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Tale of the Tait

Svi Mykhailiuk already being celebrated in Los Angeles

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The general perception regarding the NBA Draft is that it's the first-round picks who get all of the fame and glory.

And while that is true when it comes to all things financial — first-round picks sign guaranteed contracts while second-rounders are not assured of anything — the rise of social media and intense marketing pushes made by the various NBA franchises has changed that notion in recent years.

Take the case of former Kansas standout Svi Mykhailiuk as an example.

Drafted No. 47 overall — 17 picks into the second round — by the Los Angeles Lakers, Svi was anything but an afterthought in the eyes of the Lakers in the hours that followed Thursday night's NBA Draft.

From instant posts on the Lakers official Twitter account to comments from GM Rob Pelinka and Lakers legend Magic Johnson, it's clear that the Lakers are excited to have Svi in purple and gold.

These three posts all came within minutes of the Lakers making Svi the 47th pick.

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And this one was less than an hour after those three.

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Around the 4:30 mark in this video with Pelinka, the Lakers' GM starts praising Mykhailiuk's knock-down shooting and even mentions the job he did defensively on Duke's Marvin Bagley III during KU's Elite Eight win in the NCAA Tournament.

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A little while later, the Lakers threw up this compilation Tweet looking back at Svi's individual workout with the franchise leading up to their decision to select him.

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Lakers coach Luke Walton, around the 1:53 mark in the following video, had a little fun with Svi's name and explained in no uncertain terms where the former Jayhawk would stand as a rookie during the 2018-19 season.

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And finally, the Lakers' Twitter accounted posted the following phone interview with Svi a little while after he was drafted and had time to let it all sink in.

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"Oh, man, it feels great," Svi said in his first official statement on that conference call with reporters. "I feel like it's just a blessing to be part of the Lakers and be part of the NBA. With all of the history the Lakers have, I think it's just a blessing to be a part of the team."

Reply 2 comments from Kenneth Johnson Pius Waldman

Bill Self: Intangibles the key now for undrafted Jayhawk Billy Preston

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) puts up a shot during warmups prior to tipoff against Fort Hays State, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) puts up a shot during warmups prior to tipoff against Fort Hays State, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

People from all walks of life, from Kansas fans to NBA executives, entered Thursday with mixed feelings about whether former Jayhawk Billy Preston would hear his name called during the 2018 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y.

When it was all said and done, after nearly five hours of drafting, two rounds and 60 picks, Preston still was without a team, a fitting end to a tough year that featured road block after road block to Preston starting his professional basketball career.

Consider all that Preston has endured during just the past 12 months:

• After committing to KU in November of 2016, Preston reported to campus in June of 2017 and quickly began working with the Jayhawks in summer workouts and camp scrimmages. But it was not until the team arrived in Italy for its four-game exhibition tour last August that Preston learned he was fully cleared by the NCAA.

• While in Italy, a minor knee injury kept Preston from participating in all four games and his unofficial debut with the Jayhawks was wildly viewed as hot and cold.

• After impressive showings at Late Night and against Missouri in the charity game for hurricane relief at Sprint Center — the power forward scored 12 points and snagged 5 rebounds in 15 minutes against the Tigers — Preston wowed the crowd with a high-flying, fast-break dunk in an exhibition game against Pitt State but also suffered a head injury during that game that limited his minutes.

• Preston missed KU's season opener because of a team suspension, for one game, stemming from his missing curfew and class in the 24 hours leading up to the game.

• Preston was expected to return to action for KU's Champions Classic game against Kentucky in Chicago, but that was the day news broke of the single-vehicle car accident that Preston was involved in that ultimately led to him not playing a single official minute at Kansas.

• Throughout the next several weeks, with KU coach Bill Self providing regular updates on Preston's status, the forward was held out of action as a precautionary measure as the university and NCAA looked into getting a clearer financial picture of how and where Preston got the car he was driving during the accident.

• As the investigation dragged on, stalled significantly because of winter break and the holidays, Preston's patience grew thin and, on Jan. 20, 2018, he and his family decided he would leave KU to pursue professional opportunities overseas while preparing for the NBA Draft at the same time.

• Preston signed with a team in Bosnia but played very few minutes during three games over a six-week period. Preston played all of 47 minutes and scored 21 points on 21 field goal attempts and totaled 12 rebounds in his brief time playing for Igokea of the Adriatic League.

• After returning to the United States, Preston received an invitation for the pre-draft combine in Chicago in mid-May and while he did attend the showcase, his agent pulled him out of the scrimmages at the last minute, further clouding the situation surrounding Preston as a viable draft pick.

So now the former five-star, can’t-miss prospect ranked in the Top 10 by Rivals.com out of high school must start his career the hard way, catching on with a team via the free agency route and impressing enough to inspire one of them to let him stick around.

