Sunday, November 2, 2014

KU freshman forward Cliff Alexander ‘great’ so far

Red Team forward Cliff Alexander works his way into the post against Blue Team forward Hunter Mickelson during the Late Night in the Phog scrimmage on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Red Team forward Cliff Alexander works his way into the post against Blue Team forward Hunter Mickelson during the Late Night in the Phog scrimmage on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Co-Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year Cliff Alexander has made steady progress during Kansas University’s practice sessions the past several weeks.

So says 12th-year Jayhawk coach Bill Self, who reports that Alexander, the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder from Chicago, “has done great. He’s a pleaser. He’s trying to do exactly what we want to do. I just think he needs a lot of reps.”

Self cautions that the McDonald’s All-American — who averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds a game a year ago at Curie High — is far from a finished product entering Monday’s exhibition opener against Washburn (7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse).

“Him being out the whole summer (with severe right-ankle sprain) didn’t help him at all, and so he’s a little bit behind with simple things, whether it be pivoting or being able to fan the ball out of the post, just things that he’s never had to do because he just caught it and mauled people in high school, and you can’t do that obviously at this level,” Self stated.

“I’m worried about Cliff because I think there’s a chance he could surpass Jeff Graves in the quickest five fouls in the history of KU basketball or whoever one of our biggest foulers were,” Self added with a smile, quickly recalling Tarik Black’s foul-prone nature last season.

“Tarik averaged more fouls than rebounds and points until Christmas, and Cliff has the same potential to do that. But when he gets it, he’s going to be really good. I think by the end of the year, he could be one of the harder players to deal with in the league.”

Alexander, who finished tied with Texas’ Myles Turner in the preseason freshman-of-the-year voting, has worked diligently on a lot of things — including a baby hook shot, post moves and defensive positioning — since arriving on campus.

“Cliff is learning every day,” junior forward Perry Ellis said. “He’s getting real good. If he just keeps improving on little things in our offense like setting screens and the right angles and hitting the defender, things like that, he’ll (be even better).

“We’ve been working on traps that teams might throw at us. He’s getting better at passing out of traps. He’s a good passer.”

Freshmen ranked as highly as Alexander (No. 4 in Class of 2014 by must learn quickly these days, with so many headed to the NBA after just one season.

“He’s getting better every day. That’s the biggest thing,” KU sophomore guard Wayne Selden said. “He’s really moving fast. That’s always a positive. Jo Jo (Embiid, one-and-done to Philadelphia 76ers) didn’t come in here as the best player on the team. Toward the end of the year before he got hurt, he was arguably our best player. That’s progress.”

Added Self: “Markieff and Marcus (Morris), all those guys took a little bit of time. Joel took time.”

Self has said he sees a little bit of former KU forward Thomas Robinson in Alexander, though Robinson of the Portland Trail Blazers is listed two inches taller and three pounds lighter than Cliff.

“He’s the same kind of guy, my size, does what I do, basically,” Alexander said of Robinson. “He runs the floor, blocks shots, dunks everything. I watched him his last year when they went to the national championship (losing to Kentucky, 67-59 in 2012). He did great.”

Alexander is four inches shorter than No. 3 NBA draft pick Embiid, a player Cliff has followed closely.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Alexander said. “He tells me, ‘Take everything step by step, don’t rush into anything, take your time with everything.’”

Alexander also is soaking up pointers from big-man coach Norm Roberts and KU’s other bigs.

“Jamari (Traylor) ... I see him every time in practice. He runs the floor, works hard, tries to get every loose ball he can. He leads me, telling me what I need to do. I follow him. He leads by example,” Alexander said.

“I watch Perry. He can score down low at will, run the floor. Landen (Lucas) has been here three years now. He’s telling me what I need to do, to keep working. He did the same things I’m doing, and it got him far. I just listen to him.”

Alexander said he’s elated to be at KU and play a style of ball he says fits him.

“I like to get the ball down low, and that’s what he (Self) does, gets the ball down low,” Alexander said. “I can see myself fitting in perfectly. That’s one of the reasons I chose here, because of his history, how he gets his players to the pros through a great system.”

Alexander’s being here came as a result of a long recruiting effort.

“I want to say my sophomore year, coach (Kurtis) Townsend was recruiting me. Coach (Jerrance) Howard came in and took over and started recruiting me. What made me choose here is coach Self and history of developing his players and getting his players to the pros. And it feels like family. I love it,” Alexander said.

