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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Notebook: Jackson, Graham waiting to decide on NBA plans

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) is swarmed in the paint by Oregon players including Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, front, and Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) is swarmed in the paint by Oregon players including Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, front, and Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center.

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— Saturday’s 74-60, Elite Eight loss to Oregon at Sprint Center left a handful of Jayhawks to face questions about their futures.

But none of them were thinking too much about that in the moments following their second consecutive, season-ending loss one win shy of the Final Four.

“I just lost one of the toughest games of my life,” said likely one-and-done freshman and top-three NBA Draft pick Josh Jackson. “I haven’t thought of anything outside of that. Right now I’m just gonna talk about it with my family and see how I’m feeling and make a decision from there.... We had a heck of a run. We had a great year.”

Junior guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk also may take a look at their options this offseason, but both preferred to go the same route as Jackson when discussing it Saturday night.

Asked what was next for him in the coming days, Mykhailiuk said simply, “Go to school,” before adding, “We’re gonna see.”

As for Graham, who would be the cornerstone and unquestioned leader of KU’s 2017-18 team if he were return, the Raleigh, N.C., native said his focus had been entirely on this team and its NCAA Tournament run.

“It’s tough,” Graham said. “We’re right here in our home in front of our fans. We wanted to get it done for them.... Yeah, it hurts. As far as making a decision about anything, I haven’t thought about leaving.”

With juniors now in a better position than ever to test the waters and get feedback from NBA brass without risking their eligibility, Graham said at least looking into it seemed likely to be in his future.

“It’s something you gotta think about, but I haven’t thought about it yet,” he said. “I haven’t even thought about it at all.”

When asked if watching senior point guard Frank Mason III have the kind of season he had could factor into his thinking about a possible return, Graham perked up and sounded a little more lively.

“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, it will once I sit down and think about it, maybe talk to my family and stuff like that.”

Zone busted

When asked what bothered them most during a night when their shots didn’t fall and the Jayhawks spent most of the time playing Oregon’s style and pace, several Kansas players pointed to Dana Altman’s match-up zone as the biggest issue.

“I think the zone gave us a lot of trouble,” Jackson said. “Teams that can’t play man-to-man defense play zone and I think that was the only thing, really. The zone really slowed us down and took us out of our game.”

Added Graham: “That match-up zone just kind of caused problems.”

Tightening up

While missing shots was the biggest issue for the Jayhawks during Saturday’s loss, many of them, including their coach, admitted to being a little too tight for their liking.

Perhaps it was the urgency of having their path back to their first Final Four since 2012 laid out so perfectly in front of them or the pressure of getting past the game that got them a season ago. Either way, the Jayhawks said their mentality suffered because of it and the Ducks flourished in the moment.

“I feel like they were the more aggressive team,” senior Landen Lucas said of Oregon. “They did the small things that helped their team win and they had some players that made some great plays. Just combined for a good team effort.”

Added Mason: “I think we started the game really tight. We didn't take good shots to where we should have just moved the ball and draw the ball downhill and created easy shots for each other.”

And Self: “You know, in games like this, so much of it comes down to 50-50 balls, and it seemed like, to me, they got their hands and were able to secure a lot of loose balls. The other thing they did a great job of was, how many times did they make shots at the end of the clock that were pretty well defended?”

All-tournament team

A season that featured all kinds of accolades for KU stars Mason and Jackson, who each figure to collect a few more in the coming weeks, ended with each being named to the NCAA Midwest Regional All-Tournament team. Jackson and Mason joined Oregon’s Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks on the five-man team, with Bell being named the region’s most outstanding player.

“He controlled and anchored their defense very well,” Self said of Bell. “And I certainly understand why he was Player of the Year in the Pac-12.

This and that...

