Editor's Note: One week after this blog was posted, Silvio De Sousa announced that he was leaving the program, citing personal issues that needed his attention as the reason for his decision to say goodbye to KU.
Well, believe it or not, it’s time for the last go around for Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa.
In some ways it seems like he just got here. In others, it seems like he’s been here for a decade.
But either way, De Sousa has yet to deliver that one full season that Kansas fans have been waiting for since he arrived early in time for the second semester of the 2017-18 season and helped the Jayhawks reach the Final Four.
We all know what happened between then and now and why it hasn’t exactly worked out for De Sousa. But maybe there’s still time.
I’ll be honest. After the K-State incident last season, I thought De Sousa was done at KU. But he paid his penalty, hung in there with his teammates and, more importantly, proved to KU coach Bill Self that this was where he wanted to be and that it would be worth it to keep him around.
Now is when we get to find out. So let’s have a look.
He will: Finally play with a free mind and settle into a regular role
I’ve liked De Sousa from the first time I talked to him, both on the phone over What’s App in an airport in France when he committed to KU, and, in person, when he did his first on-campus interview with the local media.
He’s friendly, engaging, personable and genuine and he never mails in his answers.
Obviously he’s had a lot to answer for during his time in Lawrence — some his doing, some not — and all of that, pushed up against the expectations of his recruiting status, made it hard for De Sousa to get comfortable and relax.
But I think that’s exactly what we’ll see this season.
Call it senior urgency setting in. After all, this is De Sousa’s last shot at playing a real role for the Jayhawks.
Or call it maturity taking center stage. Whatever the case, De Sousa was in Lawrence throughout the pandemic and got to spend a lot of alone time working on his game and searching his soul to find out what he wants his final season at Kansas to look like.
By nature, De Sousa is a people person. He likes people and he wants people to like him.
Whether he puts up double-double type numbers and is a force to be reckoned with or simply fills a role and gives KU 10-15 valuable minutes off the bench, either way I think we’re on the verge of seeing the best of Silvio De Sousa.
And the guess here is the Jayhawks will benefit from getting it.
He won’t: Take a bunch of outside jumpers, despite what you’ve seen on social media
All of that down time these past several months allowed De Sousa to work on his game, and, based on the videos of a few of his workouts that surfaced on social media, De Sousa looks to be in great shape.
In addition, he appears to have developed a silky smooth jumper and also seems to have elevated his face-up game to the point where he could be a legitimate weapon in half-court sets.
While all of that is great for his personal development, none of it came in the heat of the moment against some of the best players in the country. And it’s not likely, given the depth KU has on the wing, that De Sousa will be asked to play the 3 and use those newfound skills.
Instead, he’ll be asked to do what he did in Year 1, screen, rebound, defend and get easy buckets around the rim. If he does that, he’ll have a chance to establish a clear role.
But if he starts pulling jumpers to show off his range for pro scouts, he might find himself on the bench more than he’d like.
Versatility and a better all-around game certainly won’t hurt De Sousa. But the Jayhawks still will need him to be what he is before anything else — a physical, athletic, high-energy forward who can make life hard on KU’s opponents in the paint.
He might: Deliver a few dunks that make you think of Thomas Robinson
De Sousa likely will not average a double-double or become the player that KU’s offense runs through this season.
But that does not mean he can’t impersonate the former KU All-American in other ways.
Whether finishing with authority in transition, getting on the glass for a vicious put-back or catching a lob over the top, De Sousa has the hops and the tenacity to try to hurt the rim the way T-Rob did back in his day.
Robinson was the author of a few of the greatest dunks Kansas basketball has seen this century, so saying De Sousa can get there a time or two is no small nod.
He can. He showed it in those social media videos. And if he plays with a free mind and taps into his instincts rather than thinking so much and worrying about messing up, the opportunities will be there for some jaw-dropping, wow moments from the KU senior this season.
Just don’t blink or you might miss them.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2020
So much for this year's potential KU-Virginia matchup in the regular season.
According to multiple reports, including those from CBS Sports reporters Matt Norlander and Jon Rothstein, Kansas will face Boise State in the opening round of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Orlando on Nov. 25.
UCLA is expected to play Seton Hall in that day's other matchup, with the two winners playing the following day and the two losers playing on Nov. 26 in the consolation game.
