For the past couple of years, I've kick-started yet another season of KU basketball coverage with a series known as “He Will, He Won't, He Might,” which looks at each individual Jayhawk expected to be in the rotation and tosses out a prediction in each of those categories about the player's upcoming season.
For the second year in a row, the guesses were pretty spot on, with just a couple of misses and mostly a good look at what was to be for the Jayhawks.
Before we completely put the 2017-18 season to bed, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at each one from KU's Final Four season.
We'll go in reverse order here, I'll give a quick recap and grade my predictions and we'll try to get to all eight of them this week so keep an eye out and be sure to click the links inside each to go back and look at the original entry.
Lightfoot played in 38 of KU's 39 games this season — missing only the Duke game in the Elite Eight — and made seven starts along the way, including KU's first- and second-round NCAA Tournament victories.
He finished the season averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, had a couple of monster efforts (at TCU is the first one that comes to mind and the Big 12 tourney win over Oklahoma State also is up there) while carving out a key role in the Jayhawks' thin front court.
He Will: Be the leader of the KU big men – This one is hard to grade because being a leader means different things to different people. While there's no doubt that sophomore center Udoka Azubuike was KU's most important big man and also the leader of the group in terms of statistics, Lightfoot definitely took a step forward in trying to lead the unit in practices, with his voice and by working hard and setting a good example. We'll go with half credit on this one.
He Won't: Average more than 15 minutes a game – Nailed it. Despite being KU's only big man who was available for every game this season, the sophomore forward played 531 minutes in 38 games for an average of 13.97 minutes per night. And despite the low overall average, there were 15 games this season in which Lightfoot played more than 15 minutes. But those were offset by 13 games in which Lightfoot played single-digit minutes or did not play at all.
He Might: Increase his playing time if he can hit the outside shot – I'm going to call this a miss. Lightfoot did improve his shot and made six of 17 from 3-point range this season, but his ability to shoot better from the outside had nothing to do with his usage. Lightfoot was a big man through and through this season. It will be interesting to see where his role goes in the future, as KU restocks its front court and if Lightfoot continues to work on his outside game.
All in all, Lightfoot had a solid season during his second year as a Jayhawk and first real season as a rotation guy. He wasn't perfect, but he competed hard, did whatever was asked of him and helped keep KU afloat on nights when Azubuike got in foul trouble.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of his career from here. But armed with valuable experience and an ever-improving game, it's not hard to see him finding some sort of role during the next two, or perhaps even three, seasons.
My overall prediction grade for this one: 1.5 out of 3.
A quick look back at a few of my favorite Lightfoot stories from the 2017-18 season
Dallas, Texas, became the center of the recruiting universe this weekend, with major AAU events on the EYBL (Nike), Under Armour and Adidas circuits all taking place in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area during the first live evaluation period of the spring, which opened Friday night.
For college basketball staffs around the country, including the crew at Kansas, that means another opportunity to forge ahead in the 2019 and 2020 classes with an eye on future talent.
With four players signed in the Class of 2018 — and just one spot still to fill in the current class — KU coach Bill Self and his assistants have been on the 2019 and 2020 athletes for a while. In fact, point guard Markese Jacobs, one of the 20 or so top-tier KU targets in the next two classes who will be competing in the Lone Star State this weekend already committed to KU months ago.
According to recruiting analyst Matt Scott, the idea behind this weekend's events — which essentially function as opening day for the recruiting season — is not to find new players, but to further evaluate and break down the targets they've been tracking for a while.
“They already have an idea of guys going into it, from the high school seasons,” Scott said. “A lot of it is they want to see how much guys have improved from the last time they saw them. It's really about who fits what they're looking for and what the program's needs are. Are they looking to fit more bigs or more wings? And personality and style of play also are a big factor.”
Scott said that constant tracking of a player's progress is the reason there are multiple evaluation periods.
“They really want to see how kids are improving and if they're ascending,” he said. While some of that can be done by word of mouth, talking to coaches and watching film, Scott said there is no substitute for seeing it live and that's why weekend extravaganzas like the one happening around Dallas this weekend draw so much attention.
Coaches from just about every major program, and dozens of smaller schools as well, sent huge chunks of their coaching staffs to maximize the opportunity to see all of that talent in roughly the same area.
