Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Forward Jack Whitman to leave KU basketball program

Kansas head coach talks with his players before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Kansas head coach talks with his players before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.


A source close to the Kansas basketball program confirmed to the Journal-World on Wednesday night an earlier report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that William & Mary transfer Jack Whitman had decided to leave the program.

Whitman informed Kansas coach Bill Self of his decision Wednesday night, the source said.

A graduate transfer who joined the Jayhawks this spring and would have been eligible to play during the 2017-18 season, Whitman has decided to leave the school, according to the source, and it is not yet clear if he plans to play out the final year of his basketball career elsewhere.

The news comes at a tough time for Kansas, which is set to embark on its overseas exhibition trip to Italy in just 11 days. Beyond that, his departure leaves the Jayhawks with just eight scholarship players who are eligible for the first semester of the 2017-18 season. That number will grow to nine at the end of the first semester when Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible and could climb back to 10 if KU coach Bill Self elects to fill the scholarship vacated by the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Whitman’s departure.

While that seems like a likely prospect, it’s not as if Self has a ton of options. Most, if not all, of the top talent in the 2017 class is already committed and there are not a lot of available big men out there who could impact the roster at a place like Kansas.

One option is junior college. Another is a possible reclassification by a prospect currently in the Class of 2018. Rumors that top-ranked 2018 prospect Marvin Bagley III is considering reclassifying surfaced this week and many KU fans are connecting that rumor to the Whitman news. But there has been no indication of anything substantial in that department at this point.

What is concrete is that Whitman’s departure leaves the Jayhawks with just three big men entering the 2017-18 season and one of them, freshman forward Billy Preston, has shown a preference to play on the perimeter.

Joining Preston is sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, a man big enough to count for two bodies but still only given five fouls, and Lightfoot, a sophomore-to-be whom Self said recently had turned in a terrific summer and was gaining confidence by the day.

While that sounds thin, it’s really not that much different than what the Jayhawks endured a season ago, when Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg Jr., Lightfoot and Dwight Coleby accounted for the bulk of the KU’s depth in the front court after Azubuike went down with a wrist injury in late December.

Both Coleby and Bragg elected to leave KU in search of other opportunities this offseason.

Then-freshman Josh Jackson’s versatility and ability to play multiple positions helped KU survive the thin front court a season ago, but it is unlikely that either 6-5 guard Lagerald Vick or 6-8 guard Svi Mykhailiuk would be able to be as effective, particularly on defense, as Jackson was at the 4 spot.


Robert Brock 2 years, 6 months ago

Wow! KU recruiting has been lame recently. What is wrong? Poor staff?

Waylon Cook 2 years, 6 months ago

Yes we are just going to disband the program. What does this have to do with recruiting?

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

Bill Self did recruit Whitman. I realize that it's hard to predict future behavior but from a fifth-year senior recruited to shore up a thin frontcourt, one in which already lost Bragg and Coleby, something isn't right.

Craig Carson 2 years, 6 months ago

on the contrary, recruiting has been pretty good these last few years. losing Coleby and Whitman was a blow to KU's depth, but its not like those guys were high grade recruits that were sought after by every other blue blood school.

David Robinett 2 years, 6 months ago

Or you might read this as Self told Jack that Bagley was coming and would get the prime minutes with Dok.

John Fitzgerald 2 years, 6 months ago

KU isn't even in the lead to get him. They're behind Duke, USC, and UK. And that's also not considering he's a 2018 recruit. He could reclassify, yes, but it's highly unlikely that he'd reclassify and pick KU if he's been leaning else where.

Craig Carson 2 years, 6 months ago

I think Self only played the 4 guard lineup because of 1)injury to Udoka and 2) Bragg didnt have the breakout season we thought he would..Im 100% certain that if Azibuike hadnt gotten injured and Bragg had the season he was thought to have had, KU would have played with 2 bigs and had Lucas off the bench.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 6 months ago

Leaning? Is he leaning? Cause it looks like he's leaning. Joe Jr.

The reality is that in many cases "leaning" is just the imagination of a writer. Other players have been leaning toward other schools and picked KU.

Tevin Brown 2 years, 6 months ago

Its hard when svi coming back and u put 4 guards and donk out there and preston or lightfoot sounds like the first off the bench so maybe he just left cause no playing time

Steve Corder 2 years, 6 months ago

Matt, why did he leave? Where is he going?

Andy Godwin 2 years, 6 months ago

Matt, did you write this statement with a straight face -"Both Coleby and Bragg elected to leave KU in search of other opportunities this offseason.".

Brian Wilson 2 years, 6 months ago

If Bagley comes then Self is a genius!! and you have to find a scholarship to give any way you can.

