When the more than 400 women who flocked to Allen Fieldhouse for the 7th annual Ladies Night Out with Kansas basketball event got their turn to fire a few questions toward the Jayhawk players, they inquired about things like superstitions and the upcoming season and which players worked the hardest and had the best GPA.
While those questions and others created the opportunity for some entertaining answers, the most interesting bits of information came moments before the Q&A, when Kansas coach Bill Self asked his players to introduce themselves by name, where they’re from and why they chose to play basketball at Kansas.
The name and hometown bit is pretty standard and an obvious part of any introduction. But that last piece of information was included at the suggestion of junior guard Devonte’ Graham, who offered up the suggestion when Self was searching for a third piece to the intro puzzle.
The answers came out quickly and one by one. And they provided an interesting look at both the individual make-up of each player on this year’s roster as well as a big-picture glimpse into all that makes Kansas basketball such a unique program.
Here, in order, were the answers the players provided:
• Jr. Dwight Coleby - “Why not Kansas?”
• Jr. Clay Young – “I picked Kansas because it’s the best school in the nation.”
• Jr. Evan Maxwell – “I picked Kansas because it was the best fit for me.”
• Sr. Landen Lucas – “I chose Kansas because of all these beautiful ladies.”
• Jr. Tucker Vang – “I picked Kansas because of this place (motioning to Allen Fieldhouse).”
• Jr. Devonte’ Graham – “Like Dwight said, ‘Why not Kansas?’ and like Landen said, ‘The ladies here.’”
• Soph. Malik Newman – “Like Dwight said, ‘Why not Kansas?’”
• Soph. Lagerald Vick – “Just the tradition.”
• Jr. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – “I came here because Kansas is one of the best colleges in the NCAA.”
• Sr. Frank Mason III – “It’s the best tradition you could ever be a part of.”
• Fr. Josh Jackson – “I chose Kansas because I wanted to play with all these guys.”
• Fr. Udoka Azubuike – “Because of the tradition and winning.”
• Sr. Tyler Self – “Kansas is home.”
• Fr. Mitch Lightfoot – “I chose Kansas because of all the great teammates, coaches and fans.”
• Soph. Carlton Bragg Jr. – “I chose Kansas because it’s a special place.”
Someone in KU's Williams Education Fund captured the second half of Wednesday's sharing session on video and posted it to Twitter.
Kansas coach Bill Self on Wednesday night was asked by a member of the more than 400 women who attended the 7th annual Ladies Night Out with Kansas basketball event for an update on Scott “Scooter” Ward, who, two weeks ago, was rushed into emergency surgery to repair a torn aorta and has been hospitalized and on the road to recovery ever since.
Self said he and other members of the Kansas athletic family had Lawrence Memorial Hospital to thank for “getting him prepared perfectly to get him to KU Med.”
Self also referred to the life-saving treatment Ward received at both hospitals as “a total team effort” and offered the following update on Ward's current condition:
“He’s doing remarkably well," Self told the crowd. "He’s got a relatively long road (in the) short term. You know, his cavity’s gotta heal from the open-heart surgery and he’s gotta be able to get his strength back and things like that. His mind is sharp. Everything’s good. He should make a full recovery. It’s just gonna take a little bit.”
The women in attendance at the Ladies Night Out event followed up Self's news with a thunderous round of applause and Self joked that Scooter would be thrilled to hear that the ladies were asking about him.
After a little bit of a break in the series to cover media day and a few other newsy KU basketball things, we're back for a quick look at our second bench player of the series, big man Dwight Coleby.
The former Ole Miss transfer who came to Kansas prior to the 2015-16 season sat out last season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules and caught a bad break along the way, tearing his ACL early in the season.
Although the injury did nothing to limit Coleby's playing time on the floor, it did put him a step behind in the process of learning the Kansas system. He had the luxury of watching film and practice and sitting on the bench during games. And those advantages likely only helped his transition. But there's no substitute for being able to play the game, even if it is as a scout team guy against KU's starters in practice.
