Posts tagged with Jayhawks

Valuing defense, toughness should ensure Tristan Enaruna of making impact as freshman

Four-star Class of 2019 prospect Tristan Enaruna attached this photo to the Twitter message he sent announcing his commitment to Kansas on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Enaruna is a 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward from Netherlands who played his high school ball at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah.

Four-star Class of 2019 prospect Tristan Enaruna attached this photo to the Twitter message he sent announcing his commitment to Kansas on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Enaruna is a 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward from Netherlands who played his high school ball at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah. by Photo courtesy of @TristanEnaruna

Though the state of the Kansas basketball roster remains in a bit of flux roughly six months before the 2019-20 season officially begins, one definite Jayhawk who seems capable of cracking the rotation is freshman Tristan Enaruna.

Originally from the Netherlands and more recently a four-star prospect at Wasatch Academy, in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, Enaruna won’t arrive in Lawrence ready to dominate, or even start. But the Dutch forward sure looks and speaks like the type of player Bill Self will love to coach.

When KU announced that Enaruna signed his letter of intent, Self invoked the names of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins while trying to give KU fans an idea of what to expect from the freshman, at least from a “size, athletic ability and skill set” standpoint.

It’s important to note at this point that Self wasn’t labeling Enaruna as a one-and-done 2020 first round NBA draft pick to be by mentioning the new signee in the same breath as Oubre and Wiggins. Enaruna has been on the international basketball radar for a few years now, but the intrigue surrounding him remains rooted in what he may one day become.

Sure, if you squint your eyes just right while watching Enaruna highlights he may sort of resemble Oubre or Wiggins while rising up for a fastbreak jam. However, it seems far more likely that during his freshman season at Kansas Enaruna will favor those two most as a long, athletic wing defender.

Earlier this year, months before Enaruna committed to Kansas, he was in Charlotte, N.C., for the Basketball Without Borders international showcase. It was there that he spoke in detail with ESPN NBA Draft analyst Mike Schmitz about his game.

After exhibiting his abilities in a gymnasium occupied by numerous NBA scouts, Enaruna said his plan was to play aggressively on both ends of the floor.

“A few years ago I was relying too much on offense. If my offense didn’t go well then my defense was probably pretty bad, too. So I worked on that,” Enaruna explained.

According to what the young prospect told Schmitz, he had trouble finding a rhythm during the first half of his senior season at Wasatch Academy, but his game improved during the second half of the schedule by playing “tougher.”

So Enaruna is an incoming freshman who apparently values defense and toughness? It’s hard to imagine a better route to playing time on a Self coached team.

While Enaruna also professed to be a more consistent shooter now than he was a few years ago, his defense will probably be ahead of his offense as a first-year player at the collegiate level. And if he’s consistent on that end of the floor, with his 6-foot-8-ish frame and reported 7-foot wingspan, Enaruna should get to play through more offensive missteps than your typical KU freshman.

Enaruna, like most college basketball players with a pulse, has NBA dreams. In fact, it may be his confidence and willingness to combat on the defensive end of the court that eventually gets him that far.

When Schmitz asked him at Basketball Without Borders about how he thought he would fit into today’s NBA, Enaruna’s response pointed to the “positionless" nature of the game, with bigs capable of driving and shooting.

“You have to be able to guard multiple positions. And I think that I’ll fit in that situation pretty good,” Enaruna said.

While YouTube highlights of Enaruna show him doing plenty offensively — pulling up for 3-pointers, finishing above the rim with his long arms, driving past lazy defenders, attacking off the bounce and dishing to teammates inside and more — it’s hard to watch many of those clips without hearing Self’s voice say “that’s not ball” regarding the level of effort being exerted by some of Enaruna’s victims.

For as smooth as he looks with the ball in his hands at his edited for YouTube best, it will be the not as clickable dirty work on defense — in which Enaruna seems to take great pride — that will make him valuable for KU next season as a reserve.

Reply 3 comments from Joe Baker Roger Ortega Carsonc30

KU’s Les Miles lands just inside top 40 in Power Five coach rankings

Kansas head coach Les Miles surveys his team during football practice on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 within the new indoor practice facility.

Kansas head coach Les Miles surveys his team during football practice on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 within the new indoor practice facility. by Nick Krug

What a difference a year makes. Or more specifically, in the case of the University of Kansas football program, what a difference two leadership shakeups seem to have made.

A year ago at this time, when CBS Sports rolled out its rankings of Power Five college football coaches, the man in charge of KU football, David Beaty, finished dead last.

In the 12 months since then, KU chancellor Douglas Girod fired Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger, the man responsible for hiring Beaty. After observing what proved to be Beaty’s final season with the Jayhawks, KU’s new AD, Jeff Long, fired Beaty and replaced him with a reputable name and face (and hat) in the college football universe.

