At some point between now and the season opener, Kansas football coaches will decide upon a starting quarterback.
Maybe tomorrow. Perhaps the night before the Jayhawks’ Sept. 1 debut. Or, conceivably, they already have identified the man for the job and they’re keeping it under wraps.
Whenever that verdict materializes or goes public, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if newcomer Miles Kendrick emerges as the No. 1 QB.
The three-man competition, which began in full when Kendrick joined KU as a sophomore transfer from College of San Mateo (Calif.) before the spring semester, might have been prolonged by the team’s inability to scrimmage in April, due to the lack of healthy bodies available on the offensive line.
No such issues exist anymore for Kansas, and the QB who meshes best with the first-team linemen, receivers and backs during preseason practices will win the job.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Meacham, with the help of defensive line coach Jesse Williams, found Kendrick out in California by “turning over some rocks” in a state with 70-plus junior colleges, late last year. When Meacham examines Kendrick’s development since joining KU, he finds plenty of reasons for encouragement.
“He’s real polished. He studies real hard,” Meacham began. “He loves the game. He’s always up here (at Anderson Family Football Complex). He’s always just in the film room. He’s that guy. He’s a gym rat dude.”
Some football players don’t have that type of dedication in them. They need to break up the monotony of football by going out and enjoying themselves. Kendrick, though?
“This kid,” Meacham attested, “he’s like, full-on football, 24-7.”
Kendrick’s penchant for putting in extra hours won’t only win the favor of coaches, it also makes him that much more prepared to excel during 11-on-11 situations at camp. Even if he’s not the unequivocal best passer on the roster and lacks the Big 12 experience of 2017 starters Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, Kendrick has taken the mental reps necessary to make up ground.
“When you know a guy’s like that,” Meacham said, “and they make a mistake, you know it’s not because of a lack of preparation. He just may have got fooled or made a bad throw or something like that. It’s not because he didn’t have the study or the prep. He’s a gym rat, that guy.”
Mastering the playbook alone, of course, isn’t enough to secure the starting job. At KU’s closed practices, Kendrick will have to continue showing the traits that made him an appealing addition in the first place. And while Kendrick’s numbers at San Mateo — 1,889 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and nine picks, while rushing for 417 yards and five TDs in nine starts — exhibit his potential as a dual-threat QB, Meacham didn’t put much stock in the statistics, good or bad.
“I don’t think I really look at their stats,” the second-year coordinator said of junior college prospects. “I just look at the kind of kid they are, measurables, potential and all that kind of stuff. I don’t think there’s a statistic that makes you go, ‘He rushed for a thousand yards. Let’s recruit him.’”
It was another quality of Kendrick’s that drew Meacham’s attention.
“He knows how to win,” the QB coach said. “That’s a big thing. You want to look at something? Like with your quarterback, does their team win? The teams he’s been on, they win. That’s a good sign.”
In a wing-T, rush-heavy offense at Valley Christian High, in San Jose, Calif., Kendrick was co-NorCal Quarterback of the Year as a senior. His team went 13-2 and was state runner-up. At San Mateo in 2017, the coaching staff figured Kendrick wouldn’t even play as a freshman. But the now 5-foot-10, 200-pound QB became the starter by Week 4. San Mateo finished 11-2, with one loss coming in the California Community College Athletic Association title game.
The KU offense needs a reboot. What better way to execute that than with a new QB?
It will only help Kendrick’s case if the Air Raid scheme the Jayhawks never made work in David Beaty’s first three seasons has been scrapped for a modified version focused on incorporating talented running backs Khalil Herbert, Dom Williams and Pooka Williams.
Already experienced within offenses that successfully ran the ball and gave their defenses time to recover on the sidelines, Kendrick would slide in comfortably in a revamped offense.
And KU’s coaches have extra incentives to switch up their offensive philosophy. They are quietly bullish on their upgraded offensive line, with the additions of transfers Alex Fontana (Houston), Dwayne Wallace (Cal) and Kevin Feder (Ohio State), as well as Api Mane and Adagio Lopeti (San Mateo). A bigger, older, stronger O-line should make it easier to establish a rushing attack.
Plus, they understand the need to pull off something remarkable this fall. Another 1-11 or 2-10 season likely won’t give new KU athletic director Jeff Long much incentive to keep Beaty and his staff in place.
A stylistic overhaul matched with a QB who is both meticulous and athletic would be a good starting point for a program and staff in need of a turnaround season.
