After weeks of waiting and preparation, five Kansas Jayhawks finally made their way to Chicago this week to participate in the annual pre-draft combine, which featured nearly 70 participants this year.
Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman, Billy Preston and Udoka Azubuike all arrived in Chicago this week and kicked off this year's combine on Wednesday with a round of interviews, measurements, photo shoots and more.
In case you missed it earlier, here's a quick look at how the five Jayhawks, particularly Graham, prepared for this week's combine, along with a recent update from KU coach Bill Self on what Azubuike, who remains eligible to return to KU for his junior season, could get out of his four or five days in front of all 30 NBA franchises.
We'll have all kinds of reaction from Chicago, as well as results of their measurements and on-the-court performances, throughout the week.
Some of the Jayhawks in attendance are pegged as second-round picks in the June 21 NBA Draft in the various mock drafts that are out there, but each of them could improve their draft stock with a good showing this week in Chicago.
As an appetizer for what's still ahead, here are some of the results of the photo shoots the former (and one still current) Jayhawks participated in during Wednesday's opening day.
Check back for more photos of the rest of the KU crew from @NBADraft.
Under Armour is the official sponsor of the combine and will be providing workout uniforms and other types of gear for the attendees throughout the week.
Later this summer, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self will be literally stepping out of his comfort zone in an effort to help raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.
Self, on Aug. 25, will be rappelling down the side of a seven-story building in Downtown Lawrence as the featured guest in an “Over the Edge Global” fund-raiser to benefit the local chapter of the Boys & Girls club.
According to a press release, Self was among the first people to sign up for the event, which asks participants to raise at least $1,000 from their friends, family and fans to sponsor the act of bravery.
“I’ve never scaled a building or bungee jumped or done anything that is remotely comparable to what we’ll be doing on this day,” said Self, who will be scaling down the side of the 888 Lofts building (888 New Hampshire) along with others on that day in late August. “But I’m excited and it’s for a good cause. Hopefully it will generate a lot of interest from a lot of people.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence is still seeking others to join Self as “edgers” for their big event and the fun is open to people of all ages.
No experience is required in order to rappel, and there is no age requirement. Over The Edge will send professional, certified technicians to install and supervise all rappelling equipment and participants. The only requirement is that participants must be between 100-300 pounds. Even people in wheelchairs are able to rappel for charity but must contact Alissa Bauer — email@example.com — at the Boys & Girls Club to arrange the proper accommodations ahead of time.
For Self and his wife, Cindy, who have been longtime supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, the fun of stepping off of a building is about much more than tackling something he never has done.
“I participated actively in the Boys & Girls Club in Oklahoma City when I was young,” Self said. “With coaching, I’ve seen so many players, especially from the inner cities, that were involved — and in many cases saved — by the efforts of Boys & Girls Club. It’s something that is very near and dear to us.”
Since 2008, Over The Edge Global has helped non-profits raise more than $70 million and put 52,000 people safely “Over The Edge.”
While the August event will be the first of its kind in Lawrence, the closest OTE rappel session happened at the Westar Energy building in Topeka back in September of 2015, when funds were raised to benefit the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.
“This is not your everyday auction or golf tournament,” said Boys & Girls Club CEO Colby Wilson. “We wanted to expand our already awesome group of supporters. I’m really looking forward to seeing who we can engage with this. The timing lines up perfectly with the grand opening of our new facility, and we will have a lot of people we want to thank and have fun with. This event will help us do both.”
To register to join Self in climbing down the building or to learn more about the event, check out the Over The Edge Lawrence web site.
With the biggest audition of his life just around the corner, hard-working Kansas point guard Devonte' Graham will carve out some time this weekend, just days ahead of the NBA draft combine in Chicago, to reconnect with KU fans in the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas.
Graham will be signing copies of Jason King’s latest book, “Beyond the Streak: Untold Stories from Kansas Basketball’s Unrivaled Big 12 Reign.” Released in November, the 512-page book chronicles the Jayhawks’ record-setting streak of conference championship and features interviews with more than 100 former KU players, coaches and opponents.
Graham, the 2018 Big 12 Player of the Year, first-team All-American and national player of the year finalist, is featured prominently in the bottom right corner of the book’s cover and is quoted extensively inside.
Graham finished his KU career with 1,750 points (13th all-time at Kansas) and is one of just three players in school history to tally at least 1,700 points, 600 assists and 190 steals. Equally important was the energy and and spirit Graham provided during each of his four seasons in Lawrence.
