The beauty of the rule that allows college players to declare for the NBA draft without hiring an agent and then attend the NBA draft combine is that some of the best basketball mechanics in the world give them a free look under the hood and then present them with options and advice on how to become more efficient.
One of those options is to return to school if NBA talent judges tell them they aren’t ready for the world’s most competitive league and let them know what they need to improve to become more prepared.
From the outside, it seems as if Udoka Azubuike faces two easy decisions: Declare for the draft without hiring and agent and then return to school for another year after the NBA people tell them what they undoubtedly will, which is that he needs to develop a face-the-basket shot and a better shot from the free-throw line. With any luck, Ricky Barry will be hired at the last minute to work the camp.
Azubuike represents a classic example of a player who would benefit from returning to school. His high ceiling means that by jumping too soon he’ll deny himself the opportunity to come closer to his ceiling if he jumps too soon and rots on an NBA bench.
Even the G League isn’t a great option for him because most guards in that league hog the ball and would deny Azubuike the touches he needs to develop a better offensive game. He never would gain the confidence needed to become significantly better offensively. Plus, he can work on doing a better job of guarding face-up big men and improve his ability to guard the pick-and-roll, which he'll need to do constantly in the NBA.
He’ll have an even better chance to figure out how to score and pass out of double-teams next season. Defenses won’t be as mindful of shutting down 3-point shooters simply because Kansas won’t have as many, so Azubuike will be a great focal point of defenses. He'll need to become more creative and he has shown, even more than most, the more experience he gains, the better he becomes.
Why even go to the combine? Better question: why not?
He’s not likely to hear anything his coaches don’t already tell him, but affirmation never hurts. Azubuike’s a tremendous NBA prospect, but at this point that’s all he is, a prospect. He’ll add more polish playing in pressure-packed games in front of big crowds than in the G League and will gain more confidence as one of the main pieces of a highly ranked team.
You likely have heard it uttered about Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Tom Izzo or Bill Self, if not all four, at least once: "Yeah, but he's only won one national title."
As if coaches who have won multiple titles are walking all over the place at the Final Four. Before reading the next paragraph, close your eyes and see if you can guess how many active college basketball coaches have won multiple national titles.
Now open them. The answer is three: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (five), North Carolina's Roy Williams (three) and Villanova's Jay Wright.
There are only seven active coaches who have won at least one.
|Mike Krzyzewski (5)
||Duke||1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015
|Roy Williams (3)
||2005, 2009, 2017
|Jay Wright (2)
In addition to the three active college coaches with multiple NCAA tournament titles, 11 coaches who are either deceased, retired or working in the NBA have won more than once.
||1948, 1949, 1951, 1958
||UCLA||1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969
1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975
||Indiana||1976, 1981, 1987
||1999, 2004, 2011
Shortly after the Boston Celtics hired as head coach Brad Stevens away from Butler in 2013, I had an informal discussion with someone who works in the NBA about what type of college coaches are best equipped to make the transition and whether Bill Self was among them.
He said a college coach had to be smart enough to know that not everything that works with college athletes works with professionals, so the coach had to be willing to adjust and couldn’t be too dictatorial, too stubborn to change.
He also said that his personal list of coaches able to fit just that one criterion was very short. Self was on his list. So was Billy Donovan, since hired by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jay Wright of Villanova and Chris Mack, who recently left Xavier for Louisville.
Now that’s just one man’s list and it doesn’t mean his list of nearly five years ago has anything in common with that of current New York Knicks management, but it is interesting that the Knicks reportedly have reached out to Wright, winner of two of the past three NCAA championships.
Should Wright turn down the Knicks, could Self be contacted next? Anything’s possible. The Cleveland Cavaliers, shortly before re-signing LeBron James, expressed interest in stealing Self from Kansas, but the interest wasn’t mutual.
I've always viewed an NBA job as something that only would interest Self as a last stop toward retirement, but with the landscape of recruiting in college basketball under so much scrutiny and possibly headed for change, many college coaches might find the NBA more tempting than in the past.
After the Celtics hired Stevens, Matt Norlander of CBSsports.com compiled records of coaches who left college jobs for the NBA in the previous 22 years. The damning data: a .559-900 (.383) record in the regular season, 3-12 in the playoffs. P.J. Carlesimo coached three playoff victories and went 136-109 in the regular season.
Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tim Floyd, Mike Montgomery, Reggie Theus and Leonard Hamilton all posted losing records, although Pitino went 90-74 in an earlier stint with the Knicks.
Stevens (221-189 regular season, 11-17 playoffs) and Donovan (150-96/12-11) have bucked the trend. Fred Hoiberg (110-136/2-4) hasn’t fared as well.
