Advertisement

Smithology

Predicting 2019’s top Jayhawks: No. 8, O-linemen Malik Clark and Hakeem Adeniji

Kansas offensive lineman Malik Clark works with his fellow position players on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility.

Kansas offensive lineman Malik Clark works with his fellow position players on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility. by Nick Krug

As the start of the college football season inches closer by the minute, here at KUsports.com and the Lawrence Journal-World we are counting down to kickoff by each day revealing a new KU player on Benton Smith’s list predicting the top 11 Jayhawks for the 2019 season.

Les Miles will lead the Kansas football team onto the field for the first time on Aug. 31 versus Indiana State.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Wait a minute. Two players for one spot on the countdown? Isn’t that kind of cheating?”

You make some great points here. But, ultimately, this is a list that I decided to put together. So I’m just going to break the rules. This is tyranny at its worst. (Not really. It’s just a football list. You’ll get over it.)

Besides, it’s hard to think about either Malik Clark at left guard or Hakeem Adeniji at left tackle without picturing them in tandem.

Both started throughout the 2018 season and now they head into Year 1 of the Les Miles Era at KU as the two O-linemen most likely to succeed.

Adeniji has singled out Clark as one of the most improved players in their position group over the course of the offseason. Clark, meanwhile, doesn’t want to take much personal credit for that.

“I think it’s just the chemistry me and Hakeem have,” Clark said of a major factor in his development. “Like on our double teams, our communication and all of that, that’s making us better.”

Clark, now a 6-foot-4, 315-pound junior, and Adeniji, a 6-5, 300-pound senior, actually arrived at KU in the same class, ahead of the 2016 season, before Clark took a redshirt in 2017. The two were roommates their first two years in the program, which contributed to how well they work together now.

“We used to have long talks,” Clark shared, “about where our heart is with football, where we’ve got to get at and how we’ve got to turn this program around. I’d say that’s how he helped me. Just having a heart to heart conversation with him. And us being close.”

However, Clark hesitates to lump himself in with Adeniji when it comes to who is setting the tone for the group of blockers up front.

“I’d say Hakeem and Api (Mane, a center) are like the voices of the O-line,” Clark said. “I’m just the guy in the back that just follows directions. That’s all.”

Kansas offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji (78) hugs Kansas running back Deron Thompson (26) as time runs out in the fourth quarter on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji (78) hugs Kansas running back Deron Thompson (26) as time runs out in the fourth quarter on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Miles, who has often complimented the O-line as a group, called Adeniji one of the top tackle prospects in the Big 12, and said Clark is “going to be a big, strong man” for the KU offense.

“There’s some talented, talented guys there,” the head coach added.

Their position coach, Luke Meadows, thinks highly of both Clark and Adeniji, as well. Meadows said Clark has shown significant growth just since the spring.

According to Clark, a New Orleans native who played for KU running backs coach Tony Hull at Warren Easton High, he put in a lot of monotonous work in order to improve.

“My footwork, of course, and my hand placement,” Clark said of his areas of focus for the offseason. “And keeping my eyes in my gap. You know, just the little things I wasn’t doing as good until (Meadows) came here.”

Adeniji hasn’t missed a game — or a start — since joining the program in 2016. The left tackle from Garland, Texas, wants to make sure this season is memorable.

“It’s my last year. I want to go out with a bang, on a personal level but more on a team level,” Adeniji said. “I think we have the right pieces, the right coaches and everything to do that. So I’m very excited.”

Predicting the top Jayhawks for 2019 season

No. 11: WR Andrew Parchment

No. 10: ILB Kyron Johnson

No. 9: OLB Azur Kamara

Reply 3 comments from Dirk Medema Greg Ledom West_virginia_hawk

Predicting 2019’s top Jayhawks: No. 9, OLB Azur Kamara

Kansas linebacker Azur Kamara (5) goes head-to-head with tight end Jack Luavasa in the Jayhawk drill during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

Kansas linebacker Azur Kamara (5) goes head-to-head with tight end Jack Luavasa in the Jayhawk drill during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. by Nick Krug

As the start of the college football season inches closer by the minute, here at KUsports.com and the Lawrence Journal-World we are counting down to kickoff by each day revealing a new KU player on Benton Smith’s list predicting the top 11 Jayhawks for the 2019 season.

Les Miles will lead the Kansas football team onto the field for the first time on Aug. 31 versus Indiana State.

One of the best defensive linemen to play at Kansas in the past decade, Daniel Wise, a little more than a year ago, recognized real potential in one of his newest teammates.

