Rock Chalk will head to Rocky Top in 2021, when the Kansas men's basketball program travels to Tennessee to take on the Volunteers in the 2021 SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
While the rest of the Kansas men’s basketball program’s 2020-21 schedule remains a work in progress, ESPN on Wednesday released the matchups for this season’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Included in it was a Jan. 30 game between KU and Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn.
The nine other Big 12 teams also will face SEC foes on that day, as the two conferences are showcased on ESPN from late morning well into the night. Tip times have not yet been announced.
Tennessee is expected to open the 2020-21 season ranked in the Top 15 of most national polls. ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello had the Vols at No. 10 in his most recent preseason poll, updated on Aug. 12.
The upcoming season will mark the third straight that the two teams have played each other, with KU defeating UT, 87-82 in overtime in the title game of the 2018 NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, N.Y. and KU winning last year’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge, 74-68.
Kansas owns a 4-1 all-time series advantage with Tennessee and the Jayhawks have won the last three meetings with the Volunteers, including last season's meeting at Allen Fieldhouse.
This season will mark the eighth year for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and the sixth in a row in which all 10 games in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge will take place in one day. The Big 12 holds a 4-1-2 record in the series and leads 40-30 overall in the Challenge’s games.
KU is 5-2 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, having split with Florida in 2013-14 and 2014-15, before sweeping a home-and-home series with Kentucky in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, Kansas defeated Texas A&M, 79-68, at Allen Fieldhouse, and in 2019 the Jayhawks lost at Kentucky, 71-63.
SEC/Big 12 Challenge Matchups
Kansas at Tennessee
Auburn at Baylor
Iowa State at Mississippi State
Texas A&M at Kansas State
Alabama at Oklahoma
Arkansas at Oklahoma State
TCU at Missouri
Texas at Kentucky
Texas Tech at LSU
Florida at West Virginia
Even with all of the talent, versatility and excitement in the Kansas backcourt this season, the one player many KU fans can’t wait to see is junior forward David McCormack.
For the first time in his Kansas career, McCormack will be playing without Udoka Azubuike in the mix, opening the door for the Virginia native to inherit a monster role as KU’s top big man.
Whether he does that or not — or if he simply continues to be a solid part of KU’s front court puzzle — remains to be seen, but McCormack should have every opportunity to deliver his best season to date in 2020-21.
One of the more challenging things about predicting McCormack’s upcoming season was eliminated last week when senior forward Silvio De Sousa announced he was leaving the program.
That opened the door to add major minutes to what already was going to be a major role for McCormack. And it’s now clear that the Jayhawks will roll into the season with a 1-2 punch up front of McCormack an Lightfoot, two proven players with experience who should have no problem co-existing in KU’s rotation.
It remains to be seen exactly what that will mean — will they split minutes equally at the 5, will they play together some or will one guy get the bulk of the work? — but regardless of how it plays out, both KU and McCormack are counting on a breakthrough season for the junior from Norfolk, Va.
Here’s a look at what that might include.
He will: At least double his career rebounding numbers
During 63 games in his first two seasons with the program, including 31 starts, McCormack has averaged 3.6 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game.
Last season, he recorded a career-best 4.1 rebounds per game and still played just 14.5 minutes per night.
This year, with his playing time expected to at least double, McCormack’s rebounding numbers should do at least that.
There have been times throughout his career where McCormack has looked like the best rebounder on the floor. But, because of his inconsistent usage, those times have not always turned into the norm.
There’s no reason for that not to this year and McCormack will have every opportunity and all kinds of motivation to deliver.
Because of KU’s depth in the backcourt and the presence of Lightfoot, McCormack’s minutes-per-game total won’t triple reached 37.5. But his 12.5 mpg career average should more than double, and McCormack should be capable of pushing the 30-minute mark on a regular basis.
If he does, that will create the potential for his numbers to balloon at the same rate but, in actuality, could produce an even better rate because of the opportunity to be a bigger part of the action and more in the flow of the game when he’s out there.
Consider this next stat as an example of the potential that figures to exist.
