Over the past couple of years, as the transfer trend has become more prevalent with the Kansas basketball program, I’ve done periodic updates on what the transfers-in and transfers-out situation has looked like during Bill Self’s time in charge of the program.
For the most part, the breakdown has been pretty cut-and-dry, with a certain number of players coming into the program from other schools and a certain number of players leaving KU for opportunities elsewhere, be them via a better fit, more playing time or because of closer proximity to home.
Today, however, after the recent news of a pair of current Jayhawks transferring out during the upcoming offseason, we’re looking at a third category altogether and one that is as interesting as it is a head-scratcher.
Both moves make sense. Neither came as much of a surprise. And both players figure to gain what they’re looking for by joining another program.
What’s crazy about it though is the fact that those two players are now firmly in that third category, which includes players who transfer in, players who transfer out and, the new one, players who both transferred in to KU and later transferred out.
That list is still relatively small, but it’s growing. And thanks to this most recent transfer news, that group now has four members — Moore and K.J., former KU guard Sam Cunliffe and former KU power forward Dwight Coleby.
This transfer movement is certainly not limited to KU and head coach Bill Self. Programs big and small, all over the country, are taking more and more transfers on an annual basis, with the grad transfer route fueling the recent spike.
A recent proposal to change the rule for the grad transfer system, which would require programs to give grad transfers a scholarship for two years if they’re in a 2-year graduate program — even if their eligibility runs out — remains on hold. If passed, it likely will have a significant impact on the number of grad transfers hitting the market year in and year out.
According to a recent NCAA study, roughly 80 percent of grad transfers, across all sports, enroll in 2-year programs at their new schools.
Specific to men’s basketball, the number of grad transfers has grown at a rapid rate, from 15 Division I grad transfers in 2011 to 94 Division I grad transfers in 2017.
Beyond that, the mere fact that we now have something called the “transfer portal,” which is little more than a massive data base for coaches and athletes to keep track of available transfers is an indication of where things have gone with the transfer route nationwide.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the updated list of transfers — from one Division I program to another — at Kansas during the Bill Self era:
Transferring In (14)
Rodrick Stewart – 2006 – USC
Jeff Withey – 2009 – Arizona
Justin Wesley – 2010 – Lamar
Kevin Young – 2011 – Loyola-Marymount
Hunter Mickelson – 2013 – Arkansas
Tarik Black – 2013 – Memphis
Dwight Coleby – 2015 – Ole Miss
Evan Maxwell – 2016 – Liberty
Malik Newman – 2016 – Mississippi State
Sam Cunliffe – 2017 – Arizona State
Dedric Lawson – 2017 – Memphis
K.J. Lawson – 2017 – Memphis
Charlie Moore – 2017 – Cal
Jack Whitman – 2017 – William & Mary
Transferring Out (19)
David Padgett – 2004 – Louisville
Omar Wilkes – 2004 – Cal
J.R. Giddens – 2005 – New Mexico
Alex Galindo – 2005 – Florida International
Micah Downs – 2006 – Gonzaga
C.J. Giles – 2006 – Oregon State
Quintrell Thomas – 2009 – UNLV
Royce Woolridge – 2011 – Washington State
Milton Doyle – 2012 – Loyola (Chicago)
Merv Lindsay – 2012 – New Mexico
Anrio Adams – 2013 – Ohio/Eastern Kentucky
Zach Peters – 2013 – Arizona
Andrew White III – 2014 – Nebraska/Syracuse
Conner Frankamp – 2014 – Wichita State
Carlton Bragg Jr. – 2017 – Arizona State/New Mexico
Dwight Coleby – 2017 – Western Kentucky
Sam Cunliffe – 2018 – Evansville
Charlie Moore – 2019 – TBD
K.J. Lawson – 2019 – TBD
Senior Night took place on March 9 and went by with very little fanfare seeing how the 2018-19 Kansas basketball roster had no seniors in uniform that night.
But Thursday afternoon, just before 1:30 p.m., the lone senior on the 2018-19 KU roster finally got to say his goodbye.
“I truly appreciate everyone who supported me and embraced me during my 4 year stay at the University Of Kansas,” former KU guard Lagerald Vick wrote in a Twitter post. “Thank You to my coaches, family & friends, but most importantly thanks to the best fans in the world!!! #RockChalkJayHawk”
Vick’s farewell Tweet was accompanied by a highlight video of his time at Kansas that ran for 2:20 and featured moments from all four seasons of his 1,000-point KU career.
Vick, who delivered an up-and-down college career packed with highlights and head-scratchers, missed the final 13 games of the 2018-19 season after taking an indefinite leave of absence in early February to tend to a personal matter back home in Memphis.
At the time, and for the better part of the next 3-4 weeks, the door remained open for Vick to return to the team. But it never happened and KU’s loss at Kansas State on Feb. 5 went down as the final official game in Vick’s KU career.
Here’s a look at the Tweet and video of Vick saying goodbye.
With the 2018-19 Kansas basketball season now a thing of the past, most KU fans are probably more than happy to move on.
And who could blame them?
The Jayhawks’ most recent basketball run was full of rocky moments, rough patches and tough stretches, and the Jayhawks, at 26-10, finished tied for the most single-season losses in the Self era. What's more, at .722, the team recorded the second-worst winning percentage of Self’s 16 seasons at KU, coming in just behind the 2013-14 team that finished 25-10 for a .714 mark.
