At the beginning of the second round of Thursday’s NBA Draft, Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac was fielding calls about potential trades for his team's next pick.
Divac gave the offers some thought, but Frank Mason III was still available and he was a player that the Kings coveted.
By the time the Kings went on the clock with the 34th overall selection, there was no hesitation that Mason was going to be their pick.
“I felt first of all, honestly, that he wasn’t going to be available,” Divac said. “But at 34, it was easy. No-brainer to pick him.”
Mason, the consensus national player of the year, was the first player in Big 12 history to average more than 20 points and five assists per game.
He worked out twice for the Kings, including a pre-draft visit last week (making it memorable when he met a young fan through social media). That workout only reinforced the beliefs from Sacramento executives that he was a great fit for their young, rebuilding team.
On a team that started the draft without a point guard, the Kings added Mason and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox with the fifth overall pick.
“Especially the second time, he showed us what we saw in the first (workout),” Divac said. “We just felt confident that’s the guy. He can play right now. We felt very confident when we made a choice to pick him at 34.”
Second-round picks aren’t guaranteed to land on a team’s roster by the time the season begins at the end of October, but Divac’s “he can play right now” endorsement shows how much confidence the Kings have in Mason.
“If Frank wasn’t there, we were thinking about doing some stuff,” Divac said, referring to trade rumors.
After celebrating his selection at a draft party, Mason wrote on Twitter, “Thanks for believing in me @SacramentoKings, I promise you won't regret it.”
In his first day as a member of the Kings, Mason was greeted with cheers at the airport and attended a draft rally in the city alongside all of Sacramento’s draftees — Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.
Even as a second-round pick, there’s many people who believe Mason will carve out a role in the NBA for a long time.
“Look, he may be small and he may have issues as far as finishing at the rim, but he’s got a good floater,” Jay Bilas said on ESPN’s draft broadcast. “There’s no way he fails in the NBA. He’s too tough. He’s proven that over the course of four years at Kansas.
“I’m a huge fan of Frank Mason. He’s small but his heart is gigantic; no way does he fail.”
During a press conference Thursday night, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admitted he would’ve slept much better in the past few weeks if his team landed a higher pick in the NBA Draft.
But McDonough was relieved Thursday when the draft played out how he expected, and he still landed the player that he really wanted with the No. 4 overall selection: Josh Jackson.
After watching Jackson in workouts leading up to the draft, McDonough believes the Suns landed a player who is a perfect fit for their young core of talent, which includes wings Devin Booker and TJ Warren.
“We thought Josh Jackson was the best player in the draft,” McDonough said. “People say, well you know, he’s the best two-way player, and the last I checked the game was played two ways, you don’t just play one.”
Throughout the past month, Jackson was linked as a potential pick for the top three teams in the draft: the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
In the past week, trades signaled that the 76ers would take Markelle Fultz and the Lakers would take hometown point guard Lonzo Ball. Jackson never participated in a workout for the Celtics, setting the stage for the Suns to take him.
McDonough kept tabs on Jackson throughout his one-and-done season at Kansas, and was his impressed by his impact. He cited KU’s loss to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals when Jackson was suspended for the game.
“He’s a very competitive guy,” McDonough said. “He’s a very driven guy. He’s the kind of player who will raise the level in practice and drills. From what we’ve gathered, he’s not afraid to call people out who don’t compete that hard or aren’t that aggressive going after something.”
With the hope that Jackson can turn into an NBA All-Star, the Suns are confident that Jackson will be able to fix any flaws with his jump shot.
Even without perfect form, Jackson made 37.8 percent of his shots from behind the 3-point line. According to hoop-math.com, he shot 38.1 percent on jump shots inside of the arc.
“I think Josh is a guy who has shot the ball better in games than he would do in practice or drills or something like that,” McDonough said. “I think he’s a gamer. You guys have been around the game long enough, you know what that means. I think he has the ability to raise his game to the level of competition.”
