor to have a chance to further develop. I can see Traylor and Alexander being a good 2xPF tandem in some reasonable minutes, a'la Black and Traylor last year.

Scott Burkhart 4 years ago

I'm sorry, Keegan. I don't see any validity to the, Texas has more talent, statement. Myles Turner? Big whoop. All these guys coming out of college with all the hype, seem to take an entire season to hit their stride. I feel more comfortable this year without Wiggins, just because of the experience factor, than I did with Wiggins last year and the lack of it. I'm looking forward to the team that takes the floor this year. This is going to be a "fun team" to quote Coach Self. The road to the Big XII title comes through Lawrence. KU plays Ph.D. level basketball!

Walter Bridges 4 years ago

Myles Turner is 'Big Whoop' but he is also the only true star that Barnes has signed in this year's recruiting class. I think we have more talent and more depth but we certainly can't overlook Texas.

Mike Barnhart 4 years ago

I DO NOT like the Lonhorns! That said, with the exception of two years ago, they seem to sign a lot of cool dudes. Not sure this is a big deal but our guys have been a bit unlovable of late.

Robert Brown 4 years ago

If you were honest with yourself in comparing KU and UT as a place to go to college, UT probably beat KU in most cases- better academics, cool location, more resources, wealthier alumni base. There are a lot of people who would pick UT over KU.

Glen Miller 4 years ago

These kids want to win and be coached up for the NBA...... KU is the better option of the two in regards to that. Most often times when it comes to basketball players, they go for the ball and everything else is secondary. As far as our team, facilities and fan support.... I dare you to find a better one in the country.

Robert Brown 4 years ago

If you plan to stay for 2-3 years, I agree, but I doubt most of the elites plan to do that. Kevin Durant played at UT for one year and seems to be doing pretty well. There hasn't been a OAD from KU who has made a huge impact in the NBA.

KU's current program under Bill Self provides more value to those Top 25-50 players who are not OAD. Players, especially front court player get better each year under Self and there is a great track record of players staying at least three years getting drafted into the NBA.

Suzi Marshall 4 years ago

We are KU grads that live in TX and love Austin. My oldest daughter went to KU undergrad and UT grad. My youngest son choice KU over UT and SMU.

Tony Bandle 4 years ago


1] I will never criticize someone for choosing their home state university....good luck, Myles. I'm sorry you passed us by. Hope you're not sorry later.

2] ESPN has declared UT the Big 12 Champion for the 2014/15 season and also will make the Final Four as the Midwest Region Champs. Dumbasses.

3] I kind of like Kansas having a chip on their shoulders for next season......especially Jamari, Hunter, Perry and Landon.

4] Don't forget, everyone, that Cliff more than held his own against Jahlil Okafor, the #1 H.S. center for 2014 and one of the best H.S. centers of the last decade. I think the front line will be just fine.

5] Keegs...a little presumptious regsrding Devon, don't you think? I might have used the word "possible" as opposed to the word "likely".

6] Regarding 2015/16, Tharpe[Senior], Oubre[OAD], Alexander[OAD], Selden[Lottery], Ellis[first round].....looks like Bill gets to reload...AGAIN!!!

7] I can see Perry going to the NBA...nobody plays defense there, either.

8] Cliff and Jamari may be our new "Bruise Brothers"!!

9] Not that I want this to happen, but I can see Myles, with his injury history, getting hurt before conference starts and thus having his season somewhat compromised.

10] Am I the only one outraged by the total lack of repect for Conner and his abilities?? I saw him play in St.Louis and he was the steadiest guy out there despite being a freshman without a ton of experience playing in a high pressure situation. He's got three seasons left and he is only going to get better. i don't get it!! :(

Robert Brown 4 years ago

I wouldn't get too excited about one or two games. I doubt that the opposing team spent much time preparing for him. By default, he was the steadiest player on the court given the way the rest of the team played.

Jay Beakum 4 years ago

Without Frankamp we get ousted by a 15 seed last March. Eastern KY, turned us over 13 times in the first half. CF didn’t turn it over once. That doesn’t have anything to do with Eastern KY not preparing for him. They went after everybody equally. Conner has poise that is underrated. I think that’s Oak’s point.

Walter Bridges 4 years ago

4} I was at the Jordan Brand game in Brooklyn and although Cliff played well, Okafor was easily the best player on the court.

Ethan Berger 4 years ago

I feel like I'm one of the few that hasn't given up on our freshman from last year. Mason came in at not even top 50 and was our 6th man. Connor didn't play much during the season, but showed poised in the post season. Now they have had all spring, all summer and fall to get better. Plus now they know how college ball works and can go work out without the unknown factor. I want Graham but think it's a bit to soon to crown him starter. I hope Mason and Frankamp read how everyone is giving up on them, light a fire.

Aaron Paisley 4 years ago

What does KU have in the backcourt after this upcoming season? Mason and Frankamp and that may very well be it. Tharpe's going to graduate, Selden has a pretty good chance to be a high pick in 2015 which leaves just Mason and Frankamp. Oubre, Greene, and White are all wing players which is a separate category of players in Bill Self basketball. Graham may not be an immediate factor if he comes to KU, but he will be important because he adds depth to a spot on the floor that KU could be very thin at after the 2015 season.

Ethan Berger 4 years ago

I agree. I just don't see why people are saying that none of our guys are going to improve from 13 to 14 and that he is going to start year one. Also really depends on what the NBA does. We might be lucky enough were they force Oubre and Alexander to play 2 years. If so, our guards would be Frankamp, Mason, Greene, White, Oubre. Still a bit thin but class of 15 will bring some guys.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

I would have welcomed Turner but of the two we need Graham. We have the most need at PG, and he looks like he has the tools and leadership needed at the position. He also does not come with the dreaded OAD moniker. He is a rising player, which to me means he is like Joel. He is elevating his game and growing into the position.

