The Kansas career of guard Sam Cunliffe, which really never got off the ground, has come to a close.
According to a news release sent out by KU officials on Monday afternoon, Cunliffe will transfer this summer and will sit out one more season while retaining two years of eligibility beginning with the 2019-20 season.
No decision has been made yet about where Cunliffe will continue his college basketball career, but KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World on Monday he would support whatever Cunliffe wanted to do.
“I think he may have some ideas,” Self said of where Cunliffe might end up. “But he hasn’t done anything yet. We talked about it this weekend and we just met (around 1:00 Monday). I don’t know if he would need our help, but certainly, if he does, we’ll do whatever we can to help him. Absolutely.”
The former Arizona State transfer, who came to KU after the first semester of his freshman season in December of 2016, sat out the second semester of the 2016-17 season and the first semester of the 2017-18 season before becoming eligible last January.
That eligibility, though exciting for the Seattle native, never led to the kind of playing time he hoped he would get at Kansas, even on a team with limited depth.
Cunliffe played in just 15 games for the Jayhawks during last year’s run to the Final Four, averaging 1.9 points per game in 4.9 minutes per outing. That came in stark contrast to the 10 games he started as a true freshman at Arizona State, leaving the ASU program having started every game he played and averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Through it all, Cunliffe kept a smile on his face and stayed engaged with both his teammates and the opportunity to put on a Kansas jersey and represent the school and the program.
“I’ve had nothing but great times here," Cunliffe told the Journal-World when reached by telephone on Monday afternoon. "I was looking forward to adding to that on the court. It wasn't meant to be. But it was a good ride, man. It’s sad. But it is what it is, and I’m thankful for everything."
In June, Cunliffe talked to the Journal-World about his new opportunity at Kansas and called the move into the 2018-19 season hitting the reset button.
“For sure. One hundred percent. All the way,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”
That will still be the case for Cunliffe. It just won’t be at Kansas.
A big factor in Cunliffe’s decision was the unexpected return of Lagerald Vick. Even if Vick, the lone senior on this year’s roster does not start, he figures to play significant minutes at the 3 spot. His presence, along with the fact that Devon Dotson, Charlie Moore, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett and even freshman Ochai Agbaji and Memphis transfer K.J. Lawson all are expected to hold down meaningful roles, made the prospect of playing time tough to envision for anyone else.
“It’s a crowded house,” Self said. “That’s seven guards already. So Sam probably did the right thing for his own good.”
Added Self in the release: “Even though we hate to see Sam leave, we totally respect his decision. Sam has been terrific since he’s been here. He’s been a great teammate. He’s been a guy that has put forth the effort and it hasn’t translated to playing time for him yet. I respect this because the opportunity for him to impact another program would probably be greater now than it would be a year from now. We wish him the best. We’ll always been a fan and pull for him.”
Despite things not working out in Lawrence or at Arizona State before it, Cunliffe recently told the Journal-World he had no bad feelings about his path.
“Looking back at it now, I’m really thankful,” he told the Journal-World in June. “Being in it, I was kind of frustrated, but looking back at it now, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Added Cunliffe in the release: “After the season I was exploring my options, trying to do what's best. I wasn't for sure if I wanted to go but I needed see it out and go until I came to a clear decision. After going through (summer) workouts with the team and talking with the coaches and my family, we all agreed that this is the best decision for me, to go play somewhere else.
“I have loved every moment that I have been at Kansas," Cunliffe added. “Even though I didn't get to play as much as I wanted to, I have lifelong friends here. I am cool with the coaches. I don’t have any bad blood. I want to thank Coach Self, Coach (Kurtis) Townsend, all my coaches, all the academic people, the fans and everybody whose put time into helping me. I've become a better player and a better student in my time here.”
Having been recruited twice before already, Cunliffe said the third time would be different. He hopes to find a school closer to his Seattle home and, above all, would like to join a program where he knows the coaches and people already so he can make an easier transition.
Regardless of where he lands, he hopes to have a new home within the next week.
"It’s my third time, so it’s not like I’m going to be wanting to go through a big recruiting process," Cunliffe said. "It’ll play out pretty quickly and I hope to know something by next Monday.”