Azur Kamara hadn’t been at KU long, after transferring in from Arizona Western College. But after a couple of weeks of preseason practices, Wise thought Kamara could eventually become an impactful player for the Jayhawks.

“He has a great frame,” Wise said of Kamara in August of 2018. “Young, a little green. But he has a great IQ for football and that helps him, with what we need from him. I’m sure when he sticks around and fills out he’ll be a true force on that edge.”

KU’s coaches certainly hope Wise’s projection proves accurate, because KU needs Kamara, now a 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior, to emerge as a playmaker at outside linebacker.

A defensive end for Kansas in 2018, Kamara played in all 12 games, started three and finished with 16 total tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.

In defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot’s scheme, though, Kamara is expected to be put in position to make even more plays from the “Jack” position, where he essentially lines up on the edge at a spot where a D-end typically would be, but plays it standing up like a linebacker.

The leading returning sackers from 2018’s defense are inside linebacker Kyron Johnson and safety Bryce Torneden, with two apiece. Kamara will spend much of the next few months rushing the passer, though, and seems to have the speed, power and size to do so effectively and secure the title of the team’s best pass rusher. Especially now that he has played in the Big 12 before and not trying to transition to a new level of football.

Said Johnson of his fellow defender: “Azur’s been here, so he’s a dude that everyone can rely and count on. He’s played D-line before, so now with him being at outside, it’s like he has that experience to get off blocks and do all that.”

Eliot, who coaches outside linebackers, too, already has praised Kamara, calling him “very talented.”

As a three-star junior college prospect in the Class of 2018, per Rivals, Kamara as a sophomore at Arizona Western recorded 15.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks, as the team reached the NJCAA national title game. He’s used to making plays, and with his smarts and the benefit of a new position coach Kamara seems more likely to have a breakout season than just about any of the defense’s many unproven players up front.

Predicting the top Jayhawks for 2019 season

No. 11: WR Andrew Parchment

No. 10: ILB Kyron Johnson

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

Predicting 2019’s top Jayhawks: No. 10, ILB Kyron Johnson

Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson works on technique with fellow position player Dru Prox during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson works on technique with fellow position player Dru Prox during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. by Nick Krug

As the start of the college football season inches closer by the minute, here at KUsports.com and the Lawrence Journal-World we are counting down to kickoff by each day revealing a new KU player on Benton Smith’s list predicting the top 11 Jayhawks for the 2019 season.

Les Miles will lead the Kansas football team onto the field for the first time on Aug. 31 versus Indiana State.

Kansas football coaches and players began raving about Kyron Johnson’s speed more than two years ago, when he arrived in Lawrence as an early high school graduate from Arlington, Texas.

A few defensive coaches, a couple position changes and some serious added bulk later, Johnson now has a bit of experience and muscle to go with his legitimate Big 12 speed.

On a defense lacking veterans and stability up front, Johnson looks like the exact kind of upperclassman the Jayhawks need in new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot’s 3-4 scheme. KU’s defense will be in trouble if safeties Bryce Torneden and Mike Lee are the ones making all the tackles. With Johnson now at inside linebacker — he played outside in the spring and at one point was listed on KU’s roster at “Hawk” — the defense will have at least one returning player up front who has started Big 12 games and has a grasp of what it will take to go make plays near or behind the line of scrimmage.

Playing inside at linebacker isn’t new to Johnson. In fact, he spent some time there both as a freshman and sophomore at KU before coaches opted to move him outside. One major difference now, though, is he’s playing at about 233 pounds, as opposed to the 220 range of his sophomore season.

“Here I am — here to stay — inside,” Johnson said of bouncing back and forth between spots for KU’s defense the past couple of years.

In 2018, Johnson started seven games and appeared in all 12. He finished 12th on the team with 16 total tackles. That’s obviously not a large number, but it is the highest for a returning KU defender in the front seven. Johnson also recorded four tackles for loss, a pair of sacks, broke up two passes, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble. So while it has only been seen in flashes, a knack for making potentially momentum-shifting plays definitely exists with Johnson.

Although he wouldn’t call himself a leader among the linebackers just yet, it’s easy to envision Johnson becoming that quickly. He’s definitely serious about the on-field responsibilities that come with playing inside linebacker.

“You have to think now,” Johnson said of one significant difference for him, compared to his former days on the edge.

“You have to really think about what you’re doing and everything that you do, because everything you do, you have to base it off the line, the back and everything around you,” Johnson explained. “When you’re calling the calls, you have to make sure you called the right calls. If not, we’re just all going to be in the wrong.”