Losing Georgetown and Virginia from the event originally scheduled for Nov. 26-27 in Anaheim, Calif., certainly takes some of the shine off of the event. But it also allows KU the potential to ease into the season a little more, with the Dec. 1 Champions Classic matchup with Kentucky looming less than a week later.
According to a recent report from Norlander, Virginia opted out of the Wooden Legacy event and instead agreed to face Florida on Nov. 27 at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun, a site that is expected to host dozens of college games in a controlled environment throughout the first month of the 2020-21 season.
Nothing official has been announced about KU's 2020-21 scheduled, but the earliest it can begin, per a recent NCAA ruling, is Nov. 25.
If KU does in fact head to Orlando for the Wooden Legacy tournament, the expectation is that the Jayhawks would remain in Orlando (instead of returning home) until their Dec. 1 game and they could possibly look to play another game in the time between the Wooden event and the Champions Classic.
Planning for the rest of the 2020-21 schedule remains ongoing.
While there remains a ways to go in finalizing the entire thing, the 2020-21 Kansas basketball schedule continues to slowly come together.
Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported on Wednesday that Seton Hall has been pegged as the “likely” replacement for Georgetown in this year’s Wooden Legacy tournament, which was originally scheduled to include KU, Virginia and UCLA, as well.
Georgetown opted out because of travel restrictions put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While nothing official has been announced about the Wooden Legacy tourney, it sits on the list of ESPN-sponsored events that are likely to be moved to Orlando, where the NCAA is planning to take advantage of an NBA-like set up to get in a bunch of early-season, nonconference games.
Included on that list is the Champions Classic — Kansas vs. Kentucky and Duke vs. Michigan State — which has been slotted for Dec. 1, according to multiple national reports citing sources close to the situation.
If Seton Hall’s inclusion means the Wooden Legacy event will go on, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that the two-game tournament will take place before the Champions Classic.
KU was already scheduled to be in California for the Wooden Legacy tourney over Thanksgiving, so putting those games at the front end of the Jayhawks’ trip to Orlando would make a lot of sense.
Besides, KU then could get a game in against either Seton Hall or UCLA before jumping in to face the likes of Virginia and Kentucky, both fringe Top 10 teams in most of those preseason college basketball rankings.
UCLA also has appeared in several of those preseason Top 25s, but sits closer to the 20-25 range.
Playing the Wooden event first, during the middle of that last week of November, also would create the potential for Kansas, if it so desired, to play one more game in Orlando on Saturday or Sunday before the Champions Classic.
It also would open up the first week of December for the Jayhawks to play games at Allen Fieldhouse and would give Kansas more time to spread out the remaining nonconference games on the docket throughout what promises to be a busy month.
For the second installment of this season’s “He Will, He Won’t, He Might” feature here at KUsports.com, we’re ripping off the redshirt and taking a look at what’s ahead for senior forward Mitch Lightfoot.
The man that coaches say bleeds crimson and blue, Lightfoot sat out the 2019-20 season with the Jayhawks appearing to be overly loaded up front and the prospects for playing time lacking.
While it didn’t turn out exactly that way — Lightfoot probably would’ve played his typical role last season had he decided against redshirting — the move turned out to be a good one given the way the season ended.
Can you imagine having you career end on the best team in the country but unable to make a run at a national title because of a pandemic?
Sure that’s how it went for Udoka Azubuike and Isaiah Moss. But Dok, if he reaaaallllly wanted to, could’ve come back for another year. And Moss knew from the jump that he was only getting one year at KU.
And, yeah, Devon Dotson suffered, too, but his departure was his decision, which is much easier to stomach than a player simply running out of eligibility.
Lightfoot made the right call at the right time and now will get to reap the rewards of the year on the bench. Let’s take a look at what to expect.
He will: Be this team’s best shot blocker
This we know. While Udoka Azubuike improved a great deal as a rim protector last season, Lightfoot has been a legit shot blocker from Day 1.
And, other than taking a charge, blocking shots appears to be one of his favorite things to do on a basketball court.
Perhaps it’s the fact that many opponents like to challenge him that leads to his block parties. Or maybe it’s that they underestimate his ability, judging the book by its cover instead of reading all of the chapters.