Naadir drafted: Former KU point guard Naadir Tharpe was selected by the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the second round of Saturday’s NBA Developmental League draft. It is the Lakers’ D-League affiliate.

“My whole life I’ve always wanted to be a Laker #FACTSOFLIFE Praise Be To Allah,” Tharpe wrote on Twitter.

Speaking of T-Rob: The Trail Blazers recently declined a $4.7 million team option, meaning he’ll be a free agent after this season.

“Of course I’m disappointed. But, like I said, them not picking up my option is not something that’s going to stop me from being successful,” Robinson told the Oregonian.

“It’s a business. That’s all you’ve got to understand. You’ve got to realize that it’s bigger than you sometimes in this league. I know I belong in this league, I know I’m a worthy player in this league. I actually think I’m above average if I had the chance. But, like I said, it’s all about just working and understanding that it’s a business. You can’t take anything personal.

“Any individual motivation that I got is coming from within me, not from the team not picking up my option or nobody not believing in me, quote unquote, or whatever anybody could possibly bring into the situation. This is all about me working harder.


Suzi Marshall 4 years, 6 months ago

Alexander couldn't find a better environment to become The Great player he's capable and wants to be. It looks like the primary big rotation starting out will be Ellis, Traylor, Alexander and Lucas. All terrific young men to be around but none of the return guys has yet shown the ability to defend against a layup line. If that is the primary rotation, how far behind is Mickelson? We need Mickelson's length.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 6 months ago

I think you might find Mickelson subbing in behind Perry, and Cliff behind 'Mari (until mid-year when they flip-flop). I don't see Lucas having the same ability to move away from the basket effectively that Perry does (hopefully more this year), and that I'm recalling Hunter having as well (to a lesser extent).

Robert Brock 4 years, 6 months ago

This year's team needs to play much tougher defense on the perimeter and force turnovers - something that last year's team was lacking.

We will not have a big man swatting away shots like Joel did.

Erich Hartmann 4 years, 6 months ago

Watch shot-blocking by (in order): Mickelson, Oubre, Traylor, Alexander, Lucas.

Y'all will be saying (again...) "how does Bill Self keep doing it?"

More importantly, Bill Self "flummoxes" opposing coaches yet again...

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

Mickelson? Sure thing.

"flummoxes" does that mean losing 4 of our final 7 games?

Kerby Rice 4 years, 6 months ago

I swear last season all a team had to do was play hard and not be intimidated by KU and the game would be within 10 points no matter who the opponent. They had no sense of urgency, no killer instincts, no leadership, and seemed to just go through the motions. This years team needs to step up the emotion and step on teams throats instead of letting them hang around. Get some pride, get absolutely ticked off if your guy beats you and gets a bucket, and make sure it doesn't happen again. They need a big dose of a little thing called swagger! I also got eerily frustrated listening to the coaching staff talk up the Big 12 level of competition and make it seem like loosing games to inferior opponents is OK. The Big 12 was clearly not what everyone claimed it to be when nobody showed out in the big dance. This is what made the 2012 team awesome, less talent than traditional Kansas teams but they had leadership, fierceness, and a do anything to win attitude in T-rob and Tyshaun.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

It's the difference between building teams v assembling teams... That's why 2012 was so special.

Jack Wilson 4 years, 6 months ago

One thing that might happen is that we may play defense differently without a rim protector. On a normal day, that might mean, generally, less denial on the wing, more switching on screens, more aggressive hedging at the top, and aggressive doubles on the block/short corner. But Self is counter-intuitive sometimes. It will be interesting to see. He's a great defensive coach.

I do think that we will have better perimeter defense -- Mason/Graham will be better than Tharpe, Selden will improve from last season, and I expect Oubre to be near Wiggins level. If Oubre isn't his equal from a pure technique standpoint, I think Oubre will be a tougher, more physical performer.

You don't need a rim protector. It's a luxury. We won a title with two PFs playing most of the minutes. I seriously wouldn't give it one bit of worry.

Rodney Crain 4 years, 6 months ago

We should be better, quicker on the perimeter, (I hate to say it...) without CF too.

I still would like a 7 footer in the 2015 class, there are some nice tall players left, not many, but we should be able to snag one.