Oregon evened the all-time series with Kansas at 4-4 and also evened up its NCAA Tournament record with Kansas at 1-1.... KU’s loss to Oregon was its first meeting with a No. 3 seed since it faced Georgia Tech in the 2004 tournament, also losing in the Elite Eight.... Oregon advances to its second Final Four all-time and its first since 1939. The Ducks will play the winner of today’s North Carolina-Kentucky game next Saturday.... Jackson’s double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds was his 13th of the season, setting a freshman record.... Kansas finished the season with 31 wins for the second year in a row and was 17-4 in games outside of Allen Fieldhouse, including two losses at Sprint Center.... KU is now 103-45 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including a 33-13 mark under Bill Self.... KU closed the season with a 2,217-841 all-time record.

By the Numbers: Oregon 74, Kansas 60

By the Numbers: Oregon 74, Kansas 60

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Oregon


Comments

Tracey Graham 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I expect that Jackson will declare for the NBADraft in the next few days, once the shock of this loss wears off a little. He's projected as a Top 5 pick, so there's no reason why he would come back. As for Graham and Svi, there's no harm in them exploring their options, but Devonte' is listed as a mid 2nd round pick in most mock drafts that I've seen while Svi has been listed as a late 1st round pick on some, and not mentioned at all on others. So I fully expect them to return.

Marius Rowlanski 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't always agree with you but I have to give you credit for both knowledge and logic when posting. You're certainly better than I am in controlling your emotions.

RJ King 6 months, 4 weeks ago

If you don't, then why are you even reading this and commenting on it?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Mike...agreed.....these one year wonders trotting through the KU basketball team are not going to do anything that may hinder their possibilities to get the big bucks in the NBA. We see it splashed all over the sports pages of this newsrag every year.

Harlan Hobbs 6 months, 4 weeks ago

These articles are so unnecessary. We go through it every year with reporters.

Obviously, Josh will be in the draft, and he should be. Devonte and Svi should test the waters and then make a rational decision based upon their discussions with their families and coaches. It is their decision, and we should support them as much as possible.

Next year will take care of itself, just like it always has under Coach Self. Even the 2009 team was a championship team after losing all 5 starters from the 2008 National Championship team. In retrospect, that season was so special because the expectations weren't so high and yet the results were outstanding.

In short, the cupboard is never bare at KU, and it certainly won't be next year either.

Jonathan Allison 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I agree with everything that you said except for your first sentence.

We all know that Josh will be in the draft and likely top 3. And we generally all will agree that Graham and Svi should test the waters. It's their last opportunity to do so. There probably won't be any surprises among those factors.

But the reporters have to ask the question even though they know that they always get the same answer. "I haven't thought about that yet. I will need to take some time to visit with Coach Self and my family and decide what's best for my future." The reason why they have to ask it, is because it's a question that is already on the mind of most KU fans. Who will go to the draft, who will stay, and who will transfer? We've already been talking about it for months, and now that the season is over the reporters have to ask. If they didn't ask, then they wouldn't have an answer when the fans want to know. Even though the answer is almost always the same, and all of us fans hear it over again year after year...

Carl O'Hair 6 months, 4 weeks ago

The other day I saw that Bleacher Report looked at Devonte as number 31. They didn't mention either Frank or Svi, but I guess they don't realize that Frank rebounded more than either of those others. I believe he can be one of those under 6' guys who makes it somewhere because of his strength and toughness.

Mike Kendall 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Personally, I don't think Devonte is ready for the NBA, but I am not the expert. I think it would benefit him to stay his last year. Maybe he might get some advice from Frank on staying. I know HC Self will give his opinion on the situation.

Jonathan Allison 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Devonte is a very good player, I like him a lot, and I am sure that if he is to come back next year that he will improve his numbers and have a great year.

However, I am not sure how much he can really improve his NBA draft position. He's 22, and after three years at KU and starting and playing a TON of minutes the last two years, everybody knows what type of player he is and generally knows what he can do. Next year KU could showcase him as their #1 option just like we did for Frank, but it probably won't make much difference in the draft stock because he isn't a #1 option in the NBA.