“There’s still opportunity,” KU coach Bill Self said following Thursday’s draft. “But the bottom line is you’re going to have to show some toughness and do it the harder way.”

Finding success on the undrafted free agent path is not unheard of, of course. Former Jayhawk Wayne Selden, just a couple of years ago, embarked on this very same type of journey and now, after his first two years away from college basketball, has played in 49 NBA games and averaged 19 minutes per outing with 14 starts. There are countless other examples of this route working out. And it remains to be seen whether Preston join the list of success stories.

But there’s no denying that the issues that plagued him throughout his one season as a Jayhawk — from minor injuries and suspensions to the lingering eligibility issue that led to him leaving the program early to pursue his options in Europe just to be able to play ball again — had a major impact on his Thursday night fate.

Had none of those issues popped up — some of them self-inflicted and others beyond his control — there’s no question that Preston, like former Jayhawks Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, would be in some NBA city today waiting to be introduced by his new team with a smile on his face and a little more money in his bank account.

“Oh God, yeah,” Self said when asked if Preston would have been drafted had it not been for all of the off-the-court issues during the past nine months. “Billy’s first round talent and we’ve had more than one team tell us that. But they haven’t seen him. (That) hurt him. There’s no question about that, as far as the draft goes. But what happens in 2018 isn’t going to define whether you’re a pro in 2026 and the objective is to have a career not a paycheck.”

Because of his past pedigree, 6-foot-10, 240-pound frame and athleticism and skill set, Preston will have plenty of opportunities. Several undrafted players agreed to free agent deals as early as Thursday night and Preston’s time is coming, with a deal and a spot on a summer league squad pretty much inevitable. It’s what he does with those opportunities that matter most now.

And the never-was Jayhawk who stayed engaged with the program during his time in Lawrence and continues to be embraced by his former KU teammates and coaches will have to be locked in and clear of distractions from this point on if he hopes to end up where he always has believed he would.

“Intangibles will be more important than ever concerning these guys,” Self said. “They’re going to have to be hungrier than they ever have been.”

Reply 6 comments from Allan Olson Dirk Medema Dale Rogers Andy Godwin Barry Weiss

Draft-eligible Jayhawks taking in tonight’s NBA Draft in different ways, places

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham pump fakes with a ball as he dances on a stage before fans during a video recording with Turner CBS on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham pump fakes with a ball as he dances on a stage before fans during a video recording with Turner CBS on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

We’re closing in on four hours until the first pick is announced in the 2018 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y., live on ESPN.

While it’s not yet a certainty that the Phoenix Suns will make Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton this year’s No. 1 overall pick, it is guaranteed that the four Jayhawks eligible for selection in this year’s draft will not have to start sweating until much later in the evening.

Still, if my five consecutive years of covering the draft earlier this decade taught me anything, it’s that draft day is a wild time and butterflies — born from both nerves and excitement — are pretty much present with all of these players and their families throughout the day.

For former Jayhawks Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Billy Preston tonight’s experience will be different for each.

Graham and his family and close friends are back in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., where they will have a watch party tonight and celebrate the experience, both leading up to the moment Graham gets drafted and after he hears his name called.

Graham’s best buddy, Svi Mykhailiuk, is actually in Brooklyn with his agent, parents, head coach from Ukraine and former KU volleyball player/girlfriend Ainise Havili. That group will be in attendance at the draft and has been in New York City the past couple of days taking it all in.

Last I heard, Newman, like Graham, will be celebrating his big moment in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., with his family, close friends and, of course, some Little Debbie snacks. I'm still trying to confirm that that's where he'll be.

And although I was not able to pin down where Preston will watch it or what he’ll be doing during the draft, the former five-star prospect who never played an official game for Kansas but still is regarded as a Jayhawk by his former teammates, coaches and many fans, recently Tweeted that he had landed in New York so there’s a good chance he’ll be at the draft, or at least nearby, as well.

As you've surely seen, both here and on your own throughout the past several weeks, most mock drafts have these guys all going at some point during tonight's draft. Where and when is anybody's guess, but since we're all taking a stab at it, I'll give you mine.

I mentioned the other day that, if it were me picking, I'd take Svi first out of all four of these guys. But the rest of the predictors do not believe that will be the case so I have to at least take that into account.

With that said, here's my best guess on where each Jayhawk will go during tonight's NBA Draft. And, yes, I do think they all will get drafted.

• Devonte' Graham - No. 38 to the Philadelphia 76ers

• Svi Mykhailiuk - No 47 to the Los Angeles Lakers

• Malik Newman - No. 53 to the Oklahoma City Thunder

• Billy Preston - No. 58 to the Denver Nuggets

The picture below might be an appropriate response to those guesses. But, who knows? What say you, Jayhawk fans?

