Former Kansas standout Frank Mason is getting another shot in the NBA.
This time it comes with a veritable all-star team of legends in Los Angeles.
According to a tweet from NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Mason has signed a training camp deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now in his fifth season as a pro, Mason, if he sticks, will be playing with his fourth team in that time. After being drafted by Sacramento and spending two seasons in the California capital, Mason spent the 2019-20 season splitting his time between the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee’s G League team. He followed that up with a short stint in Orlando in 2020-21.
The former college national player of the year appeared in 103 games during those four seasons, making three starts and averaging 6.7 points in 15.7 minutes per game.
In 2020, Mason was named the G League MVP after a stellar stint with the Wisconsin Herd.
He played for the Philadelphia 76ers Summer League squad this summer before being released. Upon his release, Mason tweeted: “I want to give a big thanks to the @sixers organization for giving me an opportunity to join their summer league team. What a great staff and first-class organization. Thank you guys.”
It remains to be seen if there’s an opportunity for Mason on the Lakers’ NBA bench. But if one presents itself, he would be joining a roster that not only features LeBron James and Anthony Davis — two of the top 10 players in the game today — but also includes Laker newcomers Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook.
Also on this year’s Lakers roster are former NBA all-stars Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.
While Westbrook and Rondo are clearly pencilled in as the Lakers' top two options at the point, the only other player on the current Lakers roster listed as a point guard is Joel Ayayi, a rookie from Gonzaga who is signed a two-way deal with the franchise after going undrafted.
Former Oklahoma standout Austin Reaves, along with former Texas Tech gunner Mac McClung also are on the Lakers' revamped roster heading into the season. Both are candidates for roster spots with the Lakers' G League club, the South Bay Lakers.
The stats and style of play were a far cry from what you can expect from the Kansas men’s basketball team during the upcoming 2021-22 season.
But last weekend’s scrimmage at Late Night in the Phog still offered a first glance at how some of the pieces currently look and fit together.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at a few of the more notable things that stood out to me while watching the 20-minute scrimmage won by the Crimson team, which was led by nine points and six rebounds from senior forward David McCormack.
• Since we just mentioned McCormack, let’s start there. Although he will be needed inside a lot this season, McCormack looked more comfortable than ever with his jumper on the perimeter. While that may still be a weapon KU can use this season, don’t expect that to be a place where McCormack spends much time. This offense may very well still run through him, and, if it does, that will be with him camped out in or near the paint. All in all, McCormack looked active and aggressive, tallying his nine points and six boards in just 11 minutes on the court.
• Senior guard Ochai Agbaji led all scorers with 12 points and he got them in typical Agbaji fashion — by taking what was there and fitting into a team-first approach. Having said that, the returning starter who tested his NBA draft stock this summer did appear to assert himself more throughout the scrimmage. He shot when he was open, drove as often as possible and looked comfortable as a player who had things run through him on the perimeter. Agbaji will have much more help this season than he did a year ago. And the burden of being this team’s leading scorer will not be nearly as heavy. But it was still good to see that he has opened the season with an aggressive edge, something that should benefit both his numbers and those of his teammates.
• Remy Martin didn’t do much in the way of stats on Friday night, but he didn’t need that to help him show off his quickness. Remy is a lightning bolt and his first step is as fast as any I can remember seeing. He still tends to get a little wild and may favor the fancy play (he tried a behind-the-back bounce pass in the paint that became a turnover), but even on a night when he did not attempt a single shot, Martin made it clear just what his speed and quickness will mean for this team. That’s particularly true in the half-court, as KU now has a guy who is comfortable with the ball and can attack the paint on any possession. But it also showed up in transition, where Martin will be one of a handful of Kansas players who can really make teams pay by pushing the pace. Beyond all of that, it was clear that Remy is a willing passer.
• Jalen Wilson shot just 1-of-5 from 3-point range and finally got on the board with a couple of coast-to-coast drives to the rim that resembled a freight train that no one wanted to step in front of. Part of the reason for that is his improved physical frame. Wilson’s lower body looks drastically different than it did a year ago, and it’s clear the third-year sophomore put a lot of work in during the offseason. A stronger base should help Wilson be even more of a beast on the boards than he was a season ago. And it did not appear to do anything to slow down his athleticism. If anything, he now looks stronger attacking the basket.
