As yet another Kansas football coaching search moves through a new week, the most obvious question on the minds of KU fans is simple: Who are the Jayhawks going to hire?
It may take a little bit of time to sort that out. And we probably will never know the full extent to which new KU Athletic Director Travis Goff went during his first football hire.
Some information will leak out. And the identity of a handful of candidates will no doubt surface. But Goff, like many of his predecessors and other ADs across the country, is doing his best to keep things quiet so he can do a thorough search and find the best options for Kansas.
No matter what names Goff writes down or crosses off of his list in the coming days, a few key questions likely will determine who Goff hires.
Here’s a look:
• How important are past ties to the KU program?
This, it turned out, was a big deal in the AD search that landed Goff. But I don’t get the sense that it’s in play much for the football hire. Goff has done his due diligence and talked to all kinds of people associated with Kansas football, past and present, to help him formulate a plan. And it seems likely that he’ll interview at least one or two coaches with ties to KU. But that does not appear to be a prerequisite for getting the job nor does it automatically vault any candidate to the top of the list.
• How much can (or will) KU pay?
This is a loaded question and has a lot of factors. For one, KU, like all athletic departments across the country, is dealing with a smaller budget and declining revenue in the wake of the pandemic. But that fact does not automatically preclude Goff from paying KU’s next football coach a competitive salary. The safe bet here is this: He’ll pay whatever is required to get the guy he wants. Based on the names that have surfaced in the early portion of the search, my best guess is that the value will be above $1 million but below $2 million. That obviously could change as new names get involved. But that seems like a good range and would put KU at or below the average starting salary of its last four head coaches. Turner Gill ($2 million), Charlie Weis ($2.5 million), David Beaty ($800,000) and Les Miles ($2.775 million) averaged $2,018,750 per year in their initial contracts with KU. The good news here is that I do not believe Goff will be boxed into paying a low wage the way Sheahon Zenger was with Beaty.
• How much will Goff lean on others to help make the hire?
From the sound of things, the answer is a lot. And good for him. Thus far, he’s talked to a lot of people and gathered a lot of insight into the state of the program, and his previous knowledge of the situation, as a KU grad and KU fan, also has helped him better understand the situation. But he is still a first-time AD who is making his first major coaching hire, and asking for help is another smart move. In addition to talking to people connected to the program, Goff is expected to use the assistance of a search firm and an internal search committee, both of which will help him vet candidates and serve as a sounding board as he tries to cobble together a list of finalists. The business of hiring a Division I college football coach is a major undertaking, and going at it alone only increases the odds of a bad hire.
• What kind of timeline are we looking at?
The only thing we know for sure is that Goff has said he plans to take whatever time is necessary to find the right guy. However, there is a little bit of urgency associated with the process, simply because whoever is hired will walk in already behind on Day 1 and will have limited time to make up for it prior to the start of the 2021 season. Some programs don’t even start spring practices until mid-to-late April, so waiting might have been the better play for Kansas in 2021. Instead, KU’s spring game is slated for May 1 and there has been talk of having a hire made by then or shortly thereafter. Goff himself, however, has given no specific dates or goals for a timeline.
• What kind of impact might COVID-19 have?
At least initially, it could actually make things go a little faster. After all, people from all walks of life have become well versed in Zoom calls these days, so some of the early steps in the search might be able to be taken from Goff’s office over the computer. There is no substitute for in-person interaction, though, so once they get to the point where things are starting to get serious, you can still expect in-person interviews, either on or off campus. But Goff’s ability to instantly be connected via computer with agents, committees, search firm representatives and even candidates themselves might make things a little smoother. COVID-19 should not create any kind of significant delays in the search short of one of KU’s top candidates actually having COVID.
• Isn't it too late for sitting head coaches to leave their teams to take the Kansas job?
