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Tale of the Tait

A potential starting point for KU AD Travis Goff’s search for a new football coach

Travis Goff, a 2002 graduate of the University of Kansas and native of Dodge City, left, fist-bumps KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, right, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at the Lied Center on KU's west campus.

Travis Goff, a 2002 graduate of the University of Kansas and native of Dodge City, left, fist-bumps KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, right, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at the Lied Center on KU's west campus. by Mike Yoder

Now that all of the introductions, handshakes and pleasantries have subsided, new University of Kansas Athletic Director Travis Goff can fully immerse himself in the job of finding KU’s new football coach.

And the place he should start is on the telephone.

If it were me sitting in the AD’s chair, the first three phone calls I would make would be to Mark Mangino, Glen Mason and Clint Bowen.

Not to gauge their interest in the job, of course. But to pick their brains about the position itself — its challenges and hidden secrets and the traits that they believe are most important for the man who calls himself the next Kansas football coach.

The reason for the calls to Mangino and Mason are obvious. As two of the most successful coaches in school history, both men have unique insight into what it takes to build and sustain success in Lawrence.

The call to Bowen, who is now out of the college game and preparing for his first year as the head coach at Lawrence High School, is also essential because he was there for those two successful runs — along with a few failed stints — and because there aren’t many people on the planet who care about the program as much as he does who can offer the kind of insight into the highs and lows and dos and don’ts of rebuilding the program as he can.

Goff, who was hired and introduced last week, said he came to Kansas with an open mind and that he would spend the early portion of KU’s coaching search getting the lay of the land and finding out exactly what Kansas football needs from its next leader.

He also said, in no uncertain terms, that there was a plan.

If the plan, at least in large part, is to come in and evaluate the landscape by talking to as many people as possible before setting out to find the coach who best fits the position, personnel and current problems, Goff is well on his way to making a quality hire.

That certainly seems to be what’s happening.

Sources connected to all three coaches told the Journal-World on Monday that neither Jeff Monken, Willie Fritz nor Lance Leipold — three of the more popular names tied to the opening in recent weeks — had been approached by Kansas as of yet.

That’s not to say they won’t be. Remember, Goff started less than a week ago.

The smart money is on all three getting a call at some point. And all three make plenty of sense for the position on paper and are quality, proven coaches with a history of success.

But there remains a lot of work to be done before candidate phone calls and interviews take place. As long as he’s doing that work, that should be viewed as a good sign of Goff’s ability to do the job.

The instant gratification crowd among KU’s fan base may have preferred it if Goff were introduced last Wednesday with a candidate in mind so he could announce him as KU’s new coach on Friday or sometime today. Bing, bang, boom!

But that would’ve been hasty and probably would not have delivered the best fit for Kansas.

Simply put, the more thorough the approach the better Goff’s chances are of getting the hire right.

And the three names listed above are merely a starting point for that approach on a list that includes current and former players, current and former administrators, fans and donors, other coaches, media members and more. It's possible, perhaps even likely, that Goff and his staff also will use a search firm — perhaps the same TurnkeyZRG group that helped KU find Goff — to help them identify candidates and finalists for the position.

A case can be made for talking to too many people and getting too many opinions in a situation such as this. But as long as Goff uses the input he gets to shape his own opinion about who to hire, the more the merrier.

Reply 7 comments from Armen Kurdian Gdkadjayhawk Kyle Rohde Brett McCabe Sae36 Njjayhawk Jeff Coffman

Gary Woodland finishes tied for 40th at 2021 Masters

Gary Woodland hits from the first fairway during the first round of the Masters golf tournament on Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Gary Woodland hits from the first fairway during the first round of the Masters golf tournament on Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) by Matt Tait

Former Kansas golf standout Gary Woodland fired his second even-par round of the week on Sunday at the Masters to finish at 4-over for the event and in a tie for 40th place.

Woodland’s other 72 at famed Augusta National in Augusta, Ga., came in Round 2 on Friday to help him make the cut to stick around for the weekend.

The 2019 U.S. Open Champion never truly contended this week after firing a 73 to open the tournament and a 75 in Saturday’s third round.

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama won this year’s green jacket at -10 for the tournament and 19 other golfers finished the four-round Masters under par.

Woodland started hot on Sunday and looked as if he might be poised for a push to finish in the top 20 or higher. He birdied No. 2 and No. 3 to move to 2-over for the tournament through 3 holes of his final round. But he finished with four bogeys and two birdies, among nine pars, the rest of the way.

Woodland’s 40th-place finish at the second Masters event in the past six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic earned him $43,700 and 15 FedEx Cup points.

Woodland missed the cut by one stroke at the pandemic-delayed 2020 Masters, which was played last November.

His career-best Masters finish came in 2011 when he tied for 24th place.