• Super-senior transfer Cam Martin’s size will be just fine at the high-major level. He’s a big body who has good strength and should be able to hang with most anyone down low. And we all know that Martin is known for his ability to shoot the ball from the outside, even if that did not show up in the scrimmage. Not only did he miss the three 3-point attempts he took, but Martin also did a few too many pump fakes and put the ball down on the deck for my liking. I don’t think KU’s coaches will want or ask him to do much of that this season. And he’ll quickly learn that if the shot is not immediately there, he needs to get rid of the ball and keep the offense moving.
• Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu is going to be terrific at Kansas. Not only is he a heck of an athlete with hops and serious strength, but he’s also lightning-fast. That’s particularly true in transition. Kansas opponents will be able to form a support group for players who are victimized by not getting back fast enough when Yesufu gets the ball on a rebound or a run-out. Beyond that, though, he appears to have great instincts and feel for the game. Moving the ball to the right spot every time and making quick decisive passes is not something you see much of during scrimmages like this. But Yesufu flashed those skills plenty on Friday night.
• There’s been a lot of talk about Dajuan Harris Jr., during the past couple of weeks, and now we see why. Just as he promised he would be, back in June during an interview at Washburn Basketball camp, Harris looked much more aggressive offensively and actually looks like a veteran out there. He’s crafty with the ball, has great vision and still loves to set up his teammates, and he also now appears to be a willing jump shooter. With all of that talent around him out there, Harris may see his share of wide-open looks this season. And Kansas is going to continually want him to take them. Fearless was the word that kept coming to mind as I watched Harris play last Friday. Fearless all over the floor.
• There was a lot to like about what Christian Braun did during the scrimmage, but his physicality and versatility were at the top of the list. The junior wing consistently attacked the rim, finishing with a dunk in traffic on three occasions. He also threw a nice lob to McCormack for a hammer slam. Both instances were an indication of this team’s willingness to play above the rim as much as possible, which was on full display on both sides during the scrimmage. Braun missed the four 3-pointers he attempted, but a couple of them were from way deeper than he’d probably ever think about shooting during a real game. His range is not a problem, though. I’ve thought all offseason that a breakout year for Bruan was coming, and Friday did nothing to change my mind.
• As I watched him play for the 15 minutes he was out there, I kept trying to think of someone who Jalen Coleman-Lands reminded me of. We know he’s an elite shooter. And his 0-for-5 performance from deep in the scrimmage did nothing to change that. What you might not know, though, is that he’s also a jack-of-all-trades type of player. He’s comfortable mixing it up for rebounds down low. He can run the break as a ball handler or filling lanes on the wings. And he plays hard. I’m picturing someone, — a former KU player from the super baggy uniform days — but I just can’t make out who it is. Regardless, I continue to believe that JCL is going to play meaningful minutes for this team.
• Freshman forward KJ Adams was one who surprised me a little on Friday night. We already knew that he was physically more mature than most freshmen, but he also appears to know how to use that size and strength. He found himself around the ball a lot when it was near the basket and he finished with six points and a couple of rebounds in just under nine minutes. It’s hard to know exactly how much playing time will be available for Adams this season. My gut tells me either he or Zach Clemence will get decent minutes and the other may not. But his physicality appears to be something that could help in a pinch, whether that’s because of an injury or foul trouble. And, from talking with him, he seems like an absolute sponge who will continue to get better every single day with all of that veteran leadership to latch on to.
• Speaking of Clemence, I love his game, and I think he’s going to have a terrific career. He was the one guy who I thought looked a little wide-eyed out there. That’s no knock. What a big-time moment, to be playing out there on that floor in that environment for the first time in your life. It was clear he was loving it. But it also seemed a little overwhelming for him at times, and I think as he gets more experience he’ll get calmer and more comfortable and be able to show off more of what he can do. Make no mistake about it: He’s a high-energy player who will be a matchup problem when he gains some experience.
• Just when you think the deck is stacked against Mitch Lightfoot for playing time, you see him go out there and deliver and you come away wondering if he may be able to have a consistent role on this team after all. I know I did anyway. All the things that have been true about Mitch throughout his career remain true today — he’s reliable, tough as hell, willing to compete with anybody and smart enough to impact things in a positive way when he’s on the floor. What that translates to in terms of playing time remains to be seen. But how cool was it to see him get some serious love — and the loudest ovation — from the Allen Fieldhouse fans as the last player introduced during the smoke and lasers portion of the night?
