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On big men, point guards and KU’s continued success

Hey, we’ve received enough questions to run another Kansas basketball Q and A.

You can send questions and comments to gbedore@ljworld.com and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Q from Rob Bedford III: How do you think KU will do against teams with solid big men? After Alexander I am concerned the other bigs for KU will get beat up.

Red Team forward Cliff Alexander works his way into the post against Blue Team forward Hunter Mickelson during the Late Night in the Phog scrimmage on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Red Team forward Cliff Alexander works his way into the post against Blue Team forward Hunter Mickelson during the Late Night in the Phog scrimmage on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A: I think KU’s big men will be able to hold their own in most games, though it is true the Jayhawks don’t have any trees like Joel Embiid, Jeff Withey, Cole Aldrich and/or Thomas Robinson this season to serve as the last line of defense.

It should be noted Hunter Mickelson did set Arkansas’ freshman shot block record a few years ago and has only gotten better since his transfer here.

I think KU’s frontcourt play still could be extremely effective. Perry Ellis is one of the best players in the Big 12 and according to Sporting News one of the top three forwards in college basketball.

Cliff Alexander, at 6-8 1/2, 240, is expected to be a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Jamari Traylor is tough and a great hustle guy who worked on his offensive game over the summer. Landen Lucas showed positive signs in limited duty last season an Mickelson was a solid player at Arkansas who has improved since he’s been here.

Your concern may be justified. We’ll have to see how matchups play out in certain games. A plethora of talent on the perimeter gives Bill Self various ways to win games.

Q from Jeffrey Cole Radcliff: Who will be the Jayhawks' starting point guard heading into the NCAA Tourney?

Blue Team guard Devonte Graham defends Red Team guard Brannen Greene during the Late Night in the Phog scrimmage on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Blue Team guard Devonte Graham defends Red Team guard Brannen Greene during the Late Night in the Phog scrimmage on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A: My pick to start the season is Devonté Graham. My pick to end the season? I’ll say Graham, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp or even Wayne Selden runs the point at that time. I know the coaches love Graham and believe he’ll be a similar player to Aaron Miles.

The bottom line is the college basketball season is a marathon and who knows what the team will look like in March? You should all send me your predictions and we can save them for the postseason.

Q from Matt Hein: What situation would need to develop to lure Bill Self away from KU (for the NBA or KU related)?  

Kansas head coach Bill Self vents his frustration after a foul during the first half on Friday, March 21, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas head coach Bill Self vents his frustration after a foul during the first half on Friday, March 21, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

A: My guess is as long as Bill Self can continue to sign blue-chip high school players, be one of the country’s highest paid coaches and have an administration receptive to providing his program what he feels it needs to stay near the top (things like the new apartment complex), he’ll likely stay.

If any of that changes, sure a guy of his stature probably would consider a move.

He’s already guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame (one national title, one NCAA runner-up finish, all those conference crowns). However, if he remains here, he could and probably would finish as one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history.

He’s admittedly intrigued by the NBA and that league definitely would love to have him, sooner rather than later. You can argue the pros and cons of coaching in a league that’s all about the players — not the coaches — all you want.

One thing is certain: If Self ever decides he wants to leave, it will take him less than 24 hours to find a new job.

Q from A Shawnee Fan: Hi Gary. Last year I attended an early morning basketball practice. Will there be another one this season? Do you know when and what time? 

A: As of today we’ve been told of no plans for an open practice. If this changes we’ll certainly print/post online the date and time.

Q from JW Drryden: Why is KU basketball so amazing every year? LOL

Kansas guard Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush salute each other in overtime Monday, April 7, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas guard Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush salute each other in overtime Monday, April 7, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

A: It starts with recruiting. KU coaches Self and Roy Williams have landed the best and brightest players in the country for the last 25 to 27 years. You’ve got to have great players and KU has done a great job of finding them for decades (Larry Brown also inked a good one in Danny Manning).