“When there's a college coach with a shirt that says Duke or Kansas or North Carolina on it, that kind of ramps things up,” Scott said. “It really is different for these kids when those kinds of coaches are there in person.”
With that in mind, here's a quick glance at some of the key names for the 2019 class who Self and company are evaluating this weekend.
• Matthew Hurt – The No. 5-ranked player in the class and a KU target for the past few years, this 6-foot-9, 200-pound athletic power forward from Rochester, Minn., is drawing serious interest from every Big Ten program and all of college basketball's bluebloods.
• Onyeka Okongwu - 5-star power forward ranked No. 18 in the 2019 class stands 6-foot-8, 215 pounds with serious room to grow. Hails from Chino Hills, Calif., and is receiving offers up and down the West Coast. Also has Big 12 offers from KU, Oklahoma State and TCU. His Top 5, as of January, was Arizona State, KU, UCLA, Washington and USC.
Nike EYBL circuit
• Cole Anthony – Ranked as the No. 4 player in the 2019 class, this 6-foot-2, 180-pound 5-star point guard from New York City is drawing major interest from Georgetown, Oregon, Pitt, St. John's, Kansas, Wake Forest and UCLA.
• Chandler Lawson – Ranked No. 73 in the class but holding a 5-star rating nonetheless, the younger brother of KU's Lawson brothers stands 6-8, 200 pounds and is listed as a power forward. His top suitors at this point appear to be Baylor, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Memphis.
• Malik Hall – A local prospect from Wichita's Sunrise Academy, this 4-star, 6-7, 210-pound wing is drawing interest from a wide range of more than two dozen schools, including Kansas. Hall is ranked No. 49 in the Rivals 150.
• Markese Jacobs – KU commitment who orally pledged his services to the Jayhawks after Late Night 2016, is a 4-star, point guard from Chicago who has a strong connection with current Kansas player Charlie Moore and former KU legend Sherron Collins, both Chicago natives, as well. Jacobs is listed at 5-11, 170 pounds and was recruited mostly by KU assistant Jerrance Howard.
• Vernon Carey Jr. – The No. 1-ranked player in the 2019 class, according to Rivals, Carey is a 5-star, 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is wide open at this point and drawing interest from all of the big players.
• James Wiseman – Ranked No. 2 overall by Rivals, this 7-foot, 210-pound 5-star power forward from Memphis is rumored to be eyeing an attempt to reclassify for 2018 class, which would make him eligible this fall. Kentucky and Memphis are two of the major players here.
• Jalen Lecque – Ranked No. 9 in the class, Lecque is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound 5-star point guard who has more than two dozen of the country's top basketball schools pursuing him. KU assistant Norm Roberts is listed as the lead recruiter for Lecque, who hails from Arden, N.C.
• Isaiah Stewart – 5-star prospect from Indiana who is ranked as the No. 10 overall player in the class, Stewart is listed at 6-8, 230 pounds and has more than three dozen schools trying to convince him that they are the right fit. Has been compared to a young Elton Brand, who starred at Duke and in the NBA.
• Kofi Cockburn – Ranked No. 31 overall, this 6-foot-10, 300-pound monster of a man hails from Middle Village, N.Y., and is drawing major interest from more than 30 programs, most of them from back east.
Under Armour circuit
• Bryan Antoine – A 5-star shooting guard in the Top 20, Antoine, who plays for the Mario Chalmers-backed Team Rio, is a 6-4, 170-pound teammate of Scottie Lewis' at Ranney Prep School in Tinton Falls, N.J., who is drawing the same kind of interest as his close friend.
• Scottie Lewis – One of the few shooting guards in the top of Rivals' rankings, Lewis is a 6-4, 170-pound 5-star scorer from Tinton Falls, N.J., who is ranked No. 11 overall and holds 18 offers from all of the country's powerhouse programs. Also plays for Team Rio.
• Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – Local prospect from nearby Bishop Miege High, who is the son of former KU forward Lester Earl, the 5-star Robinson-Earl has bulked up during recent months and now stands at a solid 6-10, 236 pounds. Ranked No. 16 overall, JRE has been on KU's target list for years and has continued to improve and impress each year.