• Finally, I thought freshman guard Bobby Pettiford looked pretty damn quick for a player who spent a lot of the offseason rehabbing an injury. Self said KU was thrilled — and maybe even a little lucky — to get him, and it doesn’t take more than a first glimpse to see why. He’s a dog. He competes. And he’s got good handles and great change of direction. Time will tell if that will mean much for this season. But there’s no doubt that his future as a Jayhawk looks pretty good right now.
Four-star Class of 2022 prospect Jordan Walsh has a commitment date in mind. Now he just has to get a few things figured out before he makes his final choice.
On Monday morning, Walsh told Brandon Jenkins, of 247 Sports, that he was eyeing Oct. 24 or 25 as the time to drop his commitment video.
“I have not decided the date specifically yet,” Walsh told Jenkins. “But it will be somewhere around there. By the end of the month, I should be committed.”
Part of that process of getting to that point is expected to take place this weekend, when the No. 31-ranked prospect per Rivals.com makes an official visit to Kansas.
A 6-foot-7, 195-pound small forward originally from Dallas, Walsh recently transferred from Southern California Academy just north of Los Angeles to Link Year in Branson, Mo., for the 2021-22 season.
He entered the summer ranked No. 73 in the Rivals 150 and shot up the board after an outstanding performance at the Peach Jam tournament. This summer he played for Drive Nation on the Nike EYBL circuit.
His recruitment caught fire over the summer, with several new, big-name programs extending scholarship offers. When the offer came from Kansas — via a phone call from KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend in early July — Walsh had no problem telling multiple outlets that he always viewed Kansas as his “dream school.”
With his visit to KU on this week’s schedule, Walsh made it clear he was looking forward to the trip.
“I want to visit to get a feel for their culture,” he told Jenkins on Monday. “Bill Self is obviously a legendary coach. There is a lot of history there, and I want to be around that to see what it feels like.”
Walsh visited Arizona State, Texas and Memphis last month and also is believed to be a top target for Arkansas. All four of those programs, and perhaps a few others, remain in the mix along with Kansas as his recruitment winds down.
"Nobody is out of the running yet," Walsh told JayhawkSlant.com's Shay Wildeboord on Monday.
KU currently has three commitments in the 2022 class — five-star wing Gradey Dick, four-star center Zuby Ejiofor and four-star small forward M.J. Rice. Dick and Ejiofor both visited KU for Late Night in the Phog last week.
It is not yet known how many players Kansas can or will sign in the 2022 recruiting class. But the Jayhawks remain in pur-suit of some of the top talents in the class.
For Kansas football fans, there was not much to like about Saturday’s 59-7 beatdown in Ames, Iowa, a lopsided loss to an Iowa State team that is far better than its record or lack of a national ranking suggested.
But if you cheer for the boys in crimson and blue and didn’t see something like this coming, I’m not sure how to help you.
Vegas saw it. The Cyclones were a whopping 34.5-point favorite over the Jayhawks, and, despite their two losses, are still regarded by many as a top-15-type team.
Sure, maybe the final score could have been better. Or perhaps Kansas could’ve hung around for a half again before breaking. But, as the previous three weeks had shown, those things really don’t mean much to the outcome.
With a bye week up next — talk about terrific timing — let’s evaluate where the Jayhawks are five games into the Lance Leipold era.
But instead of looking at stats or searching for signs of life, the evaluation can be boiled down to one word.
And to find it, all you have to do is drop the second R and change the G to a C.
Because it’s not progress that should be measured this season, it’s the process.
Any time major changes take place in sports, it’s human nature to look for signs of progress. But expecting those in Year 1 of a new coaching regime — in Lawrence, Kansas, of all places — is more than a little unrealistic.
So, focus on the process instead, as ugly as it may currently be. After all, these types of rough outings and the lessons that can — and absolutely must — be learned from them are a part of that process.
And it’s much easier to embrace that line of thinking than it is to search for tangible signs of progress with a roster that is simply overmatched in too many areas to compete in the Big 12 Conference.
A couple of months ago, the hope within the program, and certainly of the fan base, was that these types of ugly losses — the ones that really sting and stand out in bright, bold numbers on the scoreboard — would no longer be in play under Leipold.