Reply 2 comments from Matt Tait West_virginia_hawk

Recent rise of college basketball’s transfer portal accelerating transfers to and from Kansas

Kansas guard Tristan Enaruna (13) hits a 3-pointer over TCU guard PJ Fuller (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Kansas guard Tristan Enaruna (13) hits a 3-pointer over TCU guard PJ Fuller (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) by Associated Press

The transfer portal has transformed college basketball’s offseason from a time for projected returners and their programs to address weaknesses and needs to one that starts and ends with players looking for other places to play.

The Kansas men’s basketball program has certainly felt the effects — and benefits — of the national trend that has absolutely exploded in the past couple of years, with nearly as many Division I players transferring out of KU in the past four years (11) as there were that did in KU coach Bill Self’s first 10 years with the program (12).

In all, with a record four now-former Jayhawks electing to look for new homes this offseason, the total number of transfers out during the Self era at Kansas outnumbers the number of transfers in — from Division I to Division I — 25-15.

The overwhelming majority of those transfers — whether joining the Jayhawks or seeking more playing time and better opportunities elsewhere — saw their decision pay off.

The popularity of simply making a move, along with the NCAA expected to pass a one-time transfer exemption this month that will make transfers eligible to play right away, has made player movement more prominent throughout college basketball than ever before.

As of April 1, the 2021 transfer portal in men’s basketball included 1,905 names, across all levels of college hoops, with four months still remaining before the start of the 2021-22 school year.

That number has grown in the seven days since then and likely will continue to grow in the days and weeks ahead, as it did on Thursday, when freshman guard Latrell Jossell became the fourth member of KU’s 2020-21 roster to enter the portal.

Jossell joins Tyon Grant-Foster, Tristan Enaruna and Gethro Muscadin in the portal, and those four were the four scholarship players on KU’s 2020-21 roster who played the fewest minutes.

The current number of players in the portal is up from 1,884 total in 2019-20 and 1,719 in 2018-19.

“It’s going to be a huge game-changer for our sport and it’s not good, it’s a bad rule, an awful rule,” Self said of the portal and one-time transfer exemption during an appearance on “Hawk Talk” with Brian Hanni on Wednesday night. “The way the rule is, it’s going to allow everybody to be a free agent.”

Self, who acknowledged that the current set-up has been beneficial to the Jayhawks in recent weeks, called it “a weird time in recruiting.”

“When you talk about recruiting, you usually talk about, ‘OK we’re going to identify them as a (high school) sophomore and we’re going to court them until they’re seniors.’ And then they make a decision maybe going into their senior year. It’s a long process. The recruiting process now is, ‘OK, who’s in the portal? Let’s call that person, figure out who his key people are and then (after) three Zoom calls, hopefully by the end of the week this kid’s going to make a decision.’”

While the new trend cuts into the loyalty of yesteryear, with four- and five-year players becoming fan favorites at their respective universities, Self said there were good elements of the new landscape.

“Some people do need to transfer,” he said. “Some people need to go to a place where the opportunities are different. That’s certainly the case. But it’s going to be wild, wild west, at least temporarily.”

Here’s an updated look at the transfers in and transfers out involving Kansas players — from one Division I program to another — during the Self era so far.

Transferring In (15)

Rodrick Stewart – 2006 – USC

Jeff Withey – 2009 – Arizona

Justin Wesley – 2010 – Lamar

Kevin Young – 2011 – Loyola-Marymount

Hunter Mickelson – 2013 – Arkansas

Tarik Black – 2013 – Memphis

Dwight Coleby – 2015 – Ole Miss

Evan Maxwell – 2016 – Liberty

Malik Newman – 2016 – Mississippi State

Sam Cunliffe – 2017 – Arizona State

Dedric Lawson – 2017 – Memphis

K.J. Lawson – 2017 – Memphis

Charlie Moore – 2017 – Cal

Jack Whitman – 2017 – William & Mary

Joseph Yesufu – 2021 – Creighton

Transferring Out (25)

David Padgett – 2004 – Louisville

Omar Wilkes – 2004 – Cal

J.R. Giddens – 2005 – New Mexico

Alex Galindo – 2005 – Florida International

Micah Downs – 2006 – Gonzaga

C.J. Giles – 2006 – Oregon State

Quintrell Thomas – 2009 – UNLV

Royce Woolridge – 2011 – Washington State

Milton Doyle – 2012 – Loyola (Chicago)

Merv Lindsay – 2012 – New Mexico

Anrio Adams – 2013 – Ohio/Eastern Kentucky

Zach Peters – 2013 – Arizona

Andrew White III – 2014 – Nebraska/Syracuse

Conner Frankamp – 2014 – Wichita State

Carlton Bragg Jr. – 2017 – Arizona State/New Mexico

Dwight Coleby – 2017 – Western Kentucky

Sam Cunliffe – 2018 – Evansville

Charlie Moore – 2019 – DePaul

K.J. Lawson – 2019 – Tulane

Quentin Grimes - 2019 - Houston

Issac McBride - 2020 - Vanderbilt

Tyon Grant-Foster – 2021 – TBD

Tristan Enaruna – 2021 – TBD

Gethro Muscadin – 2021 – TBD

Latrell Jossell – 2021 – TBD

Reply 9 comments from Adam Bengtson West_virginia_hawk Noel Graham Matt Tait Dirk Medema Njjayhawk Dale Rogers Jeff Coffman