Because he never got that opportunity and has not played in a game since the end of the 2014-15 season, Coleby's confidence took a hit and he's currently in the process of regaining it both in his game and in his knee.
KU coach Bill Self said in late August that Coleby was fully cleared by doctors and hinted that he would like to see Coleby make some progress sooner rather than later if he hopes to be a relevant part of this year's team.
In case you missed the earlier installments of this series, follow the links below:
Now, back to what to expect from Coleby...
If there’s one glaring question about this Kansas team, it’s what happens to the Jayhawks against big teams or if Landen Lucas gets in foul trouble?
We know that Udoka Azubuike is a monster and, if he develops at the rate the coaches would like, he will go a long way toward answering that question. But he’s still just a freshman and a very young freshman at that.
That’s where Coleby enters the picture. At 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, Coleby has the necessary size to be a factor on the glass if the Jayhawks need him to. And whether or not they need him to depends (among other things) on whether or not he proves he can get the job done.
If Coleby approaches this season with the mindset that he’s an all-around player who wants to look to score as much as he plays defense and rebounds, he could be in trouble. But if he approaches the season with the mindset that he’s going to specialize in rebounding and play a sort of hybrid role of what Kevin Young and Tarik Black did during their time as Jayhawks, he could find himself filling a nice role for this talented team.
Along those same lines, the Jayhawks need Coleby to realize that it’s unlikely that Self and company are going to draw up scoring plays for him. There’s a chance, if he plays within the flow of the offense and keeps from trying to force things or do too much, he could find his way into some open looks and knock down a baseline jumper from time to time or score on the offensive glass.
Beyond that, though, Coleby figures to be the fifth offensive option on the floor at all times, provided we’re not talking about garbage time here. It’s unlikely that Coleby will play next to Lucas very often, but even if he does, Lucas has shown an ability to operate in the post and appears to have improved his offensive game at least a little in the offseason.
Coleby’s numbers at Ole Miss were modest — 4.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in two seasons — and he would do well to keep that point total right where it is and focus on trying to double the rebounding mark.
In discussing this year’s likely rotation, Self has said that Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg and Landen Lucas are all but locked in as starters. After that it’s Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick as the perimeter players off the bench and Azubuike as the first big.
That leaves Coleby in a battle with true freshman Mitch Lightfoot for the No. 2 big man off the bench spot and ninth player in the rotation.
Because Self doesn’t like to play 10 players — and would probably prefer to avoid playing nine if the circumstances allow for it — Coleby will have to prove that he (a) is fully recovered from the ACL injury he suffered a season ago (both mentally and physically) and (b) can offer more to the lineup than Lightfoot, who is not as big or experienced as the Bahamas native but is more explosive and has not showed any lack of confidence since stepping on campus.
Most years it seems there’s an odd-man-out in the Kansas rotation. Some years it even has been some guys who went on to become terrific players (think Jeff Withey or even Thomas Robinson). It’s never anything personal and always a matter of making the numbers — and, more importantly, the chemistry — work.
Coleby has his work cut out for him to be a factor on this year’s team, but there’s no doubt that he will get a fair shot.
And so it begins.
It took less than 24 hours for the Big 12 Conference to be exposed for not being completely truthful during Monday’s press conference that revealed the conference’s decision not to expand.
And, if we’re being honest here, almost no one who has been paying any sort of attention to the latest edition of drama in the Big 12 was in the least bit surprised.
In a 714-word league memo obtained by ESPN.com on Tuesday, the conference outlined a number of “dos” and “don’ts” for commissioner Bob Bowlsby and board of directors chairman David Boren to use during their briefing with the media following the nearly six-hour meeting in Dallas that ended with the Big 12 announcing plans to stick with its 10-member lineup instead of adding schools such as Houston, Cincinnati, BYU or others.