Coleby had to leave. He graduated. The only way for him to play is to play for a school with a Master's program not offered by KU. I'm glad Bragg is gone. He became a disruption.

One other player.....maybe Thon Maker's little brother Matur Maker could be signed last minute. He has big potential like his brother but I'm not sure he is ready yet to just jump to the NBA.

Jonathan Allison 2 years, 6 months ago

Coleby did not have to leave. He could have enrolled in any master's program at KU and played out his final year of eligibility.

Craig Carson 2 years, 6 months ago

Honestly, Bragg seemed like a good kid that made a few bad choices. He was always cheering even when he didnt play alot and you never heard him complain. Id much rather have a talented Bragg still on the team..least then KU would have a lil depth.

Steve Jacob 2 years, 6 months ago

This is the problem when you have so many transfers. You give scholarships to players who are not eligible to play this season. Then when the unexpected happens, like someone quitting or multiple injuries, you get very thin.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 6 months ago

Extreme example of this - our football program. Too many transfers under Charlie Weis, and when they graduated or were dismissed, it left a gaping hole where David Beaty had nothing to work with in his first season.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 6 months ago

Saw this coming. In all of Self's comments, he never mentioned Whitman as one of the guys shining during workouts - which surprised me. I think that Lightfoot has stepped up and Whitman saw the writing on the wall.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 6 months ago

Absolutely agree with this. If one takes the position Whitman was run off, then it was Lightfoot that ran him off...after giving him the crack with the elbow during the Self Camp.

Chris DeWeese 2 years, 6 months ago

I think for a transfer to come in and make an immediate impact is the exception rather than the rule. Whether or not this has anything to do with Bagley reclassifying remains to be seen, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had more to do with Whitman realizing the talent level he's up against at KU.

Craig Carson 2 years, 6 months ago

that could be the case, but He'd still be a big body who can absorb 5 fouls a game to keep Azibuike from fouling out. Plus, it wasnt like he didnt know who was on KU's roster before he decided to transfer. I think Maybe Self worked him harder than he was used to or he didnt feel he was gonna be able to catch on??

John Fitzgerald 2 years, 6 months ago

I find this very surprising but if he didn't want to be here we don't want him here.

Jim Stauffer 2 years, 6 months ago

I think we never know whether he was disappointed and decided he did not want to be here or if Coach ran him off. We trust in Coach to arrange the roster and then coach them up.

Mike Greer 2 years, 6 months ago

I think pretty highly of coach Self, I know he wants what's best for the team, but I also believe he's a sincere individual and would not go back on his word. On the other hand, if Lightfoot came along much faster than Coach had anticipated, it may have become clear to Whitman that he wasn't going to see much playing time at KU. Coach may have made that obvious, but I seriously doubt he would actually ask a scholarship player to leave the program, that brings up a lot of trust issues and would kill recruiting if nothing else.

As surprised as we may be, or at least most of us, I somehow doubt this was a shocker to Coach. I'm confident he has a plan "B" to fill that slot, maybe even a plan "C".

Jonathan Allison 2 years, 6 months ago

He may have a plan B and a plan C, but that doesn't mean that either will pan out. I'm not confident that we'll add a quality rotation big man in time for the 2017-2018 season...

Time will tell.

Jonathan Allison 2 years, 6 months ago

Very surprised that Whitman is leaving. Hopefully KU can add a quality post player in short order. Otherwise it's Svi for 4 this season.

Mike Greer 2 years, 6 months ago

Certainly, let's all hope Svi isn't at the 4. Nothing against him, but he doesn't have the athleticism that Jackson had and he had defense troubles last year at the 3. That would be a major change in how he would need to play and it really wouldn't help his NBA prospects playing out of position like that. Hopefully Coach can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 6 months ago

He would only be playing out of position in guarding a 4, which could actually help his NBA prospects as they turn towards more athletic bigs. Not that Svi will play a 4, but he could get switched onto one on D.

At KU on O, we would play 4 perimeter players so it could be more of a challenge for the other teams' 4 matching up on Svi or whatever other poison they choose. Svi would still run the weave, etc. just as Josh did at times last year, and Perry the year before. All the more trouble for the opposition too because of his ability to pull up for 3's if they don't come out.

Mike Greer 2 years, 6 months ago

It only helps your NBA prospects if you do it well. Svi had a lot of defensive issues last season at the 3, don't know how he could turn guarding a 4 into a positive.

I'm not as worried about his offence, but he doesn't have Jackson's athletic abilities to help him on the inside.