Smart and more comfortable now on the field than he was the previous two years, Johnson seems like a safe bet to become a prominent defensive presence for Kansas this season.

Predicting the top Jayhawks for 2019 season

No. 11: WR Andrew Parchment

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

Predicting 2019’s top Jayhawks: No. 11, WR Andrew Parchment

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense (3) works for position against receiver Andrew Parchment as they compete for a throw to the end zone on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense (3) works for position against receiver Andrew Parchment as they compete for a throw to the end zone on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility. by Nick Krug

As the start of the college football season inches closer by the minute, here at KUsports.com and the Lawrence Journal-World we are counting down to kickoff by each day revealing a new KU player on Benton Smith’s list predicting the top 11 Jayhawks for the 2019 season.

Les Miles will lead the Kansas football team onto the field for the first time on Aug. 31 versus Indiana State.

Among the many unknowns facing the Kansas football program and its new head coach, Les Miles, few are accompanied by as much intrigue as the receiving corps.

It seems less of a question of if the group will be able to produce. Instead, the mystery involves which receivers in particular will emerge as the targets the quarterback — whomever that is — can trust.

Although Week 1 will mark his KU debut, and Andrew Parchment is unproven at the FBS level, coaches and teammates have spent interview sessions over the past several months identifying the Class of 2019 junior college prospect as an impressive specimen during the team’s closed practices.

At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, the former Northern Illinois and Iowa Central Community College receiver gives the Jayhawks both some size and speed on the perimeter.

“AP,” as Parchment’s teammates call him, looks the part of a playmaker so far to them. And many have indicated they expect him to remain on that trajectory in the months ahead.

“He’s explosive,” KU sophomore cornerback Corione Harris said. “I think he’s like a big, big playmaker.”

Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Parchment signed with Northern Illinois out of high school, redshirted in 2016 and spent one more year at NIU before transferring to ICCC for his sophomore year. In one shortened season of juco action (Parchment didn’t play in the final five games), he caught 23 passes for 227 yards and scored two touchdowns within a rush-heavy offense that didn’t feature him.

The way Miles, receivers coach Emmett Jones and various teammates speak of Parchment’s receiving displays, it seems he’s in store for a much larger role at KU after signing as an unheralded two-star prospect this past winter.

Said senior KU cornerback Hasan Defense of his practice battles with Parchment: “He’s probably one of the best receivers I’ve went against while I’ve been here.”

Reply 4 comments from West_virginia_hawk Maxhawk Dirk Medema

Done in Sacramento, where might new free agent Frank Mason end up?

FILE — Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III (10) goes in for a basket as Atlanta Hawks forward DeAndre' Bembry (95) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. The Kings waived Mason on July 4, 2019, making him a free agent. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

FILE — Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III (10) goes in for a basket as Atlanta Hawks forward DeAndre' Bembry (95) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. The Kings waived Mason on July 4, 2019, making him a free agent. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

For now, Frank Mason III is a Sacramento King. Kind of. But not really.

The franchise that drafted the former Kansas all-American in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft announced earlier this week it is waiving Mason but keeping the 25-year-old point guard on its summer league roster.

The Kings seem to be doing Mason, suddenly a free agent, a favor by taking him with them on their trip to Las Vegas. When they waived him on Independence Day the summer league rosters for the rest of the league were pretty much set, leaving Mason few other options in a short window of time. If the Kings really do intend to play Mason — and that seems to be the case, due to how much respect he earned from the organization over the course of two seasons — other teams will be able to watch him in person in Vegas and gauge their interest in a prospect who was college basketball’s national player of the year just two seasons ago.

In a league abundant in point guards, Mason may not have many suitors. Still, there are some potential employers out there for Mason and other low-cost point guards on the market.

And if you’re a free agent looking for a chance and not one worried about maximizing your money, what better place to cast your eyes than the Los Angeles Lakers? One of the league’s marquee franchises, the Lakers have the bulk of their money tied up in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. And once reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard decides where he wants to sign, the Lakers will have to start filling out a mostly empty roster, with or without Leonard.

As of Friday, the Lakers were tied to all of six players: James, Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels and Zach Norvell Jr., an undrafted rookie from Gonzaga whom they signed to a two-way contract. They also could sign second-round draft pick Talen Horton-Tucker, from Iowa State.

Each NBA team has 15 available roster spots, with 13 players active on game days. So the Lakers have some work to do in filling out the rest of their team, particularly at point guard, considering they don’t even have one at this juncture. (Yes, LeBron is essentially a gigantic point guard, but you get it.)