When considering Jackson with the fourth overall pick, the Suns conducted plenty of research to his off-the-court incidents. McDonough said they always try to be “very thorough” with any pick, but estimated they talked to 20 to 30 sources about Jackson’s incident outside of a Lawrence bar where he was accused of causing damage to a car. He later signed a diversion agreement.
“The more we learned about Josh, the more comfortable we got,” McDonough said. “I talked to coach Self (Wednesday) night and he swears by Josh and he swears by his character. Thinks he’s a great kid and great competitor.”
Jackson is expected to suit up in a Suns uniform for the first time during the NBA's summer league in Las Vegas.
McDonough is confident that Jackson will make an immediate impact and he has all the potential to become one of the league's top players.
“If he can shoot the ball at a high level, even an above-average level, I think he has a chance to be a star,” McDonough said. “Other than that offensively, he moves the ball very well. I think he is one of the better passing wings that we’ve scouted and I’ve scouted in a long time.”
With rising expectations for the Kansas football team, many eyes this summer will turn to Zac Woodfin, KU football's new director of strength and conditioning, who was hired in February.
Last summer there was a lot of attention to the number of Jayhawks who were running faster than ever before — around 40 players were hand-timed at 4.59 seconds or faster in the 40-yard dash — and offensive linemen who made a big jump in strength.
Woodfin, who was a prolific linebacker at UAB, has received a lot of praise during his last few stops as a strength coach. He spent the last two seasons at Southern Mississippi after coaching one season at his alma mater. At both schools, he made an immediate impact.
During his one year at UAB, before the program was disbanded (it will be reinstated this fall), Woodfin was named the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year from FootballScoop. He helped transform a 2-10 squad into a 6-6 team that competed against some bigger schools.
“You can really tell how much bigger that we had gotten,” former AD Brian Mackin told FootballScoop. “And really comparing ourselves to Troy (opening-weekend win), you could see the difference. We were bigger than them, and that’s not always been the case in the past.”
In previous interviews, Woodfin explained four pillars in his approach as a strength coach: mindset, movement, nutrition and recovery. He puts an emphasis on mobility and flexibility, telling the Clarion-Ledger: "You can't get stronger and more powerful if you're tight and immobile."
When Woodfin entered the Southern Miss program, players and coaches quickly credited him for their success in a 9-5 season, which included a trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
"He's one of the best motivators I've ever been around," former Southern Miss quarterback and Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year Nick Mullens told the Sun Herald in December 2015.
"You've got guys that you never really would have thought they would have come as far as they've come this year,” Mullens added. “Now the whole team is excited to work out, excited to make each other better and work as hard as we've ever worked. That's what coach Woodfin does, motivates and makes everybody around him better.”
Woodfin even picked up a lot of attention during a practice in his first few weeks at UAB. As a column from the Clarion-Ledger explains, Woodfin looked over when players were running stairs and saw an opportunity to help another person in the program.
Tim Alexander is an honorary member of UAB’s football program. He has his own locker and wears the No. 87 jersey at every practice and game.
Alexander, who was paralyzed in a 2006 car accident, was watching his teammates climb the steps during an offseason workout. Woodfin, who spent two years as an assistant strength coach with the Green Bay Packers prior to joining the staff at UAB, said he saw the look in Alexander's eyes and didn't hesitate.
"I didn't even have time to think about it, really," Woodfin said. "I ran over and asked him if he wanted to go to the top."
Woodfin put Alexander on his back and carried him up the long flight of steps before players saw what was happening and helped both of them to the top.
"Zac is a guy who really knows how to put his stamp on a program," KU head coach David Beaty said in a press release when Woodfin was hired. "He has a disciplined method of running his strength and conditioning program, yet knows how to make it fun for his players.”
It was no secret when David Beaty was named head football coach at Kansas that he was going to have a massive rebuilding process in front of him.
After a winless first season, the Jayhawks took some steps forward with a 2-10 record, including a home win over Texas.
With plenty of optimism heading into the summer, following spring practices, the Jayhawks are beginning to show their depth and progress at each position.
How would it compare when Beaty first took over the program?