In many cases, the answer here would be yes, but not in all cases and not in this case. While it’s unlikely that a Power 5 head coach would leave for another Power 5 job in April or May, it has happened. It’s also not unheard of for Group of 5 coaches to make the jump. After all, there are only so many Power 5 jobs out there and you never know when your chance to get one will come up again. Regardless of the time of year, that makes it much easier to pounce on the opportunity to break through and collect bigger paychecks. Take Buffalo coach Lance Leipold as an example. Leipold’s a popular name this time around and he is a candidate for the job. He also just wrapped up spring practices at Buffalo and has a ton of starters returning from a team that went 6-1 last season with a bowl win over Marshall. While it might make sense for Leipold to want to return to Buffalo for one more year, hoping to go 10-2 and be in the mix for even bigger/better Power 5 jobs in December, doing so would come with some risk. What if Buffalo’s QB gets hurt or half of the team’s secondary goes down? That could turn a potential 10-2 season into 6-6 or 5-7 in a hurry and that could take Leipold out of the running during the next hiring cycle. Some coaches might be willing to take that risk, but those who aren’t won’t have any problem making the move now if KU offers them the job.
For a few players familiar with the Kansas men’s basketball program, college basketball’s wildly popular transfer portal has been the catalyst to staying in the Big 12.
According to a report from ESPN’s Jonathon Givony, former KU wing Tristan Enaruna is transferring to Iowa State.
Enaruna will be a sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining with the Cyclones, who are led by new head coach T.J. Otzelberger.
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound guard/forward from the Netherlands, who came to KU from Wasatch Academy in Utah, finished his Kansas career averaging 2.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.5 steals in 10.2 minutes per game.
He joins Tyon Grant-Foster (DePaul) on the list of former Jayhawks who found a new home this offseason.
Bryce Thompson, Latrell Jossell and Gethro Muscadin also entered the transfer portal after the 2020-21 season, and that trio remains in search of a landing spot.
In other Big 12 transfer news of note, former Eastern Washington standouts Tanner and Jacob Groves both recently committed to Oklahoma, where they will play for first-year OU coach Porter Moser.
The Groves brothers committed to OU on Sunday, a couple of hours apart, and they likely will be a big part of Moser’s first Sooners squad and the future of Oklahoma basketball. They'll help the Sooners make up for the loss of longtime forward Brady Manek, who transferred to North Carolina, along with Austin Reeves, who's entering the NBA draft and De'Vion Harmon, who also entered the transfer portal after two seasons in Norman, Okla.
If the name sounds familiar but you can’t quite place it, you need to look back just one month to Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis to find your answer.
That’s where the Groves brothers pushed third-seeded Kansas to the limit in a first-round NCAA Tournament game that was eventually won by the Jayhawks, 93-84.
Tanner Groves led all scorers with 35 points in that one. And younger brother, Jacob, chipped in 23 points. The two also combined for 14 rebounds and made nine of 16 shots from 3-point range.
All three players will be immediately eligible to play at their new schools during the 2021-22 season, which means Bill Self’s new-look KU squad is likely to see plenty of the Groves brothers and Enaruna next season.
The Kansas men’s basketball program made the latest cut in the recruitment of four-star prep guard Ty Ty Washington, who trimmed his list to six on Saturday.
Washington, a 6-foot-4 point guard from Compass Prep in Phoenix, narrowed his list to KU, Arizona, Baylor, Kentucky, LSU and Oregon.
The No. 32-ranked player in the 2021 class by Rivals.com said initially that he was cutting his list to a final five over the weekend, but he posted to social media on Friday that a sixth school had made the cut.
There remains no known timeline for Washington to make his final decision and he has more time than most spring commitments to make his decision and sign a letter of intent.
Typically just over a month long, this year’s regular signing period for Division I, which opened Wednesday, has been extended through Aug. 1. The extension was granted because of the NCAA’s decision to suspend in-person recruiting through May 31.
Known as a high-level scorer with incredible potential on the defensive end because of his size and length (he reportedly has a 6-foot-9-inch wing span), Washington has the look of a prototypical Bill Self guard.
If Washington picks Kansas, he almost certainly would be slotted as the heavy favorite to be KU’s starting point guard from Day 1.
With seven newcomers already signed in KU’s 2021 recruiting class, the Jayhawks still have one scholarship to hand out and could have more depending on the NBA draft decisions made by Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson, who are both gathering feedback about their draft stock while retaining their college eligibility.
If either player — or both — stays in the draft pool, that would open up yet another scholarship for the Kansas coaching staff to hand out.
Agbaji and Wilson have until mid-July to make their decisions.
Creighton transfer Christian Bishop announced his commitment to Texas on social media on Friday evening.
Originally expected to reveal his decision on Saturday, Bishop announced a day early with a photo montage featuring him in a Texas uniform in the middle.
