When Kansas center Udoka Azubuike and forward Silvio De Sousa elected to return to KU for the 2019-20 season, the move did much more than solidify the Jayhawks’ front court.
It also added some much-needed experience to the Kansas roster.
And even though both players are still young in terms of age, the things they have seen and done as Jayhawks figure to go a long way toward helping the current Kansas team become a factor in college basketball this season.
“One of the biggest keys is, if you don’t have the very, very, very most talented guys then you probably need to be old,” KU coach Bill Self recently told the Journal-World while looking ahead to the upcoming season. “And there’s been times where some of our best teams, we snuck in there because we were old.”
The 2018 Final Four team was one that Self would consider “old.” Those Jayhawks were led by seniors Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk and also had third-year sophomore Malik Newman and junior Lagerald Vick leading the charge.
Both Azubuike and De Sousa played huge roles in helping that squad reach the Final Four, which only adds to the importance their experience brings this season.
The two teams before that, which both reached the Elite Eight, were also old as seniors Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas, along with juniors Graham and Mykhailiuk, led that 2017 squad. The 2016 team had all of those guys plus Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden.
KU’s other most recent Final Four team also featured experience and wisdom in key spots.
“2012 was three juniors and two seniors starting,” Self said of Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey. “We haven’t had that very often here, and this year we’re still young, but it could be (a pretty cool mix).”
Beyond Azubuike and De Sousa, the 2019-20 features senior forward Mitch Lightfoot, senior grad transfer Isaiah Moss and junior guard Marcus Garrett as the upperclassmen who will lead a talented group of returning sophomores and incoming freshmen.
The average number of scholarship juniors and seniors on a KU roster during the past 10 seasons is 5.5. This year’s total of five is actually the most since the 2016-17 team, which also fielded five. Last year’s team had four and the 2017-18 team had just three, although all three (Graham, Mykhailiuk and Vick) played a huge percentage of the minutes.
This team’s ability to spread out those minutes could negate some of the advantage of having upperclassmen, but they are there and their experience, blended with the talent and potential of the underclassmen is a recipe Self likes.
“I like our guys,” Self said. “I’m excited about where we’re at. The summer’s been good.”
Phog Allen to be honored
Kansas’ all-time winningest men’s basketball coach, Dr. Forest C. “Phog” Allen will be inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Hall of Fame in a ceremony in St. Louis on Friday, March 6, 2020, the conference announced Tuesday.
Allen is the first Veteran’s Committee selection to the MVC Hall of Fame and also the first from KU. Kansas competed in what was then known as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association for 21 seasons, from 1907-28, and Allen was KU’s coach for 11 years during that stretch.
In his 39 overall seasons as the head coach at Kansas, Allen’s teams won 24 conference championships, three national titles and posted a record of 590-219.
Allen, who died in 1974, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1959 and KU’s home arena, Allen Fieldhouse, was named in his honor when it opened in 1955.
Dante picks Oregon
Five-star Class of 2020 big man N’Faly Dante orally committed to Oregon on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-11, 225-pound center from Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita announced his decision in a letter to his mother posted on the ThePlayersTribune.com.
In it, the No. 9-ranked player in the 2020 class per Rivals.com said he wanted to pick a school he knew his mother, back home in his native Mali, would be proud of.
“Oregon has a program that reflects a lot of the values you taught me when I was growing up,” Dante wrote.
He becomes the fourth top 10 player in the 2020 class to announce his commitment. Top prospect Evan Mobley picked USC last week; Jalen Johnson, the No. 4-ranked small player pledged to Duke on July 4; and shooting guard B.J. Boston, ranked No. 10 overall by Rivals.com, announced his commitment to Kentucky in late July.