“In all my years of following the Jayhawks, I can’t recall a player who was as loved and embraced by KU fans as Devonte' Graham,” King said in a press release announcing the book signings. “I know Devonte' is excited about these book signings because it will give him a chance to interact with so many of the people who have supported him the past four years.”
Fans attending the signings will be allowed to get two autographs from Graham (on any item of their choice) for every book purchased.
“Beyond the Streak” retails for $26.95 plus tax. Graham will not be signing copies of previously-purchased books.
Here's a quick look at the schedule for Graham’s signings:
Friday, May 11
8262 Mission Rd.
Prairie Village, KS
Time: 7 to 9 p.m.
Saturday, May 12
9750 Quivira Rd.
Overland Park, KS
Time: 10 a.m. to noon
5918 SW 21st St.
Time: 2 to 4 p.m.
921 Massachusetts St.
Time: 5 to 7 p.m.
In the regular Tuesday time slot, I joined Nick Schwerdt to talk KU basketball and the dream showdown being kicked around between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Will Tiger and Phil go head to head for what Schwerdt hopes is an uncomfortable amount of money?
On the hoops front, we talked Joe Cremo to Villanova and where Kansas looks next to fill it’s final scholarship.
Another grad transfer, a red-shirt transfer, a project and hanging on to the scholarship are all options at this point. And the Jayhawks remain 10-12 deep even after Cremo heads to Villanova.
Raise your hand if you think the Kansas men's basketball team could have been a No. 1 seed and reached the Elite Eight in 2017 with just eight scholarship players.
Keep your hand up if you think the 2017-18 squad could have followed that up by breaking down the door to the Final Four with a less-talented crop of eight or nine scholarship players the following year.
Those of you with your hands up are either blindly loyal or flat-out lying. But in the wake of Wednesday morning's recommendations on how to address a laundry list of issues plaguing the sport, The Commission on College Basketball, headed up by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, unveiled a list of how to fix the game.
While their suggestions ranged from eliminating the one-and-done rule to addressing transparency among AAU programs and shoe companies, one of the more interesting aspects of what amounted to be a 25-minute statement read by Rice in Indianapolis early Wednesday morning had to do with what might happen if the NBA and NBA Players Association are not interested in allowing 18-year-olds into their league.
Make no mistake about it; this was a power play by Rice and college basketball in an effort to put the onus on the NBA.
The gist of it goes like this: Eliminate the 19-year-old age requirement and allow high school graduates to enter the draft or run the risk of (a) losing the marketing that has made such players so attractive following their freshman seasons or (b) run the risk of not getting them until they have a college degree in their hands.
Whether the NBA brass caves to the pressure or laughs in its face, Rice's panel made it clear that they are expecting the NBA to make some kind of decision, sooner rather than later — by the start of next basketball season is the way it was worded. If that does not happen, they promised to reconvene and explore the idea of implementing options A or B into their bylaws.
Here is the exact language from the report explaining that scenario.
"We must emphasize that only the NBA and the NBPA can change the one-and-done rule. If they choose not to do so by the end of 2018, the NCAA must still find a way to address this situation. In that circumstance, the Commission will reconvene and consider the other tools at its disposal. These could range from the baseball rule, to freshman ineligibility, to “locking up” scholarships for three or four years if the recipient leaves the program for the NBA after a single year. That would be a disincentive to recruit an athlete for a one-year run at the title. In short, the current situation is untenable."
For the sake of this blog, let's assume the NBA does not want 18-year-olds in its league — the reasons for this run deep, are too many to list and are probably best explained in another blog — and college basketball reacts by saying that, regardless of how long players actually stay in college, scholarships are locked in for four years as soon as the player signs, a move that could significantly impact the way coaches recruit and, worse yet, would impact the way college rosters look for years to come.
Think less scholarships available and more preferred walk-ons playing more minutes.
There are alternatives to this same concept, with a three-year lock being possible or a plus-one model, meaning that the scholarship is off limits for one season after the player leaves for the NBA. But all three possibilities focus on the same outcome — to make college programs value the players they're bringing to campus.
Had a four-year version of the rule been in effect five years ago, Kansas basketball would have been affected dramatically in the two cases mentioned at the top of this blog.
Take the 2016-17 team for starters.
With five Jayhawks — Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo — from the three previous teams leaving for the NBA as one-and-done players, the rule would have made all five of those spots unavailable for additional players and kept those scholarships “locked” for the 2016-17 season.
Provided recruits would not have changed their minds in any way and decided not to come to KU because of the roster limitations, that means that Kansas would have been forced to operate with just eight scholarship players during the 2016-17 season.
