Back in his hometown of Peoria, Ill., for a charity golf event this week, Kansas basketball assistant Jerrance Howard was in Chicago over the weekend and he caught up with a couple of Jayhawks past and present.
As luck would have it, the two were actually working out together, making it even easier for Howard, now in his seventh season on Bill Self’s coaching staff, to reconnect with former KU forward Cliff Alexander and new KU signee Isaiah Moss.
“He was up there working out with Isaiah,” said Howard of Alexander, a one-and-done KU prospect who recently became a father. “And what was so cool about it was I walked in and he had all Kansas gear on. That was so exciting because Cliff loves Kansas.”
After picking KU over Illinois in a highly publicized and televised college announcement back in 2014, Alexander played in 28 games for Kansas during the 2014-15 season before eligibility concerns ended his college career eight games early.
From there, the 6-foot-9 power dunker who was ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2014 class by Rivals.com spent bulk of the 2015-16 NBA season on the Portland Trailblazers’ roster — appearing in just eight games — before going on to find some success with four different franchises in the NBA’s G League.
Still pursuing ways to play professional ball — Alexander has played overseas in France and Germany in recent years — the former Jayhawk and Chicago native continues to help out his old school whenever he can.
“Cliff helps us recruit in Chicago,” Howard said. “He’s always repping Kansas, always talking about Kansas. People think because of the way his time ended here that he doesn’t like Kansas, but he does. Everyone asks him how was the experience and he’s like, ‘I love Kansas. I love coach.’ He’s grown up a lot and it was good to see him.”
Spending some time with Moss was also a bonus for Howard, who believes the Iowa grad transfer’s experience, maturity and all-around game will be an asset for Kansas during the 2019-20 season.
His time in Chicago, and on the recruiting trail prior to his trip home, only reinforced that belief.
“What was refreshing was, when we went out on the road (recruiting) last week, a lot of the Big Ten coaches came up to (Self) and said, ‘Hey, you guys got a good basketball player,’” Howard recalled.
Familiar with Moss even before KU signed him because of his relationship with the new KU guard’s coach at Chicago’s Simeon High, Rob Smith, Howard said conversations with Smith, past and present, only added to the excitement around adding Moss to the 2019-20 roster.
“Everyone talked about his shooting, which I know we needed,” Howard recalled. “But I have a relationship with his high school coach and he was like, ‘Jerrance, this dude can guard.’ That’s what’s really going to stand out with coach and the fans. We got a two-way player and we got a good one.”
What stands out most to Howard about Moss is not so much his skill set as it is his veteran presence.
“He’s been battled tested,” Howard said. “He started for three years and his demeanor is one where he doesn’t get too high or too low, which is why he’s really good in the clutch. … Those fifth-year seniors are like McDonald’s All-Americans now. That’s how I look at it. They help you win. They understand what you have to teach guys that are coming in, freshmen. There’s nothing wrong with it. Everybody’s got to go through it. And it’s stuff that you can’t really learn until you go through it. But (older players like Moss) understand getting their rest and eating right and the importance of studying scouting report and that every possession counts.”
It may have taken a while for the Kansas men’s basketball program to fill its 2019 recruiting class, but the Jayhawks are off to major headstart in the Class of 2022.
Tre White, a top-talent guard at Washington High in Milwaukee, on Sunday orally committed to Kansas, a move that was confirmed on Twitter by White’s AAU program, Mac Irvin Fire. The Tweet included a typo, calling White a member of the Class of 2020 instead of 2022.
Originally from Little Elm, Texas, White committed to KU without visiting, largely on the strength of his love of KU coach Bill Self and assistant coach Jerrance Howard.
"Coach Howard is my guy and has been my guy,” White told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com. “He’s been to a lot of my games and he was just on me early. He’s been watching me develop and watching me grow as a player and he likes that.
A 6-foot-5, 175-pound point guard with a wide variety of skills, White chose KU over offers from Illinois, Texas Tech, Auburn and a dozen other schools showing serious interest.
KU’s status as one of the first schools to show interest played a big role with White.
“Kansas has just always been on me early and I just feel like Kansas is the best fit for me,” he told Wildeboor. “They always show love and they still do.”
That also played a role in White committing and effectively ending his recruitment before the start of his sophomore year of high school.
“I just really wanted to get my recruitment out of the way,” he told Wildeboor. “I wanted to get my recruitment out of the way and focus on building my game for the next couple of years. Kansas, you know, they offered me a long time ago, so I was ready to commit.”
