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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Alexander has lofty goal for Jayhawks

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) gets up to reject a shot from Kent State forward Jimmy Hall (35) during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) gets up to reject a shot from Kent State forward Jimmy Hall (35) during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Asked to reveal one wish for the New Year, Kansas University freshman basketball forward Cliff Alexander paused for just a moment, grinned, then responded, “Go undefeated.”

Odds of No. 13-ranked KU (10-2) winning out, of course, appear mighty slim. For that to happen, the Jayhawks would have to conclude the nonconference schedule Sunday with a win against (9-4) UNLV, a team that has handed No. 8 Arizona its only loss in 13 games. The Jayhawks would have to follow that with an undefeated Big 12 Conference campaign, postseason league tournament and NCAA Tournament.

KU’s chances of beating the Rebels in Sunday’s 3:30 p.m., tip in Allen Fieldhosue and winning an 11th-straight Big 12 title would improve greatly if the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Alexander continues to play as he did in a six-minute stretch in the second half of Tuesday’s 78-62 home win over Kent State.

Alexander started that span at the 10-minute mark with a vicious block of a Jimmy Hall shot.

Next, he rebounded a Kelly Oubre Jr., miss and scored off the carom. Then he connected on two free throws and flushed a lob pass from Wayne Selden Jr., seconds after another block on defense. He hit a short hook shot and after a steal threw down a one-handed dunk that was erased by a controversial traveling call.

“Very exciting,” Alexander said of his play in the second half that followed a first half in which he had no points and one rebound in five minutes. “It’s a spurt. I always go on a spurt.”

He responded after instructions from coach Bill Self at halftime.

“I think I played kind of sluggish in the first half,” Alexander said. “Coach told me at halftime I need to pick it up, so that’s what I did.

“That was my game,” he added of his play in the final half. “That’s mainly what I did in high school (at Chicago Curie), get blocked shots and run the floor and end up with dunks.”

For the year, Alexander has averaged 8.2 points (off 54.7 percent shooting) and 5.8 rebounds a game with a team-leading 16 blocks. He’s averaged 18.2 minutes per game.

“Consistency probably as much as anything,” Self said of what Alexander must do to emerge as a force in league play. “To me it’s not that complicated because he can play well if he’s just active, because he can get rebounds.

“It’s the consistency to go do it each and every possession. He’s gaining on it. He will be a really good player, no question.”

Alexander just wants to keep improving.

“I’m very happy. I’ve come a long way from when I first started and now I’m here,” he said.

Fellow big man Landen Lucas said he was encouraged by Alexander’s play in the second half Tuesday.

“I thought he did well. He bounced back,” Lucas said. “I feel he might have come out a little slow. He’s one of those guys that will all of a sudden have a spurt of a couple good minutes. I know coach is looking for him to come out and play like that all the time. It was nice for him to finish the game like he did.”

Alexander applauded the play of two of KU’s other bigs.

“Landen played very well, going after loose balls, getting every offensive rebound,” Alexander said. “Jamari (Traylor, eight points, three rebounds, one block, one steal, one assist, three turnovers in 21 minutes) played well also. We (bigs) played a lot better (than in 25-point loss to Temple). We had no unforced turnovers the first half. That’s what we did against Temple. We just picked it up.”

Self thinks Alexander and the other bigs made strides Tuesday.

“They (Golden Flashes) got on the high side a lot which allows us to get the ball inside more,” Self said. “I thought other than a couple post traps we handed poorly early on, our big guys played much better. I thought Landen was really good the first half; Cliff really good the second. Jamari was really good the first. Perry (Ellis, 15 points, eight boards) was pretty consistent the majority of the game when he was in there.”

Alexander, by the way, said his bruised shin that has slowed him some “is coming along. It’s gotten a lot better.”

Sunday’s foe: KU’s next foe, UNLV, dropped its Mountain West Conference opener to Wyoming, 76-71, on Wednesday in Laramie. Christian Wood, a 6-11 sophomore from Long Beach, California, had a career-high 29 points for the Rebels while playing the entire game. He hit 10 of 15 shots and was 4-of-6 from three. Rashad Vaughn, a 6-6 freshman from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, had 16 points and no boards in 31 minutes. KU’s Oubre also attended the Vegas prep school.