The 2018-19 season was also just the seventh in Self’s 16 seasons in which KU failed to win at least 82 percent of its games.
But it wasn’t all bad.
Freshmen became familiar faces and a fun part of the future. The tough schedule produced serious battles night in and night out. And KU coach Bill Self had to dig deep to find new ways to tweak his lineup, adjust his game plan and inspire his players to overcome more adversity than any one KU basketball team had faced in years.
All of that worked at times and didn’t at others, while still leading to 26 wins and a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the best moments of the 2018-19 season.
Best Home Win – Feb. 25 vs. Kansas State
Backs against the wall and needing to put a little pressure on K-State at the top of the standings, the Jayhawks played one of their best games of the season, holding the Wildcats to 31.6 percent shooting in a 64-49 win at Allen Fieldhouse.
Best Road Win – Jan. 12 at Baylor
No one knew at the time that the Bears would be a factor in the Big 12 race, but the Jayhawks made sure early that they weren’t a factor in this one. Kansas jumped out to an 18-2 lead and held BU without a field goal for the first 10:26 of the game en route to a 73-68 victory in Waco, Texas.
Best Neutral Site Win – Nov. 6 vs. Michigan State
There were a bunch of these and KU finished the 2018-19 season with a 6-2 record on neutral courts, 7-2 if you count the December win over New Mexico State at Sprint Center. But few were as impressive as this team’s season debut. Playing as the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the country against a Michigan State team that wound up in the Final Four, the Jayhawks controlled things from the jump and knocked off Tom Izzo’s club, 92-87, at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.
Best Comeback – Win vs. Marquette in Brooklyn
Trailing by 9 at the break and as many as 12 during a rough first half, the Jayhawks ripped off a 22-0 run in the first 9 minutes of the second half to put an end to Marquette’s upset bid at the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center. Kansas won, 77-68, thanks to a dominant 39-21 second-half showing.
Best Overall Game – Win vs. Tennessee in Brooklyn
Two nights after their come-from-behind win over Marquette, the Jayhawks, with renewed energy, staged a classic with the Volunteers in the same venue, needing overtime to settle the score. Despite Tennessee leading by as many as 9 points in the second half, the Jayhawks found a way to get it to overtime, where they cruised to an 87-81 victory over the 5th-ranked Vols.
Best Single Shot – Vick’s That Forced OT vs. Stanford
This one came with seven seconds to play and KU’s Allen Fieldhouse winning streak on the line. With the play drawn up to go to Dedric Lawson, KU senior Lagerald Vick cut it short, jumped 3 feet into the air and dropped a dagger through the net that helped send the game to OT, where KU won 90-84 to improve to 6-0. The shot, which was made so spectacular because of the ridiculous degree of difficulty in front of the Kansas bench, was just one moment during Vick’s torrid start to his final season as a Jayhawk. The only other one I considered was the shot Lawson hit while sitting on the ground in the lane against Louisiana.
Best Dunk – Agbaji Lob vs. TCU
Ten seconds after checking into the game for the first time in his KU career — 15 games into what was supposed to be his redshirt season — Kansas City, Mo., freshman Ochai Agbaji caught a lob from Devon Dotson and flushed it, marking the explosive beginning of Agbaji’s strong second half to his freshman season. There were more highlight-worthy dunks that followed, but none will be remembered quite like this one.
Best Senior – Lagerald Vick
OK, so Vick was the only senior on the KU roster this season, but he still did enough — for a while — to earn this distinction. Without him, KU might have lost more like 12 or 13 games during the 2018-19 season. Before his leave of absence that ended his KU career 12 games shy of the finish line, there was plenty to remember about Vick’s final year with the program. He finished the season averaging 14.1 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from 3-point range, numbers that left him near the top of the Big 12 in both categories.
Best Junior – Dedric Lawson
When all was said and done, the numbers the KU All-American produced during his first season with the Jayhawks rivaled those put up by some of the biggest names in KU history. In addition to averaging a double-double — 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game — Lawson recorded 22 double-doubles and became just the ninth Jayhawk in the history of the program to score 700 points in a single season and the fifth player in program history to record 700 points and 370 rebounds in the same season.
Best Sophomore – Marcus Garrett
I’ll be honest, I was tempted to go with Silvio De Sousa here just because of how well he handled his uncertainty and eventual suspension all season and continues to handle it to this day. But Garrett actually played so it has to be him. Beyond that, had it not been for the ankle injury in early February, Garrett’s season — and KU’s — may have been even more solid than it wound up being. He still has some work to do to improve as an offensive player, but the groundwork is in place for strong junior and senior seasons the next two years.
Best Freshman – Devon Dotson
So tough, so strong, so fast and so reliable. Dotson had as good a freshman year as anyone could have expected and has put himself well ahead of the pace of former KU greats Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham in terms of being in the conversation as the best point guard to ever play for Self. He still has to become a better and more consistent shooter to land on that list — Mason, Graham and Sherron Collins all could shoot the lights out — and another year of maturity and strength training will help him a ton, as well. But Dotson handled the role of running the show and playing major minutes incredibly well as a true freshman and there’s plenty of reason to think his best is still ahead.
