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Posts tagged with 2020-21 Season

Kansas men’s basketball team continues efforts to grow and learn off the court

A portion of this week's Zoom call with ESPN host Maria Taylor and the Kansas basketball team, during which Taylor, in the bottom left corner, is showing off her blue KU basketball shoes to the group.

A portion of this week's Zoom call with ESPN host Maria Taylor and the Kansas basketball team, during which Taylor, in the bottom left corner, is showing off her blue KU basketball shoes to the group. by Matt Tait

As part of their ongoing efforts to learn and grow in areas beyond the court, the members of the Kansas men’s basketball team recently participated in a Zoom chat with ESPN’s Maria Taylor, designed to give them tips and advice for how to use their platform wisely.

“Our team is trying to learn, too,” KU coach Bill Self explained during a portion of the call that was made public through KU’s Twitter account. And our team is trying to get better. My team has been unbelievable. It’s the most mature group I’ve had as far as dealing with extra-curricular things outside of basketball.”

When it comes to racial injustice, police brutality, unity or getting more involved in the voting process, the Jayhawks, as a collective group, have shared their thoughts through videos and messages on social media during the past few months.

Self said the coaching staff has given the players “assignments” to inspire critical thinking and that the players, in turn, have challenged Self with similar requests.

The goal, he said, is for everyone associated with the program to “educate themselves in a way where we can hopefully speak somewhat intelligently about some of the issues.”

That’s where Taylor entered the picture. In addition to participating as a co-host on the ESPN networks for shows that highlight thought-provoking conversations about those same issues, Taylor found herself in the middle of a recent social media storm that led to the firing of a Chicago sports talk radio host.

Taylor, who made her debut as a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football last week had her outfit criticized by radio host Dan McNeil, who posted and deleted a tweet that shared his thoughts that Taylor looked more like she should be hosting an adult film awards show.

Dozens of people throughout the sports world supported Taylor through the incident and McNeil lost his job.

While it’s unlikely that the Jayhawks will ever encounter that exact scenario, Taylor’s message was universal and emphasized how to handle those types of situations, regardless of the nature of the specific content.

“I do suggest that you guys get prepared, whatever you're going to do as a team, for the criticism,” she said during the short clip shown on Twitter. “Be prepared for it to be polarizing and be prepared to have tough skin. As athletes you already have it. … How are you going to be when it’s the fans attacking you not just for your basketball IQ or the game (but) about who you are as a person? Are you ready to deal with that? And if you’re not, that’s fine, but don’t say anything then. Wait until you're personally strong enough to deal with that criticism.”

Taylor, who herself responded to McNeil’s tweet by inviting him to come on the NBA Countdown show she hosted Tuesday night — adding, “Hey ladies remember you can wear whatever you feel confident in! — emphasized the fact that, although the Jayhawks represent the program, the university and Jayhawks everywhere, they are still individuals with their own beliefs and the ability to share them as they choose.

“It’s been really interesting throughout this journey to hear how different people and different players are using their voices and are using their platforms,” Taylor told Self and company on the Zoom call. “There’s no wrong or right way to do it.”

Earlier this week, the Jayhawks also met with three members of local law enforcement organizations — Deputy Chief James Anguiano, Lieutenant Myrone Grady and Detective Jack Campbell — for what assistant coach Jerrance Howard described on his Instagram account as “a real, raw and genuine conversation with our players and staff about what to know when interacting with law enforcement.”

“It was a conversation that needed to be held,” Howard added. “And we all learned and benefit from this discussion. Looking forward to building a relationship to help create change.”

None by Kansas Basketball

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Schedule scramble well under way now that college basketball has its start date

Kansas head coach Bill Self looks for clarification from an official during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self looks for clarification from an official during the second half on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In the two days since the NCAA announced Nov. 25 as the official start date for the 2020-21 college hoops season, we already have seen some serious movement on the scheduling front.

Nothing official yet, but teams, tournaments and conferences across the country are clearly in the process of trying to redraw their schedules.

Normally at this time of year, we’re waiting for the release of the Big 12 Conference portion of the schedule, which seems to come out later and later each year.

It would make plenty of sense then for KU and the rest of the league to release their 2020-21 schedules in their entirety as soon as they’re able to figure out what to do with the nine nonconference games they’re allowed to have this season.

Time will tell if that’s the way it plays out or if we’ll get a slow release of several different games before the Big 12 slate comes out.