According to hoop-math.com, McCormack recorded 20% of all of KU’s putback baskets (18 of 88) during the 2019-20 season. That was in limited time and as a second option. It also ranked second to Udoka Azubuike, who finished with 30 putback baskets for 34.1% of KU’s total.
But with Azubuike gone — and nine other putbacks from De Sousa, Devon Dotson and Isaiah Moss gone, as well — Kansas will have 44.3% of its putbacks from last season to hand out to players on this team.
McCormack won’t get all of them, of course. And who knows how many more or less missed shots the Jayhawks will toss up in 2020-21. But even if the junior big man gets half of those that are now potentially available, while still getting his own share, as well, his percentage vaults up over 40% and his rebounding numbers climb with it.
That’s just from having the opportunity and being on the floor more, and that should be a theme of McCormack’s junior season.
He won’t: Come anywhere close to shooting the type of field goal percentage that Udoka Azubuike did
And that’s OK.
By finishing his time with the Jayhawks as a 74.6% shooter, Azubuike shattered KU’s career record for field goal percentage and also set a new NCAA record for the same mark.
McCormack won’t do that for a couple of reasons.
First, he’s not nearly as unstoppable in the paint as Azubuike was.
Second, he has and isn’t afraid to use his jump shot. And while that could work out as a weapon of sorts for the Kansas offense — think about that opening up driving lanes and angles for the KU backcourt — even if he hits jumpers at a 50% clip, he still won’t come anywhere near climbing much higher than 60% for his overall number.
Again, though, that’s OK.
Nobody is asking McCormack to be Azubuike. Sure they want him to be physical and clean up the glass and create problems for opponents in the paint, but he has neither the size nor the wingspan or bully-ball nature that Azubuike played with so often and so well when healthy.
McCormack’s offensive production will be fun to watch. And he’ll have his moments where he looks like he might rip down the goal. But there’s more to his game than that and he’ll be happy to display all of it this season.
He might: Average a double-double for the season
We already talked about McCormack’s rebounding potential and the fact that greater opportunity opens a lot of doors for him this season.
So why not expect him to cash in on that?
By virtue of the position he plays and the way the Jayhawks run their offense, getting to 10 points per game should be a given for McCormack.
After all, he holds a career average of 5.3 points per game in just 12.5 minutes so he basically needs to make two more baskets and a free throw per game to get to 10.
If he doesn’t do that, he’s probably struggled to the point where he’s not playing as much as many are expecting him to.
Assuming the double-digit point total, the double-double average will come down to what he does on the glass.
It’s a monster ask for him to average double digits in both categories for the season. And there’s a reason that players like Azubuike (15 last season) and Thomas Robinson (KU’s single-season leader in double-doubles with 27 in 2011-12) are still talked about for the monster double-double seasons they delivered under Self.
But McCormack is highly motivated and ready to prove himself as a go-to type of player. Plus, he’s put in the work and loves a challenge.
It would be an all-Big 12/All-American type season if he delivers, but there’s no reason to think it can’t happen.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2020:
It’s been a couple of years since now-former KU forward Silvio De Sousa made a real impact for the Kansas basketball program on game night, so it’s hard to say his recent decision to step away from basketball will hurt the Jayhawks much.
But that doesn't mean De Sousa’s departure won't have any effect on the program. It could, for instance, change the way the Jayhawks structure their lineups this winter.
Earlier last week, before De Sousa announced his departure on Friday, coach Bill Self held his first meeting with the media of the 2020-21 season, and he lauded the depth of his team — which, at the time, included De Sousa in the frontcourt.
“I think we could play 11 (players),” Self said. “And, depending on how things fall out, there’s times where maybe we could play all 13 (scholarship players).”
With KU down to 12 scholarship players, that obviously will no longer be the case. The big question now: How will De Sousa’s departure affect the rest of the roster?
With De Sousa gone, the Jayhawks almost certainly will play the way they have for the majority of the past three seasons — with four guards and one big man. That probably was going to be the case most of the time anyway, but Self was still intrigued by the idea of playing two bigs some of the time.