The closer the Kansas football team gets to its season opener, the more likely it seems fans who show up Sept. 1 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium will get ample opportunities to watch freshman Corione Harris.
One of the most eagerly anticipated debuts in the program’s recent memory might kick off with Harris, a four-star cornerback from Louisiana, on the bench as a reserve. But the way his teammates and coaches speak about the young defensive back who turned down scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Florida, LSU and many other programs, it sounds as though Harris’ talents are too considerable to leave unutilized on the bench for long.
Less than two weeks into preseason camp, KU coaches haven’t yet published or discussed publicly any sort of depth chart. So whether Harris starts or enters as a substitute versus Nicholls State in week one isn’t exactly concrete at this juncture.
A 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman, Harris joins senior Shakial Taylor; juniors Hasan Defense and Kyle Mayberry; junior transfers Elijah Jones and Elmore Hempstead Jr.; and sophomore transfer Ricky Thomas, among others, as cornerbacks vying for the most coveted spots on the two-deep.
The group’s position coach, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, likes Harris’ ability and potential, but he doesn’t broach the subject without quickly pointing out the first-year corner’s flaws, as well.
“He’s a talented kid. He’s got a long, rangy body. He has a good skillset. He’s a competitive, high-energy guy. He has tools,” Bowen began. “There’s techniques that need to be mastered and some fine-tuning. He’s not there yet; he’s not even close right now in terms of do it perfect every down mentality. But in terms of the skillset, he has it.”
What’s more, the man who will determine how much Harris plays in his first season as a Jayhawk thinks cornerback is a position where “God-given” talent factors more into a young player’s chances to succeed than his current stage of physical development.
“Let’s face it,” Bowen said. “Donkeys don’t win the Kentucky Derby, you know.”
At least for now, no one on KU’s staff wants to go on record anointing Harris, who goes by “Coe,” as a can’t-miss thoroughbred. However, when asked how realistic it would be to expect a freshman to come in and play cornerback effectively, Bowen didn’t come across as a coach ready to keep Harris off the field until he matures.
“At corner, it’s realistic. Because it’s not a position where your physical strength and physical development’s going to get tested,” Bowen said. “The things that are going to get tested are how quick your feet are and can you run. You can either do that or not. The difference between being 180 (pounds) and 200 at that position, who really cares? You’re not going to get tested physically like that. Whereas, at those big-body positions, a grown man at 21 that has some ungodly strength, I don’t care what you do, if you’re underdeveloped, he’s going to win.”
Per KU football policy, freshmen are not allowed to do interviews. But the more experienced Jayhawks who will play alongside Harris in the coming months don’t mind talking up the touted freshman’s qualities or pondering his potential as a playmaker in the secondary this fall.
“He’s a stud, man,” redshirt senior linebacker Joe Dineen said. “He’s really raw. Talentwise, it’s all there for him. Sometimes the technique, just as a freshman, gets a little off. But he’s as good as I’ve seen coming in new.”
Dineen went on to predict “big-time minutes” for the Louisiana native this season, and the linebacker, like many KU fans, is excited to see what Harris can do.
Junior safety Mike Lee, a graduate of Landry-Walker High, just like Harris, knows the freshman as well as anyone in the program. Lee, who attended Harris’ signing ceremony in New Orleans this past December, thinks his former prep teammate has adapted well since enrolling at KU this past January.
“Coe’s just doing him, playing his game. Being a competitor out there,” Lee said. “He learned the new plays. He’s getting the hang of it. He’s getting the hang of what to do and what not to do.”
It’s likely to take at least a couple years for Harris to begin to reach his full potential at the college level. Even when miscalculations inevitably pop up for him as a freshman, though, his older teammates think he has the ideal temperament to survive them and keep on developing.
“Corione, he just has that demeanor,” junior cornerback Defense said. “Like I tell everyone, corner’s all about confidence. He has that mentality that, ‘if I did get caught on one play, I’m going to come back on the next play with the same energy, same enthusiasm.’”
Harris will need to take that approach with him into every snap this season, Defense added, in order to make it as a Big 12 cornerback. And the junior figures the freshman will.
“He definitely has that,” Defense said of the psyche required to thrive, “so that’s a big plus for him.”
Five months still remain between now and December’s early signing period for college football, but as of mid-summer, at least the Kansas football program’s 2019 recruiting class appears minuscule in comparison to most.
While seven Big 12 teams, according to Rivals, have at least 12 commitments lined up, the Jayhawks have received just two.
