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Posts tagged with 2018-19 Season

KU still has plenty of options after four-star forward Samuell Williamson picks Louisville

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

A few hours after new Kansas basketball commitment Christian Braun made his pledge official, a former KU target ranked in No. 34 overall in the class of 2019 ended his recruitment elsewhere.

Small forward Samuell Williamson, a 6-foot-7, four-star prospect from Rockwall, Texas, orally committed to Louisville on Monday evening via Twitter.

Williamson, who had KU in his list of finalists and had taken an official visit to KU’s campus a few weeks ago, picked the Cardinals over KU, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.

Williamson’s commitment came as little surprise around the recruiting world and might have been a byproduct of Braun committing to Kansas.

“It’s not a surprise,” KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott said on Monday night. “It’s not like Kansas didn’t like him. They did, or they wouldn’t have recruited him. It’s that sometimes you go with who you think might be a better fit, and that might be the case here. Or it might have been that Samuell liked Louisville, which I know he did — Louisville and Oklahoma.”

Monday’s action means KU moves forward with one commitment in its back pocket and a number of top-tier targets still available. Some Kansas fans appear to have taken the Williamson news a little hard given the fact that the 4-star forward with the killer mid-range game recently called KU his "dream school." But Scott said Williamson's decision to go elsewhere is not an indication of a failure by the Kansas coaching staff.

“There’s other guys out there that they’re interested in,” Scott said of KU’s recruiting status. “Let’s say Christian and Samuell both picked Kansas, well that might eliminate them (KU) from some guys that maybe they think are better fits with Christian and who they think will be back next year.”

KU remains in hot pursuit of five-star talents Matt Hurt and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl — both Top 10 forwards according to Rivals.com — and also is still the hunt for four-star shooting guard Cassius Stanley, who is ranked No. 31 on the Rivals 150 and has plans to visit KU for Late Night on Sept. 28.

Stanley recently welcomed KU coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend to North Hollywood, Calif., for an in-home visit and is down to a final eight of KU, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Maryland, Texas, UCLA and USC.

Robinson-Earl also will visit for Late Night, along with the following prospects: Braun (unofficially); James Wiseman (5-star center from Memhpis, ranked No. 2 in 2019 class); R.J. Hampton (5-star point guard ranked No. 5 in 2020 class); Chandler Lawson (No. 87 in 2019 class) and Jonathan Lawson (youngest of the Lawson brothers); Isaac McBride (4-star point guard ranked No. 109 in 2019 class); Anthony Walker (4-star power forward ranked No. 76 in 2019 class); Ty Berry (3-star point guard ranked No. 121 in 2020 class); and Bryce Thompson (4-star shooting guard ranked No. 66 in 2020 class).

None by Samuell Williamson

Reply 2 comments from Surrealku Tony Bandle

New KU commitment Christian Braun no stranger to Border War basketball

When it comes to the 100-plus year history of Kansas basketball, finding good KU-Missouri stories is easy to do.

For decades until its end in 2012, the Border War matchup was one of the most anticipated games of the season, no matter how each team was doing in the win/loss column. And KU and MU are responsible for some of the most intense and memorable games in the history of both programs.

But would you believe that today, more than six years after the two teams played a game that actually counted, things are happening that are adding to the storied Border War history?

Sure, the two programs got together for an exhibition game last season to raise money for hurricane relief. And, yeah, there was that alumni scrimmage this summer that drew a fair amount of attention and featured a few former greats from both schools.

But this week, when Blue Valley Northwest senior Christian Braun announced his commitment to Kansas, the KU-MU rivalry received new life, even if only in the form of daydreaming about what one day might happen.

With Christian coming to KU and his older brother, Parker, entrenched as a freshman walk-on at Mizzou, both players would be lying if they told you they had not talked about one day facing each other with the Border War on the line again.

“Me and Parker were talking about it,” Braun told the Journal-World Monday night, shortly after he made his commitment to KU official. “Obviously, I love playing against him, I love playing with him, but he was happy for me going to KU. But I would love to play him.”

Despite their sibling bond, Christian and Parker are, in many ways, different on the court. For starters, they play different positions. Beyond that, the two vary in physical appearance, as well, with the older Parker favoring long hair and even becoming known for his man-bun look during his high school days and Christian often being mistaken for a much younger player with a baby face and more traditional haircut.