Kansas guards Devonte' Graham, left, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, right, laugh as Malik Newman conducts an interview with a KU Athletics staff member during Big 12 Media Day, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guards Devonte' Graham, left, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, right, laugh as Malik Newman conducts an interview with a KU Athletics staff member during Big 12 Media Day, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

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Current Jayhawks talk NBA Draft and which former teammate they’d draft first

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Thursday is obviously one of the biggest days in the lives of the four former KU basketball players hoping to hear their names called in the NBA Draft and finally find out in what city their professional careers will begin.

But it’s not just Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhahiliuk, Malik Newman and Billy Preston who will be locked in during Thursday’s draft, hanging on every word from the NBA commissioner and sweating out every pick that’s read at the podium.

“We’ll definitely be watching on Thursday,” KU sophomore K.J. Lawson said during a break at Brett Ballard’s Washburn Basketball camp in Topeka on Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. Those guys worked very hard to be in the opportunity they’re in and one day you’ll want guys to cheer you on who were on the team with you. And I hope all of those guys’ dreams come true and I know it will happen.”

Sam Cunliffe, who also spent some time at Washburn on Tuesday, said watching guys he became close with go through the process of preparing for the NBA Draft has been a wild reminder of why he came to Kansas and continues to put in all of the hours and work to become the best player he can be.

“It’s just so humbling because, you know, I was just practicing with Devonte’ and Svi and all those guys and they’re there now,” Cunliffe said. “And it really makes you realize you want to get there, too.

“The thing about it is those are your friends. You were with them every day and you just know them for who they are. But it’s like, ‘These guys are getting ready to go change their life.’ And then you look at it selfishly and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m that close. All I have to do is play well, play the right way, have a good season and this could be a reality for me.”

There’s still a long way to go and a lot of games and days ahead before Cunliffe or anyone else on the 2018-19 Kansas roster can step into the shoes those four former Jayhawks have walked in during the past couple of months. And it’s anybody’s guess at this point how this year’s draft will play out and who from the 2018-19 roster will wind up drafted and in the NBA when their time comes, as well.

But, for now, given their first-hand knowledge of these four players and their strengths and weaknesses, it only seemed right to ask Lawson and Cunliffe what order they would select the four Jayhawks in if they were wearing an NBA GM hat this week and making the picks in New York.

“It’s hard to pick, man,” Lawson said with a sideways smile. “It just depends on what I’m looking for. If I’m looking for the all-around leader that’s going to speak up, I’m going with Devonte’. If you’re looking for an assassin, knock-down shooter, I’m going to go with Svi and if you’re looking for a guy that’s going to score the ball from all three levels, I’m going to go get Malik Newman.”

Cunliffe was willing to step a little farther out on the limb and actually provided an order.

“The thing about Svi is he can shoot,” Cunliffe said. “And I think when you can shoot you can play anywhere. And he’s tall and he’s a good athlete. People kind of sleep on that because he is such a great shooter. So I think I’d go Svi first and then Devonte’s just a great leader and he can fit in anywhere, and then Malik obviously can knock down shots and score. And I haven’t seen Billy. I obviously know he can play and is talented, but we’re waiting to see Billy play a lot of minutes and a whole season.”

— For what it’s worth, Svi is also at the top of my list. I just think his combination of size, elite skill in his shooting ability and his versatility and age make him a candidate to become the perfect role player on a good team — maybe a 7th or 8th man someday — and he clearly has the time and focus to develop into that and not be a boom-or-bust guy right away. —

Regardless of what order these current Jayhawks would select the foursome or what order they really wind up going in tomorrow night’s draft, Lawson said one thing was certain.

“We know they’re all going to play hard because they come from Kansas so it’s just instilled in them,” he said.

Reply 2 comments from Dannyboy4hawks Len Shaffer

Say What? Tait’s weekly appearance on Rock Chalk Sports Talk

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self met with the media on Tuesday afternoon and touched on a number of different topics of interest surrounding the 2018-19 Kansas basketball program.

During Tuesday's regular appearance on Rock Chalk Sports Talk on KLWN, we got into the Lagerald Vick situation and what might happen with that in the coming weeks.

We also discussed Self's serious praise for freshman guard Quentin Grimes and how Grimes will fit into the 2018-19 roster.

Check out the latest segment below to hear my thoughts those topics and plenty more surrounding KU basketball.

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NBA Draft week has arrived and 4 former Jayhawks soon will know their fate

Kansas guards Devonte' Graham, left, Malik Newman and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk can't contain themselves as they sit for a group interview during Big 12 Media Day, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guards Devonte' Graham, left, Malik Newman and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk can't contain themselves as they sit for a group interview during Big 12 Media Day, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

For four former Kansas basketball players, this week will go down as one of the biggest of their lives.

