The long and drawn out recruitment of five-star point guard Trevon Duval ended Monday morning with a video and an announcement that surprised nobody.
Duval, the No. 4-ranked player in the Class of 2017 and the top point guard in the country according to Rivals.com, confirmed his intention to play his college basketball at Duke, giving the Blue Devils another impressive piece in a stellar recruiting class.
Landing Duval gives Duke the No. 1 ranked point guard, shooting guard (Gary Trent Jr.) and power forward (Wendell Carter Jr.) in the 2017 class, per Scout.com, and also gives the Blue Devils the point guard they desperately needed.
The addition of Duval bumps Duke's 2017 recruiting class up to No. 2 in the nation, right behind, you guessed it, Kentucky's stellar class that includes seven of the top 28 players.
Duval's announcement came via a video released by The Players Tribune. In it, he chronicled his life in basketball, from birth to this decision. There were no hats, no television special and no actual images of Duval himself. Just him doing a voice over on an animated video titled "Hungry and Humble," which ended with his commitment.
"Next year, I'm going to be playing basketball at Duke University," he said. "I'm excited to evolve as a student, as a basketball player and now, and forever, as a Blue Devil."
Recorded Tuesday, May 9, 2017
One day after warming up and improving as the competition went on, Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk has withdrawn from the rest of the NBA combine because of an ankle injury he suffered Thursday.
Mykhailiuk, the 6-7 wing who is one of 14 players at the 67-man combine who has not yet hired an agent, thus leaving open the possibility of a return to KU for his senior season, delivered a mixed bag of results during Thursday’s action in Chicago.
His measurements were neither wildly impressive nor disappointing and his play on the floor, which featured a couple of bad misses early on during the 5-on-5 scrimmage along with a hot streak later in the game and even a defensive highlight when he blocked KU teammate Frank Mason III, left most scouts and NBA executives curious to see more.
Unfortunately for Mykhailiuk, that will not happen. Jonathan Givony, who runs DraftExpress.com, Tweeted around 10:30 Friday morning that Mykhailiuk had withdrawn from the rest of the combine because of the injury.
So now the entire focus shifts to his stay-or-go decision.
Mykhailiuk, whom multiple sources told the Journal-World earlier this week was leaning toward staying in the draft, now has to evaluate whether his brief showing, body of work at Kansas and interaction with NBA people during the past couple of weeks was enough for him to feel confident that he would get drafted.
One source said the main question surrounding Mykhailiuk entering the week was exactly that — whether some team would take him in the second round, not whether he could sneak into the first round.
Earlier this week, ESPN.com anonymously polled multiple NBA executives about what they thought each of the 14 players at the combine who had not yet hired an agent should do after the combine is over and their advice to Mykhailiuk was for him to return to Kansas.
Whether he takes that path or not should be known in the next week or so. But don't expect a grand announcement either way. The soon-to-be-20-year-old Ukrainian, like his best buddy on the team Devonte' Graham, is not a flashy, attention-seeking kind of guy. His announcement, whatever he decides, figures to be short and sweet and not a media spectacle.
Mykhailiuk, who likely will stay in Chicago to continue conversations and interviews with team executives through the weekend, still will have until May 24 to make a final decision about his future. And although many of the pros and cons he will be weighing remain the same, the ankle injury likely makes the whole process a little more difficult.
ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman on Wednesday identified the 14 college players attending this year’s pre-draft combine who have not hired an agent and then anonymously polled “multiple” NBA executives and asked them whether each player should stay in the draft or return to school for the 2017-18 season.
A whopping 12 of the 14 players identified — including KU junior Svi Mykhailiuk — were “told” to return to school, with only Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and SMU forward Semi Ojeleye (from nearby Ottawa High) drawing anything other than advice to stay in school.
Swanigan, who was in the running for national player of the year and enjoyed a monster season for the Boilermakers was encouraged flat-out to turn pro now. Ojeleye, who started his college career at Duke before transferring to SMU, drew a mixed reaction, with half of the execs polled suggesting he should stay in the draft and the other half recommending that he return to school.