Ford speaks: ESPN’s Chad Ford has put out rankings of the top 10 NBA prospects (currently in college) at each position, based on conversations with NBA scouts and GMs.

KU’s Oubre is ranked No. 2 (behind Duke’s Justise Winslow) at small forward and is the No. 9 overall prospect on Ford’s 2015 NBA Draft big board. Alexander is the No. 7 power forward and ranked No. 22 overall. Wayne Selden Jr., is listed as a “notable” shooting guard prospect, but is not in the top 10 at that position.

Jeff Goodman’s latest mock draft, released this week at ESPN.com, has Oubre No. 12 in the upcoming draft and Alexander No. 20. Sporting News’ latest mock draft, also updated this week, has Oubre No. 16 and Alexander No. 17.

Recruiting: KU coaches are expected to attend a game of prospect Carlton Bragg tonight in Wheeling, West Virginia, Zagsblog.com reports. Bragg, a 6-9 senior from Villa Angela St. Joseph High in Cleveland who is ranked No. 14 by Rivals.com, has cut his list to KU, Kentucky, UCLA and Illinois. He attended KU’s Late Night in the Phog. ... Jayson Tatum, a 6-7 junior from Chaminade High in St. Louis, who is ranked No. 4 in the Class of 2016, also is playing in the tourney in West Virginia. ... Ivan Rabb, a 6-9 senior forward who is ranked No. 7 nationally, will visit Arizona this weekend, Zagsblog.com reports. His mom, Tami, says she and her son will also visit KU, Cal, UCLA and Kentucky.

Comments

Erich Hartmann 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm not too down on Selden. His assists are usually pretty good, and he seems to be trying to involve everybody. Shots just not dropping, BUT I guarantee Billy Donovan makes a frown if you say "Wayne Selden" to him... There's been a couple of flashes this season when Selden truly looked like an NBAer for a few minutes. To put it in a nutshell: If Selden can start looking like he did vs FL in about 50-75% of KU's games, he will shine at the next level.

It must be remembered the energy he is expending in all phases of the game, especially on the D end. I bet this simplification of the transition offense to just go fill (any) gaps, will help Wayne & KU's other high-ranked athletes simply show more of what their talent-gifts are. Should be fun! Self might be borrowing a page from Roy this season, trying to get our athletes to play 'fast'...(although our D philosophy will always separate us from being a UNC-clone).

RCJH

Steve Zimmerman 6 years, 11 months ago

“I’m very happy. I’ve come a long way from when I first started and now I’m here,” he said.

I was very very excited the minute Cliff committed and performed that controversy hat trick. That statement shows what a great attitude this great athlete has. I just feel bad for him and KO. They don't get as much PT as their fellow top-25 Rivals: Okafor, Jones, Johnson, Vaughn, etc. They don't produce as much as those others do either, except Karl-Towns (well, he plays for UK). I like Cliff's energy and his talents, but boy... I think he's not getting enough PT he deserves. I've heard so many times "HCBS knows what he's doing" stuff, but I don't agree with this whole PT at all. Now that we are in January, I'm afraid things will get tougher for these 2 highly talented recruits to shift to high gear.

Jerry Collins 6 years, 11 months ago

I don't think you will have to worry about either KO or Cliff getting PT. It will be hard to keep Kelly out of the lineup now that he is starting. I predict Alexander will be the team's most improved player the rest of the way. The games he stays out of foul trouble, he will probably average 25+ minutes a game. Most of the kids at this level are coming out of high school where all the offense runs through them. Cliff has spent time thus far learning to play on a team with similar talent. I think he's about there and look for him to play up to his incredible potential. Also look for Svi to win some games for us. His shots WILL start falling. This will be an exciting conference season with the Hawks attempting to win games instead of just trying not to lose them. I also like the fact that HCBS is maybe realizing the perimeter shot is not so bad after all.