Someday, that will be the case.
But the man is not a warlock. He didn’t come to Kansas with magic potions, secret spells and the ability to make 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebackers who run 4.3-second 40-yard dashes appear out of thin air.
He’s a football coach. And he has proven to be a good one. But expecting him to do what he did at Buffalo or Wisconsin-Whitewater in half a season at Kansas is not just putting the cart before the horse. It’s looking at a lumber yard and picturing the cart before the horse that will one day pull it is even born.
So forget measuring this season by progress.
Maybe Kansas will hold Oklahoma or Texas to fewer than 30 points. And maybe Kansas will cover the spread when it faces Kansas State or Texas Tech. Maybe Leipold’s Jayhawks will actually improve as the season moves on and wind up playing their best football in November.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. And maybe not.
This team has to get a lot better. And it’s on the coaches to make that happen. Period.
But as long as you can stand behind the approach Leipold is using and the culture he’s trying to create, then the here and now of it all will sting less and the process will be worth something.
If you can’t? Well, you’ll probably continue to be frustrated and perhaps even a little surprised when Saturdays the rest of the fall continue to play out this way.
After offseason foot surgery forced him to get more in touch with his patient side, Kansas senior David McCormack is fully cleared and ready for the start of the 2021-22 season.
Officially, that came Wednesday, when the Jayhawks held their first full practice of the new season.
But the real beginning, the one that includes a party atmosphere and fans and memories that last a lifetime, arrives Friday night with Late Night in the Phog, and McCormack said this week that he is beyond ready for that both mentally and physically.
“Ohhhh, I can’t wait to be back,” McCormack said during a Wednesday media session.
Asked if he was fully healed from the foot fracture that affected him late during the 2020-21 season and forced him to miss time in the offseason, McCormack shrugged and smiled, saying he was “completely” healthy.
“It’s not even a thought to me,” he said. “I’m back to the same way I used to play — same spring, same touch, everything. I wouldn’t say anything’s different.”
It’s not just McCormack’s physical state that has him feeling good entering his fourth season as a Jayhawk.
One year after struggling out of the gate after a bunch of early-season hype, McCormack believes he’s in a better frame of mind at this time this year. And that, he says, should help him start the 2021-22 season the way he finished 2020-21.
“I feel great,” he said. “Early last year I was thinking a lot more, and now I feel free, playing with a free mind, free heart, so it’s great.”
One of the more popular questions surrounding KU’s annual season tipoff event Late Night in the Phog centers on which recruits will be in attendance.
Below is a quick look at the prospects who are expected to attend this year’s festivities on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
While Late Night has long been one of the Jayhawks’ top recruiting tools, Kansas coach Bill Self said this week that his program has changed its approach ever so slightly in recent years.
It used to be looked at with the the-more-the-merrier mindset. But Self said they now try to limit the number of Late Night visitors so the staff can spend more quality time with the individuals who attend.
“I do think it’s the same type of event it’s always been,” Self said Tuesday. “But we’re not putting all our eggs in that basket maybe as much as we used to. It used to be we would bring in a lot of guys, and that’s not necessarily the case as much right now.”
He continued: “It’s hard to have that many kids in and give them all the proper attention they deserve. We found it better to spread it out so that way families and individuals can get individual attention as opposed to just dealing with everybody as a group. And we think families actually enjoy that more, as well.”
Here’s a look at the list of Friday’s expected visitors. There may, of course, be a smattering of other unofficial visitors or last-minute additions.
Doors to Allen Fieldhouse open at 4:30 p.m. for students and 5 p.m. for the general public. Admission is free and the event itself starts at 6:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to bring food donations for Just Food and mask wearing will be required at all times unless eating or drinking.
Mark Mitchell – 6-8, 210-pound Small Forward
SUNRISE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Ranked No. 11 overall by Rivals.com, the former Bishop Miege standout who will play his final season of prep ball with KU commitment Gradey Dick at Sunrise Christian has made plenty of visits to KU in the past.
But coming for Late Night, where, as an official visitor, he’ll be one of the primary focal points for the KU coaching staff, will be another experience altogether.
A smooth athlete with elite all-around skills on both ends of the court, Mitchell is down to a final four of KU, Missouri, Duke and UCLA.
He recently visited UCLA and has official visits set up for Duke and MU after his trip to Kansas for Late Night.