For now, though, here’s a quick look at a few of the more notable moves from the past two days that might soon affect the Kansas men’s basketball team.

• According to a Friday morning Tweet from Andy Katz, of NCAA.com, it looks as if the Champions Classic, which will feature KU versus Kentucky and Duke against Michigan State, is eyeing the first week of December in Orlando as its time and location in 2020.

Katz called the Dec. 1-5 timeline tentative in the tweet and, if that holds it would move the Champions Classic back from the season-opening tipoff event to the second major tournament of 2020, with the Maui Invitational moving from Hawaii to Asheville, N.C. and slated for Nov. 30 through Dec. 2.

I’ve heard no new talk of the Champions Classic event becoming a round-robin extravaganza, but did find at least one coach who had already kicked around the idea — Kentucky’s John Calipari.

According to KentuckySportsRadio.com, Calipari tossed out the idea of playing all three teams in the Classic back in August, saying, “With basketball, we’re talking 12 players, a party of 20. I think the bubble or a pod, it’s been shown to work now. Do you have multiple bubbles or pods? Do we go and play the Champions Classic in a bubble, without fans, and we play each other? We all play each other round-robin? We could walk away with three games (played).”

It looks today like the format will hold to two games instead of six, but it’s clear that they’re still ironing out the details.

None by Andy Katz

• Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com tweeted Friday morning that the Big 12 Conference was holding onto two dates in mid-to-late December to host conference games.

Although the specifics of those dates/games has not been made available yet, the idea here is that the Big 12 clearly wants to get things going as soon as possible and has more or less sent out save-the-date correspondence to the schools so they know not to schedule any non-con action on those particular dates.

The Big 12 schedule typically does not begin until the first week of January — Jan. 2 last season — although there have been a couple of conference games played during the last week of December in recent years.

Moving that up to mid-December this year would be notable, but would also make sense given the fact that the schedules as a whole will be four games lighter than last year, dropping from 31 regular season games to a maximum of 27.

• Louisville coach Chris Mack has taken to Twitter to try to get his program in the running to be a host site if college basketball looks at mini-bubbles to play at least part of its nonconference games in 2020.

Mack’s idea is simple and reads, “Hey D1s, get your games here. Louisville Non Conference Bubble.”

The plan, according to the head coach, is for 8-12 teams to play 3-5 games apiece all in Louisville between Nov. 25 and Dec. 5.

Mack notes that lodging would be no problem and that medical protocols also would be a part of the plan.

With a hint of infomercial comedic relief, the Louisville coach adds, “Spots filling fast. Let’s Gooooooooooo.”

Who knows if those spots really are filling fast, but the idea makes plenty of sense is and certainly one that KU could try to pull off at Allen Fieldhouse, as well.

Think about the teams who could come to Lawrence to play in a bubble-type environment to get half of their nonconference games in — Creighton, Missouri, Wichita State, Nebraska, Tulsa, Iowa and Arkansas all would have easy drives to Lawrence. And, if you’re looking to fill out the field with some teams that you’re more accustomed to seeing in November and December, Missouri State, Omaha, St. Louis and Kansas City could be added to the list, as well.

If Lawrence doesn’t work for some reason — lodging? — something similar could probably be pulled off at T-Mobile Center down the road in Kansas City, Mo.

None by Chris Mack

Reply 2 comments from Matt Tait Dirk Medema

A simple idea that could make KU’s 2020-21 nonconference slate spectacular

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) and Duke forward Javin DeLaurier reach for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) and Duke forward Javin DeLaurier reach for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) by Associated Press

Now that we know the start date for the 2020-21 college basketball season, it’s time to start diving a little deeper into what the Kansas men’s basketball schedule might look like.

While four games on the schedule were slated to take place before the new Nov. 25 start date, it’s likely that at least one of them will be saved.

That, of course, is the Champions Classic clash with Kentucky, previously scheduled for Nov. 10 in Chicago. Recent reports indicate that the event, which also features Duke playing Michigan State, could be moved to a bubble-type setting in Orlando, Fla., where seven other early-season hoops tournaments could be moved.

Here’s a fun thought that would help offset the loss of those three other games: Why not replace them with KU vs. Duke and KU vs. Michigan State, as well?

Yep. We’re talking full Champions Classic round-robin fun in 2020. What better way to kick off a new college basketball season than that?