Either way, Lightfoot has shown throughout his time at Kansas that he will challenge any and every shot he can get to, whether taken by the man he’s guarding or by someone else.
His ability as an off-the-ball defender has led to a lot of his blocks throughout the years, and Lightfoot seems to enjoy them all equally.
After blocking just 11 shots in limited time as a true freshman, Lightfoot tripled that during his sophomore season and then added 21 more to reach his career best of 54 blocks in a season during the 2017-18 team’s run to the Final Four.
Opportunity played a huge role in that, with Lightfoot logging a lot of minutes inside both as a backup to and fill-in for Azubuike.
The guess here is that his personal goal in 2020-21 will be to break his own mark, but that all of his goals for the team will far outweigh any individual achievements he may or may not get.
He won’t: Top his career best of 14 minutes per game from the 2017-18 season, but...
Lightfoot will be a big part of the 2020-21 Jayhawks, even if it doesn’t come through him playing big minutes.
Kansas is simply too loaded in the backcourt and on the wings to devote too many minutes to true big men. But because Lightfoot, David McCormack and Silvio De Sousa all play slightly different styles, there should be plenty of room for the three of them to co-exist.
In fact, the plan to play all three likely will go better than last season, when KU coach Bill Self tried to find a way to play McCormack, De Sousa and Azubuike together early on but ultimately shifted to another season of heavy-guard lineups.
Assuming that KU will play with two bigs on the floor for at least part of most of its games next season (call it 10 minutes), that leaves 50 minutes to be divided up between KU’s top three big men.
McCormack, who enters this season averaging 12.5 minutes per game during his first two seasons, will get the first crack at getting the most of those. Even though McCormack has only played more than 21 minutes five times in his KU career, it seems like a safe bet that he’ll average between 20-25 minutes per game this year.
If he does, that still leaves plenty of PT for Lightfoot and De Sousa to split and have a significant role — based on matchups, hot hand, etc. — but would probably not allow Lightfoot to top 15 minutes per game on a regular basis.
There will be games where Lightfoot’s presence is crucial and he will log a handful of 20-minute nights. But the guess here is that he’ll still average fewer than 14 minutes per game for the season, although not by much.
… He might: Be in the starting lineup more than you think
I’m not predicting that Lightfoot is going to be a full-time starter for the Jayhawks this season. I’m merely saying there’s a chance the fifth-year senior could start a handful of games.
Self has talked plenty about Lightfoot’s improvement on the offensive end, and his ability to both stretch the floor as a shooter and move on the perimeter makes him an option to play the 4 in a two-big starting lineup.
Putting him in there would not only give the Jayhawks’ some flexibility, but it would also keep an experienced rebounder and shot blocker in the lineup. Lightfoot has proven throughout his career that he’s not afraid to battle with bigger, taller, stronger opponents. And he’s done it with a swagger that has made him a fan favorite.
In a season where the Jayhawks could play 35 games with a deep run, setting the over/under of Lightfoot starts at 6 or 7 seems about right.
With all of the wings that the KU roster possesses, Self is going to want to get those faster, more explosive players on the floor as often as possible, both to help KU’s scoring punch and to create problems defensively, as well.
But Self trusts Lightfoot. And he likes him. The guy voluntarily sat out last year — as a senior — to get another crack at a bigger role in his final season and then was an absolutely model teammate while doing it.
He pushed his teammates, used his leadership and experience when he could and continued to try to bring energy from the bench while wearing street clothes.
Lightfoot starting a handful of games does not sound crazy to me and it also won’t do anything to hurt KU’s bottom line.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2020
Sometime next week, NCAA officials are expected to vote on allowing men's basketball players an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic — a move that could make an impact on Kansas' roster.
The NCAA passed a similar proposal for all fall sports athletes earlier this year. And while extra eligibility for winter athletes could affect a whole bunch of Jayhawks, the player who first came to mind when I heard about this proposal was senior guard Marcus Garrett.
Garrett has been sensational throughout his KU career and has gotten better every season, taking on more responsibilities year after year.
This year will be no different, as Garrett is expected to be the Jayhawks’ primary point guard and a contender for a host of Big 12 and national honors.
It’s a big year for Garrett, who has NBA aspirations. And I’ve talked to enough people in college basketball who believe he has a shot to not only make it in the NBA but also to get drafted.