It begins today, with regular workouts and possibly a few more inquiries from NBA teams and scouts. And it ends Thursday night, with Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Billy Preston all hoping to be hear their name called during one of the 60 times an NBA official walks to the stage in Brooklyn and announces the next pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

For the past couple of months, everything these guys have done has been with this week in mind.

Workouts, eating right, testing, more testing, traveling and retooling the weak parts of their games, all with the hope of catching the eye of that one scout or one team who will allow them to live out their NBA dreams in the coming years.

The prospects look better for some of these guys than others, but all four appear to be in the mix for at least a second-round selection, which is all anyone can ask for at this point — a chance.

That we know from the dozens of variations of the mock drafts that have been done over the past several weeks. But by far one of the most interesting breakdowns I’ve seen came Monday morning when Seth Davis, of The Fieldhouse at The Athletic, dropped his look at the Top 50 prospects in this year’s draft class through the eyes of a man named Finch.

Finch, as Davis’ story explains, is not one man but a combination of the insights and opinions of five different NBA scouts, who, in this latest draft breakdown, give their honest assessment of these players and how they might or might not fit in the NBA.

This story alone, in my opinion, is worth the subscription cost. So check it out if you’re so inclined. And if you’re not, here’s a quick look at what Finch had to say about two of those four former Jayhawks.

There was no breakdown on Preston (no surprise) and Mykhailiuk, in my opinion, was surprisingly missing from the list, as well. More on that later in the week.

On Devonte’ Graham:

“He’s going to make shots, but I don’t know what else he’ll do. I see him maybe as a third point guard. He knows what it takes to win. Size would be the biggest concern. Is he more of a 2-guard? He only had to play the point for one year because he had Frank Mason with him. He doesn’t have the jet quickness you need at point guard, but he has a strong mind. Big-time character. He’s not dynamic with the ball, he’s not going to get by you, but he can be a backup and make a couple of baskets.”

On Malik Newman:

“Well, he helped himself in the tournament, that’s for sure. I think the kid learned how to play. He thought he was just a natural, and it didn’t work out at first. He’s going to have to come off the bench and score in bunches. I don’t think he’s going to play true point guard. He’s small. He has to be a Lou Williams-type, and I don’t know if he can do that. I don’t know how devoted he is to the defensive end.”

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Report: 5 programs stand above the rest for 5-star Class of 2019 PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

Class of 2019 power forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a Bishop Miege standout who recently made the U18 Men's National Team roster. (Photo courtesy Bart Young/USA Basketball)

Class of 2019 power forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a Bishop Miege standout who recently made the U18 Men's National Team roster. (Photo courtesy Bart Young/USA Basketball) by Matt Tait

Busy working toward winning a gold medal with the U18 Men’s National Team at the FIBA Americas in Canada, which gets under way on Sunday, Bishop Miege standout forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has continued to keep one eye on his recruitment.

The No. 16-ranked player in the Class of 2019, according to Rivals.com, Robinson-Earl recently told Rivals recruiting analyst Corey Evans that five programs had stood out to him the most throughout his recruitment thus far, adding that he was still open to adding any other programs who show serious interest into the mix.

Those programs, as things stand today, are: Kansas, to no one’s surprise, North Carolina, which seems to be KU’s biggest competitor here, Arizona, UCLA and Virginia.

Robinson-Earl recently talked about all five programs with Evans, breaking down what he liked about each. Here’s a quick look at what he had to say about KU.

“Obviously, it is one of the best schools in the country, right down the road,” he began. “This (USA Basketball) experience has been good, with just seeing what (KU) coach (Bill) Self has been like in action instead of just seeing him being nice just to be nice, but rather out here coaching us to get better.”

Despite his father’s ties to KU — former McDonald’s All-American Lester Earl played at Kansas from 1997-2000 and went toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant, among others, in the 1996 — and the school’s proximity to his high school and hometown, Robinson-Earl said he had been exploring all of his options throughout the past couple of years of his recruitment and continues to do so today.

“There is no pressure to go there,” he told Evans of KU. “When coaches ask about if KU is where I am going to go, I just tell them that I open to anybody and if you’re willing to recruit me, I am open to you.”

As for North Carolina, which many believe will be KU’s biggest threat to landing Robinson-Earl, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward made it clear in his interview with Evans that receiving interest from a coach like Roy Williams was both flattering and intriguing.

As is fairly standard, Robinson-Earl told Evans that he likely would start taking official visits this Fall and could see himself making a decision in the winter or early in 2019.

As for Evans’ read on Robinson-Earl’s recruitment, his take goes down as good news for the Jayhawks.