That number ranks not only last in KU’s 10-team conference — rival Kansas State currently stands in ninth, with six — but also last among the 100 FBS teams tracked by Rivals.
Buffalo and Washington State, with four commitments apiece, just outrank KU at the bottom.
Nevertheless, when asked directly earlier this week whether he was concerned at all right now about the state of KU’s 2019 recruiting class, head coach David Beaty began his reply with two words.
The Jayhawks, Beaty maintained, “could have a lot of commitments.”
Currently, though, the only recruits who have sent KU’s fourth-year coach and his staff nonbinding verbal pledges are four-star New Orleans quarterback Lance LeGendre and three-star Wichita tight end Clay Cundiff.
Why aren’t more rising high school seniors tied to KU football yet?
“We simply are making sure that we get the right ones. Your number to give and how many you get, when you get them, those are things that, being on the inside, you have some privilege that maybe when you’re not on the inside, that I simply can’t share, because there’s strategy involved,” Beaty said. “But right now, we feel really good about where we’re at, particularly with where our numbers are.”
While it stands to reason it may be more difficult to recruit players to KU with the public perception that Beaty’s job security took a hit when former athletic director Sheahon Zenger — who hired Beaty in 2014 and two years later extended the coach’s contract through the 2021 season — was fired in May, Beaty even balked at that notion.
“Our recruiting has not felt any different. The correspondence that we have had with the guys that we have on our radars has, if anything, it has increased,” the coach insisted. “But it has not taken a step back at all. If anything, I think it’s helped us moving forward. I think the kids feel the momentum going on right there, which is good.”
Just how many players end up committing to and signing with KU won’t be known for months. In the meantime, Jon Kirby, of Jayhawk Slant, said Kansas at least has the attention of some intriguing uncommitted prospects.
In June, Jaren Mangham, an in-demand four-star running back from Detroit, included KU on his updated list of nine finalists, along with Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Texas, TCU and Arkansas.
Kirby said first-year KU receivers coach Justin “Juice” Johnson had led the team’s recruiting efforts with Mangham, who has eliminated such programs as Florida, Ole Miss, Florida State, Missouri and Texas from consideration.
Another compelling prospect from New Orleans, four-star cornerback Chester Kimbrough, is in good standing with KU, too, Kirby said.
Just like his Warren Easton High teammate, LeGendre, Kimbrough, you might expect, has been recruited by KU running backs coach Tony Hull, a New Orleans native and former head coach at Warren Easton.
Kansas' recruiting totals certainly aren’t on par with most college football programs for this time of year. But, as he is on most subjects, Beaty remains optimistic about the job he and his assistants have done on that front. The head coach stated he has worked his staffers “pretty hard,” as well.
“And there’s a reason why we do that. We’re committed to making sure we get things done the way they need to get done around here,” Beaty said. “So I take my hat off to our staff, because they busted their rear end.”
Frisco, Texas — Through three seasons as head football coach at the University of Kansas, David Beaty has not yet been able to pull off the grueling task of turning around the long-struggling program.
Addressing reporters Monday, at Big 12 Football Media Days, for the first time since the conclusion of the Jayhawks’ spring football schedule, Beaty, now 3-33 at KU, didn’t want to give many specifics about his expectations for Year 4.
Asked what win total would need to be achieved in order to display the growth and success that has been lacking at Kansas, Beaty opted not to put a number, or even a ballpark figure, on it.
“The name of the game in college sports is production, and we feel like we understand that is no different for us than it is for anyone else, that production is the name of the game,” Beaty began. “When it comes to our preparation, that’s not going to change. We’re going to start with Game 1 and the goal is go 1-0, to win that game and then put just as much focus on that next game to be able to do the same and repeat that.”
Beyond KU’s Sept. 1 opener against Nicholls State, and the obvious objective of leaving that game victorious, Beaty had no interest in projecting desired outcomes.
“When it comes to a win total, I don’t have that answer. I don’t know that many people do,” Beaty said. “But I do know this: I bet around Christmas time, we’ll know.”
State of QB competition
It appears Beaty doesn’t want this season’s quarterback competition to end up as prolonged as last year’s, when KU didn’t name Peyton Bender its starter until the day of the opener.
Beaty said Monday during his morning press conference at Ford Center at The Star, “it is still a competition” entering preseason camp in August, between Bender, Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick.
However, the coach indicated he and offensive coordinator and QBs coach Doug Meacham would like to determine a winner sooner rather than at the last minute.
“We’re going to narrow that down to two pretty quick. And I know our guys understand that. They know that there’s urgency to get yourself in that top two,” Beaty said.