“I would easily define that as night and day,” Beaty said in the Big 12’s spring football teleconference. “Night and day. A lot of that has to do with some of the guys that we’ve added to the roster. But also a lot of it has to do with those guys that we’ve added that we’ve been able to develop. Guys like Dorance Armstrong that came in at 212 pounds that sits at 253 pounds today.”
After playing the last two seasons with young and undersized linemen, Beaty is confident the Jayhawks will be better suited to compete with teams at the line of scrimmage.
Armstrong was chosen by the league’s coaches as a unanimous first-team all-Big 12 selection last year, and he has support on the defensive line from defensive tackle Daniel Wise, defensive end Isaiah Bean and several others.
On the offensive line, the Jayhawks return nearly their entire unit from last season and are adding some depth with newcomers.
Of course, another reason for all of the excitement surrounding the program is the success on the recruiting trail. According to Rivals.com, KU ranks 15th in the country with its 13 verbal commits in the Class of 2018.
“We tell our guys all the time,” Beaty said, “we’re about to go out on the road recruiting, and we tell them first, ‘We love you.’ Second, ‘We’re trying to replace you, so understand that. We’re going on the road to try to find someone better. Let that be your guide when it comes to how hard you’re working and preparing for this next season. If you’ll continue to do that and you’re any kind of competitor at all, it’s going to make us better as a team.’”
The Jayhawks certainly picked up momentum at the end of last season with their 24-21 victory in overtime against Texas. It was Beaty’s first Big 12 win and it gave the Jayhawks something to show for their hard work throughout the season.
Beaty said the goal is to turn that win into much more than one game.
“We’re hoping it will be one of those cornerstones in our program as we move forward, but only time will tell that,” Beaty said of the Texas win. “Our hope is that it doesn’t just kind of blow away in the wind as one of those games that just kind of came up and the stars aligned. We need it to be a program changer for us and we really believe it will be.”
In town for a predraft visit with the Sacramento Kings this week, former Kansas point guard Frank Mason III made it a trip that a young fan will never forget.
Once news spread that Mason was going to attend a workout with the Kings ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft, Mason quickly heard from a nearby KU basketball fan.
“What?!? @FrankMason0 coming to Sacramento 4 another workout!!” wrote Jeremy Morioka on Twitter. “You work it. My little Jayhawk/Frank Mason fan would love a chance to meet ya.”
Sitting in his hotel, Mason was looking through Twitter and saw Morioka’s message.
With some extra time on his hands, Mason answered on Twitter, “I’m in Sacramento right now, I would love to meet him.”
Morioka responded that his 7-year-old son, Cooper, just put on his KU shirt and was ready to meet. Mason told them to visit the local Hyatt hotel and eventually they had an opportunity to take a photo together and chat for several minutes. Mason also signed a pair of posters.
“On game days we all gear up and everyone has got to wear their KU stuff, so (Cooper’s) used to it,” Morioka, who grew up in Lawrence, told KCRA 3 News. “Then he started to become a real fan, knowing who the players are and getting to go see a game.”
Mason posted a picture with Cooper on Twitter captioned, “My boy Cooper,” where the young fan was sporting a huge smile in his red T-shirt with a Jayhawk logo on it.
After the visit, Morioka wrote on Twitter, “Thanks @FrankMason0 Cooper was so nervous. He can't stop talking now and telling me where I have to nail the poster you signed.… @FrankMason0 was truly nice. Little man hasn't stopped smiling.”
Speaking to reporters after his workout with the Kings on the following day, Mason said he was happy to arrange the meeting because of his love for kids.
“I was just kind sitting around my hotel, going through my mentions, and I was really excited about having a few Jayhawk fans around here,” Mason said. “I love kids honestly, so I think it was pretty cool to just hang out with him for a few and him getting a chance to meet me. I think it was a pretty big deal and it’s something I’ll always be able to do.”
Mason estimated it was the “second or third” time he’s met with KU fans on the road, but it was the first time that it played out on social media.