You wouldn’t want to do this every year, of course. There’s something fun about the rotation of the three opponents and taking the show to different cities each season. But this season, when good games are at a premium and adjusting to these last-minute scheduling constraints is a little tougher than normal, why not take advantage of what’s already in place?

If the event does in fact get moved to Orlando, all four teams will already make the arrangements and go through the necessary steps to make the first two games possible.

At that point, why not add two more per team? They would all already be approved to be in the bubble and the testing and protocol put in place for the event would help ensure that each team could play two more games, as well.

Start it on Nov. 25, a Wednesday, with KU vs. Kentucky and Duke vs. Michigan State.

Give the teams Thanksgiving off and a couple of days to prepare and play the next doubleheader on Saturday, Nov. 28, with KU facing Michigan State and Kentucky playing Duke.

After that, a couple more days of rest and preparation is followed by one more doubleheader on Dec. 1, a Tuesday, the day the Champions Classic is typically played, with Kansas tangling with Duke and Michigan State taking on Kentucky.

Just like that, in a week’s time, you’d have college basketball running full steam ahead and four of the top programs in the country would have three quality games already under their belts.

That would leave the rest of December to complete nonconference play, and, there would be plenty of time to get it in.

Heck, at that point, since you’re already down there in a controlled environment, why not have Georgetown, UCLA and Virginia come to Orlando right after that to knock out the Wooden Legacy tournament that was supposed to take place in November? That event was also on the list of those that could potentially get moved to Orlando.

Play those two games (matchups have yet to be determined) Dec. 3-6 and head home needing just four more non-con games in the next four weeks, which would work well with the holidays and final exams in there, to get to nine, setting up the 18-game, Big 12 round-robin schedule that would get you to this year’s maximum number of games allowed by the NCAA of 27.

The biggest advantage to playing five of the nine non-con games in Orlando — beyond the quality of the competition — would be the fact that you're eliminating the risk of one of the teams having to cancel because of a 14-day quarantine or anything else virus-related that could pop up and derail a schedule.

After Orlando, the four nonconference games in December could be spectacular, too.

KU and Mizzou could keep their game at T-Mobile Center on Dec. 12.

Creighton could still come to Allen Fieldhouse the following week, and, depending on what the Pac-12 is doing by then, you could still easily fit in the Colorado and USC games before the end of the year.

If the Pac-12 is out, KU would need to keep just one of those games on the schedule — say Stephen F. Austin — and could still be in position to play the Big 12/SEC Challenge game in January if that event remains on the schedule.

It’s certainly different, and it would take some getting used to, but with only nine non-con games available under this year’s rules, knocking out five of them in Orlando right away sure makes a lot of sense.

The fact that those five games would be stellar matchups with mega programs is merely a bonus and something that college basketball fans across the country would surely love.

Reply 7 comments from Brian Skelly Micky Baker Gerry Butler Matt Tait Tony Bandle Dirk Medema

Just 1 Jayhawk still standing in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Markieff Morris (88) during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Houston Rockets Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Markieff Morris (88) during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Houston Rockets Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) by Matt Tait

Nine former Jayhawks made their way into the NBA’s “bubble” in Orlando when the season resumed earlier this summer and just one is still standing.

With the NBA’s conference finals now set (Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver in the West and Boston vs. Miami in the East), it’s up to Lakers forward Markieff Morris to bring a championship ring to Jayhawk Nation this season.

His brother, Marcus, was eliminated from the postseason on Tuesday night, when the third-seeded Denver Nuggets completed their improbable comeback from down three games to one in the series with the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.

That ended the dream scenario of an all-LA, Morris-twins-flavored Western Conference Finals, and we’ll never know what would’ve happened if these two had squared off against one another with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.

As most Kansas fans know, there's some history connecting James' chase for the title and former Jayhawks. James won his first three rings with a Jayhawk on his roster — twice with Mario Chalmers in Miami and later with Sasha Kaun in Cleveland — and James made note of the connection during the parade in Cleveland a few years back, saying that Chalmers had sent him a text message pointing out KU's assistance.

As for the rest of the former KU players in the league, Frank Mason III and Milwaukee, along with Ben McLemore’s Houston Rockets were eliminated in Round 2 by the Miami Heat and Lakers, respectively, and Joel Embiid checked out in Round 1 after Philadelphia was swept by Boston.