As Boren and Bowlsby sat at the table and discussed the reasons for passing on expansion, they uttered phrases that included language like “stronger than ever,” “unified group,” and other yea-team type comments. They also made sure to point out that choosing not to expand was a unanimous decision.
As it turns out, that was one of the directives issued in the memo.
Tuesday’s report from ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy included all of the “dos” and “don’ts” outlined in the memo, which clearly was drafted in an attempt to make the Big 12 appear to be the strong and united conference it once was and not the weak, vulnerable and wandering collection of schools that many perceive it to be today.
The most damning part of McMurphy's report is the line that says, "Despite a number of schools favoring expansion, Bowlsby and Boren said the decision not to expand was unanimous."
Give the Big 12 credit for this: When dealing with such a touchy topic, it pays to be organized. And it never hurts to be on the same page.
However, as Twitter so eloquently illustrated, nearly everyone who watched or covered Monday’s event did so with one hand typing away and the other covering the laughter coming from their mouths. In short, nobody was buying what they were hearing.
The talking points that Boren and Bowlsby leaned on during the post-meeting press conference contradicted the past several months of behavior and soundbites that surfaced across the conference and likely left no one believing the Big 12 was, in fact, stronger than ever.
It’s possible that the Big 12 could get to that point again, but there appears to be a long road ahead and reports like McMurphy’s about Monday’s memo and Tuesday’s comments from Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, who pointed the finger directly at Boren for putting the Big 12 in this mess in the first place, only figure to make things more difficult.
Many hoped that Tuesday would mark the beginning of the road to recovery for the Big 12 as it heads into this new era of college athletics.
Who knows if the recovery aspect of that will actually come to fruition? Sadly, it appears that we may be just getting started with something much less appealing for a conference that simply cannot afford to take any more hits.
OK, now that the dust has settled and we’ve all had time to let reality sink in, we know that the Big 12 Conference is not expanding and that the conference, at least on the surface, appears to be good with that.
And why not? There are those out there who really wanted to see the Big 12 expand, but I’m not so sure that it was for the right reasons. Expansion is sexy and exciting and entertaining and gives us all something to talk about, but was it really going to be something that benefited the Big 12? Was it really what this conference needed to move forward into a brighter and better future?
In many ways, the answer to that is probably not.
Adding new voices with new agendas to a conference that already has shown to be challenged in that all-for-one-and-one-for-all line of thinking was probably not the best move for the conference. Upsetting television partners who have a huge say in where the Big 12 goes for the next nine years — and perhaps beyond — was probably not the best move for the conference. Keeping the tents up and continuing with the very public circus that played out across the country in every newspaper, television station, website and talk radio show that covers sports was probably not the best move for the conference.
And now the conference can flip off the lights, close the door behind them and get back to work.
As one Big 12 source told me, “In a week, there’ll be another issue that everybody’s talking about.”
Today, that talk is fixated on the Big 12 choosing not to expand and all of the reasons why that is either good or bad, right or wrong, sensible or laughable.
But the perspective the conference should take and probably is taking today is this: Let them laugh. We’ll be over here working on our future.
What exactly that future holds remains to be seen and is the biggest reason that some people aren’t sure if standing pat was the best move for the Big 12 Conference. The general belief is that there’s strength in numbers and that, at 10 members, no matter how many ways that actually benefits its member institutions (financial and otherwise), the Big 12 simply is not big enough to survive in the new era of college athletics.
My question is this: How do we know?
Let’s be honest here. If anyone told you in 1996 or even 2006 that they knew what college athletics would look, smell and feel like in 2016 and then laid out that vision, they would’ve seemed crazy. So much has changed in the past couple of decades and change continues to happen fast, with policy, competition, rules and partnerships seemingly changing college athletics on a regular basis.
With that in mind, and to that end, the Big 12 would now do well to spend its energy and effort on becoming the first conference to take the biggest step into the new world. That does not come by adding schools that don’t really improve the make-up of your conference. That comes by striving to be industry leaders again.