Jayhawks projected in 5-10 range by most national pundits in way-too-early Top 25 polls

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) roars after hitting a three pointer against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) roars after hitting a three pointer against West Virginia during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Now that college basketball has a new champion for the first time in two years, it’s on to the next season everywhere but Waco, Texas, where the Baylor Bears will continue their celebration of the 2020-21 season for decades to come.

As well they should. Scott Drew's team had an incredible season — for the second year in a row — and capped it off with two dominant performances at the Final Four in Indianapolis.

While the transition to another offseason of college hoops means looking closer at which players are returning, who’s leaving and, in the modern day, who might be transferring, it also means taking a first glance at how things might stack up entering next season.

The Kansas men’s basketball team figures to return most of its core for the 2021-22 season, and Bill Self and company have been adding pieces via transfer or late prep commitments in the past week or so, as well.

All of that, along with the likelihood of more to come, has the Jayhawks positioned to be a Top 10 team entering next season according to most of the national media.

Here’s a quick look at what several national outlets are saying about the Jayhawks in their traditional “way too early” Top 25 polls for next season.

Who: ESPN.com’s Jeff Borzello

Where KU’s picked: No. 5

Skinny: “One of the best teams in the country over the final month of the season, Kansas should celebrate Bill Self's lifetime contract with a much more consistent group. The Jayhawks are likely to lose senior Marcus Garrett, but most of the rotation should return. Jalen Wilson and David McCormack both had long stretches where they looked like stars, while Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji are stalwart starters. The big question could be at point guard without Garrett. But DaJuan Harris showed flashes of his two-way ability this past season, while former Louisville signee Bobby Pettiford was a top-100 prospect at the high school level. Self also has Bryce Thompson, who came into school with the reputation as a big-time scorer but struggled with injuries as a freshman. Kansas' frontcourt should be loaded, though, with top-50 prospects Zach Clemence and K.J. Adams entering the fold.”

___

Who: Stadium’s Jeff Goodman

Where KU’s picked: No. 6

Skinny: “The Jayhawks should return the majority of last year’s team and will add a few key pieces. Bill Self has a lifetime contract now, but he’ll need for the freshman Pettiford to be ready, as he’ll be expected to make plays off the bounce. KU has a strong frontline of McCormack and Wilson, and quality perimeter players in Agbaji, Braun and Thompson. But the key comes at the point guard spot, where it could be up to Pettiford to change the dynamic of this team.”

___

Who: CBS’ Gary Parrish

Where KU’s picked: No. 10

Skinny: “Even if Ochai Agbaji moves on, Kansas should still return four starters from a team that went 9-2 in its final 11 games and advanced in the NCAA Tournament. A top-10 recruiting class will help the Jayhawks compete for the Big 12 title.”

___

Who: The Athletic’s Seth Davis

Where KU’s picked: No. 6

Skinny: “The upside of having a down year (by the Jayhawks’ standards, anyway) is that the team won’t lose a bunch of players to the NBA Draft. Agbaji could test the waters but is not a projected first-round pick. Bill Self didn’t land any McDonald’s All-Americans, but his recent addition of Pettiford strengthened the freshman class, and Curry is a juco transfer who should have a chance to play significant minutes. Martin is an intriguing grad transfer who averaged 25 points and 9.1 rebounds at Division II Missouri Southern State.”

___

Who: NCAA.com’s Andy Katz

Where KU’s picked: No. 5

Skinny: “Jalen Wilson could be a star and the Jayhawks will be ready to challenge the Bears again for the title.” We’re assuming Katz is talking the Big 12 title there, but who knows?

___

Who: USA Today’s Scott Gleeson for Yahoo Sports

Where KU’s picked: No. 10

Skinny: “Coach Bill Self's lifetime contract means continuity in the pilot's chair. What KU's roster looks like in 2021-22 will be less predictable. There's a chance the Jayhawks lose Ochai Agbaji to the NBA, along with departing senior Marcus Garrett, but David McCormack (13.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Jalen Wilson (11.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) are set to return. Self will be busy on the recruiting trail, where he's yet to land a five-star.”

__

Who: SI.com’s Kevin Sweeney

Where KU’s picked: No. 11

Skinny: “Bill Self was open about needing to add more talent this spring after a blowout NCAA tournament loss to USC, and the Jayhawks are set to do just that. In addition to strong returners like Jalen Wilson and David McCormack, Self has already signed three four-star recruits, a top-10 juco recruit and top D-II transfer Cam Martin. Sophomore point guard DaJuan Harris has a critical offseason ahead of him to develop as the top playmaker for the Jayhawks, and Self may have a bit of a logjam on his hands with several different options up front. One big draft decision to track: Ochai Agbaji, the team’s leading scorer this season and a projected second-round pick.”