The presence of Les Miles didn’t propel Kansas from worst to first in the coach rankings. Far from it. But given how low the program has been, worst to 38th doesn’t look or sound that bad.

It’s not the kind of accomplishment that will inspire commemorative T-shirts, or even a social media hashtag, but seeing KU’s football coach ranked ahead of 27 other men in charge of Power Five programs seems like progress, even if the legitimate signs of growth will have to be proven in, you know, actual college football games this coming fall.

In the meantime, we have this list as one reminder that Miles’ presence alone has more people paying attention to KU, even at the national level.

Clearly the college football writers at CBS Sports who voted on these rankings don’t envision Miles’ arrival meaning the Jayhawks are ready to conquer and leapfrog a number of Big 12 programs. It just means Miles’ 142-55 combined record during his 15-plus seasons in charge of the football programs at Oklahoma State and LSU still carries some weight — even though when Miles makes his KU coaching debut this fall it will mark his first time on a sideline since September of 2016, when LSU fired him four games into the season.

Miles’ time away from the game likely hurt him in these rankings, which CBS’ Tom Fornelli points out involve “no strict guidelines.” Miles only ranks seventh among Big 12 coaches on the list. He’s ahead of Texas Tech’s Matt Wells (No. 43) and Kansas State’s Chris Klieman (No. 56), but the national championship ring Miles won at LSU to cap the Tigers’ 2007 campaign wasn’t enough to land him ahead of the Big 12’s seven other coaches more than a decade later.

Here’s a portion of what Fornelli wrote about Miles for the rankings, which counted down Nos. 65 through 26, ahead of the yet to be released top 25:

“I think there's been an overall tendency to underestimate Miles' ability as a coach, as people had a penchant for ascribing his success at LSU to it being LSU. Still, I think this is probably a little too low for Miles (I only had him at 33 myself) considering he has won a national title.”

The poll ranked Baylor’s Matt Rhule (No. 31) and West Virginia’s Neal Brown (No. 36) ahead of Miles, and when the rest of the list is published, TCU’s Gary Patterson, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Texas’ Tom Herman and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley will be ahead of KU’s coach, too.

And if that fact ruffles your crimson and blue colored feathers, just remember: It could be worse. KU could have the 65th-ranked coach on this list.

Reply 4 comments from Chicagohawkmatt Dane Pratt Brett McCabe Dirk Medema

Bill Self to San Antonio conspiracy theorists won’t be proven right any time soon

Kansas head coach Bill Self disputes a charging call against Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) during the second half, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self disputes a charging call against Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) during the second half, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

From the time that it became clear to those who obsess over Kansas basketball that Bill Self was indeed the longterm answer for the program and a more than suitable replacement for Roy Williams, who left KU for North Carolina, those among the fan base prone to worrying about these types of things began fretting about which basketball team would one day lure Self away from Lawrence.

The popular potential offender quickly became the San Antonio Spurs.

KU conspiracy theorists pointed to Self’s longstanding friendship with Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, dating back to their college days at Oklahoma State.

At some point, they figured, head coach Gregg Popovich would leave the Spurs. And when that happened, the premise went, why wouldn’t Buford call up his old pal, Bill Self?

Through the years, fodder for such speculation grew. Self and Buford are close enough that R.C.’s son, Chase, joined the KU basketball team as a walk-on. After Bill’s son, Tyler, graduated from Kansas, he took an entry level job in the Spurs’ basketball operations office.

Yet, here we are, 16 years after Self took over the KU basketball program, and he’s still in Lawrence and Popovich remains in San Antonio.

Even so, this offseason was one that had to be circled on the calendars of the most paranoid KU basketball supporters, because Popovich's $11 million a year contract with San Antonio would expire at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

Throw in recent rumors of Self being a candidate for the Chicago Bulls’ job — as if Self doesn’t know Fred Holberg well enough to know to avoid that franchise; and, by the way, the Bulls signed Hoiberg's replacement, Jim Boylen, to a contract extension in January — and theorists might have even more reasons to worry about Self leaving for San Antonio, because the 70-year-old Popovich, hypothetically, could decide to retire.

If Self shooting down NBA rumors earlier this month and declaring his intentions to not only coach the Jayhawks next season, but also “hopefully” begin negotiating an extension of his contract, which expires following the 2021-22 season, didn’t do the trick for the Self to San Antonio worry warts out there, maybe this will.

Popovich told reporters Monday, two days after the Spurs’ season ended with a first-round loss to Denver, he’s negotiating a new contract with San Antonio.