“So I tried that a few years back," he joked of the long-hair look. "Not to that extent, but I tried that. It just didn’t work out for me. Wasn’t really my thing. So I cut it off. That’s his thing.”

Neither Braun — Christian at 6-5 and still growing and Parker at 6-9 and possibly still growing, too — is counting on the KU-MU showdown coming back during their time on the court. But the clock has officially begun on hoping for it to happen, largely because both KU and MU play such an important part in their family history.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty fun,” Christian said of the KU-MU banter among his family. “But the KU-MU thing, in my family, goes back pretty far.”

His mother, Lisa Sandbothe and aunt, Lori Sandbothe, played for the Tigers in the late 1980s and were both standouts in the program and in the state. Before heading off to Mizzou, each won the Miss Show-Me Basketball honor (Lisa in 1987 and Lori a year earlier), given annually to the top prep female player in Missouri.

And Lisa went on to play professional ball in one of the upstart women’s leagues that came before the WNBA.

On the men’s side of the family, Braun’s uncle, Mike Sandbothe, also played basketball for the Tigers and his father, Donald Braun, now a doctor, briefly walked on to the Kansas men’s basketball team during his days at KU.

Needless to say, Braun, who grew up a Kansas fan — first in Burlington (hometown of former KU guard Tyrel Reed) and late in Overland Park for high school — said his family now supports both sides in the Border War.

He doesn’t know exactly how they all feel about the rivalry being restored, but does know that he would love to see it happen while him and Parker could face each other.

“For sure,” Braun said. “I would love that.”

Both for the opportunity to take on the Tigers and to represent his home state.

“I think everybody from Kansas has that as a goal,” he said of playing at KU. “Just being an in-state kid and taking pride in where you’re from.”

One of Braun’s friend’s, who currently is living out that dream, is KU freshman, Ochai Agbaji, who played with Braun in the MOKAN program before coming to Kansas.

Braun said the two have talked a lot about basketball and college over the years and added that Agbaji, who hails from Kansas City, Mo., reached out to him on Monday after hearing about his commitment.

With his recruitment now behind him, Braun said he was looking forward to getting ready for his KU career and to trying to track down another state title at Blue Valley Northwest before his prep days are finished.

“Now that I’m committed, it’s just time to get better and prepare so I’m as ready as I can be when I get there,” Braun said. “That’s kind of the focus. Hopefully (I’ll) get another state title. That’s another goal of mine. But I’m just excited to prepare and be as ready as I can when I get to campus.”

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KU-Nova officially set for 11 a.m. tip Dec. 15 at Allen Fieldhouse

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) elevates to the bucket past Villanova guard Phil Booth (5) during the second half, Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) elevates to the bucket past Villanova guard Phil Booth (5) during the second half, Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. by Nick Krug

It remains to be seen if it’s the game of the season. And given the hype and recent history between the two programs, it has to be in the running.

But we now know exactly when the Kansas-Villanova Final Four rematch will tip off and where it will be televised. And it sounds a lot more like a football kickoff time than a basketball tip.

Kansas vs. Villanova on Dec. 15 is set for 11 a.m. on ESPN.

The time and network became official Thursday, when the Big East released its full set of schedules. Let the countdown begin.

Along with KU’s meeting with Michigan State in the Champions Classic, another game at Rupp Arena against Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and a pair of conference games against Big 12 foes Kansas State and West Virginia, the KU-Villanova clash figures to be one of the most anticipated games of the 2018-19 Kansas basketball season.

When the Big 12 portion of KU’s 2018-19 men's basketball schedule was released on Sept. 5, the time and network had not yet been nailed down, but it is updated on the official KU basketball schedule, as well.

The official tip time brings the total number of 11 a.m. KU games during the upcoming 2018-19 season to four, with another slated to start at 1 p.m. and one more potential 1 p.m. tipoff that has not yet been finalized.

Those are some pretty early start times by Kansas basketball standards, which typically have the Jayhawks playing in prime time and in the 7 or 8 p.m. television slots.

That still will be the case for most of the season. KU currently has 15 games scheduled for 7 p.m. or later. And it’s possible that KU could have three more start times in that range when all is said and done.