Although it’s rare for a player to commit to any program so early — especially a 5-star prospect who figures to be one of the most highly recruited players in his class — it is not unheard of. Just a few years ago, KU received an early commitment from Chicago point guard Markese Jacobs, who eventually wound up signing with DePaul. Jacobs, however, was a 3-star point guard who committed to KU after visiting Late Night in the Phog during his sophomore season of high school.
White is the first player to commit to Kansas beyond the 2019 class, which actually still has one scholarship still available. KU coach Bill Self previously told the Journal-World it would have to be a "no-brainer" for the Jayhawks to use that 13th and final scholarship in the current class.
Fully focused on making his return to the court with the Kansas Jayhawks next season, KU junior Silvio De Sousa made a quick trip to New York City this week.
To be there when his close friend and fellow countryman Bruno Fernando was drafted during Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
The moment came early in the second round when the Philadelphia 76ers — yep, Joel Embiid’s squad; Kansas ties abound — made Fernando the 34th pick in this year’s draft. And with the former Maryland forward being at the draft in Brooklyn, both he and De Sousa got a little TV time after the pick was announced.
Fernando was later traded to the Atlanta Hawks and soon will begin his quest to become the first player from Angola to play in the NBA.
De Sousa posted a video replay of the big moment on his Twitter page and KU coach Bill Self talked about De Sousa being there to support Fernando shortly after the draft wrapped up late Thursday night.
“We’ve known that all along,” said Self when asked about De Sousa being at the draft. “Bruno and him are basically brothers, and there was no way that Silvio wasn’t going to be there for Bruno. They are so tight.”
A 6-foot-10, 237-pound power forward with a tenacious motor and terrific athleticism, Fernando averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Terrapins last season.
Wrote ESPN.com draft expert Jonathan Givony in his breakdown of the pick: “Fernando was considered one of the best big men prospects in this draft, thanks to his chiseled physique and improved skill level, but he ended up falling to the second round due to the diminishing value teams seem to be placing on traditional centers in his mold. The Hawks could develop him into a functional backup, as there are some things to like with his size, athleticism and motor.”
That sounds a lot like an assessment of De Sousa’s game. And, with a big year for the Jayhawks in 2019-20, KU’s 6-9, 250-pound Angolan could find himself as the one waiting for his name to be called a year from now in New York, with Fernando no doubt sitting by his side.
No Jayhawks were selected in Thursday's draft, marking the first time since 2009 that KU did not have a player picked in the NBA Draft.
Former KU forward and All-American Dedric Lawson did agree to a summer league deal with the Golden State Warriors shortly after the draft ended and former KU guard Lagerald Vick is expected to get a shot with a summer league club, as well.
Report: Dedric Lawson agrees to free agent deal with Golden State after going undrafted in NBA Draft
Former Kansas forward Dedric Lawson, a 6-foot-9 junior from Memphis who left school a year early to pursue his NBA dreams, went undrafted during Thursday’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y.
But it did not take him long to catch on with a team.
Just minutes after the draft wrapped around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, a report from Yahoo! Sports indicated that Lawson had agreed to a summer league deal with the Golden State Warriors.
“He told me that was a possibility,” said KU coach Bill Self late Thursday night shortly after talking with Lawson following the draft. “Golden State was a team that liked him and obviously if he’s going to try to get involved with a group, that’s a pretty good group to get involved with. ...There’s no question that he can help a good team be better because he knows how to play with good players.”
The Warriors, who had their bid for a 3-peat squashed by Toronto in this year’s NBA Finals, had a handful of picks in this year’s draft and selected Michigan’s Jordan Poole at the end of the first round, as well as Serbian center Allen Smailagic and Villanova big man Eric Paschall in Round 2.
Golden State also had the 58th selection in the 60-pick draft but later traded Yale shooting guard Miye Oni to Utah.
Self said he believed Lawson had as good a chance as any of the Warriors' picks to make the roster because of the depth of this year's draft.
"I knew that several NBA teams were interested in him," Self said. "And (with) this year’s draft, if you really study it, there wasn’t that much separation between (picks) 30 and 70.”
Self also believes in Lawson's ability.