His only wish was that he had more time to hang out with Cooper.
“It’s a great feeling. Honestly I could’ve done a lot more if I didn’t need to get my rest and get prepared for today,” Mason said. “Maybe would’ve took him out for lunch or went out and had a good time with him — more than actually sitting right there and talking. I think it’s a pretty big deal to interact with kids and show them that we’re there if we’re their role models. It’ll only get better in the future.”
Beyond putting smiles on kids’ faces, Mason had some of his own fun at the end of his workout with the Kings. Showcasing his athleticism and explosiveness, Mason put on a dunking exhibition featuring a pass off of the backboard to himself, a windmill and alley-oop reverse slams.
When Cooper was asked by a local TV station of his thoughts about Mason's play at Kansas, he summed them up in two words: “Pretty amazing.”
With less than a week until the NBA Draft, one team won’t be surprised if former Kansas standout Josh Jackson is selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Boston Celtics.
One NBA general manager, granted anonymity, told ESPN’s draft analyst Chad Ford that he believes Jackson will end up with Boston because he’s the type of player that Celtics team president Danny Ainge covets.
Markelle Fultz, a dynamic point guard, has been linked with the top pick since the Celtics had the lucky ping-pong ball at the NBA Draft Lottery.
"I've picked Danny's brain for years," the anonymous GM told Ford. "Jackson is an Ainge player all the way. Tough, athletic, long, versatile, elite motor. If he's keeping the pick, Jackson just to me, far and away, is the most Celtics-type player for them to draft. From all my conversations with them, I'm convinced they'll take Jackson No. 1."
Jackson canceled a workout with the Celtics earlier this week, but Ford speculates it’s a move that Jackson made because the Los Angeles Lakers or Philadelphia 76ers would give him a larger role.
Jackson recently completed his second workout with the Lakers, who own the No. 2 pick, and he’s visited once with the 76ers, who have the No. 3 pick.
“A number of agents have expressed concerns that the Celtics might not have enough playing time for their clients to develop properly, given the depth and experience of their roster,” Ford wrote, noting former UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball canceled his workout with Boston.
One Celtics official told Ford that canceling the workout won’t have any impact on the team’s considerations with the pick.
Of course, within a week of the draft, there will be several smokescreens on how the Celtics will handle the No. 1 pick, especially after making the Eastern Conference Finals this year. That includes potentially trading the pick.
"We're in dialogue with Boston,” B.J. Armstrong, Jackson’s agent, told ESPN. “We're very respectful of them. They have the No. 1 pick and can select whoever they choose. We just need to see how things play out over the next week.”
One week from the NBA Draft, most scouts and front office personnel have their minds made up about draft entrants.
There’s still workouts underway, giving prospects a last-minute chance to solidify opinions or change minds, but NBA teams are beginning to set their draft boards.
College basketball analyst Seth Davis annually compiles the thoughts of five scouts into one profile for many of the top players in the draft — including Josh Jackson and Frank Mason III — allowing people to understand how prospects are widely seen across the league.
The 6-foot-8 Jackson, a likely top-three pick, drew comparisons to other high-scoring wings and versatile defenders.
His profile, via Seth Davis:
“He’s my favorite player in this draft. As gifted a scorer as he is, I think he has a lot of untapped potential in that area. The off-court stuff is definitely a concern. You’re talking about two incidents in one year. Is that going to be a lingering issue? You don’t have to run plays for him. I think one day he could be a Jimmy Butler type guy. He has shooting deficiencies, but they went in at Kansas. I don’t know how they went in, but they did. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. If he’s able to shoot, he’ll be a Grant Hill or an (Andre) Iguodala. If he doesn’t, he’ll be like Corey Brewer, which is still pretty good.”
Even without picture-perfect shooting mechanics, Jackson, a third-team All-American, averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds on 51 percent shooting in his lone season at Kansas. He led the Jayhawks with 59 steals and 37 blocks.