He’ll likely need a solid offensive season to get there, but his size, smarts, athleticism and stellar defense are already NBA-ready.
How Garrett would feel about using the free year for a second senior season is an open question. But if he’s into it, he essentially would have two more full seasons under KU coach Bill Self to fine-tune his skills on offense. That could be extremely beneficial, and if he spent both years as KU’s primary point guard, it could even shift the position at which Garrett projects at the professional level.
The one knock on the idea of staying an extra year would be his age. Garrett will be 22 in November and therefore would be 23 by the time the 2022 NBA Draft rolls around. By NBA rookie standards, that’s a little long in the tooth. Of course, so is 22, so it’s not as if that’s a huge difference.
Garrett’s smart enough and surrounded by enough of a solid support system — both at KU and back in Dallas — to weigh the pros and cons and decide what's right for him. But while he'd face a big decision on whether to stay or go, KU's decision on whether to welcome him back for a fifth year would be a no-brainer.
Obviously, the rule hasn't been passed yet, and there will still be a lot of things for college sports officials to work out if it does pass — including the roster limit for the 2021-22 season and what to do about scholarships. But it certainly would keep KU’s coaching staff from feeling like it has to load up in the 2021 recruiting class, which currently includes four-star forwards K.J. Adams and Zach Clemence.
Here’s a quick look at my initial thoughts about what another year could mean for the rest of the current KU roster.
Mitch Lightfoot – Yet another year of Mitch Mania in Lawrence? I’m not sure who would sign up faster for that, Lightfoot or Kansas fans.
Silvio De Sousa – Derailed by suspensions, De Sousa’s KU career has been nothing like the one people envisioned when he contributed right away as an early-arriving freshman on KU’s 2018 Final Four team. So it would make sense for him to be excited about the prospect of another season. It essentially would give him his lost 2018-19 season back and also would provide him the platform to prove that he still has a pro future.
Ochai Agbaji – Remember when Agbaji was projected as a lottery pick after breaking onto the scene as a true freshman midway through the 2018-19 season? Who would have thought then that the talented and charismatic guard from Kansas City, Mo., could be around for five seasons? It’s hard to make a prediction about what Agbaji would do because he still possesses all of the tools to make the jump at any time. How Agbaji performs during the upcoming season could provide the answer.
David McCormack – McCormack is my early guess for one of the players on the roster who might not be interested in taking advantage of the extra year. The junior power forward took a long look at his options after his sophomore season, and if he has a big season in 2020-21, he might prefer to move on from college hoops.
Christian Braun – He’s already on his way to becoming one of the most feared players in the Big 12, and the idea of him being around for five years instead of four would likely make some stomachs turn in Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa and West Virginia.
Jalen Wilson – Wilson’s goals are big, and I’m not sure he ever pictured himself staying in college for four years. The ankle injury during his freshman season already bought him one year, and I’m not sure there are five more in this talented wing’s future. I could see his career resembling Wayne Selden's, but even that would have him leaving KU after the next three seasons, leaving two on the table.
Tristan Enaruna – So much of last season was about getting comfortable for Enaruna, who had a couple of big moments but also appeared a bit too passive at times. Even with that adjustment period, many NBA scouts who watched the Jayhawks last season had Enaruna at or near the top of their lists of players they came to watch. Based on that, it’s hard to imagine the ultra-talented wing being in Lawrence for a full five seasons.
Dajuan Harris – From the moment he committed, I figured Harris would play a ton of point guard for Kansas during the next four years and be a cornerstone of the KU offense. Now, if he's allowed to take advantage of a fifth season, I’m starting to look at Harris as a player who could threaten Aaron Miles’ school record for career assists (954) and Darnell Valentine's school record for career steals (336).
Tyon Grant-Foster – Now here’s a guy who could really catch a break with the offer of an extra year of college eligibility. Self has said on more than one occasion that Grant-Foster is a future pro. If the junior college transfer has an extra season in college at his disposal, it could take some of the pressure off and eliminate the feeling of needing to get off to a fast start. Or, perhaps more importantly, it could help keep him calm if his transition to Division I takes more time than he would like.
Bryce Thompson – Two freshman seasons for a player who's already pretty smart? Sounds like a coach's dream. Despite Thompson's five-star status, few have viewed him as a one-and-done player. But almost everyone has expected him to leave before exhausting his eligibility, so the extra year seems like it would just be insurance for the talented freshman.