Due to the “rough-and-tumble” nature of the Big 12, KU’s head coach added that all three QBs will be prepared and ready.
“But we would like to get it down to ‘the guy’ pretty quickly,” Beaty said. “Not going to give a timeline on it, but I would say we want to get it done pretty quickly.”
No longer playing for KU
The KU offense lost two skill players this summer, when running back Taylor Martin and tight end Kenyon Tabor had to leave the team.
Beaty said Martin wanted to be “closer to home,” in Fort Worth, Texas, while Tabor will remain at KU and involved with the program in a nonplaying role.
After receiving what the coach described as “extensive” evaluations for his ailing back, Tabor had to give up football.
“We feel really good about him getting back to a normal, healthy lifestyle," Beaty said. And, although Tabor will no longer be playing with the team for medical reasons, "he is still a huge part of our program."
The coach originally had anticipated that Tabor, a 6-foot-4 tight end from Derby, would become a big part of the program, calling him “probably the best player” in the Sunflower State in the Class of 2017.
“That’s hard to deal with, not having him. We were counting on that. But we’re counting on him having a great life, and that’s the most important thing,” Beaty said.
Tabor never played a game for Kansas, but Martin spent three seasons as a regular in the backfield.
“Taylor did a lot for us while he was here,” Beaty said of the 5-10 rusher, who gained 286 yards and ran for three touchdowns in 2017.
Beaty said Martin encountered “some issues” that led him to want to leave KU, adding Martin “certainly didn’t get kicked off the team.”
“Sometimes, you do what you’ve got to do for family. His situation, my prayer for him is it doesn’t end his football career. That he’s able to handle that,” Beaty said.
Offensive lineman Jacob Bragg (medical) and fullback Quinton McQuillan also left the program.
Some around the NBA may have found themselves caught a little off guard the past couple of weeks by the summer success of Los Angels Lakers second-round pick Svi Mykhailiuk.
L.A. assistant coach Miles Simon is not one of those people.
After Mykhailiuk scored 15 points and the Lakers improved to 4-0 at the Las Vegas Summer League on Thursday night, Simon, the team’s summer head coach, said “nothing” the rookie out of Kansas does falls within the realm of unexpected for him.
“I worked in TV nine or 10 years. The last four or five I worked in the Big 12 Conference. I’ve seen Svi since he was a freshman — seen him in practice, seen him in games,” Simon said of the 21-year-old Mykhailiuk, while speaking with reporters. “It’s not a surprise that he puts the ball on the floor. He’s a smooth athlete. He moves up and down really fluidly on the offensive end. He has a good handle, he can create his own shot. I’ve been seeing those things before he got to the pros and now he’s just going to show everybody else what he can do.”
The Ukrainian guard’s offensive versatility became a popular topic following the Lakers’ win over the Clippers, which included a third-quarter step-back jumper he drained after twice crossing over his defender, Thomas Wimbush.
A video of the smooth highlight posted on the Lakers’ Instagram account garnered a like from Mykhailiuk’s most influential teammate, LeBron James, and the following assessment from a Laker who witnessed it in person, Josh Hart.
“Oh it was nasty,” said Hart, a second-year guard with L.A. “He had a lot of sauce on that one. I was out there on the wing, like, ‘What the hell? OK!’”
As those who followed Mykhailiuk closely at KU might have guessed, he didn’t sound even a smidge braggadocious while describing his highlight.
“I handled the ball and the guy just started pushing me, so I had to put on a couple moves and just score,” Mykhailiuk plainly stated, a couple days after signing his rookie contract, reportedly for three years and $4.6 million.
Hart (22.5 points per game) and Mykhailiuk (14.0 points) have carried the Lakers’ offense in Las Vegas. The rookie from Kansas, again predictably, downplayed his recent showings and any personal expectations he had for the summer league stage.
“Just play basketball and whatever happens happens. I never thought about anything,” Mykhailiuk said. “I just come on the court and play.”
The No. 47 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Mykhailiuk hasn’t been flawless in Las Vegas, but he is making people notice his potential to stick in the NBA. Thus far he has scored at least 15 points in three of his team’s four games:
• July 7 vs. Philadelphia: 17 points, 6 of 11 FGs, 4 of 8 3-pointers, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 0 turnovers in 23 minutes
• July 8 vs. Chicago: 15 points, 6 of 12 FGs, 2 of 6 3-pointers, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 turnover in 22 minutes
• July 10 vs. New York: 9 points, 3 of 12 FGs, 3 of 9 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 turnover in 25 minutes
• July 12 vs. L.A. Clippers: 15 points, 5 of 7 FGs, 1 of 3 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 0 turnovers in 24 minutes
Simon said he doesn’t even know why Mykhailiuk was still available so late in the second round, especially after what the four-year Jayhawk showed the Lakers during the pre-draft process.