It's worth noting here that any time a university has one of its scholarships taken away because of some kind of rules violation, it's viewed as a major blow. This would be five times that and probably have people losing their minds.
While the eight on scholarship would have been a solid group — Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Carlton Bragg and Udoka Azubuike, Landen Lucas and Lagerald Vick is my guess — the team's depth would have been limited and made up of walk-ons willing to pay their own way.
Mitch Lightfoot might have been an option there, but that also might be a pipe dream. After all, there were plenty of other Division I schools willing to give Lightfoot a free ride to come play for them.
Assuming all other things stayed the same and Bragg turned into a shell of the player he was as a freshman and Azubuike still hurt his wrist 11 games in, it's tough to picture that team surviving the season with Mason, Graham, Jackson, Svi and Lucas being backed by Clay Young, Tyler Self and Tucker Vang.
Remember, those five spots being locked up means no Dwight Coleby, likely no Lightfoot and no Malik Newman waiting in the wings. There simply would not have been room for KU coach Bill Self to have those guys.
Speaking of Newman, that brings us to the 2017-18 team and KU's Final Four run. No Newman in 2016-17 means no Newman in 2017-18 — he likely would have gone pro after his freshman season if he were still intent on leaving Mississippi State — and KU, once again, would have had less than the maximum number of 13 scholarships available to hand out because of four or five spots being “locked” up by the four-year commitments of players long gone.
In that case, KU would have been left with a top eight of Graham, Mykhailiuk, Vick, Azubuike, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe and maybe Silvio De Sousa.
Considering Preston never played and Cunliffe and De Sousa were only eligible for half of the season, that hardly looks like a Final Four team. Especially without Newman.
Beyond that, the damage done to the 2018-19 team would have been enormous. Down a few scholarships to begin with, KU would not have had the luxury of stashing Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson or Charlie Moore as scholarship players red-shirting the 2017-18 season. Add to that the fact that neither Newman and probably Lightfoot would never have made it to Lawrence in the first place and you're looking at a 2018-19 team that would have had 10 scholarships available — Diallo, Jackson and Vick's would all be taken — and filled them with almost all new players.
The lone exceptions on the inexperienced roster would be Azubuike and Garrett. And that's only if the KU center were to pull his name out of the draft instead of turning pro.
So what you would have for next season is a roster that, again, looks somewhat similar to what KU will have, but lacks any real experience.
Provided Self were able to stay solid on the recruiting trail, the 2018-19 roster waiting in the wings would include: Guards Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe and Ochai Agbaji, along with big men Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.
That would leave the Jayhawks with three spots still to fill. If you think KU trying to land Romeo Langford is a big deal now, it would be absolutely enormous under those rules.
Getting the scholarships back and having 10 again instead of just seven or eight no doubt would have felt like hitting the lottery. But it would still force KU to play three scholarship players shy of the maximum number allowed by the NCAA.
All of this is, of course, is pure speculation. And there's no way of knowing how things really would have played out or what adjustments Self and his staff might have made to handle the realities of those rules. Leaving KU altogether might have been one of them.
But it does go to show that even the smallest aspect of what can only be described as a massive set of recommendations could have a pretty profound impact on the sport as we know it
Will all of those recommendations be implemented? Nope. Even if they were, could they all be enforced? Nope. And even if those two obstacles were deemed manageable, would the NCAA be willing to shell out the money it would take to make sure they're effective? Unlikely.
So it remains to be seen what actually will come from all of the time and effort put in by Rice and the commission of 11 other people who seem to care a great deal about college basketball.
But one thing that does seem clear is that this group, for better or worse, is expecting to see something happen fairly quickly.
If it doesn't, they've promised to go back behind closed doors, reach out a little bit more and who knows what they'll come up with then?
His NBA career may not have matched what people would expect from the No. 12 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, but there's not a person alive who can say that former Jayhawk Nick Collison's pro career has not been a rousing success.
Success, of course, can be defined in a number of different ways. Rings. Wins. Stats. And even fame are the most often talked about measurements when it comes to pinpointing the success of professional athletes.
But Collison has become a star in much different way, one that seemingly will have a lasting impression on those he played with for years to come.
Drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (five years before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City) after a stellar four-year career at Kansas, Collison recently completed his 15th season with the same franchise, though playing more of a bench-coach role on a one-year, minimum-contract salary during the 2017-18 season.
Collison's career with the Sonics/Thunder included 895 appearances — 177 of them starts — and career averages of 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. Collison's career totals include more than 5,300 points and 4,700 rebounds.
But those numbers — including a career year in 2007-08 when he played in 78 games, started 35 and finished the season averaging 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game — pale in comparison to the measure of the impact Collison has had on his teammates throughout the years.
