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Tale of the Tait

In-home visits up next for Hall of Famer Bill Self

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

With Hall of Fame week and the overwhelming emotions of being inducted and celebrated by assistants and players from every step of his coaching journey now behind him, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self can again move on to the business at hand.

In the immediate, that means getting back to recruiting full-time, an endeavor that is as important this year as any because of the potential for KU to lose as many as 5 or 6 players to the NBA Draft and graduation after the 2017-18 season.

Fresh off of his return from Springfield, Mass., where on Saturday, during a private ceremony one day after his induction, Self received his Hall of Fame ring, the Kansas coach will be in The Woodlands, Texas, today, conducting an in-home visit with five-star guard Quentin Grimes.

“I've got a lot of nice rings,” Self said Saturday. “But I don't know if I have any nicer than this. It is nice and it was nice to sit on the stage with all those greats. I'm still kind of blown away by the experience but this is something I will cherish and I'm sure my family will, too."

Today, it’s all about the next big step in adding Grimes to the Kansas basketball family.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, the 6-foot-5, 180-pound Grimes recently wrapped up in-home visits with Kentucky, Marquette and Texas, but many believe the Jayhawks are the team to beat in his recruitment.

“This is one where I think BillSelf and his staff are considered the leaders headed into visits,” Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi recently wrote. “And I like where they stand.”

Borzello also reported that the Jayhawks this week were expected to make an in-home visit with fellow five-star guard Devon Dotson, the 6-1, 180-pound point guard from Charlotte who visited KU’s campus a couple of weeks ago.

Shay Wildeboor, of JayhawkSlant.com reported Monday that the Dotson visit will take place Thursday and Borzello indicated that the elite point guard also plans to host Florida, UCLA and Maryland this week after conducting an in-home visit with Clemson last weekend.

“There’s a decent chance that Kansas could get both Dotson and Grimes,” Bossi wrote. “If it doesn’t get both, though, I’d be pretty surprised if it didn’t get at least one of the two.”

Dotson and Grimes are just two on a long list of Kansas targets in the 2018 class, but, with both ranked in the Top 20 in the Rivals 150 (Grimes, No. 11, Dotson No. 17) they are two of the higher-profile players the Jayhawks are pursuing to add to a class that already includes five-star big man Silvio De Sousa.

Another such player is 6-foot-3, 175-pound point guard Immanuel Quickley, who visited Kansas two weekends ago and was slated to head to Miami (Fla.) and Kentucky after that.

Not much has been learned about Quickley’s visit to KU and his trip to Miami was postponed last weekend because of Hurricane Irma.

Given that Quickley is expected to visit Kentucky this weekend — and the Wildcats are Quickley’s Crystal Ball leader, at 100 percent, according to 247 Sports — it will be interesting to see if the Miami visit gets rescheduled.

Quickley has said he would like to make his decision before the start of his senior season at John Carroll High in Bel Air, Maryland.

Reply 3 comments from Surrealku Jimwilliamson

Iowa State Cyclones honor Bill Self’s Hall of Fame induction

Kansas head coach Bill Self takes some ribbing from the Iowa State student section as he takes the court before tipoff on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas head coach Bill Self takes some ribbing from the Iowa State student section as he takes the court before tipoff on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Throughout the past week, and, really, the past few months, we've heard from a lot of people who love Bill Self and appreciate his honor of being selected as a member of the 2017 class at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

That honor will become official a little after 6:30 tonight (on NBA TV) when Self is inducted into the Hall in front of more than 120 friends, family members, former players and former assistant coaches.

And in the past several weeks, many of those people have spoken up to let their thoughts be known about Self's achievement and what he has meant to their lives.

Many of them made sense. Here at KUsports.com we got in touch with his daughter, his father, former KU coach Larry Brown, several former players, a few former assistants, all people who know Self best.

And it made perfect sense for them to share their favorite memories or emotions about the KU coach's big honor.

But earlier this week, a video made its way to Twitter that kind of came out of nowhere.

It makes sense for the Larry Browns and Danny Mannings of the world to honor Self. But for a few dudes who competed against him and suffered some tough, tough losses to come out and do the same is a whole different deal.

That's exactly what the Iowa State men's basketball program did this week, with former ISU player and coach Fred Hoiberg — whose daughter, Paige, works in the Kansas basketball offices — leading the charge and current ISU coach Steve Prohm closing the show.