The Big 12 has been criticized mightily in recent years for its reactionary approach and that criticism has been just. But now that this mess of expansion is behind them and the realignment craze is at the very least on hold for the foreseeable future, the Big 12 can — and absolutely should — get back to making a difference in the areas that matter.
Sadly, No. 1 on that list is the business of making money, but even that offers the Big 12 a golden opportunity to be brave, do something bold and change the landscape of college athletics forever and perhaps for the better.
Today, ESPN, FOX, CBS and the like are the power brokers in college athletics. The Big 12 might well have expanded this week — again, right or wrong — if its television partners had been on board or at least were indifferent. They weren’t. But it remains to be seen how much longer those organizations will have the kind of power they have today.
The informal ranking of the Power 5 conferences puts the SEC and Big Ten ahead of the Big 12 and the Big 12 ahead of the Pac-12 and ACC. Television numbers, dollar signs and power players in each conference make that an indisputable fact, at least when viewed in those terms.
But if the Big 12 wants to hold its ground or perhaps crawl closer to the top of the ladder, it has to strive to be the first conference to figure out how its product will be delivered to the consumer in the future.
On Monday, Board of Directors Chair David Boren and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby both spoke to the importance of technology on the future of college athletics and because every conference is operating on an equal playing field in that realm at this moment, the Big 12 has a golden opportunity to once again become a great influencer and shake the label of reactionary conference.
Think of it is the great space race of decades ago. And imagine how different things might be if the Russians had won that battle instead of the United States.
It’s the same concept here. Happy with 10 members, content with its current financial haul and closer than ever to having all of its ducks in a row, the Big 12 should let the rest of its business operate on cruise control for a while and spend the bulk of its time striving to become the conference that figures out what’s next for college athletics in the ever-changing world of technology, be that something as simple as utilizing Netflix, Hulu and streaming to replace the major networks or something more profound that nobody has even thought about or perhaps even developed yet.
As another Big 12 source said, “That’s important for all 65 (Power 5) schools. We’re all in a hunt for that, whatever that is.”
It’s out there. And who finds it first could dramatically change college athletics as we know it today.
The verdict is in: Big 12 not expanding
Original Post 11:31 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16:
Unless you’re one of the members of the Big 12 board of directors that will gather Monday in Dallas for a meeting that has been circled on the calendar like Christmas Day for some schools and tax day for others, it’s impossible to know exactly where the Big 12 stands on expansion.
The most recent reports from some of the best reporters covering the conference, men and women with strong source lists and an even stronger desire to get to the bottom of this mess, seem to indicate that expansion is all but dead.
And that very well may be the case.
Whether it’s because the powers that be in the Big 12, as hard as they tried, just could not convince themselves that adding Houston, BYU, Cincinnati or any other school in that realm was in the best interest of the conference or because the Big 12’s television partners paid them not to, expansion today appears to be somewhat of a long shot.
But this is the Big 12 we’re talking about and if the conference has proven nothing else during the past few months — and, really, few years — it’s that nothing is impossible and nearly everything, good and bad, is in play.
That includes one of the most recent possibilities to see the light of day — adding schools in a football-only capacity.
Multiple sources in the conference have told me in the past few weeks that the reason the conference has been so quiet and avoided making any absolute comments about the Big 12’s feelings toward expansion is because very few people, outside of the board, have full knowledge or even a solid gauge of the thinking and planning and it tends to change quickly.
Even still, the fact that the conference was not quiet about its dogged pursuit of the most intriguing schools for expansion and conducted a very public, Survivor-style interview process that featured universities falling all over themselves to get a meeting with Big 12 officials to state their case is going to make for some awfully dysfunctional commentary if the conference reveals Monday that it plans to do nothing.