• Zach Harvey – Four-star shooting guard from nearby Hayden High in Topeka, Harvey stands 6-4, 170 pounds and has made several unofficial visits to Kansas throughout his prep career.
• Precious Achiuwa – Ranked No. 6 in the class and rising, this 6-9, 200-pound small forward from Newark, N.J. is a 5-star prospect who is drawing heavy interest from several schools back east and Big 12 programs Kansas, Oklahoma State and TCU.
• Christian Brown – Five-star small forward from Columbia, S.C., is ranked No. 27 in the class and has nearly that many offers from schools throughout the south, east coast and Midwest. Stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds.
• Wendell Moore – Another small forward from the Carolinas, this 5-star wing who stands 6-4, 190 pounds hails from Concord, N.C., and has offers from Duke and North Carolina and interest from KU and Kentucky.
• Josh Green – Tall, long shooting guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this 5-star, 6-5, 185-pound scorer ranks No. 19 in the class and is drawing the most interest from the West Coast.
There are, of course, other players who the Jayhawks will be watching and potentially targeting in the 2019 class, but this group represents the best of the best among those that Kansas has its eye on.
One thing worth pointing out is that the Jayhawks don't actually have any scholarship seniors on the 2018-19 roster so, at this point, it is uncertain how many players they will need to/be able to take in the 2019 class.
Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike (if he returns) and Quentin Grimes all could be candidates to leave early. Plus, KU still has one unfilled scholarship in the Class of 2018 — which has been ear-marked for five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford or another shooter if the Jayhawks don't get him — and there is at least a little uncertainty surrounding the status of sophomore-to-be Silvio De Sousa given his status in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.
All of that added together means Self's squad could be in the market for anywhere between 2-4 players in the 2019 class, which already includes one scholarship headed to Jacobs.
So now that we know that Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is going to test the water and find out where he stands with NBA scouts and executives, it's time to examine Azubuike's chances of making the jump.
According to ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony, who runs ESPN's mock drafts and predraft coverage — and used to run DraftExpress.com — the competition to be one of the 60 players selected in the June draft is more intense than ever.
"There are 175 guys currently who are testing the waters according to my count, so the field is getting pretty crowded at this point," Givony told the Journal-World. "He had a good year for KU, outside of after he got injured, but the market for centers in his mold has almost completely evaporated at this stage."
Instead, the NBA has placed a premium on players like Joel Embiid, who, even at that enormous size, still can operate with guard-like skills. Embiid, obviously, is the class of that crop and on pace to become one of the young faces of the NBA's future. But even among the lesser-known big men on multiple teams, it's those skills that translate to roster spots and playing time.
"I think anyone watching the NBA playoffs can see that," Givony explained. "Guys who can't pass, shoot, block shots prolifically or reliably step outside of the paint defensively are essentially dinosaurs these days."
That, of course, does not mean that Azubuike does not have a shot at attracting attention from the powers that be in the NBA. Anyone who stands 7 feet tall and 280 pounds is immediately going to get noticed.
But the change in the game has created a different demand at the center position and the way Givony sees it, the modern game does not make a player Azubuike's size as automatic as it once was.
There was a time, not that long ago, when a man with Azubuike's measurements would have been an automatic lottery pick, with NBA teams valuing a big body to clog up the paint and create problems for opposing defenses on the other end.
But today, with the game moving faster than ever and becoming more of a shooter's game, those Greg Oden-, Spencer Hawes-, Hasheem Thabeet-type players who all were lottery picks within in the past 12 years, are no longer as attractive because they, in many ways, are viewed as one dimensional and a step slow to play today's game.
That's not to say Azubuike can't become the type of player the NBA wants. Even though it's unlikely that he ever will transform himself into an elite shooter, he moves his feet well for a man his size and certainly has the size and drive required to become a force in the paint. And there are plenty of people who believe that the easiest way to make it in the NBA is to find one thing you do well and become elite at it. For Azubuike, that could become shot blocking and/or rebounding.
But Givony, who has not had the KU center on any of his two-round, 60-pick mock drafts in the past two years, does not believe Azubuike has reached that level yet.
"He is a heck of a college player, and I do think he has a chance to develop into a NBA player eventually," Givony said. "But the appetite for taking on a project big man in his mold just isn't where it was 10-15 years ago."