Never was that more obvious than earlier this week, after the final regular season game of the season, when OKC guard Russell Westbrook, who had just completed becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in back-to-back seasons, was on the microphone thanking the fans and took a moment to bring Collison onto the floor with him.
In doing so, Westbrook referred to Collison as his "friend, mentor and brother," and told the roaring Thunder crowd, "He's somebody I always looked up to, it's a real pleasure to have him here. I just wanted to make sure you guys show him some love."
With that, Westbrook lowered the mic and raised his arms, encouraging the crowd to get even louder in their ovation for the former Jayhawk and franchise's favorite son.
"I'm not sure if it's his last season or not," Westbrook continued. "But he's somebody I always looked up to as a brother. He's done so much for this organization, I just wanted to make sure you guys gave him a standing ovation for the things he's done for this city."
As for whether this will be Collison's final season in the NBA, the former KU standout addressed that with reporters prior to the Thunder victory in that regular season finale.
"I still enjoy playing, enjoy being out there," Collison said. "And we've got one regular season game (and then) the playoffs and I'll figure out what I'm doing after that."
This is how it starts.
An ESPN.com report from Jeff Borzello, dated Oct. 7, indicates that five-star, Class of 2018 prospect Jahvon Quinerly, who currently is committed to Arizona, has hired a lawyer in response to the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.
According to Borzello, Quinerly, who was briefly recruited by Kansas — KU offered Quinerly a scholarship in August of 2016 and continued to recruit him through April of 2017 — has not been contacted by federal agents and it is important to note that there was nothing in the FBI’s initial findings directly linking the five-star point guard to any wrong-doing.
But the mere fact that he and his family feel the need to hire legal representation shows you, yet again, just how serious this thing could get.
Picture this: Here’s a young man on the brink of his senior season of high school basketball who just committed to Arizona after being wooed by some of the biggest and baddest college basketball programs in the land. Quinerly should be having the time of his life. Instead, he has hired a lawyer and is reading things with his name attached to them that reference the potential for him to miss some or even all of his freshman season of college ball if there’s even so much as the smallest link between him and the corruption that already took down Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson.
Talk about scary times.
According to Borzello’s report, Quinerly was recruited by Richardson, one of four assistants at four schools who were named in the initial findings, and investigation documents allege that a $15,000 bribe was paid by Richardson to “Player-5,” who “verbally committed to attending” Arizona “on or about August 9, 2017.”
According to 247 Sports, Quinerly committed to Arizona on Aug. 8.
For now, there is nothing concrete about Quinerly’s involvement in any of this. But the simple act of putting two and two together sure makes it look like there could be something there.
And if there is, you can add another party to the long list of players who have the potential to blow this thing wide open, a list that now includes federal investigators, high school recruits, current college players, former college players, head coaches, assistant coaches, fired coaches, administrators, parents, shoe company executives and more.
I mean, Quinerly might be the absolute best young man in America, but if the feds are able to prove he was involved in this corruption, it’s not hard to imagine the New Jersey point guard sharing everything he knows, good and bad, with eager investigators.
A New York Post report from Sept. 30 tells the story of a father of an unnamed former Louisville standout who claims his son was offered $100,000 “by someone from a rival of Louisville’s,” during his recruitment.
While the identity of that Louisville "rival" certainly is intriguing, it's hardly the most important part of the story. What is is the fact that this kind of behavior has been going on for some time now (big surprise, right?) and more and more people are slowly starting to tell their stories.
In the New York Post story, the father also claims that “while Adidas had no impact on my son’s decision to go to Louisville, other kids he played with in AAU were definitely led by sneaker companies. I saw it all the time. Their influence runs very deep — especially with families that don’t have means.”
With Twitter messages from national college basketball reporters and even the likes of college hoops guru Dick Vitale starting to surface about the likelihood that more names soon will be implicated in the scandal that could change college basketball forever, it appears as if this story is likely to get more intense as the days go by.
In discussing the “tough week” that hammered college basketball from nearly all angles this week, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self on Thursday night focused mostly on what could be done to fix a culture that has allowed shoe companies, third parties and the high-stakes world of recruiting to take control of the sport.
But although Self admitted that many of the ideas he had either thought of or heard about — ideas that, on the surface, might make the game better — he also acknowledged that finding the solution likely would be a long and difficult process.
It remains to be seen just how deep the ongoing FBI investigation will go and how many more schools, coaches and athletes will find themselves in serious trouble, but there is no doubting that every aspect of the college game is suddenly under heavy scrutiny and facing dangerous days ahead.