Keep in mind that even if that’s what comes out of Monday’s meeting, it does not necessarily mean things are dead for good. Remember that whole tends to change quickly thing? Who’s to say it couldn’t change again?
With all that in mind, it’s at least of some interest that BYU plans to live stream the post-meeting press conference on its official web site and members of the Cincinnati media also are planning to be in Dallas.
I’m sure all of the outlets involved are just covering their butts and do not necessarily know anything about what is or is not going to happen. After all, even if all of the local media members believe that expansion is dead, they’d look foolish not being there to cover it if the Big 12 shocked, well, nobody, by announcing plans to expand.
We’ll know soon enough where this latest chapter ends. Monday’s meeting is expected to take the bulk of the day and the Big 12 Conference itself will be live streaming the post-meeting press conference on its web site for those of you interested in tuning in.
Freshman forward Josh Jackson during Thursday’s media day told reporters that he expected to play four different positions at times during what is likely to be his lone season of college basketball.
As much as that sounds like a heavy workload, it actually is a step in the other direction for the 6-8 guard who spent part of his high school career playing all five positions on the floor at one time or another.
While the prospect of Jackson playing as the Jayhawks’ center or lone big man on the floor during the upcoming season — remember KU coach Bill Self does not necessarily look at it as point guard, shooting guard, small forward, etc., but rather looks at guards and bigs — certainly is unlikely, envisioning a scenario in which he plays the one through four positions at some point is not that difficult.
At 6-foot-8, 213 pounds (and growing), Jackson adds good size to great athleticism and therefore can offer a variety of luxuries to this team on both offense and defense.
Here’s how it could look:
1 – Josh Jackson
2 – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
3 – Lagerald Vick
4 – Carlton Bragg
5 – Landen Lucas
Analysis: This lineup certainly would be one of KU’s weaker ball-handling lineups, but Jackson said he has worked in practice as the guy bringing the ball up the floor and one assistant coach told me the Jayhawks would have in their arsenal plenty of sets that go 1-4 flat, with Jackson at the top with the ball in his hands. Can he do it? Absolutely. Will the Jayhawks want to do this for long periods of time? No. It’s likely to show up only in the case of foul trouble for Mason and Graham and on those nights when the ball is sticking and the offense is not flowing the way Self would like. It’s hard to imagine long stretches — or even short stretches — when at least one of KU’s two lead guards is not on the floor. Again, though, in the case of injuries or foul trouble, this is an option.
1 – Devonte’ Graham (or Frank Mason)
2 – Josh Jackson
3 – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
4 – Carlton Bragg
5 – Landen Lucas
Analysis: This is a lineup I think you’ll see a lot this season, especially during the middle portion of each half. Mason and Graham no doubt are going to play together a lot of the time this season (and almost always together, with Jackson, in crunch time), but they’ll also both need breathers. When that happens, one will stay on the floor with Jackson moving to the 2 as a secondary ball handler and Svi or Vick sliding into that 3 spot to provide a third ball-handler, another shooter and another athlete. Because Bragg can run, this is a fast team, but it’s by no means KU’s fastest team. The Jayhawks can only be at their fastest with Graham and Mason on the floor together.
1 – Frank Mason
2 – Devonte’ Graham
3 – Josh Jackson
4 – Carlton Bragg
5 – Landen Lucas
Analysis: As you all surely know, this is KU’s projected starting lineup and the group that figures to log the most minutes together this season. It puts Jackson in a dream role as a third ball-handler and play maker and also puts two guards on the floor who can create space and make plays for Jackson, as well. Beyond that you’ve got two 6-10 forwards in the game who, with Jackson’s help, should be able to hit the glass and defend the paint with their strength and length, and five unselfish players, four of which are offensive threats almost anywhere on the floor. The fact that this group will get pushed in practice by lineups that include some of the other names on these lists (Svi and Vick, along with Udoka Azubuike, Dwight Coleby, Mitch Lightfoot and transfer Malik Newman) only reinforces the fact that this group is going to be battle tested and strong together.