Yohan Traore – 6-11, 227-pound Power Forward
The No. 4-ranked player in the 2022 class per Rivals.com, Traore is also considering Michigan, Texas Tech, LSU, UCLA, Utah, Tennessee, Louisville, Memphis, Oklahoma State, and the NBL. He earned first-team all-Adidas Circuit honors this summer while averaging 19.5 points 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game for Dream Vision of California.
Known primarily as a shot blocker and interior defender who also can guard on the perimeter, the athletic big man who is originally from France and will be at Late Night on an official visit does most of his scoring on dunks and put-backs.
Traore recently told On3.com that he was as much intrigued by the idea of skipping college as picking a school.
“The professional option is very interesting because you’re going to learn a lot (as in) how to be disciplined, play the right way and you get to play against pros,” he told the site. “So you’re going to get a lot of experience. It can be a good thing. But it can also be a bad thing because you can get lost.”
Traore’s visit is expected to be of the official variety. He is one of just two prospects in the current Rivals.com top-10 in the 2022 class who has not yet committed.
Chandler Jackson – 6-4, 200-pound Point Guard
The talented point guard ranked No. 90 in the Rivals.com rankings — and No. 51 by 247 Sports — recently completed a visit to Virginia Tech.
According to a report from Zagsblog.com, he also is considering a visit to Tennessee on Oct. 7 and is slated to visit Alabama Oct. 22-24.
In late August, Jackson trimmed his list to a top 10, which included KU, Vriginia Tech, Tennessee, Alabama, NC State, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Florida State, Missouri, Texas and Mississippi.
Jackson already has made official visits to Missouri and Auburn and taken an unofficial visit to Ole Miss. His visit to KU this week is of the unofficial variety.
Gradey Dick – 6-7, 195-pound Small Forward
SUNRISE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
One of two KU commitments who will be joining in on the fun this year, Dick committed to Kansas in early March and has been working on recruiting others in the Class of 2022 to join him.
After a strong junior season at Sunrise, where he came off the bench for a team loaded with Division I prospects, Dick is slated to be one of the program’s main scorers as a senior. And his game continues to make major strides week after week.
In addition to being a pure shooter, Dick is a smooth athlete with the ability to play above the rim and attack the basket, both in transition and in traffic.
He currently is ranked No. 37 overall in the 2022 class by Rivals.com and No. 35 by 247 Sports.
Zuby Ejiofor – 6-8, 220-pound Forward
Ranked No. 47 in the 2022 class by Rivals.com, Ejiofor’s visit to KU’s campus will be his first as a future Jayhawk.
The athletic forward/center committed to Kansas on July 1 after visiting several schools and fielding offers from more than a dozen.
He said at the time that he valued KU’s NCAA Tournament streak of 31 consecutive tournaments and that the opportunity to play for Self was too good to pass up.
He is one of three current KU commitments in the 2022 class, with Dick and guard M.J. Rice being the others. Rice is not expected to attend Late Night and Ejiofor’s trip will count as his official visit.
Brandon Garrison – 6-8, 200-pound Power Forward
DEL CITY, OKLA.
According to the Rivals database, KU is currently the only school not in Texas or Oklahoma showing serious interest in the athletic power forward from just outside of Oklahoma City.
Ranked No. 71 in the Class of 2023 by Rivals.com, Garrison has offers from Houston, SMU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the Lone Star State and from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa in his home state.
David Castillo – 6-1, 165-pound Point Guard
One of the top shooters in the Class of 2024, Castillo is coming to KU on an unofficial visit.
Castillo already has 10 high-major Division I offers and all kinds of time remaining in his recruitment.
Those schools that have offered include Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas Tech, Tulsa and UNLV.
While most people expect that all-Pac-12 transfer Remy Martin will be handed the role of primary point guard at Kansas on Day 1, Kansas coach Bill Self said Tuesday that another Jayhawk is in the mix for major minutes at the position.
“Right now, I would say that Dajuan (Harris), if we were going to play tomorrow, (would) get the majority of the minutes just because he’s been around,” Self said of the third-year sophomore. “But that's also with the understanding that Remy hadn't been here.”
After committing to KU in May and then testing his status in the NBA’s pre-draft process, Remy Martin made his commitment to KU official in early July and then first reported to campus later that month.