There’s also great coaching, weight training and conditioning, administrative support, a great building to play in and fans who pack that building every single game.

Q from Al Shockley: I was a little bored at Late Night in the Phog. Do you have any suggestions on how KU might improve it?

Kansas sophomore guard Frank Mason flips before ethe fieldhouse crowd during Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014.

Kansas sophomore guard Frank Mason flips before ethe fieldhouse crowd during Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. by Nick Krug

A: Not really. It is a free event, so any criticism might be a bit tacky.

I would try to get a headliner to host every year. KU basketball is a big deal ... I would think plenty of A- or B-list celebrities would welcome a chance to headline at Late Night for a reasonable fee.

It’s a big deal when a Jason Sudeikis or Rob Riggle come to town. Heck, Scot Pollard did a heckuva job that one year. This year there was no host.

Maybe a few more men’s basketball skits and a longer scrimmage if Late Night continues to be held a week or so after the start of practices.

Q from Tina Mathers: Will Tarik Black make the roster of the Houston Rockets?

Houston Rockets' Tarik Black tries to pass around Sacramento Kings' Quincy Acy during the NBA summer league championship game Monday, July 21, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Houston Rockets' Tarik Black tries to pass around Sacramento Kings' Quincy Acy during the NBA summer league championship game Monday, July 21, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

A: It’s obvious he has a decent chance of sticking. The Rockets have been giving him major minutes in exhibition games and he’s responded with good bench production. It’s just a matter of whether there’s an available slot.

I think Black has already proven in summer games and exhibition games he’s capable of providing a spark off the bench for an NBA team. Hopefully if he doesn’t survive final cuts, he’ll play well in the D-League and ultimately be called up.

Q from Bart Homan: Who is the nicest guy on this year’s team?

A: Hard for me to say at this early juncture, but I will say Evan Manning would be a top contender. He’s an impressive guy, very polite and upbeat.

— Have a question for Gary? Email it to gbedore@ljworld.com or post it in the comments section below.

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On Roy’s return, improved Jayhawks, KU’s rotation and much more

Here are my answers to questions submitted about KU basketball.

It should be noted the answers reflect my personal opinion and my opinion alone. If you don’t like my attempts at humor, you can blame — then forgive — me for trying to emulate one of my distant cousins, Tim Bedore, who is a stand-up comic. Google him.

Q from fan Don Cassady: How many people do you think will attend the event, “Celebrating 60 Years,” on Oct. 27 in Allen Fieldhouse? How will the fans treat Roy Williams during the proceedings?

North Carolina coach Roy Williams and Kansas coach Bill Self greet each other before the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Midwest Regional final Sunday, March 25, 2012, in St. Louis. Kansas, where Williams coached for 15 years, defeated North Carolina 80-67.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams and Kansas coach Bill Self greet each other before the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Midwest Regional final Sunday, March 25, 2012, in St. Louis. Kansas, where Williams coached for 15 years, defeated North Carolina 80-67.

A: At a lot of schools, a basketball coaches roundtable wouldn’t fill a library meeting room, much less a huge arena. At KU?

I predict the event will sell out 16,300-seat Allen Fieldhouse.

Yes ... I do believe this gab-fest, which will feature Larry Brown, Ted Owens, Bill Self and Roy Williams, will draw a full house.

If the seating arrangement includes chairs on the floor and concert seating is implemented, it could rival the crowd of 20,000 that gathered for Robert F. Kennedy’s speech in March of 1968. Bill Clinton drew 12,000 in 2004.

As far as the reception for Roy ... I think fans will give him a loud ovation, hopefully a standing ovation.

Rest assured, KU officials will introduce the Fab Four coaches in dramatic fashion. Perhaps they’ll all ride in on motorcycles. Or maybe they’ll walk through the northwest tunnel in tuxedos amid clouds of smoke befitting the rock-stars they are.

There will be no boos on this festive occasion. If any person does boo, that Scrooge needs to have a loved one schedule said-person an appointment with a mental health professional ASAP.