Regarding Conner, Frank, or Tharpe I am not sold any of these three have what it takes to be a starting PG for our team. Any comment that they are going to improve or will get better is a hope not a certainty (see EJ or Tharpe for why). Selden is not the answer, his ball handling skills are just not ready for this level.

Think of it like this, if we can get Graham, and that is not a given, we have addressed everything on the list of what we needed for the upcoming season.

Aaron Paisley 4 years ago

"Any comment that they are going to improve or will get better is a hope not a certainty"

That's true for any player at any position in any sport. How we know for sure that Wayne Selden will improve next season over last season? We don't know that he will for sure until he proves it on the court.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

??? your point is......... Mine is that we cannot hope any of our PG's will just get better over the summer like so many are posting above, like that is a given. We need someone else, which is why Graham, the last best option left, needs to signs with us. I am stating that any comment that they will improve is just a hope, we don't know that they will. So what is the point of your post? You agree with me? What you said does not make sense.

Ethan Berger 4 years ago

That's the difference between being a fan and a coach. You are 100% right that we have no idea how they are progressing. We can only hope they get better. But for the coaches, they that rely on their hope because they are working with them. They know if they are improving or if they hit their ceiling. I'm assuming that Mason, Frankamp and Tharpe will improve enough to steady out the 1, for whoever wins the job. But the coaches are the only ones who know for certain if that will be the case.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

To your point, the coaches are trying very hard to get Graham on our team. That tells me there is playing time available. Especially since we know that Self is upfront with anyone he recruits. I don't think he would add a 4th PG if he did not think he had to. They do not share the thought that the improvement will be enough for next season from our current group.

Ethan Berger 4 years ago

I think the real advantage is Graham is a combo guard. He can come in next year and start at the 2 if Selden leaves. It seems to me Graham is a versatile player who can play multiple spots. However, if he does come in and start at the 1, I won't complain.

Aaron Paisley 4 years ago

You're completely contradicting your own point by saying that there's no guarantee a player will improve and then end your post by saying that Graham is the solution to all of KU's PG needs. Just like there's no guarantee of a player improving from season to season, there's no guarantee that Graham will be good enough next year to do anything other than mop up minutes and KU didn't end up fixing the PG issue for 2014-15.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

You are making no sense. I would rather take a chance on Graham an unknown with potential then think our current crop of PG's will improve. So is Self by the way. Why work so hard so quickly to add a 4th PG? Cause he thinks we need one. Comparing Grahams potential as the same thing as players we know improving like you are saying makes no sense. We had three needs at the end of the season, replace Andrew, Joel and address improving the PG position. (to me Hunter replaces Black) Since there does not appear to be any D Kanes out there, the next best option at PG is to try and get a rising prospect that many good schools wanted to add. Where did I say he was the answer? I said we addressed 3 needs the best we could. Graham looks like he has what we need versus 3 guys who could not cut it. Aaron your last two posts to me do not make any sense. You are making leaps to what my posts actually say and then disagreeing with them on points I did not make. Focus... ??????????????????????????????????????

Sam Constance 4 years ago

Honest question: why are you more comfortable expecting a new highly-touted freshman recruit to answer our problems than you are expecting one of two former highly-touted freshman recruits to be our answer after a year of experience in our system at the D-I level?

To your point about there being playing time available based on the coaching staff's pursuit of Graham, apparently that available playing time is coming in the form of Tharpe's departure from the program (if Jeff Goodman is to be believed).

That doesn't necessarily mean that the coaching staff thinks Graham would be the answer over Mason or Frankamp. Personally, I think Mason will be the starting PG next year unless Graham comes in and just scorches practice.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

Honest answer: Mason plays out of control and Frankamp is not athletic enough to stay with 50% of the guards he will face. Player X_ fill in the blank to me would be a better option than the two capable backups we now have sitting on our bench. Since there are very few PG's left to choose from and since Graham is a rising prospect I would like to see what he can do vs. anyone on our bench. I think the coaching staff agrees, we need to improve at PG and the answer does not appear to be on campus. I will go one step further, if we do not get Graham, I think Self will keep on searching for help till the very end. No one but die hard homers think our starting PG is already on our team right now.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

Sam last year at this time we felt pretty good about our PG's, Thrape, CF, Frank, we are fine at this position for a few years, one short year later all we have on the team now are two backups. This is the weakest position now on our team and as we all saw last season any zone defense and our team hits 20 turnovers and we have 10 losses. We need Graham, and maybe another guard since Tharpe is gone. We might not be in trouble but we are not far from it without some help.

Jay Beakum 4 years ago

You’re assuming Graham is better than our current point guards. That too is only a hope, not a certainty. You’ve never seen him play a college game.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

Having seen what we have I would rather try Graham. In this case the unknown is a better option.

Rob Bedford III 4 years ago

Naadir is transferring. I guess KU will have another spot open.

Michael Maris 4 years ago

I say save the Scholarship for a season (and give it to Christian Garrett for the 2014 / 2015 season). Then, have it ready to use for the 2015 class. Let's see how the current members (including Alexander & Oubre) gel and play for the upcoming season.

Michael Maris 4 years ago

That's if Devonte Graham doesn't choose Kansas to play for. But now, there are 2 scholarships open with the news of Naadir transferring. And by the way, I believe that J. Wesley was granted a Scholarship for 1 season (due to KU losing out on recruiting war). So, it's not unheard of.

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