We don’t know yet how long Popovich's new deal will last with the Spurs, so perhaps these developments only kick the Self as Pop’s replacement suspicions down the road a few years.

But here’s another hunch. Self won’t be the next coach in San Antonio.

The Spurs, unlike many NBA organizations, emphasize system and culture, because that’s what Popovich, head coach and president of the team, has put in place.

Popovich is to the Spurs what Dean Smith was to UNC and what Mike Krzyzewski is to Duke.

So when Popovich eventually decides to leave behind the franchise that is as synonymous with his name and face as it is with Tim Duncan’s, you can bet that Buford will ask Popovich for advice in finding the first new Spurs head coach since the 1996-97 season.

And when that day comes, here’s my hypothesis of how it will play out: it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Popovich helps pave the way for some NBA history by recommending the Spurs become the first team to hire a female head coach, San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon.

Reply 37 comments from Jayscott Ryan Mullen Shannon Gustafson Dane Pratt Chicagohawkmatt Carsonc30 Tony Bandle Barry Weiss Surrealku Lfknzas and 7 others

Udoka Azubuike’s presence elevates KU’s ceiling

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) dunks in front of Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) dunks in front of Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) by Associated Press

With so many rotation players from the Kansas basketball team transferring, declaring for the draft or testing the NBA waters it seemed a safe bet that Udoka Azubuike, who dipped his sizable toes into the pre-draft process a year ago, might not be around for the 2019-20 season, either.

Unfortunately for the center from Delta, Nigeria, his still mending right wrist led him to stick around.

This is, of course, also quite the fortunate development for head coach Bill Self and every player who gets a chance to team up with Azubuike at KU next season, because his presence equates to more victories.

As a junior, the largest man on KU’s campus averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, while shooting 70.5% from the floor in Kansas victories.

Here’s what Azubuike’s numbers looked like in KU losses: …

Just a second. Still looking. …

Hold on. …

Oh, here we are. There aren’t any of those stats.

When the big man played KU won. Would the Jayhawks have gone undefeated with a healthy Azubuike? Obviously not. But, let’s be honest, they would have finished with a better overall record than their 26-10 mark, would have had a much better chance of extending the program’s Big 12 title streak and would have ended up with a better seed in the NCAA Tournament — and, theoretically at least, an easier March Madness path.

True, Azubuike missed 75% of the season — a four-game stretch in December, followed by the wrist injury in early January that sidelined him for the remainder of the schedule. But in the games in which the 7-footer played, the Jayhawks didn’t lose.

KU went 9-0 with Azubuike manning the paint and finishing possessions with his backboard-vibrating dunks. What’s more, three of KU’s best wins of the season came with Azubuike in the lineup: neutral court victories over Michigan State, Marquette and Tennessee.

Outside of a surefire top-three draft pick, Azubuike is as big a difference-maker as any college basketball coach could dream to have on a roster.

Per’s advanced stats, KU’s colossus in a No. 35 jersey led all Jayhawks during the 2018-19 season in player efficiency rating (31.5), true shooting percentage (64.9%), effective field goal percentage (70.5%), total rebounding percentage (18.3%), defensive rebounding percentage (23.4%) and usage percentage (30%).

The man is so massive inside that KU opponents know he can’t be stopped and still can’t do much about keeping the ball out of his hands. In his previous two seasons, a span of 45 games, Azubuike shot 266-for-352 (75.6%) from the floor, because he doesn’t take shots outside of his comfort zone and knows his limitations on offense.

The big man isn’t perfect, far from it. Good thing for KU, because if he was he would have already left for the NBA, either last year or this year.

Even when facing teams better equipped to deal with him, Azubuike’s presence alone makes KU a better offensive team. His minutes are still impactful ones when foul trouble limits how long he can be on the floor, as his 270-pound frame wears out the opponents who have to do their best to guard him.

When facing double teams from larger front lines that make it more difficult for him to catch and get to the rim, the fact that Azubuike’s out there at the very least makes it easier for KU perimeter players to find open shots and/or driving lanes. The attention he demands can open up offensive rebound opportunities for his teammates, too. Congratulations, David McCormack, you’ve just been gifted some easy putbacks and follow jams for your sophomore highlight reel.

We all know about Azubuike’s free throw issues — 41.3% as a sophomore and 11-for-32 as a junior (34.4%). That’s a discussion for another day. For now, head coach Bill Self and his Jayhawks can focus on how much easier it will be to win games next season, with their overpowering senior center on the floor.

If Azubuike can stay healthy during what will be his final year in Lawrence, it’s hard to envision the Jayhawks having another turbulent on-court season, such as the one they just went through, mostly without him.

And should the NCAA happen to clear Silvio De Sousa for takeoff, by granting KU’s appeal of his suspension, assuming Devon Dotson returns, KU should have one of the best lineups in the country.