Q from fan Caleb Smith: Who has made the biggest improvement this offseason?

Blue Team guard Frank Mason takes the ball to the hoop over Red Team guard Devonte Graham during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue Team guard Frank Mason takes the ball to the hoop over Red Team guard Devonte Graham during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

A: I have. I went to writing school and my writing has gotten crisper.

Kidding.

From what I’ve heard — and seen with my own eyes on three occasions — I’d say Frank Mason looks like he’s improved a bit.

Small sample size obviously. Media members are not allowed into practice.

Q from fan Caleb Smith: Do you think this year’s team can be better than last year’s team?

A: I do.

Last year’s team lost 10 games — four nonconference, four conference and two in the postseason.

This year’s team, which once again is pretty young, faces tough nonconference games against Kentucky in Indy and possibly Michigan State in the finals of the Orlando Classic.

KU travels to Georgetown and Temple where Jayhawk fans figure to gobble at least half the tickets for those two road games.

KU also plays Florida and UNLV in Allen Fieldhouse and Utah in Sprint Center.

My crystal ball tells me KU will drop two non-con games compared to four a year ago. The Jayhawks will lose four in Big 12 action again this year. So that’s six losses entering the postseason.

I’ll say KU wins the postseason league tournament before losing one in the NCAAs.

So that’s seven losses this year compared to 10 in 2013-14.

Q from fan Caleb Smith: What do you think the 8-9 man rotation will look like?

Kansas guard Wayne Selden celebrates with teammates Frank Mason and Jamari Traylor after hitting a three against West Virginia during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden celebrates with teammates Frank Mason and Jamari Traylor after hitting a three against West Virginia during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A: There are plenty of candidates.

If I had to guess .... I’d say the starters will be Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre, Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander. IMO, Jamari Traylor and Conner Frankamp will be first two off the bench.

That’s seven already and I’m just getting started.

The third big will be Landen Lucas or Hunter Mickelson. That’s eight players present and accounted for.

I have yet to mention guards Brannen Greene, Devonte Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Bill Self is not going to play 11, so your guess is as good as mine about who gets the pine time. It’s still early, as they say.

Q from fan Dillon Hayes: Where do you see Conner Frankamp in the rotation next year? You ever watch practices? if so, Which PG is the best during practice?

Red Team guard Conner Frankamp dishes a pass under the bucket and past Blue Team player Evan Manning (5) and Brannen Greene during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the Horejsi Center.

Red Team guard Conner Frankamp dishes a pass under the bucket and past Blue Team player Evan Manning (5) and Brannen Greene during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

A: I think Frankamp will be given every opportunity during preseason camp to earn a rotation spot. I think he has enough talent to make the rotation. There’s intense competition on the perimeter, however.

As far as watching practice, the local media is not allowed to watch practice except on the rarest of occasions.

Q from fan Anthony Rogers: How do you think the recent ruling in the O`Bannon case will affect college sports in both the near and long term?

A: Players figure to have more pocket money than in the past, that is for sure.

It should be stressed a player will be allowed to make a maximum of $5,000 from sale of jerseys, basketballs and/or autographs. So I would think most of the basketball players will make the maximum of 5-grand once the NCAA drops its appeal.

There are still details to be worked out and/or explained to the universities and the public.

I’m wondering ... can a Jayhawk print his/her own jerseys and sell them on Ebay? Will KU sell the jerseys and simply give the players the first $5,000 that ka-chings on the cash registers? I do not have the answers.

Ultimately I do think we’re headed for five major conferences breaking off and forming their own NCAA. That will occur sooner rather than later. That could affect regular-season scheduling and the NCAA Tourney.

Q from fan Michael Black: Many speak as if it is a given that Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are both one-and-done. After Coach Self’s experience last year with inconsistent freshmen starters, I'm not even sure if it's a given that both of them will be starters or even have as much time on the court as last year's freshmen enjoyed. Especially as Brannen Greene and Jamari Trayor develop and compete at the positions that Oubre and Alexander play. I'm curious about your take on this. Do you think Self will rely as much on freshmen this year?