It’s an interesting exercise and it shows, at least in some small way, just how maddening the whole early-entry culture can be.
Remember, these 14 players are all underclassmen. And what is it we’ve learned about the NBA more and more during the past decade than ever before? That the NBA drafts based largely on potential, upside and where a player will be 3-5 years down the road not necessarily where a player is on draft night.
By that standard, you would think that a bunch of NBA executives would tell nearly every underclassman to give it a shot because the younger the player the better the prospect.
But that obviously is not entirely true, and it’s funny that it took an anonymous exercise such as this one to reveal that.
I don’t know the exact circumstances of all 14 players involved in this deal but I am familiar with all of them and, in my opinion, they’re giving great advice to darn near every one of them — including Swanigan and Ojeleye.
With that said, it does not change the fact that every year far too many players declare for the draft, watch the 60 picks on draft night come and go without hearing their names called and then move forward with their lives and/or careers only to wonder — at least a little, somewhere in the recesses of their minds — what might have happened had they played another year of college ball.
The NBA, through its recent loosening up of the pre-draft rules, which has allowed more underclassmen to test, gather good information and then pull out of the draft so long as they do it before the deadline and do not hire an agent, is a big time step in the right direction toward getting this kind of information in the right hands.
More players staying more years at their respective universities is obviously a good thing for the college game no matter what perspective you’re taking — fans, coaches, administrators, TV networks.
But I’d argue that it’s also a good thing for the professional game, as well.
These days, far too many players are entering the league who simply are not ready and that, at least in some manner, is watering down the pro game because of the guaranteed money given out each year to 30 first-round picks.
Whether it’s from a basketball perspective, or, more to the point, from a maturity standpoint, these young dudes are rarely ready for the real world, all that money, all those distractions and all those obligations, responsibilities and temptations that come with turning pro.
I’m not sure that there’s a huge difference between a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old when it comes to that, but every little bit of seasoning helps. And there’s no disputing that another year’s worth of life lessons and wisdom can only help prepare these young men for that professional athlete life.
As for Mykhailiuk, as you surely have gathered by now, he was advised by the anonymous NBA execs to return to Kansas for his senior season.
"I still hold out hope on him," one NBA executive told ESPN when asked about Mykhailiuk. "He's still really young and can be a catch-and-shoot guy. The question is whether he has a bigger role at Kansas next year than he did the past couple years."
That’s definitely the question. And the answer is not easy to come by.
With Malik Newman, Devonte’ Graham and Lagerald Vick all primed for big time roles in the Kansas backcourt and freshman-to-be Marcus Garrett and Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe also factoring into the mix, it’s worth wondering just how much more Mykhailiuk can be featured in a Kansas uniform.
He’s a returning starter and that’s more than four of the five players mentioned above have going for them, but he does have limitations and, as well all know already, Bill Self’s system is not one that often showcases one or two individual players. Even if that were the case next season, would Svi be one of those one or two players? Probably not.
So with that in mind, the return to school advice might not be all that sound. Sure it could help him. But how much is the question.
And if there’s a team or two or five or 10 out there right now that is willing to take Svi in the second round this year, a definite case could be made that following that path is the right move for Svi.
Time will tell. And we’ll know more — about Svi and all of these players — after the combine’s main events today and tomorrow.
As many of you probably saw on Twitter on Tuesday, I was told by someone closely connected to Kansas junior Svi Mykhailiuk that the KU guard knocked down 85 of 100 NBA-range 3-point attempts during a recent workout with the Boston Celtics.
Obviously, that’s damn good.
And, while I’m sure there are those of you out there who might not believe the number, I have no doubt about the validity of the claim because I’ve seen Svi light it up, shot after shot, swish after swish, in an open gym with nobody guarding him.
That, essentially, was the drill he ran through during his recent workout with the Celtics, and, evidently, it’s something Boston — and probably other teams — does on an annual basis.