The 6-foot-7, 220-pound junior from Lee's Summit, Mo., picked Chris Beard's Longhorns over Kansas and North Carolina.
KU still has at least one scholarship to hand out in the 2021 class and remains in the mix for several transfers and prep standouts.
That includes four-star point guard Ty Ty Washington, who is expected to name his final five sometime this weekend.
The Jayhawks have added seven new players to the roster for next season — two from the November signing period and five since the end of the 2020-21 season.
Grant-Foster to DePaul
Former KU wing Tyon Grant-Foster announced on Friday afternoon that he was continuing his playing career at DePaul.
The former top junior college prospect in the country, who hails from Kansas City, Kan., played the 2020-21 season at KU after transferring from Indian Hills Community College.
He appeared in 20games for the Jayhawks during his lone season with the program, averaging 3.1points and 2.2 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game. Grant-Foster was one of five players from KU's 2020-21 roster to enter the transfer portal following the season.
Where things stand with the KU football coaching search now that KU AD Travis Goff is off and running
First-year KU Athletic Director Travis Goff on Thursday informed KU’s donors that he was beginning a national search to find KU’s next head football coach.
In an email sent out Thursday afternoon, Goff expressed his appreciation for the job interim head coach Emmett Jones and his staff have done to this point and he also thanked the KU players for their role in pushing through spring practices with uncertainty surrounding the program.
Jones, Goff noted, will be a candidate for the job, but KU’s new AD also promised to do “a thorough national search” to find the “ideal fit to lead this program into the future.”
The email did not specify any kind of timeline for a hire to be made, noting instead that Goff and his staff will take the necessary time to find the right head coach for KU.
That could mean weeks. It could mean months. And it almost certainly will cover a wide range of factors, from coast to coast, names big and small and current head coaches and up-and-comers.
Now that Goff has taken the time to ask questions, receive input and make a few phone calls, the fun can really begin.
It stands to help a great deal that this is not brand-new territory for him. Sure, he’s a first-time AD. And, no, he’s never hired a coach to lead a Power 5 football program before. But, as a KU grad and Jayhawk fan, he stepped into the process at least somewhat aware of what’s gone wrong as well as informed about the few things that have gone right during the past decade.
Adding to that knowledge with feedback and information from those who have lived it can only bolster his understanding of what the program needs.
Expect KU to form some kind of internal search committee to aid Goff and don't be surprised if powerhouse search firm TurnkeyZRG, which helped with KU's search to find Goff, gets involved in the process, as well.
As of Friday morning, there was nothing about the KU job on Turnkey's website, but that's worth watching in the days and weeks ahead.
Don't forget that the current financial challenges KU is facing, both because of COVID and the recent settlements paid to former AD Jeff Long (~$1.4 million) and former KU football coach Les Miles (~$2 million), also could play a role in who KU pursues and/or attracts.
With that in mind, here’s an updated look at where things appear to stand at the outset of KU’s coaching search. It’s worth noting (even if it should be obvious) that the names listed below are nowhere near the only ones that may be involved with the search. Instead, they’re the names I’ve heard the most about to this point.
The Hot Names
You can speculate all you want about who’s involved, who wants the job, who might be the best fit and so on. And doing that might create a fairly lengthy list. But there’s little doubt that there are at least three current head coaches who are very interested in talking with Kansas about the position. They’re on everyone’s list and you should expect all three to be involved deep into the process.
• Army head coach Jeff Monken (54) – Whether you’ve fallen in love with the triple option idea or would prefer Monken bring a more modern offense to town with him (which is sounds like he would do), the fact remains that the man is a proven football coach who consistently coaches some of the toughest teams in college football and prides himself on discipline and execution.
• Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold (56) – Stop with the nonsense about Turner Gill coming from Buffalo. There is absolutely no connection between the two coaches, and no one should be scared off by Leipold’s current position. What should matter is the fact that he’s actually won there at a much better rate than Gill did before he became a hot name and the fact that he believes he can win at Kansas, too.
• Tulane head coach Willie Fritz (61) – Yes, Fritz is a Kansas native who has been interested in the job before. No, Goff and Fritz were not at Tulane at the same time. Beyond that, Fritz has done well at Tulane and is very well respected in the coaching profession.