“The thing that’s so attractive to NBA teams and to people about Dedric is that knows how to play, without question,” Self said on a post-draft conference call. “He’s a darn good player. “But the thing that wasn’t going to be changed, certainly overnight, is the fact that he’s not as explosive as some of those other guys are. It’s kind of pick your poison with Dedric. You can get an unbelievable basketball player, probably with as high an IQ as anybody in the draft, but you probably don’t get the explosiveness that some of those other guys possess and that potential tag is probably stuck to them more than Dedric.”
Lawson, who earned third team All-America honors after averaging 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks during the 2018-19 season, watched the draft with friends and family in his hometown.
Self said he spoke with Lawson shortly after the final pick was made and said he seemed “OK.”
“I don’t know if disappointed’s the right word,” Self said of his own feelings about Lawson going undrafted. “But I certainly feel bad for Dedric because that’s obviously a goal of his, to have his name called, and it didn’t happen. But he can still do exactly what he wants to do, he’s just got to do it the hard way, which will make him much better in the end.”
With neither Lawson nor Lagerald Vick getting drafted on Thursday night, KU’s streak of 10 consecutive years with at least one player landing in the two-round NBA Draft is now over.
“I’m happy when guys get drafted, but I could care less about that, the streak,” Self said. “It’s certainly nice, but we had one guy that was draftable and he had a great year for us and gave us everything he had and those sorts of things. It’s just something that happens. And if I were a betting man, I’d bet that (Lawson’s) not going to be hurt by this at all. And, if anything, it’ll probably end up helping him in the end. ... It doesn’t put him out of the game whatsoever.”
NCAA rules prohibit college basketball coaches from watching their teams’ organized scrimmages in the summer, which was probably both good news and bad news for KU coach Bill Self this summer.
Self left after introducing the players and interacting with the young campers, but no doubt if he’d stayed he would have seen a few things he loved and a few things he hated during Tuesday's first-team-to-80-wins scrimmage featuring a few former Jayhawks and the current roster.
Tyshawn Taylor, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson — three of the 10 members of this summer’s “Self Made” TBT squad — suited up for the Crimson team, with Taylor hitting the game-winning shot. But we won’t worry too much about what those guys did or how they looked simply because their play does not mean much for the outlook of the current Kansas team.
If you haven’t seen them yet, though, be sure to check out our game highlights, which feature plenty of big moments from Taylor, including the one below that served as a welcome-to-the-big-time moment for KU newcomer Jalen Wilson.
Instead of worrying about the old guys, let’s take a quick look at a handful of the current Jayhawks who had both good and not-so-good moments during the final camp scrimmage of the summer.
• Success in camp games is all about effort. Usually, the guys who try the hardest and get after it the most find their way to some good numbers and sweet stat lines.
That certainly was the case Tuesday for KU big men David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot. Neither player was flawless, but both played hard, hustled after every ball and operated with the purpose of both getting better and helping their teams win. It worked for McCormack, who finished the scrimmage with a game-high 28 points and delivered several highlight-type moments.
There was some talk from Self the day before the scrimmage about McCormack being the best big man shooter the Jayhawks have on the roster at the moment. And while it’s good news that the KU sophomore has developed a reliable jumper out to as far as 17 feet, it’s also worth remembering that he doesn’t have to shoot that shot.
McCormack knows that and no doubt will rein it in a little when the season actually arrives. But he looked good all over the floor on Tuesday, finishing with authority at the rim, hustling after loose balls whenever necessary and playing stout defense, all in the name of helping his Crimson squad win bragging rights.
None of his plays were as memorable as the one when McCormack raced to the corner and lunged to save a ball from going out of bounds by throwing it behind his back, only to come back on the very next possession and flush an alley-oop pass from Taylor to tie the game early.
And then there was his left-handed tip-in of a miss in close by Taylor. Falling away from the basket and on his way down from his first jump, McCormack simply stuck out his left hand, lightly tapped the ball to change its path and watched it roll around and fall through for two more points.
Self also talked about McCormack’s improved athleticism and explosiveness on Monday and both were on full display during Tuesday’s scrimmage.
• Lightfoot’s effort was a little less flashy and more of the gritty, grind-it-out, whatever-it-takes style you’ve come to expect from him.
It did, however, produce a team-best 24 points, which easily could’ve been 25 points in a winning effort had Lightfoot connected on either of the two free throws he got when the game was tied at 79 and he was on the line.
Shades of Christian Moody at Mizzou there.
Still, though, Lightfoot was strong all game and flashes his all-around skills, as well. He dunked in transition, got on the glass, hit a couple of jumpers and even went down in the post.