Memphis’ Josh Jackson and Phoenix’s former Jayhawks, Cheick Diallo and the injured Kelly Oubre, creached the bubble but not the playoffs

And former KU point guard Jacque Vaughn, who led the Brooklyn Nets as the interim head coach in the bubble, saw his team knocked out to the Toronto Raptors in Round 1.

Here’s a quick look at how all eight former KU players fared in Orlando, starting with the one still standing.

Markieff Morris

Games played in the bubble: 16 (3 starts)

Notable stats: 6.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game

Highlight: After falling to Houston in Game 1 of their second-round series, the Lakers bounced back with a win in Game 2, and Morris played a huge role. In just over 22 minutes, he hit 6 of 8 shots from the floor, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, prompting Lakers star LeBron James to proclaim, “Kieff was spectacular off the bench, giving us that instant offense with his grit. We love having him on the floor. He was unbelievable for us in that second quarter.”

Next: Morris and the top-seeded Lakers will open their series with Denver at 8 p.m. Friday night.

Marcus Morris

Games played in the bubble: 20 (all starts)

Notable stats: 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 30 minutes per game

Highlight: Scored in double figures in 9 of the 13 playoff games he played in, including a 19-point effort in the Clippers’ playoff-opening win over Dallas on Aug. 17. Made three or more 3-pointers in six playoff games for the Clippers.

Joel Embiid

Games played in the bubble: 11 (all starts)

Notable stats: 23.7 points and 11.1 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game

Highlight: Scored 41 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, with three blocks, in Philly’s first game in the bubble. “The Process” also recorded a double-double in all four of Philadelphia’s playoff games, reaching the 30-point mark in three of them.

Ben McLemore

Games played in the bubble: 19 (4 starts)

Notable stats: 7.4 points per game and 41.8% 3-point shooting (41 of 98) in 16.4 minutes.

Highlight: McLemore’s best basketball in the bubble came before the postseason started. He reached double digits in scoring four times in eight games before the playoffs began, including a stretch of three games in a row. Once the Rockets reached the playoffs, however, McLemore’s minutes went down and he reached double figures in scoring just once, scoring 14 points in Houston’s Game 1 win over Oklahoma City in Round 1.

Frank Mason III

Games played in the bubble: 5

Notable stats: 9.6 points and 3.6 assists in 13.6 minutes per game

Highlight: Mason was with the top-seeded Bucks in the bubble for the duration of their playoff run, but found himself inactive for 10 of Milwaukee’s 18 games after the restart. In the five games he did play, he scored 48 points and dished 18 assists. His playoff usage was limited to 2:05 over two games and the only stat he recorded in that time was an assist in Milwaukee’s Game 1 loss to Orlando in Round 1.

Josh Jackson

Games played in the bubble: 4

Notable stats: Hit all six of his free throw attempts (over two games) during his time in the bubble.

Highlight: Had by far his best game of the bubble in the Grizzlies’ bubble debut on July 31, scoring 8 points and grabbing 6 rebounds and 2 assists in 13 minutes of a loss to Portland. Did not play in the winner-take-all play-in game that the Grizzlies lost later in the bubble to Portland, ending Memphis’ season and sending the Trailblazers to the playoffs.

Cheick Diallo

Games played in the bubble: 3

Notable stats: Scored 8 points and grabbed 4 rebounds, with 1 steal and 2 turnovers, in just over 11 total minutes in the three games he played.

Highlight: Diallo was active for all eight of the Suns’ bubble games (all victories, by the way) but he played in just three of them. The former Jayhawk scored 6 points and hit 3 of 4 shots in 5:17 during Phoenix’s win over Dallas in the season finale.

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Games played in the bubble: None

Notable stats: N/A

Highlight: Oubre was injured before the season was halted in mid-March and did not suit up in Orlando, even though he traveled with the Suns and got an up-close-and-personal view of their amazing run to close the regular season and come this close to grabbing a playoff berth.

Reply 2 comments from James Miller Forever2008

Quartet of newcomers brings a little bit of everything to the 2020-21 Kansas basketball roster

Kansas head coach Bill Self signals to his team during an NCAA college basketball game against Chaminade, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Kansas head coach Bill Self signals to his team during an NCAA college basketball game against Chaminade, Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia) by Associated Press

It remains to be seen exactly when the 2020-21 Kansas men’s basketball team will actually play a game or hold an official practice, but when they do KU coach Bill Self will have a lot to look at.

Depth and talent at all five positions will be the theme of the 2020-21 roster, and the incoming recruiting class will play a big role in that.