Unless the NCAA hits Kansas where it hurts in the form of a postseason ban as a result of the federal investigation into college basketball corruption, the Jayhawks look like a team that will pick up plenty of 2020 Final Four buzz between now and next March.

Reply 8 comments from Chad Smith Shannon Gustafson Jim Stauffer Mlbenn35 Barry Weiss Jaylark Layne Pierce

Evolving early draft entry rules even make it hard for Bill Self to manage a roster

Kansas head coach Bill Self and the bench watch in silence during the first half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and the bench watch in silence during the first half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Since the day he accepted the position 16 years ago, Bill Self’s job title at the University of Kansas has been head men’s basketball coach. But it might as well be general manager, CEO, president of basketball operations and czar of roster engineering, too.

Sure, his assistants help Self a great deal in both discovering and zeroing in on talented prospects on the recruiting front, but it’s ultimately up to the commander in chief of KU basketball to determine the composition of KU’s roster each and every season.

Through the years, Self has even often mastered the art of college basketball’s version of the waiver wire, with more than a dozen players transferring in and even more transferring out during his tenure. All the while, he’s adding high school prospects and often dealing with the possibility of any number of current players deciding to leave Lawrence early in pursuit of their NBA dreams.

As well as Self has handled that juggling act, tweaking KU’s roster has now become more difficult than ever. Rules currently in place allow college players to declare for the draft as underclassmen, do so with the help of an NBA-certified agent, receive feedback about where they may land in the first or second round and then decide whether it’s in their best interest to return to school or stay in the draft.

These rules exist to help each player make the best possible decision for his future. And that’s the way it should be.

This revamped pre-draft process just happens to make it extra challenging for high profile college basketball head coaches/general managers to plan in April for the following year’s roster.

Nine rotation players appeared in KU’s season-ending loss to Auburn in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. Most likely, at least four of them — Dedric Lawson (draft), K.J. Lawson (transfer), Charlie Moore (transfer) and Quentin Grimes (draft) — will be gone.

Five others — Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot and possibly Devon Dotson (draft) — could be back.

Then, as of Tuesday night at least, there’s the who knows category, occupied by ineligible through next season Silvio De Sousa and injured Udoka Azubuike.

If both of those bigs decide to go pro, too, Self and his staff, in a doomsday scenario, could have as many as six or seven scholarships to fill for next season, with only two Class of 2019 recruits — Christian Braun and Isaac McBride — currently on board.

And with those dipping their toes into the NBA Draft waters, there’s always the new possibility, even if they have an agent, that they could decide to come back by withdrawing from the draft.

“I think the new rule, maybe it’s a good rule, maybe it’s not,” Self said Tuesday night, following the team’s end of season banquet. “I think time will tell. But I do think it makes it hard to manage rosters, because it’s much easier to say ‘I’m gonna try something.’”

If anybody can pull off this dance, it’s Self. He made it clear that KU’s staff won’t sit back idly, waiting to hear what each potential draftee will decide.

“But the thinking of it is that if you open yourself up to try, then certainly you’re telling us that it’s OK to go sign somebody. So that’s probably not the ideal situation to be in. But I’d much rather have too many than not enough,” Self said.

It appears Dotson is using the early entry rules the way every talented player should, as an information-gathering tour that will set him up someday down the line for a successful NBA career. So at least some semblance of stability (probably) exists on that front.

But how will KU fill the rest of the roster with rotation-level players when the coaches don’t yet know how many spots they have to fill?

The man in charge, as you might have guessed, hardly seemed worried.

“So we’ve got some things that we’re working on to do,” Self said. “But I think in the next 10 days a lot of this is gonna clear up.”

Reply 5 comments from Herb Derpson Joe Baker Robert  Brock Karen Mansfield-Stewart Ashwingrao

Open KU football practice provides hints of what depth chart could look like

Kansas quarterback Thomas MacVittie looks to take a snap from offensive lineman Api Mane on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility.

Kansas quarterback Thomas MacVittie looks to take a snap from offensive lineman Api Mane on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility. by Nick Krug

If Kansas football coach Les Miles and his assistants currently have a depth chart they feel good about during the final stage of spring practices, they’re certainly not making it public.

However, during the Jayhawks’ open practice on Thursday — a light, pads-free warmup for Saturday’s spring game — the 11-on-11 session provided a glimpse of what KU’s two-deep just might look like right about now.

The first-string units that were in place for the 13th practice of the spring may not even look exactly the same when the Jayhawks reconvene under the lights for No. 14, when fans will get to watch KU scrimmage at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Still, this particular practice was the first prolonged opportunity those outside of the program have had this spring to watch the offense and defense go toe-to-toe.

