Tom Keegan: 'Stache in the Pan gone; time to fantasize about getting Marvin Bagley on board

Duke's Chase Jeter, rear, Matt Jones, left, and William & Mary's Jack Whitman (41) reach for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.

Duke's Chase Jeter, rear, Matt Jones, left, and William & Mary's Jack Whitman (41) reach for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.

Friday, July 21, 2017

If Jack Whitman’s departure from the Kansas basketball program were nothing more than a convenient means of clearing a roster spot for the possibility of landing Marvin Bagley III, then that would have happened much later, so it’s not that.

This time it actually does appear to be Whitman’s decision and not one he was talked into, although based on the lack of buzz he created during his summer in Lawrence and the ho-hum, so-long statement from coach Bill Self, it doesn’t appear anybody tried talking him out of it, either.

Whitman didn’t look as good in the Bill Self Basketball Camp scrimmages against big-time athletes as he did executing nice footwork for buckets on YouTube in Colonial Athletic Association games.

Self coaches hard and if he doesn’t like what he sees, he coaches harder to see if maybe he can reach some untapped potential and coax it to the surface.

At that point, the player either doesn’t have any more talent in him and all the challenges in the world won’t bring it out, or he doesn’t have it in him to push himself hard enough to deliver what the coach wants to see. So the coach pushes harder and it becomes a drag for the player, so the player decides he doesn’t fit and quits.

It could be something as simple as that.

If only it were as simple as subtracting Whitman and adding Bagley, the No. 1-ranked high school basketball recruit in the Class of 2018, who is trying to reclassify to the Class of 2017.

It’s not, of course. It seldom is when recruiting the best of the best.

Based on his YouTube clips, Bagley’s worth whatever hurdles must be cleared, including the dreaded NCAA Clearinghouse.

Bagley’s first two scholarship offers came from Northern Arizona and Arizona State when he was in seventh grade and stood 6-foot-8.

Unlike some tall grade-school phenoms, Bagley, now 6-10, didn’t stop improving. In the summer leading into his sophomore season, he received offers from Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky’s John Calipari. He handles the ball like a guard, shoots well from the perimeter, isn't allergic to the paint and plays with a spark that suggests he loves the game. Why wouldn't he love a sport he plays as if born to perfect?

He’s left-handed, so you’ll hear comparisons to Chris Bosh, but Bosh didn’t have his footwork.

In order to reclassify, Bagley will need to gain credits in six core classes this summer, produce transcripts to the Clearinghouse’s liking from his three different high schools, take standardized tests, etc.

Then, there is the matter of Duke wanting him, not to mention Arizona, Kentucky, UCLA and USC.

Bagley could make Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky or UCLA the No. 1 team in the preseason poll.

A starting five of Devonté Graham, Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk, Bagley and Udoka Azubuike would have NBA size, serious skill and speed fortified by a bench that leads with Billy Preston and Lagerald Vick. Close your eyes, drop your head back and hear the roar in Allen Fieldhouse.

As basketball fantasies go, pretty exciting stuff. Most who track recruiting closely believe that if he can pull it all together to the satisfaction of the NCAA Clearinghouse, Bagley will choose Duke, but with Kurtis Townsend on the case for Kansas, it’s too early to count out the Jayhawks. Plus, Bagley’s from the Phoenix area, Josh Jackson’s current place of employment. What does that have to do with it? Maybe nothing, but it can't hurt.

No Bagley means finding someone who can fill the role that Dwight Coleby and then Whitman couldn’t talk themselves into wanting.

It’s a tough time to go shopping for basketball talent, even in the role-player department. But there must be someone out there who would be happy to use his quick, long, muscular frame to rebound, block a shot here and there and commit enough hard fouls to reduce traffic in the lane.

Whitman made enough of a mark in his summer in Lawrence that he will be remembered, if only for being the guy with the mustache, forever to be known as the 'Stache in the Pan.