That fact only figures to add to the already existing pressure that surrounds the game. And Self on Thursday night opened up about the numerous layers of pressure that exist within college basketball.
“The money is what’s driven the pressure,” he said. “There’s pressure on the NCAA, when they’ve got a how-many-billion-dollar industry? There’s pressure on the schools to hire the right guys and pay them a high salary that gives them the best chance to (win). And then there’s pressure from the alumni that expect certain things, and in order to make bills meet you jack up the ticket prices, so now there’s pressure on coaches even from alums that say, ‘You’re not giving us the product that we’re paying for.’
“And then there’s pressure on the kids because if they don’t go to the league after their sophomore year, they’re considered failures. There’s pressure on everybody. And I do think it’s more magnified now and it probably is more than it has been because of all the money that’s involved in our industry.”
Most, if not all, of that pressure has always existed in the world of college athletics, but Self said he thought the advancement of social media has taken it to new levels year after year.
“Coaches don’t win games, players do,” he said. “And in order to win you need to have as good of guys or better guys than the people you’re competing against. That’s common sense. So I’ve always thought there was pressure in recruiting. But I do think that the attention has been elevated so much through social media. Instead of getting on the message boards, you could almost call it rumor boards, too. There’s things that are said all the time and now you have to defend yourself all the time. And it’s everybody that has to do this.”
One of the biggest sources of pressure, according to Self, is the frustration that comes from not knowing exactly what is going on with every prospect a program recruits. Sure, coaches are able to keep in touch with the players on a regular basis, and, yeah, they meet the parents and AAU coaches and, occasionally, even a young man’s extended family. But Self said sometimes that is not enough.
“You have too many third parties involved,” he said.
And the only way to eliminate that altogether, or at least lessen their influence, is to overhaul the entire system.
“You’re also talking about where it’s totally legal for agents or financial planners or whatever to go meet with a 15-year-old and his family or a 16-year-old and his family,” Self said. “And you think that everybody that is meeting with them are 100 percent ethical and above board? There’s a lot of stuff. And that’s why there needs to be reform. There’s no question about that. I just don’t know if anybody’s come up with a perfect scenario to do that.
“Some people say just pay players and we won’t have this issue. I think that could open up a whole other deal. So there’s some serious things that have to be discussed and decisions made to allow our sport to move on in a favorable way.”
More news and nuggets from a crazy week in college basketball
- Kansas Athletics monitoring charges against Adidas exec; feds have not contacted KU
- Tale of the Tait: KU's shoe deal with Adidas is company's largest total dollar deal, ranks fourth in nation
- White-collar crime attorney says high-profile coaches now at risk in fast-moving college basketball probe
- AUDIO: Matt Tait joins 1320 KLWN's Rock Chalk Sports Talk to discuss FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting practices
- NCAA basketball coaches, Adidas executive among 10 charged in bribe scheme
For the second consecutive year, Allen Fieldhouse will transform into a high-energy concert venue during the minutes leading up to the men’s basketball team’s first practice of the 2017-18 season.
KU announced Tuesday afternoon that international rap star Lil Yachty would be the featured performer at this year’s Late Night in the Phog event and the Grammy-nominated artist will kick off the on-court festivities just after 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Known for his hit singles "One Night" and "Minnesota" from his debut EP Summer Songs, Lil Yachty was nominated for a Grammy in 2017 for his collaboration with D.R.A.M. on "Broccoli."
Yachty’s performance, along with the skits and hoops scrimmage you’ve come to love from Late Nights past will be the cherry on top of a day that will begin bright and early with the Phog Festival on the front lawn of Allen Fieldhouse, which will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature many activities for fans of all ages, including a Family Fun Zone, radio remotes, a mobile video board and a live DJ. The festival will also include food trucks, giveaways, interactive displays and much more throughout the day.
The list of food trucks on site includes: Blend, G's Jamaican Cuisine, Salty Iguana, Polar Oasis and Draskos.
Doors will open for students at 4:30 p.m. and the general public will be allowed in at 5 p.m. Seating is offered on a first-come-first-served basis and parking is free everywhere except the parking garage just north of Allen Fieldhouse.
From 5:15-6:30 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse will be the site of the finals of this year’s 3-on-3 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as the location of the final showdowns between KU students who battle it out on the NBA2K18 video game.
KU coaches Bill Self and Brandon Schneider will be on hand to present trophies to the winners.
This year’s Late Night fun will be broadcast live by Spectrum Sports, which can be found on the Jayhawk Network and ESPN3. Greg Gurley and Brian Hanni will serve as hosts.