More players will join the roster in the summer, and some undoubtedly will factor into the two-deep at preseason camp. So it’s safe to describe the current state of the various position battles as fluid.

For Thursday at least, here’s who started on each side of the ball when the team period began inside KU’s new indoor practice facility.

None by Benton Smith


QB - Thomas MacVittie

RB - Dom Williams

WRs - Daylon Charlot, Andrew Parchment, Kwamie Lassiter II

TE - Jack Luavasa

LT - Hakeem Adeniji

LG - Malik Clark

C - Api Mane

RG - Chris Hughes

RT - Clyde McCauley III


DE - Cody Cole

NT - Jelani Brown

DE - Darrius Moragne

Hawk - Azur Kamara

LB - Drew Harvey

LB - Dru Prox

CB - Hasan Defense

S - Bryce Torneden

S - Mike Lee

S - Davon Ferguson

CB - Corione Harris

After all of those presumed current starters took a fair amount of reps, coaches rotated in other Jayhawks.

Here are the players who showed up most often in reserve roles as KU spent most of its afternoon session pitting the offense against the defense.


QB - Carter Stanley

RB - Khalil Herbert

WRs - Takulve Williams, Ezra Naylor, Stephon Robinson Jr.

TE - James Sosinski

LT - Earl Bostick Jr.

LG - Jacobi Lott

C - Andru Tovi

RG - Adagio Lopeti

RT - Antione Frazier


DE - Willie McCaleb

NT - Sam Burt

DE - Jelani Arnold

Hawk - Najee Stevens-McKenzie

LB - Kyron Johnson

LB - Cooper Root

CB - Kyle Mayberry

S - Ricky Thomas

S - Jeremiah McCullough

S - Shaquille Richmond

CB - Elijah Jones and Elmore Hempstead Jr.

Other reserves got their fair share of reps at the practice, as well. These are the other backups who participated during the 11-on-11 work.


QBs - Miles Kendrick and Torry Locklin

RB - Donovan Franklin

WRs - Kameron McQueen and Evan Fairs

FBs - Sam Schroeder and Mac Copeland

OL - Joey Gilbertson and Kevin Feder


DL - Jalan Robinson

LB - Robert Topps III

S - DeAnte Ford and Julian Chandler

Again, there were no pads involved, so there wasn’t any real hitting or tackling. But there were some players who stood out as the KU football program opened its practice up to both the student population and members of the media.

A senior safety, Mike Lee, intercepted two passes on the afternoon. Another defensive back from New Orleans, junior safety Ricky Thomas, made another pick.

None by Shane Jackson

Although several receivers had a crack or two at some deep shots, it was junior Stephon Robinson Jr. who hauled one in successfully, despite solid coverage.

What was the most impressive catch of the day? Quarterback Thomas MacVittie gave that honor to one of the tight ends.

“I think our tight end, Sosa, had a one-handed, kind of behind him,” MacVittie recalled of a snag by senior James Sosinski that drew oohs and ahhs from his teammates nearby on the sideline.

“That just shows how athletic he is,” MacVittie added of the grab.

None by Shane Jackson

KU’s spring game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Saturday. It will be available to stream on ESPN+ and broadcast locally and throughout the state on various cable platforms.

Reply 5 comments from Dirk Medema Chriss Dillon Davis Jerry Ryan

‘Painful’ early-morning conditioning work introduced Jayhawks to Les Miles’ standards

Kansas quarterback Thomas MacVittie pulls back to throw during football practice on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 within the new indoor practice facility.

Kansas quarterback Thomas MacVittie pulls back to throw during football practice on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 within the new indoor practice facility. by Nick Krug

Don’t bring up the Kansas football team’s offseason conditioning sessions around Thomas MacVittie if you don’t want an honest response.

And if for some reason there happen to be children nearby when you do broach the subject with the junior quarterback, just tell the kids to earmuff it before MacVittie is reminded of those pre-sunrise sprints.

“(Expletive),” was MacVittie’s instant and visceral reaction when those workouts were mentioned.

Head coach Les Miles, his assistants and KU’s strength and conditioning staff made a point in February and early March, before the team’s spring football practices began, to push the players with intense conditioning work that doubled as a wake-up call — and an early one at that.

“It’s hard to kind of put into words, because there’s so many pieces that went into that puzzle,” MacVittie elaborated a few weeks back, when asked about how challenging that form of training was for the players. “First of all, waking up at 5 in the morning was a struggle, knowing the stuff that you were about to go through.”

The conditioning began promptly at 5:55 a.m. And even Miles admitted the workouts were not exactly designed to bring joy to the players’ lives.

“It tests you,” the KU football coach said. “It’s painful.”