“Kansas has been and will continue to be the program to beat,” Evans wrote on Friday, “though Virginia, North Carolina, UCLA and Arizona could have a puncher’s chance as well.”

Reply 5 comments from Ronfranklin Carsonc30 Surrealku Robert Sailler Brad Avery

Tracking the recruitment of the 12 members of Bill Self’s U18 USA Basketball squad

Five-star guard Quentin Grimes, from The Woodlands, Texas, signed a National Letter of Intent to play men's basketball at the University of Kansas on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.

Five-star guard Quentin Grimes, from The Woodlands, Texas, signed a National Letter of Intent to play men's basketball at the University of Kansas on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. by Photo Courtesty of Kansas Athletics

By now you all probably know that KU freshman Quentin Grimes made the U18 Men’s National Team and will represent USA Basketball next week at the FIBA Americas in Canada.

In doing so, Grimes will get a chance to play for his future college coach, KU coach Bill Self, who is coaching that U18 team and helped select the 12 players who will represented the United States in its quest for a fifth consecutive gold medal at the event.

It’s worth pointing out here that, while Grimes probably had the best shot of anyone to make the team going into the 33-man tryout, Self was not the only person with a say in who made and didn’t make the team. USA Basketball has a selection committee that helps make the cuts so Grimes, as expected, made it on his own merits as much as his status as a future Jayhawk.

Grimes’ role with Team USA should be fun to watch as it could resemble exactly what he’ll be asked to do during his time at Kansas.

With dynamic point guards Cole Anthony and Tyrese Maxey on the roster, Grimes will not have to handle the ball as much as he did in high school and can play off the ball, looking to slash and attack and shoot from distance throughout the games.

A similar role could be awaiting Grimes at Kansas, where Charlie Moore and Devon Dotson are entrenched as true point guards who figure to run the show while keeping Grimes off the ball.

That’s all speculation — with both teams — at this point, but it seems like a likely path and should give Grimes an opportunity to absolutely maximize his head start with Self while wearing a USA jersey.

As for the rest of the Team USA roster, here’s a quick look at the other 11 players and where they stand with regard to their recruitment.

Self told me before he went to Colorado Springs — the team’s in Canada prepping for the tournament now — that the opportunity to be around these young guys, most of whom are among the top talents in their high school classes, has been dubbed in the past as a recruiting advantage for the assistant coaches on the team but not necessarily the head coach. The reason? The head coach tells them when to sub in and sub out and has to be the guy that gets on them.

That said, there’s no doubt that Self’s extended time around these guys will give him a great opportunity to give them a glimpse into what playing for him at Kansas might be like.

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• Cole Anthony, Briarwood, N.Y., 6-2, 180, 5-star PG Class of 2019 (No. 4 overall per Rivals) – The son of former NBA and UNLV point guard and current college basketball analyst Greg Anthony, this electric point guard who blends incredible skill and speed with a high basketball IQ has been pretty tight-lipped about his recruitment thus far and seems wide open at the moment. One thing that’s certain about his recruitment is this: Whoever lands him will be getting a guy that many believe is the top point guard in the class and an instant high-impact player.

• Armando Bacot, Richmond, Va., 6-10, 235, 5-star PF Class of 2019 (No. 17 overall per Rivals) – Dubbed recently by Corey Evans, of Rivals.com, as the likeliest North Carolina commitment of all the top big men in the 2019 class, Bacot is also being pursued hard by Duke, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Georgia, with many believing the Tar Heels are the current leader.

• Matthew Hurt, Rochester, Minn., 6-9, 200, 5-star PF Class of 2019 (No. 5 overall per Rivals) – Most recruiting analysts believe that Kansas is the team to beat for Hurt, whom the Jayhawks have been recruiting hard for a few years. He has no shortage of options, however, from in-state Minnesota, where his brother plays, to North Carolina, UCLA, Indiana, Kentucky, Duke and more. Getting some bonus time with Self can only help the Jayhawks’ chances of landing one of their top targets in the 2019 class but there still is work to be done to reel him in.

• Trayce Jackson-Davis, Greenwood, Ind., 6-9, 210, 5-star PF Class of 2019 (No. 22 overall per Rivals) – Jackson-Davis said last week that his recruitment was still “wide open” while adding that he would like to trim his list to a final five or seven sometime in August. Of those schools pursuing him, Indiana, Michigan State, UCLA, Iowa, Purdue, Ohio State, Georgia and Memphis have made the hardest push.

• Josiah James, Charleston, S.C., 6-6, 190, 5-star PG Class of 2019 (No. 15 overall per Rivals) – Among the dozens of programs going after James, Clemson, South Carolina, Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Ohio State currently sit in the best positions, according to a recent James interview from the USA Basketball tryout in Colorado Springs.

