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Posts tagged with 2017-18 Season

Future Jayhawk Quentin Grimes to join Bill Self at U18 USA Basketball training camp in Colorado Springs, May 31-June 2

Five-star guard Quentin Grimes, from The Woodlands, Texas, signed a National Letter of Intent to play men's basketball at the University of Kansas on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.

Five-star guard Quentin Grimes, from The Woodlands, Texas, signed a National Letter of Intent to play men's basketball at the University of Kansas on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. by Photo Courtesty of Kansas Athletics

Future Jayhawk Quentin Grimes, a five-star, Top 10 prospect from Texas who signed with Kansas during the early signing period last fall, will get an early taste of what it's like to play for KU coach Bill Self in a few weeks in Colorado Springs.

Grimes is one of 32 players invited to the U18 training camp, May 31-June 2, to compete for a spot on the USA Basketball team that will represent the United States, under the guidance of Self and former KU great Danny Manning, at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship June 10-16 in Canada.

Seventeen of the 32 players invited to the training camp, including Grimes, have previous USA Basketball experience.

Finalists for the team are expected to be announced on June 2, and the team will continue training June 3-8 in Colorado Springs until departing for the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

Athletes eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens who are 18 years old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 2000).

The USA, which will be in the hunt for a fifth-straight U18 gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, will compete in Group A against Dominican Republic, Panama and Puerto Rico in preliminary round play. Drawn into Group B were Argentina, host Canada, Chile and Ecuador.

Following the June 10-12 round-robin preliminary games, teams will be seeded within each group and all eight teams advance to the June 14 quarterfinal games. The semifinals will be played June 15 and the finals on June 16.

USA men’s teams are 53-2 in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships and won gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, while capturing silver in 2008 and bronze in 2002.

Originally known as the FIBA Americas Junior World Championship Qualifier, the tournament was held every four years between 1990-2006. FIBA changed its calendar following the 2006 championship, and the tournament is now conducted every other year, followed in the next summer, for nations that advance, by the FIBA U19 World Cup.

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Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Svi Mykhailiuk

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) watches his shot behind South Dakota State guard Lane Severyn (25) during the first half on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) watches his shot behind South Dakota State guard Lane Severyn (25) during the first half on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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.

Next up: Senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk:

After deciding to return to KU for his senior season at the last possible minute, Mykhailiuk refocused his mind and body on delivering a monster season for the Jayhawks.

It worked.

In addition to finishing as the team's second leading scorer, Svi flashed an all-around game that had been seen only in flashes during his first three seasons as a Jayhawk.

Better on the glass, as a defender and as someone who could put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, Svi became much more than just a spot-up shooter while maintaining his ability to be deadly from distance at the same time.

He Will: Finally look fully comfortable with his role — There's no question that this was the case for Svi, who was a bona fide leader for the Jayhawks during the 2017-18 season in a way that merely supported the amazing leadership put forth by his good buddy Devonte' Graham. Embracing that role and also trusting himself and having the confidence needed to step out of his comfort zone as a more complete player made Svi one of the toughest players in the Big 12 Conference this season. And for his efforts he earned a second-team nod in the all-Big 12 postseason awards.

He Won't: Experience a significant drop-off from 3-point land — While this was true in terms of his 3-point percentage, the reasons behind my prediction were somewhat laughable. To be fair, I, like most of you, was under the impression that KU would be playing two bigs for most of the season and that would limit the number of 3-point attempts available to the guards. It did not turn out that way, of course, and, for the third consecutive season, KU set a school record for 3-pointers. The laughable part comes from this line, though: “He made 70 of 176 3-pointers last season (2016-17) and 37 of 92 the year before. The guess here is that he’ll fall somewhere in the middle of that this season, perhaps knocking down 55-60 of 145-160 attempts.” Oops. Svi, who shot 44.4 percent from downtown for the season, actually hit that range by the 16th game of the season, when he hit six 3-pointers in a home victory over Iowa State that gave him 57 triples for the season to that point. By the time it was all said and done, Svi broke the school record by knocking in 115 3-pointers in 259 attempts. There was no significant drop-off, but I'm only taking partial credit for this one considering how off my specific guesses were.