The video is short and sweet, but shows an incredible amount of class, both on an individual level and at the program level, and, no doubt, will be one of the sweeter surprises for Self whenever he sees it.

In many ways, it's things like this that make college basketball, college athletics and competition at that level so great.

Here's a look at the video, featuring Hoiberg, Monte Morris, Georges Niang, Naz Long and Prohm. Great stuff.

None by Cyclone Basketball

Reply 7 comments from Forever2008 Doug Merrill Raprichard Brett McCabe Jim Woodward Dale Rogers Jeremy Morris Maxhawk

Larry Brown on Bill Self: ‘They know the guy cares, so they’re going to do anything for him’

Former Kansas coach Larry Brown, left, laughs as he and Kansas head coach Bill Self talk with CBS commentator Greg Anthony during a day of practices at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012.

Former Kansas coach Larry Brown, left, laughs as he and Kansas head coach Bill Self talk with CBS commentator Greg Anthony during a day of practices at the Superdome on Friday, March 30, 2012. by Nick Krug

Springfield, Mass. — Former Kansas coach Larry Brown, who on Friday night will present Bill Self during his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has been in the game of basketball long enough to learn a few important things about players and coaches.

None of them, according to Brown, are bigger than the one fundamental truth that exists with players at all levels but has been wildly prevalent with the professional players he has coached and observed throughout the years.

“Everybody always tells me about pro players and how you can’t coach them,” Brown told the Journal-World recently when discussing Kansas coach Bill Self’s addition to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “But the first thing to pros want to find out is, does this coach know how to coach? And they can tell you that after one practice. The second thing they want to know is, can this coach make me better? And the third thing, which trumps them all, is does this coach care? And that’s what Bill has. He has the ability to be direct and hold them accountable but yet they know he cares about them.”

That trait, among dozens of others, is one that Brown admires most about Self, who actually began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Brown’s Kansas staff during the 1985-86 season.

Since then, through stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and the last 14 years at Kansas, Self has racked up 623 victories and a laundry list of achievements and accolades that would make any coach blush.

But for each trophy or trip to the Final Four or Elite Eight has been something deeper that exists within Self and the way he relates to his players. And Brown, who has witnessed this firsthand, both in practices and during games, says that trait has played a huge role in Self becoming a Hall of Famer.

“The thing, to me, that separates the really great, great coaches are the ones that can kind of tell their kids almost anything, but the kids accept it the right way because they know they care,” Brown explained. “He lets small stuff go, and he’s done that wherever he’s been. They all know the guy cares, so then they’re going to do anything for him.”

Brown, who recently penned an open letter to Self on The Players Tribune web site congratulating Self on the Hall of Fame and sharing with the world his admiration for the Kansas coach, has spent a lot of time around the KU program during the Self era and continually marveled at Self’s success.

“What he’s created there, shoot, it’s unbelievable what he’s done,” Brown said. “And he has not accepted it as him doing it, which is really unique.”

As for the kind words that Brown wrote in that letter, Self was asked about them in an interview with NBA TV earlier this week. And, in true Self fashion, he joked: “It was a nice letter. It was probably exactly the way my mother would’ve written it for him. But, no, he was way too kind with that and, certainly, he means a lot to me and he means a lot to so many that have been involved with this game.... Having him with me on Friday will be special.”

Stick with KUsports.com throughout the next two days for all kinds of coverage from Self's induction into the Hall of Fame in Massachusetts and be sure to listen to the complete Self interview with NBA TV.

Reply

Hall of Fame to fix mistake on Bill Self tribute bench

The Bill Self bench outside the entrance to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has one small mistake that the Hall says soon will be fixed.

The Bill Self bench outside the entrance to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has one small mistake that the Hall says soon will be fixed. by Matt Tait

Of all of the great tributes to Bill Self that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has rolled out, one left Kansas basketball fans frustrated on Thursday.

Outside of the main entrance to the Hall of Fame, just before reaching a statue of James Naismith, visitors encounter a walkway with several stone benches honoring the coaches who are in the Hall of Fame.

Larry Brown has one. Roy Williams has one. And now Bill Self has one, too.

Carved into the top of the benches, where people presumably would sit, are the coaches' names and signatures, the class they went in with, the honorees they selected to be named — most often family members or mentors — and a section at the bottom that lists all of the schools that are most important to them.