“Svi just came out and impressed in the draft workouts and he positioned himself,” Simon said. “We’re lucky to have him.”
It’s difficult to foresee at this point just how significant a role Mykhailiuk will play for the Lakers when the regular season arrives. The team loaded up on veterans upon winning the NBA summer with its signing of James, and L.A. already had talented young guards in place. More roster moves could come, but right now Mykhailiuk would likely play behind shooting guards Kyle Kuzma and Hart, and perhaps Lance Stephenson, too.
Asked what type of impact he envisions for his first year, Mykhailiuk didn’t seem particularly worried about his status.
“It’s far from now. I’m not trying to think about it,” he said. “I’m just thinking bout summer league right now.”
By the time the actual season opens in October, Mykhailiuk said he wants to improve at “literally everything” as a basketball player.
“Just try to become a better all-around player, improve my handles, shot, creating,” he shared. “Just everything.”
The Lakers and Mykhailiuk will play in the Vegas quarterfinals Sunday.
Since joining the Charlotte Hornets as a second-round draft pick, former Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham has encountered, and been accountable for processing, loads of information.
Learning how to best complement his new summer roster teammates and playing within new offensive and defensive systems is just the beginning for the rookie, who signed his contract with the Hornets on Friday.
Still, Graham told reporters earlier this week that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed by it all. He credited the man who spent the previous four seasons coaching him, Bill Self, for setting the stage for a smooth transition.
“I mean, I feel like coming from Kansas, with Coach Self, I feel like in the pre-season we put in so many plays early on that it kind of helped me get adjusted to this,” Graham said during the Hornets’ mini-camp, before the team left to play in the Las Vegas Summer League. “Coach Self putting the pressure on me to know what all five guys got to do in each play really helped me as a player with my IQ and stuff like that, which has really helped me pick up stuff here pretty well.”
Though still a rookie with a lot to prove at the NBA level, Graham explained why he can embark on this high-pressure journey feeling more comfortable than many of his fellow 2018 draftees might.
Calling him one of the nation’s best coaches, Graham said Self’s demanding style and the way the hall-of-famer trained the Jayhawks to “play together and fight every night” allowed the point guard to take on a professional approach before he ever joined the NBA’s ranks.
“We would do stuff that you would do at this level. I feel like a lot of our guys leave there and come here to the league and adjust pretty well to it just because of the way he coaches and his coaching style,” Graham said.
The 23-year-old’s basketball upbringing hasn’t gone unnoticed by Charlotte’s first-year coach, James Borrego.
“Devonte’s come in, I see the maturity in him. I see why he’s played four years at Kansas,” Borrego told reporters in Charlotte. “This kid has played at a very high level, well coached, good head on his shoulders and I expect him to run the group at a very high level this week.”
As Borrego referenced, Graham will serve as the Hornets’ primary point guard during summer competition, as he teams up with fellow rookie Miles Bridges, second-year guard Malik Monk and various other prospects, many of whom went un-drafted and/or don’t have NBA contracts lined up.
His responsibilities likely will diminish considerably once the regular season begins months from now, as the Hornets already have an all-star point guard in his prime, Kemba Walker. Plus, reports surfaced Friday afternoon of Charlotte agreeing to terms with longtime San Antonio floor general Tony Parker.
But during Las Vegas exhibitions Graham will be trusted to make the same types of decisions he did at KU. The rookie doesn’t anticipate his obligations becoming burdensome.
“It’s just different plays. We didn’t do like delay action and stuff like that (at KU),” Graham shared. “But pick and roll, coming off ball screens, coming off the 4-man or the 5-man, double-picks and stuff like that, we always did that. That was our main thing. I probably did 40, 50 ball screens every game, so it’s just about reading the defense and making plays based off that, which I’m pretty used to.”
Further adaptations await him on the defensive end of the floor, where the presence of more talented, versatile players than existed at the college level and a longer 3-point arc will inevitably ask more of him, just as it does every newcomer in the league.