It includes two potential starters, a big man with a motor that might be unmatched on the roster and an overlooked guard who could be in line to become the next rags-to-riches story in the KU backcourt.

At face value, that’s a solid class. And Rivals.com has it ranked as the 17th best group in the 2020 rankings.

But the class probably should be graded a little differently given the fact that Bryce Thompson, Tyon Grant-Foster, Gethro Muscadin and Latrell Jossell all committed to and signed with KU in the midst of the uncertain and ongoing NCAA infractions case.

“We only signed four,” KU coach Bill Self said recently on an episode of “Hawk Talk.” “And we got them early, but it was a pretty good haul considering we were going against some obstacles.”

In an era when KU and other blue blood programs around the country seem to sign as many one-and-done prospects as they do three- and four-year players, it’s noteworthy that KU’s 2020 class is likely made up of multi-year players.

Even Thompson, despite his five-star status, was regarded in recruiting circles as a player who likely would spend at least a couple of years in college.

He joins a roster with enough veterans, versatility and scoring punch to allow him the time to transition to the college game naturally and at his own pace.

There’s no doubt that his talent and potential have him in line for big minutes right away, and he certainly figures to be in the mix for one of those five starting spots when things get going for real.

“He’s going to be terrific.” Self said of the combo guard. “I think he’s bigger. I think he’s probably at least 6-6 now and still growing. He had a great year. He’s gotten better all the time.”

Joining Thompson in a push for a starting spot will be Grant-Foster, a junior from Indiana Hills CC, who has the size, length and athleticism to fill the role played by Josh Jackson, Svi Mykhailiuk and Marcus Garrett in recent years.

You might remember Self’s praise of his latest juco transfer from last November, after he officially signed with the Jayhawks. Self said then that Grant-Foster would have played big minutes for last year’s team. So with Devon Dotson, Isaiah Moss and Udoka Azubuike all gone, it only makes sense that the minutes will be there for him on this team, as well.

“We didn’t even know about him in high school,” Self noted of the 6-foot-7 wing who grew up just down the road in Kansas City, Kan. “And this guy went and grew three or four inches and has blown up. He’ll be a pro. And I mean an NBA pro. He’s a good prospect. He can get his own shot. He’s got vision. He can create for others.”

While Thompson and Grant-Foster have a clear path to immediate playing time, the other two newcomers may have a harder time getting on the floor right away.

That doesn’t impact how Self feels about either of them, though, and it’s clear that he is excited about having both Jossell and Muscadin on the roster.

“I love his talent,” Self said of Muscadin, a versatile big with tons of raw talent as a scorer, defender and rebounder. “He’s 6-foot-10 and skilled and he’s going to be really good. He’s just not physically strong yet like he will be. Six months with (strength coach) Ramsey (Nijem) could make a ton of difference.”

Of Jossell, a 5-11 guard from Keller, Texas, Self added: “Latrell Jossell is a little guard that’s fast and can shoot. He wasn’t highly recruited by our standards, but we’ve had a lot of guys like him come in here and turn it out. And I think he’s got a chance, a real chance.”

Reply 6 comments from Dirk Medema Njjayhawk Brad Avery Forever2008 Scott MacWilliams Michael Maris Ashwingrao

Report: Orlando becoming a key part of the start of the 2020-21 college basketball season

Oklahoma's Jalen Hill (1) and Kristian Doolittle (21) fight for the ball with Kansas' Chris Teahan (12) and David McCormack (33) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)

Oklahoma's Jalen Hill (1) and Kristian Doolittle (21) fight for the ball with Kansas' Chris Teahan (12) and David McCormack (33) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck) by Associated Press

College basketball soon could be taking a page out of the NBA’s return to play to jumpstart the 2020-21 season.

According to a report from CBS Sports Insider Jon Rothstein, Orlando is in line to be the host site for several early-season college tournaments, including the Champions Classic and Wooden Legacy tournaments that the Kansas men’s basketball team is scheduled to play in.

Orlando, which welcomed 22 NBA teams back to play in a bubble format for the completion of the regular season and the ongoing playoffs, has both the court space and the hotel accommodations available to pull off such an undertaking.

Joining the Champions Classic and Wooden Legacy tournament on the list of events that may be relocating to Orlando are: the Jimmy V Classic, Preseason NIT, Orlando Invitational, Charleston Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational and Diamond Head Classic.