Other Names Worth Watching
There almost certainly will be other coaches involved in KU’s search than the three listed above, and while that opens the door to a whole bunch of other names, there are a few who stand out in that sort of second tier above the rest.
• Nevada head coach Jay Norvell (58) – Norvell is one of the most popular “other names” I keep hearing, and his recent success at Nevada (25-22 since 2017 with 3 bowl appearances) and past history in the Big 12 Conference make him worth a look. He’s also on the right end of the pay scale, making less than a million per year to coach the Wolfpack.
• NC State head coach Dave Doeren (49) – Doeren’s been up for the job before, and there’s enough reason to believe he’d still be interested if KU came calling this time around. But the biggest obstacle this time around is likely money. In addition to recently signing and extension that will pay him $3.5 million per year starting in 2021 and running through 2025, Doeren’s buyout at NC State is more than $6 million. Beyond that, Doeren has it rolling at NC State and receives a ton of support for the program from the administration.
• Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton (52) – The former Ottawa University football coach (1997-2000) has done his share of rebuilding, both at EMU via three bowl appearances in a four-year span (2016, 2018 & 2019) and at Drake, Wabash and Ottawa before that.
• Texas A&M OC Darrell Dickey (61) - Former K-Stater who played for the Wildcats from 1979-82, Dickey has been a key part of Jimbo Fisher's success at A&M since 2018. Known as a time-of-possession type of coach, Dickey's offenses have valued ball control and physicality. Has experience as an OC at several programs (Memphis, Utah State, New Mexico and SMU) and also was the head coach at North Texas from 1998-2006.
If KU Goes A Different Direction
Remember, the man doing the hiring on this one is a 41-year-old, first-time AD who just saw the powers that be at KU take a chance on him. Could he be looking to do the same by going with a less-heralded, first-time head coach? I wouldn’t bet on it. But if it starts to move that way, here are a few names to watch.
• Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard (38) – On staff at his alma mater since 2016, and the Badgers’ DC since 2017, the longtime NFL safety has started to make a name for himself in college coaching. Is close with current Baylor coach Dave Aranda and has been honored as one of the top assistants in college football for his unique approach, natural charisma and confidence.
• Tennessee OC Alex Golesh (36) – Armed with vast experience in a variety of positions and places in college football coaching since 2004, Golesh is another outside-the-box thinker who has made a name for himself in the college game with his innovative approach to both offense and recruiting. Before joining Josh Heupel at Central Florida in 2020 (and now at Tennessee), Golesh was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for Matt Campbell at Iowa State.
• Kansas Interim HC Emmett Jones (45) - Goff noted in his email to donors on Thursday that Jones would be a candidate for the job, and the high-energy interim coach that has led the Jayhawks through spring practice is a wildly popular choice among players currently on the roster. In addition to that, Jones, who served as the wide receivers coach at Texas Tech under Kliff Kingsbury prior to coming to Kansas, has been one of the most successful recruiters in the Big 12 during the past several seasons because of his strong ties to the Dallas area and the state of Texas in general.
• Illinois Associate HC Kevin Kane (37) – The former KU player and assistant coach who is now the associate head coach at Illinois, Kane has been one of the most popular coaches with direct KU ties to come up during talk of the search. In addition to landing at Illinois for the upcoming season, the Rockhurst High grad who starred at KU from 2002-05 has been on staffs at Wisconsin, Northern Illinois and SMU and appears destined to become a head coach at some point.
Don’t Waste Your Time
Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen a few of these names kicked around. We won’t go into them a whole lot because that would contradict the title of this section. But I figured it was worth mentioning them so you did not waste another minute hoping, wishing or wondering about their candidacy at KU.
• Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald – Goff and Fitzgerald have a great relationship and Fitz is a great coach. But he’s not leaving his alma mater for Kansas.
• Former KU HC Mark Mangino – We’ve probably reached the point where this does not even need to be said, but in case there are still a few of you dreamers out there, Mangino’s not coming back. He should be — and possibly has been — involved in the search as a de facto consultant, but nothing more than that.
• Former Texas and Houston HC Tom Herman – There’s a lot to like about Herman on the surface, both in the sense of his recent familiarity with the conference and the fact that he could be extra motivated after getting fired by Texas. But I’ve heard that he may not be quite ready to jump back into the business of running a program and may elect to be more patient as he waits for his next opportunity.