Tip times for Big 12 games against Texas Tech and West Virginia in February are still pending and KU’s second game in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the NIT Season Tip-Off in November will start after 8 p.m. if KU wins its first game (Nov. 21 vs. Marquette) and 6 p.m. if the Jayhawks lose to Marquette.

KU’s other 11 a.m. starts this season are:

• Saturday, Feb. 9 vs. Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse

• Saturday, March 2 at Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena

• Saturday, March 9 vs. Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse

Reply 3 comments from Kent Gaylor Jasontodd Carsonc30

Latest “Mic’d Up” feature shows KU’s Andrea Hudy as builder of minds as much as muscle

Trainer Andrea Hudy jokes with freshman Josh Jackson as the players get stretched out prior to the start of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

Trainer Andrea Hudy jokes with freshman Josh Jackson as the players get stretched out prior to the start of Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m. by Nick Krug

If you’ve paid much attention to Kansas basketball over the past decade and a half, you’re more than familiar with the role Andrea Hudy plays in keeping the Jayhawks strong, healthy and on top of their game.

Hudy, officially listed as KU’s assistant athletics director for sports performance, has been a big part of the Jayhawks’ extreme success during the Bill Self era, using equal parts strength coach and scientist to help prepare and motivate the Jayhawks to achieve everything they have accomplished during Self’s first 15 seasons in Lawrence.

But she hasn’t done it alone. In addition to a terrific staff and support from the coaches — not to mention the work put in by the players — Hudy has teamed up with technology to help keep the Kansas players in top condition before, during and after each season.

In its latest “Mic’d Up” video, featuring Hudy, you can get a pretty decent glimpse at how Hudy uses technology to aid her training.

There’s not an exercise or movement the Jayhawks do in the weight room or during training sessions that is without a reason behind it. And all of their efforts and output is tracked by technology, both in real time and over time, so the players can see, in black and white numbers, where they need to put their efforts and track the improvement they have made.

Using the latest training technology is something Hudy has made a staple of her program for years now. And it has always been important to her to stay in tune with the best equipment and software for training college athletes.

In the summer of 2012, Kansas became a signature school for the EliteForm training system, which integrates technology into workout sessions. KU was also the first to use the SpartaTrac™ system to optimize players’ individual strength programs to improve performance and decrease chance of injury.

While many view Hudy as the one who helps the Jayhawks pump iron and build muscle, it’s worth noting that an equally huge part of her job is helping them read and comprehend the data produced by these systems so they, themselves, can start to utilize technology to reach their goals.

Again, this latest video shows glimpses of that and it’s a cool look at one of the somewhat hidden factors in the success of Kansas basketball.

None by Kansas Basketball

Reply 5 comments from Joe Ross David Friend Chrisdeweese Tony Bandle Dale Rogers

Kansas Basketball Record Watch 2018-19: Marcus Garrett

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) whips a pass to the wing during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) whips a pass to the wing during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A couple of months ago, when KU junior Udoka Azubuike announced he would return for his junior season at Kansas instead of trying to make it in the NBA, the first thing that popped into my head was where Azubuike stood in KU’s record books in a few key areas.

Granted, because he missed all but 11 games of his freshman season and also missed time during his sophomore season, Azubuike has not exactly played the kind of games or logged the amount of minutes to make a real push for any of KU’s biggest records.

But surely there are some that, after a monster junior season, could be a factor for Azubuike, right?

And if that’s the case, couldn’t that be true for just about every scholarship player on KU’s roster?

I mean, we all can agree that Quentin Grimes isn’t going to finish his first year at Kansas — and possibly his only year here — as the school’s all-time leading scorer, but could he make a push for KU’s freshman scoring record?

Last year’s KU media guide featured 19 full pages of school records. So over the next several days, we’re going to take a look at (a) what records some of these guys might be closing in on, if any, and (b) which record(s) each KU player could realistically make a run at during the 2018-19 season.

Some of it might be a stretch. But, hey, it’s August, and even if some of what you’ll read in the next few days isn’t likely, it’s still kind of fun to think about the best case scenarios in a sort of what-if mentality.

Next up: Marcus Garrett

The official record for fewest turnovers in a season is nowhere to be found in the KU media guide. And the reason is probably simple.

There are too many guys who could/would qualify for the record unless the Jayhawks put some kind of disclaimer on the record, like “minimum 20 games” or something like that.