Separate reports from Monday indicated that Maui Invitational organizers also were closing in on plans to relocate that event from Hawaii to the mainland for 2020.

Rothstein reported that sources told him that fans were not expected to be allowed to attend any of the eight tournaments in Orlando. He also noted that there has been some talk about the teams that are headed to Orlando adding additional non-conference games to their schedules that would be played in Orlando, as well.

It remains to be seen if this is the direction college basketball goes or when it might happen. The NCAA’s Division I Council is expected to vote on a start date for the 2020-21 season on Wednesday and it appears likely that the season will begin be at least a couple of weeks after the original start date of Nov. 10.

That was when KU, Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State were supposed to be in Chicago for this year’s Champions Classic.

KU also was supposed to play a two-game, four-team tournament with Georgetown, UCLA and Virginia in Anaheim, Calif., in late November.

KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World on Monday that KU is waiting for the final word on a season start date before determining dates for the start of practices and boot camp.

The team has been working out together on a limited basis for the past several weeks in Lawrence and will continue to do so until practices begin.

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

Kevin Durant the latest NBA superstar to heap praise on former KU point guard Devonte’ Graham

Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte' Graham reacts after scoring against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte' Graham reacts after scoring against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond) by Matt Tait

The hits just keep on coming for former University of Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham, who this week saw another NBA superstar sing his praises.

Roughly a month after Dallas guard Luka Doncic claimed that Graham deserved his spot on the list of finalists for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, injured Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant took it a step further, saying that Graham was on the path of becoming a force in the NBA.

The kind words came during Durant’s appearance on The Old Man and the Three podcast, co-hosted by NBA veteran JJ Redick and Tommy Alter, which might be the best-named podcast in the history of podcasts.

The question to Durant was simple: “Who are some of the young guys this year, when you’ve been watching, that maybe you have played against once or haven’t even played against at all that have just impressed you?”

The first name out of his mouth was Graham’s.

“Devonte’ Graham impressed me,” Durant said. “Just to see his ascent to where he is. I mean, I didn’t think he would be in the league, to be honest, when he was at Kansas. And to see where he is right now, he’s developing into a really nice player.”

Graham, of course, broke onto the NBA scene in his second season with the Charlotte Hornets by improving his numbers dramatically across the board and averaging 18.2 points, 7.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. He became a bona fide weapon and go-to scorer for the Hornets while starting 53 of 63 games during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season.

Graham’s play earned him a role in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend and, last month, he also won the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic’s “Shooting for the Stars” 3-point shootout that featured 10 of the 12 best 3-point shooters in KU history.

Durant also mentioned Zach LaVine and Dallas big man Kristaps Porzingis as the two other lesser-known players who most impressed him during the 2020-21 season.

“Those three guys are dudes I’ve been following throughout the year,” Durant said. “And I have really been trying to watch their progression because they’re going to be some forces going forward.”

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

ACC hoops coaches to propose all-inclusive 2021 NCAA Tournament

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski congratulates Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) after the Jayhawks' 77-75 win.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski congratulates Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) after the Jayhawks' 77-75 win. by Nick Krug

There has been talk in the past about expanding the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament from 68 teams to 72, 96 or even 128. But if the ACC coaches get their way in 2020, those numbers will look tiny.

According to multiple reports Wednesday morning from national college basketball writers across the country, the ACC coaches this week voted unanimously to propose a plan that allows all Division I men’s basketball teams to participate in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Not most. Not more. Not almost all. All.

Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported that the idea was led by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. And it has been met with mixed reaction since the proposal surfaced.

Some love it. Included on that list is Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who said that the 2020-21 season is going to be different anyway and that the powers that be need to think differently to make it work.

Others hate it. And it’s easy to see why without all of the details of the plan being known or digested yet.

At its core, the proposed plan appears to be designed to bring equality to the season.

Rather than letting each school or conference figure things out for itself, therein running the risk of repeating what college football is facing, — with two of the five power conferences not even playing this fall — Coach K and his ACC counterparts are trying to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution for college hoops.

What’s good for the Dukes isn’t always good for the Dartmouths. But the ACC, at least for this strange season, is seeking to make sure that’s not true in 2020.

Will the super-sized tournament replace most if not all of the the non-conference portion of the regular season? Will we still have conference play to determine seeding? Will this thing even work?