The Kansas men’s basketball roster for the 2021-22 season officially grew by three players on Wednesday, when KU announced the additions of transfers Cam Martin, Sydney Curry and Joseph Yesufu.
All three will be eligible immediately and figure to make an instant impact in the KU lineup.
Martin and Yesufu come to Kansas by way of four-year transfer from Division II Missouri Southern State and Drake.
Both are prolific scorers with good athleticism who should help KU’s outside shooting as much as anything.
A juco transfer from Logan Community College, southeast of St. Louis, Curry is a true big man who likes to do his damage as close to the basket as possible but also moves well for a player his size.
The way things go in recruiting and with various commitments, you sometimes see three or four different heights, weights and rankings for the same player, depending, of course, on where you’re looking.
But now that the Jayhawks have officially added this group to the 2021-22 roster — joining November signees and four-star prep standouts K.J. Adams and Zach Clemence — we have a clear understanding of how KU measures them.
Here’s a quick look:
The Sydney Curry File
Size: 6-foot-8, 260 pounds
Hometown: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Previous School: Logan Community College, Carterville, Ill.
Statworthy: In 19 games this season, Curry has averaged 13.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on 68.8% shooting. As a freshman at Logan CC, he shot 74% from the floor.
Noteworthy: Will be playing in the NJCAA National Tournament, April 19-24, in Hutchinson.
Bill Self on Curry: “Sydney is going to bring size, strength and athleticism to our frontcourt, giving us another rim protector. He’s a big man that can play above the rim and has shown the ability to have a big presence inside. Sydney has been developed very well while at Logan and is making a big impact as they continue to play in the upcoming JUCO national tournament.”
The Cam Martin File
Size: 6-foot-10, 240 pounds
Hometown: Yukon, Okla.
Previous School: Missouri Southern State University (Jacksonville State, freshman year)
Statworthy: Averaged 25.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game at Missouri Southern where he was coached by former Kan-sas standout guard Jeff Boschee. His senior season he made 58% from the field and 45% from 3-point range on 110 attempts.
Noteworthy: Was a Division II All-American who was coached by former Jayhawk great Jeff Boschee
Bill Self on Martin: “Cam is going to bring a lot of versatility to our frontcourt, allowing us to play with space and size. “Jeff Boschee runs a solid program at Missouri Southern and knows exactly what it takes to play at this level. We’re very excited that Cam is coming to Kansas and look forward to the positive impact he will have on this team.”
The Joseph Yesufu File
Size: 6-foot, 180 pounds
Hometown: Bolingbrook, Ill.
Previous School: Drake University
Statworthy: Averaged 12.8 points per game for Drake last season, including 23.2 points per game over the final nine contests.
Noteworthy: Yesufu’s surname is Nigerian and although he had not yet met KU’s Udoka Azubuike or Ochai Agbaji at the time of his commitment, he said he was aware of their Nigerian roots.
Bill Self on Yesufu: “Joseph is an explosive, dynamic scoring guard that will allow us to play an up-tempo, aggressive style on both ends of the floor. He ended last season playing at a high level, including winning an NCAA tournament game and propelling Drake to a great season.”
Class of 2021 Kansas Men’s Basketball Signees
(as of April 14, 2021)
• KJ Adams (Fr., 6-7, 200, F, Austin, Texas, Westlake HS)
• Zach Clemence (Fr., 6-10, 215, F, San Antonio, Texas, Sunrise Christian Academy [Kan.])
• Sydney Curry (Jr., 6-8, 260, F, Fort Wayne, Ind., Northrop HS, John A. Logan College)
• Cam Martin (Sr., 6-9, 240, F, Yukon, Okla., Yukon HS, Missouri Southern)
• Joseph Yesufu (6-0, 180, G, Bolingbrook, Ill., Bolingbrook HS, Drake)
Former Jayhawk Bryce Thompson tells Tulsa World ‘stressful’ season contributed to decision to leave Kansas
The Tulsa World caught up with now-former Kansas guard Bryce Thompson on Tuesday night to get a little more insight on the former five-star prospect’s decision to leave KU.
In an interview with Kelly Hines, who covers all things Tulsa for the paper, Thompson said the fact that basketball was “stressful” for the first time in his life left him believing that a fresh start would be good for him and his game.