It appears as if decision time may have arrived for Kansas center Udoka Azubuike.
Sources told the Journal-World on Wednesday that the KU big man could announce his decision about testing the NBA draft waters or returning to KU for his junior season by the end of the week, perhaps as soon as Thursday.
Thanks to a new rule put in place in 2016, underclassmen are now allowed to test their standing with NBA teams and still return to school if they do not like what they hear, provided they do not hire an agent.
The deadline to declare for early entry in this year's draft arrives Sunday. The date to for early entries to pull their name out of the draft is June 11, although the NCAA requires written notice of any such decision by May 30. This year's NBA Draft will take place June 21 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The 7-foot, 280-pound center who started 34 of 39 games for Kansas this season has not appeared on any mock drafts throughout his time as a Jayhawk.
Azubuike, who missed time because of injuries during both his freshman and sophomore seasons at KU, averaged 13 points and seven rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game this season while leading the nation with a 77 percent field goal percentage.
Azubuike said at last week's team banquet that he hoped to make a decision in the next week or so.
“Yeah it is. It definitely is,” he said when asked if it was a tough decision. “Like I said, I spoke to my family about it and all that, and right now it's pretty much my decision. Probably the next couple of days or the next week, I'll make my decision about what I'm going to do.”
Graham, Svi pick agents
Former Kansas guards Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte' Graham have selected the agencies that will represent them throughout the upcoming NBA Draft process and the early part of the pro careers.
Graham, who leaves Kansas as one of the most beloved players of all-time and the reigning Big 12 player of the year, signed with CAA Sports, an agency that has a client list of more than 1,700 professional athletes, including some of the best NBA players in today's game.
Those players include: Former Jayhawk Joel Embiid, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Karl-Anthony Towns, Paul George, Tony Parker and dozens more.
Mykhailiuk, who finished his career as the single-season record holder for 3-point makes, with 115 this season, and in fourth place on KU's all-time list with 237 threes, has signed with SIG Sports as his representation ahead of this summer's NBA Draft.
SIG also represents former Jayhawk Tarik Black, who boasts on the agency's web site that, “SIG is not just an agency, it’s a family. From Day 1, everyone in the agency has accepted me, not only as a client, but into the bond that they all share. I know I’m not supposed to be anywhere else or with anyone else. With this agency is where I belong. They’ve worked extremely hard and have been very professional in representing me. They are a major part of my success.”
Early entrees Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman, who announced earlier this month that they would forego the rest of their college eligibility, have yet to sign with agents.
Vick's mother, LaLa Vick, said she and her son were discussing his options Wednesday night. And Malik Newman's father, Horatio Webster, said his son could have his plans finalized by the end of the week.
ESPN updates rankings
The 2018 KU recruiting class features a trio of Top 25 prospects, according to ESPN.com's recruiting rankings, which were updated and released this week.
Five-star guard Quentin Grimes (No. 8) made the Top 10, while five-star point guard Devon Dotson (No. 22) and four-star center David McCormack (No. 25) both cracked the Top 25.
Earlier in the week, Rivals.com also released its updated player rankings, with Grimes, Dotson and McCormack ranking Nos. 8, 18 and 33.
That group puts KU's overall haul at No. 6 in ESPN's team standings, with Duke and Kentucky finishing 1-2 for the fifth consecutive year.
Wednesday morning, SIG Sports announced on Twitter that it had signed on to represent KU senior Svi Mykhailiuk in the upcoming NBA Draft process.
Mykhailiuk is one of four players from KU's 2017-18 Final Four roster who will be trying to make it in the NBA this summer — five if you count freshman-who-never-was Billy Preston — and that group will joined by dozens of other seniors, Europeans and college underclassmen who will be trying to earn one of the 60 spots available in the two-round NBA Draft.
In reality, it's those first 30 spots that are coveted most because they represent guaranteed money. Any deals made after that are non-guaranteed and do not give the player — whether drafted in the second round or signed on as an undrafted free agent — any promise of NBA paychecks.
It remains to be seen how the KU crew — Mykhailiuk, Preston, Devonte' Graham, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick — will fare in this year's draft, but even if things don't go as well as they might hope, those players will have other options as they pursue the start of their pro careers.
And thanks to some news from the NBA's G League on Tuesday, one of those options just became a little sweeter.