It makes sense that Wright was the first college coach mentioned for the Knicks' job. Watching Villanova attack Kansas with five skilled players armed with 3-point range it was difficult not to think of the Golden State Warriors and other NBA franchises.
Most children dream about becoming rock stars and professional athletes, lottery winners and world-famous fashion designers, cops and firefighters, doctors and lawyers, stuff along those lines.
Just in case a boy or girl out there with eyes closed is imaging the pageantry of inauguration day and that first year as chancellor of the University of Kansas, snap out of it, and don’t ever let yourself go there again.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, welcome to the chancellor’s mansion, aka “The Outlook.” Where would you like me to put your bags down? Over here, OK, enjoy your new residence and prestigious job.
Hello, ticket scandal. It happened Gray-Little’s first year at the prestigious post and turned it into a waking nightmare for a while.
Dr. Douglas Girod, your turn. Hope you enjoyed those opening months of relative calm, aside from the weekly embarrassments on the gridiron, which not many people witnessed anyway. Now your have your very own version of the ticket scandal: Adidas payola.
Girod’s baptism included witnessing a 14th consecutive Big 12 basketball title and a trip to the Final Four. Time will tell if all that really happened or was just an illusion captured by the word "Vacated."
Silvio De Sousa, as hungry a rebounder as Kansas has had in quite some time, became a productive player just in time to help KU make it to the Final Four, even with center Udoka Azubuike slowed by a sprained MCL of the left knee.
The federal indictment released Tuesday charged that the guardian of a player who announced on August 30 he would be attending Kansas, proving wrong those who guessed he would attend Maryland, would receive payment from Adidas.
De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, denied to the Journal-World’s Matt Tait taking any money to steer the power forward to Kansas.
If it’s proven that De Sousa was steered with a payment and he knew about it, the NCAA could rule that Kansas played an ineligible player and he would have to forfeit eight victories from the Big 12 regular season, one nonconference victory (Texas A&M), three Big 12 tournament games on the way to the title, four NCAA tournament games, and the word “Kansas” would be changed in the 2018 Final Four record book to “Vacated,” which could explain why Villanova had such an easy time scoring.
It’s all such messy stuff to have to come across a chancellor’s desk. Normally, I’d say football season can’t come soon enough for the chancellor, but we all know how that story will unfold.
By the way, walking in East Lawrence Tuesday evening, I caught up to Gray-Little. As much as I hate being the bearer of bad news, I was the first to let her know that the Adidas scandal had reached Kansas and asked her if she would want to give me a comment.
“Oh, no,” she said.
Kansas one-and-done star Josh Jackson isn't going to be named NBA Rookie of the Year. Ben Simmons, drafted in 2016, Jayson Tatum, taken third this past draft, or Donovan Mitchell, picked 13th, will take home the prize.
But if hardware existed for in-season improvement, Jackson would be leading the pack, which bodes well for his chances of passing those having better rookie seasons.
A look at Jackson's improvement since the All-Star break, compared to some other rookies from this past draft:
|DONOVAN MITCHELL (Jazz)
|JOSH JACKSON (Suns)
|KYLE KUZMA (Lakers)
|DENNIS SMITH (Mavs)
|JAYSON TATUM (Celtics)
|LONZO BALL (Lakers)
“One Shining Moment” is here to stay forever, which makes it all the more impressive that ESPN’s Michelle Beadle had the originality and pluck to bag on it as “so cheesy.”
I’ve always considered “One Shining Moment” a guilty pleasure. I feel like I should hate it because I too find it cheesy, but I can’t take my eyes and ears off the season-ending, rapid-fire NCAA tournament highlight video synced up with the song for the past three decades.
I like it.
And I hate it because it means the NCAA tournament is over, so it’s sort of like the second shot in the gut. The first comes when your favorite team either doesn’t make the field on Selection Sunday or is one of the 67 schools eliminated with a loss.
The playing of “One Shining Moment,” written by David Barrett and performed by Luther Vandross, means we have to wait another 49 weeks for the next Selection Sunday.
Sure, the regular season is an enjoyable journey, but it can’t approach the tournament.
To salve the wounds of the passing of another tourney, I headed to NCAA.com to learn of next year’s key dates and sites.
Selection Sunday is March 17.
The closest arenas to Lawrence for first-and-second round games are BOK Center in Tulsa (217.5 miles) and Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines (234.1 miles). Tulsa is a Friday/Sunday site with the games slated for March 22 and 24. The games in Des Moines will be played Thursday/Saturday, March 21 and 23.
If the Jayhawks are anywhere in the 1-through-4-seed range, a safe bet, then they’ll open the tournament in either Tulsa or Des Moines.
The Midwest Regional will be at Sprint Center for the second time in three years, the East at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the South at KFC Yum! Center, the West at Honda Center in Anaheim.