A year ago, former Oklahoma star Buddy Hield went through the same drill and, believe it or not, also knocked down 85 of the 100 3-pointers he shot. Also last year, former Kentucky guard Jamal Murray did the same drill and drained 79 triples and, a couple of months before that, former Gonzaga big man Kyle Wiltjer made 77. You get the point.
Along with just about every other team in the NBA, the Celtics clearly like to see just how well guys can shoot before they even consider drafting them.
And while this one drill is certainly an eye-opener when you first hear about the results, it’s not exactly a great predictor of future NBA success. Hield, for instance was drafted in the lottery last year, while Wiltjer went undrafted.
So, obviously, there are many more factors that go into whether a player is draft worthy, and it’s those factors that make Svi more of a question mark as he embarks upon his path to the draft and juggles the decision whether to stay in it or return to Kansas for his senior year.
As has been my belief throughout the process, I really don’t think Svi knows yet whether he will stay or go. This week’s combine likely will play a huge role in helping him determine the answer and I don’t think people should be looking at this thing in the scope of whether Svi is a first-round draft pick or not.
Sure, that’s where the guaranteed money is made. But getting drafted in the second round does not mean you’re not going to make a roster. It just means it’s going to be a lot harder and the money you’ll be getting will be money that you will have earned through toughness and grit and hunger and prayer.
My take on Svi is this: No matter how well he does this week at the combine, he’s probably a second-round pick. So the question for him isn’t really about money and earning potential. It’s about a gamble.
Does he think he’s good enough to make a roster from a second-round slot or does he think he should come back, be more aggressive as a senior, attempt to showcase more of his all-around game and hope that improves his draft stock?
It’s a tough question. And one I’m glad I don’t have to answer.
Because, at the end of the day, no matter how much Svi does or does not show, either this week at the combine or next season at Kansas, he’s either going to make the NBA or not make it because he can shoot the basketball.
Going 85-for-100 in a drill in front of some important people who can directly impact your future certainly doesn’t hurt anything.
But the guess here is that those people have already forgotten about it. What they want to know is simple: Can he do it again?
Other quick combine notes:
• Josh Jackson, a projected Top 3 pick in this summer's NBA Draft, will not even attend the combine for interviews. He's been working out in Los Angeles and will stay there instead of traveling to Chicago to interview with teams. One source said Jackson would eventually meet one-on-one with NBA teams but added that the list would likely be five or less given his status as a high lottery pick.
• Frank Mason III will join Svi in Chicago for the combine and the two biggest days for both players will come Thursday and Friday when they participate in 5-on-5 scrimmages and a variety of skills and agility tests.
• In a recent interview with the Journal-World, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said that, when he first came to the United States many scouts viewed Mykhailiuk as a future college and/or NBA point guard. Things have not played out that way during his three-year KU career, however, and Mykhailiuk's best path to the draft, should he stay in it, is as an athletic, instant-offense type of wing player with a deadly shot. Svi has until 10 days after the end of the combine (May 24) to decide whether to leave his name in the draft pool or return to KU for his senior year.
It’s no secret that Lexington, Ky., has become to one-and-done college basketball players what Cancun, South Padre Island and Daytona Beach are to spring breakers.
And it’s not exactly breaking news that Kentucky coach John Calipari has figured out how to coach these players, be it one or two of them or a team with six or seven.
This weekend’s news that Kevin Knox was joining the Wildcats gives Kentucky a whopping seven of the top 28 players in the 2017 class, according to the 247 Sports rankings (see Tweet below for details).
Seven. That’s five starters and two more off the bench. Basically, that’s the entire KU rotation from the 2016-17 season. And, any way you slice it, that’s downright impressive.
I’m sure there are KU fans out there who rolled their eyes at that last sentence and thought to themselves, big frickin’ whoop. But if you’re one of them, ask yourself this question: If KU had signed seven of the top 28 players in this (or any) recruiting class wouldn’t you be (a) ridiculously fired up and (b) more inclined to call the feat impressive?