He spent about a week getting used to his new home and bonding with teammates and then went home for the final two weeks of summer break before returning to KU in early August, when the rest of the team reported for workouts.
Not long after, the 6-foot guard from Arizona State suffered a sprained ankle and he’s been dealing with it ever since. The injury and the late arrival both have sliced into his ability to make an immediate impact with his new team.
“He wasn't even healthy two of the weeks he was here and then he wasn't here in the summer for the most part, only here for two practices in the summer,” Self said. “So he’s not at the same stage. So he's comfort level away from (playing big minutes).”
Self added that either Harris or Remy Martin would start at point guard but also said he could see them both playing a lot together, too.
Asked specifically about the point guard position on this team, Self said those two, along with Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu and freshman Bobby Pettiford were the four players vying for the most minutes at the 1. But he added that those four were actually competing for playing time at two spots.
“There’s going to be more times this year where we play two of those four together,” Self said.
Self said Tuesday that senior forward David McCormack, who missed several weeks this offseason while recovering from foot surgery, and senior guard Remy Martin, who also has been hobbled of late, were both ready to go for this week’s practices and Friday’s Late Night.
Self said neither player was 100%, but both are expected to participate at Late Night. KU will host its first practice Wednesday and go again Friday morning sometime before jumping into its third practice on Sunday.
“(With Remy), it may not be for another week to 10 days,” Self said. “He’s kind of got a high ankle sprain, but he's back participating, going through everything, so he’ll be able to go.”
Of McCormack’s status, Self said: “He’s been cleared by the staff and he’s practicing full speed. He’s ready to go. His timing’s not great yet, but it will be. It just takes time.”
The Kansas men’s basketball team will officially kick off practices for the 2021-22 season on Wednesday and will follow that up with Late Night in the Phog on Friday.
For KU fans, the latter will be the first glimpse of Arizona State transfer Remy Martin in a Kansas uniform.
Martin is one of 10 new faces on this year’s roster, but because of his past production and high-profile image, he figures to be by far the most watched newcomer early in the season.
Martin comes to KU on the heels of back-to-back 19-points-per-game seasons with the Sun Devils. And it remains to be seen what kind of player he will be and role he will have with the Jayhawks this season.
But there’s little doubting that the KU coaching staff is expecting big things, and Kansas coach Bill Self has talked plenty about the impact he thinks Martin can make on the 2021-22 roster.
Here’s a look at some of what you can expect from the newest Kansas point guard.
He Will: Be every bit as good as advertised
There have been times in the past when freshmen or transfers have come into the program with a ton of buzz and failed to live up to the hype surrounding them.
This will not be one of those situations. Martin is a big-time player who has proven his talent at the highest level of college basketball, including in two games against Kansas in the past.
Because of that, the expectations of him making a huge and immediate impact are right on the money.
His skill set alone is enough to drive expectations through the roof. But the fact that he comes to KU as one of the most experienced players on the roster adds another dimension to that.
In fact, Martin’s 3,623 career minutes played at Arizona State (in 118 games) rank second on the team to fellow-newcomer Jalen Coleman-Lands, who’s had the benefit of five seasons and 15 extra games to get to 3,733 career minutes.
For context, Ochai Agbaji is the top returning Jayhawk with 2,611 career minutes, more than 1,000 behind Martin.
KU’s other veterans Mitch Lightfoot (1,351), David McCormack (1,457) and Christian Braun (1,503) are all still well short of 2,000 minutes for their careers.
Martin has the game to make a major splash and because of the make-up of KU’s roster and his past experience, he’ll have the opportunity, as well.
He Won’t: Have the same freedom to shoot from wherever as he did at Arizona State
During his final two seasons at ASU, Martin averaged right around 15 shots per game and shot roughly 34% from 3-point range.
A lot of those numbers were out of necessity.
Even as a freshman, when he came off the bench for a team that won in Allen Fieldhouse, Martin was still looked to as one of the Sun Devils’ top scoring options.
His role only increased from there and, as a player with the ball in his hands more than anyone else, Martin had the freedom to run what he wanted, attack when he could and shoot whenever and wherever he felt like shooting.
That led to some big games and some serious highlights — not to mention deep 3-point makes. But the high usage also contributed to his shooting percentages and also put quite a burden on Martin’s shoulders.