They do it for 3-pointers and 3-point attempts. And the same concept is used for field goals and free throws. So why no do it for turnovers? But I guess you can’t include everything.

The only mention of any kind of turnover record I could find in last year’s media guide was on Page 175, where it listed Raef LaFrentz as the record holder for most minutes in a game without a turnover — 47 in a double-overtime loss at Missouri in 1997 — and Tyshawn Taylor as the record holder for most turnovers in a single game, with 11 in a loss to Duke at the Maui Invitational in 2011.

What’s the reason for even bringing this up? I think Garrett could make a run at the record.... whatever it is.

Because I could not find the overall record anywhere, I looked back at the Bill Self era. Makes sense, right? I mean, Self team, Self style, why not look at who turned it over and who didn’t under Self?

Putting the disclaimer of having to have played in at least 30 games to qualify, I found that former KU forward Bryant Nash and former KU guard Tyrel Reed share the Bill Self record for fewest turnovers in a season by a player appearing in at least 30 games for a Bill Self-coached team.

Nash turned it over 15 times in 30 games in Self’s first season (2003-04) and Reed, who played a much bigger role, turned it over just 15 times in 36 games during the 2009-10 season.

Garrett is the defending champ, if you will, on this year’s squad, having led the Jayhawks with fewest turnovers (30) a season ago in a whopping 39 games.

Garrett finished turnoverless in 13 of those 39 games and also finished with just one turnover in 22 games. In addition to that, he never had more than two turnovers in a game and should be much more comfortable heading into his sophomore season.

Keeping it to 15 or fewer no doubt will be tough, but Garrett should benefit from the fact that Devon Dotson, Charlie Moore and even Quentin Grimes figure to handle the ball more than he will and his solid fundamentals, good vision and sound decision making also will aid him in the quest to keep his turnovers down.

Let’s say KU gets back to the Final Four, as they will be favored to do in the eyes of several college basketball fans and analysts across the country.

Assuming he stays healthy and KU makes the finals of the Big 12 tournament — win or lose — that would give Garrett at least 39 games this season, which would mean he could turn the ball over once every 2.6 games.

That’s a tall task and certainly should not be counted on, given the difficulty of KU’s schedule. But if there’s a Jayhawk who’s ready to make a run at the Self-era record, it’s Garrett. And, either way, he’s the smart bet to lead the regular rotation guys in fewest turnovers for the second year in a row.

Here’s a look at the Bill Self leaders in fewest turnovers per season, minimum 30 games:

• Bryant Nash – 15 in 30 games – 2003-04

• Mike Lee – 39 in 30 games – 2004-05

• Sasha Kaun – 23 in 33 games – 2005-06

• Sasha Kaun – 30 in 35 games – 2006-07

• Cole Aldrich – 21 in 40 games – 2007-08

• Travis Releford – 22 in 32 games – 2008-09

• Tyrel Reed – 15 in 36 games – 2009-10

• Mario Little – 19 in 32 games – 2010-11

• Naadir Tharpe – 22 in 32 games – 2011-12

• Perry Ellis – 20 in 37 games – 2012-13

• Tarik Black – 23 in 33 games – 2013-14

• Brannen Greene – 30 in 35 games – 2014-15

• Svi Mykhailiuk – 26 in 35 games – 2015-16

• Carlton Bragg Jr. – 28 in 31 games – 2016-17

• Marcus Garrett – 30 in 39 games – 2017-18

• Kansas Basketball Record Watch 2018-19 •

- Senior guard Lagerald Vick

- Junior center Udoka Azubuike

- Junior forward Mitch Lightfoot

- Junior forward Dedric Lawson

- Sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa

- Sophomore guard Charlie Moore

- Freshman guard Quentin Grimes

- Freshman guard Devon Dotson

- Freshman forward David McCormack

Reply 5 comments from Mike Hart Dano__ Dirk Medema Surrealku Stupidmichael

Tracking the movement of a few KU basketball targets in updated Rivals rankings

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

The rest of the updated Rivals150 2019 basketball class was released Tuesday, one day after Rivals teased the new list by announcing the updated Top 10.

Although Kansas currently is without a commitment in the 2019 class, there are plenty of noteworthy names dotting the Top 150 who have expressed interest in joining the Jayhawks and may some day suit up in crimson in blue.

