Sunday, May 7, 2017


Tom Keegan: Jack Whitman addition makes sense on many levels for Kansas

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.


When a basketball player transfers from William & Mary to Kansas, it’s not difficult to predict the questions that immediately surface, such as: William and Mary? Jack Whitman? Why Jack Whitman?

Better question: Why not?

For one thing, the addition of Whitman empowers Kansas coach Bill Self with the ultimate motivational carrot to dangle in front of McDonald’s All-American Billy Preston, a fantabulous, five-star freshman: Playing time.

Remember, rare is the freshman who hits the hardwood overflowing with intensity and displaying equal passion for all aspects of the game, not just scoring, the way Josh Jackson did.

He played every possession as if it would determine whether he would make the final cut and quickly and steadily improved, which tends to be the case with players who don’t force coaches to waste time coaching up their effort levels. From a distance, it seems as if Preston will arrive with a more typical approach, which is to say clueless as to how much more intensity is required to play in college than in high school, where talent alone was enough to stand out.

Preston stands 6-foot-10, weighs 230 pounds, has a pretty jump shot, handles the ball better than most his size and played at perennial national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. To this point in his career, he didn’t need to dive for loose balls and chase rebounds in battle zones where elbows fly, lower backs get shoved and arms get chopped by men with older, bigger bodies. He probably has not spent a great deal of time figuring out the best ways to emerge from such battles on top because in his mind he’s a guard. Some players adjust quickly to new demands placed on them. Others retreat and get worse before they get better.

Don’t forget, Carlton Bragg (ranked by Rivals 21st in Class of 2015) once was a can’t-miss prospect with a lot of the same traits that resulted in Preston earning a No. 10 ranking in the Class of 2017. Bragg missed. He didn’t respond well to a coach who doesn’t check his tongue. He partied too much. His confidence vanished. He exhausted his welcome and transferred to the nation’s No. 1 party school to play for a coach who doesn’t check his tongue. I hope it works out for him, but if it doesn’t I’ll always wonder if he would have been better off competing in a so-called “mid-major” conference for a coach with a gentler approach, a coach who wouldn’t mind having a 6-10 player who prefers shooting from the outside to battling with brutish bigs.

If Whitman produces more than Preston does in practice, playing alongside big, physical, explosive Udoka Azubuike, Self won’t hesitate to start Whitman, who has a good vertical jump, nice footwork and a soft touch down low. Nobody predicted that Self would prefer a four-guard lineup to starting Bragg, but Bragg made that an easy decision for the coach.

Following whether Preston has the humility to consider Whitman a threat to his playing time ranks as one of the more intriguing subplots to the 2017-18 season.

Sure, Whitman will play against far tougher competition than he did the first three years of his college career, but he also will play alongside a center who has the potential to command more attention from opposing defenses and mask defensive flaws of teammates better than anyone with whom Whitman played at William & Mary.

Loyola-Marymount transfer Kevin Young beat out McDonald’s All-American Perry Ellis in Ellis’ freshman season after averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 30 minutes for LMU in his second and final season there. It’s far from a given that Preston will beat out Whitman, who averaged 10.1 and 5.4 rebounds in 21.1 minutes in his third and final season for William & Mary.


Joe Ross 2 years, 8 months ago

Reasons Whitman has come to Kansas:

  1. Adds experience on the court to a frontcourt that has little.
  2. Adds leadership to help bring along other bigs (NOT the same as number 1). He will model post play much in the same way Tarik Black did for Joel Embiid, who used lessons learned as a springboard to outdo his mentor.
  3. Gives depth to the frontcourt with more bodies.
  4. Giving a schollie for a year doesn't hurt.
  5. Easy to coach, given that he's had four years in the college game.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

A always, so good to hear from you Joe.

Joe Ross 2 years, 8 months ago

Thanks Dirk! Love the forum here. You spend 12 years or so in a place and you get comfortable.

Shannon Gustafson 2 years, 8 months ago

The Kevin Young/Perry Ellis comparison in the last paragraph is a good point and an interesting but fitting perspective. Whitman and Young appear to have the same limitations (namely lacking an outside shot), even if their skill set is different. Whitman was more productive statistically (same stats but in 2/3 the minutes) plus has more size & experience than Young when he got here.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 8 months ago

When I heard about this, my questions were;

  1. What...? What about Svi?

  2. Who is Jack Whitman?

  3. Does William and Mary have a basketball team?

  4. Why...?

Gavin Fritton 2 years, 8 months ago

When I read this my responses to your questions were:

  1. I'd like to know about Svi as well. I guess we will find out after he makes up his mind about the draft. As Matt Tait has said, Bill Self wouldn't be doing this without a plan and a backup plan as well as an emergency backup plan.