He Might: Make himself a first-round draft pick — I don't think this one is crazy, but I wouldn't bet much on it happening. Svi definitely appears to have the potential to land near the top of the second round, but he's going to have to really wow some people during the next six weeks to move into the first round. The latest Mock Draft from ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony has Svi pencilled in as the No. 49 pick overall and I just can't imagine there's enough time or a big enough market for Svi's skills to have him jump 20 spots. It wasn't for lack of trying and development, though. Svi's decision to come back to KU made him a more NBA-ready player.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 1.5 out of 3.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Svi stories from the 2017-18 season

• Svi’s hot hand the product of confidence, Self says

• Tom Keegan: Mykhailiuk’s game-winning three could lift him out of mini-slump

• The Svi Show: Mykhailiuk shoots Jayhawks past South Dakota State, 98-64

• Tom Keegan: Svi for 3 and great ‘D’ in KU’s Elite Eight victory

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Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Malik Newman

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) roars after an and-one bucket during the second half on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) roars after an and-one bucket during the second half on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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.

Next up: Sophomore guard Malik Newman:

Armed with enormous expectations and a ringing endorsement from Kansas coach Bill Self, Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman finally hit the floor for the Jayhawks in 2018 and then found himself stuck in neutral.

After hearing from Self and his assistants about how dangerous of a scorer Newman could be throughout his red-shirt year, it only seemed like a matter of time before he would suit up and start getting buckets.

And, for the most part, he did. Even if it was not always that pretty. But there's no doubt that Newman spent a good chunk of the season still trying to figure it all out and in search of a comfort zone that could allow him to be the player so many promised he would.

That moment finally came late in the season — at the perfect time for both KU and Newman — and the sophomore scoring guard ended on a high note that inspired him to leave KU early in search of his shot in the NBA.

He Will: Lead the Jayhawks in scoring, with his averaging finishing between 17-20 points per game — Oops. Not only did Newman not lead KU in scoring, he didn't even finish second. But it's not as if he had a terrible season. In fact, although he did not reach the 17-20 point range I predicted, he did finish around that mark during the final eight games of the season, when he averaged 22.5 points per night in KU's five postseason games, hitting for 20 or more points in six of them. In fact, Newman went for 20 or more 10 times during his lone season as a Jayhawk, averaging 14.2 points per game while shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range. Had it not been for the crazy-high expectations, his numbers this season would have been viewed as rock solid.

He Won't: Be the same type of player as Frank Mason III but that won’t keep Kansas from being in the conversation for the nation’s most dynamic one-two punch in the backcourt — Hard to argue with this one, unless you want to nitpick and say that KU actually had the nation's most dynamic one-two-three-four backcourt punch. Much more of an outside shooter than Mason ever was, Newman actually did some of his best work on drives to the rim late in the season. Even those, however, were much different than the drives Mason made his signature move during his senior season at KU. But both were effective in putting points on the board and even getting to the free throw line.

He Might: Leave for the NBA after the 2017-18 season — In looking back, this one was definitely one of those where I didn't go too far out on a limb in making my prediction. It seems now — and really even seemed then — like this was the plan all along for Newman, who simply needed to have a solid year to be convinced to go ahead and make the jump. As mentioned above, his year was solid overall and his strong finish made even more of a splash. If the goal is to go when your stock is at its highest, Newman pretty much had no choice but to leave.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 2 out of 3.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Newman stories from the 2017-18 season

• The rocky, yet rewarding, evolution of KU’s Malik Newman

• Mr. March: Malik Newman carries Jayhawks past Duke, into Final Four

• Tom Keegan: Time for the real Malik Newman to stand up

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Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Udoka Azubuike

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) roars after a foul by Kentucky late in the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at United Center.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) roars after a foul by Kentucky late in the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at United Center. by Nick Krug

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.

Next up: Sophomore center Udoka Azubuike:

Operating for a large part of the season as KU's only true big man, Azubuike's role and importance on KU's 2017-18 squad was only eclipsed by that held by senior point guard Devonte' Graham.

Unlike Graham, who simply could not come off the floor on most nights, Azubuike spent a fair amount of time on the bench this season, be it because of foul issues or needing a breather. That kept his numbers down a tad and limited his minutes to 23 a game.

Still, in those 23 minutes, few players in the country had the kind of impact in that short amount of time as Azubuike did for Kansas. When he was on the floor, the Jayhawks were almost a completely different team and his size, strength and power on both offense and defense proved to be huge assets for the Jayhawks.

Azubuike, who led the nation in field goal percentage at 77 percent, finished the season with averages of 13 points and seven rebounds per game. He also was the team leader in blocked shots (60) and became a phenomenon unto himself for his up-and-down exploits at the free throw line.