Now, James’ history indicates he’d want a veteran point guard on his team, and Mason isn’t considered a starting level floor general in the NBA, so the Lakers — if they were interested in Mason — wouldn’t be looking at him as someone to play major minutes. But if they are in desperate need of a backup point guard or maybe even a third point guard on the cheap, Mason just might be able to make his case for that job with a strong showing at the Las Vegas Summer League, where the Kings open their schedule Saturday night versus China.

Mason’s statistics and playing opportunities decreased during this past season, his second with the Kings. He went from playing in 52 games and averaging 7.9 points and 2.8 assists in 18.9 minutes as a rookie to appearing in only 38 games and putting up 5.1 points and 2.2 assists in 11.4 minutes in his second year. Mason shot 31-for-86 (36%) from 3-point range as a rookie and 14-for-64 (22%) on 3’s in Year 2.

During the 2018-19 season, Mason played more than 15 minutes in a game just once from January through April, and that came in the Kings’ final game of the season. Mason had 15 points and 1 assist off the bench, while shooting 6-for-13 from the field in what amounted to a meaningless regular season finale.

That’s why the Las Vegas Summer League — the Sacramento Bee reported Mason missed the California Classic earlier this week due to soreness in his right hip — will be so crucial for the former KU star.

Maybe some team’s scouts already like Mason’s bulldog mentality even if they have seen his flaws against real NBA competition. Perhaps other team’s scouts have already written Mason off after he was unable to find consistent minutes with Sacramento.

Either way, Mason will need to make the most of his opportunity with the Kings in Vegas while his agent pitches the idea of signing him to any team willing to listen.

As Mason told The Bee just a week ago, before the Kings cut him loose, he has one objective this summer.

“My job is to get better and focus on what I can control,” he said. “Other than that, it’s all business, so whatever happens happens. I just have to be ready and stay professional.”

Supply and demand will dictate where exactly Mason spends what could be his third season in the NBA. The Lakers aren’t the only team that could still use some depth at point guard.

Atlanta doesn’t have a definitive backup for 2018 lottery pick Trae Young. For now, Goran Dragic is the only true point guard in place for Miami. Technically, Portland doesn’t have a second point guard to play behind star Damian Lillard — though the Blazers can just stagger rotations to use fellow starter C.J. McCollum in that second point guard role.

The Hornets might need a third point guard to put behind Terry Rozier and Mason’s old pal, Devonte’ Graham. The Nets, although they signed free agency’s top point guard this summer, Kyrie Irving, don’t yet have a third option at the position to put behind Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. Oklahoma City, as well, lacks a third point guard to backup Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder. Milwaukee might need some depth at that spot in case Eric Bledsoe and George Hill don’t hold up for the full season.

It’s also important to remember the market is always fluid, especially this time of year, when NBA teams are more eager to make roster reshaping moves in the offseason. A team that doesn’t need someone like Mason now just might be interested in him one transaction later.

For organizations more intrigued by the idea of a younger option at point guard in free agency, Mason has competition — think: Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones, Delon Wright and Trey Burke, for example.

Of course, there still are veteran free agents out there, too — such as Rajon Rondo, Jerryd Bayless, Raymond Felton, Shelvin Mack and Jeremy Lin.

Mason is too dogged to let any of these factors faze him. This is a backed into a corner type of summer for Mason in terms of his NBA future. But given his mental toughness it’s difficult to see it not working out for him eventually.

Even if his route begins in the G League next season, roster spots inevitably open up throughout The Association. Odds stacked against him won’t stop Mason from working toward a spot in the NBA. He’s not the type to flame out after two years.

None by Frank Mason

Reply 12 comments from Oddgirl2 Brian Skelly Mark Wooden Chrisdeweese Brad Avery Dirk Medema James Miller Freddie Garza

Path to Golden State roster spot will be difficult for Dedric Lawson

TCU forward Lat Mayen (11) defends as Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) attempts a shot in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fort Worth, Texas, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

TCU forward Lat Mayen (11) defends as Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) attempts a shot in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fort Worth, Texas, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) by Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

There are far easier paths to an NBA career than the one Dedric Lawson must now traverse.

No one expected the offensively gifted forward who spent his redshirt junior season at Kansas leading the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding to become a lottery pick or first round pick in Thursday night’s draft. Most experts didn’t even project Lawson as a second round pick, and they were proven correct.

The undrafted Lawson at least has a shot, though, thanks to the Golden State Warriors offering him a spot on their summer league roster. And if he’s going to prove himself deserving of a regular season spot with the defending Western Conference champs or one of the league’s other 29 teams, it will likely be Lawson’s jump shot that determines his staying power.

