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Tale of the Tait

Most Crucial Jayhawks: No. 20 - DL Ben Goodman

Another weekday has arrived... Here's the latest installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.

Kansas defender Ben Goodman (93) pumps his arms in the air to get the crowd into the game during the first-half of the Jayhawks game against KSU Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defender Ben Goodman (93) pumps his arms in the air to get the crowd into the game during the first-half of the Jayhawks game against KSU Saturday at Memorial Stadium. by Mike Yoder

No. 20: Ben Goodman, Junior, DL

Goodman has long been one of my favorite KU players, as much for his personality, good sense of humor and big heart as his enormous potential.

A true program guy who has slowly but steadily developed and taken steps forward each year at Kansas, it's time for the big man from Beaumont, Texas, to turn in his best season yet.

He has shown flashes of being a pass-rushing menace but never done it consistently well over a long stretch of time. It's in there, though and now that he's reached veteran status it could be time to see Goodman's game reach a new level.

At one point in his career, after KU lost former five-star stud Chris Martin to off-the-field trouble prior to last summer, several Jayhawks voiced their belief that the loss was not catastrophic because Goodman's enormous potential. Goodman followed that up with the best season of his career, tallying 34 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 3 sacks, 2 QB hurries and an interception.

As those number suggest, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound lineman is plenty athletic, has good size and strength and entered the offseason known for his high-revving motor. If he improved any of those areas between the last time we saw him and now, there's a chance that Goodman's best could be right around the corner. If that's the case, so could the KU defense's.

A move to the interior of the D-Line (from the Buck position he played last season) should give Goodman a chance to find some mismatches and use his quickness even better. The big question there will be if he can hold up under the pounding he's sure to take from bigger offensive linemen game in and game out.

Thanks to a recruiting haul that included all kinds of pass rushers, the Jayhawks figure to have options for getting to the quarterback this season. If Goodman isn't cutting it, it's possible that someone else will get his shot. Goodman has the experience, the understanding of the scheme, the hunger and the opportunity. The time for him to become a game-changing player is now.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:

No. 25 - LB Jake Love

No. 24 - DB Greg Allen

No. 23 - DB Cassius Sendish

No. 22 - OL Zach Fondal

No. 21 - WR Justin McCay

Reply 2 comments from David Lara Texashawk10_2

Tracking the progress at Memorial Stadium

Rolls of new turf sit on a truck bed behind the south end zone at Memorial Stadium.

Rolls of new turf sit on a truck bed behind the south end zone at Memorial Stadium. by Matt Tait

It's now been a full week since construction began to remove the track from around the playing surface at Memorial Stadium and, as you'll see in the photos below, the crews in charge of doing the work have made significant progress.

The old track was removed quickly last on June 25 and it now appears that they're prepping the ground beneath where the track was for years for new turf and asphalt.

We'll continue to track the progress periodically during the process, which is expected to take another five weeks and be completed for the start of KU football's fall camp, which begins Aug. 8.

Here's the view from the top of the hill:

Here's the new view of Memorial Stadium, sans track, from Campanile hill.

Here's the new view of Memorial Stadium, sans track, from Campanile hill. by Matt Tait

Here's the view from the south end zone toward Memorial Stadium's north end:

Here's a view from inside the stadium, looking toward the north end of the field from the south end zone.

Here's a view from inside the stadium, looking toward the north end of the field from the south end zone. by Matt Tait

Here's a look at the area around the scoreboard, behind the south end zone:

Here's a look at the area around the scoreboard, behind the south end zone.

Here's a look at the area around the scoreboard, behind the south end zone. by Matt Tait

Here's the view down the east sideline:

Here's the view down the east sideline, which shows good detail of the drop off between the field and where the track once was along with how much work there still is to be done.

Here's the view down the east sideline, which shows good detail of the drop off between the field and where the track once was along with how much work there still is to be done. by Matt Tait

Here's the view from the top of the east stands:

Here's the view from the top of the east stands.

Here's the view from the top of the east stands. by Matt Tait

Here's a look from the top of the east stands down at the scoreboard area behind the south end zone:

Here's a look from the top of the east stands down at the scoreboard area behind the south end zone.