Two of them — Matthew Hurt and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl — dropped a spot but held on to their status as Top 10 talents and the rest found out their fate on Tuesday, when the full list was released.

Here’s a quick look at the movement involving a few key recruiting targets:

Small forward Samuell Williamson, a 6-foot-7 prospect from Rockwall, Texas, with the elite mid-range game, jumped one spot to No. 34. Williamson, you might recall, recently made an official visit to KU and continues to check in with the other programs on his list of finalists as he races toward a decision. Most analysts feel that KU has a great shot at landing Williamson, but there clearly is still work to be done.

• Cassius Stanley, a 6-foot-5, 4-star shooting guard from North Hollywood, Calif., jumped two spots to the cusp of the Top 30 and sits at No. 31 on the updated list. Stanley is known as an incredibly versatile guard who is capable of playing — and defending — all three guard positions. He recently told Corey Evans, of Rivals.com, that USC, UCLA, Oregon, Texas, KU and South Carolina have been the schools that have stood out most during the recruiting process. According to Evans, Stanley has hopes of making a commitment this fall.

Four-star power forward Zeke Nnaji dropped three spots to No. 37 but still remains a highly visible recruit because of his AAU connection with Hurt and his size, length and potential.

Chandler Lawson, one of two younger brothers of current Jayhawks Dedric and K.J. Lawson, basically stayed in the same spot, falling just a bit from No. 87 to No. 88.

• And former KU commitment Markese Jacobs, of Chicago, dropped a whopping 33 spots to No. 125 after decommiting from KU and opening up his recruitment.

• As for a couple of notable names on the rise, Little Rock, Ark., point guard Isaac McBride maintained his ranking of No. 110 but is now listed as a four-star prospect. And local prospect Christian Braun, who picked up a KU offer in the past couple of weeks and plays his high school ball at nearby Blue Valley Northwest, went from unranked to No. 113 and also saw his status jump from 3-star prospect to 4-star prospect.

In related news, after checking in with Hurt on Sunday in Minnesota and Robinson-Earl on Monday in Florida, KU coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend were in Memphis on Tuesday to visit with No. 2-rated 2019 prospect James Wiseman, a 7-foot center who has attracted major attention from some serious blueblood programs.

Shortly after the in-home visit, Wiseman Tweeted out a photo with Self and Townsend in his living room, with the words "Great In-Home Kansas Visit Today!" attached to it.

None by James Wiseman

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Kansas Basketball Record Watch 2018-19: Silvio De Sousa

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) puts up a shot during a shoot around on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) puts up a shot during a shoot around on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

A couple of months ago, when KU junior Udoka Azubuike announced he would return for his junior season at Kansas instead of trying to make it in the NBA, the first thing that popped into my head was where Azubuike stood in KU’s record books in a few key areas.

Granted, because he missed all but 11 games of his freshman season and also missed time during his sophomore season, Azubuike has not exactly played the kind of games or logged the amount of minutes to make a real push for any of KU’s biggest records.

But surely there are some that, after a monster junior season, could be a factor for Azubuike, right?

And if that’s the case, couldn’t that be true for just about every scholarship player on KU’s roster?

I mean, we all can agree that Quentin Grimes isn’t going to finish his first year at Kansas — and possibly his only year here — as the school’s all-time leading scorer, but could he make a push for KU’s freshman scoring record?

Last year’s KU media guide featured 19 full pages of school records. So over the next several days, we’re going to take a look at (a) what records some of these guys might be closing in on, if any, and (b) which record(s) each KU player could realistically make a run at during the 2018-19 season.

Some of it might be a stretch. But, hey, it’s August, and even if some of what you’ll read in the next few days isn’t likely, it’s still kind of fun to think about the best case scenarios in a sort of what-if mentality.

Next up: Silvio De Sousa

During all of the growing pains that came with Silvio De Sousa adjusting from second-semester freshman who couldn’t play two minutes to key part of a team that reached the Final Four, there was one constant.

Mr. De Sousa has a very nice looking shooting stroke.

It shows up in warmups when he’s taking mid-range jumpers. It shows up in practice when he’s a little more free to extend his range and operating as a part of the scout team. And it most certainly shows up at the free throw line. Every. Single. Time.

Automatic it is not. After all, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Angola native from IMG Academy did miss six of the 21 free throws he attempted last season. But even those misses looked good.