Although the G League does not function in quite the same way as Major League Baseball's minor league system, where players are supposed to pay their dues, spend their time and work their way up through the ranks, the NBA's de facto minor league is becoming more and more of a viable option for professional basketball players in this country to make a decent living.
The league announced on Tuesday that it was raising its base salary per player for the 2018-19 season to $7,000 per month for the five-month season, which works out to $35,000 salary for any given player. That's in five months. Not bad for less than half a year of work.
Right now on glassdoor.com, you can find the following jobs that offer a starting salary of $35,000 a year — Front Desk Associate, Administrative Assistant, Data Entry Clerk, Assistant Restaurant Manager, Warehouse Clerk and more.
I don't know about you, but I know I'd rather make that kind of money as a five-months-a-year ballplayer than any of those other options.
The point is this: Even though it can be seen as risky for guys like Malik Newman or Lagerald Vick to leave school early in search of a pro contract, there are now better and better options, even right here in this country, that significantly increase the odds of their decision being a good one.
Let's say those two guys don't get drafted by an NBA team this summer but some franchise likes them and tries to sign them to its G League affiliate. Could be worse. In addition to a pretty solid living for a young man fresh out of college, G League players also receive a housing stipend, travel per diem and health insurance.
That's a pretty good life in a hurry.
And that's to say nothing of the handful of guys who are lucky enough to receive two-way contracts from the G League and the NBA, which sets their salary at $77,250 (also up from last year's rate) and gives them a better shot of making the jump up to the NBA at some point.
What's more, with the G League now having official NBA affiliates in 28 cities, Tuesday's announcement of higher salaries promised that the amount would go up when the NBA gets all 30 franchises locked in with affiliates. So even more money is on the way.
As the NBA heads toward the elimination of its minimum age rule that often requires players to spend at least one year in college, this whole trend will become even more important.
As high school stars such as Darius Bazley, a McDonald's All-American who was headed to Syracuse but now plans to jump right to the G League, start to explore the option of skipping college altogether even if the NBA is not in their immediate future, the financial part of the equation begins to make better sense.
And all of this does not even include the idea of playing overseas, where even bigger contracts can be found.
It's no longer a situation where life after college basketball (or high school in some cases) has to come with an NBA or bust mentality. Yeah, that's where you'll become a star and that's where players become millionaires.
But other pro contracts throughout Europe, in Australia and now even in the G League can provide a pretty good living.
Here's a quick look at the official release about the increase in salaries from the G League, which includes some interesting statistics about the rise in G League players getting a crack at the NBA. Oh, and for what it's worth, I do think Newman, Graham and Mykhailiuk will all be drafted in this June's NBA Draft.
NEW YORK, April 17, 2018 – The NBA G League announced today the salaries for the 2018-19 season: players under NBA G League contracts will earn a base salary of $7,000 per month – or $35,000 – for the five-month regular season.
In addition to their salaries, players under NBA G League contracts will continue to have the opportunity to earn additional money through affiliate player bonuses and NBA Call-Ups. This season, about one quarter of players under NBA G League contracts also earned an average of $44,000 in NBA affiliate player bonuses – a total of more than $3 million on top of their NBA G League salaries. A record 50 NBA G League players earned a record 60 GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA this season, generating earnings of more than $11 million, or approximately $225,000 per player.
The NBA G League also pays bonuses to players on NBA G League playoff teams and to those recognized as end-of-season performance award winners. The league awarded more than $225,000 in bonus money this season.
Further, in accordance with the NBA and National Basketball Players Association collective bargaining agreement, NBA players will continue to be able to enter into two-way contracts. NBA two-way players will earn $77,250, prorated for days spent on an NBA G League roster, and the NBA rookie minimum salary, prorated for the days with their NBA team, for maximum potential earnings of $385,000 next season. This season, 83 players across all 30 NBA teams signed two-way contracts.
A record 53 percent of players on 2017-18 NBA end-of-season rosters have spent time in the NBA G League during their careers. Every NBA team had at least six NBA G League veterans on its end-of-season roster and seven had 10 or more such players. A record 101 NBA players were assigned to the NBA G League for development or rehabilitation this season, including 13 players selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.