Here's a look from the top of the east stands down at the scoreboard area behind the south end zone. by Matt Tait

Reply 8 comments from Baldjedi Fortesque Beagleton Jay Beakum Dannyboy4hawks Chris Gilbertson Travis Clementsmith Kingfisher Rockchalk1990

Most Crucial Jayhawks: No. 22 - OL Zach Fondal

Here's the latest installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.

Offensive lineman Zach Fondal.

Offensive lineman Zach Fondal. by Matt Tait

No. 22: Zach Fondal, Senior OL

A few weeks ago, Fondal would have been much higher on this list. As one of the few returning linemen with starting experience at left tackle, the former junior-college transfer likely would have entered the season as the man to beat out for the first spot at one of the game's most important positions.

But then Weis lured Iowa Western big man Larry Mazyck to join the Jayhawks and, Boom!, just like that Fondal became more of a luxury than a necessity.

Nothing has been handed to Mazyck, who stands 6-foot-8, 340 pounds (though I've heard from a couple of places that he's even bigger than that), but there are plenty of people who believe he might be the answer for the Jayhawks at left tackle.

If he is, that frees up Fondal (6-5, 295) to become a very valuable back-up at both tackle spots. It's this kind of movement that leads me to believe the KU coaching staff really has upgraded this roster. During the past couple of years, a guy like Fondal would've been an easy starter on the offensive line because of his size and athleticism alone. But now those types of players are being shifted to the second unit because Weis and company are landing better first-team talent to put ahead of them.

That's by no means a knock on Fondal. His role on this team remains important and his ability to fill in behind Mazyck or in place of Damon Martin at right tackle makes it so fellow offensive tackles Pat Lewandowski (still new to the position) and Brian Beckmann (still new to college football) don't have to be counted on quite as heavily right away.

If there's one thing I'm looking to see from Fondal this season it's mental maturity and toughness. He struggled with the mental side of the game during his first season with the Jayhawks in 2013, particularly when he was taken out of games or replaced in the starting lineup. Stuff happens. And if he figured out this offseason how to respond to that “stuff” by working harder and improving instead of getting down on himself, I think he'll have a valuable place within this year's offense.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:

No. 25 - LB Jake Love

No. 24 - DB Greg Allen

No. 23 - DB Cassius Sendish

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

Most Crucial Jayhawks: No. 24 - DB Greg Allen

Here's the second installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.

White Team defenders Greg Allen and Brandon Hollomon celebrate a stop by the White Team during the first half of the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

White Team defenders Greg Allen and Brandon Hollomon celebrate a stop by the White Team during the first half of the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo by Nick Krug

No. 24: Greg Allen, Sophomore DB –

Last spring was breakout time for Allen, who has played very little during his first three years in Lawrence but finally stopped thinking so much and began playing on instincts.

If what he showed in March and April carries over into the 2014 season, that's good news for the KU secondary, which already features some of the team's top talent but would stand to gain some serious depth if Allen can become a player.

After jumping back and forth between cornerback and safety during his first few seasons in town, Allen spent most of his time this spring playing nickel back, which seems to be the perfect spot for a guy with his blend of size, speed, athleticism and power.

Simply put, Allen is the type of athlete that most of the other rosters in the Big 12 are full of. He has yet to make that count during his time as a Jayhawk, but the New Orleans native who went to high school in Houston seems finally to be ready mentally to not only play a big role but also prove he can play at this level.

Allen's development is a luxury for the Jayhawks. They don't absolutely need him to pan out, but doing so would tighten up the defensive backfield, which has a real chance to be one of the best secondaries in the Big 12 this fall.

KU coach Charlie Weis said at the end of spring ball that Allen had played so well that he was pushing senior JaCorey Shepherd for reps with the first string at nickel. If that holds, Allen would create depth at nickel and also allow Weis and company to use Shepherd as a back-up at either cornerback spot should the need arise.

Credit defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, as well as DB coaches Dave Campo and Scott Vestal for creating a defensive scheme that allows Allen to use his natural abilities and just play.

It's probably either this year or never for Allen and the signs from the spring point to him finally putting his stamp on the KU program.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:

No. 25 - LB Jake Love

Reply 6 comments from Dirk Medema David Meredith Jay Beakum Terrylee Table_rock_jayhawk

Most Crucial Jayhawks: A look at 25 impact players for KU this fall; No. 25 - LB Jake Love

Blue Team coach John Reagan directs his players in the huddle during a break in the first half of the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Blue Team coach John Reagan directs his players in the huddle during a break in the first half of the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo by Nick Krug

Each summer, across the country, football fans spend time watching, waiting and anticipating the arrival of another college football season. And while that might not always be a favorite pastime of KU fans, many still get sucked in to the journey.