In comparison to some of the players mentioned by scouts, Butler averaged 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds on 49 percent shooting in his junior season at Marquette. Iguodala, in his sophomore season at Arizona, had 12.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on 45 percent shooting.
With a range from Hill, a seven-time NBA All-Star, to Brewer, who just completed his 10th year in the league, it's apparent that scouts believe Jackson is one of the safest picks in the draft.
Mason, the consensus national player of the year, was the first player in Big 12 history to average more than 20 points and five assists per game. He shot 47 percent from the 3-point line and averaged 4.2 rebounds.
“I’m not in love with him, but ooh, he is tough. He’s a killer. He’s a kid everybody’s rooting for but no one is willing to commit to. Worked hard to become a reliable shooter and can shoot off the bounce. I wonder whether he can be an NBA level distributor and see the floor the way he needs to at his size. I’m not sure he’s dynamic enough to be a point guard in the NBA. I don’t like his ability to finish around the rim. He doesn’t pass off the dribble, but in transition he’s good. If Fred VanVleet can make a roster, why can’t he?”
VanVleet, the former Wichita State standout, played in 37 games with the Toronto Raptors during his rookie season. Mason is projected as the 46th pick by Draft Express in its latest mock draft.
Both Jackson and Mason recently completed workouts with teams. Jackson met twice with the Los Angeles Lakers, who own the No. 2 pick, and canceled a visit with the Boston Celtics.
Mason worked out with the Sacramento Kings, his second time visiting with them.
The NBA Draft begins at 6 p.m. on June 22.
When Mario Chalmers suited up against Kansas men’s basketball players in Bill Self’s summer camp game Wednesday, it was the first time he played in a game in more than a year.
Chalmers sat out the entire 2016-17 NBA season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon in his right foot, but he nearly found himself playing in the NBA Finals.
A free agent following his injury, Chalmers tried to find an NBA team during the middle of the season, but he wasn't recovering the way that he wanted.
He completed a workout with the Cleveland Cavaliers — who trail 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors — in February. The Cavs eventually signed guard Deron Williams on Feb. 27 after LeBron James asked the front office to add a veteran playmaker.
“During that workout, I felt like within myself I wasn’t really able to contribute like I wanted to,” said Chalmers, a two-time champion with the Miami Heat. “I wasn’t going to be same person that they expected me to be. I just decided to take the whole year off.”
During this week's free-flowing scrimmages, Chalmers scored 12 points against the Jayhawks on Wednesday at Horejsi Center. His son was one of the campers in attendance.
He followed with 22 points Thursday in the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic versus other KU alumni, showcasing his usual 3-point shooting touch and a few strong drives around defenders for layups. He even executed a few pick-and-roll assists with his former teammate Cole Aldrich.
“It means a lot to come back,” Chalmers said. “Just to come back to see all of the fans and be in front of them. For the first time, I actually got to play in front of them since Legends of the Phog game. It’s been good for me and also good for them. It’s the right step after coming back from the injury I just had.”
Chalmers wrote in a Player's Tribune story that "progress was excruciatingly slow" in his rehab, unable to do any basketball-related activities for five months.
Finally healthy, Chalmers said he will begin working out with teams following the NBA Draft on June 22, searching for the “right fit.” Prior to his injury, he averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 assists in 55 games with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I’ve got kind of a name in the league, some credentials, so I’m just looking for right situation to be ready for me,” said Chalmers, who has played eight seasons in the NBA after winning a national title at KU in 2008.
Sitting out all of the season wasn’t what Chalmers envisioned when he was rehabbing from his injury last fall. But ultimately, he’s thrilled to finally return to full strength, even if that means he has to watch the NBA Finals from a distance.
“Being able to sit out a whole year, basically a whole year-and-a-half, it was tough but at the same time it was good for me to really sit back, get healthy and take care of all of my knick-knack injuries.”
Markese Jacobs still has another two years before he starts his career at Kansas, but that hasn’t stopped him from picking up attention across the country.
Jacobs, a Kansas commit in the Class of 2019, had one of the dunks of the spring when he slammed a windmill dunk on a fastbreak at the CP3 Memorial Day Classic in California.