McDonald's West All-American Kelly Oubre, left, goes up for a dunk but is fouled by McDonald's East All-American Cliff Alexander during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boy's basketball game Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Chicago . The West won 105-102.

McDonald's West All-American Kelly Oubre, left, goes up for a dunk but is fouled by McDonald's East All-American Cliff Alexander during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boy's basketball game Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Chicago . The West won 105-102.

A: I do think he will rely just as much on Oubre and Alexander as he did Wiggins and Embiid. I think Graham will play a lot if performance dictates.

In fact, Devonte could start. He could be in the rotation. He might not play much at all. I would think it’s up to him.

Sviatoslav is only 17, so he may not be ready for prime time. There’s no need for a red-shirt, because he won’t be here four years anyway. He’ll be in the NBA as soon as he’s eligible.

If Oubre and Alexander are healthy, I’d suspect they’d play between 28 and 32 minutes a game. Sometimes freshmen bigs foul a lot, so foul trouble could keep Cliff’s minutes down in certain games.

Q from fan Tyler Biggs: Are there any coaches in the Big 12 you especially enjoy interviewing (besides Bill Self)?

A: Not really. Things have changed quite a bit in this age of political correctness. Reporters truly miss the likes of Billy Tubbs, Kelvin Sampson, Eddie Sutton, Johnny Orr and Norm Stewart.

That’s not to imply the Big 12 coaches are unfriendly. I can think of a couple who are pretty cold, but generally they all are nice guys.

Aside from Self, my favorite interview would probably be Texas’ Rick Barnes. It would take too long to explain why.

And now for the nonbasketball-related question of the week to conclude this Q and A. I asked a friend to submit any question of interest.

Q: You travel a lot. What is your opinion of KCI?

A: Flying, as you travelers know, can be a hassle. I love to travel ... once I reach my destination!

I will say KC International is a delight, especially compared to most airports.

I am all for progress on most occasions, but am currently against changing the airport structure at KC International.

All I ever hear from folks around the country is how great KC’s airport is compared to others. You can get in and out of KCI very ,very quickly the way it’s set up now. Parking is expensive but manageable if you must park your car there.

It looks like a new, one-terminal KCI is inevitable. Yet from what I’ve read, voters are going to get the chance to decide the issue once the final plans are complete. If the proposed one-terminal project is a winner, I hope people vote for it. If it looks like it’s no better than the current system, I’d say keep things status quo. It is a great airport.

Feel free to send me any questions. I shall do my best to answer them.

There are four easy ways for you to submit a question:

  1. Leave it in the comments section below.

  2. Mention @KUsports on Twitter and include the hashtag #askGary.

  3. Post your question to the KUsports.com Facebook page and use the hashtag #askGary.

  4. Email your question to askgary@ljworld.com.

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Talk KU hoops with beat writer Gary Bedore

The staff at KUsports.com is excited to announce the addition of a new blog to our lineup.

"Ask Gary" will allow KUsports.com users to start a conversation with Kansas University basketball beat writer Gary Bedore.

If there is a topic in the realm of KU basketball that has you intrigued, perplexed or somewhere in between, just "Ask Gary" about it.

Gary Bedore started covering KU for the Lawrence Journal-World before the Jayhawks won the 1988 national championship and he has been on the beat ever since, so he has seen it all. Now is your chance to tap into his wealth of KU hoops knowledge.

There are four easy ways for you to submit a question:

  1. Leave it in the comments section below.

  2. Mention @KUsports on Twitter and include the hashtag #askGary.

  3. Post your question to the KUsports.com Facebook page and use the hashtag #askGary.

  4. Email your question to askgary@ljworld.com.

We'll sort through all the inquiries and Gary will answer the best ones in his next blog post.

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