The 50-game NBA G League regular season – which includes the NBA G League Showcase, the league’s premier in-season scouting event – runs from November to March. All NBA G League players receive in-season housing, travel day per diem, continuing education opportunities, life skills development offerings and health insurance benefits.
File this away under the category: Worth Keeping an Eye On.
Keelon Lawson, the father of Kansas transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson appeared on Memphis' 92.9 ESPN Radio recently and told sports talk host John Martin that he would not rule out a return to Memphis by the KU forwards should things go south with Kansas and the FBI.
To date, there is no reason to believe that will happen, as the Kansas program has merely been listed as having been defrauded by an Adidas executive in a federal indictment that outlines some of the details into the FBI's ongoing investigation into corruption in college basketball.
But it's definitely worth noting that these kinds of thoughts are (a) being considered and (b) being tossed out there publicly.
In the interest of full disclosure here, Keelon Lawson is on 92.9 FM ESPN Radio every Monday to talk with Martin about the ins and outs of basketball in the city of Memphis. During today's segment, Lawson was talking about the return of Penny Hardaway to Memphis as the Tigers head coach and hinted at some more exciting recruiting news coming in the near future for Hardaway's program.
When asked then, by Martin, if that meant the return of Dedric and K.J. to their hometown, Keelon Lawson laughed.
"Oh, nah. Ha ha ha ha," he said before elaborating on what his sons have been told by KU coach Bill Self about the FBI investigation.
"The only thing I could tell when talking to Dedric, he just said Coach Self said everything is fine," Keelon Lawson said on the air. "You could read the report that says Kansas is a victim, meaning somebody did something behind Kansas' back to make us be a victim. But he said, as far as everything with the coaching staff, they didn't have anything to do with it. And then they'll just let their attorneys handle the procedure.
"He told Dedric, if something were to come down, they (Dedric and K.J.) would be the first ones to know because, you know, they would be the first ones to know so they could have the opportunity to do whatever they have to do."
Asked, point blank, if he were ruling out a return to Memphis by his sons, Lawson said: "If something goes down with Kansas, if Penny would open the door to them to come back, as far as Coach Self being fired, I think the boys would entertain it. But as of right now, they're at Kansas."
The Lawson father was not shy about going on the radio and discussing his son's very public departure from Memphis and then-coach Tubby Smith last spring. On both the local airwaves and a national podcast with CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, Keelon Lawson talked openly about his sons' plans and the reason behind them.
With Hardaway, one of Memphis' favorite sons, now leading the Tigers program, a return to their hometown cannot be ruled out the way it might be if Smith were still leading the program.
But that's a lot of ifs and it seems as if there still would be a lot that would need to happen for this to become something other than idle chatter by the father of a couple of KU players. Beyond that, even if the Lawson brothers eventually did want to head back home, they would have to sit out yet another season before being eligible to play again.
Both Dedric and K.J. Lawson are in line for big roles with the 2018-19 Jayhawks, with Dedric, a potential future NBA Lottery pick, expected to start alongside KU center Udoka Azubuike, should he return for his junior season as many expect, in the KU front court next season.
LISTEN FOR YOURSELF: Jason & John Hour 3, 4/16/18 — Keelon Lawson, who appears on the show every Monday to talk about the ins and outs of basketball in the city of Memphis, jumps into the mix around the 30:00 mark and the specific stuff about KU starts around 37:00 and goes to about 41:00.
The updated Rivals.com recruiting rankings for the Class of 2018 came out on Monday and one future Jayhawk made a monster jump.
Unranked when he committed to Kansas earlier this year, three-star guard Ochai Agbaji, of Oak Park High in Kansas City, Mo., cracked the Top 150 in Rivals' latest release, moving all the way up to No. 141.
Agbaji, a shooting guard with good size and a versatile skill set that inspired KU coach Bill Self to compare him to former Jayhawk Travis Releford, officially signed with the Jayhawks last week. He became the fourth player in the 2018 class to make his commitment official and sign a letter of intent with KU.
Two of the other three prospects — combo guard Quentin Grimes and center David McCormack — moved up, with Grimes jumping two spots from No. 10 to No. 8 and McCormack moving up one spot to No. 33.
Point guard Devon Dotson was the only future Jayhawk in the 2018 class — for now — who dropped in the updated rankings, falling one spot from No. 17 to No. 18.