His best moment came when he posted up against Releford and, after taking some abuse from the veteran after a couple of dribbles, faded to the baseline to hit a nice fall-away shot.
Lightfoot’s name is again one of the more popular ones connecting to some redshirt chatter this offseason. And he said on Monday that he would be open to the idea if that’s the best thing for the team and for him. But there’s little doubt that his experience, toughness and never-back-down nature would have a role on this team if the minutes are there for him.
Even if they’re not and he does redshirt, having that kind of guy lead you and set that tone in practice can help the Jayhawks a great deal in 2019-20.
• OK. Back to the highlights. Which means it’s time to talk about sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji.
Agbaji played great in the first camp game a week ago, showing an improved jumper, an ability to get to his spots and get the shots he wanted and a willingness to attack the rim off the dribble from all angles.
What he showed this week was that he wants to team with Udoka Azubuike in returning the dunk to the KU lineup.
Agbaji was a dunking fool in this one, attacking the rim with authority off the bounce and flashing all kinds of flare in those moments when he had a chance to put on a show for the campers in the crowd.
I had him for three dunks in this one and all three were absolutely spectacular.
The first, which put the Crimson team up 8-6, was a breakaway dunk in which Agbaji decided to show off your basic windmill hammer. He executed it perfectly and hammered the rim, hanging high in the air to make sure he literally threw it down while he was up there.
The second, which cut the Crimson deficit to one at 25-24, was even more impressive, as Agbaji elected to put the ball between his legs and executed a perfect rendition of Isaiah Rider’s “East Bay Funk Dunk” from back in the day.
The ball crawled over the rim a little bit on that one, but it still went down and it was still something to see Agbaji’s athleticism allow him to pull that off in the flow of an actual game.
The last, was equally as impressive as the first two but of a completely different style. Crashing the glass hard after a missed jumper by Taylor, Agbaji flew right by two players in Blue jerseys and hammered home a follow dunk to put the Crimson team up nine, 46-37.
Although Agbaji’s freshman season was absolutely spectacular and put him on the national map, it’s worth remembering that part of the reason he faded down the stretch a little bit was the injury he suffered to his shins that he dealt with for most of the second half of the season.
He appears to be fully healthy again today and has only gotten better. There’s little doubt that he’s in for a big sophomore season.
• Real quick, a couple of things Self is probably glad he missed that may not be seen again outside of the camp scrimmage.
Remember, though, these are just scrimmages, in front of campers, and the players realize that half of the fun for the young kids watching is to see them put on a show and try things they might not otherwise try.
That’s the easiest way to explain the jumpers that Udoka Azubuike shot, a couple of which looked decent and a couple of which did not.
The campers were so enamored by the big fella’s willingness to shoot the ball that they actually started chanting “Dok for 3, Dok for 3” toward the end of the scrimmage, begging him to attempt a 3-pointer to win it. He didn’t. Good move.
Azubuike knows where his bread is buttered and he showed that over and over in Tuesday's scrimmage, dunking whenever possible and having a little fun while playing a lot in the process.
He even flashed some ball-handling skills, which also delighted the campers, going coast-to-coast after crossing over a teammate near mid-court on one occasion.
Rookie Jalen Wilson had a rough day shooting the ball — 5 of 20 overall and 1 of 13 from 3-point range — but that’ll likely be the last time you see that.
It’s been a whirlwind week for Wilson and it was obvious that he wanted to make a splash in his first unofficial game in the Fieldhouse. Give the kid credit for going for it.
He won’t shoot that poorly again in there. And even though he did, it didn’t take away from his willingness to be aggressive, make plays for others and keep attacking. That’s a way better good sign than the missed shots are a bad sign.
If you’ve got something you’re looking forward to at the end of the month and want to kill time until it gets here, just hop on Twitter, type the name Gary Woodland — or his handle @GaryWoodland — into the search field and let your reading, scrolling and smiling take care of the rest.
In the wake of Woodland’s magnificent showing this weekend at Pebble Beach, where he became the winner of the 119th U.S. Open and the first KU golfer to win a major title, Twitter was full of literally thousands of messages about the Jayhawk’s big weekend.
From messages directly to Woodland from adoring fans to promotions from various courses and companies, messages of congratulations from all over the world and highlights of his final round, that simple search has everything you need to relive what can only be described as one of the biggest moments in the history of Kansas golf.