Best Celebration – Locker Room at TCU
There were some Mitch Lightfoot roars and a few Ochai Agbaji demonstrations that could have contended for this spot, but as far as the best celebration by the entire team, that had to come after the Jayhawks’ tough road win at TCU, which kept them alive in the Big 12 race and temporarily answered the question of whether this Kansas team could find a way to win away from Allen Fieldhouse. Even KU AD Jeff Long got in on the locker room fun, and Self said in the postgame press conference that it was the best locker room the Jayhawks have had all season in terms of energy and pure elation.
Best Quote – Bill Self after January loss at Kentucky
Playing at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena for the second time in the past few seasons, Self was asked after the Wildcats’ win over the Jayhawks what he thought of Rupp’s atmosphere and environment. His answer? “It’s good,” Self said. “It’s no Allen Fieldhouse, but it’s good. It’s a terrific atmosphere. I said before the game, this is why you go to Kentucky or go to Kansas.” Even in defeat, Self found a way to try to pick up a victory over KU’s national rival.
With just two players signed in the Class of 2019 and the potential need for as many as four more, the Kansas basketball coaching staff continues to pound the pavement in search of future Jayhawks and new names are turning up every week.
The newest name on KU’s radar is that of 4-star prospect Harlond Beverly, a 6-foot-4, 170-pound shooting guard from Montverde (Fla.) Academy who recently received a scholarship offer from the Jayhawks.
Ranked No. 59 overall in the 2019 class and up 14 spots from his previous mark of No. 73 in the last round of Rivals.com rankings, Beverly is an interesting prospect for a couple of reasons.
No. 1, the mere fact that Kansas continues to look at guards even though the only two players currently signed in the 2019 class play that position is an indication that there could be some validity to the idea that Quentin Grimes, K.J. Lawson could join Charlie Moore in moving on this offseason.
No. 2, the program for which Beverly currently plays is also noteworthy given the fact that he’s a current teammate of another KU target, 5-star forward Precious Achiuwa, who is expected to make his decision sometime in late May. There’s not always a connection when a program like Kansas recruits teammates from the same school, but there’s no doubt that Achiuwa, who made an official visit to KU a few weeks ago, definitely could give Beverly some more feedback on what KU’s all about and what his visit was like.
Before we go any further, we should probably get to the most important part of this whole thing — who the heck is Harlond Beverly to begin with?
Originally from Farmington Hills, Mich., (just outside of Detroit), the shooting guard who starts and wears No. 10 at Montverde helped lead the Eagles to a 21-2 record during the 2018-19 regular season.
Montverde is currently preparing to make a run at a national title at the 8-team GEICO High School National Championship Tournament, April 4-6 in New York City.
In addition to several double-digit outings, Beverly won Game MVP honors back in December after a 57-50 victory over Paul VI at the Takeover Event in Washington D.C., where he led all scorers with 20 points, on 9-of-9 shooting, and added 4 steals in Montverde’s victory.
According to Rivals.com recruiting analyst Corey Evans, Beverly is unlikely to make a decision until making his official visits and, as of today, the shooting guard already has visited Indiana, unofficially, and plans to visit Georgia, which would leave him with plenty of official visits still to take if he so chooses.
According to Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com, Beverly is closing in on 20 offers from Division I programs, a fact that both inspires him beam with pride and makes the decision that much harder.
According to reports, Baylor and Xavier were the first to show serious interest in Detroit native, who left home to play his senior season at Montverde and bolstered his stock tremendously. Georgia, Miami (Fla.), Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Michigan State, Ohio State and, of course, Kansas, are some of the other programs in the mix for Beverly as we approach April.
There’s little doubt that Kansas basketball fans do not find the Final Four to be nearly as enjoyable when the Jayhawks aren’t in it.
But there may be a small silver lining to this year’s foursome.
Finalized on Sunday, with thrilling victories by 2 seed Michigan State over Duke and 5 seed Auburn over Kentucky, this year’s Final Four in Minneapolis will feature No. 1 seed Virginia, No. 2 seed Michigan State, No. 3 seed Texas Tech and No. 5 Auburn.
So where’s the silver lining? It comes from the fact that the Jayhawks played three of those four teams this season and brought home a 2-2 record against them.
That may not hang a banner or bring Lawrence to life next weekend, but it certainly does validate what we heard KU coach Bill Self say all season long in about a dozen different ways — that KU’s schedule was a monster.
Auburn, of course, was not actually on KU’s schedule but instead became the team standing between the Jayhawks and advancing in the Big Dance, but it does not do anything to diminish the cast of characters the Jayhawks squared off against during their 26-10 2018-19 season.
Looking back, 23 of KU’s 36 games came against teams ranked in KenPom.com’s Top 40. Twelve of those came against teams in the KenPom Top 21 and the average ranking of KU’s 10 losses came in at No. 29 in the nation.
It may not have been the best or most memorable season for Kansas fans or the players and coaches in the program. But it was not because the Jayhawks lost to a bunch of teams they should not have lost to. Sure, there were one or two of those mixed in during the season, but isn’t that true for just about every team in the country?
Four freshmen started the final 13 games of the season and two players that finished among KU’s top three scorers — in terms of points per game — missed a combined 40 games. That’s more than a full season.
That, along with KU’s tough schedule — the hardest in the nation according to KenPom — turned a season that began with incredibly high hopes into one full of disappointment and frustration.