De Sousa’s form is so smooth and his repetition so precise that every time he raises the ball from his waste to his shoulders, it looks like the start of something that’s destined for the bottom of the net.

Because De Sousa enters his second season at Kansas much more comfortable with everything around him, one can only imagine that he will get more than 21 opportunities at the free throw line this season. And if he does, I don’t think it’s crazy to predict he could make most, if not all of them.

That brings us to the De Sousa record watch portion of this blog. And while it certainly is possible for De Sousa to do some serious work on the boards and set some kind of rebounding record, — my pick would be most rebounds in a single possession, though I haven’t found that stat in any of KU’s official record books — I like the free throw record as De Sousa’s most attainable this season.

Not most free throws. And not most attempts either.

I’m talking about most consecutive makes from the free throw line.

Sherron Collins owns the record today, making 36 in a row back in 2009. Wayne Simien is right behind him with 34 in a row in 2005.

That’s a lot. For anybody.

But I don’t think De Sousa making three or four a game for 10 or a 11 games straight is all that hard to picture. He’s not going to get many more attempts than that per game. And he’s not going to be a high-volume free throw shooter.

So his record, should he get it, will have to be pieced together over time. But, in some ways, that makes it easier to achieve, in my opinion.

Making a few a game over the course of a few weeks sounds much more doable than making 10 a game for three straight games.

Who knows? And it’s one of the more obscure record watch entries we’ve had so far. But De Sousa has the stroke to do it. He just needs the opportunity.

• Kansas Basketball Record Watch 2018-19 •

- Senior guard Lagerald Vick

- Junior center Udoka Azubuike

- Junior forward Mitch Lightfoot

- Junior forward Dedric Lawson

- Sophomore guard Charlie Moore

- Freshman guard Quentin Grimes

- Freshman guard Devon Dotson

- Freshman forward David McCormack

Reply 9 comments from Jon Francis Carsonc30 Barry Weiss Rockn_chalkn_ku Matt Tait Longhawk1976 Ryan Zimmerman

Big weekend awaits Class of 2019 big man Matt Hurt

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

The recruitment for Class of 2019 forward Matthew Hurt is starting to heat up and this weekend it will invade the five-star senior’s Rochester, Minn., home.

According to reports, the 6-foot-9, do-it-all forward ranked No. 5 in his class by Rivals.com, will host a trio of Hall of Fame coaches in his living room on Sunday, the first day of the open contact period.

Kansas coach Bill Self, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky’s John Calipari all are expected to be in Minnesota to spend time with Hurt and his family during their in-home visits.

Hurt, who has made a couple of unofficial visits to KU in the past, including for Late Night a couple of years ago, has yet to announce the dates and locations of his five official visits for this year, but those three programs, along with North Carolina and Memphis or Minnesota are expected to get the five visits.

Memphis, Minnesota and UNC are expected to conduct in-home visits with Hurt and his family sometime next week.

The timing of the in-home visits is important in these situations, but, by now, Hurt is well aware of his status as one of the most coveted players in the class. And, in many ways, he is sitting on the brink of having his pick of whichever blue blood program he wants to attend.

Several national recruiting analysts currently view KU as having at least a slight lead in the race to land Hurt — in large part because of how long the KU staff has been recruiting him and made him a priority — but there remains a long way to go and this weekend is yet another crucial step in getting to the finish line.

During our latest episode of "The Recruiting Trail' on our KU Sports Hour podcast, KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott discussed, among other things, what he thinks Hurt might do with his official visits.

“Matt Hurt, I think, will more likely come to a game,” Scott said. “But I wouldn’t rule him out of just popping in at some point, maybe for Late Night. I think he’s more likely to come for a game, but you never know, when you have a coach visit like that, what can happen.”

While in the neighborhood this weekend, KU also is expected to conduct an in-home visit with Hurt’s AAU teammate, 6-foot-11 center Zeke Nnaji.

According to Marcus Fuller, of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Self and Calipari are expected to visit Nnaji’s home in Lakeville, Minn., on Sunday, as well, with the fast-rising center also scheduling in-home visits this month with Minnesota, Georgetown, Baylor, Arizona, Purdue and UCLA.

Nnaji is currently rated as a four-star prospect and is ranked No. 34 overall in the 2019 class by Rivals.com.