“I just believed it was time for a change,” Thompson told Hines. “I enjoyed my time at KU. The coaches, fans, teammates, everything was good. I just felt it was time for a new home.”
In the interview, Thompson said he was at his best last season when he “was just playing basketball” and not thinking too much about what he was doing.
Injuries and limited minutes on occasion kept him from finding his rhythm throughout the season, and Thompson, who averaged 4.7 points in 17.1 minutes per game in 20 games at Kansas, said he hoped to pick his next school in the next couple of weeks.
Thompson told Hines that his phone has been “ringing off the hook” since news of his decision to enter the transfer portal first surfaced.
A source told the Journal-World on Tuesday morning that Thompson was likely headed to Tulsa, but the 6-foot-5 combo guard told Hines his second run through the recruiting process was “wide open.”
“I’m just kind of weighing all my options with my family and trying to make the best decision moving forward,” he said. “I definitely want a place where I can be comfortable and just be playing. It’s a fun game. It shouldn’t be super stressful. There are times where I’ll be nervous because that’s natural, but for the most part it should just be calm and just playing.”
Kansas target TyTy Washington revealed Tuesday that he plans to announce his list of five finalists sometime this weekend.
A 6-foot-4, 180-pound point guard who originally committed to Creighton last November — from a list of 10 finalists — opened his recruitment back up in early March shortly after Creighton coach Greg McDermott caught heat and was suspended over insensitive comments he made following a Creighton game.
Since then, things have blown up for the Compass Prep guard on the recruiting trail.
Kansas first expressed interest in the talented guard before the NCAA Tournament began. And the list of suitors has only grown from there.
Today, Max Preps’ Arizona Player of the Year has a list of potential finalists that includes reigning national champion Baylor, Texas, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Texas Tech and more.
The 4-star prospect per Rivals.com, is currently ranked No. 32 overall in the Class of 2021. That’s up 54 spots from his previous ranking in the Rivals data base, and leaves him as just one of eight 2021 prospects in the top 40 who have yet to commit to a program.
There has been some speculation out there that jumping to the G League is also an option for Washington, who, at this point, figures to make an immediate impact wherever he lands.
If it’s Kansas, he would almost certainly be slotted as the heavy favorite to be KU’s starting point guard from Day 1.
Known as a high-level scorer with incredible potential on the defensive end because of his size and length (he reportedly has a 6-foot-9-inch wing span), Washington has the look of a prototypical Bill Self guard.
“This year, to really showcase his team, he had to score a lot, so a lot of folks get caught up in that,” his father, Tyrone Sr., who also is a basketball coach, recently told David Sisk of Rivals site CatsIllustrated.com. “He sacrifices, takes charges, makes the extra pass and hustles. He's the ultimate winner. He's a respectful kid. As far as the game plan, if you take the scoring away he'll kill you with 10 or 11 assists. You take that away and he can get 30 points.”
Washington recently led his team to the final four at GEICO Nationals and the national stage allowed him to showcase his game even more.
Plenty of schools were interested before that, but a handful of others made contact after the event in Fort Myers, Fla.
According to his father, Washington has been open-minded about every program that has contacted him, which is what makes this weekend’s trimming of his list such a big deal.
“That number has been crazy,” Tyrone Sr., told Sisk of the number of schools who have reached out recently. “He actually sits there and takes the phone calls and really hears coaches out. That's from the mid-majors to the high D1's. He takes time and hears coaches out.”
There remains no known timeline for Washington’s final decision, but things should become at least a little clearer when he cuts his list this weekend.
Transfer portal not for everyone, but it can be a win-win for all even if it takes some getting used to
After learning of Kansas freshman Bryce Thompson's decision to enter the transfer portal, we have reached the point where the portal has more scholarship players from the 2020-21 Kansas basketball roster in it than the Jayhawks’ roster for next season.
As things stand today, the only scholarship players who are returning from the 2020-21 KU roster are Christian Braun, Dajuan Harris, Mitch Lightfoot and David McCormack.
That certainly could change if either Ochai Agbaji or Jalen Wilson — or both — elect to return to school for the 2021-22 season instead of keeping their names in the NBA draft pool. And at least one of them is likely to return.
But either way, it’s clear that next season’s KU roster is going to feature a whole bunch of new faces.
Get used to it.
Like it or not, we very well may be at the dawn of a new era in college basketball, where players move about more freely than ever before, looking for the right fit, the best opportunity, a fresh start or all three.