___

Who: 247 Sports’ Kevin Flaherty

Where KU’s picked: No. 6

Skinny: “The Jayhawks had one of the nation’s best defenses in the latter part of the season and should bring back four starters: David McCormack, Jalen Wilson, Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, with Agbaji potentially testing the waters. But it’s what Bill Self has done around those guys that could elevate the Jayhawks. He’s added two big-man shooters in freshman Zach Clemence and transfer Cam Martin, another powerful interior player in juco transfer Sydney Curry and a hard-nosed 4 in freshman KJ Adams. Former five-star Bryce Thompson could be due for a second-year leap, while DaJuan Harris will battle four-star freshman Bobby Pettiford and potentially (Ty Ty) Washington — the No. 3 point guard in the 247Sports Composite — for the point guard spot. The Jayhawks could also lead for athletic Creighton big-man transfer Christian Bishop, and 247Sports’ Brandon Jenkins reported that Kansas has the most momentum for South Dakota’s Stanley Umude.”

Reply 4 comments from Matt Tait Njjayhawk Matt Lindaman Adam Bengtson Plasticjhawk

AD Chatter: Could KU’s search be over on Monday?

An aerial shot from the east of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in 2017.

An aerial shot from the east of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in 2017. by Nick Krug

Now that we’re smack dab in the middle of KU Chancellor Douglas Girod’s “within the next few weeks” timeline that he provided after KU and Jeff Long parted ways on March 10, here’s a quick look at the latest info I’ve been able to gather as KU’s search for a new AD moves into its fourth full week.

I have not yet been told that KU’s search for a new athletic director will end on Monday, but it sounds like it definitely could.

Sources indicated this weekend that there’s been talk of the KU plane (and perhaps more than one private plane) heading from Lawrence to Chicago on Monday, which would certainly lead you to believe that Northwestern Deputy AD Travis Goff could be the pick.

I also was told over the weekend that Tulane AD Troy Dannen was (or perhaps still is?) involved deep into the process and, like Goff, went through both Zoom and in-person interviews.

The Athletic’s Matt Fortuna reported last Tuesday that Goff and Dannen were “the favorites to land the job.” And while every indication I’ve been given since then tells me that that was dead on, I heard of at least one potential mystery candidate who might have been involved as recently as last week.

None of my sources shared a name — or even speculated — on that one, but at least one of them heard that the KU plane visited Dallas last week.

As we’ve learned far too many times during these deals, that could have been completely random or for some reason other than the AD search.

But if the plane was in fact in Dallas AND there for the search, the two most likely names that come to mind there are SMU AD Rick Hart and North Texas AD Wren Baker.

No big revelation here, but another source told me last week that KU, at least initially, wanted to look long and hard at sitting ADs. However, KU ties also were deemed to be important in the search, and Goff graduated from KU and grew up in Dodge City.

For what it's worth, KU's open AD job listing was still on TurnkeyZRG's website as of 11 p.m. Sunday night, but given that the search firm prides itself on keeping things quiet, it would make perfect sense to me for the listing to stay there until an announcement is made.

Because Goff is the hottest name at the moment, here’s a little deeper look at his resume.

After working in the KU athletic department following his graduation in 2002 (journalism and sociology), Goff went to Tulane to get his master’s degree in business administration in 2007.

As a quick aside, I graduated from KU in 2000 and am 42 (43 in June), so Goff is likely in the 39-40 range.

After getting his master’s at Tulane, he stuck around and worked as an Associate AD for External Affairs until leaving for the job of Deputy Athletic Director/Assistant Vice President (Development) at Northwestern in late 2012.

According to his Northwestern bio, Goff, as a member of former Northwestern AD Jim Phillips’ executive staff, has been involved in “all high-level strategic decisions for the department,” while also serving as the sport administrator for football, volleyball and baseball.

Phillips recently announced he was leaving Northwestern to become the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently reported that Goff has been heavily involved in helping find Phillips’ replacement.

Goff’s bio indicates that he has seen more than $400 million worth of facility upgrades during his career, and, in addition to his administrative duties, Goff has led Northwestern’s Athletics & Recreation’s fundraising initiatives, which include a campaign goal of $450 million, major gift and annual programs and overseeing a team of 11 development professionals.

In 2019, Goff was named to Sports Business Journal’s “Power Players in College Sports” list. A year earlier, he also was recognized as a College AD “Next Up” honoree, as one of 11 people on a list of administrators who were ready to become athletic directors.