Those questions, and many more, still need to be answered. And the good news is there’s time to answer them. But whether you like the idea or not, this, to me, is merely the latest good sign of college basketball’s top leaders staying in front of the pandemic and trying to make sure they are as prepared as possible for the start of the 2020-21 season.

It may start in November. It may be moved to January. It may start with a tournament. It may include a mega tournament or even a mini tourney.

Now is the time to sort those things out, and that appears to be exactly what is happening here.

A proposal does not mean this is the way it’s going to be. The ACC’s plan still would need a ton of support from across the country in order to work. And Krzyzewski himself, in an interview with The Athletic, even said he would be all-in on supporting a better idea, “if there is one.”

A week from today, we’ll have a little better idea of the direction in which things are headed.

That’s when the Division I Council will meet to determine start dates for winter sports. The council is not likely to react publicly to the ACC’s plan at that time, but you can bet it will be discussed.

~ The ACC coaches have been rolling out their support of the plan on social media throughout the day. Here's a look at some of the messages that have come out ~

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KU basketball recruiting notebook: A PG to watch, big men options and a college hoops newcomer

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

After being cut from his list of finalists a couple of weeks ago, the Kansas men’s basketball program returned to Class of 2022 point guard Skyy Clark’s top 10 earlier this week.

The reason?

While most programs Clark dropped when announcing his final eight simply went away, the Kansas coaching staff stayed in touch and grabbed Clark’s attention by doing so.

“Even though they didn’t make the top eight, they went harder in recruiting me and that meant a lot to me,” Clark recently told JayhawkSlant.com. “A lot of schools I never heard from again, but Kansas turned it up a notch, which I loved. It showed me how they thought of me as a player and a person.”

KU and DePaul both were added to Clark’s list of finalists, bringing the total to 10 — KU, DePaul, Kentucky, Memphis, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee State, UCLA and USC.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound guard who will attend Brentwood Academy in Nashville this season averaged 25 points and four assists per game as a sophomore at Heritage Christian in Los Angeles.

A five-star prospect ranked No. 16 overall in the 2022 recruiting class by Rivals.com, there is some talk in recruiting circles that he is considering reclassifying into the 2021 class.

The Jayhawks are still heavily pursuing at least two other top tier point guards in the 2021 class, Omaha’s Hunter Sallis (6-5, 175, ranked No. 11 per Rivals) and Alabama prep standout JD Davison (6-3, 175, No. 15).

New offer goes out

According to Rivals.com’s Corey Evans, Kansas on Thursday extended a scholarship offer to Class of 2022 point guard Kyle Cuffe Jr.

Cuffe announced the KU offer with a message on Twitter earlier this week.

Cuffe is a four-star prospect ranked No. 68 overall by Rivals. The 6-foot-2, 173-pound guard attends Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., and currently has 16 offers, most of them coming from back east.

Pitt and St. John’s are believed to be the current leaders for Cuffe, whose father, Kyle Cuffe Sr., played at St. John’s in the early 2000s.

True big man in the mix

With the Jayhawks already holding commitments from athletic Class of 2021 players Zach Clemence and KJ Adams, the door is open for Kansas to add another player or two in the 2021 class.

KU would like to add a point guard as one of those pieces and might pursue size as well.

Class of 2021 center Sam Ayomide certainly would bring that to campus.

At 6-foot-11, 255 pounds, Ayomide is an athletic and powerful player near the basket.

Currently ranked No. 144 in the 2021 class, — up 21 spots from the last round of rankings — the three-star center holds 13 offers and is receiving more and more interest from major programs each week.

Included among the schools joining Kansas in offering Ayomide are: LSU, Illinois, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, TCU, Virginia Tech and Memphis.

Other names to watch as KU continues to explore the idea of adding size to the class are four-star Atlanta big man Daimion Collins (6-9, 205 No. 20) and four-star power forward Arthur Koluma (6-7, 200, No. 59) of Glendale, Ariz.

New to the game?

According to JayhawkSlant.com, the KU coaching staff conducted a Zoom call visit with 6-9, 190-pound small forward Langston Wilson of Georgia Highlands College in Rome, Ga., on Wednesday.

Now, because he did not play high school basketball, Wilson’s name is not one you’ll find on any of the recruiting rankings. But he has emerged as an intriguing prospect and attracted more than 40 scholarship offers because of his athleticism and natural ability.

Despite not playing in high school, Wilson told JayhawkSlant’s Shay Wildeboor that he landed a scholarship at Georgia Highlands after film of him playing pick-up ball made its way to the head coach’s office.