Dotson, Grimes and McCormack all played in last month's McDonald's All-American Game, while Grimes and McCormack followed that up by playing in the Nike Hoop Summit game for Team USA.
One other notable ranking for the Jayhawks came in the form of the top remaining player in the class, five-star guard Romeo Langford, staying in the No. 6 spot overall.
Duke, which previously had locked down the top three players in the class — R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish and Zion Williamson — now has the Nos. 1, 3 and 5, as Williamson dropped two spots from No. 3 to No. 5 and UNC-bound small forward Nassir Little jumped up to No. 2.
When it comes to the concept of worst case scenarios, the thought is so subjective that it can mean different things to different people.
In the world of sports, when you're talking worst case scenarios, you could be talking about outcomes, injuries, seasons and more.
For the Kansas men's basketball team, which is coming off of its first trip to the Final Four in six years and facing the very real scenario of losing four of its five starters from that team — with one more, in sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, still contemplating his future — the idea of worst case scenario for the 2018-19 season has quickly morphed from wondering who would start and how the team would look, into bringing the FBI's investigation of college basketball into the picture.
To this point, according to a superseding indictment released last week by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, KU's link to the investigation is limited to a couple of unnamed players and their parents/guardians allegedly taking money from one of the defendants named in the indictment.
While the identity of the two KU players referenced in the document is unknown, specific dates, sources at other news outlets and general speculation have pegged Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa as the likely identities of those two unnamed players.
Time will tell if that is accurate, but let's assume for a second, while looking ahead to next season, that it is.
It remains to be seen whether KU (a) will find itself linked further in the ongoing investigation, (b) will face any NCAA penalties as a result of the investigation when all is said and done, whenever that is, or (c) will move forward with any kind of internal investigation that might lead to a better understanding of KU's link to this mess.
And it's far too early to know or even speculate about any of that at this point.
But getting back to the idea of worst case scenarios, let's dive into that topic a little more, as it pertains to the two players mentioned in the indictment.
If one of them is Preston, KU may be in the clear on that one, at least moving forward. For one, the indictment does not allege any wrongdoing by KU. For two, Preston never played an official minute for that Jayhawks. So his involvement, if proven and later revealed, is almost irrelevant for Kansas at this point.
If De Sousa is the other player, that becomes a different story. The biggest reason many believe that the 6-foot-9 freshman from IMG Academy who joined KU midway through the 2017-18 season is one of the two players referenced stems from the date of his commitment — Aug. 30, 2017 — which the indictment uses when introducing a second player.
Because De Sousa did play in several games — 20 to be exact — and because he could be deemed ineligible if the allegations are proven true, De Sousa's future with the Jayhawks becomes a little bit murky.
Again, with the FBI investigation still ongoing, it's unlikely that KU or any other university will face any kind of penalty from the NCAA until there is concrete proof of an infraction or some kind of ruling.
Sources told the Journal-World that the FBI, in no uncertain terms, has told the NCAA to stay far away from its investigation until it is closed.
That leaves the De Sousa situation in a strange spot.
In monitoring Twitter, messages boards and general conversation about De Sousa, it seems clear that most people believe that the worst case scenario for KU — again, as things stand today — would be that De Sousa eventually is ruled ineligible and does not play another game for the Jayhawks.
While that would be a blow to KU's roster, there actually is a worse worst case scenario out there. And it involves De Sousa staying on the roster.
Here's how that would play out.
If the investigation somehow wraps up and the allegations are proven true — or worse — and KU is forced to part ways with De Sousa, the KU program would get his scholarship back — provided KU is not found to be culpable in any way — and Bill Self and company would at least be able to find a replacement for his spot.
Granted, that replacement probably would not be a 6-9, 245-pound physical specimen with serious skills and a pro basketball future, but somebody is better than nobody.
The real worst case scenario for Kansas has the case still ongoing and De Sousa's status in limbo entering the 2018-19 season. And it's not hard to envision that happening. Sure, the 2017-18 season just ended, but the start of next season is just six months away and I have yet to talk to anybody who believes the FBI will be wrapped up in six months.
So what KU could be facing is Billy Preston Part II, a situation where the Kansas coaching staff has to decide whether to play De Sousa and risk using an ineligible player or hold him out, like they did Preston, until the whole thing is cleared up.