Reply 13 comments from Brett McCabe Ervin O'Neal Kall3742 Ryan Mullen Brian Skelly Ashwingrao Michael Maris Jeff Coffman Dale Rogers Dirk Medema and 1 others

Kansas City guard Brandon McKissic headed to Florida

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Brandon McKissic, a Kansas City senior and one-time Kansas basketball recruiting target announced Friday that he would continue his college basketball career at the University of Florida.

A 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior from Ferguson, Mo., McKissic announced Friday morning via Twitter that he was joining the Gators program.

McKissic led the Roos in scoring at 17.2 points per game on 50.8% shooting from the floor and 43% shooting (30 of 70) from 3-point range during the 2020-21 season.

He met virtually with the Kansas coaches shortly after KU’s season ended and received a scholarship from KU soon thereafter.

But the Jayhawks added two prospects — Creedmoor, N.C., point guard Bobby Pettiford, a former Louisville commitment, and Division II All-American Cam Martin — in the past week and appeared to have backed off in their pursuit of McKissic.

Kansas moves forward with one open scholarship remaining as KU coach Bill Self and his staff seek to remake part of KU’s roster heading into the offseason.

Junior Tyon Grant-Foster, sophomore Tristan Enaruna and freshman Gethro Muscadin, in consecutive days, all announced their decisions to enter the transfer portal this week.

None of the three played a major role in the Jayhawks’ rotation this season.

KU remains in pursuit of prep guard Ty Ty Washington (6-foot-4, 180-pound PG ranked No. 32 by Rivals in 2021 class), whose AAU team had its run at Geico Nationals end on Friday, and the Jayhawks also appear to be keeping their eye on the transfer portal, which has more than 1,000 names in it, including a handful of talented and well-known players like Oklahoma’s Brady Manek, Creighton’s Christian Bishop, Texas Tech’s Marcus Santos-Silva and Kyler Edwards, Florida’s Noah Locke and more.

While KU currently is looking to fill one more roster spot, it’s possible that KU could see one or two more players depart this offseason — be it through transfer or early entry into the NBA draft — which would create more available scholarships to hand out.

Reply 3 comments from Rodney Crain Njjayhawk Dirk Medema Surrealku

Everyone’s got a good Roy Williams story or two; here are a few of my personal favorites

Scottie Lingelbach, right, a Kansas men's basketball fan, gives KU
coach Roy Williams a hug for good luck as the team leaves Allen
Fieldhouse Tuesday for Oklahoma City.

Scottie Lingelbach, right, a Kansas men's basketball fan, gives KU coach Roy Williams a hug for good luck as the team leaves Allen Fieldhouse Tuesday for Oklahoma City.

Just about everyone I know who grew up or spent time in Lawrence in the 1990s has a good Roy Williams story.

The man, who announced his retirement from coaching on Thursday after 33 incredible seasons, was too genuine of a person and too interested in the lifting up others to not leave some kind of impact on people after meeting them, be it briefly or for prolonged periods of time.

Many have stories of one-liners, a wink and a smile or an enjoyable conversation in an autograph line.

His golfing buddies have stories that can’t be printed here.

And the players who played for him at Kansas — and North Carolina, I’m sure —will tell you about his passion, drive, tenacity and influence.

Each story, though resting under the same umbrella, is slightly different and unique to the person telling it.

Here are a couple of my personal favorites from a good-sized list of encounters with the future Hall of Famer, which included knowing him in his early days with the Jayhawks, covering him as a student at KU and keeping up with him here and there while he was at Carolina.

My most recent conversation with Williams came at the outset of the pandemic, when I wrote something about him using former UNC star Michael Jordan in a recruiting video after he arrived at Kansas.

I asked for 10-15 minutes and we were on the phone for 35. Only half of our conversation was about Jordan and that video.

Shortly after I joined the Journal-World, back in 2008, I wrote a story about three grandsons of three members of KU’s 1952 national championship team who were playing basketball at Free State High.

A couple of weeks after the story ran, I received a letter from Williams, on North Carolina letterhead, thanking me for writing the story and expressing what those three men — Charlie Hoag, Bill Hougland and Bill Lienhard — meant to him, both while he lived in Lawrence and still to this day.

He signed the letter in Carolina blue ink and it’s framed in my house.

Growing up in Lawrence as I did, I knew Williams in a slightly different way than a lot of other people. Sure, he was the head basketball coach at Kansas. And that was and forever will be a big part of his identity. But he was also my buddy Scott’s dad.

Scott was a year older than me in school and he played on the 1995 LHS basketball team that won state. I’ll never forget seeing Williams snag Scott for a quick hug and high five on the court while celebrating the state title game victory in Emporia with the rest of the LHS players and dozens of classmates.

As Williams left the crowded court and headed for the exits, he walked past me, said hello and gave me a wink and a handshake that said, “We did it.”

I didn’t do anything, of course. But I was always loud in my support of my friends on the floor.

During the brief exchanged, I looked at him and said, “Your turn.”

He smiled and said something to the effect of, “That’s the plan.”