However, as MacVittie would explain, the players understood how important it was to experience those mental and physical demands. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound QB from Cincinnati, Ohio, MacVittie said even though he’s no early riser, he appreciated the discipline instilled in the Jayhawks through the process.

To further their early a.m. misery, MacVittie said the coaches used what he called a “ding” system while watching the players’ runs. Any time a player failed to touch a certain line while sprinting back and forth on the turf at the indoor practice facility that player got dinged for coming up short.

“They time every rep that you have,” MacVittie added. “So if your rep is a couple of seconds (off), you’re not trying as hard, you’re dinged for that.”

According to Miles, the Jayhawks had to run “perfect sprints” at the very end of each morning workout, and they went through eight drills that were “very much like football games.”

The scrutiny didn’t end there, though. MacVittie said the whole coaching staff would watch video footage of the conditioning sessions “for two hours” after each one concluded. Each and every drill and every last Jayhawk was accounted for, thanks to the multiple cameras that captured every second of it from every feasible angle.

Even the players who were waiting in line had to be in “an athletic position,” with their wrists above their knees.

“And if you weren’t,” MacVittie said, “you would get dinged.”

As the Jayhawks endured it all, there was also a T-shirt system that measured their progress. MacVittie said everybody started off in gray KU football T-shirts. A player would receive a white one to wear if coaches deemed that particular Jayhawk was showing proper progress. What’s more, if players were what the QB described as “super-disciplined,” they got to wear a blue T-shirt.

What did that signify?

“You’re being a leader. You’re excelling in the things you need to do and you’re driving the team. Everybody was striving for the blues,” MacVittie shared. “If you got one ding you couldn’t get a blue shirt.”

Of course, all of this also made it easier for the Jayhawks to transition to spring football practice mode, once that began on March 6.

“I think it shows to the team that the details matter,” MacVittie said of the idea he took away from those demanding drills and sprints. “The details are why you win in the fourth quarter or overtime. Details are important. They’re going to be a first down or a fumble. It’s that small. It’s that small, getting your wrists above your knees. It’s that small, touching the line.

“That’s going to win games, believe it or not,” MacVittie said, “just that discipline.”

Reply 10 comments from Greg Ledom Dirk Medema Brett McCabe Mcgirl Brian Hosfelt Estebanbugatti Len Shaffer Rockchalk1990 Daddioku

Once Jayhawks digest dismaying loss, they’ll use early March exit as motivation

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) hangs his head on the bench after fouling out during the second half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) hangs his head on the bench after fouling out during the second half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

As much as the Kansas basketball players who lived through Saturday’s second-round NCAA Tournament encounter with Auburn would like to wipe the night full of lowlight memories from their heads, that’s not the way season-ending defeats work.

These types of losses frustrate, linger and fester. But eventually the mental wounds begin to heal, and when that happens they can fuel players, too. For all the pain and disappointment that dominated the Jayhawks’ thoughts inside Vivint Smart Home Arena, first as Auburn ran away to advance to the Sweet 16, then in the locker room when the season’s finality hit the team’s leaders with an emotional knockout punch, their psyches will recover in the days ahead.

For the KU players who are both driven and plan on returning for another postseason run in 2020, this 14-point loss to Auburn in a game that felt like a 30-point Tigers lead much of the night has the potential to be a launching pad for an offseason of growth and improvement.

That’s really the only good thing about such brutal losses. Even when the sting downgrades from a 10 to more manageable level, it won’t go away for competitors. And because it will always be there for certain players, they’ll be reminding themselves the entire offseason that they need to push themselves harder in order to make sure this brand of heartache that they confronted in Slat Lake City doesn’t devastate them again.

Five-star prospects don’t sign with Kansas to lose in the tournament’s first weekend. This wasn’t what Devon Dotson envisioned for his first taste of March Madness. And when he couldn’t will the Jayhawks to some semblance of a rally versus Auburn, it crushed him.

The toll of goals unrealized first weighed on KU’s freshman point guard late in the inevitable defeat, as he sat on the bench and did his best to fight off tears — covering his mouth with a towel, attempting mask the raw emotions of the moment.

But Dotson couldn’t escape those feelings by leaving the floor after the final buzzer. They hovered over him in the postgame locker room, too. Upon taking his seat, Dotson slumped over. A towel soon draped over his head, as he powered through answers to reporters’ questions, pausing on several occasions to find some composure when the tears wouldn’t stop falling form his eyes.

“We’re all brothers. This team has an unbelievable bond,” Dotson said regarding the visibly shaken look the Jayhawks wore in the aftermath of the defeat. “We’d do anything for each other. At the end of the day, we just wanted to play for each other. It just hurts.”