I’m not saying landing one-fourth of the best players in all the land in the 2017 recruiting class guarantees Calipari’s Wildcats a thing. It doesn’t. You never know how these things are going to play out. Some could become busts or get injured. Others could fail to crack Kentucky’s rotation and become two-, three- or even four-year players. It happens. And not just at Kentucky. Look no further than Carlton Bragg Jr., for proof of unfulfilled potential happening at Kansas during recent years.
Beyond the fact that landing all of those talented prospects does not guarantee Kentucky a thing is the realization that there is more than one way to skin a cat and programs all over the country — really good, really successful, really attractive programs — tend to prove that year after year.
Kansas is one of them. Again, I can all but guarantee you that if the Jayhawks had landed seven of the 28 best players in any recruiting class, the coaching staff would be jacked and the fan base would be clearing calendars to make sure they were off of work, in Lawrence or both during Final Four weekend. And those are just the humble ones. The more braggadocious KU fans already would be boasting about the Jayhawks being a lock to win the 2018 national championship.
And maybe they would win it. Maybe Kentucky will. Who knows? And that is the beauty of it all.
Right now, on May 8, 2017, the Jayhawks and Wildcats — as always — are among the betting favorites in Las Vegas to cut down the nets next April in San Antonio, separated at the top by just a couple of spots on the future betting odds.
One of them will be looking to do so with a team full of freshmen. And the other will be trying to do it with a mixed bag of four-year players, veteran transfers and talented newcomers.
Again, I’m not saying one way is right and the other is wrong. But, for my money, I sure like the roster construction KU coach Bill Self seems to shoot for — a couple of talented and proven veterans mixed with a few program guys all buoyed by highly rated incoming freshmen like last year’s Josh Jackson and this year’s Billy Preston.
There’s just something cool about a roster that has a little natural order to it.
Just look at the work the KU coaching staff did on the recruiting trail this year alone. The 2017 class includes a potential one-and-done player in Preston, a likely multi-year player in combo guard Marcus Garrett and a graduate transfer in Jack Whitman. Three players from various different places coming together to join the Jayhawks.
Beyond that, Self and company also brought in three more transfers in Memphis’ Lawson brothers and former Cal point guard Charlie Moore and their future paths at Kansas also figure to run different courses.
Bringing in that kind of diversity helps with roster balance and, perhaps most importantly, helps ensure that each future team will have at least a couple of veterans with the potential to become key leaders.
Could you even imagine the Jayhawks knocking on the door of national titles during the past couple of years without guys like Perry Ellis or Frank Mason? No chance.
Time will tell if that knock is answered in 2018. But, with Devonte’ Graham leading the way and the KU roster filling out from there, the Jayhawks certainly will have all of the pieces they need to make it happen.
In other, somewhat related recruited, we received another Trevon Duval update over the weekend and, believe it or not, it seems like the 5-star point guard’s big announcement is finally coming.
After revealing two weekends ago that he would make a decision, “soon,” Duval took that one step farther this past weekend by telling Krysten Peek, of Rivals.com, that he would announce his decision date in the next “couple days.”
Who knows if that means we’ll know where he’s headed by the end of the week or not, but it seems like we should at least know when he’s going to tell us.
The NBA is full of conspiracy theories, from people thinking the games and postseason results are predetermined by the league office to others believing that the officials have an interest in deciding the outcome of games on a regular basis to fit that agenda.
But of all of the wild scenarios and weird happenings that have led people to ask questions, there might not be one more incredible than the one floating around the NBA right now. And it involves former Kansas players Marcus and Markieff Morris.
Twin brothers from Philadelphia who played three seasons at Kansas from 2008-11, the Morris twins have gone on to enjoy solid NBA careers, both making a ton of money and becoming key contributors to their respective teams.
For a short stint — from 2012-15 — the two were teammates again in Phoenix, but today Marcus plays for the Detroit Pistons and Markieff plays for the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards are currently involved in a second-round series with top-seeded Boston and that’s where the scene of the latest conspiracy first showed up.