The other issue is rebounds, in about the same number of minutes played Josh had 258 rebounds to Svi's 109. Of all the guys on the team with any kind of minutes, that was the lowest total. On a rebounds per minute played Svi was 0.11, while Josh was 0.24. On a rebounds per minute played Deveonté was lower at 0.08 and Frank was higher at 0.12. In other words, you have a 6'8" guy pulling in about the same number of rebounds per minute played as a 6'2" and 5'11" guy. We're going to need a 4 that can pull down some boards.

Ryan Zimmerman 2 years, 6 months ago

So odd... has there been any other player that has transferred and re-transferred in such a short time? It's either a.) something personal happened either on the team or felt like he wasn't meshingb.) he's not a competitor and didn't see himself shining or moving up significantly for playing time c.) Bagley, but that's least likely IMO... I'm sure it doesn't hurt Bagley's chances of coming to KU should he reclassify, but I don't see a situation to where Bagley and Self are so close that Marvin calls him up and says "hey coach, I'm reclassifying and coming if you can open up a scholarship" and then Self goes to Jack and says "hey kid, time to go"...

Dirk Medema 2 years, 6 months ago

I could see one of the other coaches having developed a relationship with him to where they talk about how things are going. Sort of a combination of b & c. Hopefully it's obvious that their relationship is more than just a couple sentences in a blog, so there are much more subtleties.

Marc Frey 2 years, 6 months ago

Cunliff eligible in Dec or after 2nd semester?

Matt Tait 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah. Just saw that was messed up. Sorry. It's at the end of the first semester when he becomes eligible.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

Maybe the truest answer is the simplest......Bagley is not coming to KU, Coach didn't run him off, Lightfoot is not the second coming of Bill Bridges, Jack just didn't feel KU was right for him.

Joe Ross 2 years, 6 months ago

It's a good thing we practiced the four around one last season. We may be needing it again!

Craig Carson 2 years, 6 months ago

worked out good for KU last year, aside from the Oregon game =-[ LOL. But a few things need to happen for it to work as well or better than last season 1)Azibuike needs to stay healthy, be in great shape and he will need to be a double double producing and rim protecting menace 2)Svi is gonna have to be a better defender and rebounder since he would be playing the 4 in a small lineup..his shooting is deadly, but if he cant play D, Cunliffe could take his minutes 3) Graham/Newman is gonna have to be as good as Mason/Graham was the year prior 4) Preston is gonna have to produce at least double figures..we cant afford to have him be Bragg 2.0 in terms of production..inside scoring was a soft spot for KU last year (see Oregon game) 5) Lightfoot is gonna have to have Darnell Jackson type of leap because as of right now, he IS the front court depth

Bryce Landon 2 years, 6 months ago

I still don't see any humor in getting punked in our own backyard the way UO did to us.

Shannon Gustafson 2 years, 6 months ago

You always dwell on the negative for years so that's not surprising.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 6 months ago

I see KU fans on here quite frequently who are still bitter about the Arizona game in 1997, or hell, some old-timers still bent about Duke in 1986, Texas Western in 1966, and even North Carolina in 1957. So how am I any worse than they are?

Shannon Gustafson 2 years, 6 months ago

You're just as bad as they are!

Using they "other people dwell on stupid stuff and so do I so how does that make me bad" isn't a very good excuse.

It's one thing to be bitter about losing a game you feel KU shouldn't lose. It's another to bring it up in the comments of nearly every story, say we should fire our hall of fame coach because of it, and make other ridiculous claims because KU wasn't the one team who didn't finish the season with a loss. Every team has bad games, ours are in the Elite 8 and that's probably because of the pressure the players feel. You bringing it up every day doesn't reduce that pressure at all.

Joe Ross 2 years, 6 months ago

...because you're bitter about EVERYTHING???

Michael Sillman 2 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, Matt but I consider dropping from four bigs to three to be a major difference.

Time to start practicing zone with Azubuike in the middle. We have to be able to keep the big guy on the court.

In my view Cunliffe becomes the key player in mitigating the loss of Whitman.

Robert Brock 2 years, 6 months ago

KU recruiting has fallen. Fire Jerrance Howard. NOW!

Bryce Landon 2 years, 6 months ago

Wow, this has to be the shortest tenure for any Jayhawk player (or, in this case, would-be Jayhawk player) that I can ever remember.

I'm with Michael Sillman - we HAVE to play more zone. Our man-to-man got shredded many times last season, and it will again this season.

David Robinett 2 years, 6 months ago

Doesn't Perry have another year of eligibility?

Bryce Landon 2 years, 6 months ago

If only his joke about "unlimited eligibility" wasn't a joke.

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