He Will: Break a rim this season – It never happened and I have to admit, I am kind of surprised. As pointed out in the original “He Will, He Won't, He Might” entry, I did not expect Azubuike to shatter the glass or rip the rim clean off of the backboard. But I did envision a scenario in which the brut force of his dunks would rattle the rim so hard that it would slip out of place a quarter or an inch or two and have to be addressed by whatever arena's facilities people. Same could have gone for the support structure behind the basket. But neither were compromised during the 2017-18 season, perhaps because Azubuike learned his lesson and adjusted a little after Italy and perhaps because of the quality of the goals used in college basketball these days. Either way, it was not for lack of trying. Azubuike finished with nearly 120 dunks on the season and got his money's worth on just about every one.

He Won't: Be in the conversation for all-Big 12 honors unless he develops better post moves – While this sort of held true in the sense that Azubuike did not land on the first or second all-Big 12 squads at season's end, he did pick up a third-team nod and, at times, was as dominant a player as there was in the conference. A factor that opposing coaches had to account for every night, it was Azubuike's inconsistency and not necessarily his limited and still-developing post moves that dropped him down a couple of notches. Of course, the fact that the league was as good as it has been in a long time, with serious talent on just about every squad, didn't help him any.

He Might: Be known as much for constant foul trouble as his monster dunks – I'd say this is a fair claim. Those 120 dunks were pretty remarkable, but it seemed to make like KU fans — along with the KU coaching staff — spent more time worrying about Azubuike's fouls than they did celebrating his vicious dunks. The sophomore center, who played in 36 of 39 games and 848 minutes, committed 108 fouls during that time. He finished with four or more fouls 11 times and often picked up those silly fouls that seemed completely unnecessary and drove Self crazy. He has a lot of room to grow still and will have no shortage of things to work on this offseason. But finding a way to keep himself from committing those types of fouls will be just about as important as anything he works on.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 2 out of 3.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Azubuike stories from the 2017-18 season

• The Road to Recovery: Inside KU center Udoka Azubuike’s journey back to full health

• Back to where it all began, when Azubuike almost ripped down an Italian goal during KU's exhibition tour overseas in August

• Tom Keegan: Jayhawks far more effective with Azubuike on the floor

Reply 4 comments from Carsonc30 The_muser Robert  Brock Dirk Medema

Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Billy Preston

Kansas forward Billy Preston

Kansas forward Billy Preston by Nick Krug

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.

Next up: Freshman forward Billy Preston:

Although Preston never played in an actual game for the Jayhawks, we did have the pleasure of watching him in six exhibition games, which, at varying points, only showed us glimpses of what could have been.

Preston averaged 15 minutes a game in the three games he played for KU in Italy — including one start — and looked good at times and young at others.

Things changed a bit back in the States, as Preston averaged the same number of minutes per game in KU's three preseason exhibition games but also scored in double figures each time out, shooting 14-of-16 from the floor in wins over Missouri, Pitt State and Fort Hays State.

Although they'll never show up in any history books, Preston's final numbers as a Jayhawk went like this: 9.2 points and four rebounds per game on 61 percent shooting in 15 minutes per outing. And that all came before Preston really had much time to get comfortable or work with KU's coaches.

No one's crying over the way things went down, especially given the fact that Preston went overseas and got paid and KU went on to the Final Four. But his name will likely forever be associated with the phrase, “What could have been.”

He Will: Frustrate the Kansas coaches for most, if not all, of the 2017-18 season – My guess here was that Preston would be one of those players with enormous potential but trouble getting it and understanding how to consistently play hard and give the kind of effort the coaches demand from all of their players. That, in itself, would have been frustrating. What went down instead was a whole different level of frustration, with both the KU coaches and Preston's teammates, not to mention Preston himself, kept in limbo for months over his eligibility and whether they would ever get him back. They didn't, of course, and all parties involved deserve some major credit for keeping the whole situation from being the huge distraction it could have been.

He Won't: Stop working to try and improve – There's no doubt that this one was spot on. And give credit to Preston for that. For weeks, the guy's only game day came in the shoot-around portion of KU's games. And, for weeks, Preston continually went hard and always had by far the biggest sweat going after those pre-game shoot-arounds. And that's to say nothing of the effort he put in during practices, both as a member of KU's red team that helped pushed the starters and during those times when they thought they were close to getting him back and were trying to work him into the rotation.

He Might: Figure it all out by Big 12 play and be the X Factor for this KU team – Perhaps “He Might Have” would have been the better way to put this one. There's no doubt that getting Preston back, at any point in the season but particularly at the start of Big 12 play, would have been a huge lift for the Jayhawks. But it did not happen and his opportunity to become any kind of factor, X or otherwise, never arrived.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 2.5 out of 3. I won't take full credit for these because they weren't all exactly right. But it's wild to look at how close they were even though I was talking about him playing and that never happened.