1 – Frank Mason
2 – Devonte’ Graham
3 – Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (or Lagerald Vick)
4 – Josh Jackson
5 – Landen Lucas (or Carlton Bragg)
Analysis: This is that much-talked-about four-guard lineup that Self has hinted at playing and it’s a thing of beauty. With Mason, Graham, Jackson and either Svi or Vick on the floor at the same time, these guys are going to be able to fly. I think you’ll see Lucas in there a lot with this group because of his superior defense and rebounding ability, but if Self goes this route strictly for offense, then you could easily see Bragg in there at the 5, particularly against smaller teams or if Lucas is in foul trouble. Shooters at four spots — five if Bragg’s out there — and four guys who can handle the ball, this lineup will be a nightmare match-up for most teams.
One thing that jumps out at me after doing this exercise is just how similar these lineups actually are. The Jayhawks have some serious interchangeable parts this season — which is often the goal but not always reality for Self’s teams — and that should give Self the luxury of handling any number of calamities that could hit this team, from foul trouble and off nights to injuries and ineffective play.
The frontcourt certainly is thinner than the backcourt, but, as Self mentioned Thursday at KU’s Media Day, that’s exactly why he’s planning to play some four-guard lineups this season. Jackson and Svi, at 6-foot-8, allow Kansas to get away with playing small for short stretches because their size at least gives the Jayhawks a chance to hold their own on defense and their skill set creates match-up problems for opponents on the other end.
Regardless of how these things play out, — and let’s face it, you can never fully prepare for the ups and downs you’ll get during an entire season — this much is clear one week into KU’s practice: Mason, Graham, Jackson, Svi and Vick are the five guards in the rotation and Lucas, Bragg and Azubuike are the three bigs in the rotation, with Coleby and Lightfoot battling for that fourth forward spot, should Self need or want it.
It’s been a long time since KU’s rotation has been so crystal clear so early in the season. And the versatility of the guys on his roster is a big reason Self has that luxury heading into the 2016-17 season.
Five tiny words on the cover of USA Today’s College Basketball preview section figure to get all kinds of attention across the country and particularly in Lawrence.
With freshman guard Josh Jackson seated on the Allen Fieldhouse bleachers and dominating the cover, the words “Title Talk” appear just above his left shoulder. Below that, in white text, is a quote from Jackson, who says, in no uncertain terms, “We’re trying to go undefeated.”
It’s an ambitious goal given KU’s challenging schedule, which features games against Top 25 foes Duke and Indiana right out of the gate. And it’s exactly the kind of things Kansas fans should want to hear from Jackson and anyone else on this team.
Somewhere between Joe Namath’s Super Bowl guarantee and the dawn of the insanely politically correct world we now operate in, gunning to be the best became an anger-inducing exercise.
“You’re not supposed to say that,” people will moan. “Who does he think he is,” others will ask. “Good luck with that, man. I hope you lose every game now,” still others will say.
Heck, even some Kansas fans are probably upset by the quote. You know the type. The ones who think words on a magazine cover or uttered into a microphone actually impact the outcome of games. As if teams aren’t already fired up enough to face and try to take down Kansas.
I like that Jackson said it. And I like even more that he meant it. That should — emphasis on should — be the goal of every player on every team, especially the top dogs who actually have a decent shot of making it happen.
I remember talking to Jamari Traylor about this very topic in the recent past and his take was that that should be the goal every year. Don’t be cocky about it, Traylor clarified, but you should show up to each season expecting to win every game you play, especially at a place like Kansas.
That certainly should be true for this year’s team which not only features the addition of Jackson but also includes a core that lacks nothing in the confidence department and is as experienced as it gets in college basketball these days. Duke, Kentucky, Siena or Oklahoma, you can bet guys like Devonte’ Graham, Frank Mason and Landen Lucas are expecting KU to win every game they play this season. And the fact that Jackson not only fits in with that mentality but also was bold enough to say it, shows you exactly how much KU’s one-and-done phenom could add to this team.