Will this be a better season? Is this the year that things finally get going in the right direction? Will Kansas at least be competitive therein making Memorial Stadium on Saturdays in the fall the place to be instead of a place to avoid? All are common questions KU fans wrestle with every year.

So in order to help you predict the answers to those questions and more, we set out to pinpoint the 25 players that could make the biggest impact for the Jayhawks this fall.

Big seasons from these guys — be them in the form of yards and touchdowns or just consistency and perhaps overachieving — could go a long way toward increasing KU's chances at success during the upcoming season.

This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the upcoming season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to crack the four-win mark for the first time since 2009.

Because it's the summer and we've got nothing but time, we'll unveil this list one player at a time each weekday in reverse order. So today we'll start with No. 25 on the list and countdown during the next five weeks to the No. 1 most crucial player on KU's roster for the 2014 season.

Tom Keegan and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. He's going to handle the blurbs on the odd-numbered players and I'll handle the even-numbered Jayhawks.

Remember, this is not an exercise designed to identify KU's best players but instead an attempt at pinpointing which players, with great seasons, could have the biggest impact for Kansas this fall.

Let's get started:

Kansas linebacker Jake Love wraps up Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell out of the pocket during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Jake Love wraps up Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell out of the pocket during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

No. 25: Jake Love, Junior LB

— by Tom Keegan

Undersized at 6-foot and 220 pounds, Love never has let that stop him from acting as if he’s the biggest dog in the fight. Athletic, he turns his body into an air-borne missile to make plays, playing with a fearless mentality perfect for the linebacker position.

Sounds a little like Ben Heeney, doesn’t he? They do have similarities, although Heeney is bigger, faster and even a little crazier.

It’s tough to look athletic playing next to Heeney, which could be one reason Love doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for his physical gifts. A four-year letterman in wrestling, track, baseball and football at Tonkawa (Oklahoma) High, Love as a senior rushed for 1,761 yards and 28 touchdowns and had 122 tackles and four interceptions.

Hes’ primed for a big season and depth is a touch on the shy side at linebacker so a healthy season from Love would go far.

Reply 9 comments from Plasticjhawk Jim Stauffer Dirk Medema Catsandwich Jay Beakum Matt Tait Terrylee Table_rock_jayhawk

Big Apple Bloggin’ — It’s the final day of draft prep for Andrew Wiggins in NYC

One-and-done Kansas University basketball player Andrew Wiggins meets with members of the media Wednesday in New York, the day before the 2014 NBA Draft.

One-and-done Kansas University basketball player Andrew Wiggins meets with members of the media Wednesday in New York, the day before the 2014 NBA Draft. by Matt Tait

3:15 P.M. UPDATE:

Here are the photo highlights from Wiggins' trip to a local school for an NBA Cares event.

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

As high as Wiggins flies on the basketball court, jumping rope didn't seem to be part of his regimen — at least not with a rope that short.

2:05 P.M. UPDATE:

About to hey started here at PS III in Manhattan and I was just told that the mayor of NYC will be here to give a speech to the kids and athletes before we get started with the hoops stuff. That explains the extra police presence.

More to come soon.

None by Matt Tait

1:55 P.M. UPDATE

We've arrived at PS 111 in Manattan, where Wiggins and other likely lottery picks will meet with some local kids for an NBA Cares event that includes handing out food from a food truck, a Q & A session and, of course, basketball.

This is always one of the best parts of the draft experience for these guys, many of whom are a little surprised by how much they enjoy the interaction with the kids.

None by Matt Tait

Seems to me like this kind of thing is tailor-made for Wiggins, a big kid himself, and we'll have plenty of photos and videos from his time with the kids. It's a hot day in NYC, and we're on some old school blacktop.

Event should begin shortly...

1:40 P.M. UPDATE:

None by Matt Tait

Jabari Parker and Wiggins were in the same media session, so it was tough to get to them both. I did hear some things from those who spent some time with Parker that seemed to indicate he believes he's going no. 2.

Wiggins was asked about that and didn't have much to say. As of this afternoon, he still said he had no idea what would happen and went out of his way to emphasize that he understands that anything's possible.