In case you missed the other preseason predictions revisited:

- Revisiting previous predictions: Marcus Garrett

- Revisiting previous predictions: Mitch Lightfoot

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Preston stories from the 2017-18 season

• Billy Preston's mom opens up on situation involving her son

• VICE Sports recently caught up with former Jayhawk Billy Preston to talk about what could have been and what never was

• Tom Keegan: Billy Preston and Michael Porter Jr., foes for a day, friends the rest of the way

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Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Marcus Garrett

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) soars in for a dunk over Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith (2) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) soars in for a dunk over Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith (2) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 at United Supermarkets Arena. by Nick Krug

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.

Next up: Freshman guard Marcus Garrett:

Garrett played in all 39 games for the Jayhawks during their run to the Final Four, starting seven and playing a big role as the top reserve to all four of KU's starting guards.

He finished the season averaging 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, had a couple of big games and became known as the player who did all of those intangible things that did not show up on the stat sheet but often made the difference in a game or a half.

It cannot be overstated how valuable this year's experience was for Garrett. After taking all of that knowledge and information into the offseason, the versatile guard should emerge by entering the 2018-19 season with a ton of confidence and some serious leadership potential.

He Will: Become a fan favorite almost immediately – Given the fact that I've never heard a single KU fan say a single negative thing about the freshman from Dallas, it seems like this is at least mostly correct. On a roster that included Devonte' Graham, it's hard to become the fan favorite, but there's no doubt that people came away from his freshman season impressed by Garrett's game and contributions to the team. I expect his fan favorite status to grow as his career moves along.

He Won't: Play enough minutes to put up big numbers in any category – Not exactly. My guess was that Garrett would log somewhere in the 10-12 minute range on a nightly basis and all he did was double that. In 39 games, the freshman guard played 748 minutes and averaged 19.2 minutes per game. He played 20 or more minutes in 18 games and occasionally found himself playing some pretty important minutes in place of KU's regular guards who found foul trouble or were ineffective on a given night. Garrett's numbers were not huge, but it wasn't because of a lack of playing time. He simply found his role player niche and played it to perfection most of the time.

He Might: Be this team's best defender – Hard to argue with this one. Garrett was always up for whatever challenge was thrown his way and, in limited minutes, finished fourth on the team in steals, with 35, one better than full-time starter Lagerald Vick and just seven behind fellow-starter Malik Newman. Garrett used his active hands, good instincts and physical size and toughness to create problems for offensive players throughout the season. His specialty became immediately getting the possession back after any particularly careless turnovers. Because they were on the floor more and, therefore, drew tougher defensive assignments in bigger moments, I'm only going to take partial credit for this one. But it's clear that the foundation for a solid Bill-Self-defender has been laid by Garrett.

My overall prediction grade for this one: 1.5 out of 3.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Lightfoot stories from the 2017-18 season

• KU freshman Marcus Garrett guides KU to key bucket in relief of Devonte’ Graham, March 18, 2018

• 'He never gives up:' Marcus Garrett’s hustle propels KU to Big 12 title game

• Keegan: Playing for an Eddie Sutton disciple prepared Marcus Garrett for Bill Self

Reply 9 comments from Marius7782 Matt Tait Roger Ortega The_muser Robert  Brock Tony Bandle Pius Waldman

Revisiting Preseason Predictions: Mitch Lightfoot

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) celebrates with Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during a timeout in the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) celebrates with Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during a timeout in the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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.

First up: Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot.

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.

Light reading:

A quick look back at a few of my favorite Lightfoot stories from the 2017-18 season

• Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot logging valuable minutes and delivering for Kansas, Jan. 30, 2018

• Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot delivers strong performance in debut as a KU starter, Feb. 7, 2018

• KU coach Bill Self hopes adding Mitch Lightfoot’s effort to starting lineup will kick-start Kansas, Feb. 5, 2018

• Keegan column: Backup Mitch Lightfoot saves Jayhawks at TCU, Jan. 6, 2018

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Is KU big man Udoka Azubuike nearing a decision?

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike by Nick Krug

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 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.

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G League salary bump good news for KU’s current and future NBA draft hopefuls

NBA G League logo

NBA G League logo by Matt Tait

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.

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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.

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Could KU freshman Silvio De Sousa’s situation become Billy Preston Part II?

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa comes in for a dunk during practice on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa comes in for a dunk during practice on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

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.

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