Williams never got that elusive national title during his 15 seasons in Lawrence. But he pretty much did everything else. Four Final Fours. Two national title game appearances. More than 400 victories. Individual coaching honors. Blue-chip signings. Players sent to the NBA. And hundreds of Ol’ Roy stories that could fill a good book.

One of the best, at least in my chapter, came when we were in college and Scott, who played for Dean Smith at UNC as a walk-on, was back for the summer.

By this time, many of us had learned about college life and parties and all of the things associated with that, so when Scotty called and asked if we wanted to put together a home run derby at YSI for old time’s sake, we all declined.

Scott understood but he didn’t give up. Twenty or 30 minutes later he called back and asked again. For the second time, we said thanks but no thanks and suggested that he come over to our apartment to hang out.

This time, however, he had an ace in his pocket.

“Pops wants to pitch,” he said.

Like that, we changed our tune and headed out to the diamond to take another round of BP with Williams on the mound.

Most of my friends there that night had played baseball throughout junior high or high school, so they were taking his fastball over the fence with relative ease. I quit the game after sixth grade and wasn’t any good to begin with, so my swings were less memorable.

There was one, however, that I’ll never forget. A true chuck-and-duck rope up the middle that Williams had to quickly dive out of the way of to avoid getting hit.

I was extremely thankful he did. He may have been Scott’s dad to me, but to thousands of Kansas fans he was so much more. And if I had been the one to seriously injure him with my lousy baseball swing there’s no telling how different this story would be today.

A few rounds later, with me still looking for my first home run of the night, Williams really locked in and tried to groove a few pitches for me so I could pick the perfect one to hit.

It finally came. And I clobbered it. As the ball soared out to center field, we all watched, including Williams, hoping that I could finally join the club, which then would’ve led to the inevitable ribbing of, “about time, loser,” etc. But as the ball reached the chain link fence, it hit the horizontal pole at the top and softly fell back onto the warning track.

I was bummed, but not surprised. Williams doubled over in disappointment and then said he had done all he could do. No more swings for yours truly. No dingers either.

But that hardly mattered. The memorable stuff was in those moments, when the basketball coach at Kansas, who had so many bigger and better things to do — even in the summer — was locked in a high fly ball to center field hoping like heck that it would clear the fence.

In the hours, days, months and years ahead, you’ll read and hear dozens of stories about what a great man, coach and person Williams was during his remarkable 33-year coaching career at Kansas and North Carolina.

There will be games I’ll always remember, interviews I’ll never forget and emotion that was unmatched by almost anyone in the game.

But right there with all of it will be the night I tried to take Williams yard.

Reply 5 comments from Matt Lindaman Robert  Brock Ted Hume Njjayhawk Brett McCabe

Will Kansas get back in the mix for Class of 2021 big man Jonas Aidoo, who decommited from Marquette this week?

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

With Tyon Grant-Foster’s departure opening up a scholarship for the Kansas men’s basketball program, the Jayhawks have several options for how to fill it.

And it’s possible, — perhaps even likely — either through other players leaving early or following Grant-Foster’s path into the transfer portal, that KU soon could be looking to fill a few holes on the 2021-22 roster.

While we’ve spent some time recently tracking KU’s prep options (Ty Ty Washington and Bobby Pettiford most notable among them) and looking at potential transfers (Kansas City’s Brandon McKissic), a couple of recent developments have added to the list.

The most notable one might have come from Class of 2021 center Jonas Aidoo, a 7-foot center from Charlotte, N.C., who reopened his recruitment after de-committing from Marquette this week.

Aidoo, who is ranked No. 33 overall in the 2021 class by Rivals.com, committed to Marquette in mid-December, which meant he spent a fair amount of time as one of the top-ranked uncommitted prospects in his class.

He’s back in that position today and it seems likely that his list of options will look a lot different than it did the last time around.

For instance, reports already have surfaced that North Carolina coach Roy Williams was the first to reach out to Aidoo after he made his de-commitment plans official.

Most recruiting services listed Kansas as one of Aidoo’s finalists, which was a feat in and of itself considering KU got in on him a little late.

Nine days before Aidoo’s commitment to Marquette, Rivals.com’s Rob Cassidy reported that KU offered the 7-footer a scholarship in October. That same day, Cassidy also ranked KU as the No. 2 contender for Aidoo behind Marquette.

It’s worth noting that No. 3 on the list at that time was “A Program That Hasn’t Offered,” which shows you why any of the local programs — UNC, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, etc. — could find themselves in the mix this time around.

Wake Forest and NC State were involved last winter, but both were considered longshots throughout most of the process.

In a late-October interview with JayhawkSlant’s Shay Wildeboor, Aidoo said he received the offer from KU on a Zoom call with Kansas coach Bill Self and assistant coach Norm Roberts.

