An overview of KU's scholarship situation and why the Jayhawks are all right
Let me start by saying that I don’t know all of the details or exact plans that currently are in place for the Kansas men’s basketball team, which on Tuesday added another transfer — William & Mary forward Jack Whitman — and yet still appears to be open to adding Class of 2017 big man Jeremiah Tilmon or 5-star point guard Trevon Duval, should either player choose Kansas.
But you know who does know the ins and outs of everything going on?
Yep. The same guy who so many of you put your complete and undying faith in to lead your favorite basketball program has all the answers, knows all the options and no doubt has a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C for every possible scenario you can think of and even a few you haven’t.
That does not mean any of it is going to be easy. Juggling a roster from year to year and managing recruiting for a team that hundreds, if not thousands, of young athletes want to play for never is. And it becomes especially tricky if Tilmon or Duval were to choose Kansas at the end of their recruitment.
But, you know what? Even if that were to happen Self would figure it out.
And there are a million ways for him to get it done.
A huge percentage of KU fans who made their thoughts known on Twitter on Tuesday jumped to the (very logical) conclusion that the addition of Whitman spells the end of Svi Mykhailiuk.
It doesn’t. In fact, I would not be surprised if the two situations are not related in any way, shape or form.
Svi, as you know, is testing the waters of the NBA Draft and has gone about it without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility for his return to Kansas for his senior season.
Svi might very well stay in the draft. A killer showing at the combine (May 9-14 in Chicago) surely would help inspire him to do so and, if that were to happen, his departure would free up a scholarship and make things much, much easier.
But the thing about Svi and this Whitman news that doesn’t make sense to me is that absolutely nothing has changed on Svi’s end to make me think that he has made any kind of decision to leave. The combine hasn’t even started yet and we’ve heard all along that the whole point of Svi testing was to find out what NBA people think of him at the combine.
While we’re on that topic, I also found it funny how many people thought Svi merely being invited to the combine signified that he was gone. Everything I had heard was that everyone involved — Self, Svi, his teammates, his family — fully expected him to get that invitation and the news that it came was merely confirmation of something they already were planning for anyway. Remember, that was the whole reason he decided to test in the first place.
OK. So back to the situation at hand, where KU might be running out of scholarships.
If Svi returns for his senior season — which I still fully expect — then KU’s 13 scholarships are spoken for and Whitman, who told me tonight that he was coming on an athletic scholarship, would put KU one over the limit.
What happens then?
A bunch of things could and I’ll quickly outline them here. I haven’t heard anything concrete about any of the following scenarios being in the works or anything like that, but, having seen these types of things happen elsewhere throughout the years offers proof that they are possible solutions.
Beyond that, it all goes back to what we started with at the beginning of this blog. Bill Self knows his way around these situations like the ushers at Allen Fieldhouse. He’s not going to get into a situation where his back is against the wall and he doesn’t know what to do. He always knows what to do, often well before he ever needs to do it.
With that in mind, here are a few scenarios that could open up space for Whitman, if necessary, or Duval or Tilmon, should either (or both... Gasp!) pick Kansas.
• It’s rare, but one of the players currently on scholarship could offer or elect to pay his way for one year. Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, who might soon be a millionaire anyway, could be a candidate to do it. So could Mitch Lightfoot, who so clearly loves KU and probably would both not mind and benefit from being around here as long as possible. Why would Lawson do it, you might ask? Good question. And I’m not saying he would. But he might. And it could be to help his younger brothers have a better path to a bluebood program like Kansas down the road. You scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours, you know? Long shot, maybe. But it has happened.
• There’s always a chance that Whitman himself could wind up paying his own way. I know he said he was coming on scholarship, but he’s not exactly the one with the best leverage here. Let’s say the Jayhawks learned they were getting Duval. (I still don’t see it happening, for what that’s worth). In an effort to make room for him, they could ask Whitman if he were interested in footing the bill for his time at KU. As a graduate transfer, I don’t think he has to be enrolled in a full 12 hours of graduate school to be eligible, so the financial burden might not be that bad. Plus, if it were to play out this way, he’d still be getting an opportunity to play at Kansas. Not many people are going to turn that down, especially competitors who want to test themselves at the highest level like Whitman does.
• It’s also possible someone else could transfer out, opening up another spot with the scholarship they would leave behind. If I were to make a guess about a leading candidate for this option, I’d have to say it’s senior-to-be Dwight Coleby. I don’t know where he’s at in terms of graduation, but if he’s close, maybe he could knock out his remaining hours this summer and go the grad transfer route himself. Instead of being one of five — or possibly even six — big men on a roster, he surely could find another good program that would make him one of three or four. I like Coleby. He’s a great dude, a terrific teammate and I think a bunch of people would love to see what he could do if fully healthy. But he also wants to play and if he thinks his chances of doing that are better elsewhere it could wind up being mutually beneficial for him and the program.
• Another rarity here, but what about academic scholarships? I’m not knowledgeable enough about Whitman, Duval or Tilmon’s academic standing to know whether either player would be a candidate for that — and therefore could essentially walk on while having school paid for via academics — but, unless there's a rule against it, it’s something that surely has been done. I'll have to look into it at the Div. I level. I know for sure that it happens at lower levels of college athletics all the time.
Those are just a handful of possibilities that could — again, could — make it all work and those are just the ones I can think of. As mentioned twice above, there’s no doubt that Self and his associates at KU know of at least a few other avenues that were not outlined here.
Regardless of how it all plays out, know this: Self’s got it 100 percent under control. And there is no scenario possible in which he’s going to head into summer workouts or the first practice of the season with one or two too many guys and have to ask for a show of hands of those willing to volunteer to give up their scholarship.
Self’s way too good of a general manager to let that happen. So you know if he took Charlie Moore and if he took Jack Whitman, he’s got a plan at the ready for a way to move forward in case he needs to take someone else in the coming days or weeks.
So sit tight, breathe easy and let’s see how this thing plays out. Fascinating stuff.