Benz Junque 6 years, 11 months ago

Why would you put KO in this conversation? He's starting and getting good minutes that will get better as he gets better. Alexander will play more when he doesn't go stretches of practices and games where he checks out mentally. EARN IT. If Cliff is hungry and wants to play major minutes, I am 100% certain that Self has clearly defined a set of completable tasks for him to do that. It's in Cliff's hands now. He is in charge of how much he plays, not Self. Do what the team needs from you and you will stay out there.

Cameron Cederlind 6 years, 11 months ago

If he did that fake hat grab with a KU hat and not Illinois, you would be saying what a horrible attitude he has and how immature he is.

Tom Jones 6 years, 11 months ago

I am really struggling to know which posters on this site are real, which are trolls and which (like Steve, maybe?) are up and coming comedians....

Tony Bandle 6 years, 11 months ago

Count me as two out of three and I graduated from KU with a Bachelor of Architecture Degree in 1971. :). Hilarious post, Tom!

Benz Junque 6 years, 11 months ago

There was nothing controversial about that traveling call against Cliff. Fans boo virtually any call that goes against them at home, especially a call that takes a big play off the board. It was clearly traveling.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 11 months ago

The Hawks can go undefeated IF:

       1) Alexander and Kelly play up to their potential, which would put them in position for the Lottery.   Alexander inconsistent performance the past several games, including Temple and the fist half of KS, has me concerned if can provide uniform quality minutes.

     2) Graham needs to fully recover.  Selden has shown over the past 1.5 year that he is far to inconsistent and as a result unreliable, akin to Ellis.  I expect to hear Selden has been hurt.  How else can you explain his inability to elevate and finish so many plays?

     3) Mykailiuk needs to find a shooting rhythm so he can provide 9-13 ppg.  He's got to give us the perimeter shooting we expect from Greene.

     4) Team needs to hit FTs.  All our big wins were due to hitting a high (near or above 80%) percentage.

Other than Mason, I'm not expecting a whole lot from the non-freshman. Ellis will likely have 3 or even 4 big games but seriously doubt any meaningful contribution in games like with UT. I've given up with Greene because of his inability to play D. That play vs. Temple where he stood around letting them pick up the ball then easily drive around him for a layup was the fatal blow.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 11 months ago

God Bless you, Suzi...the world needs more optimists like you!! All kidding aside, your post was a succinctly accurate summary of exactly why the Hawks will NOT go undefeated!!

Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

I love this post Suzi!

Reminds me of one of my all time favorite movie scenes -

Lloyd Christmas: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances? Mary Swanson: Not good. Lloyd Christmas: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred? Mary Swanson: I'd say more like one out of a million. Lloyd Christmas: So you're telling me there's a chance... YEAH!

KO seems to be there right now, Graham is an unknown for another 3 weeks, Svi, Cliff, Greene, Ellis, Lucas, Hunter, and Traylor are unknowns each game, only Mason has shown up to play every game.

I could not believe what Greene did on that play, talk about stone feet, the look on his face was resignation too. He did not even try to block the shot on the layup, did not even jump and he was right there.

We have a lot to improve on still!

Robert Brock 6 years, 11 months ago

This team can be successful if it can dial up the defense like we saw it do against Kent State in the second half. The Hawks forced their opponent to take low-percentage shots and made them turn the ball over. Our transition game got some easy fast-break buckets and we didn't have to rely solely on half-court basketball.

Self probably won't install his offense until late this month. D has to win for us.

David Kemp 6 years, 11 months ago

If KO and Alexander are first rounders this would have to be the weakest draft od the century. These guys have flashes but will get murdered in the NBA

Titus Canby 6 years, 11 months ago

"Go undefeated."

I love Alexander's attitude.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 11 months ago

Freshman lol - undefeated the rest of the way would be something thats for sure.

I would like to add World Peace, a Reverse of Climate Change, and a Government that actually worked together. I think we are both in the same probabilty of those things happening.

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