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Tale of the Tait

Even by Kansas standards, Jayhawks receiving tons of preseason praise

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) cuts a piece of the net following the JayhawksÕ 81-70 win over the Mountaineers in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament, Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) cuts a piece of the net following the JayhawksÕ 81-70 win over the Mountaineers in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament, Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

As the 2018-19 college basketball season draws closer, prognostications, bold picks and preseason rankings start flooding the Internet.

Whether you’re talking about preseason rankings, player of the year candidates or any number of players or teams who could surprise this season, pretty much everything you want, and then some, is out there for folks to digest.

For fans of Kansas basketball, that means staying busy.

Four Jayhawks already have been named to preseason watchlists for point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center of the year.

The Jayhawks are ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the preseason polls by nearly a dozen different publications, including holding down the top spot in the eyes of ESPN, NBC Sports and Sports Illustrated.

And I have yet to see anyone out there who is picking anyone but Kansas to win the Big 12 for a 15th consecutive year. That includes the conference’s coaches, who, on Friday, revealed that KU was the unanimous pick to win the Big 12 once again.

In many ways, this is all business as usual for Kansas basketball this time of year. But even by Kansas standards, the Jayhawks’ depth, talent, experience and potential puts this team in rarified air entering the 2018-19 season.

Despite what the experts say, the Jayhawks will not have a free ride to anything. The Big 12 Conference has talent — just look down I-70 to Manhattan for proof of that — and winning on the road in conference play is never a guarantee. Add to that a typically tough non-conference schedule that figures to test the readiness of a host of newcomers right off the bat, with games against Michigan State, Marquette, (likely) Tennessee, Villanova and Arizona State on the road all looming before Big 12 play begins in January.

But even with all of those things going for the Jayhawks and the typical roadblocks, along with the distraction of the federal trial into corruption in college basketball, standing in their way, you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody picking against the Jayhawks this season.

Take, for example, the recently released Big 12 preview by Sports Illustrated, which included some heavy praise for the Jayhawks, as a team and as individuals.

Here’s a look:

In The Skinny, which provides a basic overview of what’s ahead, SI.com writer Michael Shapiro writes, “... the Jayhawks won’t be aching for talent. It’s Kansas’s conference to lose once again.”

Heck, even the title of SI’s Big 12 preview says all you need to know: “Revamped Kansas Still the Team Everyone's Chasing”

In addition to the obvious and easy move of picking KU to win the league, Shapiro pegs Memphis transfer and current KU junior Dedric Lawson as the Big 12 Player of the Year and KU freshman Quentin Grimes as the conference’s Newcomer of the Year.

Don’t just take Shapiro’s word for how good this KU team could be, though. Even the section titled, “Scout’s Take,” which looks at the Jayhawks through the eyes of an anonymous opponent or scout, gushes about Bill Self’s 2018-19 squad.

It reads: “They lose three big shooters on the perimeter, but I expect Kansas to pick right up where they left off... Bill Self will be happy to get back to inside smashmouth basketball... When you run them off the 3-point-line, that’s where Azubuike really hurts you on the lob... Azubuike became a much better passer in the post last season, he may face some double teams this year... Lagerald Vick is the old man but Marcus Garrett is better suited to start... Garrett’s an active and effective defender, he brings them a real energy... Vick’s best value comes as a shooter, doesn’t pose a huge threat breaking you down... Quentin Grimes is the jewel of Kansas’s class. He has size, he can stroke it, and a quality leaper, too... Grimes can get you 30 in a game as a freshman... Devon Dotson is so smooth... Dotson will fill in nicely for the guys Kansas lost, he’s a legit lead ball-handler even with his size... The title still runs through Lawrence, no doubt about that.”

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He Will, He Won’t, He Might 2018: Mitch Lightfoot

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

Yesterday we took a look at Kansas senior Lagerald Vick’s He Will, He Won’t, He Might predictions and today we’re going to move on down the seniority chart to the junior class.

Mitch Lightfoot, Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson are this year’s juniors, providing support for Vick in the way of both leadership and production on the floor.

While Azubuike and Lawson are both likely starters and figure to vie for a handful of different postseason honors, Lightfoot’s role is a little more uncertain.

By now, everyone who has watched Kansas during the past couple of seasons knows what Lightfoot is all about — he’s tough, smart, selfless and willing to celebrate and scrum whenever necessary.

But your junior season is generally the one where you turn the corner in terms of production and it remains to be seen if (a) Lightfoot will get the opportunity to do that and (b) if he’ll succeed if he does.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at a few predictions for the Jayhawk who goes by — or at least is called — nicknames such as Martini Room Mitch and Prison Mitch.

He Will – Continue to shoot open 3-pointers

Look, just because Lightfoot added muscle in the offseason and is noticeably bigger and stronger heading into his third season with the Jayhawks that does not mean he’s going to play solely inside.