And, yeah, watching four other teams — two of which you beat at one point this season — compete to cut down the nets during the final weekend of the college basketball season probably isn’t a lot of fun.
But knowing that three of the four were on your schedule is not the worst consolation prize either. With a few better breaks, a bounce here or there and a little luck in the injury department, a case could be made that the Jayhawks could be right there with them next weekend.
That may not change the way the 2018-19 season is remembered, but maybe it takes some of the sting out of it.
“It was a fun team to be around, but it was not one in which we ever had momentum,” KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World over the weekend, while reflecting back on the 2018-19 season. “We’d play better, but then there’d be something off the court, or on the court with personnel, that would happen and it just never allowed us to get momentum like teams in the past.”
With another Kansas basketball season now in the books and uncertainty on the horizon for the KU roster, it’s time to take a quick look at some key dates that could have an impact on the Jayhawks both today and in the future.
We all know that KU is losing just one senior from the 2018-19 roster. And we also know that Bill Self and company have signed two Class of 2019 guards — Christian Braun of Blue Valley Northwest and Issac McBride of Little Rock, Ark. — and are still on the hunt for a few more players to round out the current recruiting class.
What we don’t know is exactly how many spots Self will need to fill. KU could have as many as six of its 13 scholarships available in the coming weeks, and adding that many players to the 2019-20 roster would be a chore and almost certainly would require Self to add a couple of graduate transfers to the mix along with landing a few more players in the prep class of 2019.
Some of that was addressed earlier this week in my player-by-player look at the future of the KU roster. This one will dive a little deeper and focus only on the players who might be turning pro.
Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike and Quentin Grimes sit at the top of that list, with K.J. Lawson also a possibility.
In order to do so, that group — and any other Jayhawks who feel like making the jump — will have to follow a strict process to make sure they’re (a) eligible to be drafted and (b) eligible to return should they not like what they hear in terms of feedback from the NBA in the weeks ahead.
Hiring an agent and staying in the draft of course, takes all of the guesswork out of the equation and immediately forfeits any player’s remaining college eligibility. The only wrinkle there is in the case of those players who stay in the draft and hire an agent but do not get drafted.
Those players, thanks to a new rule in play for the first time this year, are now eligible to return to school provided they terminate all agreements with their agents. It remains to be seen how this impacts both the individual players and the college game, but it certainly provides the players with a little more freedom to explore their options.
Neither Lagerald Vick nor Udoka Azubuike hired an agent a year ago, and, as a result, both were able to return to KU for the 2018-19 season.
We should know more about the intentions of Lawson, Azubuike, Grimes and potentially others in the next week or so. But while we wait for them to announce their plans, here’s a quick look at some dates they surely have circled on their calendars.
**• April 11 - The deadline for underclassmen to file paperwork for an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, which, if granted, would allow them to hire an NCAA-certified agent to help guide them through the pre-draft process. The new rule, which went into affect last August, is yet another way of allowing underclassmen to retain their college eligibility while exploring a jump to the NBA.
• April 21 – NBA Draft early entry eligibility deadline
Any player wishing to test the waters and/or be eligible for the 2019 NBA draft must declare his intentions by 10:59 p.m. Central on Sunday, April 21. Failure to do so will make the player ineligible in the 2019 draft. Doing so without hiring an agent will allow the player to retain his college eligibility.
• May 14-19 – NBA Draft Combine
This six-day event in Chicago is just like the NFL’s version by the same name, with workouts, medical tests, team interviews and full five-on-five scrimmages highlighting the event. Here, players can gather feedback from NBA officials about their game, what teams like, what they don’t like and what they believe the player needs to work on. Attendance is by-invitation only and the combine has proven to be an incredibly valuable tool for those trying to make up their minds to stay in school or turn pro.
• May 29 – NBA Draft early entry withdrawal deadline
This is a big one and it’s the day that both Azubuike last year and Svi Mykhailiuk the year before made their final decisions to return to KU instead of turning pro. That decision, if any of the current Jayhawks elect to go that route, will have to be made by 4 p.m. Central on Monday, June 10 (or earlier).
• June 20 – 2019 NBA Draft
It’s too early to know exactly which Jayhawks will be draft eligible and which won’t, but with Azubuike, Lawson and Grimes all having the potential to leave early, it’s hard to imagine this date not meaning something to the KU program. There aren’t any lottery picks on the current roster and might not even be any first-round picks — although I do think Grimes could play himself into the end of the first round by testing well at the combine — but it’s hard to imagine at least one or two of these guys not getting picked in the second round.
Real quick, here’s a little more about the combine and eligibility requirements.
Prior to 2016, players could only declare for and withdraw from the NBA draft one time. However, that rule changed with the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and players are now allowed to withdraw from draft consideration twice during their collegiate careers, provided they follow the proper timeline and do not hire an agent.
That’s a lot of information and a lot of dates to keep straight, which is why it’s so important for these guys to have good people in their corners working on their behalf. Usually that’s family and friends — Vick’s mom, LaLa, did a masterful job of keeping her son’s eligibility a year ago — but Self also has proven to be a tremendous asset for his players when it comes to the stay-or-go decision and all of the details that come with it.
We should all know a lot more when we find out which players are planning to test and which are not.
In the past, combine invitations went out a week or so after the early entry eligibility deadline, so look for the KU crew to know which players are headed to the combine sometime in late April.