Gethro Muscadin – Raw when he arrived but improving by the day, Muscadin’s a tough one to figure out in this scenario. It’s not hard to envision him being an important four- or five-year player at Kansas. But it might be even easier to picture him leaving before his eligibility is up because of his size, length, athleticism and motor.
Latrell Jossell – Although he seems like a likely redshirt candidate in 2020-21, it’s not hard to picture Jossell having an important role as an upperclassman. Turning that stint into three seasons instead of just two merely increases the odds of him making an impact on the program before his career is over.
While rumblings about a pair of Big 12 conference games in December have been talked about for the past week, Matt Norlander, of CBS Sports, recently attached actual dates to those games.
That would be the earliest that KU has played a Big 12 game in program history. And, based on what I’ve gathered from a few people I’ve talked to around the league, the reason behind starting in December is to provide the conference with a little flexibility on the back end.
Instead of playing conference games all the way through the weekend before the Big 12 tournament next March — like they would during a normal season — the teams will be off that last week of the regular season (the first week of March), creating the opportunity for teams to get healthy before the postseason and leaving a window for make-up games should they become necessary because of COVID-19 interruptions.
With 18 conference games scheduled annually, and the NCAA allowing a maximum of 27 games during the 2020-21 season — with nothing taking place before Nov. 25 — KU’s December schedule could be jam packed.
In addition to those two Big 12 games, the Jayhawks likely will be looking at playing another six or seven nonconference games before Jan. 1.
Reports have surfaced about Kansas playing Kentucky in the Champions Classic in Orlando on Dec. 1. So there’s one.
And, if they move the Wooden Legacy tournament to Orlando as expected, that could be two more. That event is not a slam dunk, though. A recent report from the Los Angeles Times indicated that Georgetown has pulled out because of travel restrictions.
Virginia and Kansas remain in. And if UCLA is able to play, with the Pac-12 loosening its restrictions, the event would need just one replacement (for Georgetown) instead of a couple.
If the event is played (my guess would be that it is), it would likely come the same week as the Champions Classic, since the Jayhawks will already be in Orlando and surely would not want to make multiple trips to play three or four games at that site.
So let’s count on the Champions Classic and Wooden Legacy being wrapped up by Saturday, Dec. 5. That’s three games.
It’s possible that KU could play one more game in Orlando against another team that’s already down there. At this point, as long as they can find a taker, doing so would make a lot of sense.
KU could then return home that next week and would have a week or so to fit in a couple more games before the Dec. 17 Big 12 opener at Texas Tech.
It’s unlikely that the Jayhawks would play a nonconference game between Dec. 17 and Dec. 22. And Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are likely out, too, although them playing on either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve wouldn’t totally shock me.
You can assume that the Jayhawks won’t play on Dec. 23 either, since that would be the day after the West Virginia game.
So that leaves KU with five or six days after the abbreviated holiday break to fit in a couple more games before the calendar turns to January and we move into full-time Big 12 mode.
We haven’t heard much about the status of the Big 12/SEC Challenge that is currently scheduled for Jan. 30, but if that’s still on KU would only need eight non-con games in December instead of nine.
There’s always a chance that KU could elect to play seven or eight nonconference games total, instead of the nine they will be allowed, which, obviously, would make things easier both in terms of scheduling now and workload then.
However it plays out, and whichever teams are also involved, December sure has the look of a wild and crazy month for Kansas basketball.
Here’s a quick prediction of what KU's nonconference schedule look like. Remember, nothing official has been released by KU or the Big 12 Conference at this point.
Dec. 1 – vs. Kentucky at Champions Classic in Orlando
Dec. 3 – vs. UCLA/Virginia/TBA at Wooden Legacy in Orlando
Dec. 5 – vs. UCLA/Virginia/TBA at Wooden Legacy in Orlando
Dec. 8 or 9 – vs. TBD in Orlando
Dec. 12 – vs. Creighton
Dec. 15 – vs. TBD in Lawrence
Dec. 17 – at Texas Tech
Dec. 22 – vs. West Virginia
Dec. 26 – vs. TBD in Lawrence
Dec. 29 – vs. Stephen F. Austin
Jan. 30 – vs. TBD in Big 12/SEC Challenge
The Kansas men’s basketball coaches will conduct a virtual visit with four-star Class of 2021 big man Sam Ayomide Onu on Friday evening, reports Jake Weingarten of stockrisers.com.