The 5-foot-10 guard caught the ball on the right side of the lane, near the free-throw line. Then he took one dribble and exploded up for a ferocious right-handed jam.
Playing for Chicago’s Mac Irvin Fire, Jacobs has posted some his best AAU performances during the tournament, catching the eyes of evaluators — and the national player of the year.
After watching video of the highlight dunk, former Kansas guard Frank Mason III wrote on Twitter, “That young boy up to something, keep up that mindset and you will be unstoppable.”
The dunk was only a part of Jacobs’ big weekend during the showcase, scoring in flurries for the 16-and-under team. He reportedly had multiple games with at least 20 points.
“A true high flyer with strength at just 5-foot-10 (and that could be generous),” wrote Eric Bossi of Rivals.com, “Jacobs went wild in the second half scoring 21 points on a series of drives, jump shots and one very loud windmill dunk. We have seen Jacobs multiple times this spring and Friday was far and away his best performance.”
Evan Daniels, of Scout.com, added: “Got my first live look at Kansas commit Markese Jacobs. Big time athlete with absurd speed. Made a windmill look easy. Can shoot it too.”
Jacobs spent last season playing alongside his brother at Uplift High in Chicago’s vaunted Public League, but announced he will transfer to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix for his upcoming junior year. It’s the same school that produced top recruit DeAndre Ayton.
In a recent interview with Andrew Slater of 247 Sports, Jacobs said his role is bringing energy to the court, and Kansas coaches want him to continue to make his teammates better.
“Show everyone that you're a lockdown defender,” Jacobs told Slater of the message from KU coaches. “Show everyone that you can score when you want to, but now get your teammates involved. Score when you need to.”
Jacobs became the first member of KU’s 2019 class when he made a non-binding oral commitment in October. He committed about 24 hours after visiting Allen Fieldhouse for Late Night in the Phog.
“I just loved the feeling walking around campus and the program,” Jacobs said. “It's always great. They always win. They've had guards like me. They produce pros.”
Jacobs, not afraid of big expectations, had one message for Kansas fans.
“They should be excited because they're gonna have another big-time guard like Frank Mason,” he said.
Josh Jackson received an invitation to the NBA combine, which is underway this week in Chicago, but declined to attend.
It’s a move that most of the top prospects in each draft class follow, which allows players to schedule their own interviews, medical testing and workouts for the select teams that interest them.
NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, the No. 2 pick in the 2007 Draft, supports Jackson and all of the other top prospects skipping the combine, according to a story from ESPN’s Chris Haynes.
Durant received ridicule at the combine when he failed to record a repetition on the bench press — 185 pounds — and didn’t put up high marks in other combine tests, such as the vertical leap or agility drills.
"If you’re, like, a top pick and you know you're going to be a top pick, just work out," Durant told ESPN. "Just work on your game, and then they'll see you in the individual workouts, and they've been watching you all year, so your whole body of work is more important than just going there for a couple of days."
Jackson is expected to be a top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, and could have a shot at the No. 1 overall selection depending on which team wins the draft lottery next week.
Along with Jackson, Lonzo Ball (UCLA), Jayson Tatum (Duke), Malik Monk (Kentucky), Lauri Markkanen (Arizona), Jonathan Isaac (Florida State) and Dennis Smith (North Carolina State) opted to skip the combine.
“Back then, every player was there," Durant said. "The first to the last pick was there. It was just a part of the process. But now, you're getting players to where they realize their power and they're not doing it, and more power to them.
“They want to just work out. They don't want to deal with that B.S., and I understand that. But back then, I wish I would have known the power I had or I probably wouldn't have done it, either."
For the two Kansas players at the combine, Frank Mason III and Svi Mykhailiuk, they had some of their measurements collected Thursday. Mason stands at an even 6-foot with shoes on and features a 6-3 wingspan and 7-10 standing reach.
Mykhailiuk was measured at 6-7.5 with a 6-5 wingspan and 8-4 standing reach.