KU coach Bill Self has talked about Jackson having that alpha dog mentality. He’s said it about other players in the past, too, but, in most of those cases, I always got the feeling that Self was trying to will the words to become true rather than providing commentary on something that already was fact.
With Jackson, it does not sound like any willing is being done. Self has said from Day 1 that Jackson is one of the most competitive dudes he’s ever been around, even going as far as to say that adding him to the KU roster for the 2016-17 season will significantly upgrade the competitive nature of his team.
That’s high praise. Possibly the highest praise from a guy like Self. And, with this latest splash on the USA Today cover, Jackson is off to a great start at making his coach look good for saying it. And that’s without even having played a game yet.
A few more notes and nuggets from Bill Self’s appearance on Monday's podcast with Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.
• Self was asked briefly to preview the upcoming season in the Big 12 Conference. After noting that the teams at the top of the standings in 2015-16 — most notably Kansas, Iowa State, West Virginia and Oklahoma — lost a lot of talent off of their teams from a season ago, Self pointed out that the league still figured to be an interesting race, top to bottom.
Rothstein then asked Self for a sleeper and a contender and, even though he didn’t actually get around to naming a contender — who could blame him; even Self has to know/admit that if the Jayhawks stay healthy and play well, they’ll run away with this thing in 2016-17 — Self had a few interesting things to say about two Big 12 foes.
On Oklahoma State: “Sleeper may not be the right term, but (Oklahoma State) has the potential to be a surprise because they return two all-league type guards that didn’t play last year in Jawun Evans and Phil Forte. They’re a team that could make everybody nervous.”
On Texas: “I think Texas is gonna be ridiculously young, but I think they’re ridiculously talented. They signed a couple McDonald’s (All-Americans) that could play into being all-league type performers either this year or early in their careers. So I wouldn’t sleep on the Longhorns at all.”
• Because he’s so sharp, informed and always so interesting in front of the media, Self was asked about Big 12 expansion and his thoughts covered everything from the concept of it being a football-only endeavor to the fact that he really doesn’t know anything about it.
“I don’t have any idea, I have no insight at all to what the presidents, the commissioner and really even our own AD is thinking. We talk about it, but more in general terms.”
“I think there’s a chance we expand. I don’t see it in the immediate (future), but I could see it going any three ways,” Self added. “Adding two, adding four, adding all sports. And I could also see not doing anything. Or I could see a hybrid of that — adding football only. That would be my gut hunch right now, but that’s without any inside knowledge.”
• We all know about Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Landen Lucas. And we think we have a pretty good idea about what Josh Jackson can bring to this team.
So, with that in mind, Rothstein asked Self to ID a returning player that made the biggest leap during the offseason, and, without hesitating, Self pointed to sophomores Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg.
“Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg both had great springs, summers and falls,” Self said, before adding, “Lagerald hardly played at all last year and I think he’s got a chance to be a terrific college player.”
• Speaking of Jackson, Self was asked the inevitable question about comparing Jackson to Andrew Wiggins and gave some good insight — most which we’ve heard before — on how the two are alike and how they’re different.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities from a body standpoint,” Self said. “And Josh is a terrific athlete. But Andrew was on a different planet from an athletic ability standpoint.”
“Josh is better with the ball. He can make plays for himself and he can also make plays for others.”
“Josh has been terrific shooting the ball. Defensively, he could be an elite collegiate defender first game out. He’s got some things you just can’t teach from anticipation and toughness and he’s got some alpha dog in him that every team needs.”
“I really believe that Josh is a guy that’s probably more of a jack-of-all-trades right now. He can do a lot of everything and hopefully that’ll translate to being kind of a stat-sheet-stuffer. He can get 12 points and dominate a game.”