The 6-foot-11, 255-pound center from Phelps School in Malvern, Pa., is expected to announce his six finalists on Sunday.
KU almost certainly will be one of them.
In addition to the virtual meeting with KU today, Ayomide Onu was expected to meet with Memphis coaches sometime Friday morning.
Ranked No. 103 in the 2021 class by Rivals.com, Ayomide Onu is known for his ability to dominate inside. However, he also moves well enough to fit into the way the modern game is played.
In a recent write-up about some of this summer’s standouts, Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi noted that Ayomide Onu “loves contact, attacks rebounds with both hands above the rim and makes the most of his offensive opportunities.”
“He looks like a multi-year starter for a high major program,” Bossi added.
In mid-September, in a breakdown of the updated positional rankings, Bossi highlighted Ayomide Onu as the center who is making waves on the national scene, saying, “He’s not trying to float around the perimeter, he just wants to rebound the ball, play tough defense, set crushing screens and then score around the rim when given the opportunity.”
Ayomide Onu’s stock is on the rise. After hovering around the No. 145 mark from January through August, the bruising big man jumped 43 spots in Rivals.com’s most recent rankings and is knocking on the door of becoming a Top-100 player overall. He also jumped several spots in the Rivals positional rankings, where he current projects as the 17th best center in the class.
In addition to KU and Memphis, Ayomide Onu also holds offers from Illinois, LSU, Providence, Seton Hall, TCU, Temple, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, VCU and Wake Forest.
According to Stockrisers, Ayomide Onu conducted virtual meetings with coaches from Illinois and Wake Forest earlier this week.
Originally slated to announce his college pick on Oct. 31, five-star, Class of 2021 point guard JD Davison has moved things up and instead will make his choice known this weekend, according to 247 Sports analyst Travis Branham.
Davison is now expected to reveal his decision on Saturday, and the No. 13-ranked player in the 2021 class per Rivals.com is choosing between Kansas, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Michigan and Memphis.
According to the Tipton Edits Twitter account, Saturday is also Davison's birthday.
Davison, who hails from Calhoun High in Letohatchee, Ala., trimmed his list to his final six in late August.
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Dan McDonald recently called the 6-foot-3, 180-pound lead guard “a highlight reel play waiting to happen,” and noted that Davison is “a threat to do something, from an athletic standpoint, that few others can, so you can’t take your eyes off of him.”
McDonald and Rivals.com’s Russ Wood both recorded FutureCast picks for Alabama on Thursday, and the in-state Crimson Tide have long been considered one of the leaders for Davison’s services. Auburn, another Alabama school, also has been a popular pick among prognosticators.
With that said, the 247 Crystal Ball predictions are currently empty for Davison.
No exact time has been given for Davison’s announcement on Saturday.
With the official start of practices now just two weeks away, it’s time to take a closer look at the players who make up the 2020-21 Kansas basketball roster.
That means, it’s time for a little “He Will, He Won’t, He Might” action here at KUsports.com.
During each of the past few preseasons, we’ve broken down the KU roster by looking at each player and predicting what they will, won’t and might do during the upcoming season.
Sometimes that means setting records. Other times it addresses playing time or a particular role or even a feat that won’t be accomplished.
But we always try to make each one go a step beyond the obvious and also toss out a few bold predictions for the KU roster.
Because of the depth, talent and versatility on this year’s roster, the bold predictions were a little tougher to come by. After all, KU coach Bill Self and his staff have so many options and so many different ways they can play during the 2020-21 season.
So it should be both an entertaining season and one that differs wildly from what we saw in 2019-20, when the Jayhawks relied heavily on Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike and rolled to a 28-3 record entering the postseason.
We’ll start this thing off with the seniors — Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa — and will unveil this year’s “He Will, He Won’t, He Might” predictions for the Jayhawks during the next few weeks.
Without further ado, let’s kick this year’s series off with the team’s most experienced player and obvious leader — senior guard Marcus Garrett.