“Defensively it’s just the spacing. Everybody’s so spaced out and it’s not all clogged up,” Graham noted of the differences he already has experienced at the next level. “You can’t just sit in the paint — defensive three seconds and stuff like that — so you’ve got to close out a little bit further than you would normally have at the collegiate level. But it’s something that I’ve gotta get adjusted to — getting in and out of the lane and jumping over to the nail and having to close out, just different things like that. But for the most part it’s the same.”
Borrego already has stated publicly he wouldn’t hesitate to insert Graham, the No. 34 overall pick in the draft, into the Hornets’ rotation.
According to Graham, the franchise’s general manager, Mitch Kupchak, said from the get-go he envisioned Graham, who now projects as the third point guard, doing a lot of the same things that made Graham successful at KU.
“Just play my game and when I’m in there, making the right reads. If I’m playing off the ball you’ve gotta be able to knock down shots — if I’m playing with Kemba or somebody off the ball — because those guys get a lot of attention, so they might leave me open and stuff like that,” Graham said of possible scenarios outlined by Kupchak. “But if I’m running the point just make the simple plays and get us in the offense. Don’t turn the ball over, just little things like that, which I’m definitely capable of doing.”
Graham makes his Hornets debut against Oklahoma City at 4:30 p.m. Friday (ESPNU).
Svi Mykhailiuk arrived at the NBA Summer League ready to score.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ second-round draft pick from Kansas put up 15 points and knocked down three of his 6 3-point attempts in his exhibition debut Monday night at the California Classic, in Sacramento, Calif.
The smooth shots from beyond the arc couldn’t have surprised anyone, but the flashes of athleticism from the 6-foot-8 guard likely opened the eyes of those who didn’t follow him closely with the Jayhawks.
Mykhailiuk finished strong above the rim on a couple of occasions during L.A.’s 98-93 loss to Sacramento at Golden 1 Center. One of his dunks came in transition, but another materialized in the half court.
The Kings’ Justin Jackson flew at Mykhailiuk when the Lakers rookie caught a pass on the wing, and the 21-year-old Ukrainian blew past his defender and rose up for a powerful two-handed jam before No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III could think about contesting it.
“That I can shoot real well gives me more opportunities to go to the rim,” Mykhailiuk told reporters afterward, “because people are going to close out on me hard, and I think I have good enough handles to go to the rim.”
It seemed the early-summer scouting report on Mykhailiuk might not have accounted for his agility and bounce — even though Sacramento guard and former KU teammate Frank Mason III (16 points, nine assists) could’ve warned the Kings.
“I think they might change later,” a grinning Mykhailiuk said of opponents’ expectations for defending him. “But it is what it is.”
Like fellow rookie Moe Wagner, Mykhailiuk, according to Lakers summer coach Miles Simon, showed some positive signs and played relaxed.
“Svi knocks down those 3s. In the fourth quarter he looked really good,” Simon added. “Defensively, moving his feet really well.”
His comfort level wasn’t inhibited by the NBA 3-point line extending a little more than a foot farther back than the college arc.
“Yeah, it’s not that far,” Mykhailiuk said. “But it’s just a little bit of an adjustment, and I think I’ll be fine.”
Wagner, who has known his new Laker teammate since their days of matching up in Europe, expected Mykhailiuk’s shooting display.
“That dude doesn’t miss,” Wagner said. “I’m not surprised. It’s fun to be on the court with him.”
A Mason 3-pointer (he made two of three in the win) ended the Lakers’ chances in the final minute.
“We lost — that’s not a good thing — but I think we competed hard,” Mykhailiuk said. “They made tough shots in the end and I think we’re gonna be better tomorrow.”
L.A. takes on Miami Tuesday night at 9, on ESPN2.
The Lakers’ other KU rookie, Malik Newman, missed the opener due to a left foot sprain.
Considering the 2018 draft concluded just a week ago, it’s still difficult to picture second-round picks Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk playing in their respective new NBA uniforms instead of the University of Kansas jerseys and shorts they sported every time they hit the court the past four years.
So perhaps now is as good a time as any to start preparing yourself for the idea of incoming freshman Quentin Grimes swapping his KU gear for an NBA fit next summer.
A 6-foot-5 combo guard from The Woodlands, Texas, Grimes, of course, hasn’t declared himself a one-and-done talent yet.
But all early indications point toward him becoming a lottery pick in 2019.
Twelve months out form the next NBA Draft, mock projections from multiple outlets list Grimes, coming off an MVP performance at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, as a top-10 prospect.