The added beef and bulk was put on so he can hold up better when he’s in there, but Lightfoot also has worked extremely hard on his jump shot during the past couple of offseasons and he’s not about to let that work go to waste.

For one, Lightfoot’s shot actually looks pretty darn good whenever he lets it fly. And, for two, because of the abundance of other weapons, inside and out, on the floor for Kansas this season, Lightfoot figures to continue to find himself wide open behind the arc from time to time.

Him pulling the trigger will never be KU’s first option. But in those shot-clock-is-winding-down or rhythm type of moments, Mitch definitely has the confidence to step into his shot like he’s Devonte’ Graham or Svi Mykhailiuk.

I said the confidence. I didn’t say the green light.

Of the 123 career field goals Lightfoot has attempted, 20 of them have come from behind the 3-point line. That’s 16 percent. And of those 20 he has attempted, the junior forward has drained eight, making him a 40 percent 3-point shooter in limited opportunity.

I’ll take Mitch at a 10-for-18 clip this year, which will raise his overall percentage from 40 to 47.

He Won’t – Redshirt

There’s no doubt that Lightfoot is one of the most obvious candidates to redshirt if the Jayhawks go that route this season. I’m just not sure they will.

I know Lightfoot would be OK with it if that’s what the coaches want him to do and believe is best for both him and the team, but I also know Mitch wants to play and is always ready and willing.

A quick glance at fan expectations for the upcoming season produces the belief from many that David McCormack will play a lot and be an absolutely monster. I definitely think the latter is dead on, but I’m not so sure how many minutes he’ll get. Especially early.

By the end of the season, McCormack easily could be a 20-minutes-a-night kind of guy. But early on, I think Lightfoot could get half of those minutes and play a valuable role for Kansas while McCormack adjusts to the college game.

Lightfoot’s also a pretty decent insurance policy for Silvio De Sousa should the sophomore forward be deemed ineligible at any point this season as a result of the investigation into corruption in college basketball.

We’ll get into it more elsewhere, but, from where I sit today, I think it’s going to be awfully tough for someone to tell De Sousa he can’t play and such a move likely would have to come from inside the program since the NCAA might not get to act in any way, shape or form until sometime next year.

Time will tell how that shakes out, but the uncertainty around it makes Lightfoot an even more valuable roster piece.

He Might – Log as many minutes at the 3 as he does at the 4

All right. After talking all that noise about Lightfoot getting bigger and getting some of McCormack’s minutes and everything else big-man related, it’s time to look at another possible path to playing time for the 6-foot-8 junior from Gilbert, Ariz. — the 3.

Although Lightfoot is way more likely to play a stretch 4 role than major minutes at the 3 — mostly because Self likes having another ball handler at the 3 and Lightfoot is not that — it is possible that certain matchups or scenarios could inspire Self to go big and put two guards on the floor with three bigs.

A lot of the time, that would mean De Sousa, Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike, but if they do it enough, there could be a role for Lightfoot in there, too.

I’m not counting on this one being right. And this is definitely among the more bold He Will, He Won’t, He Might predictions you’ll see this season. But that improved jumper, Mitch’s underrated athleticism and his willingness to learn and play whatever role is asked make this at least a possibility.

After all, no one would have envisioned Lightfoot playing the 5 when he first enrolled at KU, but he’s done that a little already. So why not go the other way, which actually is more in line with keeping him closer to his natural position.

He Will, He Won't, He Might 2018:

• Senior guard Lagerald Vick

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He Will, He Won’t, He Might 2018: Lagerald Vick

Kansas senior Lagerald Vick flies through the air during warmups for the Late Night scrimmage, won by the Crimson squad, 46-37, on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas senior Lagerald Vick flies through the air during warmups for the Late Night scrimmage, won by the Crimson squad, 46-37, on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, at Allen Fieldhouse. by Kyle Babson

With the exhibition schedule tipping off next week and the regular season opener right around the corner, it’s time to dive into our “He Will, He Won’t, He Might” feature here at KUsports.com.

Each season, for the past few years at least, I’ve throw together a quick look at each Kansas player and attempted to predict one thing he will do during the upcoming season, one thing he won’t do and one thing he might.

Humble brags aside, my batting average for these things has been pretty good, and I’ve always tried to make them a little tougher than just hitting on some obvious stat predictions or leadership angles.

It’s not always possible to be so bold, so I have to take a couple of infield singles here and there, but, for the most part, I try to make these predictions a little deeper reach.

With that said, let’s just right in and start off this year’s series with the lone senior on the KU roster - Lagerald Vick.

He Will – Be this team’s most dangerous 3-point weapon

This might seem like one of those obvious predictions, but, to be honest, it’s the only thing I feel completely comfortable predicting for Vick.