I wish Self would consider slight adjustments to the offense and defense before we play ourselves into requiring them. He is talking about different ideas, but I wonder if we see it translate on the court.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

Last years team lost the #51 and 34th ranked recruits to transfers..I don't see any positives in that.

Erich Hartmann 4 years, 6 months ago

Self did see positives. Go ahead and keep sounding your alarm, but I'll go with Self's forecast of mpg, which is exactly why AWIII and little Connor chose to transfer. This isnt your or my "baby", it's Bill Self's to construct or deconstruct as he sees fit. That's why he's the $52million man (signed 10yr deal by Zenger). Dont forget that #51 AWIII transferred because #1 Wiggins got replaced by McDAA #12 Oubre. Plus-side to your negative ("dont see any positives") angle, Mr. Bridges. Take it one step further, Walter Bridges, and ask yourself, what would you do with AWIII on one hand, and Oubre on the other, who is a scary defensive monster with a 7'3 wingspan, and a defensive instinct like Mario Chalmers...and he has the aggression to try to go for a game winner by dunking over the top of 6'9 Cliff Alexander...(There's a ton of upside to Oubre that AWIII just didnt have, when directly compared head2head, which is exactly what was happening in practice, as they play the same position (wing) ). For the longtime KU watchers, as well as those who have a full understanding of Self's driving principles and patterns of recruiting, playcalling, and expectations...this is same-old-same-old, no surprise. Not a disturbing new trend as you insinuate, but actually the same old principle: best players play.

No need to call Houston, as we do not have a problem...

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

Erich, your claim to be the 'knowledgeable' fan is ridiculous and your logic is flawed. If Oubre and Alexander have more potential, it will show up in the draft...which is where they will be going unless overrated or underperform.

I guess you like the rotating OAD player plays, even if it drives away the bread and meat players who stick around 3-4 years.

Oubre will have a great individual year on his stop to the NBA and maybe Self can find another OAD to take his place while Greene moves on. You must not have watched AW3 early in the season when he did produce until sidelined w/an injury. Maybe you don't watch the early games, HCBS fills you in on the 'need-to-know'.

And as for your insinuation that I'm not a longtime KU follower, I have a great suggestion.

Think and then shut-up.

Jack Wilson 4 years, 6 months ago

Erich -- right. But do you want rotating OADs at the three spot, or do you want top 50ish, four year guys. For example, would you rather have Releford for two seasons, then an AW3 type player for two or three seasons, or do you want Wiggins, then Oubre, then maybe Brown, then whoever? All playing one season as a freshman?

I think there is no doubt that the latter group are the most talented, but as freshman, are they the best players in coach Self's system? Do first year, highly talented guys make our team better? Would our team have been better last season if Wiggins just wasn't here? Stats don't tell the entire story.

That's the question. Self has answered. And I think that's your point.

By the way, I love Oubre's game. I said a while back that I think he could end up being our best three man since Pierce, if he'd only stay long enough to stake his claim.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

Genius Erich...what round did we go out again last year w/the 1st and 3rd NBA picks? Wasn't that the first 10 loss team since Roy Williams?

How will THEIR experience help us this year?

Next year's team has even less without Tharpe

Ask yourself this Erich..what made the 2012 squad so special?


One starting freshman, a Senior PG and 3 Juniors

"instinct like Mario Chalmers" LMAO That INSTINCT took 3 years to develop.

Also, I didn't insinuate (check the definition), I stated it as a fact.

Rodney Crain 4 years, 6 months ago

Here is my concern, for an elite program we seem to be filling out each class at the end of the recruitment cycle the last few years. Wiggins, Joel, Svi, Graham, this year it will be everyone in the 2015 class all will come late.

I do not understand why a top program cannot get at least one or two players early, and then fill out the class no later than April each year with someone in the top 75. We seem to be chasing those last 2 or 3 scholarships now, which makes it seem a little frantic. I don't see Duke, MSU, UNC, or AZ doing that. KY is different, it is almost unbelievable how they get almost everyone they want, typically early, except this year. I said almost...

I disagree Erich, with recruiting it seems there are too many late surprises, some good, some not. When was the last time any of those programs above have had a scholarship open for a year?

It just seems whatever our plan is it is flawed now. We seem to be on the fence trying to fit in OAD's each year, over players we used to develop. We have seen both strategies work in winning a championship, I am just not sure what we are doing anymore. I do see that our teams that have reached the final four the last two times, were more seasoned then the teams we are fielding now.