That said, he also made no secret of the fact that he wants to go no. 1 — badly. That's just what being a competitor has done to him, he said. "I don't want anyone to be picked ahead of me."

1:25 P.M. UPDATE:

Something that caught me off guard that shouldn't have was the amount of Canadian media here today and number of Canada questions Wiggins was asked.

The young man is proud of his country and really seems to understand that his place in this draft is about much more than one kid. It's about an entire country trying to make more of a name for itself in the NBA world, and Wiggins seems like a fantastic ambassador.

He was as relaxed and comfortable today as I've seen him all year and really seems to be enjoying the moment and soaking up the whole experience.

1:00 P.M. UPDATE

Wiggins, wearing a light blue, form-fitting shirt, navy slacks and a huge smile, just fielded 30 minutes worth of questions from the media here in NYC.

The most asked questions of Wiggins during the session were:

1. Does it mean anything to you to be the no. 1 pick?

2. Why do you feel you're ready for the NBA?

3. Specifics inquiries about individual workouts. Curiously, there was not a single mention of Milwaukee, which picks second. Plenty of inquiries about Cleveland at No. 1 and Philly at No. 3, and even one about Toronto at 20 (go figure), but not a peep about the Bucks.

Sounds to me like Wiggins really liked Cleveland and wants to go there for more than just the prestige of being the top pick...  

I also snagged Wiggins before he began the Q & A so he could give a message to the KU fans out there.

11:10 A.M. UPDATE

Just arrived at The Westin Times Square and it's about go time for Andrew Wiggins. He'll be talking in the first group at 11:30 and will be buried in the back right corner of the ballroom. Gonna have to elbow my way in for a good spot.

None by Matt Tait

Dozens of autograph seekers are on the corner of 43rd Street & 8th Avenue and you can bet Wiggins will be a much sought after signature.

He signed for an hour last night at Champs in Times Square and it will be interesting to see where his energy is today.

Stay right here for photos, sound bites and anything else Andrew Wiggins from NYC today. As you surely know, Joel Embiid is not here today.

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

ORIGINAL POST

Several months worth of speculation, waiting and wondering have brought us to the final day of anticipation.

By this time tomorrow, former Kansas University freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will have done all they can do to convince their potential future NBA destinations that they are the right guys to pick in this year's NBA Draft, which is set for 6 p.m. Thursday night at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.

Heading into today, what will happen at the top of the draft seems very much up in the air still. Wiggins is still alive to become the No. 1 pick and, thanks to a foot injury late in the draft preparation process, Embiid appears to be out of the equation.

Then again, it is the NBA Draft, where rumors, wheeling and dealing and all kinds of craziness can take place right up until the last minute.

Some, like our own Tom Keegan, believe that all of the talk about Embiid being out of the mix for the top pick is just talk and that there might be a team or two still willing to take him there. Others believe that No. 1 position will come down to a choice by Cleveland between Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker.

All three players have been part of the so-called “Big Three” throughout the months leading up to the draft, and, on Tuesday, Parker seemed to be the guy who many experts thought was going to be this year's top dog. But by late Tuesday night, the tide had begun to swing Wiggins' way again and, as it stands now, I think that's where the Cavs will go. I know I would.

It's too bad, too. Because if Embiid had not injured his foot, he likely would have been the clear-cut top pick and there likely would be a lot more order in this whole thing than we currently have. Then again, it's the draft and chaos is part of the fun.

As has been the case for the past four years, I'm out here in New York City ready to track Wiggins' throughout his final day as an amateur athlete. There's media availability at the Westin Times Square scheduled for 11:30-12:30 and I'll do whatever I can to track the guy for a couple of stops after that.

So stay logged on to KUsports.com and this blog throughout the day for videos, photos, quotes, updates, Tweets and all kinds of color from the Big Apple. Embiid's not here, but I'm sure his name will come up a couple of times somewhere along the way.

In case you've missed our draft coverage leading up to today, here are a few links to get you going while you wait for the action to get started out this way.