• Tyrese Maxey, Dallas, 6-4, 185, 5-star SG Class of 2019 (No. 14 overall per Rivals) – Maxey committed to John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats on May 9.

• Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Bishop Miege, 6-9, 235, 5-star PF Class of 2019 (No. 16 overall per Rivals) – Bishop Miege standout who lives just down the road from Lawrence, Robinson-Earl has attracted interest from all of the major programs but appears to be headed toward a final two of Kansas and North Carolina. Nothing is even close to official on that front yet, but KU has been in a good position for a long time and UNC is the one other program that keeps coming up as a place JRE could see himself playing. This one could very well come down to whether or not he wants to stay close to home or get away for his year or two of college basketball. Arizona, UCLA and Virginia remain alive and Robinson-Earl recently said he was still open to any newcomers.

• Mark Watts Jr., Detroit, 6-3, 180, 4-star SG Class of 2019 (No. 67 overall per Rivals) – Nicknamed “Rocket” for his fast and furious style of play, Watts is one of the fastest-rising prospects on the board in the Class of 2019 and UConn, Ole Miss, Marquette, Michigan State, Michigan and Mississippi State appear to be the programs making the strongest push for Watts’ services. Michigan, Michigan State and Marquette seem to have put in the most time recruiting Watts, but he recently told Rivals that he also wants to get out west to visit USC and UNLV.

Like Grimes, there are three other players on the U18 roster who will be freshmen during the 2018-19 college basketball season.

• Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago, 6-4, 185, PG, Illinois

• Kamaka Hepa, Portland, Ore., 6-8, 210, PF, Texas

• Coby White, Goldsboro, N.C., 6-3, 170, SG, North Carolina

Reply 3 comments from Carsonc30 Robert  Brock Dillon Davis

Quentin Grimes the latest in long line of KU ties to USA Basketball

The U18 USA Basketball men's national team has a distinct KU flavor to it this year. Shown here, from left to right, are KU & Team USA trainer Bill Cowgill, KU & Team USA coach Bill Self, KU freshman Quentin Grimes, former KU standout and current Team USA assistant coach Danny Manning and current KU & Team USA video director Jeremy Case. (Photo courtesy Bart Young/USA Basketball)

The U18 USA Basketball men's national team has a distinct KU flavor to it this year. Shown here, from left to right, are KU & Team USA trainer Bill Cowgill, KU & Team USA coach Bill Self, KU freshman Quentin Grimes, former KU standout and current Team USA assistant coach Danny Manning and current KU & Team USA video director Jeremy Case. (Photo courtesy Bart Young/USA Basketball) by Ellington Support

A photograph taken by USA Basketball photographer Bart Young and released on Wednesday, one day after the organization announced the identity of the 12 players who made the 2018 U18 Men’s National Team, got me thinking a little bit about KU’s presence within the history of USA Basketball.

As you all surely know, there were no Jayhawks on the original Dream Team, which featured Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and a dozen other NBA all-time greats back in 1992, but before that and in the years since, the Kansas basketball program has put its stamp on Team USA in a bunch of different ways.

The most recent example of this, of course, surfaced this week, when current KU freshman Quentin Grimes, made the 12-man U18 team that is coached by current KU head coach Bill Self, former KU star and assistant coach Danny Manning and features trainer Bill Cowgill and video man Jeremy Case in support roles.

Those five were in the photo that Young shared and all five will be making the trip north to Canada on Thursday to prepare for play in the FIBA Americas tournament next week.

So, too, will Class of 2019 KU targets Matthew Hurt and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

KU assistant coach Norm Roberts was in Colorado earlier this week and he said it was clear that Self was soaking up the experience.

“He’s doing great," Roberts said. "I was out there a couple of days ago and I think he’s really enjoying it. It’s quite a bit of work now. They’re going two-a-days and meetings at night and that stuff. And I think USA Basketball really wants this team to be good and do well and I think he’s enjoying it. I think he’s having fun.”

As for Grimes being with Team USA instead of the rest of his Kansas teammates in Lawrence for summer workouts, Roberts said the scenario was a win-win for the KU freshman.

“We’d love to have him here, but that environment will be great for him, a great experience," Roberts said. "I know coach is enjoying working with him and everything.”

While these names are the newest with KU ties to be linked to USA Basketball, the Kansas connection, like so many things in the game of basketball, dates back to 1936, when legendary KU coach Phog Allen played an instrumental role in getting basketball into the Olympic Games.

From there, as his coaching legacy continued to grow, Allen later helped coach a group of seven Jayhawks to a gold medal in the 1952 Olympics.