The sky’s the limit for the Memphis senior who elected to return for his final season of college ball after coming oh-so-close to leaving. But before we believe that he will be a reliable leader, a lock-down defender or a more aggressive offensive player, we kind of have to (a) see it and (b) see how he fits in, comfort-wise, to a completely new role.

With 3-point shooting, that’s not the case. Vick entered the offseason as a good shooter, has said he improved his shot from that even and knows and has seen just about every way KU coach Bill Self can draw it up for a 3-point shooter to get a look. So all of that will be incredibly comfortable for Vick. Add to that the fact that KU will have a much stronger scoring presence in the paint and it’s easy to see Vick continuing to get open looks from behind the arc, even with Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk no longer on the floor with him.

The questions here will be: Can he still knock them down and will he avoid the temptation of forcing up shots just because he’s the most proven shooter on this roster?

He Won’t – Be in the starting lineup on opening night

I know there are a bunch of people out there who don’t agree with me here or, even stronger, think I’m crazy for this prediction. And there’s no doubt that I could be wrong.

But since the day KU coach Bill Self announced that Vick would return, my gut has told me it won’t be as a starter.

In my opinion, this is really a win-win scenario for KU, provided Vick can handle both sides of it. If he starts, KU enters the season with two returning starters from a Final Four team and has the majority of its experience out there on the floor from the jump night in and night out. If he doesn’t, you’re bringing a bona fide weapon and ultra-nasty athlete off the bench in an instant-offense/energy type of role, a luxury that a lot of teams would do anything for.

Even if Vick is out there for the opening tip in Indianapolis on Nov. 6, I still think it’s possible that he’s a part-time starter at best.

But, as you’ve probably read, Self has said that Vick’s attitude has been a 10 this preseason and there’s no doubt that the KU coach tends to lean on players he trusts more often in the early going. A lot of times that means veterans and upperclassmen get the nod. But in Vick’s case, what we don’t know is whether Self has reached the point where he truly trusts one of the more inconsistent players he’s had.

He Might – Have the best rebounding season of his career

With all of those big bodies taking up space and occupying opponents down low, Vick should find plenty of opportunities to make free runs at the rim for offensive and defensive rebounds. The question is: Will he?

Vick actually put up pretty solid rebounding numbers a season ago, finishing third on the team with a 4.8 rpg per averaging and recording 187 for the season. That included 37 offensive boards — a number I think could go higher — and also came in 33 minutes a game.

He probably won’t play that many minutes this year, which means he’s going to have to go even harder to the glass to eclipse the 187 mark that currently represents his career high.

But there’s no doubt that Vick’s athleticism, with a more focused mindset, could lead to more boards even in fewer minutes. All he has to do is get to 188 for this prediction to be right, and that’s just 15 more offensive rebounds (or less than one more every two games) and 14 fewer defensive boards.

In the past five seasons, just nine Kansas players have topped the 200-rebound mark in a single season. So it could be tough for Vick to get there. But if the reasons he returned actually prove to be true — giving himself up for the team, doing whatever Self asks, etc., etc., etc., — it’s not crazy to think rebounding could be an even bigger part of Vick’s all-around game.

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NBA’s G League makes monster move that could impact college basketball recruiting

G League logo

G League logo by Matt Tait

While the future of college basketball recruiting as we know it may be changing as a result of what comes from the three-week federal trial in New York City, the NBA’s G League on Thursday announced a move that could change things even quicker.

Beginning with the 2019-20 season, the NBA’s minor league system formerly known as the D League, will offer “Select Contracts” worth $125,000 annually to a small group of athletes who are at least 18 years old but not yet eligible for the NBA Draft.

The prospects who are eligible for these six-figure contracts will be determined by a newly formed group of G League officials who will identify which elite players are eligible for the max contracts. Beyond that, the only requirement is that a player must be 18 by Sept. 15 of the season they would play and, in the case of prospects older than 18, cannot have gone through an NBA Draft in the past.

Cue the one-and-done culture to listen up. These contracts could be aimed specifically at them.

With testimony from the trial alleging that players like former KU forward Billy Preston, one-time Louisville commitment Brian Bowen and former Arizona star DeAndre Ayton were paid between $90,000 and $100,000 just to commit to the programs they did, it’s not hard to see how even more money — the $125,000 offered by the Select Contracts — could entice some prospects to forego college all together and instead start cashing checks while instantly creating an in to the NBA world.

The G League, in a Thursday release, is claiming that these new contracts are merely their answer to the calls for better development for players who might one day become factors in the NBA. But make no mistake about it, the timing here suggests that the G League — and the NBA as a result — are eager and willing to strike during an era of uncertainty for college basketball without creating wholesale rule changes at the NBA level.