For Self, who starred at Edmond (Okla.) High before going on to play at Oklahoma State, both of those schools are on there, along with the four schools at which Self has been a head coach — Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas.

One problem. Where it lists Kansas, it reads, “Kansas University” instead of the University of Kansas.

With KU fans taking to social media to voice their displeasure, one KU official reached out to the Hall of Fame to inform it of the error.

The KU official told the Journal-World that the Hall of Fame regretted the mistake and promised to correct it as soon as possible.

All’s well that ends well. And, hey, it’s not like they spelled it “Bill Slef” on the KU coach’s official portrait or got the man the wrong jacket size.

Everything about the Hall of Fame and this induction experience has been first class and there’s no doubting that the bench will be fixed soon.

Reply 10 comments from Mike Auer Zchuckie Iljayhawk522 Bryan Mohr Matt Tait Larrym Danielr

It’s Hall of Fame Week for KU coach Bill Self

Kansas head coach Bill Self raises up the fieldhouse following the Jayhawks' 87-86 overtime win over Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012.

Kansas head coach Bill Self raises up the fieldhouse following the Jayhawks' 87-86 overtime win over Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. by Nick Krug

Throughout the past decade or so of Kansas basketball you’ve heard — perhaps even said — the chatter, in any given year, about how KU’s roster was so deep that its second five could finish in the Top half of the Big 12 Conference.

Although we’ve never been able to find out for sure, on many occasions, the claim certainly has seemed true, as KU coach Bill Self often has stacked his roster with such incredible depth and talent that it’s hard to believe so many talented players could be on the same team.

So what if we apply that line of thinking to Bill Self’s coaching career and imagine for a second that Self, who is set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, could actually still have a Hall of Fame career ahead of him, too.

Think about it. While the grinding Self did at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and even Illinois positioned him for the job at Kansas, where he has won at an unprecedented rate and established a pace and set records that may never been seen again, it’s possible that Self’s best years are still ahead.

That’s not to take anything away from the turnaround at Oral Roberts, the deep tournament run at Tulsa or the national runner-up roster he built at Illinois. All of those achievements played a big part in Self being selected for the Hall of Fame the first time he appeared on the ballot. But there’s no doubt that his achievements at Kansas put him over the top.

One national championship, a pair of Final Fours, seven Elite Eight appearances, and, of course, a record-tying run of 13 consecutive Big 12 titles and counting. Without those feats on his resume, Self may still be waiting for the call from the Hall. But even if he were, isn’t it conceivable that what lies ahead for Self and the Jayhawks might actually top what he’s done to this point?

OK, he probably won’t win another 13 Big 12 titles in a row and push the incredible streak to 26 — but would you bet against it? And, depending on how long he plans to continue coaching, it’s no sure thing that he’ll get to another seven Elite Eights.

But can’t you see a few more Final Fours and another national title or two in Self’s future?

If so, you know that a bunch of victories would come with them, and that alone — what Self does from this point forward — likely would be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame in and of itself.

As it stands today, though, he doesn’t have to wait.

And while we wait for the week ahead, which will include all kinds of coverage of Self’s induction into the Hall of Fame, including stories and photos from the KUsports.com staff in Springfield, Mass., here’s a quick look back at our Bill Self “Hall of Fame Material” series in late March and early April that led up to the announcement and included thoughts from some of the people who know Self best.

Current Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, left, and former KU coach Larry Brown visit on the bench during the Legends of the Phog game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Current Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, left, and former KU coach Larry Brown visit on the bench during the Legends of the Phog game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

Part I: Hall of Famer, Larry Brown

“I’m in awe of what he’s done.” — Larry Brown

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is a Hall of Famer in daughter Lauren's eyes for more than his 600-plus victories and crowded trophy case. His ability to mentor young people while also achieving success on the court at the highest level has impressed her the most.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is a Hall of Famer in daughter Lauren's eyes for more than his 600-plus victories and crowded trophy case. His ability to mentor young people while also achieving success on the court at the highest level has impressed her the most. by Contributed photo