He will: Record 66 or more steals, making him just the seventh Jayhawk all-time to crack 200 for his career
The number of steals Garrett needs to join Club 200 is low by his standards. And even in a season that will start late and be trimmed down because of the pandemic, Garrett should easily swipe 66 steals.
That’s less than 2.5 per game during the expected 27-game regular season and well off the mark of Garrett’s state goal of getting five steals each time he goes out there.
That doesn’t always happen, of course. But he did record three or more steals in 10 of KU’s 31 games last season.
Garrett has never reached the 60-steal mark during his Kansas career. But his steal total has improved during each of his seasons in Lawrence — 35 as a freshman, 43 as a sophomore and 56 as a junior — and there’s no reason to think that trend cannot continue during the 2020-21 season.
Remember, Garrett got to 56 a season ago despite missing chunks of a couple of games because of ankle injuries.
Regardless of whether he gets to 66 this season to crack 200, he needs just 39 to pass Tyshawn Taylor for 13th and a spot in the media guide, 48 to pass Adonis Jordan for 10th and 64 to move ahead of former teammate Devonte’ Graham, who currently sits in seventh place with 197.
Provided the season plays out in full, by February, Garrett should be starting to catch and pass several players on KU’s all-time steals list.
He won’t: Have to play the 4 at all this season
I’m pretty sure I said this exact thing last year (either here or in another article) but it seems even more accurate this time around.
For starters, Garrett is this team’s point guard and will likely be far too valuable in that role to move him around too much on defense.
Beyond that, the Jayhawks have no shortage of players who can play the 4 this year. And that’s whether they play big or small.
Mitch Lightfoot is one option. And either David McCormack or Silvio De Sousa also could log minutes at KU’s other big man spot.
Beyond that, Jalen Wilson, Tristan Enaruna, Christian Braun and even newcomer Tyon Grant-Foster all have the ability to play big, using their strength and length to guard stretch 4s and other versatile wing types that KU’s opponents might play in that spot on offense.
Garrett obviously can still play the 4 if asked. And it’s definitely possible that for a possession here or there at different points throughout the season that he might need to.
But it’s hard to envision it happening too much unless the Jayhawks get into trouble. Garrett will be the guy that makes everything go on both ends of the floor for the Jayhawks this season, both by initiating KU’s offense and suffocating the attack of KU’s opponents.
He might: Be the Big 12 Player of the Year
Garrett enters the 2020-21 season as the Naismith Award’s reigning defensive player of the year. And we already know what he’s capable of doing on that end of the court.
The question surrounding Garrett’s ability to elevate his game into both player-of-the-year and NBA-draft type levels comes on the offensive end.
And there are plenty of people out there who think Garrett is more than capable of being as good offensively as he has been defensively.
It might not look the same as what you think of from an offensive force. Garrett’s big games won’t look anything like Azubuike’s. But they might be equally as impressive.
Scoring 10-14 points per game while also dishing seven or eight assists is a wildly productive night. And there’s no reason to think that Garrett can’t do that on a regular basis this season.
For one, as one of KU’s best options off the dribble and a guy who can live at the free throw line, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to score. For two, I think Garrett is ready to unleash a side of himself that KU fans haven’t fully seen.
That mindset is tied to that whole last-time-around mentality and now that he’s finally out of the shadows of bigger personalities and more talented offensive players, it could be Garrett’s time to shine.
Even if he does, there are several other talented players in the Big 12 who will have plenty to say about who wins the conference's MVP award this season. But Garrett certainly seems poised to be in the conversation.
A year ago, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self talked openly about being more motivated than ever before to lead a team and put all of his focus into coaching basketball as the NCAA’s case against the program swirled around him.
While the NCAA case remains ongoing, Self has identified another element of KU’s current reality to rally around this year.
“It’s been a different 18 months,” Self recently said while talking with assistants Jerrance Howard and Norm Roberts on the “Grill with Bill” video series put out by Kansas Athletics. “I’m not saying bad, just different. What I think we’ve got to do is pour ourselves into these kids more than we ever have.”
After leading the Jayhawks to a 28-3 record and the likely No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament that never happened, Self was expressed his appreciation for the way last season’s squad handled the distractions around the program.
“Let’s just call it like it is. This year’s team carried their coach,” Self said during a March edition of The Jayhawker podcast.