As I scrolled through hundreds of tweets and read all kinds of recaps of Woodland’s big day, I couldn’t help but be tickled by some of the more memorable tweets that came across my screen.
I surely missed some good ones and there are probably still more to come in the next few hours, days, weeks, months and years.
But these, at least for my money, were 10 of the coolest tweets I saw that were posted in the aftermath of Woodland’s U.S. Open victory.
Put your politics aside for a second on this one and take a minute to digest the fact that the President of the United States of America made sure to tip his cap to Woodland for winning what amounts to golf’s national title.
I don’t care who you voted for or how you feel, that’s a pretty cool moment and is just another way of illustrating just how big of a deal Woodland’s victory really was.
Here’s one for the other side of the aisle. New Kansas governor Laura Kelly, who handles her business of running the Sunflower State in Woodland’s hometown, took time out of her busy day to honor Woodland’s accomplishment, as well.
If you don’t know the story about Gary Woodland and his good friend Amy Bockerstette, this might not make a ton of sense.
But do yourself a favor and watch this video and then you’ll understand not only why this tweet from Amy was so cool but also why so many people are such big fans of Woodland.
This one made the rounds on KU Twitter a lot last night and it deserves to be included in this recap because it cuts to the core of what Woodland is all about.
More than just a great golfer and a great athlete, Woodland is a great person. He’s a friend to everyone, walks with genuine kindness and compassion in his heart and is proud of where he came from and does everything he can to support KU, Kansas, Topeka and those he loves.
Van Pelt nailed it here and the rest of the world is starting to figure it out, too.
That’s what’s so cool about the platform that comes to those who win at this level. Woodland now has an opportunity to show these traits to the entire world and there’s little doubt that he’ll take full advantage of it.
I included this one because it’s such a great graphic that perfectly captures the entirety of Woodland’s personality.
Steady, stoic, confident, explosive. It’s all there. And it’s an image that will be seen and saved by thousands of Kansans and Woodland fans for years to come.
There were literally dozens of congratulatory messages from Woodland’s fellow PGA Tour competitors, but this one jumped out to me the most because Rose had a front row seat for all of it and could not have been more gracious in defeat.
Remember, it was Rose who led after Round 1 and Rose who closed Round 3 with a birdie to pull within one shot of Woodland and the lead heading into the final round.
Sure, he has won a major before, but these guys never get tired of chasing them and there’s little doubt that Rose was incredibly disappointed by how his Sunday round played out.
To be able to let that go and recognize what a cool moment it was for the guy who beat you is all class.
I also love this one because Rose chose to include the fist bump he gave Woodland after his magnificent chip on 17 that pretty much wrapped up the championship.
I absolutely love this one. The Shawnee Heights High School Twitter account retweeted quite a few Woodland tweets on Sunday, but this one from the Kansas State High School Activities Association actually included a picture of Woodland in his Shawnee Heights hoops uniform.
He’s No. 23 on the bottom left, in case you can’t find him.
And this tweet, better than any of these others, fully captures just how incredible Woodland’s story — from start to finish — truly is and why it means so much to so many people in the state of Kansas.
Figured we might as well mix one in for the tens of thousands of KU basketball fans who frequent this site.
Not only is this tweet one of those blast-from-the-past moments, but it also shows just how legit Woodland was as a basketball player and what type of athlete he was when this whole thing began.
He can still hit jumpers with the best of them. He’s just much, much better at hitting a golf ball these days.
I liked this one because of the picturesque scene it captured, but also because it’s from a freakin’ blimp.
And by blimp, we’re talking one of the most legendary things in all of sports. That thing has flown over hundreds, if not thousands, of the biggest sporting events known to man.
It’s been immortalized in an Ice Cube song. And now there it is tweeting a message of congrats to Woodland.
The billions of Woodland-inspired tweets — in more than half a dozen different languages — were all cool. And I hope Woodland has time to sit down and sift through every last one of them. But how cool is this one?
It seemed only fitting to end this thing with a quick message from the champ himself.
This short video was posted by @WilsonGolf one of Woodland’s many, incredibly pumped and proud sponsors.
It takes a lot to move the sports needle in basketball-crazed Lawrence, Kansas. But former KU golfer Gary Woodland did just that over the weekend.
All that was missing was the sound of honking horns downtown and on campus.