“Select Contracts are an answer to the basketball community’s call for additional development options for elite players before they are eligible for the NBA,” said NBA G League President Malcolm Turner in a news release. “The supporting infrastructure surrounding these newly created Select Contracts is designed to provide a rich offering of basketball and life skills developmental tools for top young players to grow along their professional paths from high school to the pros.”

It’s hard to know today exactly what kind of impact these new contracts could have on the college game. Not all elite prospects are going to (a) be eligible for these new contracts or (b) desire to sign one. Some prospects — perhaps several — still will desire the college basketball pit stop, where they can receive top-tier coaching, immeasurable marketing opportunities (mostly via so many of their games being on national television and, of course, the NCAA Tournament) and a bridge between their high school lives and basketball as a full-time job.

But there’s no doubt that some will not. Heck, just this year, Darius Bazley, a five-star recruit ranked No. 18 in the 2018 class by Rivals.com, opted out of his commitment to Syracuse to jump straight to the G League. And that was before the creation of the Select Contracts and at a much lower annual salary. Bazley instead elected to sit out the entire year to prepare for the 2019 draft, but the move still spoke loudly.

The Select Contracts are merely the latest move in an ongoing effort by the G League to make their roster spots more attractive — read: more profitable — and improve the status of the league while also offering younger players currently prohibited from the joining the NBA until they turn 19 a path outside of college basketball.

In addition to higher salaries in general, the G League also recently has increased the number of two-way contracts it can offer, which not only adds money to a player’s potential earnings, but also creates a cleaner, easier path to playing time in the NBA.

It’s too early to speculate too much, either way, about what these new contracts might mean. But it’s not hard to imagine a player like former KU forward Cliff Alexander signing a Select Contract, taking the money and trying his hand in the G League before entering the draft and less likely that future Top 5 picks and multimillionaires Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson would go this route.

For the latter, the year at Kansas was as much about building a brand as it was the basketball.

Reply 11 comments from Dane Pratt Robert  Brock Carsonc30 Titus Canby Brian Skelly Michael Maris Blogthis Matt Tait Jayhawkmarshall Brett McCabe

The 5 most pressing questions Kansas fans are asking as the college basketball trial comes to a close

Fans file through the doors of Allen Fieldhouse past the statue of Phog Allen in this file photo from Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.

Fans file through the doors of Allen Fieldhouse past the statue of Phog Allen in this file photo from Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. by Nick Krug

With closing arguments in the college basketball corruption trial slated for today and things landing in the hands of a jury later this week, it’s time to start sorting out what we know — and a lot of what we don’t know — in the wake of the past few weeks.

The main questions are obvious and seem relevant to everyone associated with college basketball.

1. What is the NCAA going to do with the information that came out in the trial and is the NCAA truly interested in fixing the current system?

This is quite possibly the toughest question to answer because (a) no one really knows what the NCAA is thinking right now and (b) it might not be able to do anything about any of it until late 2019 or early 2020, after the entire FBI investigation — trials and all — is finished.

We know that the NCAA, should it want to, will be able to use anything that came out in the trial(s) in its own investigation without having to start from scratch. So that certainly could speed up any action it might take, be it rule changes, punishments, what have you.

The big question there is, if this thing continues to grow, and more and more marquee programs are dragged into it, how much will the NCAA really want to act when doing so could hurt its own bottom line?

The powers that be at the NCAA figure to have time to think about that. And the full picture has not yet been painted. So making any set-in-stone predictions about what might or might not change still seems a little premature.

You’ve got people in both camps, from fans and media members to coaches and college basketball administrators and everyone in between. Some say things have to change. Others say they likely won’t, even if they should.

Money and power will continue to drive this thing. And until that is no longer the case, it’s hard to envision any drastic changes taking place.

2. Why haven’t Nike and the schools with which it has apparel deals been dragged into this yet?

There are a couple of things worth remembering here. No. 1: Even on the Adidas level, we’re only talking about a handful of people being involved in this. A few former execs, a couple of middlemen and a few assistant coaches. That’s it. So even though the whole thing has blown up, it’s not as if dozens and dozens of people with ties to Adidas are coming forward or have been proven to be involved with anything illegal.

Now take that same thought over to Nike and do it while remembering that Nike is still king and has more money, power and resources in the shoe game and athletics in general.

Duke being pulled in via the Zion Williamson talk on Tuesday evening is definitely interesting and could spark federal investigators to start looking that direction a little more. And there’s no telling where that could lead. But there are more than a few people out there who believe that the NCAA — different than the FBI, but still — will want no part of really digging on Duke.

Oregon, another Nike school, already has been mentioned, as have a couple of others, Arizona, Washington and Oklahoma State the biggest among them. But, to date, it's only the Adidas crew that's on trial. Under Armour, through its association with Maryland and Silvio De Sousa's recruitment, also has been pulled into the public eye.

Will there be more where that came from? Time will tell.