That group, which included Charlie Hoag, Bill Hougland, John Keller, Dean Kelley, Robert Kenney, Bill Lienhard and Clyde Lovellette, later was joined by the following Olympic medalists who called KU home at one time or another: Allen Kelley, Arthur Lonborg and Dean Nesmith (gold, 1960); Jo Jo White (gold, 1968); Danny Manning (bronze, 1988); along with Roy Williams and Larry Brown, who served as coaches on Team USA’s bronze medal bunch in 2004.

Hougland also won gold in 1956 and former Jayhawk Darnell Valentine competed with a USA Basketball team in the Gold Medal Series, a stretch of games against NBA All-Star teams in various cities in the United States.

As evident by Grimes, Self and company participating with the U18 team this summer, USA Basketball’s exploits exist well beyond the Summer Olympics and several former Jayhawks have participated in those events as well.

Here’s a look:

• World Championships — B.H. Born and Allen Kelley (gold, 1954); Mark Randall (bronze, 1990) and Kirk Hinrich (bronze, 2006).

• Pan American Games — Melvin Kelley and Robert Kenney (gold, 1955); Jo Jo White (gold, 1967); Norm Cook (gold, 1975); Danny Manning (bronze, 1987); Keith Langford (bronze, 2015).

• U18 National Team — Nick Collison won gold in 1998; Travis Releford was a silver medalist in 2008 while Grimes is going for gold next week.

• U19 Junior World Championships — Kerry Boagni won a gold medal in 1983; Larry Brown (head coach) and Kevin Pritchard teamed to lead the U.S. team to silver in 1987; Nick Collison won silver in 1999; and Tyshawn Taylor was on a gold medal team in 2009.

• U22 National Team — Steve Woodberry and Roy Williams (head coach) led Team USA to silver in 1993. (Williams also was the head coach of the U.S. Olympics Development Team in 1992).

• U.S. Men’s Senior National Team — Nick Collison won gold in 2003.

• USA Men’s World Championship Team — Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz were on the 2002 team that took 6th a the FIBA World Cup.

• USA World Championships for Young Men Team & Qualifying Team — Nick Collison won gold in 2001 and Collison and Drew Gooden won silver while qualifying a year earlier.

• USA Men’s Select Team — Nick Collison, in 2000, and Marcus Morris, in 2010, participated with this team.

• U.S. Olympic Festival Competition — Greg Dreiling (1981-82); Kerry Boagni (1983); Danny Manning (1985); Kevin Pritchard and Mark Randall (1986); Lincoln Minor (1987); Richard Scott (1991); Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard and Jerod Haase (1993); Raef LaFrentz (1994); Billy Thomas (1995). Boagni, who later transferred to Cal-State Fullerton, and Vaughn were named to their respective all-festival teams.

• Nike Hoop Summit — Ryan Robertson (1995); Eric Chenowith (1997); Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich (1999); Brandon Rush and Julian Wright (2005); Xavier Henry (2009); Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre (2014); Josh Jackson (2016); and Quentin Grimes and David McCormack (2018).

That list does not even count KU representing the United States in the World University Games a few years back or the handful of future Jayhawks who played in the USA Basketball program before getting to KU.

In addition, current Jayhawk Udoka Azubuike (Nigeria), along with former KU standouts Sasha Kaun (Russia), Svi Mykhailiuk (Ukraine) and Andrew Wiggins (Canada) also have international experience playing for their respective countries throughout the years.

None by Quentin Grimes

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What caught my eye during Tuesday’s KU basketball camp scrimmage

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

We got our first extended look at the 2018-19 Kansas basketball team on Tuesday afternoon during the first of two camp scrimmages expected to take place during the next couple of weeks.

Although the scrimmage, won by the seven-man red team over the six-man blue squad, was hardly complete without possible starting guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes in attendance, it did offer a great look at a few of the newcomers and several returning Jayhawks as well.

By far the thing that stood out most to me was just how competitive everybody was. I realize that being competitive is what these guys do. You don’t get to a program like Kansas without registering off the charts in that department. But it’s one thing to play that way throughout your high school and AAU life, and it's something completely different to do it during a meaningless summer scrimmage in early June.

Still, as Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson so perfectly pointed out after scoring 20 points in the blue team’s loss, “This is just how we play.”

“There was a play the other day in practice, Sam (Cunliffe) went up for a dunk and Mitch (Lightfoot) went up with him and he fell hard. That’s just how coach has us playing, with that competitiveness.”

That was on full display throughout Tuesday’s scrimmage, with bodies flying and players trying to assert themselves on both ends of the floor.

When KU coach Bill Self gets the report about how the scrimmage went — Self is in Colorado Springs, Colo., working with USA Basketball and would not have been able to watch Tuesday’s game anyway because of NCAA rules — he, no doubt, will be encouraged by what he hears.