From Today:

Tom Keegan examines the chances of Tarik Black getting drafted on Thursday

Matt Tait's KU draft memories from the last 4 years in New York

From Tuesday:

Tom Keegan's column: NBA mock drafts a mockery

Gary Bedore's notebook

The curse of the NBA big man always affects drafts

NBA's one-and-done rule draws mixed reviews

From Monday:

Gary Bedore's update on Tarik Black's chances in the draft

From Sunday:

Gary Bedore's report about this year's draft having plenty of Kansas flavor despite Embiid's absence

From Saturday:

Gary Bedore's update on Bill Self's optimism about Joel Embiid's pro future

Blog Central.... Finally, blogs galore that have tried to track all of the rumors and jockeying for position leading up to the draft

Tale of the Tait — Foot injury sends Embiid falling in most NBA mock drafts
http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/tale-tait/2014/jun/20/foot-injury-sends-joel-embiid-falling-in/

Double Chin Music — Embiid worth the risk for Cavs
http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/tale-tait/2014/jun/20/foot-injury-sends-joel-embiid-falling-in/

Hawks in the NBA — Stock Watch 6/23
http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/hawks_nba/2014/jun/23/stock-watch-wiggins-favorite-to-go-no-1-/

All Eyes on KU — Cavs torn between Wiggins and Parker; more on Embiid's health comes out
http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/all_eyes_ku/2014/jun/24/cavs-torn-between-wiggins-and-parker-mor/

Andrew Wiggins workout highlights making social media rounds http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/all_eyes_ku/2014/jun/25/andrew-wiggins-workout-highlights-show-u/

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How the upcoming track removal at Memorial Stadium could make fans feel closer to the action on Saturdays

Kansas fans wave the wheat following a James Sims touchdown against West Virginia during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas fans wave the wheat following a James Sims touchdown against West Virginia during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The prevailing thought with most KU football fans seems to be that the biggest reason the track needed to come out of Memorial Stadium was because the seats are too far away from the action.

While the idea of lowering the field and adding seats closer to the sideline remains very possible, such a step won't come for at least a couple of years.

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger told me last week that he's still got the lowering the field option on his radar. But while architects are working up preliminary plans for a major renovation at Memorial Stadium down the road — so KU can be ready to strike when the money and momentum (perhaps in the opposite order) are in hand — nothing about the bigger project is set in stone at this point. Zenger and his staff continue to kick around ideas, examine other venues and talk to professionals about what's possible, what's not and how much all of their different ideas would cost.

We'll get to that in time. But for now, the track's coming out and it's happening tomorrow.

If you ask me, that's going to do a lot more for Memorial Stadium than I think most people may realize. Here's why.

What we've had at Memorial Stadium for the past several decades, in my opinion, is a bit of an optical illusion. Because of the different color of the track, the lines that divide the lanes within it and the extra layer of separation that can be seen from the stands, the seats feel and appear to be farther from the field than they actually are.

Because the issue of getting rid of the track has been kicked around for several years now, I've often thought about it while visiting other stadiums. I can't recall exactly what the distances are at each venue I've been to but I can assure you that the distance between the stands and the sideline at Memorial Stadium is in the same ballpark as many of those other stadiums.

Take K-State's Bill Snyder Family Stadium for example. The last time I was over there to cover a game, I paced it off. Again, I don't recall exactly what the distance was but I remember it being in the 48-50-foot range. If my steps were accurate, that would actually put the seats at K-State farther away from the field than what KU fans will enjoy during the upcoming season, when the 37 feet of turf that replace the track and 10 feet of drainage asphalt will create a distance of 47 feet from the sideline to the stands.

Only time will tell if this optical illusion really existed or if the vantage point changes dramatically (or even just a little) after the removal of the track is complete.

But here's guessing that in addition to looking much nicer and much more like a big-time college football venue, the fans in the stands also will feel like they're closer to the action after this project is complete six weeks from now without KU Athletics having to move so much as a single bolt in the Memorial Stadium bleachers.

What they do from here is anyone's guess, but I'm in total agreement with Zenger and KU coach Charlie Weis that this is a fantastic first step in remaking an old stadium in a fabulous setting.

Kansas University's plan to remove the track at Memorial Stadium, left, is shown in the rendering at right. The track will be replaced by turf that will extend 37 feet from the sideline, leaving just 10 feet of black “drainage asphalt” between the turf and the stands. In addition, a decorative fence will replace the chain-link fence on the south end of the stadium.

Kansas University's plan to remove the track at Memorial Stadium, left, is shown in the rendering at right. The track will be replaced by turf that will extend 37 feet from the sideline, leaving just 10 feet of black “drainage asphalt” between the turf and the stands. In addition, a decorative fence will replace the chain-link fence on the south end of the stadium.