Not only will that help shape their individual decisions, but it also could play a key role in KU’s recruiting plans for the rest of the Class of 2019.
Generally speaking, the annual McDonald’s All-American game featuring some of the top talent in high school basketball, is not confused for a regular basketball game.
From the style of play to the final score and the highlight-reel moments that fill the court, the game is more of a showcase of the talents and skills the players possess, a reward of sorts for earning the honor and playing in one of the most famous all-star events in the country.
Such was the case Wednesday night, when the East squad knocked off the West squad, 115-100 in Atlanta.
Most years the game features at least a future Jayhawk or two, which makes tracking the stats and signature moments enjoyable for fans of Kansas basketball.
And while this year’s game may ending up falling in that category, nobody currently committed to Kansas played in the game on Wednesday.
That said, there was still plenty of reason for KU fans to pay attention, with a pair of 2019 prospects playing big roles for their teams.
Top 10 prospect Matt Hurt played 16 minutes for the West squad and made 4-of-7 shots for 8 points and 5 rebounds in 16 minutes. Hurt flashed some of his versatility and athleticism in dropping in those buckets but did not do much to stand out.
Still, he’s long been considered one of the top players in the class — ranked No. 7 overall by Rivals.com — and remains a major target for Kansas.
Hurt said this week, while preparing for the McDonald’s game, that he would announce his college decision on April 19 — a day before his 19th birthday — and he will be choosing between KU, Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina.
Another McDonald’s All-American on KU’s radar who has been mostly under the radar during his recruitment is 6-9, 215-pound forward Precious Achiuwa, of Montverde Academy in Florida.
And Achiuwa absolutely tore it up on Wednesday night. He finished with 22 points and 9 rebounds on 10-of-20 shooting in 17 minutes and took advantage of the game’s style and format to show his all-around game, finishing with five offensive rebounds, a couple of highlight dunks, a 3-pointer, a steal and equal time playing on the perimeter and in the post.
There’s little doubt that Achiuwa would play the 4 in college, wherever he decides to play, and his versatility and athleticism make him an option to fit into any lineup and any style.
This week, Achiuwa told Evan Daniels of 247 Sports that his recruitment remained wide open but also named Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis, Georgia and UCLA when talking about the programs that have given him the most attention.
Achiuwa made an official visit to KU late during the 2018-19 season and he told Daniels that the visit went “great.”
“The fanbase was really amazing,” he said. “The fans are really energetic during the game, and that’s something you don’t see every place.”
As for a decision day for Achiuwa, that could come much later this spring. The forward who is ranked No. 16 in the 2019 class by Rivals.com, told Daniels that he expected to make a decision in late May.
“No rush at all,” he told Daniels. “I’m very confident. I’m going to let everything play out and see how situations (are) going to be in the first place and then myself and my family we will sit down and make a decision.”
The review of the appeal of the NCAA’s suspension of Kansas sophomore Silvio De Sousa remains ongoing and KU officials say they’re working on it “daily.”
Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long said as much Tuesday night on the second edition of “Hawk Talk” with Jeff Long on 1320 KLWN radio, when answering a question from the audience seeking an update on De Sousa’s situation.
Requests by the Journal-World to discuss the appeal with Long have been received but not granted.
“There’s not a whole lot I can add,” Long said Tuesday on “Hawk Talk.” “But I do want our fans to know, and coach (Bill) Self certainly knows this, there’s not a single day that we’re not spending time on that and working on Silvio.”
It’s been 53 days since Long announced that KU was appealing the NCAA’s two-season suspension of De Sousa, which stemmed from the involvement of De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, in a pay-for-play scandal that landed in federal court and resulted in the conviction of three men with ties to Adidas.
Long said on Feb. 2, one day after the NCAA announced the suspension, that KU had “a commitment from (the NCAA) that they will move along as quickly as possible.” But as the Jayhawks head into another offseason, De Sousa’s future remains up in the air and there is no indication of when a ruling on the appeal might come.
“I’m sure he doesn’t understand the process because, I’ll be candid, there’s many times I don’t understand the process,” Long said on “Hawk Talk.” “But we are working on it daily. I’m confident that we will eventually get the appeal in in the right way and I’m hopeful that we’ll have a positive outcome.”
He added: “There’s nothing more important to us than the student-athletes in our program and Silvio’s just an incredible young man. I’m so impressed with the way he’s carried himself and conducted himself and remained positive through this very challenging (situation).”
Despite missing the entire 2018-19 season, De Sousa remained a part of the Kansas basketball program in every capacity beyond game nights. He practiced with the team, traveled to road games, sat on the bench to support his teammates and continued to attend classes, tutoring sessions and workouts like any other member of the program.
Well, here we are. It’s the first Monday following the end of another Kansas basketball season and, predictably, the skies are gray and cloudy around Lawrence, Kansas, and there’s a slight breeze and still a chill in the air.
Not to worry, KU fans. The forecast for the rest of the week — at least locally — looks much better, with sunshine returning and temperatures soaring into the 70s.
It’s funny, but in some ways, that very well could be a metaphor for the Kansas men’s basketball roster, which enters the offseason fraught with uncertainty and half of a dozen players loaded with options.
Sure this team lost 10 games and bowed out in the second round. And, yeah, the season as a whole was a rocky ride full of frustration, disappointment and confusion.