“I had a great Zoom call with Kansas,” Aidoo told Wildeboor in October. “The coaching staff just really talked about how great they are at developing big men, so that was really intriguing. We’ve talked a little bit about how the coaching staff sees me fitting into the system.”

While the pandemic and extended dead period made visiting KU’s campus impossible, Aidoo spoke then of wanting to plan a visit with the Jayhawks at some point. It never happened, of course, and the dead period is still in effect, but he’s also a lit-tle more than two months away from being able to report to whichever school he picks for summer workouts, so this round of recruiting may have to be entirely virtual, as well.

“I am interested in Kansas,” he told Wildeboor in October. “I really love how Kansas develops its big men into next level athletes."

Known as a late-blooming prospect with good athleticism and a quality inside-out game, the four-star prospect figures to bring a ton of potential to whichever program adds him.

ESPN analyst Paul Biancardi called Aidoo, “a shot blocker and finisher inside” and noted that he owns “a legit jump hoop and turnaround jumper” and can also extend his range out to the 3-point line.

His wingspan reportedly has been recorded at 7 feet, 5 inches, which makes him a menace around the rim, both as a shot blocker and an offensive rebounder who makes a living off of easy put-backs.

According to Chapel Fowler, of The Fayetteville Observer, Aidoo averaged 11.3 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks per game during his senior season at Durham Voyager Academy in 2019-20.

He then reclassified down into the 2021 class and played a post-graduate season at Liberty Heights, an independent school in Charlotte that offered more exposure against tougher competition.

Reply 13 comments from Surrealku Mallory Briggans Ted Hume Tim Orel Dirk Medema Dale Rogers Njjayhawk Noel Graham

Kansas connections aplenty as 2021 NCAA Tournament reaches Elite Eight

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) guards USC forward Evan Mobley (4) during the first half of a men's college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) guards USC forward Evan Mobley (4) during the first half of a men's college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) by Associated Press

It’s been nearly a week since the 21 Kansas men’s basketball team was knocked out of the 2021 NCAA Tournament and the Elite Eight is now set.

With two double-digit seeds still remaining and eight coaches who have never won a national title, the next three rounds figure to be as wild and crazy as the first three.

We were this close to seeing Oral Roberts make history as the first 15 seed to ever reach the Elite Eight. And, somehow, it’s three Pac-12 schools — not Big 12 or Big Ten — that make up nearly 50% of the schools still in the hunt for this year’s national title.

I know plenty of Kansas fans have already written off this year’s tournament and will not be interested in watching the rest unfold. But for those of you who are still paying attention, here’s a quick look at the Kansas connections — direct or deep reaches — to all eight of the teams still playing.

The first two tickets to next weekend’s Final Four in Indianapolis will be handed out on Monday night, with the two other teams joining them on Tuesday.

1 - Gonzaga – The obvious tie is that the Zags beat the Jayhawks in the 2020-21 season opener, 102-90, to kickstart their quest for a perfect season. But let’s not forget that former KU walk-on Evan Manning, the son of KU legend Danny Manning, is on Mark Few’s staff and will be looking to do what he couldn’t while at Kansas by reaching the Final Four with the Zags.

6 - USC – You all know what happened, so we won’t restate the obvious. Quick question, though: Did seeing what the Mobley Brothers did to Oregon on Sunday night make last Monday’s KU loss in Indy any easier for you to swallow?

1 - Michigan – You’ve got to go to a couple of six degrees of separation type of connections for this one, but they’re there. First off, Michigan, you may remember, is the program that current KU starter Jalen Wilson initially committed to and almost picked again after reopening his recruitment following the departure of former Michigan coach John Beilein. Current Wolverines coach Juwan Howard recruited Wilson hard but he wound up choosing Kansas after viewing the situation as an opportunity at a do-over. Beyond that, Michigan’s roster includes former Wake Forest wing, Chaundee Brown, who KU temporarily recruited before then-Wake coach Danny Manning convinced him to join the Demon Deacons.

11 - UCLA – KU was supposed to play the Bruins in the Wooden Classic this season but wound up playing Gonzaga in Fort Myers, Fla., instead. Beyond that, there’s the obvious tie of KU recently passing UCLA for most consecutive regular season conference titles AND most consecutive weeks ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

1 - Baylor – KU was one of just two teams to beat Baylor this season and the connections between these two Big 12 brothers are obvious. It’s hard to know exactly how the entire KU roster feels about it, but it seems likely that at least a couple of current Jayhawks are pulling for the Bears to win it all, even if for no other reason than to say they beat the champs. Gonzaga’s clearly the team to beat and Baylor has its hands full with the Razorbacks, but if they can get to next Monday night, they’ve got enough offense and defense to give the Zags a run for their money.

3 - Arkansas – This one goes back to former KU player turned coach Rex Walters, who spent a season (2018-19) working for Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman when Muss was at Nevada. The opportunity came right after Walters’ stint as an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons and right before he hooked up with Manning at Wake Forest. And Walters will be happy to tell you at any time how much respect, admiration and appreciation he has for Musselman. Here’s another deep connection: Arkansas assistant coach David Patrick played for the Syracuse team that knocked off KU in the Elite Eight in 1996 in Denver en route to a spot in the national championship game.