Dotson must’ve uttered some variation of that last word at least a dozen times during postgame interviews, repeatedly shaking his head in disbelief, covering his face with his hand at times, and his eyes downcast most of the session.

While the future of his teammate Dedric Lawson is unknown at this juncture — Bill Self said after KU’s loss to Auburn that Lawson and others will have decisions to make regarding their chances of going pro — Lawson summed up the mood inside the locker room perfectly, describing the NCAA Tournament as something he and his teammates grew up dreaming about.

“And it went away so quick,” Lawson said.

The Auburn Tigers know that feeling. In 2018, their dreams of a March run were dashed by Clemson in the second round with a 31-point loss.

A year later, they were the experienced team crushing a second-round foe for a berth in the Sweet 16. The Tigers looked not only fast, but also experienced, as they buried the Jayhawks in the first half.

For Dotson and other members of the KU rotation who return, this dismantling at the hands of Auburn, impossible as it may have seemed while they endured it, could end up becoming a driving force within the team’s DNA when the Jayhawks try to redeem themselves in the 2020 tournament.

“It’ll definitely be beneficial,” Dotson said of the admittedly upsetting circumstances. “You know, us growing as a team and taking that next leap next year.”

While Dedric Lawson and his brother, K.J., and Quentin Grimes didn’t want to get into on Saturday whether they will be back for another go-round at The Big Dance, it doesn’t look like Dotson is going anywhere.

“I’m just heartbroken from this loss,” Dotson said, when asked what’s next for him, quickly adding he would turn his focus to the offseason and “getting better.”

If Dedric Lawson were to leave to pursue a professional career, this would immediately become Dotson’s team. Regardless of the pecking order, the point guard already is a program leader, and he’ll continue to grow in that role in the months between now and the start of his sophomore season.

Dotson is the most competitive player on KU’s roster. And now that he’s felt what an early exit from the NCAA Tournament is like, he’s not the type of athlete to let it happen again. If he has to become the lead guard who carries the Jayhawks he’ll do it. If he has to motivate his teammates as they work together toward something greater, he’ll do that, too.

The Jayhawks won’t ignore or forget their March shortcomings anytime soon. And if they try to, Dotson will be there to remind them that’s not an option.

Reply 8 comments from Marius7782 Cassadys Armen Kurdian Daniel Kennamore

Postgame Report Card: Auburn 89, Kansas 75

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) gets up for a bucket and a blocking foul on Auburn forward Horace Spencer (0) during the second half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) gets up for a bucket and a blocking foul on Auburn forward Horace Spencer (0) during the second half on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Salt Lake City — Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 89-75 loss to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Offense: C-

Kansas would need some form of life offensively in the first half to keep Auburn within reach, but didn’t come close to accomplishing that.

The Jayhawks’ season was all but over by halftime, after shooting 8-for-27 in the opening 20 minutes and turning the ball over 8 times. A 1-for-10 half from 3-point range derailed KU’s chances of keeping pace, too, as Auburn built an insurmountable 51-25 lead by intermission.

The offense was more tentative than assertive when KU needed to find a way to step up and match Auburn’s intensity.

While KU shot nearly 60% from the floor in the second half, it barely put a dent in the Tigers’ massive lead.

Defense: F

Auburn wanted to play fast and shoot 3-pointers, and the Jayhawks did nothing to stop the Tigers from doing so.

With Bryce Brown burying 3’s out of the gate, the SEC Tournament champions were the aggressors and KU didn’t come up with anything that would make them feel uncomfortable.

The Tigers sprinted to a 34-8 advantage in fast-break points and shot 52% from the floor to advance to the Sweet 16.

Frontcourt: C

No one in a KU uniform was ready in the first half to counter Auburn’s energy. Even Dedric Lawson, who once again finished with a double-double (25 points, 10 rebounds), went 1-for-7 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.

Freshman big David McCormack got off to a promising start, with 5 quick points, as well as 5 rebounds in the first half. But matchups and the game’s tempo dictated that Kansas had to play smaller, with four guards, and McCormack was the odd man out.

McCormack capped his freshman year with 11 points and 6 rebounds, plus a couple of assists.

Backcourt: C-

Devon Dotson (13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) tried to give KU some kind of spark early on, but couldn’t get going offensively until the second half.

Some defensive missteps by Quentin Grimes in the game’s opening minutes, as Auburn exploded to a big lead, drew the ire of Bill Self.

And Grimes (15 points, 5-for-11 shooting, 2 assists) got most of his stats in the second half, when Auburn’s ticket to Kansas City was basically already punched.

Ochai Agbaji again failed to get out of his late-season slump, going 1-for-5 from the floor and grabbing 1 rebound.