But the lessons learned during those days will no doubt benefit this program in the not-too-distant future and several key members of this year’s squad will be back with some serious motivation next season.
A handful won’t, of course; that’s the case every year. And that’s at least a part of why those post-NCAA Tournament-loss locker rooms are filled with tears and emotion. No matter how one season ends, the next will almost certainly feature a new cast of characters, new roles, new challenges and the patience required to put it all together.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at KU’s roster heading into the offseason. We’ll dive deeper into all of these situations and scenarios in the months and weeks ahead. But enough people are curious today about so many of these players’ futures that it’s worth addressing it quickly right away.
Remember, the information below is based on what I know, think and/or have heard as of March 25, 2019. Things certainly can change — and often do — and we’ll be there every step of the way tracking any decisions and movement that any of these players make.
First, The Starting Five:
• Devon Dotson – I can’t recall anyone taking losses at Kansas quite as hard as Dotson did all season. From the first loss of the year at Arizona State (I’m still convinced that up until that point Dotson thought he would win every game he played at KU) to the tearful ending last Saturday, Dotson’s emotions often came pouring out following KU’s losses, which perfectly fits the way he plays with passion and intensity on the floor. Dotson will be back for the Jayhawks next season and he’ll have an even bigger role than he did this season. In addition to becoming a stronger leader, I look for the point guard from Charlotte to become a better scorer and to get even stronger. First-team all-Big 12 is well within reach for the sophomore-to-be, who will no doubt be a pro someday. The hope among KU fans is that someday is still two or three years down the road, but Dotson is well on his way after a fabulous first year.
• Ochai Agbaji – As much fun as Ochai’s season was, it ended on a bit of a sour note. After exploding onto the scene midway through the season, Agbaji hit a bit of a wall down the stretch and never fully got his mojo back. He’ll find it this offseason — in a big way — and he, along with Dotson, will enter the 2019-20 season as the unquestioned leaders and face of this KU program. There was some talk about Agbaji finding his way onto the NBA radar following his hot start. And, yeah, they know about the kid now. But he still has work to do in college and he both knows that and wants to do it, so there’s no reason to expect anything but a strong return from one of KU’s most exciting players.
• Quentin Grimes – There’s no denying that Grimes’ first season as a Jayhawk left a little to be desired. The fans will tell you that, Grimes will tell you that, pretty much anyone you ask will tell you that. But give the guy credit for being a consistent and reliable starter who played big minutes night in and night out and gave it his best shot. There were times when Grimes showed flashes of the player many expected him to be. There were other times where he looked lost, overwhelmed or in his own head. That’s all part of being a freshman college basketball player and, back in the day, used to be completely OK. These days, though, with everyone expecting these highly ranked players to explode, it can leave people scratching their heads and criticizing the kid. There’s no doubt in my mind that Grimes’ size, skill set, age and upside still make him an incredibly attractive option in the eyes of NBA scouts. We’re not talking lottery pick like people projected when he came to KU, but he’s still very draftable. Things definitely could change, but I’m moving forward with the idea that Grimes will seriously explore making the jump to the NBA and, if the feedback he gets is good, will not be back at KU next season.
• Dedric Lawson – If ever there were a player who you thought might be willing to come back for his senior year just because of his vibe and personality, Lawson is it. But the reality of his situation makes it hard to see the junior forward returning. For starters, he averaged a double-double this season and was a unanimous pick for first-team all-Big 12 honors. If he were to return, he would have to at least do that again or risk hurting his stock in the eyes of the NBA. That’s pretty risky considering so few players have ever even come close to putting up the kind of numbers Lawson did under Self. Beyond that, Lawson has now put off his NBA dream for four seasons of college — two at Memphis, a transfer year and this season at KU. That’s a long time to wait for a player who once was a Top 10 prospect. And even though there are no guarantees that he’ll be drafted — my guess at this point is he’d be a second round pick — I think Lawson is ready to roll the dice and get his pro career started.
• David McCormack – His strong end to the season should fuel him for a big jump this offseason. And that is, without question, one of the brightest silver linings to come from the disappointing 2018-19 season. McCormack’s a monster. He has great size, an even better motor and skills that, when he harnesses them, will make him a load to handle for any team. Beyond that, the guy doesn’t know anything other than hard work. He’s bright part of KU’s future — both in the immediate and long-term looks — and he’ll come back ready for a much bigger role in 2019-20. By the way, I’m still really struggling to transition to putting the year 2020 into my writing. Unreal!
• Marcus Garrett – As close to a sixth starter as the Jayhawks have, Garrett’s value is insane. A lockdown defender and fearless competitor with the type of demeanor that makes him ready for anything and everything the coaching staff could ask him to do. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces with this team and program, so it’s hard to know whether Garrett will be in the mix as a starting option or stay in his incredibly valuable role as a reliable sub off the bench. Either way, he’ll be a veteran next season and that will be very good news for Kansas.
• Mitch Lightfoot – Speaking of veterans, here’s your guy. Senior Mitch will be back and better than ever next season, ready to give everything he’s got to his final hurrah with his beloved Jayhawks. It’s far too soon to know exactly what that will mean in terms of the role he’ll play, but this much we know, for three seasons Lightfoot has been a guy that people thought would not have a huge role and for three seasons he’s found a way to be a key part of KU’s rotation. No reason to doubt him now. That urgency he’ll feel from it being his last season — both when it arrives and in the offseason leading up to it — should push Lightfoot to not only bring the best out of himself but to demand it from others, too.