Reply 16 comments from Matt Tait Lucas Town Plasticjhawk Fred Davis Jay Beakum Kingfisher Catsandwich Terran Woolley Jjjjjhok Rockchalk1990 and 3 others

16 years later, Paul Pierce falling to No. 10 remains a mystery

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the first half of Game 5 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the first half of Game 5 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

To this day, many people (myself included) are still trying to figure out how in the heck the Boston Celtics ended up getting Paul Pierce with the No. 10 pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.

Pierce, then a junior who lit up the Big 12 at KU and was one of the best scorers in the nation, was pencilled in as high as No. 2 or 3 in many mock drafts and seemed to be made for the NBA, where size, the ability to fill it up from the outside and versatility stand as most important above all.

But there Pierce sat on draft night, falling a little more with every pick. It's hard to trust the mock drafts. They're almost never right and they're definitely never completely right. So Pierce falling from 2 or 3 to 5 or 6 would not have been that big of a deal.

But 10 seemed insane. Still does. As you all know, the guy went on to become one of the greatest Celtics of all-time and is still doing it, albeit at a little slower pace, with the Brooklyn Nets.

Who knows how things would have gone if Pierce had been taken No. 3 by the Nuggets or No. 7 by Sacramento? Maybe he needed that snub to push and inspire him to become the all-time great that he is. We'll never know. What we do know, though, is there are a lot of teams that regret passing on him and such fate can befall any team any year when it comes to the NBA Draft.

Ain't it great?

Here's a quick look at the Top 10 from 1998 NBA Draft for your viewing (and laughing?) pleasure:

  1. LA Clippers -- Michael Olowokandi, C
  2. Vancouver Grizzlies -- Mike Bibby, PG
  3. Denver Nuggets -- Raef LaFrentz, PF
  4. Toronto Raptors -- Antawn Jamison, PF
  5. Golden State -- Vince Carter, SF
  6. Dallas Mavericks -- Robert Traylor, PF
  7. Sacramento Kings -- Jason Williams, PG
  8. Philadelphia 76ers -- Larry Hughes, SF
  9. Milwaukee Bucks -- Dirk Nowitzki, PF
  10. Boston Celtics -- Paul Pierce, SF

Jamison and Carter had great careers and were fantastic college players so it's hard to say those were bad picks. And Nowitzki's a Hall of Famer. Other than that, though, you could say that every other team in the Top 10 completely blew it by passing on Pierce.

It's funny, too, because the three teams that ended up with the three best players (Carter, Jamison and Dirk) other than Pierce in that draft didn't even draft those guys. Crafty moves by the GMs of those squads and utter failure by the GMs of the others.

There's a nice feature about the former Jayhawk falling to No. 10 on Pierce's web site right now... It's title tells it all: "The 1998 Draft Heist." It includes some great insight from the Celtics in charge of pulling the trigger on Pierce.

Here's the link: "The 1998 Draft Heist"

Reply 5 comments from David Meredith Len Shaffer Rodney Crain Michael Flewelling Ken Lassman

Foot injury sends Joel Embiid falling in most NBA mock drafts

Thursday's news that former KU center Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and would have surgery today and miss out on attending next week's NBA Draft in New York was one of the biggest pieces of pre-draft news in recent memory.

Most years, the mock drafts that come out this late generally have a pretty good feel for what's going to happen in the draft and that certainly was the case this year before Embiid's injury popped up.

Now, all bets are off and everyone seems to be scrambling to figure out what his injury means and how far the 7-footer from Cameroon may fall next Thursday.

As has been the case during the past four years, I'll be out in the Big Apple again this year to cover the event. Until yesterday, I had some pretty big things planned for following Embiid and Andrew Wiggins as they officially transition into NBA players, but now I'll have to stick tight with Wiggins and bring you whatever I'm hearing from out there about Embiid, which, undoubtedly, figures to be quite a bit.

I'll have much more on the draft next week — live blogs, audio, video and sights and sounds from the big city and draft night — but, while we wait, let's take a quick look at what people around the NBA world are saying about Embiid and his injury.

First up, our own Tom Keegan, who has been in the Embiid should go No. 1 camp for six or seven months, says the Cleveland Cavaliers should be bold and stick with the big guy at the top of the draft.