Part II: Bill Self’s daughter, Lauren

“I’m definitely not always there and don’t understand a lot of things that go into the day to day grind of being a coach, but I know how hard he works and what’s important to him. It is incredible to see guys stand up on senior night and share not only the impact that my dad has had on them as a player but also as a man.... To pour his life into these guys, some of whom come to college really lost, the hard work isn’t just in the X’s and O’s of basketball but in helping build these people into adults and helping them make something of their lives. I really admire that about my dad. He’s always wanted to be the best. He wants to win. But I don’t think it’s ever been just about him.” — Lauren (Self) Browning

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pound fists as Mason leaves the game late in the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pound fists as Mason leaves the game late in the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Part III: 2016-17 National Player of the Year, Frank Mason III

“Just look at the numbers and the history he’s been a part of here, and even before here. It’s just unbelievable what he’s been able to do.” — Frank Mason III

Kansas coach Bill Self, right, peeks around assistant coach Doc Sadler during practice for a second-round game in the NCAA basketball tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 21, 2013. Kansas is scheduled to play Western Kentucky on Friday.

Kansas coach Bill Self, right, peeks around assistant coach Doc Sadler during practice for a second-round game in the NCAA basketball tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 21, 2013. Kansas is scheduled to play Western Kentucky on Friday.

Part IV: Former KU staff member, Doc Sadler

“I mean, he’s the most unbelievable friend. Everybody knows about his coaching. They get that. But to have the ability to get the best out of people around him is what separates him from a lot of people.” — Doc Sadler

From left, men's basketball dance judges Danny Manning, Bill Self and Aaron Miles crack jokes while giving scores to members of the men's basketball team skits during Late Night at Allen Fieldhouse on Oct. 13, 2006.

From left, men's basketball dance judges Danny Manning, Bill Self and Aaron Miles crack jokes while giving scores to members of the men's basketball team skits during Late Night at Allen Fieldhouse on Oct. 13, 2006. by thad-allender

Part V: KU legend/former Self assistant coach, Danny Manning

“The things that he’s done at the University of Kansas, basketball-wise, as well as with his contribution to the community and the area in general, make me extremely proud to be an alum, not only of the school but also of the program.” — Danny Manning

Broadcaster Bob Davis laughs next to Greg Gurley during a video commemorating Davis' 37-year during halftime, Saturday, March 5, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Broadcaster Bob Davis laughs next to Greg Gurley during a video commemorating Davis' 37-year during halftime, Saturday, March 5, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Part VI: Longtime Voice of the Jayhawks, Bob Davis

“He’s the whole package. He’s a great game coach and a tremendous recruiter. The thing he does that’s different is that Bill is such a people person. He remembers everybody’s name and remembers things about them.” — Bob Davis

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor and KU coach Bill Self have some words during the first half of Monday's game against Baylor.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor and KU coach Bill Self have some words during the first half of Monday's game against Baylor. by Richard Gwin

Part VII: 2011-12 national runner-up, Tyshawn Taylor

“I haven’t been with him for four or five years, but he’s still with me. I’m 27 and he’s the most influential male in my life, just because of the things he said to me that stuck with me.” — Tyshawn Taylor

Kansas basketball players huddle around Roger Morningstar as he gives out the Christmas lists of local families in need so the players can shop for the families at Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa Street, on Wednesday evening.

Kansas basketball players huddle around Roger Morningstar as he gives out the Christmas lists of local families in need so the players can shop for the families at Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa Street, on Wednesday evening. by John Young

Part VIII: Former Jayhawk player and parent, Roger Morningstar

“He can coach. He can recruit. He can relate to kids better than anybody I’ve seen. And he doesn’t motivate through all the phony grabbing of sayings from Civil War and from Patton and all that stuff. He has a way of putting everything in the context of the present and letting it motivate the kids." — Roger Morningstar

Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self, left, discusses KU’s selection to represent the United States in the 2015 World University Games, Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at KU. Joining Self at the news conference were KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, center, and Craig Jonas, the deputy head of the USA delegation for the Games.

Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self, left, discusses KU’s selection to represent the United States in the 2015 World University Games, Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at KU. Joining Self at the news conference were KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, center, and Craig Jonas, the deputy head of the USA delegation for the Games. by Mike Yoder

Part IX: KU athletic director, Sheahon Zenger

“I can give you chapter and verse of all the things he’s accomplished, as everyone else can. And that’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame. But to me, what makes him a Hall of Famer is he’s one of the most authentic people I know. He’s humble, self-deprecating, what you see is what you get, and that’s refreshing. He’s a celebrity that doesn’t act like it.” — Sheahon Zenger

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, right, and his father, Bill Self Sr., enjoy some time together in the summer of 2016 at the family's condo in Florida.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, right, and his father, Bill Self Sr., enjoy some time together in the summer of 2016 at the family's condo in Florida. by Contributed photo

Part X: Bill Self’s father, Bill Self, Sr.