The transfer portal, which has seen close to 2,000 names added to it since the end of the 2020-21 season, is fast becoming the place for players to find what they’re looking for.
It’s also a place coaches can look to fill their needs.
Kansas coach Bill Self has gone on record saying that the portal, in conjunction with the expected passage of the one-time transfer exemption, is bad for the sport.
But as long as it’s a viable option for players, coaches are going to have to get used to using it, as well.
And there’s no reason that the whole thing can’t be a win-win for both sides.
Take the current situation with the Jayhawks as an example.
Of the five Kansas players who entered their name in the portal during the past couple of weeks, three (Latrell Jossell, Gethro Muscadin and Tyon Grant-Foster) were facing uphill climbs for meaningful playing time at KU.
The other two — Tristan Enaruna and Bryce Thompson — were both rotation players but also seemed to be closer to single-digit minutes on any given night than cracking the 30-minute mark.
Depending on what happens in the weeks to come, a case could be made that all five will land in situations that provide them with more minutes and better individual opportunities than what they were getting at Kansas.
Those might not come with the same exposure and pop that players get from playing at blue blood programs like Kansas and Kentucky, but NBA executives have proven that they will find you if you can play.
For Kansas, the opportunity to fill those vacated spots also represents a potential win. Especially in the short term.
No school, coach or program is immune to the rapidly rising transfer trend. And there’s not a whole lot of rest being had by head coaches around the country either.
Every program, big or small, has needs or is looking for some kind of an upgrade or replacement plan. And the portal is full of them.
Fans have gotten into the act, too. They see a particular player who they remember hearing about during his recruitment. Or they go straight to the position of greatest need for their favorite team (in KU’s case, that’s probably point guard) and immediately start scouring news about the portal for players who fit either of those descriptions, or, better yet, both.
It’s kind of like when you get pulled into a rabbit hole while watching YouTube videos. It starts innocently enough with a fun video that someone sent you or you saw on social media. And then you watch the recommended video after it. That makes you think of something else you’ve been meaning to check out and, three hours later, you’re still watching YouTube videos.
Don’t get me wrong, the transfer portal path has its benefits. There are a ton of players out there who either don’t fit at the school they’re at or have realized that they can’t quite play at the level they’re playing. So, for those players, moving on in search of more playing time and an all-around better experience makes a ton of sense.
There’s the flipside of that, too, involving the mid-major player who realized in the past year or so that he actually can play at a higher level and wants to test himself against the best of the best before his college days are done. I’m usually a big fan of loyalty and sticking with the program that helped make you, but it’s really hard to criticize these kids who want a shot at playing on the biggest stage.
Besides, if someone will sign them and give them a chance to do just that, it’s kind of hard to blame them for looking into it.
For example, there’s no telling yet what type of player now-former KU guard Latrell Jossell is going to become. His career, wherever it continues, will likely include some ups and downs, moments of growth and overall evolution as he matures and receives more opportunities to play.
In Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu, the Jayhawks are getting a proven commodity who is ready to step into the lineup right away.
I know this is not a true one-to-one trade type of scenario. Those do not exist in the college game. Thank goodness. But in a sense, that’s what we’re talking about here.
Jossell goes to a yet-to-be-determined program that will give him the room and opportunity to grow and develop through playing time. And Yesufu gets a shot to play on a bigger stage to see if his skills translate to the highest level of college basketball.
On the surface, it may seem like this only benefits the big boys, who now can poach talented players from smaller programs on an annual basis. But you’ll never convince me that what's happening — both ways — is not a great opportunity for the kids. What’s more, some of those smaller programs now have access to players who were once deemed good enough to sign with Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, etc. That can be huge in terms of adding a missing piece to a decent program and also in terms of marketing and future recruiting for the player's new school. All three aspects make college basketball better.
Where this gets scary is at the prep level. Not for the top 40 prospects in each recruiting class, of course, but for the guys ranked 100 and above, who in years past would have signed with programs like Kansas, Michigan, Oregon and Tennessee.
Sure, coaches at those programs, and countless other high-major Division I programs, can and will continue to recruit high school talent to fill out their rosters while hoping the players they pick pan out.