  2. Weird. There have been a lot of articles on him here on kusports(dot)com. Has she not read those?

  3. Yes. And, again, there have been a bunch of articles on Whitman here on this very space on the intertubes. Has she not seen them? I was sure I'd seen her comments on them previously.

  4. Because Bill Self said so. I guess if internet commenter Suzi Marshall has doubts I can compare her qualifications to those of Bill Self and then gauge where to place my confidence.

Eliott Reeder 2 years, 8 months ago

She was referring to her INITIAL IMPRESSION upon hearing of Whitman,, not her impression of this particular article.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

Oddly, from some of Whitman's comments, he is looking to take his game outside where Preston excels.

If Whitman, or any player on the team can have half the hustle that KYoung had, we'll be in much better shape. He was the epitome of energy.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

If having Whitman on the team means we go back to the Final Four in 2018, I'm all for it. I'm sick to death of us settling for Big 12 titles and Elite Eight appearances while other schools go to the Final Four and win national titles. Only two Final Fours in the past fourteen seasons is unacceptable; by now we should have six!

Clarence Haynes 2 years, 8 months ago

Suzy, Self didn't recruit William and Mary but he recruited Whitman. By the way, WM plays in the Colonial along with teams like College of Charleston and UNC Wilmington which If I recall beat the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse a few years back.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 8 months ago

I don't recall any of those teams beating Kansas in AFH.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

Nope. In the Self era, we have lost at home to the following teams: Richmond, Iowa State (2x), Nevada, Kansas State, Oral Roberts, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, and San Diego State.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 8 months ago

Azu, Whitman, Lightfoot, Preston, Colby, Graham, Vick, Newman, Conliffe, Garrett, Lawson, Lawson, Moore, Svi...that's fourteen. However, there is the possibility that there will only be ten schollie players available to play, obviously since the transfers won't be cut and thirteen is the magic total.

HCBS pretty much has his rotation.{in fact, only nine players for the first half of the season till Conliffe is eligible]. All he has to do is put the players in order. My "pull it out of my butt" guess would be, in order of value, Graham, Azu, Newman, Preston, Vick, Colby, Whitman, Conliffe, Lightfoot and Garrett unless Bill pulls a rabbit out of his hat and is able to keep Svi and not lose anyone.Then insert Svi right after Azu.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

From some of Coach's comments I think you're under valuing Newman. It seems like their expectations are more in line with Ben after his RS season.

Shannon Gustafson 2 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I think Self is expecting Newman to either be the leading scorer, or compete with Graham for the leading scorer, with both averaging at least 15 points per game and one of them even being at 18 or more.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

Unacceptable because others are going to the FF every other year?

Reality check on aisle 9.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

You're the one who needs the reality check. In the Self era, we've been a #1 or a #2 ten times. With seeding like that, we should have no fewer than six Final Four appearances, not two.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

Reality can be a fleeting concept.

Mathematical facts on the other hand not so much. Historically speaking (20 years), if your team was a #1 or #2 seed in the tourney, there is just less than a 30% chance of getting to the FF. While 2 of 10 is under performing by 1 appearance, it is ridiculously closer than your assumption that we should have been there 60% of the time. It's just math.

What are they teaching kids in schools these days.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

The sad thing is that even if there were nothing but #1 & #2's that made it to the FF - no lower seeds what so ever, that's still only a 50% success rate. You're asking Coach to exceed the perfect possibilities of the field.

No wonder you're so often disappointed, and have such a distorted view of reality.

Clarence Haynes 2 years, 8 months ago

Suzi, you're correct. I was thinking of Richmond which defeated KU in 2004. That team was coached by Jerry Wainwright who also was the coach at UNC Wilmington.

Barry Weiss 2 years, 8 months ago

I really see no chance in Svi coming back. Does anyone else really think that?

Andy Hess 2 years, 8 months ago

Anyone else think this guy looks like he should be in one of those old-timey bareknuckle boxing matches at the turn of the 20th Century? Maybe an RAF pilot from WWII?

Tony Bandle 2 years, 8 months ago

Jack could pass as Sherlock Holmes butler, or as a stand-in for The Thin Man, or as a WWI English bi-plane pilot, or as a high society rich snob from a 30's movie, or as a live version of Snibley Whiplash.

No matter what, let's hope Jack passes as a top flight KU basketball forward!!

Bryce Landon 2 years, 8 months ago

I was thinking a brown-haired Clark Gable.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.