“I couldn’t possibly name all the great things people have had to say about him, but if I had to pick one that stood out it would be how people appreciate the relationship with his players.” — Bill Self Sr.

Reply 1 comment from Craig Carson

Another 5-star guard to visit KU this weekend

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has talked often about the importance of the KU football program, both for the overall health of the university and for his basketball program.

Because so many key recruiting weekends take place during football season, Self has expressed his desire for Memorial Stadium to be rocking when he and his staff bring visitors to town, many of them elite, high-profile, top-tier talent.

One such player will be in town this weekend, and, thanks to the celebration of the 10-year reunion of the 2008 Orange Bowl championship that is slated for Saturday’s game, he figures to see a better football atmosphere than most basketball recruits have during the past six or seven seasons.

Whether that, combined with what he sees and learns about the KU hoops program, will be enough to entice five-star guard Immanuel Quickley to pick Kansas or not remains to be seen. But it certainly cannot hurt and the scene at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night figures to be as good as any we’ve seen since the men who are being honored that night were lighting up scoreboards and opponents on a regular basis.

As for Quickley, his KU visit kicks off a stretch of three consecutive weeks in which he will visit his three remaining finalists. After visiting Lawrence this weekend, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound point guard from John Carroll High in Bel Air, Md., will travel to Miami (Fla.) next week and visit Kentucky the week after.

Quickley currently is ranked in the No. 9 overall slot in the 247 Sports composite rankings and No. 10 in the 2018 class by Rivals.com.

The 247 Sports crystal ball prediction lists Kentucky as the 100 percent favorite at the moment. But it’s worth noting here that Maryland was a 100 percent crystal ball pick for 2018 big man Silvio De Sousa less than a week ago and, as you all surely know by now, De Sousa committed to Kansas earlier this week.

So you never really know how these things are going to play out. Is Kentucky the favorite? Probably. Is KU a long shot? Perhaps. But as one of Quickley’s three finalists and with a shot to sell him on the Kansas campus, you have to think KU is at least genuinely in the mix until otherwise noted.

None by Immanuel Quickley

Matt Scott, of 247 Sports site TheShiver.com, recently wrote that it’s his belief that Quickley will make a decision shortly after his visit to Kentucky.

In early August, about three weeks before Quickley named KU, Kentucky and Miami as his final three, Scott provided this detailed look at the Jayhawks’ pursuit of the point guard.

“Quickley is a lethal guard that is explosive with the ball and great at setting up his teammates,” Scott wrote. “He has a good pull up game, can hit shots from behind the arc and is strong with both hands. And, yes, he’s quick too.... KU’s chances are low here. They could improve with his visit to Kansas, but with two visits immediately following his trip to Lawrence it seems that KU is on the outside looking in.”

Add to that tidbit the fact that Quickley, himself, once called Kentucky the leader for his services, and it seems like it’s going to take a heck of a weekend for the Jayhawks to pull Quickley all the way into their corner.

Still, he will be on campus and the KU coaches and players — along with the football team and Memorial Stadium crowd — will have a couple of days to put their best foot forward and show Quickley why Kansas is the place for him.

Reply 5 comments from Dirk Medema Harlan Hobbs Memhawk Surrealku

Initial reaction to KU’s 2017-18 Big 12 Conference schedule

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) celebrate with a 13-straight conference title towel following the Jayhawks' win over TCU.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) celebrate with a 13-straight conference title towel following the Jayhawks' win over TCU. by Nick Krug

We’ve known about the marquee games for a while now — KU vs. Kentucky in the Champions Classic in Chicago; KU vs. Syracuse in Miami in early December; a return to Nebraska in mid-December and Arizona State and Washington in Lawrence and Kansas City.

But on Thursday, the Big 12 Conference released the second half of KU’s schedule, with all 18 conference games now with known dates and times.

While a lot can change over the course of a season, and, remembering that things don’t always go as predicted, it’s worth noting that what we perceive to be true today might not wind up being that way as the season plays out.