It's time to head to the bench for the latest in our series He Will, He Won't, He Might, which has sought to outline what we should and should not expect from each member of the Kansas men's basketball team during the upcoming 2016-17 season.
We began the series with KU's projected — and almost certain — starting lineup of Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg and Landen Lucas.
Now it's time to move to the bench, where there are at least a few questions about roles, production and depth.
We'll start the look at the bench with Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a foreign-born player who, despite not having a consistent role during his first two seasons as a Jayhawk, has remained one of KU's most intriguing players and a bona fide NBA prospect.
In case you missed the first few installments of the series, be sure to click on the links below to check out our look at the starting five.
Now... On to Svi.
During his two seasons as a member of the Kansas men’s basketball team, the young Ukrainian guard has played a total of 740 minutes in 61 games. That averages out to 12.1 minutes per game but the total is barely half of what KU senior Frank Mason logged as both a sophomore and junior with the Jayhawks.
The point? As he enters his third season with the Jayhawks, the 19-year-old guard is staring at his best opportunity to truly contribute to the Jayhawks’ rotation.
Mason’s still here. So are Graham and freshman phenom Josh Jackson. But Svi figures to get every opportunity to become the first perimeter player off the bench and could push for major minutes in some games, depending on foul trouble to teammates.
What’s more, KU coach Bill Self has said that he could play a lot of four-guard lineups this season and that gives Svi another golden opportunity to contribute. At 6-foot-8, 205 pounds, the junior who led the Ukrainian national team in nearly everything this summer provides good size and guard skills in one package.
Known mostly as a three-point shooter by Kansa fans — he shot .361, 52-of-144, from downtown during his first two seasons in Lawrence — Svi has the skills to do more but thus far has not been given the consistent opportunity to deliver.
Not only will the opportunity be there in 2016-17, the need might be, as well. Svi could wind up being the most important player on Kansas’ bench and should be poised to eclipse his career averages of 4.3 points, 1.3 rebounds and 12.1 minutes this season.
Part of the reason Mykhailiuk disappeared for long stretches during his first two seasons was that he just wasn’t needed. Self gave the young man multiple opportunities to prove he belonged in the rotation, but KU’s depth and Self’s trust, or lack thereof, continually got in the way of Svi carving out a consistent role.
While starting six games as a 17-year-old freshman (the youngest player ever to start in the Bill Self era), Svi began his career with double-digit minutes in seven straight games. He played just 26 total that season, however, and reached double digits in just 14 of those. His longest dry spell came during the heart of conference play when he played single-digit minutes eight times in a nine-game stretch at one point.
Last year, although he did not record a start, his minutes and appearances went up and Svi played in 35 games, reaching double digit minutes in 26 of them. His dry spells became less frequent as he played single-digit minutes in three of four games twice, once in late December and again in mid-February.
The numbers all point to Svi trending in the right direction and with little perimeter depth on the bench and Svi being, by far, the most experienced player on KU’s bench, he not only figures to get more time but also to be counted on to deliver.
Svi played with the ball in his hands a lot this summer, leading his national team to an eighth-place finish at the Under-20 European Championships in Finland. While that led to his leading the team in turnovers, it also led to the return of his confidence as a play-maker.
With Devonte' Graham, Frank Mason and Josh Jackson all on the roster — and in the starting lineup — Svi's ability to handle the ball and do it well is not critical for this team. But when those guys rotate out or find foul trouble, the scenario exists that easily could make Svi's ability to handle the ball an important factor for this team.
It's unlikely that he'll ever be the primary ball handler on the floor, at least not during a game that is still in doubt. But it seems just as likely that, as teams try to harass Graham and Mason, Svi will need to at least be available to pick up some of that pressure in order to keep KU's offense humming.
We've seen what Svi can do with the ball and, from time to time, he has looked more than capable. Add those glimpses to the confidence he got this summer and the fact that he's a veteran now and it seems safe to say that even if his turnovers go up, Svi's importance as a ball handler will go up with them.