Both players, who are close friends and whose families are close, as well, remain in the process of narrowing down their lists and setting up official visits for the coming weeks.

What happens this weekend, with these in-home visits, could go a long way toward bringing some clarity to the recruitment of both talented big men.

Reply 3 comments from Blogthis Matt Tait Tony Bandle

Jayhawks, Spartans draw early tip at Champions Classic

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For just the second time in the eight-year history of the Champions Classic, the Kansas men's basketball team will be playing in the early game.

The Champions Classic on Thursday released official game times for this year's event, which will pit KU against Michigan State and Duke against Kentucky in Indianapolis, and the Jayhawks and Spartans will tip off at 6 p.m.

Duke and Kentucky will follow around 8:30 p.m. from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The reason for KU's tendency to land in the late game is obvious and it's all about ratings. Matchups featuring KU-Kentucky and KU-Duke, because of the national followings of all three teams often draw the best ratings of the season, let alone from the event.

This year's game, for the first time, will mark the season opener for all four teams, as the event was moved up just a hair to become an official season kickoff of sorts.

KU is 3-4 in the Champions Classic all-time and is riding a two-game winning streak in the early season, blueblood clash.

Here's a quick look back at KU's history of tip times at the Champions Classic.

2011 - late vs. Kentucky

2012 - early vs. MSU

2013 - late vs. Duke

2014 - late vs. Kentucky

2015 - late vs. MSU

2016 - late vs. Duke

2017 - late vs. Kentucky

2018 - early vs. MSU - 6 p.m., Nov. 6, 2018 in Indianapolis

• Complete 2018-19 Kansas men's basketball schedule

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Breaking down and ranking KU’s 2018-19 Big 12 schedule, from No. 18 to No. 1

Kansas head coach Bill Self lauds his players before 14 Big 12 conference championship trophies during the celebration following their 80-70 win over Texas on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. The win gave the Jayhawks an outright win of their 14th-straight Big 12 Conference title.

Kansas head coach Bill Self lauds his players before 14 Big 12 conference championship trophies during the celebration following their 80-70 win over Texas on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. The win gave the Jayhawks an outright win of their 14th-straight Big 12 Conference title. by Nick Krug

The wait is over, KU basketball fans.

OK. Not that wait. For that one, you’ve still got 23 days. But, hey, not bad considering that this year’s Late Night in the Phog is earlier than ever and will, once again, mark the official beginning of the 2018-19 Kansas basketball season.

The wait we’re talking about today is the wait for the KU men’s basketball schedule, which finally was released by the Big 12 Conference on Wednesday morning.

Not only do you now know times and dates, but you also have a complete look at KU’s entire schedule — the nonconference stuff came out in June — and can get a better feel for how the road will look for the Jayhawks as they try to make it 15 Big 12 titles in a row and back-to-back trips to the Final Four.

With that in mind, let’s jump in and quickly rank KU’s 18 Big 12 games in order from easiest to toughest. Remember, that Big 12/SEC Challenge clash with Kentucky is thrown in the middle of the conference season. But for this exercise, we’re just talking Big 12 games.

For what it’s worth, I’d rank KU’s toughest nonconference games like this: 1. Kentucky, 2. Michigan State, 3. Tennessee, 4. Villanova, 5. at Arizona State.

OK. Back to the Big 12 — Easiest to toughest on the 2018-19 schedule:

18. vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 2 - The Jayhawks have won 27 consecutive conference openers and will be playing at home in this one. Beyond that, OU is without Trae Young and will have to confront the demons of a 104-74 beat-down the last time they were in the building.

17. vs. Baylor, March 9 – Senior Night, in what will be the last home game of Lagerald Vick’s career and figures to be the last home game in the careers of Udoka Azubuike, Quentin Grimes, Dedric Lawson and possibly others. Hard to imagine KU laying an egg here, particularly against a Scott Drew-led team that historically has struggled in Lawrence.

16. vs. Oklahoma State, Feb. 9 – The Cowboys were not particularly big last year and lost their most productive inside player in Mitchell Solomon. That fact, against this Kansas team, could be a nightmare for OSU.

15. vs. TCU, Jan. 9 – The Frogs are down a bit this season and already are dealing with another injury to big time point guard Jaylen Fisher. He’s got plenty of time to heal and Jamie Dixon will have them ready. But Allen Fieldhouse will be too much.