But, with that in mind, here’s my initial reaction to KU’s Big 12 Conference schedule for the 2017-18 season, which opens Dec. 29 on the road at Texas.

Most exciting game: I think you have to look at Feb. 17, Kansas vs. West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse. The clear-cut Big 12 favorite against the clear-cut top contender. It’s a Saturday evening game and it will mark the first time since KU’s improbable and incredible comeback win over the Mountaineers at home last season that the two schools will hook up at Allen Fieldhouse. The Mountaineers will be looking for revenge from that utter collapse and the Jayhawks, no doubt, will give WVU their full attention. Runner-up: I really like KU opening Big 12 play in Austin, Texas, against a super-talented (on paper) Shaka Smart team in what figures to be a fun environment on a Friday night.

Toughest stretch: There’s a four-game stretch, starting Feb. 6 and ending Feb. 17 that could be a bear. Four games in 11 days against the likes of TCU, Iowa State, Baylor and West Virginia. The Baylor and Iowa State games are on the road and TCU — which, oh by the way, beat a Josh Jackson-less KU in the Big 12 tournament last year — West Virginia proved to be two of KU’s toughest outs at home last season. Beyond that, the back-to-back road games on Saturday at Baylor and on Tuesday at Iowa State are the only time the entire season that KU will play two true road games in a row. There are two other two-game spurts away from Allen Fieldhouse this season — Dec. 2 against Syracuse in Miami and Dec. 6 against Washington in Kansas City, Mo., and Dec. 21 against Stanford in Sacramento and Dec. 29 at Texas in the Big 12 opener — but only one of those four games is a true road game.

Easiest stretch: Frankly, if anyone in the Big 12 has its eye on ending the Jayhawks’ consecutive Big 12 title streak this season, they better do the heavy lifting early. The way I see it, KU’s easiest stretch on this year’s conference schedule is the four-game run that ends the regular season. Yes, two of the four games are on the road. And, sure, Stillwater, Okla., is always a tough place to win. But at Texas Tech and at OSU aren’t nearly as scary this season as they have been in the past and when you sprinkle in home games against Oklahoma and Texas in there, it’s hard to see the Jayhawks slipping in their final four games. That means, even if the Jayhawks somehow stumble out to a 9-5 record in their first 14 Big 12 games, a 13-5 record is still easily within reach and that should at least win a share of the league yet again.

Toughest game: I don’t think there’s any question that this is Monday, Jan. 15 at West Virginia. Talented team in a Big Monday environment with a hostile crowd in a building where the Jayhawks have lost four in a row. Ending their losing streak in Morgantown will be one of the toughest tasks the Jayhawks face all season.

Easiest game: I’ll go with Saturday, Feb. 3 vs. Oklahoma State. Not only are the Cowboys picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Big 12 standings this season, they’re also rebuilding with a new head coach and a bunch of new faces in new roles. Add to that the fact that the Saturday game follows a Big Monday match-up with Kansas State at home — so KU will get a full week of rest, recovery and preparation — and you’re looking at a perfect set up for an easy home win.

Overall takeaway: This schedule is about as good as KU could ask for. Opening on the road is never easy, but the fact that it’s Texas, which fields a ton of impressive talent, should get their attention. After that, when you look at just about every spot on the schedule where a tough game might give KU trouble, trouble is nowhere to be found and those slots are filled either with favorable home games or bottom-half opponents. Consider one more advantage for the boys in crimson and blue. After getting their tougher road games out of the way early on, four of their final five games away from Allen Fieldhouse are against teams projected to finish toward the bottom of the Big 12 standings. Kansas should like this schedule a lot and should definitely feel good about making a run to Big 12 title No. 14 in a row.

Reply 4 comments from Jayhawkmarshall Texashawk10_2 Boardshorts

KU commitment Silvio De Sousa had the Jayhawks in mind for a long time

IMG Academy's Silvio De Sousa #22 in action against Wasatch Academy during a high school basketball game at the 2017 Hoophall Classic on Sunday, January 15, 2017, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

IMG Academy's Silvio De Sousa #22 in action against Wasatch Academy during a high school basketball game at the 2017 Hoophall Classic on Sunday, January 15, 2017, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) by Matt Tait

When Class of 2018 big man Silvio De Sousa arrived in Lawrence last weekend for his official campus visit, it marked the beginning of something for which the native of Angola had been waiting a long time.