The Final Four is scheduled for April 6 and 8 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Statistics aren't required to know that Devonte' Graham was Kansas' best basketball player this past season, but here is a look at how many times each player had at least a share of the team lead in each of the five major statistical categories:
|Player (Times led
|Silvio De Sousa
Interestingly, Kansas had an outright scoring leader in each of its 39 games. Newman led the team in scoring in 2 of 31 regular-season games and 6 of 8 postseason contests.
De Sousa, who had three DNP by coach's decision, played in 12 regular-season games and all eight postseason games. All four of the games in which he at least shared the rebounding lead came in the postseason, not surprising considering he reached double digits in minutes just twice in the regular season.
Vick led the Jayhawks in scoring in three of the team's first nine games and then never again.
No projected one-and-done players made it to this season’s Final Four in San Antonio, and the two schools that advanced to tonight’s national-title game typically recruit players just below the one-and-done talent line.
Yet, that doesn’t mean schools, Kansas included, will abandon pursuit of projected one-and-done talents.
“It’s such a fine line still,” KU coach Bill Self said. “The teams that have the best chance to advance are the most talented and if you can have talent and experience, that gives you obviously the very best chance.”
Villanova never has landed a one-and-done recruit, despite trying, but schools have won it all starting one-and-done players.
Kentucky had three one-and-done starters in 2012, as did Duke in 2015.
Self isn’t going to change his approach. For example, the coaching staff remains in pursuit of projected one-and-done guard Romeo Langford.
Kansas signee Quentin Grimes, a 6-foot-5 combination guard who had a terrific senior year, also is a potential one-and-done player.
Self’s three Final Four teams did not have any one-and-done players.
Eight of Self’s 15 teams have advanced to the Elite Eight and he has had nine one-and-done players.
Only two of his one-and-done recruits competed in an Elite Eight game.
Josh Jackson picked up two quick fouls in last season’s 74-60 loss to Oregon. He contributed 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Josh Selby totaled two points, one rebound and one assist in a 71-61 loss to VCU. The Rams outscored KU, 35-15, during Selby’s 15 minutes of playing time.
Cheick Diallo never made it off the bench in the 64-59 loss to Villanova two seasons ago.
San Antonio — Kansas last played in the Alamodome in a regional in 2011, defeating Richmond and then losing to VCU.
But one key Kansas reserve played here as recently as last season.
“Marcus (Garrett) played in this building the state tournament, so he's the only one with any experience in the Dome, I guess, ever,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Garrett has weaknesses to work on in the offseason, most notably his jumper and free throws, but Self has appreciated his defensive sophistication.
“He's one of the few high school kids that knew how to make a college team better by not scoring,” Self said. “Most high school kids learn how to score and when they get to college they're going to be the fifth, sixth, seventh option. So what other things do they do to make somebody better? He fit in perfectly with us because he can do a little bit of everything. He's not a prolific scorer, but he can do a little bit of everything.”
Garrett played in a state semifinal and said he "almost had a triple-double" in a losing effort.
San Antonio - Villanova, which competes in the highly competitive Big East, is getting a taste of what it’s like to play in the brutal Big 12.
So far, the Wildcats are handling it just fine, but the toughest test awaits in the form of regular-season and conference-tournament champion Kansas on Saturday, approximate tip 7:49 p.m. Villanova knocked off West Virginia in the Sweet 16, 90-78, and Texas Tech in the Elite Eight, 71-59, and scored the victories in very different ways.
Does it help that Villanova is coming off a pair of games against Big 12 schools?
“I don’t think it hurts,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
(Speaking of things that can’t hurt, it had to be reassuring for Kansas basketball fans to see legendary Larry Brown, coach of KU’s 1988 national-championship team, stepping off the team bus. Brown spent time with the team during the 2008 tournament as well. What a great mind to have as a sounding board.)
“The West Virginia game against them was a lot like our game against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament,” Self said. “Villanova was 13 of 24 from 3, I think, so they had to make shots to kind of separate themselves from West Virginia kind of like what we did there at the end.”
The Wildcats did in fact make 13 of 24 3-pointers against West Virginia, as well as 23 of 27 free throws. Villanova turned it over 15 times against the Mountaineers' pressure.
“And then against Tech they didn’t make any shots, but they found a way on the glass to control them,” Self said. “Yeah, I don’t think it hurts. We talked to one of those teams a lot. We’ll talk to the other one and see if there’s anything from a scouting standpoint they picked up on them.”
Villanova made just 4 of 24 in the 12-point victory against Tech and relied on great defense and rebounding to win by a dozen points. The Red Raiders shot .333 overall, .250 from 3 and lost the battle of the boards, 50-28.
Kansas went 3-0 vs. West Virginia and 1-1 against Texas Tech.