According to six different mock drafts, Grimes’ current value ranks somewhere between the fourth- and 19th-best player to potentially be available, and most have him coming off the board before the 10th pick:
• ESPN - No. 6
• Sports Illustrated - No. 7
• CBS Sports - No. 4
• NBC Sports - No. 5
• Bleacher Report - No. 19
• SB Nation - No. 10
According to SI’s Jeremy Woo, Grimes checks “all the boxes” for a combo guard.
“Grimes has a nice mix of positional size, ball-handling ability and passing feel and is ready for the college level,” Woo wrote. “He has impressive coordination for his size and finishes pretty well around the rim. He stands to be more aggressive defending and imposing his will on the game in all facets, and appears to need the ball in his hands to thrive right now. His 3-point shot is also a little shaky at times. As long as Grimes rises to the occasion at Kansas, the lottery should be within reach.”
That breakdown falls in line with what KU coach Bill Self said about the freshman guard, upon returning to Lawrence from their gold-medal trip to Canada, in June. The 18-year-old Grimes hasn’t yet played a game for the Jayhawks and Self already called him “probably as complete a guard as we’ve ever had.”
At this point, though, no other Jayhawks project as first-round prospects for 2019.
While not every mock draft includes a second-round forecast, ESPN classified junior-to-be Udoka Azubuike, who dipped his large toes into the NBA waters this past spring, as the No. 48 potential draftee.
SI doesn’t include KU’s 7-foot center on its list, but does give 6-9 forward Dedric Lawson a spot near the middle of the second round, at No. 42.
“While not an exceptional athlete, Lawson has been highly productive on both ends of the glass and around the basket,” Woo wrote of the transfer from Memphis, who will make his KU debut this coming season, “and has shown inconsistent but functional set shooting touch from outside. He could be in position for a big year as part of what’s essentially a brand new Jayhawks rotation, and should be able to rejuvenate his draft stock in the process.”
Grimes, Azubuike and Lawson all will have plenty of opportunities to improve — or hurt — their stock in the months ahead, and it shouldn’t surprise anybody if all three ultimately decide to enter the drat next year.
KU’s 2018-19 roster might not have any seniors on it, but, as usual, you should count on the best Jayhawks exploring their NBA options and possibly deciding to leave early.
Early one morning this past March, Rob Pelinka’s phone rang. The Los Angeles Lakers’ general manager knew whose voice to expect when he accepted the call.
As usual, it was Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations. His thoughts on a player the organization had monitored closely since the previous year’s NBA Draft Combine couldn’t wait.
Both Johnson and Pelinka knew of University of Kansas guard Svi Mykhailiuk’s 3-point stroke. But Johnson needed to revisit the 2018 draft prospect with his colleague again, upon seeing the job Mykhailiuk did defending ACC Player of the Year Marvin Bagley III in the Jayhawks’ Elite Eight victory over Duke.
“At five in the morning, he called me and said, ‘That showed me a lot about him — his toughness, his mentality,’” Pelinka recalled Tuesday, as Johnson fist-bumped Mykhailiuk during the Lakers’ introductory press conference for the Ukrainian guard and Moe Wagner, first-round pick out of Michigan.
Bagley went on to become the No. 2 overall pick in last week’s draft. And although the Lakers were able to wait until the 47th pick to snag Mykhailiuk, it became clear the four-year guard from KU solidified himself as a draftee in the Lakers’ eyes with his overall efforts against Duke — a game in which Mykhailiuk also hit a 3 that sent it to overtime.
“We have some core principles of how we want to build this team,” Pelinka said. “And it’s guys that are tough, guys that have a high basketball IQ, love the game, love to compete, that can shoot, that are skilled. (Johnson) saw that in that game with Svi, and our scouting department saw that, as well.”
Now a 21-year-old rookie with the Lakers, Mykhailiuk sat in between Johnson and Wagner wearing a gray suit and black tie as one of the most famous and successful basketball players in history described his potential.
Johnson revealed that L.A. interviewed both Mykhailiuk and Wagner (the 25th overall pick) at the 2017 combine, before both players decided to return to college for another year.
“We felt both of them got better, got stronger,” Johnson said, adding selecting each was a “no-brainer.”
The Lakers finished next-to-last in the NBA in 3-point shooting (34.5 percent) and worst in free-throw shooting (71.4 percent) during this past season, stats referenced by Johnson while lauding the value of the organization’s newest players.
“But today is a big upgrade. We set out to get shooters in this draft and guys that could stretch the floor, guys who have high basketball IQ, guys that were competitors and tough-minded. Both of them come from extremely successful programs in college,” Johnson added, crediting KU’s Bill Self and Michigan’s John Beilein for molding the incoming rookies. “We felt when we looked at both of them, they could add to our team what was missing.”