The chance to play college basketball, De Sousa knew, would come in time and there was no doubt in his mind that he would have plenty of quality offers from first-class programs to mull over when making decision about where to attend school.

But there was always something about Kansas that stuck in De Sousa’s mind.

Perhaps it was the past success and buzz that surrounded former KU players Joel Embiid and Cheick Diallo, both African-born players who made a big impact during their lone seasons at Kansas and now are playing in the NBA.

“I never got a chance to meet them,” De Sousa told the Journal-World on Wednesday of Embiid, who hails from Cameroon, and Diallo, who came to the U.S. from Mali. “But I know who they are and that’s one of the things that made me move on to Kansas. They had such great success there and it seemed to be a good fit for them.”

And while that did not hurt the way the 6-foot-9, 244-pound Angolan viewed the KU program, something more recent that took Lawrence by storm sparked in De Sousa visions of his name on the back of a KU jersey and him calling Lawrence home for a while.

“I always looked forward to getting an offer from Kansas and ever since Josh Jackson committed to Kansas I told myself I could be the next one-and-done there,” De Sousa said Wednesday after sharing the news that he had committed to KU. “I had a lot of offers and stuff like that but I decided to keep quiet and just let everything come in time.”

That “everything” arrived earlier this year, when KU officially offered De Sousa a scholarship at the outset of the summer AAU season. And it reached an exciting conclusion when De Sousa committed to the Kansas coaches before he left town last Sunday.

Set to turn 19 on Oct. 7, De Sousa is not in any way new to basketball. He began playing at age 9 and, according to those who have seen him in action, has a feel for the game and versatile skill set that bring to mind thoughts of a polished prep standout.

ESPN broadcaster Fran Fraschilla — a former head coach at Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico — told the Journal-World this week that De Sousa was “destined to play in the NBA,” but the power forward who has been compared to former KU star Thomas Robinson and, going way back, to former Alabama beast Antonio McDyess, does not appear at all focused on anything other than what’s in front of him at Kansas.

“I told Coach Bill (Self) Kansas is the place where I want to be and I made my decision when I was there,” De Sousa said Wednesday. “I met all of the team when I was there. I knew a couple of guys; we played against each other sometimes, with the national team, so I kind of knew them and they were real cool with me. They made me feel like I had been there for the past three years.”

With that vibe fresh in his mind, thoughts of Embiid and Diallo permanently planted there and the image of Jackson becoming a star and jumping to the NBA as the No. 4 overall pick in last June’s draft, the case for KU was too strong for De Sousa to pass up.

Asked if he would sum up his recruitment by saying that things worked out exactly the way he had hoped, De Sousa answered without hesitating.

“It really did,” he said. “I’m excited to get to Kansas.”

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A closer look at new Kansas commitment Silvio De Sousa

IMG Academy's Silvio De Sousa #22 shoots a free throw against Wasatch Academy during a high school basketball game at the 2017 Hoophall Classic on Sunday, January 15, 2017, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

IMG Academy's Silvio De Sousa #22 shoots a free throw against Wasatch Academy during a high school basketball game at the 2017 Hoophall Classic on Sunday, January 15, 2017, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) by Matt Tait

He announced his commitment from an airport in Germany and spent most of the past couple of days traveling from Florida back home to Angola.

But those facts perfectly illustrate the kind of tenacity possessed by Class of 2018 big man Silvio De Sousa, who made his oral commitment to Kansas official on Wednesday in an interview with the Journal-World.

At 6-foot-9, 244 pounds out of IMG Academy, by way of Angola, De Sousa will bring to Kansas the kind of power and speed that have earned him comparisons to former Kentucky forward Julius Randle and former KU All-American Thomas Robinson.

Ranked No. 18 nationally by Rivals.com, and No. 30 overall by the 247 Sports composite rankings, De Sousa chose Kansas over heavy interest from Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, Syracuse and others.

Those rankings are not high enough, according to ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who got to know De Sousa at the Steph Curry select camp in August.

“I think this kid is one of the 10 best players coming into college next year,” Fraschilla told the Journal-World. “There’s not 5 big men in the country I’d take ahead of him.”

In De Sousa, the Jayhawks are getting a player whom Fraschilla describes as “a beast.”