Even before the De Sousa news, junior forward David McCormack was going to get the first shot at filling the role vacated by Udoka Azubuike and being the anchor of the KU frontcourt. McCormack will still be that player, and his importance is only slightly greater than it was with De Sousa around.
It’s not that McCormack now will be asked to do a lot more for the Jayhawks. Rather, it's that his presence as an experienced and legitimate big body is suddenly even more valuable, because he now represents 33% of KU’s frontcourt options instead of just 25%.
But De Sousa's departure could have a much bigger effect on the two players behind McCormack: senior Mitch Lightfoot and freshman Gethro Muscadin.
When De Sousa was still in the mix, Muscadin was almost certainly going to redshirt this season. Now, he’s one injury away from having an important role as a reserve.
However, as long as Lightfoot and McCormack stay healthy, there’s no reason to think that those two will have any trouble splitting the 40 minutes available at the 5, making the idea of playing Muscadin an option but not necessarily automatic.
If anything, I think De Sousa leaving has a bigger impact on Lightfoot than it does Muscadin.
Before De Sousa's announcement, I thought there was a strong chance that Lightfoot was going to get a handful of starts at the 4 this season. In that scenario — perhaps during the first couple of weeks of the season — Self could have elected to start both McCormack and Lightfoot, knowing that he had De Sousa available to back up both of them and that he also could play four guards a good chunk of the time.
Now, however, Self needs Lightfoot to fill the important role of being McCormack’s primary backup.
If the Jayhawks encounter an opponent that plays big, Lightfoot and McCormack could still both play as much as needed to match up. But those types of teams are becoming rarer in college basketball. Therefore, putting both bigs on the floor to open games seems a little too risky, both because of foul trouble and because the inexperienced Muscadin would be the lone backup for both of them.
The silver lining here might be that the Jayhawks can settle into a solid rotation sooner than they otherwise would have. It took Self and company a couple of months to abandon the two-big approach last season, even though they knew that the Jayhawks’ best lineups were with four guards on the floor.
This year, there likely will be no delay, and that should play right into KU’s strengths, with a backcourt that is loaded with depth, talent and versatility. Tristan Enaruna, Jalen Wilson and Christian Braun all can play big or small, and Marcus Garrett is able and willing to do anything the coaches ask.
That group, along with McCormack, Lightfoot and Muscadin down low, should be more than enough to keep Kansas in position to compete against anyone.
For nearly three full quarters of Saturday’s 38-17 loss in Morgantown, W.Va., the Kansas football team did all that its disgruntled fan base has ever asked it to do.
Before Leddie Brown’s 87-yard touchdown run put the Mountaineers up 24-10 with 3:37 to play in the third quarter, the Jayhawks had managed to hang around.
Credit for that goes to D.J. Eliot and the KU defense, which did everything they could to keep Kansas in it, from turnovers and big hits to snapping their chin straps up and running back out there all afternoon.
But the Jayhawks got absolutely no help from their offense and therefore never really had a chance once the Mountaineers (3-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) took the lead after gifting Kansas a 10-0 head-start to open the game.
Maybe you were surprised that the Jayhawks (0-4, 0-3) were able to hang around as long as they did. Fair.
Maybe you were even encouraged by some of the individual efforts. Good for you. Or maybe you stopped watching a long time ago. Hard to blame ya.
Either way, as the season continues to deliver disappointing results for the Jayhawks, those of us still watching continue to try to learn about this team.
Most of it leads to questions for which there are just no answers.
Here’s what we learned this week.
• Miles Kendrick is not the solution at quarterback. The junior who coaches and teammates laud as a great leader, made his first start of the season and got a full game to show what he could do. The KU offense responded with one of its worst showings of the past two seasons. The blame for that does not fall entirely on Miles. Not by a long shot. But this team needs a quarterback that can spark something when there’s absolutely nothing there. When freshman Jalon Daniels is back from injury, the job should be his. Until then, if needed, Thomas MacVittie can have one more chance.