That, at least in my eyes, would be the true worst case scenario because it not only would keep a player's status in limbo, but it also would eat up a scholarship and keep a major distraction hovering around the program.
Time will tell how it all plays out. On one hand, KU could be cleared entirely and, on the other, KU could be dragged down a path that has the program wishing for the De Sousa dilemma. And then there's the in between.
Regardless of where KU falls on that spectrum, the guess here is that none of it is going to be resolved quickly.
His NBA career may not have matched what people would expect from the No. 12 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, but there's not a person alive who can say that former Jayhawk Nick Collison's pro career has not been a rousing success.
Success, of course, can be defined in a number of different ways. Rings. Wins. Stats. And even fame are the most often talked about measurements when it comes to pinpointing the success of professional athletes.
But Collison has become a star in much different way, one that seemingly will have a lasting impression on those he played with for years to come.
Drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (five years before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City) after a stellar four-year career at Kansas, Collison recently completed his 15th season with the same franchise, though playing more of a bench-coach role on a one-year, minimum-contract salary during the 2017-18 season.
Collison's career with the Sonics/Thunder included 895 appearances — 177 of them starts — and career averages of 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. Collison's career totals include more than 5,300 points and 4,700 rebounds.
But those numbers — including a career year in 2007-08 when he played in 78 games, started 35 and finished the season averaging 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game — pale in comparison to the measure of the impact Collison has had on his teammates throughout the years.
Never was that more obvious than earlier this week, after the final regular season game of the season, when OKC guard Russell Westbrook, who had just completed becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in back-to-back seasons, was on the microphone thanking the fans and took a moment to bring Collison onto the floor with him.
In doing so, Westbrook referred to Collison as his "friend, mentor and brother," and told the roaring Thunder crowd, "He's somebody I always looked up to, it's a real pleasure to have him here. I just wanted to make sure you guys show him some love."
With that, Westbrook lowered the mic and raised his arms, encouraging the crowd to get even louder in their ovation for the former Jayhawk and franchise's favorite son.
"I'm not sure if it's his last season or not," Westbrook continued. "But he's somebody I always looked up to as a brother. He's done so much for this organization, I just wanted to make sure you guys gave him a standing ovation for the things he's done for this city."
As for whether this will be Collison's final season in the NBA, the former KU standout addressed that with reporters prior to the Thunder victory in that regular season finale.
"I still enjoy playing, enjoy being out there," Collison said. "And we've got one regular season game (and then) the playoffs and I'll figure out what I'm doing after that."
In the wake of the latest news in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball, this time involving a mention of players and parents associated with Kansas, there was some movement in the 247 Sports Crystal Ball prediction world regarding unsigned, five-star prospect Romeo Langford.
Langford, the top remaining available prospect in the 2018 recruiting class — ranked No. 5 overall by 247 Sports and No. 6 by Rivals.com — is closing in on making a decision between finalists Kansas, Indiana and Vanderbilt.
The New Albany, Ind., native, who has become a Hoosier State hero throughout his stellar high school career, revealed earlier this week that he would announce his decision during a ceremony at his high school on April 30.
While the news of KU's potential involvement in the federal investigation led some to switch their prediction from Kansas to Indiana this week, the recruit himself went on record as saying that the investigation was not weighing on his mind.
“They’re still in my top three,” Langford said of Kansas in a Thursday interview with USA Today's Hayes Gardner. “It doesn’t hurt them. It doesn’t make them any better — Well, I don’t know why it would make them better — but it doesn’t hurt them at all.”
Langford told Gardner that he had not been in contact with KU coach Bill Self since news of the indictment tying KU to the investigation was released Tuesday.
Langford, who is in Portland participating at the Nike Hoop Summit, with KU signees Quentin Grimes and David McCormack, among others, also told Gardner that he had not yet made a decision but reiterated that his choice would come from his final three.
As for the approaching end to what has been a wild couple of years on the recruiting trail, Langford said he never was bothered the attention from media members, adoring fans and recruiting analysts who constantly checked in with him about his recruitment during the past several months.
“It’s been enjoyable,” Langford told Gardner. “I feel like me and my family have handled it real well, so it hasn’t been too overwhelming at all.”