At best he's Mario Chalmers, but we have to remember our cautionary tales of guys like Wayne Selden, Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor, Sherron Collins, Russell Robinson, Aaron Miles... The odds aren't in ones favor in the NBA draft. You might luck into a position on the Spurs or on Lebron's team, or on the Warriors, or some up and coming franchise loaded with young talent. But you probably won't. You're probably going to get a non-guaranteed contract contingent on Summer League and Fall camp and end up in the DLeague competing against your teammates trying to make the NBA.

If he comes back to KU, he's guaranteed one more year in the spotlight. One more year to be a star and play in front of adoring fans. If he leaves KU, his guarantees are just like the rest of us. Death and Taxes. He will work hard, his life will be tough. The odds stacked against him. In my opinion, that life can wait. Come back to KU, be a star, get a degree, and face reality next year.

Marius Rowlanski 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I thought at the end of last year that Graham might have moved ahead of Mason as far as production on the court but this year, it wasn't even that close. Mason was so consistently solid in every aspect of his name that I cannot conceive him not winning player of the year from all the major awards.

Maybe Devante comes back next year as solidly as Mason did this year.

Noel Backwards 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Josh is gone and should be. Being the competitor that he is, I wouldn't be surprised if HCBS has to kick him off of the team to make him leave after the sting of that loss. We've never had a freshman as talented as him that cared as much and I will forever remember JJ for that. Best of luck to him in the NBA and I'm sure I speak for many of us when I say that he'll forever have supporters in Jayhawk Nation.

As far as the other guys go, I do not think the decisions are as simple.

Graham probably has the toughest decision of all because of his age. Let's not forget that Devonte', like Frank, did the year at prep school so his class is one year behind his actual age. In the NBA every passing year makes you less valuable. In my opinion, he undoubtedly could benefit from another year in school as the leader of his own team. Not only would this allow him to show the full range of his game as a PG, but also how he handles leading a team. I also believe that another year in school will not do much for his draft stock unless he has a Frank Mason-like season next year which is entirely possible if he regains the confidence we saw him playing with towards the end of the 2015-16 season. I also think that he could be advised to return because of how loaded this draft class is. There will not be much room for upperclassmen to fit in because of the sheer volume of potential impact underclassmen and international youngsters. Hopefully, he returns and uses the last two E8 games as fuel to elevate his game to a new level and carry HIS team to a FF.

I think the decision for Svi to come back should be even more simple. He is still only 19 years old and the NBA will be high on him whenever he decides to make the jump. As I mentioned above, this draft class is loaded but with another solid year next year and 4 years of college experience at the highest level Svi could be considered a hidden gem in the 2018 draft. If he returns, he'll be entering the 2018 draft at the same age as some of the underclassmen in the draft with 2-3 more years of high-level experience at the college level. I still believe Svi has another level he can go to as well; I've mentioned on here before that coming in I expected him to be on the ball a lot more because that seemed like his comfort zone coming over from the Ukraine. He finally seems to be settling into his secondary role and would not surprise me with a 15, 5, and 5 type season next year. I believe he should test the waters, but his situation is too unique for him to pass up on another year of experience before turning pro.

At the beginning of the year, I would have expected to have more names on this list, but this draft is shaping up to be such a monster that I believe anyone that is a borderline draft pick should return to school. Bragg, Newman, Vick, and Azubuike (I believe he won't be eligible until 2018 anyway, but not 100% sure) should all come back and improve for at least another season.

Jonathan Allison 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I agree on all accounts, but I find it hard to envision a scenario where Graham becomes a surefire 1st rounder, which is a little like Wayne Selden's situation last year. He is a known commodity. He is unlikely to greatly improve his position. That reality could encourage him to leave now. But if he heeds the warning signs of those who have gone before him, he may stick around. Put in another year of personal growth before taking the plunge.