ESPN Insider Chad Ford dropped Embiid ever so slightly in his latest mock draft, from No. 1 to Orlando at No. 4...

If Embiid falls to No. 4, he might be too tantalizing for them to pass up. Orlando is in desperate need of a rim protector and an athletic frontcourt player to pair with Nikola Vucevic. While drafting Embiid will be a risk, he might have too much upside for them to pass up, especially when they have another pick in the lottery. If the Magic are scared off by Embiid's injury, Noah Vonleh is also a possibility here.

CBS.com NBA writer Matt Moore dropped Embiid from No. 1 all the way to the Boston Celtics at No. 6 — boy, does that have a nice ring to it...

Danny Ainge disses the draft for six months and winds up with the best player in it. Typical Celtics. Remember, the Celtics took Jared Sullinger with a medical red flag, and they've been pleased with the results. They trust their training staff. Kelly Olynyk is not the future, nor is Vitor Faverani. And if you're looking to eventually deal a combination of assets for starpower, like they did in 2007, Embiid is the guy who in two years could net that kind of player, beyond any other available at this spot. Unbelievably, Embiid goes green.

Like Ford, CBS.com's Garry Parrish dropped Embiid from No. 1 to No. 4...

If you're Orlando, I guess, you're more nervous than thrilled here, but you're still kinda thrilled because you're getting the best talent in the draft with the fourth pick, and, man, if this turns out OK it really could be a boon for the franchise. On the other hand, if Embiid proves to be basically injured forever, then you'll forever be the franchise that wasted the fourth pick in a deep draft on a center with documented back and foot problems, and that would stink. Regardless, Orlando has another lottery pick in this draft, meaning the Magic are in a position to gamble, and I think a roll of the so-called dice on Embiid here is a bet worth making.

And then there's fellow-CBS.com NBA writer Zach Harper, who still believes the big fella belongs in the Top 3. He's got Embiid going No. 3 to Philadelphia, down two spots from his previous prediction of No. 1...

I don't think the foot injury scares off the Sixers at all. They're fine being bad for a couple years and we've already seen them wait a year with Nerlens Noel to make sure he recovers properly. They could do the same with Embiid and have a twin towers ready to deny anybody who wants to grab a rebound or take a shot inside against the Sixers. Assuming the foot injury isn't a long-term issue for Embiid, this is best-case scenario for the Sixers.

The guys at DraftExpress.com have Embiid going fourth to Orlando, NBADraft.net has him going No. 3 to Philly and MyNBADraft.com also has him going No. 4 to Orlando.

While dropping from No. 1 to No. 3, No. 4 or No. 6 certainly qualifies as big news — and big money — it looks as if Embiid's camp can feel confident Embiid won't fall farther than the Celtics at 6. That idea becomes especially interesting given that the rival Los Angeles Lakers pick right behind the Celtics at No. 7.

Here's Celtics director of player personnel Danny Ainge talking to Boston.com....

“Those are always concerns,” Ainge said of Embiid’s injuries, “especially when it’s a player like that we won’t be able to have in to evaluate, to really get the risks from our medical staff. There’s a lot of guesswork involved, but you are always trying to weigh short-term and long-term. We try to think long-term that if a guy has to miss a couple months, it shouldn’t deter us from taking him if he is going to be the best player long-term. We’ve had some success with that with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. There can be some value there, but there’s always risk.”

Personally, I think Harper and NBADraft.net have got it right. I could very much see Embiid falling but I can't see him falling past Philly.

It makes sense, to me, for the Cavs to be concerned about Embiid's injuries mostly because of all of the pressure that goes into having the No. 1 pick. If you miss with No. 2, No. 5 or No. 9, it's not as big of a failure as missing with No. 1. So unless the Cavs are absolutely in love with him, I could see them going the safe route and picking Wiggins or Parker.

That leaves the Milwaukee Bucks to take whichever one of those two Cleveland doesn't grab and puts Philly in the enviable position of being able to snag Embiid without the pressure of putting a No. 1 pick on the line.

If he falls farther down the board than No. 3, I won't be shocked, but, if it were me making the decisions, I definitely wouldn't let him slip past that.

Should be fun to see how it plays out. Be sure to check back throughout Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week for all kinds of tidbits from NYC.