Just like one of those weekends in March when the Jayhawks are playing in the Final Four, or for the right to get there, there were watch parties and rally cries, unbridled excitement and nervous energy, all with people tacking on as many “Rock Chalks” as humanly possible to show they were both clued in on and behind Woodland’s quest to claim the 2019 U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach.
And never mind the KU golf/Gary Woodland explosion that took place on KU Twitter.
Equal parts steady-Eddie and shot-making magician, the 35-year-old Woodland, who finished at 13-under for the tournament — three shots better than two-time defending champ Brooks Koepka — turned in the tournament of his professional life in California this weekend.
His run of 34 consecutive holes of par or better that stretched from the final nine holes of Round 1 to the first seven of Round 3 was nothing short of spectacular. And so many of those pars and birdies were the result of his extreme focus and ability to stay in the moment, something Woodland’s friends and foes alike say is one of his biggest strengths these days.
All of it made Woodland’s weekend must-see TV around Lawrence, and his pursuit of the title brought out all kinds of Woodland stories, both from those who knew him and those who merely felt like they did.
Lawrencians who barely follow golf were not only on top of what Woodland was doing out west, but many of them also actually made it a point to pull up the Open on their phones to watch a few holes here and there when time allowed them to do more than just check the leaderboard.
The whole thing created a sense of community and university pride on the local sports scene that I’ve only seen or felt in Lawrence when the Jayhawks have been in the middle of a deep NCAA Tournament run or when Todd Reesing was playing quarterback.
Woodland’s run had the feel of one of those events that the Granada could’ve put on its big screen and drawn a packed house.
Pride runs deep in these parts, and Woodland’s push for one of golf’s four majors brought that to the forefront for so many Kansas fans, whether they gave a flip about golf or not.
Woodland’s is one of those stories that everyone likes to find a way to connect to them. Maybe you know a guy who knows a guy who played golf with Woodland’s dad.
Maybe you went to the same Topeka high school as Woodland. Or your parents did.
Or maybe you simply caught word of Woodland’s Washburn basketball beginnings and it inspired you to learn more and follow along a few weekends a year as he became a bigger and bigger deal on the PGA Tour, tumbling inevitably toward this moment.
Heck, you might’ve even seen him at a KU basketball game one time. He likes those. He might’ve even given you a quick head nod or briefly said hello.
Whatever the link, no matter how big or small, it’s one you want to have at the ready for weekends like this.
A week ago, Woodland was just another guy with whom you had a lot in common, save for his insane ability to absolutely bomb a golf ball and then, a few hundred yards later, show the delicate touch of a microsurgeon.
Both big time Kansas basketball fans. Both Kansans. Both good people who love life, sports, family and friends.
What’s not to like?
Today, Woodland has something that neither you nor dozens of the greatest golfers to ever play the game have in their possession — a major championship.
That, and all the confidence and time in the world to add a few more.
Even lacking a Top 40 prospect, KU’s 2019 recruiting class not all that different from a few past classes
All of the recent talk about the Kansas basketball program not landing a Top 40 recruit in the 2019 recruiting class made me curious about which past class the current one most favorably compares to.
The classes in 2008 and 2011 immediately came to mind.
While both of those classes included a Top 40 prospect — 29th-ranked Marcus Morris in 2008 and 34th-ranked Ben McLemore in 2011 — they also included a nice mixture of guys in the middle of the pack and others closer to the 100 spot in the Rivals.com rankings.
The 2019 class, which currently has five players and could (but probably won’t) add one more, is built in that same mold.
Per the Rivals rankings, 4-star forward Tristan Enaruna, at No. 44, is the highest-ranked Jayhawk, followed closely by fellow-4-star prospect Jalen Wilson, who just signed this week, at No. 47.
After that, it’s 4-star guard Christian Braun at No. 90, 4-star point guard Issac McBride at No. 103 and former 3-star Iowa grad transfer Isaiah Moss, who, back in his day, was not even ranked in the Rivals 150 in the 2015 class.
That group puts KU in the No. 17 spot in the Rivals team rankings for 2019, 11 spots behind where the Jayhawks ended up in the 2018 team rankings and one of the rare times when a Self haul wound up outside of the Top 10.
Here’s the thing, though. While the five players the Jayhawks are bringing in this summer might not be Top 20 type talents today, all of them stand to make a serious impact on the Kansas program over the long haul, for two, three, four or even five years, which is a drastic change from what the one-and-done prospects have been able to bring to the table in recent years.