He may be 6-foot-8.5 in shoes and weigh 233 pounds, but Lawson isn’t going to suddenly become an elite finisher at the rim or a sturdy defender of the paint. His successes, whether great or few in number, will come when he has the ball in his hands outside of the post.

Lawson proved to be a reliable 3-point shooter as a big during his one season playing for the Jayhawks, knocking down 39.3% from outside (35 for 89 in 36 games).

And, believe it or not, that particular skill actually is one that Golden State could use some more of next season. Even though the greatest shooter of all time, Steph Curry, will still be around, Kevin Durant is widely expected to bolt in free agency, and even if Durant were to re-sign with the Warriors his ruptured right Achilles’ tendon will most likely sideline him for all of the 2019-20 schedule. Then there’s the matter of sharpshooter Klay Thompson. Curry’s Splash Brother tore an ACL in the Warriors’ Game 6 loss to Toronto in the NBA Finals. Most expect Golden State to re-sign Thompson, who is a free agent, but his knee injury will force him to miss most if not all of next season, as well.

In that regard, it’s not completely absurd to talk yourself into a scenario in which Lawson excels offensively this summer, gets a training camp invite as a result and ultimately becomes a reserve forward worth keeping around on the cheap.

However, it will take Lawson looking proficient and maybe even playing above his head to make that a reality. Though the only players currently under contract with the Warriors for next season are Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Jacob Evans, Damian Jones, Shaun Livingston and Alfonzo McKinnie — and the contracts of Livingston and McKinnie aren’t guaranteed — there are incoming rookies who soon will join that list, and Lawson will have to either outperform them or prove he meshes well with them.

Golden State drafted shooting guard Jordan Poole late in the first round, but both of the organization’s second round choices qualify as competition for Lawson, because they are forwards and will be given a priority over a summer league roster player.

Alen Smailagic, the No. 39 pick in the draft, is a player in whom the Warriors truly are invested. A 6-10 big known for his pick-and-pop ability as well as slashing, Smailagic spent this past year playing for Golden State’s G League team, Santa Cruz.

Two picks later, Golden State snatched up another forward, 6-6 Eric Paschall, from Villanova. The hard-nosed Paschall is tough enough to defend inside even though he is undersized, and he shot 34.8% from 3-point range as a college senior.

Lawson’s chances to stick with the Warriors would seem far more feasible if Smailagic and Paschall weren’t in the mix. We don’t yet know what other forwards Golden State may add this offseason, and there already are four ahead of Lawson in the pecking order, with Green, Iguodala and the two rookies, not to mention McKinnie, if he’s back.

The good news for Lawson, though, is that he has the flexibility to end up with another franchise if he plays to his strengths with the Warriors’ summer league team. He may lack the athleticism and explosiveness of other rookies, but the 21-year-old prospect understands the game. If Lawson fits in well offensively with his summer teammates as a shooter and ball mover — and don’t forget that he can be an effective rebounder, too — that could be enough to impress other team’s scouts and coaches.

Organizations looking to spend big this summer in free agency will have to fill out their rosters with inexpensive players. And if a maxed out team ends up needing a big who can shoot and pass, that would be an ideal landing spot for the forward from Memphis with an enviable basketball IQ.

Reply 4 comments from Oddgirl2 Shannon Gustafson Dirk Medema Robert  Brock

Udoka Azubuike in early stages of getting back to his dominating ways

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike comes in for a dunk past former Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor and current forward Tristan Enaruna during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike comes in for a dunk past former Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor and current forward Tristan Enaruna during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Cleared to play basketball again just a few weeks back, University of Kansas center Udoka Azubuike isn’t quite back to his rim wrecking ways.

That’s not to say one of the leading candidates for Big 12 Player of the Year next season has much to worry about regarding his future on the court. It was just obvious Tuesday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse that Azubuike can’t yet dominate inside the way he’s used to doing.

The 7-footer from from Nigeria still dunked with ease during a low key scrimmage designed to entertain the kids attending Bill Self’s basketball camp. Azubuike simply wasn’t wholly vicious in doing so like you know a 100% recovered “Dok” would be.

That’s no criticism of the Jayhawks’ 280-ish pound pivot, either. The big man hasn’t played in a real basketball game — this scrimmage existed on the opposite end of the competitive and intense spectrum — in more than six months, after suffering a wrist injury that ended his junior season.

The four dunks Azubuike completed with ease, while tamer than the ones that comprise the center’s career highlight reel, because no one had to fear whether the stanchion could handle the aftershock, were a sign he’s easing his way back into form, and back into commanding the paint.