After all, shortly before leaving for Colorado Springs, Self in a conversation with the Journal-World outlined one of the things he was most eager to discover about the 2018-19 Kansas Jayhawks, and it had a lot to do with that competitive fire.

“I'm really anxious to see the commitment level of Charlie (Moore) and K.J. and Dedric (Lawson), after sitting out a year to see how much they'll be turned up compared to this past year,” Self said. “And I thought they all three had really good years last year.”

Tuesday’s scrimmage may have been just one day in a long stretch of important ones that lie ahead. But that trio, along with the rest of the KU roster, showed a willingness to compete and get after it that KU’s coaching staff would surely love to have seen.

Here’s a quick look back at a few other things that stood out to me during Tuesday’s action:

• Charlie Moore can play. We knew that already, of course, given his solid freshman season at Cal and his Chicago pedigree. But he looks like he’s ready to step into the role vacated by Devonte’ Graham (and before that Frank Mason III), and he should get a chance to do just that. Whether he wins the starting point guard job, shares it with Dotson or plays in a rotation role off the bench, Moore will help this team a ton. He’s lightning quick, good with the ball and fearless. He also shot it pretty well from distance on Tuesday, something the Jayhawks are going to need him to do well this season to help make their offense complete. Moore’s size is the only concern about his game, but it does not appear to be something that bothers him even a little bit. I was really impressed by the way he played and carried himself as a leader during Tuesday’s scrimmage.

Tom Keegan broke it down even deeper in his column from the scrimmage, but it’s worth noting here, as well: Freshman center David McCormack is a beast, and he’s going to be nearly impossible to keep off the floor. Does that mean he’s going to play 30 minutes a game? Doubtful. But with all of those big men at his disposal, Self may very well have the luxury of asking each of those guys to play as hard as they can for as long as they’re on the floor while rotating them all in for 15-20 minutes a game in order to keep them fresh. If that’s how it plays out, McCormack will make an immediate impact. He’s got tremendous size, great power and good hands and feet. Beyond that, he doesn’t have a timid bone in his body.

• Speaking of players who aren’t shy, sophomore Silvio De Sousa on Tuesday looked a lot more aggressive than almost at any point during his recent half season with the Jayhawks. His transition from IMG to KU was well documented last winter, and the reasons for his slow growth all made plenty of sense then. It’s just not easy flipping that switch and trying to join a big-time college program on the fly. But, as was the expectation at the end of last season, that little taste De Sousa got is really going to benefit him for his sophomore season, and it looks like it already has. He has so much more to his game than he was able to show last season. And so much of that peeked through during Tuesday’s scrimmage. He can shoot it, he’s got post moves, he’s strong and physical and he plays best when he’s in attack mode. Questions about De Sousa’s eligibility will linger for a while, perhaps even throughout the first few months of the 2018-19 season. But all indications right now are that the program is moving forward with the expectation that he will be on the roster and fully available for the 2018-19 season. If that’s the case, he, too, will have a huge role for the 2018-19 Jayhawks. Self’s ability to bring De Sousa and McCormack in off the bench is the kind of luxury that other teams and coaches would kill to have.

• Let’s finish this off with a couple of quick hitters. Marcus Garrett’s shot looked better. It didn’t go in a lot, and he still hesitated to pull the trigger at times, but it did look better. His hands appear to be in better position and the ball had better flight. Remember, he’s only been working on the shot overhaul for about a month. Give it time. He’ll get there.

• Sam Cunliffe looked by far as comfortable as I have seen him at Kansas. Maybe it was the environment, or maybe it was because he feels like he belongs now and is comfortable with his place on the team. What that is and how many minutes it will bring him remains to be seen. But he shot the ball with confidence and played loose throughout the scrimmage. If he’s maturing, that will only help his chances of getting on the floor.

• Freshman guard Ochai Agbaji is a player you all are going to absolutely love in time. Having drawn comparisons to former Jayhawk Travis Releford, it was pretty funny to see the two out there running around on the same court. Releford was the only KU alum who played in Tuesday’s scrimmage, and he said afterward that he was impressed by the young Kansas City native’s game.

“I like that guy. He’s good,” Releford said. “I think he’s going to have a bright future.”

• Udoka Azubuike did not play in Tuesday’s scrimmage because of a summer cold. But he was in the gym, and it was crystal clear that he has the opportunity to be the unquestioned face of the program this season. He received by far the biggest ovation from the few hundred campers when assistant coach Kurtis Townsend introduced the team before the scrimmage. And the kids spent a few minutes chanting “We want Dok, we want Dok,” while the scrimmage was being played. Azubuike, if he wants to let it shine through, definitely has the personality to handle this role and the game to back it up, and it should be interesting to see how quickly he embraces it in the coming months.

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