• K.J. Lawson – His is one of the most interesting situations on this entire roster. On pace to graduate this semester — he’s also getting married in July — the older of the Lawson brothers easily could move on before the start of next season. But there’s something about it that leads me to believe he’ll be back. I asked him in the locker room on Saturday if he and Dedric could do different things and go different ways and he said, “definitely.” That doesn’t mean either has made up his mind yet on what the future holds, but it does mean that even if Dedric goes pro, K.J. could return to KU for another year. He loves it here and he found a nice role during the second half of the season. Like I said, interesting.
• Charlie Moore – Moore had a rough year with the Jayhawks. He played, but often struggled when he was out there and did not look like the 13-points-per-game-at-Cal-as-a-freshman player that he was. Beyond that, the biggest area where KU was hoping to get help from Moore — 3-point shooting — yielded just 26.7 percent shooting for the season from downtown and very little consistency. It’s hard to see Moore having any bigger role a year from now and because of that it’s not hard to see him exploring the idea of moving on. I’m sure he wants to play. And I’m not sure the minutes will be there for him at KU. Beyond that, as a junior next season, the clock is ticking on his college career. If he’s back, he’s a deep bench player at best. But don’t be shocked if he looks around and finds a better fit.
• Udoka Azubuike – After suffering his third significant injury in three seasons, the 7-foot center missed all but nine games of KU’s 2018-19 season and his absence significantly impacted the Jayhawks’ chances at a big run. So what’s next for the big fella? That’s anybody’s guess, but I wouldn’t bank on him returning to KU. Azubuike wanted to leave after his sophomore season and took his decision to return all the way down to the end of the deadline to pull his name out of draft consideration following the NBA’s pre-draft combine. There’s little doubt that his desire to leave between then and now has changed all that much and, the reality of it is, Azubuike may be looking at his injury situation as a risk and something that he does not want to derail any hopes of a pro basketball future. His situation is right up there with K.J. Lawson’s in terms of the most interesting to me. There’s no doubt that he could be back, but, again, I wouldn’t say anybody should count on that as things stand today.
• Silvio De Sousa – As far as we know, KU is still waiting for a ruling on the appeal of De Sousa’s two-year suspension, but I do think there’s some optimism around the program that the penalty will become less harsh. Whether that means he gets the entire 2019-20 season back or maybe just has to sit an additional 5-10 games, I think the prospects are good that De Sousa could play at some point next year. If that’s the case, he’ll be back for sure. Even if it’s not, though, I think De Sousa still could stay. For one, he lives like a king here and is loved by the entire KU basketball community. For two, this place and the people here have become like family to him and, remember, Angola is a long way away. Beyond that, he continues to get the best training, coaching and nutrition possible, all while working toward his degree at the same time. It wouldn’t shock me if he left if the appeal is denied, but I think De Sousa loves KU too much to just run away quickly.
• Christian Braun – The guard from nearby Blue Valley Northwest had another monster year while leading the Huskies to a state title. He’s tough, can shoot it, is fearless and works as hard as anyone out there. The idea of him playing some kind of role right away is not in any way, shape or form a long shot. With his size and athletic ability, he definitely can be in the mix, especially if Grimes, Moore or K.J. Lawson leave.
• Issac McBride – Like Braun, I think this true point guard from Little Rock, Ark., also has a chance to come in and gain immediate playing time. The kid’s a scorer. And KU needs people who can score. It’s not just that he can shoot it or can finish — and he can do both very well — but McBride can create his own shot and scoring opportunities pretty much anytime and anywhere. He’ll have a golden opportunity to be the primary back-up to Dotson next season and if he’s able to handle it, his presence will help Dotson a ton, too.
The 2019 Targets:
• Matt Hurt – Top 10 prospect in the Class of 2019 is still at the very top of KU’s recruiting wish list and there’s no reason to think that the Jayhawks can’t land him. They’ve been on him the longest, they’ve put in the time and resources necessary to sell Hurt and his family on the KU program and experience. And there figures to be immediate playing time and a big role for Hurt in the lineup regardless of who stays and who goes. Duke has made some noise in its pursuit of Hurt in recent weeks and those two are probably his top options at the moment. If KU can land him, he’ll turn the 2019 class into a big deal.
• Cassius Stanley – Top 35 shooting guard who is a freak athlete out in California at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds. Stanley has liked KU for a long time and is merely waiting a few more weeks to announce his college choice between KU, Oregon and UCLA on April 17, the first day of the spring signing period. Stanley choosing KU would go a long way toward upgrading the athleticism on the roster and would be huge news for the 2019 class.
• Precious Achiuwa – The 6-9, 215-pound power forward from Montverde Academy has been on KU’s radar for a while and just recently took an official visit to campus. His physical style and good size would be a big get for the Jayhawks who could be looking to replace a lot of rebounds if Dedric Lawson turns pro.
• Tristan Enaruna – A 6-7, 205-pound small forward from Mt. Pleasant, Utah, Enaruna has landed more heavily on the KU radar in recent weeks because of his good size, athleticism and long-term potential. Ranked No. 105 by Rivals.com in the current class — one spot behind McBride — Enaruna is also considering Creighton, Georgia Tech, Illinois and others.