But the one thing that seems certain to me is this: If the NCAA is truly interested in fixing things — we’re already back to Question 1 now — then it seems highly likely that Nike and a handful of Nike schools will be pulled further into this mess. They simply have to be. Because not doing so would not be construed as a real attempt at, first, finding all of the problems, and, second, fixing them.

It's hard to know what, if anything, would turn up. But in the interest of being thorough, they have to look.

If the NCAA prefers to continue to look the other way and hopes this thing just blows over like so many other scandals from the past — and that is still a very real option, by the way, Rice Commission be damned — then it would become much more likely that Nike will never be dragged all the way in. Same for Under Armour, of course, which operates on a smaller scale but is definitely a player.

Now, let’s get to the more KU-centric questions at hand. And the top three, in my eyes, are obvious.

3. First, is KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend in real trouble here?

Well, what came out on Tuesday night certainly looks bad on the surface and figures to lead to Townsend having to answer some pretty pointed questions from his bosses, in the best-case scenario, and federal investigators and NCAA officials in the worst.

So the short answer is yes. He’s definitely put himself in a bad spot. But at least as of today — or, more specifically, as of the time I wrote this around 11:40 a.m. — it seems just as likely that Townsend will be fine as it does that he’ll be in trouble.

Call it 50-50, but don’t let the good side of that 50 hide the fact that the bad side of that 50 could very well lead to Townsend losing his job. There’s a long way to go before that becomes a reality, but you can’t say it’s not in play.

The biggest thing he has going for him — and, really, his only defense at this point — is his ability to look people in the eye and tell anyone and everyone who asks that he was merely saying what he had to say during the Williamson recruitment to stay in the game.

Good recruiters, which Townsend is, are masters at that, which buys them as much time to pitch their program as possible.

It will be hard for Townsend to prove that’s all he was doing there. But it’s likely even harder for anyone to prove he was doing more.

Unless, of course, there are more recordings that come out and enlighten us further, providing more concrete proof than we have currently.

4. Next, and this isn’t one I’ve heard much about but certainly have thought a lot about during the few days: Might all of this speed up KU coach Bill Self’s desire to move on, be it to retirement or the NBA?

Self said a couple of years ago that he wanted to coach out the remainder of his five-year contract, see where he was then and added that the rest would be gravy. He also said at that time that he didn’t see himself coaching deep into his 60s.

So that alone put a little bit of a timeline on things for the soon-to-be 56-year-old KU coach. But this kind of stuff, and the stress and scrutiny that comes with it, absolutely has me believing that Self’s timeline has been sped up.

I’m not saying that the 2018-19 season will be his last at KU. Not by a long shot. And I don’t have any information one way or the other about what he’s thinking. But before this investigation hit, I would’ve put the number at another 5 or 6 years and now I’m thinking it’s closer to 2 or 3.

Self’s a competitive guy who loves basketball and loves KU. But he’s won at the highest level of the college game, has cemented his legacy at Kansas, has millions to his name and already is in the Hall of Fame.

The man enjoys all of the other elements of his life — family, golf, friends, travel, etc. — way too much to have things of this nature become a regular part of his world.

Plus, if ever he missed coaching, there would be no shortage of programs and pro teams lining up ready to give him the chance to hop back in.

5. Finally, all of this KU involvement presents one last question that’s a lot more about other programs than it is about KU. And that is: To what extent will opposing coaches use the trial and KU’s involvement on the recruiting trail?

Well, they’ll certainly try. And that’s nothing new. Opposing coaches have used negative recruiting practices for years to try to throw a chink in KU’s armor. And you see how well that has worked.

This might be different simply because the federal government got involved. But what won’t be different is the way Self and his staff handle it.

If and when parents and recruits ask how things are going or if they should be worried or if what Coach X from Program Y told them is true, Self will continue to be the same charming, reassuring presence he has been for the past few decades and will explain things in such a clear, clean and positive light for Kansas and the kid that it will be next to impossible for the families to remain worried.

And while we’re talking about who’s worried here, remember, it’s often only the parents who truly think about these things. The recruits themselves, you have to remember, are still 16, 17, 18 years old, and are usually more focused on what the dorms look like, what gear they’ll get, what trips they’ll take and how they fit in with the players and staff members who are there. The rest is just white noise.

I recently talked to a couple of recruiting analysts who said this type of thing just does not register for most of the athletes actually being recruited.

Again, it’s possible that the high-profile nature of the FBI investigation and the fear of what might happen down the line when the NCAA gets its turn to act, could create a different vibe and raise some new, bright red flags.

And, perhaps most likely, there's a very real chance that some recruits just might cross Kansas off early and not even go down that road to begin with.

But the smart money, at least for the next couple of years until the NCAA gets to show its hand, is on KU continuing to go after and get many of the same types of players it has gotten for the past three decades.