• KU’s coaching staff and players had two weeks to figure out some kind of fix or fancy new approach for the offensive line and came up with nothing. Guys are trying. Coaches are working. They just do not have the horses. Nothing but time will change that. Moving the pieces around won’t help, and shoddy O-line play means no shot on Saturdays.
• Because of those first two realities, there really is very little hope for Pooka Williams Jr., this season. Give him the ball on every play or don’t. Put him in space or don’t. Let him return kicks or don’t. It doesn’t look like it’s going to matter. Even Williams’ lone highlight on Saturday — a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the final two minutes — came long after the damage had been done. Outside of that, Williams touched the ball 14 times and gained 28 yards.
In his postgame meeting with the media, acting head coach Joshua Eargle — a bundle of positive energy if ever there was one — talked a lot about how close Kansas was in a lot of areas.
That’s all well and good, but at some point the Jayhawks either have to stop doing the little things that are hurting them or admit that the things plaguing this program are bigger.
Even with that positive spin to another rough Saturday, Eargle correctly noted that until the Jayhawks get things down in practice and carry that over to game days, it’s going to take time to get over the hump.
“You can play as hard as you want to, and you can want it really, really bad,” he said. “But it’s going to come down to execution.”
And it’s not going to get any easier to execute in the next month. Next week, the Jayhawks are slated to play at No. 22 Kansas State and they follow that up with a home matchup with No. 20 Iowa State, a road trip to unranked Oklahoma and a home game against unranked Texas in three of the four weeks that follow.
Two years into his Kansas basketball career, junior guard Ochai Agbaji appears to be ready to take on more responsibility than ever within the program.
In addition to suddenly being one of KU’s most experienced players, Agbaji also is one of the team’s most versatile scorers and reliable options on both ends of the floor.
Team-first all the way and fundamentally sound as often as possible, Agbaji likely won’t change his approach in 2020-21, but his impact could be bigger than ever.
A recent photo shared by the Kansas basketball team’s Twitter account showed the team after the completion of this year’s boot camp session on Tuesday morning. In it, Agbaji is one of five players with his shirt off and that vantage point — along with his pose — provides the opportunity to see exactly how much work the Kansas City, Mo., native put in on building his body in the offseason.
Compare the image to photos of Agbaji from last season and it’s easy to see the areas where he added significant amounts of muscle.
What that will do to his game — if anything — remains to be seen. But the guess here is that it will help him both in transition and on defense.
That’s a perfect segue into the next edition of He Will, He Won’t, He Might, so let’s take a look at what to expect from Agbaji during his junior season.
He will: Continue to be on the floor in crunch time and with the game on the line
This one is all about trust and KU coach Bill Self has had a ton of trust in Agbaji since midway through the second semester of his freshman season.
Part of it has to do with his approach to the game — follow the game plan, help your teammates, stick to the scouting report.
But the other part of it is Agbaji’s demeanor and personality. Like anyone, he’s had a few rough moments during his college career, but because he plays with such an even-keeled attitude, it’s often hard to pinpoint when Agbaji is rattled.
That’s the type of player you want on the floor at the end of games, and now that he’s an upperclassmen, with a couple of years of experience under his belt, it would not be a surprise to see Agbaji be even more aggressive in those late-game situations.
As long as he continues to make the right moves and plays within himself — there’s nothing from his past that suggests he won’t — that kind of cool, calm and collected confidence could become a real weapon for the 2020-21 Jayhawks at the end of close games.
He won’t: Struggle in transition the way he did at times during 2019-20
I don’t have concrete numbers on this — I haven’t found anywhere that keeps track of turnovers in transition — but it sure seemed like Agbaji was a little unsure of himself in transition last season.
Agbaji’s turnover rate (17.6 his freshman year and 19.4 last year) actually got worse during his sophomore season — a lot of that probably had to do with increased usage — and he ranked third on the team in turnovers, with 58.
At least 10 of those (or we’ll say 15-20%) had to come in transition.
On a couple of different occasions last season, Self expressed genuine surprise that a team full of so many talented athletes could struggle so much in transition.