So it should come as no surprise that he’s eagerly looking forward to the opportunity to return the favor this year. The fact that the upcoming season will have so much uncertainty attached to it — from the social unrest and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — only increases Self’s ability to pick his players up this time around.
“Think about last year (and) questions about the NCAA and this, this and this,” Self recalled during the recent sit-down with his assistants. “They handled that beautifully. It was no factor. But think about that and now you’ve got all the social things going on, which need to be talked about and addressed, and then you’ve got COVID and stuff going on. We need to dive in to them, more than ever, to make sure we help them.”
Throughout the cancelation of last season’s postseason, coaches talked about how tough and resilient their players were. Disappointment was everywhere, but the coaches seemed to know that, in short order, the players would return to their normal lives, with friends, family, video games, workouts and, of course, basketball taking center stage.
So simply getting back to playing the game they love with their teammates will go a long way toward carrying the current Jayhawks through these unusual times.
It all began in early August, when the players returned to campus for the first time in months. And it moved into high gear on Monday, when the Jayhawks jumped into Day 1 of their annual boot camp conditioning grind.
The intensity and excitement will only grow from here.
Self and his coaches, along with the players, have said that while this season will be like all the others in that the Jayhawks will be gunning to win championships. But it also will be different because of their plans and goals to impact change and help bring equality and unity to KU’s campus and the Lawrence community.
Winning basketball games might not seem like that big of a part of it. But in a hoops-crazed town like this, it sure can’t hurt. And Self believes the Jayhawks, while different, have a chance to be pretty darn good during the 2020-21 season, as well.
“I don’t know that we can be as good as we were last year,” Self said during the “Grill with Bill” episode. “Because obviously we lost two great players (Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson) plus Isaiah (Moss) was a great piece. … (But) if we can get our big guys, primarily Dave (McCormack), to defend in a way where he is a paint protector, I actually think we can be better offensively. I think we’ll score easier from all five spots than we did last year.”
KU’s first official practice is set for Oct. 14 and the earliest the Jayhawks can open the 2020-21 season is Nov. 25.
KU’s schedule is still being finalized and it sounds like the Jayhawks may be slated to start the first week of December.
The Kansas men’s basketball program’s annual boot camp kicked off bright and early Monday morning, but new offseason rules surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have created the potential for a slightly different look at this year’s conditioning session.
With the NCAA recently granting a transitional period of up to 12 hours a week of player-coach interaction through Oct. 13, the Jayhawks have more time to get more done ahead of the first official practice of the 2020-21 season.
Included within that 12 hours is the requirement of skill instruction being limited to eight hours a week (the other four are allowed in the weight room) and student-athletes getting a minimum of two days off each week, as well.
In a phone interview with the Journal-World on Sunday night, KU coach Bill Self outlined how his plans for boot camp would fit into those windows.
“It’s pretty much standard,” Self said. “The thing about it is, we’re starting it when we get eight hours on the court instead of just four. So, if we wanted to, we could make boot camp have a ball and we could actually do basketball stuff during boot camp. So that’s kind of different.”
As of Sunday, Self’s plan was to divide up the workouts throughout the next couple of weeks.
“We could go an hour in the morning and then go an hour in the afternoon four days this week and still be within the limits,” Self explained. “What I think we’ll do is do a lot of skill work in the afternoon and then hit them really hard in the morning, conditioning-wise.”
Traditionally speaking, KU’s boot camp has always been about conditioning anyway. The boot camp sessions always have been run without basketballs, with most of the drills designed to put the players in basketball situations, such as full-court sprints, defensive slides and rebounding drills.
For the next 7-10 days, Self and his coaching staff will push this year’s Jayhawks like some of them have never been pushed before. So much of the experience emphasizes mental toughness. And, in the past, flawless execution occasionally has led to shorter sessions.
“We’re not in good enough shape to practice,” Self said Sunday. “Not close. But we will be in 10 days or so. But right now we’re not. Depending on how they do, I think we’ll probably end up going seven or eight workout days.”
Self said part of his desire to keep this year’s boot camp short and sweet was because the team still has plenty of time before the start of practice and the season opener, the date of which remains unknown other than the fact that it will not come before Nov. 25.
“It’s a longer season now,” Self noted. “We don’t start until (November) 25th and we can actually practice more than we have been practicing, so I just don’t feel the need to try to crush them.”