12 - Oregon State – There’s not a whole lot here, which makes sense when you consider the distance between Lawrence and Corvallis, Ore., and the distance between these two programs of late, a fact that has kept them from even bumping into each other on the recruiting trail. Remember, this Oregon State squad entered the 2020-21 season picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12 Conference and wasn’t even in the tournament until winning the Pac-12 tourney. Having said that, I found one connection via a bit of a reach. Oregon State sophomore Rodrigue Andela hails from Cameroon, the same country that produced former KU big man and current NBA mad man Joel Embiid. No word on whether Andela has told any tales of killing a lion with his bare hands, but the hometown connection is there. Embiid is five years older than Andela, but both list Yaounde, Cameroon as their hometowns.

2 - Houston – Quentin Grimes, of course. But it goes deeper than that. Before we get there, though, it’s worth pointing out that the Grimes that has played at Houston these past two seasons — which has been spectacular — likely would never have shown up in Lawrence. It was clear in his first year at KU that the fit just wasn’t there. So give the kid a ton of credit for staying confident, finding a place that did fit and making the most of his opportunity. Beyond that, every time they show Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, who coached at Oklahoma for 12 seasons, KU fans no doubt flash back to the Senior Night when a junior Jayhawk named Paul Pierce went off in what turned out to be his last game at Allen Fieldhouse, inspiring Sampson to step onto the floor and smack him on the backside after Pierce drilled another jumper.

Monday night schedule:

• 6:15 p.m. - (12) Oregon State vs. (2) Houston, CBS

• 8:57 p.m. - (3) Arkansas vs. (1) Baylor, CBS

Tuesday night schedule:

• 6:15 p.m. - (6) USC vs. (1) Gonzaga, TBS

• 8:57 p.m. - (11) UCLA vs. (1) Michigan, TBS

*all times central

Reply 3 comments from Tim Orel Njjayhawk West_virginia_hawk Runningbeakers84

Jayhawks conduct Zoom recruiting call with former Louisville commitment

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

The Kansas men’s basketball program recently conducted a Zoom call with Bobby Pettiford, a 6-foot, 170-pound point guard from Creedmoor, N.C., who recently de-committed from the University of Louisville after a coaching change.

Pettiford, who is ranked No. 115 in the 2021 recruiting class by Rivals.com and in the Top 100 by ESPN (95), 247 Sports (88) and SI.com (82), has heard from a couple dozen schools since he announced his change of plans. But he recently told Eric Bossi of 247 Sports that his second round of recruiting had unfolded “at a good pace” so far.

While his de-commitment has reopened his options from coast to coast, Pettiford has paid close attention to the roster make-up at each program recruiting him and is keeping an eye on any changes that could impact his decision.

“A lot of teams are going through their player meetings and their team meetings,” Pettiford told Bossi. “Some of them are in the (NCAA) Tournament.”

He said he KU was a program he would be “highly considering” because of the Jayhawks’ need for a point guard. But he also said he was “not hurrying it.”

He told Bossi that his decision would come “sometime in April probably,” and that he would continue to track the changes at the various schools showing interest in him in order to make a solid decision.

Known primarily as an explosive athlete who plays best around the rim, Pettiford showed off his improved shooting touch during his senior season, hitting 53% from the floor, 39% from 3-point range and 80% at the free throw line.

Tyson Walker picks Michigan State

Tyson Walker, a sophomore from Northeastern who averaged 18.8 points and 4.8 assists per game this season in the Colonial Athletic Association, announced his commitment to Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.

The 6-foot point guard from New York, picked the Spartans over Kansas, Maryland, Texas, Vanderbilt and Miami (Fla.).

Braun’s brother looking for new spot

Parker Braun, the 6-foot-8, 217-pound older brother of Kansas sophomore Christian Braun, has entered the transfer portal and is looking for a new place to continue his college career.

The elder Braun averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in 9.3 minutes per game for the Tigers this season. He appeared in 20 of MU’s 25 games and did not play in Mizzou’s NCAA Tournament loss to Oklahoma.

Groves brothers also on the move

A couple of weeks ago, the decision to enter the transfer portal by Eastern Washington standouts Tanner and Jacob Groves would not have registered on the radar of Kansas fans.

However, the two brothers hit the Jayhawks’ for 58 combined points on 9-of-16 shooting from 3-point range in KU’s first-round NCAA Tournament win in Indianapolis last week, making both household names with most KU fans.

Both Groves brothers — Tanner a senior and Jacob a sophomore — elected to move on shortly after their head coach Shantay Legans left EWU to take the job at Portland.

Reply 3 comments from Mallory Briggans Matt Tait Tim Orel

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