Wilson made the most of his first year of college ball. Not only did he find a way to play, but he also averaged 10.1 point and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Originally from Bonner-Prendie High in Philadelphia, Wilson, who graduated high school in 2018, slowly became an option for coaches at schools of all sizes.

One of his first offers came from Iona, now coached by Rick Pitino, and his first major offer came from Maryland in late May.

“Around June, it just went crazy,” he told Wildeboor. “I think in one day Wichita State, Oregon, Ole Miss, and a few others offered me. I had like five offers in one day. It was just ridiculous, and everything just started picking up, picking up, picking up and picking up.”

Late last week, his recruitment reached a level that included Kansas and KU coach Bill Self and assistant coach Jerrance Howard informed Wilson that KU wanted to offer him a scholarship.

“I was at a loss for words for a long period of time,” Wilson told Wildeboor. “I called my coach and had tears in my eyes. I called my dad and I was balling and crying after the scholarship offer from Kansas. Not just because of the school itself, but also because of the level of basketball and being recognized at that level.”

Wilson, who calls himself “a positionless forward who can do a bunch of different things,” told Wildeboor that he would like to take as many visits as possible if things ever open up to the point where visiting college campuses is allowed.

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Report indicates NCAA Oversight Committee in favor of pushing back start of college hoops season

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) follows up a missed shot with a dunk during the first half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) follows up a missed shot with a dunk during the first half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

There remains both time and work to do before the start of the 2020-21 college basketball season, but, as of today, no one knows for sure when the season will actually begin.

Last month, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said the NCAA would provide some direction about the start of the season sometime in September.

And now that the calendar has flipped to September, the urgency for figuring out how to proceed is likely to jump up a notch.

Again, there is still time. After all, we’re still more than two months out from the currently scheduled season opener — Nov. 10 in Chicago, with Kansas playing Kentucky and Duke facing Michigan State in the Champions Classic.

But, according to a report from CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, the NCAA Division I Oversight Committee plans to propose a start date of Nov. 25 instead of the early-November tipoff.

Rothstein also reported that the Oversight Committee plans to recommend against hosting scrimmages and exhibition games this season because of continuing health and safety concerns related to COVID-19.

The 16-member committee includes seven athletic directors, two conference commissioners and two head basketball coaches — Missouri's Cuonzo Martin and Purdue's Matt Painter. And the committee's recommendation will be voted on later this month (Sept. 16) by the Division I Council.

As of Wednesday morning, KU still had no exhibition games listed on its 2020-21 schedule. Typically, the Jayhawks host two exhibitions per season, rotating in-state programs Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Pitt State and Washburn every two years. But those games — which would be against ESU and Washburn in the rotation — appear to be in jeopardy this season.

Pushing the start date back two weeks likely would change the entire look of KU’s nonconference schedule rather than just backing up the games that are currently scheduled.

There is, however, some wiggle room built into the schedule, with December dates against USC (Dec. 19) and Colorado (Dec. 22) no longer listed on the KU website as a result of the Pac-12’s decision to delay all sports until at least January.

KU AD Jeff Long said last month that Kansas was seeking to replace those games on the schedule, but no new games have been announced at this point.

According to a Wednesday report from CBS Sports' Matt Norlander, the Pac-12 appears to be trying to line things up to be ready to play college basketball by the potential Nov. 25 start date. If they're able to pull it off, that certainly could impact KU's schedule and, potentially, could save the Jayhawks' games with Colorado and USC.

People throughout college basketball, however, appear to have a strong belief that the season will be played in some fashion. Whether it incorporates a bubble approach like the NBA, a conference-only approach like many football conferences have moved forward with or a hybrid of the two like the Big 12 football schools — which have rescheduled for one non-con and nine conference games this fall — remains to be seen.

One other interesting note regarding the 2020-21 college basketball season came from the NCAA itself this week.

According to a Monday report from ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, the NCAA has applied to trademark the phrase “Battle in the Bubble,” which clearly points to the potential for the 2021 NCAA Tournament — and perhaps more — to be played in a bubble environment if needed.

None of this is set in stone, of course. And things likely will become clearer in the next couple of weeks.

But the Oversight Committee’s reported plan and the NCAA’s latest trademark application both serve as the latest signs that the NCAA is continuing to work ahead of the action in order to be prepared for the fast-approaching college hoops season well before it is scheduled to begin.

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