Bench: D

Marcus Garrett, too ill to join the team for Friday activities at the arena, didn’t appear to be back at full health. In 20 minutes, the sophomore guard provided 7 points and 3 rebounds, but seemed a little less quick.

K.J. Lawson was the only other substitute to score, and he put up his 2 points at the free throw line.

Mitch Lightfoot grabbed 2 rebounds in 10 minutes.

Reply 7 comments from Marius7782 Dale Rogers Cassadys Jhawki78 Layne Pierce Robert  Brock

1 win down and … how many to go for the Jayhawks?

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson falls back into his locker while laughing with his brother K.J. Lawson on Friday, March 22, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson falls back into his locker while laughing with his brother K.J. Lawson on Friday, March 22, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Salt Lake City — Thursday afternoon inside the Kansas locker room, shortly after the Jayhawks opened their path through the NCAA Tournament with a first-round victory over Northeastern, head coach Bill Self had a question for his players.

“Good job. Hey, guys. One down and how many to go?” Self asked.

A mixture of responses followed, with “five” being the overriding reply.

“One,” Self quickly corrected them, as seen in a video posted on KU’s social media accounts. “One down. One to go. Hey, hey. One down and one to go, OK? All right, good job.”

When it comes to March Madness, Self always prompts his teams to look at each stop along the way as its own, four-team, two-game tournament. If the Jayhawks win the first two-game tournament, they get to go somewhere else and try to win another.

Apparently at least a few players who grew up watching The Big Dance and came to KU with dreams of chasing a national championship got caught up in the moment, knowing six wins is what it takes to cut down the nets at the Final Four.

“That tells you the impact I’ve had on their lives, as far as them paying attention,” Self would joke after the fact.

None by Kansas Basketball

So who was to blame? Who said five?

“I think I said five,” a smiling Dedric Lawson admitted Friday at Vivint Smart Home Arena, ahead of KU’s second-round matchup with Auburn. “I forgot it was a two-game tournament.”

And with that response, Lawson didn’t hesitate to use the conversation as an opportunity to mess with nearby teammate Charlie Moore, teasingly throwing him under the bus.

“It was really Charlie’s fault. Charlie, he play too much. He’s the one that made me say five,” a grinning Lawson continued. “But we all know it’s a two-game tournament, one game at a time and things like that, so we can’t get ahead of ourselves.

Why was Moore at fault? What did he do?

“He play too much, man,” Lawson replied. “I ain’t even gonna say what he did.”

Learning that Lawson had just placed the blame on him, Moore provided his version of the story.

“That was definitely Dedric. I wasn’t gonna say nothing. But Dedric said five. If you’re listening closely to the video you’ll hear Dedric say it,” the smiling Moore insisted.

With Moore and Lawson cracking themselves up with their accusations, Moore’s assertion continued.

“Everybody said one. Dedric yelled five,” Moore argued. “He over-yelled everybody, ’cause he thought he was right. But he really wasn’t.”

Why did Lawson say it was Moore then?

“I was next to him. I don’t know why he said that,” Moore retorted.

As the allegations flew back and forth, the reactions from David McCormack, sitting in the locker stall between Lawson and Moore, indicated he knew something.

Asked for some insight, McCormack provided his opinion.

“I mean, you can never tell with these two. Between them, Marcus (Garrett), all of them, they all like to joke around,” McCormack said. “Maybe Charlie might have tapped Dedric … I don’t know. I wouldn’t put it past him, honestly. He probably told him the right answer was five and everybody else said one.”

What was McCormack’s response to Self’s question?

“I took the smart route and I didn’t say anything. I just whispered to myself,” the freshman big explained, “and said one after the fact. So right or wrong, I just didn’t get called out.”

Whomever was to blame, McCormack said Lawson was “by far” the loudest to give the incorrect answer. But he wasn’t sure if there were others on Team Five.

“I just know I was standing next to Dedric, so he definitely said five,” McCormack said.

Surely veteran Mitch Lightfoot didn’t fail Self’s postgame locker room test, right?

“I don’t know what I said, to be honest,” Lightfoot claimed. “I’m not gonna self-incriminate, either. The next time he asks, we’ll be locked in on one.”

Of course, in order to do that the Jayhawks will have to get past Auburn on Saturday night.

“We’ve got to lock in for our second game of this one,” Lightfoot said, “and hopefully get to the next one.”

You can’t knock any of KU’s players for having large scale goals this time of year. The vibe the Jayhawks gave off in their locker room was one of confidence. They believe in themselves and their ability to make a deep run.

The incorrect “five” response that popped to the front of some players’ minds allowed them to have some fun along the way, too. But they all understand the crux of Self’s one down, one to go message.

“You can’t win five games if you don’t win one game,” Lightfoot said. “Slight issue.”

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