Very soon we will have a unique, equal or better experience for a men's college basketball player than almost any other school. From their room to the rules it is going to be a compelling experience for any future player to consider. I hope we are not chasing players once we have everything in place. We really shouldn't have to now.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

Good points Rodney.. A lot of times KU signs players late as recruits wait to see who leaves and who stays but not developing the top 50 players who need 2-3 years before becoming impact players is what worries me.

Both of our Final 4 teams came from players Self developed. Sure we had better talent in 2008 but not a single OAD. If rotating OADs is the new plan then why was last year the worst year since Self arrived with arguably the most talent?

Jerry Walker 4 years, 6 months ago

"Praise Be To Allah" Tharpe wrote on Twitter.

I knew it...somehow I just knew it.

Rodney Crain 4 years, 6 months ago

ummm We are trying to put Tharpism behind of us... :)

Erich Hartmann 4 years, 6 months ago

Jerry, is that some sort of "revelation" (tsk, tsk), because Naadir is an Islamic name anyway, most of us knew that back when his name popped up as a 90-ranked commit. Plus I could care less about someone's persuasion or background unless its causing a problem on the court or the gridiron, right? KC Chiefs have a guy named Abdullah, who is a gamer. Got a pick 6 off Tom Brady on MNF. Poor Naadir created distractions off court, and was a liability/not-a-leader on court. He got fired basically for his miscues, just as Self has let other guys go, irrespective of their persuasion. Get off that old drum, Jerry. Judge the man by his actions and consistency, okay? Results and effort. Use the right criteria, and you can feel good about yourself in the process. And what Im saying has nothing to do with all that political-correctness B.S. we got going on nowadays. Nope. We want consistent performance and effort. So does Bill Self. Naadir Tharpe got his chance, but screwed it up. Next.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

LMAO...someone yank the stick out of Erich's ***

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 6 months ago

You're the one responding to all of his posts, not the other way around.

Erich Hartmann 4 years, 6 months ago

Man-O-man, lets see what Andrea Hudy does for Cliff Alexander after a year of Huditioning...We know he's got the right stuff mentally, as he chose KU & Self for its playstyle focusing on tough play out of its bigmen. We get Perry Ellis to get that mindset, then you'll see Ellis go lotto.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

Hudy will probably get Cliff to go lotto long before Ellis...most likely next year.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 6 months ago

Any way to stream tomorrow night's game over the Internet? One that doesn't involve going to some virus-infested European webpage with a crappy feed that keeps getting broken off?

Erich Hartmann 4 years, 6 months ago

Walter, calm down, man. You missed my point about the Oubre/OAD thing vs the foundation-type guys like Frankamp or AWIII. I was simply trying to report on/sum up what was happenning and why I thought so (AWIII and CF leave because of Self's forecast of mpg). And then my point was that Self is guiding this program to whatever direction...we can all judge with hindsight later, which is why I'd wait a while to sound the alarm.

Personally, what I really think is give me the Self team with 2,3,4 year guys, as that is absolutely a more experienced bunch, and they execute better, are more ready physically...and Self built his whole success & reputation on such teams going back to his midmajor days. Now him going for all these OADs, I think, runs the risk of diluting his success (see last year's team falling off in some key statistical categories). Eventhough we had a highly "talented" team, they werent experienced in defense, zone-busting, and offensive execution...all of which usually are Bill Self strongpoints. Now if all this lackluster performance in real games becomes another season's trend, then, yes, we have a problem...and I'd fully give you credit for calling out the problem earlier than I would have.

Walter, would you agree with this?


Walter Bridges 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes I would...and sorry for making it personal.

Erich Hartmann 4 years, 6 months ago

Chalmers, by the way, was jumping in passing lanes and getting strips/steals right from his frosh season. But he just was not very efficient as PG, and Self thus played him as the 2G. Sophomore RussRob was (made) to play the PG thereafter. Loved those guys. And if you can find guys with such instincts, its a plus. Self during LateNight was being interviewed on the mic and camera during the early action, and he interrupted himself to say "see there's Kelly doing it on both ends, getting a steal-->scoring it at the other end, and then getting a rebound". Sometimes you cant teach "motor" or nose for the ball. Some guys are great anticipators and always around the ball.

Cant wait to see what Oubre (& the whole team) can do in real games.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.