As his parents, Inna and Iurri watched, Mykhailiuk told reporters in L.A. why he decided to leave Ukraine as a 16-year-old. He remembered watching a college basketball game on TV and thinking it looked “fun.”
“Also, I was trying to go to the NBA, and for me it was going to be better to go through college,” he explained, adding he picked KU because it’s “one of the greatest schools, and I think it was a good choice for me.”
Plenty of obstacles await the 6-foot-8 rookie guard now that he has achieved his childhood goal. Mykhailiuk said, though, playing within L.A.’s switching defensive scheme should not be as challenging, because he spent his final season at KU defending spots one through four on the floor.
“We had a lot of good guards and kind of short on bigs, so I had to switch a lot,” Mykhailuk said, with his new, gold No. 19 Lakers jersey sitting on the table in front of him. “So for me, I think it’s going to be pretty easy, because I used to play it a lot.”
A new Laker and L.A. resident, Mykhailiuk still is learning the ins and outs of his first job as a college graduate. Before concluding the press conference by posing for photos, including one with his parents, Mykhailiuk said he knows the coming days, weeks and months will be filled with adjustments.
“I would say just figuring out my routine,” he predicted of his adaptation process. “How to be a pro. Just figure out our lifestyle.”
As basketball has evolved into more of a floor-spacing, 3-point-friendly game over the course of the past several years, an increasing number of big men with frames both large and athletic enough to dominate the paint have relocated to the perimeter with the idea being they will better fit into modern offenses.
Six-foot-10 Kansas freshman David McCormack recognizes why some centers and power forwards want to adopt that style of play. But that’s not who he is.
McCormack prides himself on impacting the game with force on the interior.
“I definitely see myself as a classic big or more old school big,” he said. “I’m not one to tend to step out and shoot 3-pointers constantly or things of those sorts.”
Although it was only a glorified pick-up game, played to entertain the hundreds of KU basketball campers in attendance, McCormack performed with power around the basket in an intrasquad scrimmage this past week.
While scoring 18 points, the freshman from prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy showed off the following:
• a one-handed jam off a cut from the free-throw line
• a made jumper from beyond the right elbow
• a monster two-handed follow slam off a teammate’s missed 3-pointer
• a dribble into a contested baseline jumper from the right side
• a tomahawk slam to finish a fast break
• another two-handed follow dunk on the offensive glass
• a layup created by a teammate’s penetration
• a third fierce put-back jam, with two hands, upon meeting a teammate’s missed shot at the rim
While he at times resembles a big man from a bygone era, McCormack made it clear his effectiveness isn’t limited to layups, dunks, offensive rebounds and shots in the paint.
“I know I’m a back-to-the-basket big. But I also have the face-up game and mid-range,” he said.
McCormack, now in his second week of summer workouts at KU, began impressing his new coaches immediately. Assistant Kurtis Townsend said the 260-pound newcomer arrived with his body in great shape. A Bill Self assistant for the past 14 seasons, Townsend said McCormack dunks “everything around the basket,” has good hands, tries to block shots and already looks to be a “really good rebounder.”
A player of McCormack’s stature and four-star pedigree would immediately plug into most starting lineups as a freshman. But KU is so deep up front, with Udoka Azubuike, Dedric Lawson, Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot, that the McDonald’s All-American figures to begin his college career as a super-sub.
“He plays with a high motor all the time,” Townsend said. “Sometimes he’s a little sped up, but, boy, if that’s your big guy that comes off the bench after those guys are pounding on Dok, I think he’s gonna be terrific.”
During his first week of workouts, pick-up games and one-on-ones — pretty much any time he was on a basketball court — McCormack said he most often found himself matched up with 6-9 sophomore forward De Sousa.
He’s looking forward to both training alongside and battling against every big in KU’s deep frontcourt.
“This is definitely a different experience with so many well-trained and developed bigs,” McCormack said. “Playing against another high-level athlete constantly with Dedric and Dok and Silvio and Mitch just constantly pushes you to be better.”
McCormack’s approach to the game should compel his teammates, as well, while also pleasing KU’s coaches. He’ll be too intense, mature and impactful to warm the cushy bench seats at Allen Fieldhouse as a freshman.
KU’s newest big man would fit in on a basketball court in any era. Just don’t be too surprised when he takes an old-school style into the 2018-19 season.