Azubuike didn’t spend the first-to-80 scrimmage outrunning any of KU’s other bigs, either, but that’s never been his game. He at least was able to get up and down the floor without looking overwhelmingly plodding for most of the affair, while fellow bigs David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot (Silvio De Sousa was absent on this particular afternoon) obviously benefited from being in far better condition — see: Azubuike’s aforementioned long non-basketball rehab and recovery process.

While the two free throws Azubuike knocked down late in the scrimmage had to be a nice little confidence booster for the career 39.4% foul shooter, the good news for KU’s frontcourt is that Azubuike still has another four-plus months to get back to tyrannizing opponents who have the misfortune of trying to defend him in the low post.

And by then Azubuike surely will feel more comfortable relying on his strength inside than he does at this juncture. At the height of his powers the center would have scored far more than the 23 points he put up in his Blue team’s narrow loss at Self’s camp. And he would not have been so quick to settle for and take lower-percentage jumpers when he’s better off prevailing through and over interior defenders above and around the rim.

Azubuike no doubt benefited psychologically from taking jump shots that he clearly has spent some time on in hopes of adding to his repertoire. And the massive Jayhawk even had a little fun in front of the campers, trying to show off his handles with some length of the floor low dribbling displays. The youth were so inspired that by the time the game was on the line they serenaded the big with chants of “Dok for 3,” a request that not even Azubuike wanted to grant.

But we know where his shots will come from when the games mean something again. Azubuike’s dunks and jump hooks will be a staple of KU’s offense in 2019-20. By the time the season gets here, he’ll be back to his authoritative, intimidating attacks in the post.

Reply 3 comments from Dmudd Robert  Brock Surrealku

Issac McBride prepared to be Devon Dotson’s replacement, but happy to team with PG instead

Kansas freshman Isaac McBride puts up a 3 over fellow freshman Tristan Enaruna during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas freshman Isaac McBride puts up a 3 over fellow freshman Tristan Enaruna during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

For a brief period of time this spring, shortly before he was scheduled to pack up and move to Lawrence to embark upon his college basketball career at Kansas, Issac McBride found himself at least a little preoccupied with the future of another Jayhawk.

While working diligently with his trainer in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., McBride plugged away keeping in mind that he might arrive at KU not as a teammate of starting point guard Devon Dotson, but as his replacement.

Dotson, of course, was exploring his NBA chances, and it wasn’t until the May 29 draft deadline for withdrawing that Dotson ultimately decided to remain with the Jayhawks.

“That was something that we pondered on every day,” McBride said of Dotson’s decision process and the impact it could have on McBride’s role as a freshman, “considering he might not be able to or might not be coming back. And after we saw his draft combine, he did really well and played very great. And we expected that, because Devon’s a really talented player.”

With Dotson potentially keeping his name in the draft, McBride prepared for a scenario in which he could have ended up being asked to take over KU’s starting point guard duties as a freshman, just as Dotson did this past season.

Enhancing his pick and roll skills immediately became a priority for McBride as a result, with both his trainer and KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend telling the soon to be freshman he needed to become more effective in those situations.

“We didn’t know if he was coming back or not,” McBride said of Dotson, “but we studied it real closely and then we worked according to if Devon’s not going to be able to come back. But we have him back and that’s going to make our team even more dangerous.”

When McBride discussed Dotson returning to KU he did so not as a player wishing the starting job and/or more playing time would be heading his way this coming season, but as a team-first guard excited to learn from Dotson. McBride said ever since he first committed to KU that Dotson treated him as a teammate, and that Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett really made him feel welcome, too, even before officially joining the roster this summer.

Ultimately, McBride anticipates benefiting from Dotson’s presence over the course of the coming months.

“Having him back is going to be something different, of course. Guarding someone every day that fast, that quick, that strong and that smart,” McBride explained. “It’s only going to make me a better defender and a better player and a tougher competitor.”

Kansas guard Devon Dotson cruises in for a layup during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson cruises in for a layup during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

McBride could still end up becoming Dotson’s replacement, but that won’t come for at least another year now. Until then, McBride can play against Dotson at practices, pick his brain when the freshman is looking for advice and ease into the spotlight of playing in the backcourt for a nationally renowned program.

“Having someone like that will be a blessing,” McBride said of teaming with Dotson, “and not even a blessing in disguise but just out there. That’s someone that can help not only me, but our whole team. That’s a whole different dynamic to our team.”