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Heaps not the wrong player, just perhaps in the wrong time

Blue Team quarterback Jake Heaps looks to pass.

Blue Team quarterback Jake Heaps looks to pass. by Nick Krug

Now that quarterback Jake Heaps' transfer out of the Kansas University football program is official, it's time to put the finishing touches on the former top-rated high school prospect's time at Kansas.

If there's one wish I could grant Heaps before his college career is over, it would be for him to finish his career by having fun again. The guy deserves it.

By all accounts, Heaps, who came to KU from BYU and sat out the 2012 season before becoming the Jayhawks' starter in 2013, was a fantastic teammate while at Kansas and a great leader both in terms of being that veteran presence the younger guys could look up to and a lead-by-example kind of guy both on the field and in the weight room.

Never one to say too much or over-promise in any area, Heaps simply showed up, worked his butt off and did the best he could while in a KU uniform. He always had something positive to say and remained upbeat and optimistic even while the losses mounted and his own game struggled to get going.

I've done a lot of thinking about what went wrong with Heaps while at Kansas and, outside of the obvious ways in which his skill set did not fit what the Jayhawks had on the roster — inexperienced offensive line, unreliable receivers, offense that could not stay on the filed — I came to a conclusion that speaks more to the big picture of college football and less to Heaps' shortcomings.

In many ways, Jake Heaps was a victim of his era. Ten years ago, a guy like Heaps would have been just about every offensive coordinator's dream — big arm, poised, intelligent and ultra-competitive. But in today's college game, those traits do not mean quite as much as the one Heaps lacks — mobility.

I'll be honest, I always thought Heaps was a little more mobile and agile than he proved to be on Saturdays. Maybe I was comparing him too much to Dayne Crist or maybe I put too much stock into his first spring game when he ran around and made plays but did so while wearing a red, no-contact jersey.

Once he became KU's starter, and as the offensive line broke down around him, Heaps simply did not have enough escapability to avoid trouble and keep plays alive. To be fair, half the time he didn't have much of a chance, but that's perhaps the biggest reason that sophomore Montell Cozart beat him out for the 2014 starting job this spring and also why Cozart started the final three games of 2013 as a true freshman.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Oklahoma defenders Charles Tapper (91) and Geneo Grissom on the Jayhawks' last drive of the game, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Oklahoma defenders Charles Tapper (91) and Geneo Grissom on the Jayhawks' last drive of the game, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Coming out of high school, Heaps was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 pro-style passer in the country. In just about any other era, the top-ranked pocket passer in the country would have been a lock as a Top 10 guy overall. Not Heaps, though. Heaps ranked 63rd on Rivals.com's Top 100 during his senior season of high school, and, although hindsight is 20/20, it seems that we should have been onto something back then.

Not that Heaps was not good enough. I still don't believe that's the case. More, though, that pro-style passers, particularly those trying to play in the Big 12, would simply not be en vogue a few years down the road.

That time has arrived and it's not hard to see. Whether you're talking Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel or any number of other quarterbacks like them, the dual-threat option has become the preferred choice in college football and appears to be the direction the Jayhawks are headed under new offensive coordinator John Reagan and Cozart.

Cozart's emergence spelled the end of Heaps at Kansas and although no one made him transfer — think about this, by the way; when is the last time you can remember a major Div. I school losing its senior-to-be point guard and senior-to-be quarterback in the same offseason? — he felt it was in his best interest to find another school that might give him a chance to start. I can't blame the guy. And I hope it works out for him.

I know Heaps still has NFL aspirations. But he's also a very grounded dude and I'm sure somewhere in his head he realizes that 2014 could be his final chance to play the game he's loved since childhood. If that's the way it shakes out, I'm sure the idea of sitting behind Cozart and only taking meaningful snaps in practice was not the way Heaps envisioned his career ending and that's why he's moving on.

Provided he finishes his requirements for graduation this month — and there's no reason to think he won't — Heaps will be eligible to play immediately at Miami, which seems to have a need for a guy just like Heaps, a one-year player who has some experience and can help the three freshmen QBs on the roster learn the ropes of college football.

Either way, here's hoping Heaps gets the chance to play and, perhaps more to the point, hoping that his next stop has the kind of offensive line that will allow him to showcase his skills one final time.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps throws out of the Jayhawks endzone against Texas Tech during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps throws out of the Jayhawks endzone against Texas Tech during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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