Agbaji was certainly not the only one to blame for this, but I think his status as an underclassmen and genuine nice guy attitude was.
Rather than using his length, frame and explosive ability to be a nightmare on the break, Agbaji often looked to defer, seeking to keep everybody happy while falling in line with where he ranked in the pecking order of KU’s scorers.
The answer should have been No. 1 in transition. His ability to cover ground quickly and play above the rim should make him a monster on the run. And I think his new status as one of the team’s leaders in 2020-21 will unlock that part of his game this season.
He might: Earn a spot on the Big first-team all-defense squad
He doesn’t have the best hands on the team. He’s not the quickest dude on the team. And he doesn’t block a lot of shots.
But he’s almost always in the right spot. He works extremely hard at guarding his man and might be even better as a team defender.
But because he’s more solid than spectacular, and because the best defender in the country is also on his team, Agbaji does not always get proper recognition for his defensive performances.
I think that could change this year.
See, it’s defense that kept Agbaji on the floor for more than 30 minutes per game during his first two seasons with the Jayhawks, even during those offensive slumps that popped up each season.
And it’s hard to imagine any of KU’s talented young guys being equipped to bring more knowledge, effort and, of course, experience to the defensive end of the floor at the end of games this season.
Beyond that, don’t be surprised if you see Agbaji take a turn or two at guarding the opponent’s best guard each game. That already has happened on a limited basis in the past, and it could be even more critical this year given the fact that Marcus Garrett will be the team’s point guard and will need to be as sharp on both ends of the floor as he has been on defense during the past three years.
In order to land on the Big 12’s all-defensive squad, Agbaji will have to produce numbers and be more than just a defensive presence that Bill Self trusts. But both his rebounds and steals went up last year from where they were during his freshman season, and there should be room — and opportunity — for them to go up again this season.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2020:
Now that the 2019-20 NBA season is finally over — four months later than it usually ends — the focus shifts to the 2020 draft, which is slated for Nov. 18.
Between Oct. 16 and Nov. 16, draft prospects are allowed to go through a slightly altered pre-draft routine that includes virtual meetings with team officials and virtual workouts, as well.
During most years, those prospects by now would not only know which teams they were playing for but they also would be staring down the start of their rookie seasons.
This year, though, the COVID-19 pandemic has put things on hold and players like former Jayhawks Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson have had to wait longer to find out their fate.
For the better part of the past year, Azubuike and Dotson’s draft stock has hovered in the early portion of the second round, somewhere in the picks 31-40 range. And, according to the most recent mock draft by The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, which was published on Tuesday, the two former Jayhawks remain in that range.
Vecenie, who provided a detailed look at all 30 projected picks in the first round, slotted Azubuike at No. 41 overall to San Antonio and Dotson to No. 43 overall to Sacramento.
Both could go higher, of course. And past mock drafts have predicted that. In fact, the most recent mock draft published by ESPN.com’s Jonathon Givony in late August had Azubuike at No. 30 (the last pick of the first round) and Dotson off the board at No. 35.
A Monday mock draft from Complex.com — its ninth version of the 2020 draft — had Dotson going to Toronto at No. 29 and did not list a second round.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of people throughout the world enjoy the art of publishing mock drafts, and some are definitely more accurate and reliable than others.
But at the end of the day, it’s all still a guess. Guys like Givony and Vecenie and ESPN’s Mike Schmitz have sources and contacts that help make their guesses much more precise, but even at that very few NBA GMs or front office types are willing to tell anyone on the outside their exact plan for the upcoming draft.
Besides, even if they did, they could change their minds based on the way the board falls or late information, so the information would still be vulnerable to change.
Regardless of who thinks what, Azubuike and Dotson, who have been working out feverishly since the end of the 2019-20 college hoops season, have one more month to make their case.
Whether they wow someone in an interview or put an impressive workout video in the right hands, they still have the chance to elevate their stock.
The best guess here is that the early second-round slot is the safest projection for both players, but I would not be shocked at all to see either one crack the first round. Both of them landing in the Top 30 would be a pretty big surprise, but it just takes one team, one coach, one general manager to fall in love with a player, regardless of what the hundreds of mock drafts say.