That’s not to knock the one-and-done approach. Say what you will about those types of players and their impact on the college game, but Kansas has both benefited from them and been severely underwhelmed by them, something I think you’d find to be true in the grand scheme of things at most places that routinely land them.
KU went after a few projected one-and-done players again this recruiting cycle and will go after more until the NBA changes that rule and eliminates the phrase “one-and-done” from our vocabularies.
And at a place like KU, where attracting those types of talents is a natural fit, it makes sense for them to do so.
But that does not mean that classes that feature quality 4-star prospects can’t be just as effective and occasionally even more so. KU’s history under Bill Self has proven that to be true, with players like Frank Mason III (76), Tyshawn Taylor (77), Travis Releford (70), Darnell Jackson (54), Devonte’ Graham (36), Thomas Robinson (31) Cole Aldrich (30) and countless others residing outside of the Top 20 but making a monster impact on the KU program and the college game during their time at Kansas.
There’s no telling if this class has a player or two who one day will be added to that list. But I certainly wouldn’t bet against it just because of the number that’s next to their name.
Here's a quick look back at the 15 other recruiting classes brought to Kansas by Bill Self:
Highest rated prospect: Quentin Grimes 8
Others: Devon Dotson 20, David McCormack 35, Ochai Agbaji 145
Highest rated prospect: Billy Preston 11
Others: Silvio De Sousa 18, Garrett 41
Highest rated prospect: Josh Jackson 1
Others: Udoka Azubuike 31, Mitch Lightfoot 107
Highest rated prospect: Cheick Diallo 5
Others: Carlton Bragg 21, Lagerald Vick 81
Highest rated prospect: Cliff Alexander 4
Others: Kelly Oubre 6, Devonte’ Graham 36, Svi Mykhailiuk Outside of Rivals150
Highest rated prospect: Andrew Wiggins 1
Others: Wayne Selden Jr. 12, Joel Embiid 25, Frank Mason III 76, Brannen Greene 29, Conner Frankamp 34
Highest rated prospect: Perry Ellis 24
Others: Andrew White III 51, Zach Peters 137, Anrio Adams 98, Landen Lucas Outside of Rivals150
Highest rated prospect: Ben McLemore 34
Others: Jamari Traylor 141, Naadir Tharpe 92, Merv Lindsay and Braeden Anderson Both Outside of Rivals150
Highest rated prospect: Josh Selby 1
Others: Royce Woolridge 120
Highest rated prospect: Xavier Henry 8
Others: Thomas Robinson 31, Elijah Johnson 24
Highest rated prospect: Marcus Morris 29
Others: Markieff Morris 49, Tyshawn Taylor 77, Quintrell Thomas 149, Travis Releford 70, Mario Little and Tyrone Appleton Both Outside of Rivals150
Highest rated prospect: Cole Aldrich 30
Others: Tyrel Reed 109
Highest rated prospect: Darrell Arthur 16
Others: Sherron Collins 21, Brady Morningstar Outside Rivals150
Highest rated prospect: Julian Wright 8
Others: Brandon Rush 13, Mario Chalmers 12, Micah Downs 28
Highest rated prospect: Russell Robinson 27
Others: C.J. Giles 62, Alex Galindo 65, Darnell Jackson 54, Sasha Kaun 34
The jersey numbers are out for the five newcomers who have joined the Kansas basketball roster this offseason.
And while there’s no telling exactly what their futures hold, this group, at least as of today, appears to be a group that Kansas fans should expect to see around for a while.
Of the group of newcomers, only Isaiah Moss, the senior grad transfer from Iowa, is expected to be gone a year from now. And many of the players on that list are likely to be three-, four- or even five-year Jayhawks.
So gobble up those jerseys at your discretion.
And then, of course, you have the recent news about sophomore point guard Devon Dotson switching from No. 11 to No. 1, a move that brings him back to the jersey number that served him so well during his basketball-playing days that predated Kansas.
Walk-on Elijah Elliott, who redshirted and wore No. 10 last season, has taken over the No. 5 jersey, which became available when Quentin Grimes decided to transfer.
Before we go any further, here’s a quick look at who will wear what in 2019-20.
Christian Braun – No. 2
Isaiah Moss – No. 4
Jalen Wilson – No. 10
Tristan Enaruna – No. 13
Michael Jankovich – No. 20
Issac McBride – No. 55
I made a comparison about two of them on Twitter the other day that threw a few people for a loop. So I figured I might as well get into it a little here.