As you can see, there’s a lot up in the air with this roster moving forward, from recruiting pieces to stay-or-go decisions. And depending on how things play out, there could even be a few other names that surface as possible additions, be them late bloomers on the recruiting scene or grad transfers who help fill out the roster.
What you’ve read here is merely a best guess as of today about what could happen, and we’ll stay on top of it in the weeks and months ahead to bring you as many updates as possible on all of these players, and others, who might shape the 2019-20 Kansas basketball roster and be a part of what KU hopes is another deep run a year from now.
Saturday’s 2nd half was all about pride, but the season-ending loss was still devastating for Kansas
Salt Lake City — It was not words that were the currency of choice in the Kansas locker room following Saturday’s 89-75 loss to 5th-seeded Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but sounds and sniffles and pauses and sighs.
That was all that was needed to describe the devastation and disappointing pulsing its way through KU’s small corner of Vivint Smart Home Arena that will forever be known as the place that the challenging 2018-19 season went to die.
Devon Dotson sat with a towel on his head and did his best to answer questions from reporters about what went wrong and what comes next.
Mitch Lightfoot stayed strong early but eventually let the tears go as more time passed. And then there was Dedric Lawson, KU’s All-American forward who recorded yet another double-double but finished the season sobbing into a towel on his lap and painfully preaching about how this was his fault, he let his team down, he didn’t do enough.
“It hurts. It hurts bad,” Dotson said in a muted tone. “The season’s over. It just hurts. Really, it just hurts.”
The end always hurts. That’s nothing new. But there was something different about this ending, for this team, during this particular season.
After months of adversity, ups and downs, disappointing moments and even a few high hopes, the Jayhawks finally fell for the last time. And this wasn’t one of those of can’t-get-over-the-hump falls. This was a tumble-from-the-tree-house-with-no-time-to-free-your-hands-to-break-your-fall loss.
And those are the kinds of losses that leave you gasping to catch your breath and wondering what you could’ve done different for hours and days on end.
Down 10 before they could blink, 17 a few minutes later and 26 by halftime, the Jayhawks, if they were being honest, knew in the locker room after the first 20 minutes that a comeback was probably not in the cards.
Sure, their hearts wanted it. And, yeah, even parts of their brains might have believed it was possible. But they also knew what kind of animal was on the opposing bench and even if the Jayhawks had played their absolute best for the entire 20-minute second half, they knew they probably still would not have found enough good fortune to deliver what would have been the largest comeback in school history.
So at that point, their minds shifted to the one thing they could still control — playing with pride and going out with their heads held high.
“That’s what it’s about,” Dotson said. “I mean, we were down by like 20 and we just wanted to give them something to guard.”
Added Lightfoot, who said Saturday’s feeling was the worst of the three NCAA Tournament losses he has experienced while at Kansas: “So many guys care so much about it and it’s more about the pride and the place you play at and the people who back you and each other and coaches. We were fighting for everything.”
Doing so allowed the Jayhawks to keep the final score respectable. The 89-75 margin on the scoreboard certainly was not reflective of the way Auburn dominated the game. But it was fair in that it showed that Kansas never laid down.
Sophomore guard K.J. Lawson, who just wrapped up his first season as a Jayhawk, said that aspect of Saturday’s setback was incredibly important to everyone in the Kansas locker room.
The program means too much to too many people for this group of guys — a crew that has been ridiculed and criticized, cussed and consoled, that will always be remembered as the team that didn’t win the Big 12 regular season title — to let what happened in the first half be the lasting memory of a season gone wrong.
So they scrapped. And fought. And somehow played well enough to outscore Auburn by a dozen in the second half. And this was no pity party either. This was a real effort against an Auburn squad that had its starters on the floor into the final few minutes. So that was at least something.
K.J. Lawson drew a comparison to a boxing match in which the challenger was being thoroughly beaten and out-boxed by the champ.
“You’re just playing for pride, playing for those guys that came before us,” Lawson said. “At that point, you just have to make it respectable. You know, this is the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t really help any, but you still have to do it. That’s like a moral victory, trying to get to the 12th round. I know I’m about to get knocked out, but it just shows we didn’t give up and just let them crack us in our dome.”
Had the halves been flipped, it might have been Kansas that left Utah moving on to the Sweet 16 with its dreams of playing for a national championship still in tact.
After all, KU out-shot Auburn 59.4 percent to 48 percent in the second half, including 55.6 to 30.8 from 3-point range.
But those numbers only show indirectly how utterly different the first half was. After all, even though KU caught fire and made Auburn work, the Tigers still did shoot nearly 50 percent in the second half. That came in stark contrast to the 29.6 percent shooting the Jayhawks delivered in the first half.
“I’m proud of our kids,” KU coach Bill Self said with complete sincerity. “We hung in there (in the) second half and didn’t get a lot of stops.”
The tears will flow for a while still. The pain will last. And some of these guys will never fully get over the disappointment they felt on Saturday night. But at least that second half will help. At least they have that. At least they didn’t lay down and lose by 52, even if it might have felt like it.
“Definitely better effort,” Dotson said of the second half. “We showed signs. But, you know, a loss is a loss. And this one hurts. I don’t know. I’m just sad, heartbroken from this loss.”