Reply 24 comments from Carsonc30 Steve Grimm Plasticjhawk Robert  Brock Rockn_chalkn_ku Dhortens Hwtan Dane Pratt Tony Bandle Bryce Landon and 8 others

KU freshman Quentin Grimes lands on Jerry West Award watch list

University of Kansas freshman guard Quentin Grimes and basketball coach Bill Self discuss their recent involvement with USA Basketball during a press conference on June 19, 2018, inside Allen Fieldhouse.

University of Kansas freshman guard Quentin Grimes and basketball coach Bill Self discuss their recent involvement with USA Basketball during a press conference on June 19, 2018, inside Allen Fieldhouse. by Benton Smith

There's been talk, from some college basketball coaches during the offseason and preseason, that Kansas guard Quentin Grimes could be the most talented all-around player in the country during the 2018-19 season.

It remains to be seen if Grimes, a five-star freshman from The Woodlands, Texas, lives up to that kind of hype or even comes close to reaching that level.

But the folks at the Jerry West Award believe it's worth keeping an eye on.

Grimes on Tuesday was named one of 20 candidates for the 2019 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced.

Named after Hall of Famer and 1959 NCAA Final Four Most Valuable Player Jerry West, the annual honor, in its fifth year, recognizes the top shooting guard in Division I men's college basketball. A national committee comprised of top college basketball personnel determined the watch list of 20 candidates.

Although he is not one of those coaches who has publicly talked about Grimes' enormous potential, KU coach Bill Self is on record as being a huge fan of Grimes' game, which he saw up-close-and-personal throughout the recruiting process and this summer with USA Basketball.

If Grimes, who like freshman point guard Devon Dotson has landed on a preseason watch list despite not having played a single minute yet, is going to reach the point where he belongs in that conversation, Self, at least at this point, wants to see the former McDonald's All-American bring a little more fire and intensity to all aspects of his time at Kansas.

Ranked No. 8 in the national recruiting services, Grimes averaged 29.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists his senior season, earning the 2017-18 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year, Texas Mr. Basketball and the 6A Player of the Year. This past summer, Grimes was the Most Valuable Player and an All-Tournament selection at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championships in leading USA to the gold medal, where he averaged 14.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists. The USA squad was coached by KU head coach Bill Self

By mid-February, the watch list of 20 players for the 2019 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award will be narrowed down to just 10. In March, five finalists will be presented to Mr. West and the Hall of Fame's selection committee. The winner of the 2019 Jerry West Award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show presented by Wendy's in Los Angeles on Friday, April 12, 2019.

Previous winners of the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award include Carsen Edwards, Purdue (2018), Malik Monk, Kentucky (2017), Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (2016) and D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State (2015).

For more information on the 2019 Jerry West Award, log onto www.HoophallAwards.com.

2019 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award Candidates

Bryce Brown, Auburn

Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati

Kellan Grady, Davidson

RJ Barrett, Duke

KeVaughn Allen, Florida

Zach Norvell, Gonzaga

Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra

Romeo Langford, Indiana

Quentin Grimes, Kansas

Barry Brown, Kansas State

Tyler Herro, Kentucky

Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State

James Palmer Jr., Nebraska

T.J. Gibbs, Notre Dame

Mustapha Heron, St. John's

Tyus Battle, Syracuse

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

Kyle Guy, Virginia

Jaylen Nowell Washington

Fletcher Magee, Wofford

Players can play their way onto and off of the list at any point in the 2018-19 season.

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KU PG Dotson the first Jayhawk to land on 2018-19 national watchlists

Red Team guard Devon Dotson dips under Blue Team forward Silvio De Sousa for a bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Red Team guard Devon Dotson dips under Blue Team forward Silvio De Sousa for a bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. by Nick Krug

He has yet to play an actual minute for the Kansas basketball program and no one knows whether he'll even start or just how significant his role will be.

But the outlook inside the Kansas basketball offices is that freshman point guard has a chance to be a heck of a player. And on Monday, at least one national watch list took notice.

Kansas freshman Devon Dotson on Monday became one of 20 collegiate players named to the preseason watch list for the 2019 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced.

Named after Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic and Holy Cross guard Bob Cousy, the annual honor, now in its 16th year, recognizes the top point guard in NCAA Division I men's basketball. A national committee comprised of top college basketball personnel determined the watch list of 20 candidates and Dotson is vying to become the second Jayhawk in the last three seasons to win the award. Frank Mason III was KU's first-ever Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award winner in 2017.

One of five McDonald's All-Americans on the KU's 2018-19 roster, Dotson is an explosive combo guard who picked up numerous postseason honors and played in multiple all-star games following the 2017-18 season.

The Charlotte, North Carolina, native ended ranked No. 20 by Rivals.com, No. 21 by 247Sports.com and No. 24 by ESPN100. A three-time all-state selection at Providence Day School, Dotson averaged 28.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists his senior year.