At Kansas, none of that will be in play. In addition to having plenty of help around him, Martin likely will be asked to be a small — but important — part of a big machine that many believe can contend for a national title. He won’t have to do it all all the time. He’ll just have to do his job.
Some nights that might mean he scores. Other nights it might mean he attacks the paint relentlessly, either in hopes of getting to the rim or kicking out to wide open teammates. And other nights, he might be asked to get to the free throw line or, away from offense, lock up the other team’s primary ball handler.
What Martin will learn during his one year at Kansas — if he hasn’t already — is that there are ways for Bill Self players to impact the game without having it show up on the stat sheet.
Given that Martin has said repeatedly that his biggest goal this season is to win, that should mesh nicely with what KU asks and needs from him.
He Might: Average more assists per game than shot attempts
This kind of goes along with the last one, but we’re diving into it a little more.
Considering that Martin was not even invited to this summer’s NBA combine, it would make sense to conclude that pro scouts and GMs need to see something more than what he’s done thus far in his college career to take a longer look at him.
The answer to that is a big part of the reason he’s at Kansas and, if he plays it right, could go a long way toward helping him reach his goal of playing in the NBA.
At 6-foot, 175 pounds, Martin is on the short side for an NBA scoring guard. The length and height of guys who play that position could — not necessarily would but certainly could — negate any of the abilities he has flashed as a college player.
Shots are harder to get off. Turning the corner into the paint is tougher. And having big, burly, athletics dudes waiting for him when he gets there also is different than what he’s seen in college.
So where does he go from here? In my opinion, he has to show scouts that he’s a pure point guard.
With the supporting cast he has around him at Kansas, the opportunity to do that will be there. At any given time, KU should have at least two or three other gifted scorers on the floor with Martin, setting up the perfect scenario for him to run the ship and command an offense.
We already know he can shoot. He’s a 34% 3-point shooter for his career with nearly 200 makes in four seasons. So having that as part of his repertoire will not be an issue.
But the only way it will mean much is if he shows that he can run a team, making high-IQ plays, setting up teammates for easy buckets and defending the heck out of his opponent night in and night out.
All of those things will be requirements for Martin to play big minutes at Kansas. So the opportunity is there for him to do them well and showcase a side of his game that pro scouts haven’t seen a ton. That, one would think, would lead to Martin at least getting a look after the 2021-22 season.
For his career, Martin is averaging 11.7 field goal attempts and 3.9 assists per game. It’s impossible to think he could get his assist total above that number on a nightly basis.
But if the assists go up — say to 7 or 8 per game — the shot attempts likely would naturally come down, and Martin turning in lines where he shoots it 7 or 8 times per game — or less —and finishes with as many assists is certainly within the realm of possibilities.
Either way, it should be fun to watch it all play out.
If he can get 20 points per game while still dishing seven or so assists (Devonte’ Graham senior season-type numbers), I doubt anybody’s going to have much of an issue with that. It’s just hard to envision that based simply on the fact that there are so many options and weapons on this Kansas offense to begin with.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2021
The official start of the 2021-22 college basketball season is right around the corner, with the Jayhawks starting practices next week and closing in on a month out from the season opener against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in New York City.
That means it's time to take a closer look at this roster, which, as you surely know by now, features 10 new faces and four returning starters.
We jumped into to our annual "He Will, He Won't, He Might" prediction series a few weeks ago with senior David McCormack but wanted to wait until we got closer to the season to keep it going.
We're there now, with Late Night just one week away and KU slated to host its first full-scale practice next Wednesday.
So here's a look at another senior to get things re-started: veteran guard Ochai Agbaji, who hails from Kansas City, Mo., and is slated to start for the fourth consecutive season.
He Will: Be this team’s unquestioned leader
Anyone who has been around Kansas basketball for the past four years knows that Ochai Agbaji is a born leader.
He showed signs of his take-charge ability during the second semester of his freshman season, just days after he had his redshirt removed. And while that ability to lead and step forward with his voice still needed the bite of production behind it, it did not take Agbaji long to get there.
By his sophomore season (2019-20), he emerged as a quiet leader, one who let the production of All-Americans Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike speak louder but also was not afraid to speak up and stay steady in his play.
And last season, as the face of the program, Agbaji led the team in scoring and was one guy who consistently seemed to be willing to try to take over games, even if the result didn’t always go as he had hoped.