14. vs. Iowa State, Jan. 21 – The Cyclones were awfully close to winning in Allen Fieldhouse a year ago and, led by Lindell Wigginton, could put another scare into Kansas this year. But the Jayhawks' size and home-court advantage should carry the day.

13. at Baylor, Jan. 12 – Punked by the Bears in Waco a season ago, KU will surely have that and revenge on its mind heading into this year’s rematch. Still, a road game in the Big 12 is never easy and this one comes right before a Big Monday battle with Texas back in Lawrence.

12. at Oklahoma, March 5 – Based on personnel, this one should be lower on the list, as the Sooners appear to be in a rebuilding mode. But because of where it comes on the schedule, this one could be tougher than people think. Late in the season, when the Big 12 race should already be locked up and on the road, right before Senior Night back in Lawrence. That’s an easy one to overlook and Lon Kruger could have his team clicking by this point.

11. vs. Texas, Jan. 14 – It comes early and it’s sandwiched between road games at Baylor and West Virginia, but the UT roster is impressive enough to land this one in the middle of the pack, even if Shaka Smart has been completely overmatched during his first few trips to Allen Fieldhouse.

10. at TCU, Feb. 11 – Big Monday, right before a KU-West Virginia showdown back in Lawrence and against a Jamie Dixon team that is always so fundamentally sound and plays much tougher at home.

9. at Oklahoma State, March 2 – The Jayhawks were embarrassed in Stillwater a season ago and second-year OSU coach Mike Boynton is building something solid at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will be playing without a few of their key scorers from last year’s roster, but they have guys ready to fill those roles and the key to Boynton’s late success last season was as much about style as it was personnel. Besides, there’s just always something tricky about KU going into Stillwater.

8. at Iowa State, Jan. 5 – Steve Prohm’s Cyclones play a style that can be hard to match up with and that could be magnified when the Jayhawks get to town with their biggest strength being in the front court. Add to that the ISU fans and always-tough Hilton Coliseum and this one figures to be a battle, even if it’s not quite as tough as in years past.

7. vs. West Virginia, Feb. 16 – Bob Huggins’ boys have done fairly well in Allen Fieldhouse of late, even if they haven’t been able to finish. Expect this group to come in hungry and ready for a fight.

6. vs. Texas Tech, Feb. 2 – This one may be at home, but the Red Raiders have experience winning in Allen Fieldhouse and will be ready to give it another go. Beyond that, Tech catches KU just a few days before Round 1 of the Sunflower Showdown and it’s easy to see how KU could be looking ahead to that one.

5. at Texas, Jan. 29 – Right after that KU-Kentucky showdown in Lexington, the Jayhawks could find it tough to match the energy and emotion from that one. Add to that the fact that Texas is loaded with athletes and talent and seems due to give KU a scare, and it’s easy to put this in the toughest five conference games of the season.

4. vs. Kansas State, Feb. 25 – Big Monday, the place will be hopping and the Wildcats will be looking to atone for their missed opportunity at Allen Fieldhouse last season, when they had the ball with a shot to win but came up short. This one should be one of the most electric and entertaining games of the entire season.

3. at Texas Tech, Feb. 23 – Yes, Zaire Smith and Keenan Evans are gone, but Jarrett Culver and head coach Chris Beard are still there and the Red Raiders are determined to prove last season’s strong run was no fluke. Add to that the fact that this one comes on the road and, yet again, is just two days before a Big Monday showdown with K-State, and you’re looking at one of those tricky games that could be tough to lock in on. The good news here: KU gets a full week to prepare.

2. at Kansas State, Feb. 5 - Most people think the Wildcats are KU’s biggest challenge in the Big 12 this year, and it certainly looks that way on paper. Playing in Manhattan is never a picnic these days and it could be particularly tough this season.

1. at West Virginia, Jan. 19 - No tip time for this one yet, but that hardly matters. Morgantown has not been kind to the Jayhawks during recent years. And even though Devonte’ Graham and company found a way to steal one at WVU Coliseum last year, that does not mean doing so will be a cakewalk this year. The Mountaineers will be ready for revenge and KU’s longest road trip of the season is always a monster.

• Complete 2018-19 KU men's basketball schedule

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