“He is an absolute stud,” Fraschilla said. “He’s not only high-energy, but he’s an outstanding athlete. And he is going to be a pro. There were things about (former Jayhawks) Carlton Bragg and Cliff Alexander that I worried about and questioned. And other guys who come in a little bit more raw like (Udoka Azubuike) did last year. But this kid is a stud. He has a good feel for the game. He’s, you know, Body By Jake, plays with incredible intensity and, for his size and age, he is very polished. There’s not a lot to not like,”

Wrote 247 Sports recruiting analyst Matt Scott during a recent look at the 2018 class, “Silvio is a strong and rugged power forward. He isn’t flashy, but he is a hard worker who gets a lot of easy baskets by crashing the offensive glass. He can handle the ball a bit and can finish with authority at the rim. He is a good shot blocker and he uses his impressive strength to wall up on defenders making it tough to get a good look at the basket.”

Fraschilla, who has called several Big 12 and KU games for ESPN throughout the past few years and has seen plenty of elite players in his day, both as a broadcaster and a head coach, said De Sousa one day would add his name to the list of NBA prospects to come out of KU.

“Just on his energy and athleticism he’s destined to play in the NBA,” Fraschilla said. “Bill’s gonna love this kid. And Kansas fans are gonna fall in love with his combination of freak athleticism, size, strength and then he’s got a motor that will not quit. He’s a warrior with a smile on his face.”

Reply 13 comments from Alan Dickey Eliott Reeder Matt Tait Surrealku Dirk Medema Garry Wright Dale Rogers Jim Woodward Barry Weiss

PG Devon Dotson, Devonte’ Graham bonded during recent visit

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

It may have been a busy weekend in Lawrence, with five-star prospects Devon Dotson and Silvio De Sousa officially visiting the Kansas basketball program, but the excitement on the recruiting trail did not end when the two talented prospects left town.

Before getting on to some other news that already has surfaced around the country this week, let’s take a quick look back at Dotson’s visit.

Dotson, the 6-foot-2 point guard from Charlotte, N.C., told Matt Scott of TheShiver.com that he spent quite a bit of time with Devonte’ Graham during his visit in an attempt to find out as much as he possibly could about the ins and outs of the KU program.

“I asked him a bunch of questions about the school,” Dotson told Scott. “He said he loved it there and that it’s a great place. He’s from North Carolina too and he said the transition to Kansas was smooth and easy.... He said they play fast and that it’s great for guards there.”

None of that, of course, is much of a surprise, but, from a KU perspective, Graham is exactly the kind of guy the Jayhawks want answering those questions and talking to recruits about the Kansas experience. The fact that these two play the same position and grew up in the same state likely only added to the connection and the positivity that Dotson took away from his visit.

That’s not to say it’s all KU all the time now for the talented guard. Dotson plans to visit Florida this coming weekend and told Scott that he might take a couple of more visits, too.

As for a time table on his decision, Dotson said he would like to announce his choice before his senior season begins in November.

McCormack down to 6

On Monday, Class of 2018 big man David McCormack, who recently made his own visit to the KU campus, narrowed his list to a final six.

Kansas made the cut along with Duke, NC State, Oklahoma State, Xavier and UCLA.

McCormack, 6-9, 290 pounds, plays at Oak Hill Academy, and was a teammate of current KU freshman Billy Preston last year.

Ranked No. 41 in the class according to the 247 Sports composite rankings, McCormack told Scott after his trip to Lawrence that his visit went “great” and added that he had yet to set up any official visits.

None by Trey Mines

Langford picks Final 7

Class of 2018 shooting guard Romeo Langford announced on Twitter this week that he has narrowed his list down to a group of seven schools, with Kansas being one of them.

The 6-4, 185-pound guard from New Albany, Indiana, is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 5 player in the 2018 class. He also has Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville, North Carolina, Vanderbilt and UCLA on his list of finalists.

Jerrance Howard is listed by Scout.com as KU’s lead recruiter for Langford.

Another Late Night visitor

According to the Twitter accout for Basketball Unlimited (@txbunation), Class of 2020 point guard RJ Hampton, of Little Elm, Texas, is planning to make an unofficial visit to Kansas for the 33rd annual Late Night in the Phog, Sept. 30.

247 Sports lists Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Cal, LSU and UCLA as the programs to have offered Hampton, 6-4, 170, and currently has the Longhorns pegged as the team to beat.

None by Basketball Unlimited

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