Although he has only seen him operate in a handful of practices and a few scrimmages since joining the Jayhawks, Kansas coach Bill Self already believes big things are in store for Dotson, whom Self recently said had a chance to be "a great one."

By mid-February, the watch list of 20 players for the 2019 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award will be narrowed to 10. In March, five finalists will be presented to Mr. Cousy and the Hall of Fame's selection committee. The winner of the 2019 Bob Cousy Award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in Los Angeles on April 12, 2019.

Bob Cousy played for Holy Cross from 1946-50 winning an NCAA Championship in 1947. He was named a Consensus First-Team All-American in 1950. His success continued at the professional level as a six-time NBA Champion (1957, 1959-63), NBA Most Valuable Player (1957) and 13-time NBA All-Star (1951-63). In 1996, he was named a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Previous winners of the Bob Cousy Award include: Jalen Brunson, Villanova (2018), FRANK MASON III, KANSAS (2017), Tyler Ulis, Kentucky (2016), Delon Wright, Utah (2015), Shabazz Napier, Connecticut (2014), Trey Burke, Michigan (2013), Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (2012), Kemba Walker, Connecticut (2011), Greivis Vasquez, Maryland (2010), Ty Lawson, North Carolina (2009), DJ Augustin, Texas (2008), Acie Law, Texas A&M (2007), Dee Brown, Illinois (2006), Raymond Felton, North Carolina (2005) and Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph's (2004).

For more information on the 2019 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award, log onto www.hoophallawards.com.

2019 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award Candidates

Jared Harper, Auburn

Ky Bowman, Boston College

Tre Jones, Duke

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga

Devon Dotson, Kansas

Tremont Waters, LSU

Markus Howard, Marquette

Jon Elmore, Marshall

Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Cody Martin, Nevada

Ahmad Carver, Old Dominion

Payton Pritchard, Oregon

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Shamorie Ponds, St. John's

Alex Robinson, TCU

Jordan Bone, Tennessee

Jaylen Hands, UCLA

Jahvon Quinerly, Villanova

Ty Jerome, Virginia

Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech

Players can play their way onto and off of the list at any point in the 2018-19 season

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How KU junior Dedric Lawson reminds Bill Self a little of Larry Legend

While not comparing the two completely as basketball players, KU coach Bill Self recently said there was one area of the game where Kansas junior Dedric Lawson, left, reminded him a little of his all-time favorite, former Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird. (AP and J-W Staff Photos)

While not comparing the two completely as basketball players, KU coach Bill Self recently said there was one area of the game where Kansas junior Dedric Lawson, left, reminded him a little of his all-time favorite, former Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird. (AP and J-W Staff Photos) by Matt Tait

A lot has been said this offseason about the enormous potential possessed by Kansas junior Dedric Lawson, a 6-foot-9, multi-talented transfer forward from Memphis who sat out last season and is eligible to play again when the games begin next month.

From the double-double he averaged during his last season at Memphis to his size, passing ability, silky smooth prowess as a scorer and all things yet unseen, the expectations for Lawson during the 2018-19 season already were sky-high.

And then KU coach Bill Self, during Wednesday’s annual media day at Allen Fieldhouse, went and took them to a whole other place.

“I got such a kick out of Bird,” began Self, talking about basketball legend Larry Bird. Yes, that Larry Bird.

“You know, he was my all-time favorite,” Self continued. “But people talked about him being slow. Bird wasn’t slow. He had an unbelievable first step and he knew how to play so well he kept everybody off balance. He was quick. Maybe not as fast in a foot race, but he was unbelievably quick. Dedric’s kind of like that.”

Here is a Hall of Fame basketball coach, who has been around some of the best players and coaches in the game’s history throughout his career, saying that one of his current players reminds him a little of one of the all-time greats.

It doesn’t matter if it’s just one area he’s talking about. That’s a big deal. Even more to the point, it sets Lawson up to step into some big situations. And, from the sound of things, it doesn’t sound like Self believes any moment will be too big or any task too large for Lawson this season.

“What Dedric needs to do is he needs to be able to play everywhere for us,” Self said. “I think he could, at times, be our best point guard. I think at times he could be our best low-post scorer. So we’ve got to move him around and come up with some creative ways to do that.”

While the conversation eventually ventured into talk about Lawson’s offense, the whole thing was set up with a simple question about how Lawson’s defensive skills stacked up.

After answering with a simple, “I’d say fine,” Self jumped into the Larry Bird connection, which went on for nearly a full minute.

“You look at him and say, ‘Well, he doesn’t look like he runs as fast as maybe what a Silvio (De Sousa) would,” Self said of Lawson. “But his first step is very deceptive. So he can guard. He’s actually a pretty good shot blocker — he averaged over two a game at Memphis. … You know, he’s not a jet-quick, explosive athlete, but he’s a terrific athlete.”