Now, with three seasons of experience under his belt and the fire of coming back to KU for one more run, Agbaji will set the tone for this team.
He’ll have help, of course. And this team will have other leaders in other ways. But none of the returning players have as much invested in terms of on-court time and production as Agbaji. After getting rob of a run in 2019-20 and proving to be overmatched a season ago, Agbaji knows this team is loaded enough to make a real run and he will be in the right place every step of the way to make sure his teammates stay hungry and don’t slip.
On a team with 10 newcomers, that last part will be key.
He Won’t: Be so selfish that he tries to showcase his skills and improvement to the detriment of the team
It’s no secret that Agbaji was close to turning pro this offseason. But his production at the NBA combine — on the court more than during testing — and his desire to come back for one more run paved the way for him to return.
Now armed with firsthand knowledge of what NBA scouts are looking for, Agbaji has the tools required to have a monster season in 2021-22. But don’t think for a second that his biggest goals (playing in the NBA) will impact his immediate goals (going out with a bang and trying to win a national title at Kansas).
Agbaji is simply not wired that way. From the minute he first stepped on the floor as a once-redshirting freshman to the day he announced he was coming back for his senior season, Agbaji has shown that he’s a team-first guy all the way. He’s willing to play whatever role is necessary for the team to be successful. And while that role this season will no doubt include leadership and him asserting himself offensively at times, he won’t do either off script.
With Agbaji, it’s all about executing the game plan, doing what the coaches ask you to do and being both steady and reliable — for his coaches and teammates — every step of the way.
He Might: Shoot 40% from 3-point range
Agbaji’s 3-point percentage and 3-point makes have gone up during each of his first three seasons of college basketball, setting the stage for a monster senior season.
That’s the sign of a player who has become more comfortable in the offense and worked his butt off on his shot.
From 23 makes and 30.7% in 22 games as a freshman to 46 makes and 33.8% as a full-time starter in 2019-20 and 78 triples on 37.7% shooting last season, Agbaji has become one of the top 3-point shooters in the Big 12 Conference.
As a sophomore, he benefited from getting a ton of open looks thanks to the presence of Azubuike down low and the drive-and-kick ability of Dotson. Last season, he needed to be the team’s top shooter and scorer. This season, he’ll get to be whatever he wants to be, and that could drive opponents crazy.
With Remy Martin in the mix to run the point — and drawing comparisons to Dotson from Agbaji himself — Agbaji and several other Jayhawks should get plenty of wide open looks this season. If Agbaji gets them, 40% from 3-point range on 100 or so attempts should be within reach, no matter where he is on the floor.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2021
Kansas basketball boot camp 2021 is now a thing of the past.
The Jayhawks wrapped up this year’s grueling conditioning session on Wednesday morning, a day or two earlier than its expected ending.
In the past, when boot camp has finished early, that has been an indication that the coaching staff was pleased with the work the players put in from start to finish and wanted to call it early as a reward of sorts.
As has become tradition, the team announced the end of boot camp on social media with a locker room photo of the group after the final session.
In it, you get a glimpse of who looks bigger than last season and which players like to flex their muscles and pose with the tough guy look rather than a smile or relaxed approach. There’s a good mixture of both styles in this year’s photo, which also offers the latest look at the 10 newcomers on this year’s roster.
Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu (far left) has caught most of the attention on social media for his ripped physique. But returners Jalen Wilson, David McCormack and Christian Braun all have garnered mention, as well.
And then, of course, there’s super-senior Mitch Lightfoot, who went viral for his biceps flex a couple of years ago after the team’s boot camp. This was the sixth boot camp of Lightfoot’s KU career, and he wrapped it up with his own thoughts on social media Wednesday morning.
“Sources can confirm I have completed my last boot camp of all time,” Lightfoot wrote on Twitter. “Will not be taking any questions at this time. Thank you for your understanding. #6”
Later, after the team photo was posted, Lightfoot responded with a quote tweet that simply read, “Not flexing.”
The Jayhawks will continue to run through preseason practices in preparation for the official start of the 2021-22, which will be celebrated on Oct. 1 with the annual Late Night in the Phog event. But the days of the 5 a.m. wake-up calls are now behind them.
KU’s season opener is slated for Nov. 9 against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in New York City. KU will host Emporia State on Nov. 3 in its lone exhibition game of the 2021-22 season.