Markieff injured his ankle during Washington’s Game 1 loss and appeared to be in pretty bad shape. Despite his insistence that he would play in Game 2 and that nothing would keep him out, people still wondered if he would be healthy enough to play or at least be effective. It turns out he was. Despite the bum ankle, Markieff started and tallied 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals on 6-of-11 shooting in 27 minutes. All in all, a darn good night that registered slightly above his season averages in most categories.
Beyond that, Markieff looked good, too. Like really good. Almost like the ankle wasn’t bothering him at all.
And that’s when the conspiracy junkies ran wild.
With Detroit out of the playoffs and Marcus free from obligations with the Pistons, there was some speculation that Marcus may have filled in for Markieff during Game 2. And, hey, it’s not entirely crazy. After all, the two are twins and even have almost the exact same tattoos plastered all over their bodies.
Making matters worse, Marcus recently showed up to a Wizards playoff game wearing a Markieff Morris Washington jersey to support his brother and, obviously, his appearance was strikingly similar to his brother.
While the whole thing is fun to joke about or even scratch your head and wonder if it was even possible, the reality is it probably wasn’t. I mean, as much as they are twins and do look alike, their games are different — Markieff plays more of a true forward role down low while Marcus is more of a wing forward — and there are small but noticeable features that distinguish them from one another that those who know them best would easily see.
Beyond that, I can’t see how Markieff’s Washington teammates would’ve been able to go along with this and still execute. Basketball’s an instinctual game, but they still run plays and sets and do things that would be far too difficult to pick up on a day’s notice.
One final part of the whole ordeal that might lend the conspiracy theorists the most credible evidence for their claim is the fact that the Morris twins actually have done this before. Granted, that was during an AAU game, but something similar did happen.
Now that another game has been played — a 116-89 Wizards’ victory on Thursday night that cut Boston’s lead in the series to 2-1 — it seems like things have calmed down and nobody really thinks the switch happened.
A recent Tweet from Marcus also helped calm down the craziness.
“I wouldn’t play for another team unless I’m on that team,” he wrote. “Smooth (Markieff) playing on a sprained ankle. I didn’t expect anything less.”
Game 4 of the suddenly dramatic series is set for Sunday night in Washington.
~ Recorded Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Former Kansas basketball player Landen Lucas never actually transferred to or from KU.
But with his career broken into two different pieces — during his red-shirt year and after it — Lucas was able to experience the benefits of what a lot of transfers gain while sitting out during their first season at their new schools.
At Kansas in the coming months, three such players will be walking down that path, with former Memphis standouts Dedric and K.J. Lawson and former Cal point guard Charlie Moore all joining the Jayhawks this summer without being eligible to play in games for more than a year.
And that’s to say nothing of new acquisition Jack Whitman or 2017 transfer Sam Cunliffe, who came from Arizona State just after the new year and still has eight months to go before he’s eligible to join the Jayhawks following the first semester of the 2017-18 season.
Although Lucas, who red-shirted during his first season with the Jayhawks (2012-13), was not exactly in the position of starting his college career over, he said recently that he approached his year on the bench like many transfers should approach theirs.
“I think it’s huge,” he said during a Monday evening appearance on KLWN’s Rock Chalk Sports Talk. “Just speaking for myself, as far as my red-shirt year, you’re going against great competition and it gives you a chance, without a whole bunch of stress, to sit back and really see what coach wants, see what coach is looking for, be competitive, work on different things in practice. If guys use that year right and work on yourself that’s a big part of how you can help contribute. If you take advantage of it, it could be huge.”
“If” was the operative word in that last sentence, but Lucas said, for the most part, the players who transferred to KU during his five-year stint with the program have done exactly that.
Most notable among them, according to Lucas, was former Mississippi State standout Malik Newman, who sat out the recently completed 2016-17 season and now appears poised and ready for big things when he returns to action this fall.
“Malik, he’s really taken advantage of it,” Lucas said. “And it allows him to really step in and shine right away because he understands what coach wants (and) coach has seen him enough. Now that he’s in that new role he can really embrace it.”