Svi should absolutely test the waters. I don't think that he has shown his ceiling yet. He seems to still have some untapped potential, and a Sr. season could draw that out of him big time. I believe that his upside looks a lot like Klay Thompson. Klay is much more than just an extraordinary catch and shoot guy. He also is good with the ball, a good passer, and a good defender. Svi could even be better than Klay in the open court and transition.

Harlan Hobbs 6 months, 4 weeks ago

With all due respect, Jonathan, I don't respect the sports reporters who can't wait to ask a player about his future plans immediately after a tough loss. They are only interested in one thing, and that is themselves in hope that they can get a "scoop." Actually, I think it is true throughout journalism - - like the so called news reporters who envision themselves as being the next Woodward and Bernstein.

I'd like to see more ones like the youth reporter who asked Frank Martin about the roles of technique and attitude relative to defensive philosophy. Instead, we get "clique questions" and trite comments like "at the end of the day" or "it is what it is."

Marius Rowlanski 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Remember the first question one reporter asked Roy after the Syracuse loss? I agree Harlan,

I don't respect the sports reporters who can't wait to ask a player/coach about his future plans immediately after a tough loss either.

Jonathan Allison 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Certainly the reporters could just not ask and just wait until there is some type of announcement. Bill Self has been good about giving his players a platform to make the announcement whether it be a press conference or some other formal announcement to the fans. He no doubt coaches the players in how to answer the questions from reporters as they often say the same things we hear every year. And we all know that Bill Self is the master at managing the reporters.

But even though I also feel that it's tacky and seems a little disrespectful for the reporters to ask these student athletes about their future in the post-game locker room or press conference, it also seems a little unnecessary that the topic should be off-limits to reporters until the player is ready to make any announcement. After all, the players still hold every right to answer the question however they want to when it is asked.

So, like it or not, at the end of the day it is what it is... (sorry, I had to.) And thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always appreciate them. My perspective is always enhanced by those who have been fans of the program longer than I have.

Ryan Zimmerman 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Josh is just a more level-headed, mature kid than LaVar Ball. Jackson has planned all along to leave and he still will. He just cares about the team and the fact they just lost and rather to announce it within an extremely short time frame after the loss. I would be annoyed as hell if Jackson's first thought the day after a devastating loss was "I'm going to the NBA". Of course everyone knows he was going, and the same goes for Jackson, but at least have some couth in the situation. I think that's what Jackson was doing. The kid loved his time here and is trying to avoid it being all about him and let the pain of the loss simmer down in Lawrence and across Jayhawk Nation. I know the size is different and Graham has a little size on Mason, but I don't see how Mason could go undrafted and Graham could get drafted. Now, Graham has the leadership role next year and could pay off huge for him. I don't see how an extra year could hurt him at this point. Svi is gone from the rumblings I've heard as well. I expected all 3 to leave if we won the championship, but my guess is Graham stays and Svi is off to the draft, hit the practice squad, and then off to Europe.

Chad Smith 6 months, 3 weeks ago

What I think is not being mentioned is that Bragg is transferring after this season. He won't be back next year. With his off the court issues as well as on the court issues, I think he will leave for a fresh start. Self has been hard on him and deservedly so. I just think lack of playing time and the dark cloud that surrounds him he will exit. frontcourt already has 4 rotation players in udoka, coleby, preston, and lightfoot. Preston is a 5 star power forward, so you know self will want to start rolling back to his famous high low action with that talented of a post player, along with Udoka they will have a two headed monster down low. This 4 guard lineup worked for a season, but I think it will go back to the way self likes to construct and play. Newman, Garrett, Vick, and Graham will man the backcourt. I expect vick to take jackson's role as he is as close in terms of athleticism and defense. Graham and Newman Start with Garrett supplementing off the bench as 2 guard for newman. Expect Graham(assuming he stays) to play a lot of minutes like Frank did this year. Just to be the anchor for our team which will once again feature frontcourt scoring as an emphasis.

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