Indeed, the Jayhawks will fare far better with Dotson in 2019-20 than they would have without the blur of a point guard. The fact that McBride is so ready to recognize that speaks to his maturity and desire to win.

McBride made sure to ready himself for a season without Dotson, but now that they’ll be teaming up — and with McBride comfortable playing off the ball the duo could give KU an ultra-quick backcourt in spurts — McBride will be even better set up for longterm success with the Jayhawks.

Reply 1 comment from Eric Dawson

KU’s 4 freshmen haven’t needed star power to impress observers

Kansas freshman Tristan Enaruna pushes the ball up the court as fellow freshman Isaac McBride defends during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas freshman Tristan Enaruna pushes the ball up the court as fellow freshman Isaac McBride defends during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Not one of the four four-star freshmen on the 2019-20 roster screams guaranteed NBA lottery pick at this point, the earliest stage, of each of their college basketball careers at the University of Kansas.

Yet not one of them has failed to impress their new teammates and coaches in one fashion or another during their brief time on KU’s campus.

The Jayhawks’ supposedly underwhelming — at least by the ridiculous standards of this particular program — freshman class is full of players Bill Self is convinced will contribute at some point in the future, even if the coach has not figured out quite yet how much KU will ask of forwards Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna or guards Issac McBride and Christian Braun during their collective debut season.

For what the freshmen may — for now — lack in jawdropping talent or five-star power, it seems they are making up for it with the types of efforts that will earn them not only respect, but also playing time.

“They came in here ready to work,” sophomore David McCormack said Monday of what the youngest and newest players on the team have done to stand out so far. “They play hard. Definitely. The whole group of freshmen, they’re tough. They don’t take crap from no one when it comes to practice or games or anything.”

Perhaps that’s why Self thinks all four could end up factoring into KU’s rotation this coming season.

“I think they’re all good players,” Self said on more than one occasion of the freshmen on Monday. “I think we’ve got to figure out some things with the minutes standpoint, which may be a situation we didn’t think we would have to deal with. But, hey, they’ve all been good (on the court since arriving).”

Kansas newcomer Isaac McBride throws a pass during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas newcomer Isaac McBride throws a pass during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Ahead of his 17th season at KU, Self made it clear neither Wilson, Enaruna, McBride nor Braun will leave the type of footprints as freshmen that some of the more heralded recruits Self and his staff have landed through the years, citing the names Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ben McLemore and Josh Jackson.

“But these guys are going to be really good college players,” Self predicted.

From what senior forward Mitch Lightfoot — he’s already a senior? — has witnessed from the freshmen during the summer, he thinks they can make a “huge” impact for the Jayhawks.

“The thing about these freshmen is they play so hard. They’re all willing to get better from what I’ve seen,” Lightfoot shared. “They like to learn. And then coach is obviously confident in them and he’s letting them know that. I think that’s important for them for their development.”

Wilson, who just committed to KU this past week, didn’t arrive in Lawrence until the weekend. On Monday afternoon, when he left KU’s locker room inside Allen Fieldhouse to head to a training session, he turned the wrong direction before Self redirected him toward the correct destination.

The coach and the 6-foot-8 forward who had previously planned to play at Michigan are just getting to know each other. At the moment Self was asked what Wilson will bring to KU’s lineup, the coach made sure to point out that he had only worked with the freshman once since Wilson enrolled.

“But he gives us size, he gives us toughness and he gives us skill,” Self said. “He’s not going to wow you like some people may think, like Josh (Jackson) could from an athletic standpoint and quick twitch standpoint. But he just knows how to play. He’s a winner. And I think his ability to shoot the ball is probably as good, close to as good as anybody on our team. And to have that as a guy that’s potentially a bad matchup four at least at times during the game, I think, is going to be real important to us.”

All four freshmen figure to prove themselves as vital components of a winning KU team next season. Wilson and the 6-8 Enaruna give the Jayhawks some flexibility and size on the wing whenever needed. McBride looks like an ideal backup point guard for Devon Dotson, and would also feel comfortable playing with Dotson. Braun could prove to be one of the Jayhawks’ better 3-point shooters.

None of them will be asked to carry more of a load than they can handle. And all of them just might end up too hardnosed and essential to keep out of a deep KU rotation.

Reply 6 comments from Dirk Medema Unthawk David Robinett Brad Avery Rockchalk1990 Brian_leslie

Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack ready to battle for playing time

Red Team forward Silvio De Sousa (22) soars in for a dunk during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at the Horejsi Athletic Center.