But we’ve all seen enough to know that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the player is not what the coaches expected. Sometimes the program doesn’t fit the player’s needs. And sometimes a signing like that can lead to a largely underwhelming career, with a decent player who gets little to no playing time taking up a roster spot for four years without making an impact or getting much out of the experience himself.
So instead of working hard for months — maybe even years — recruiting prep prospects who may or may not be what you think they are when they get to your campus, coaches now have the option to pluck a proven player from another Division I program who has shown what he can do at the level at which you compete.
It’s hard to resist that path, especially when you’re talking about upperclassmen who have matured both mentally and physically and can show up on your campus as ready-made players who just need to learn your system.
The middle-of-the-road high school prospect not only has to learn your system but also has to adjust to college, life away from home, a harder weight training program than ever before and a new relationship with the coaches who recruited him.
The flip side of that is that a lot coaches may wind up having to re-recruit their own players in order to convince them to stick around.
Who knows how it’ll all work out? As the years go by, most programs, and many players, are likely to both benefit and suffer from the challenges and opportunities that come with the transfer portal.
And until the rules are changed to keep this kind of movement from happening, you’re likely to see it continue to grow year after year.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is a whole other conversation. But it is a thing. And programs from coast to coast are in the thick of navigating their way through it.
Wednesday marks the start of college basketball’s spring signing period and the Kansas men’s basketball program is poised to officially add a couple of its new additions this week.
Junior college transfer Sydney Curry, a 6-foot-8, 265-pound sophomore forward from Logan Community College in Carterville, Ill., and Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu are planning to sign their letters of intent on Wednesday.
Yesufu, a 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore, committed to KU last week after a solid season in which he averaged 12.8 points per game for the Bulldogs, including a mark of 23.2 points per game during the final nine games of the season.
A jet-quick and athletic scorer who can shoot from the outside and finish at the rim, Yesufu comes to KU with three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Curry committed to Kansas back on Thanksgiving, shortly before the Jayhawks tipped off the 2020-21 season with a game against Gonzaga in Fort Myers, Fla.
He chose KU over Texas A&M, Mississippi, Seton Hall and others after initially being committed to Miami (Ohio) out of high school in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Known for his size and power down low, Curry told the Journal-World that he likes to “attack to the rim” but is also willing to “do whatever it takes to win.”
In 19 games so far this season, Curry has averaged 13.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on 68.8% shooting. Logan, which will compete in the upcoming NJCAA tournament April 19-24 in Hutchinson, is 18-4 overall. As a freshman, Curry averaged 13.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while hitting 74% of his shots.
Prep guard Bobby Pettiford Jr., told JayhawkSlant.com on Monday that he plans to sign his letter of intent on Friday.
The former Louisville commitment, who committed to Kansas on March 30, is ranked in the Top 100 in the 2021 recruiting class by both ESPN and 247 Sports. He chose KU over Providence, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, Georgia, South Carolina, Mary-land, Texas A&M, Hampton and others.
Prior to de-committing from Louisville after a coaching change, the 6-1, 170-pound guard from Creedmoor, N.C., earned conference player of the year honors for the second consecutive season.
Missouri Southern State transfer Cam Martin, a three-time Division II All-American who starred for former Jayhawk Jeff Boschee’s squad for the past three seasons also plans to make his commitment official this week.
Martin is expected to sign his letter of intent sometime this week, as well. He chose KU over Texas, UNLV, Creighton, Georgetown, Colorado State and Stetson.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward who played high school basketball with former Oklahoma and current Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young, averaged 25 points and 9 rebounds per game this season for Boschee’s squad, knocking in 58% of his field goals and 45% of his 3-point attempts on 110 shots.
Curry, Martin, Pettiford and Yesufu will join previously signed prep standouts K.J. Adams and Zach Clemence in KU’s 2021 class. And the Jayhawks remain in the mix to add at least another player or two, with prep guard Ty Ty Washington and Creighton transfer Christian Bishop among their top options at the moment.
The spring signing period runs through Aug. 1 and Kansas has one open scholarship remaining after the recent departures of Tristan Enaruna, Tyon Grant-Foster, Latrell Jossell and Gethro Mus-cadin into the transfer portal.
Jayhawk starters Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson also both recently declared their intentions to test their NBA draft stock while retaining their college eligibility.
Should either player elect to stay in the draft, that would open up more scholarships for KU to hand out ahead of the 2021-22 season.