During his playing days, Lucas teamed with six of the 14 players to transfer to Kansas to date during the Bill Self era. And Lucas said each one of them did his absolute best to take advantage of his transfer year.
He also competed with five players who elected to leave KU, and Lucas also said he could see the appeal of a fresh start and held nothing against any of the guys who left.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t (think about it early on when playing time was tough to come by),” Lucas said. “When you come out of high school and you competed at the level I did and then to come to school and have to sit out and not play very much, it was tough. Obviously (leaving) crosses your mind, but then I had to reel it back in and just remember that I came here for a reason and when it does work out, when it does happen, it might not be as quick, but it’s gonna be greater. And that’s truly how it was. I just decided to stick with it. I was at the right spot. And that’s just how I kind of approached it.”
Lucas on Graham
Also on Rock Chalk Sports Talk on Monday evening, Lucas covered a number of other topics, from his KU career to his current quest to impress NBA scouts and the creation of his Landen Lucas Foundation that will raise money to help fund athletic endeavors of young people in and around Lawrence and in his hometown of Portland.
Lucas, on Sunday, will host a couple of fund-raising events in Lawrence (at Johnny’s West, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and in Topeka (at R&D Sports, from 6-8 p.m.). Fans will be able to meet and get autographs from Lucas and purchase some of the gear he wore during his playing days with the Jayhawks. All of the money raised will go toward the foundation.
Curious about Lucas’ take on the return of his former teammate Devonte’ Graham, who announced last month that he would stick around for his senior season, Lucas said he was thrilled with Graham’s decision.
“I think it’s huge,” Lucas said. “For him, it was a great decision. He’s such a great player and I think everybody knows that, but the level (he is) might be kind of hidden just because of how fantastic Frank (Mason III) was. Having him back, having him as a senior, hungry to take over, it’s huge. I enjoyed playing with him. He’s always the life of the team and for him to kind of go into his last go around as the man, I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to just watching him. “I don’t know if there’s a recruit you could’ve got from high school who would’ve made as big of an impact as having Devonte’ back for his senior year.”
So now that we know who Jack Whitman is, — a 6-foot-9, 235-pound transfer forward — where he comes from — Lexington, Ky., by way of William & Mary — and what his goals are at Kansas — to come in and contribute to the rotation while developing and testing himself as a player — we can get into the most important part of this whole deal.
Surely, by now, you’ve all seen the pictures we’ve run, or others floating around the Internet of Whitman sporting a pretty healthy mustache during his junior season at William & Mary.
Good for him. Hey, if a guy can pull it off, he kind of has to do it. At least once in his life.
I talked to Whitman yesterday specifically about the ’stache and got a little bit of information about its origins and what his future plans are for the look.
For one, Whitman told me that the mustache has not been a permanent thing in his life and the current edition residing on his upper lip is not quite as intense as the one you saw in the photos.
“I’ve got a little something there now,” he said, “but nothing quite like I had last season.”
So where did the beast come from and what inspired the look? Whitman said it just kind of happened organically because he’s always been a fan of playing around with different facial hair looks and after messing around with a mustache it kind of took on a life of its own.
He said he really had it going good during the middle of last season and he wasn’t exactly sure if he’d go to that level again or not.
Judging by reaction from KU fans, he might want to. People exploded yesterday, on Twitter and message boards alike, with chatter about the ’stache and Whitman, who has yet to even suit up for the Jayhawks already has paved the way to becoming a cult hero.
Most of you surely remember T.J. Whatley and his solid mustache. The walk-on from Arkansas did not play much during his KU days, but he was a fan favorite and always seemed to be remembered for the mustache.
Who knows if the same path will hold true for Whitman — he may play more than Whatley did; he may not keep the ’stache — but there’s no doubt that the whole thing definitely has his attention.
“I had it a little bit last season, middle of the year, and, obviously, I played with it when we played at Duke so that got a lot of attention,” Whitman said. “Who knows what’s going to happen. I might have to bring it back. We’ll see.”