Red Team forward Silvio De Sousa (22) soars in for a dunk during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at the Horejsi Athletic Center. by Nick Krug

Both have just one season of college basketball experience on their résumés. In terms of height, one of them has just one inch on the other. And when it comes to fit, either of the two University of Kansas big men have the ability to partner effectively inside with 7-footer Udoka Azubuike.

So which sturdy forward is the man for the frontcourt supporting role next to Azubuiike when KU plays big? Silvio De Sousa or David McCormack?

Head coach Bill Self and his staff, of course, have much of the offseason, preseason practices, scrimmages and even exhibitions to navigate before they really have to figure that part out.

In the meantime, the rest of the Jayhawks should get to witness quite a competition between the 6-foot-10, 260-pound McCormack, who became a more impactful player for KU late in his freshman season, and the 6-9, 245-pound De Sousa, whose first year of college basketball followed a similar path before the NCAA ruled him ineligible for what would have been his sophomore season.

“It could be,” McCormack said recently, when asked whether his battles with De Sousa in the weeks and months ahead could determine which of them enters the 2019-20 season as a starter. “But, I mean, I see it as friendly competition, pushing us to get better. And I know either way it’s going to benefit us both.”

As a freshman this past season, McCormack played in 34 games, averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in 10.7 minutes a game. The big man who played at Oak Hill Academy (Va.) as a prep finished his debut college year shooting 62.5% from the floor, and proved to be far more effective toward the end of the schedule, after growing more comfortable at the collegiate level.

In early March, McCormack put up double-digit points in three consecutive games. In his season finale he provided 11 points and 6 boards against Auburn. McCormack projects as an overall more effective player for KU as a sophomore, particularly with the positive individual momentum that led into his offseason.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) pulls away an offensive rebound from Auburn guard Samir Doughty (10) during the second half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) pulls away an offensive rebound from Auburn guard Samir Doughty (10) during the second half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

De Sousa’s a lock to blow away his previous season’s numbers, as well. Before breaking through late in KU’s 2018 Final Four season, De Sousa often played sparse minutes when asked to prove his merits to Self. Four minutes there, two minutes here. De Sousa played one minute three times in his 20 appearances off the bench for KU. In half of those 20 games he played four or fewer minutes.

It’s already been more than a year and two months since De Sousa proved in an Elite Eight matchup versus Duke (4 points, 10 rebounds and 1 block) that his presence can change a game for the better for KU. The big man never got the chance the following year to show off how much he had added to his repertoire since putting up 4.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 8.8 minutes as a freshman, when he shot 68.1% from the floor.

Ahead of his junior year with the Jayhawks, the forward from Angola expects his clashes inside with McCormack will be intense.

“Oh, yeah,” De Sousa began, before making it clear that didn’t mean any animosity existed between the two KU bigs. “Battles are on every team. Everybody who wants to play, they must earn it.”

After watching closely as McCormack developed into a more forceful presence inside, De Sousa assessed that his teammate had a good freshman season.

“So I’m going to have to battle and fight every single day and just kind of earn the spot,” De Sousa added.

These two will be tussling in the paint and around the rim on KU’s practice courts, but how they handle various other parts of the job is likely to dictate who plays more.

If Self wants to start two big men, rather than four guards around Azubuike, ultimately, the forward who emerges as the starting 4-man will be the one who is the best fit for the lineup overall. And that might come down to which of them is more comfortable operating from the high post and/or playing some on the perimeter in order to better balance the floor.

Neither has proven in live action what he can do in that role, and neither is likely to look as natural doing so as Dedric Lawson, for example.

Both could kill it on the offensive glass playing next to Azubuike and both burly forwards possess the potential to make the paint a treacherous place to visit for KU opponents.

However, unless one of De Sousa and McCormack unexpectedly dominates the other, making the victor a no-brainer of a decision for Self, it could come down to other intangibles. Who is more versatile defensively? Which one can keep the ball moving offensively and feed Azubuike in the post? Who can drive the ball not just to score but to help keep the offense flowing?

They’ll have all summer long and then some to fine tune those aspects of the game that might not come as naturally as a jump hook off a post up.

De Sousa seems to have the more natural jumper between the two, and not because of that, but due to the tenacity that characterizes much of his game and his bounce, the sure to be fan favorite inside Allen Fieldhouse who won his appeal after the NCAA robbed him of a year of his basketball career would be my pick to win the available staring job up front.

And McCormack would be a terror of a first big off the bench.

Reply 8 comments from Jaylark Barry Weiss Eric Dawson Shannon Gustafson Jessej421 Tony Bandle Brett McCabe Karen Mansfield-Stewart

Prev

Upload photo Browse photos