Although they both have a long way to go in terms of matching their talent, McBride and Braun could very well become the next Devonte’ and Svi at Kansas.
Both are tough competitors who love to play the game and love Kansas (already). Both are likely four-year players who fans will get to watch grow up, both as players and as men. And both figure to become fan favorites at some point during their careers, with each playing with a fearless style and sense of pride that so many Jayhawks before them have brought to the table.
So, no. I’m not saying that either player is a sure-fire All-American, Big 12 player of the year or future NBA draft pick. But I think both will be loved by Jayhawks everywhere and I think both will play huge roles on a whole bunch of future Kansas teams.
In that way, at least to me, they very much have the makings of Graham and Svi Part Deux.
And now that you know what numbers they’ll be wearing, you can start getting used to seeing a lot of good things from the No. 2 and No. 55 jerseys in the days ahead.
I’m looking forward to asking McBride why he chose 55. There has to be a good story there.
Only six Jayhawks all-time have worn No. 55, with the most recent being walk-on football player James Sosinski in 2017-18.
Before that, you have to go back to Moulaye Niang in 2005 before you see another KU player sporting 55. The others: Roger Brown (1969-71), Fred Chana (1964-66), Wayne Hightower (1960-61) and Jay Roberts (1962-63), according to KU basketball's media guide.
Those other newcomer numbers are pretty common and have been seen around Lawrence a lot over the past few decades.
Cliff Alexander and Conner Teahan wore No. 2.
Sherron Collins, Devonte’ Graham, Nick Collison and Ryan Robertson all wore No. 4, which was also Moss’ number at Iowa.
Svi Mykhailiuk, Tyshawn Taylor and Kirk Hinrich, among others, wore No. 10.
Wilt Chamberlain and Jeff Boschee were the best-known Hawks who rocked No. 13.
Kenny Gregory, Steve Woodberry, and, most recently, Tyler Self, were three of the most popular players who wore No. 20.
And Wayne Selden Jr. and Dedric Lawson were the most recent Jayhawks to wear No. 1.
But 55 is unique.
A quick search of his YouTube highlight clips showed that McBride wore both No. 4 and No. 5 throughout his prep and AAU playings days. So, again, there has to be a story there about why he went with the double-digit, big man number.
He called his shot several days ago and backed it up on Wednesday, shortly after 4-star wing Jalen Wilson committed to Kansas.
The 2019-20 Jayhawks are the No. 1 team in all the land in the preseason according to national college hoops analyst Jeff Goodman, of watchstadium.com, who bumped up KU from No. 2 into the top spot ahead of Michigan State.
If only this were the year the Jayhawks and Spartans were playing in the Champions Classic to tip off the season. But, hey, there is a real chance the two will meet in Maui later in November, so that works, too.
In his breakdown, Goodman said “the key move” to KU claiming the top spot was the recent addition of Iowa grad transfer Isaiah Moss, whom he dubbed a “proven shooter.” But on Twitter, Goodman also made it clear that he would not have made the move without Kansas landing Wilson, as well.
The Associated Press and preseason coaches polls won’t come out for months, but Goodman is far from the only national college hoops analyst plugging Kansas into the top spot in his or her preseason poll.
Former KU rival and FOX Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb also is ready to give the Jayhawks the nod.
Wrote Gottlieb on Twitter: “Kansas should be everyone’s number 1 team in the country. Loaded, great point guard, impressive big men, great coach, complete roster in terms of depth, experience and now a talented frosh like Jalen Wilson.”
Even before landing Wilson, the addition of Moss alone was catching some attention. Gary Parrish, of CBS Sports, moved the Jayahwks up from No. 12 to No. 7 in his preseason poll after the addition of Moss was announced and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the addition of Wilson, KU’s highest profile prospect in the 2019 class, would move the Jayhawks up at least another spot or two in Parrish’s poll.
None of this matters today, of course, but the early praise for the roster Bill Self has built is merely another indication that the Jayhawks are loaded heading into the 2019-20 season and should once again be firmly positioned as national title contenders, perhaps even the favorite.
It's worth noting that KU still has one scholarship remaining to hand out in the Class of 2019 should Self and company feel the need to do so. Adding yet another player would only strengthen KU's depth and case for the top spot entering the 2019-20 season.
But don't bank on it happening. Self told the Journal-World on Wednesday that he did not know whether he would give out that last scholarship this offseason or not, adding "it would have to be a no-brainer to use it."