And that sneaky athleticism, while aiding him plenty on the defensive end, also makes Lawson a more dangerous scorer no matter where he is on the court, according to Self. In fact, Self said it was Lawson, “probably as much as anybody,” who was best equipped to go off script to get buckets when the offense breaks down.

Even Lawson, who by all accounts is a very smooth and naturally gifted scorer, was willing to talk a little defense during his Media Day interview sessions.

But whether it’s offense or defense, his game or a teammate’s, Larry Bird or KU’s assistant AD for equipment services Larry Hare, Lawson really is concerned about just one thing.

“I am looking forward to getting out there with this group of guys and just winning games,” he said Wednesday. “We have a team that can be really good defensively this year. We have a lot of long bodies, we’re athletic and we can rebound at a high level. I really think this year’s team could be pretty special.”

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Svi caps first pro preseason with big night

Los Angeles Lakers' guard Svi Mykhailiuk (10) drives the ball between Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, left, and Jordan Bell (2) during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Los Angeles Lakers' guard Svi Mykhailiuk (10) drives the ball between Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, left, and Jordan Bell (2) during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) by Matt Tait

If Friday’s preseason finale was the last chance for Los Angeles Lakers rookie Svi Mykhailiuk to show his new team that he deserves a little PT, the former Kansas standout sure picked a heck of a way to go out.

In a whopping 32 (of 48) minutes during the Lakers’ 119-105 victory over Golden State in the final tune-up for both teams, Mykhailiuk finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting.

What made the Ukrainian sharp-shooter’s performance memorable was that just six of the 22 points came from behind the 3-point line, a location where most believe Svi will make his mark during his first NBA season, however big or small that may be.

Mykhailiuk hit 2 of 5 from downtown and dropped in six field goals from inside the arc and also hit all four free throws he attempted.

Add to that the fact that Svi added four assists to just one turnover during those 32 minutes and it’s easy to make a case that the rookie is ready for some meaningful minutes when Lakers open the regular season on Thursday at Portland.

Whether Los Angeles coach Luke Walton and new Laker LeBron James believe the same thing remains to be seen, but James has been plenty complimentary of Mykhailiuk throughout the preseason and is not known as one of those superstars who plays favorites. James’ bottom line is simple: If a guy can play and can help the team win, put him out there and James will find a way to help him produce.

It’s important to remember that Svi’s big night — by far his best of the preseason — came in a ho-hum finale and an otherwise meaningless exhibition game. To think that what Svi did on Friday automatically will carry over to the regular season would be a major stretch.

Mykhailiuk played in all six Laker preseason games and averaged 6.7 points in 14.8 minutes per game. He shot 36.8 percent from the floor, including a 4-of-17 clip (23.5 percent) from 3-point range.

It could be a while before Svi’s minutes played combine to even total 32 minutes. Remember, those monster games during NBA summer league before camp opened and the preseason even began came against a bunch of guys who aren’t even on a roster today. They certainly didn’t do anything to hurt his confidence, but it’s not as if they were an early indication that Svi is on his way to becoming the next Klay Thompson.

But all the former Jayhawk can do is show that he’s ready for the moment and Walton, James and the rest of the Lakers, at the very least, have to believe he’s up for that challenge should the need to use him arise.

Time will tell if that happens. But given Svi’s maturity and generally unflappable demeanor — not to mention his confidence — it’s not hard to imagine him contributing to the new-look Lakers in a positive way at some point this season.

Reply 3 comments from Tony Bandle Boardshorts Surrealku

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

As the federal trial into corruption in college basketball moves into its second week in New York City, a lot remains up in the air.

Although witnesses have started to take the stand for questioning and cross examination, there still is a long way to go in this trial that is expected to last another couple of weeks and, ultimately, is deciding the fate of the three co-defendants, two former Adidas executives and one once-aspiring agent.

While all of that is playing out, questions about what went down where, what programs and coaches were involved and what it means in both a legal sense and in the eyes of the NCAA moving forward is attracting just as much attention.

Based on the reports and recaps out of New York, Tuesday was the first day of the trial that Kansas did not come up in some way, shape or form, but the KU program remains a part of both the bigger picture — as one of college basketball's (and Adidas') elite programs — and more specific instances, with current KU forward Silvio De Sousa and former Jayhawk Billy Preston both having been mentioned during the trial to this point.

During Tuesday's regular segment with Rock Chalk Sports Talk host Nick Schwerdt, we dove into a little of that, with a particular eye on what the NCAA might do — if it can even can do anything — to fix things moving forward.

There's surely much more to come and still a couple of weeks worth of testimony and reaction from the trial in New York. Like many of you, we're simply trying to follow along and make sense of whatever comes out.

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