There are questions surrounding both players, from size and position to skill and ability. But both are competitive, both are coming off of the best years of their careers. And both carry that Kansas basketball pedigree with them, which has been known to carry weight with certain coaches and talent evaluators.
The recent explosion by Devonte’ Graham in Charlotte certainly has not hurt either player, and, if nothing else, the people making the decisions about who to pick and who to pass on know that, after a couple of years of playing for KU coach Bill Self, both Azubuike and Dotson can handle being pushed and have been coached hard.
At this point, it all comes down to teams figuring out where the two Jayhawks and 58 other players fit.
Add Markieff Morris’ name to the list of former Jayhawks who have won an NBA title.
His place as the 13th former Kansas basketball player to win a world championship became official Sunday night, when Morris and the Los Angeles Lakers knocked off the Miami Heat, 106-93, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Orlando.
Morris, who scored three points and grabbed two rebounds in Sunday’s lopsided victory, played a much bigger role throughout the rest of the series, averaging 7.5 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 40% from 3-point range in 21 minutes per game during the Finals.
He becomes the fifth Kansas player from the Bill Self era to win a title — joining Mario Chalmers, Sasha Kaun, Brandon Rush and Wayne Simien — and is the first since Kaun helped Cleveland win it all in 2016.
Kaun's title, of course, was with LeBron James on the squad. As were the two that Chalmers won in Miami.
In addition to joining KU’s all-time list of NBA champions, Morris now becomes part of the fun fact that Kansas fans like to throw around about James, who has won four titles with former Jayhawks on his roster and none without a Jayhawk on his team.
“The type of leaders that we have on this team is unreal,” Morris said in his postgame meeting with the media, speaking specifically about James. “I knew this moment was going to come with leaders like that, and it’s a dream come true.”
As he sat at the podium taking questions from reporters, Morris had a cigar in his left hand and a gold-plated bottle of champagne in his right.
Between puffs and sips, Morris was asked if winning an NBA title was everything he ever thought it would be. His answer was simple: “Yes it was, man.”
“We had a goal, and we knew that we were going to accomplish this goal,” he said. “And we played extremely hard (and) just went and took it tonight.”
KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World on Monday afternoon that he exchanged text messages with Morris after the Lakers' victory, adding, "He was excited."
The feeling was mutual.
"It means a ton for our guys to be a part of championship teams," Self said. "He was a great pick-up for the Lakers and that was a special team playing (Sunday) night."
Jayhawks to win an NBA title
Clyde Lovellette – 1954 with Minneapolis and 1963 and 1964 with Boston
~ On Sunday, Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo joined Lovellette as the only two players in NBA history to win titles with Boston and Los Angeles ~
Maurice King – 1960 with Boston
Wilt Chamberlain – 1967 with Philadelphia and 1972 with the Los Angeles Lakers
Jo Jo White – 1974 and 1976 with Boston
Bill Bridges – 1975 with Golden State
Wayne Simien – 2006 with Miami
Jacque Vaughn – 2007 with San Antonio
Paul Pierce – 2008 with Boston
Scot Pollard – 2008 with Boston
Mario Chalmers – 2012 and 2013 with Miami
Brandon Rush – 2015 with Golden State
Sasha Kaun – 2016 with Cleveland
Markieff Morris – 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers
It's been four days since Kansas football coach Les Miles announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, but the second-year KU coach's spirits appear to be in good shape.
Miles shared as much on Sunday in a short video posted to Twitter that updated his condition.
"I am quarantined in my house, my health's pretty good, so I'm very thankful for that," Miles said in the 35-second video.
The plan at the time of KU's announcement about Miles' positive test was for him to be back with the team this coming Saturday when the Jayhawks travel to West Virginia for an 11 a.m. kickoff on Saturday in Morgantown.
There has been no update about whether that's still the plan or if it's even possible, but Miles, who said he has been conducting his business through Zoom meetings since isolating in his Lawrence home, said he was eager to get back to his team and his coaching staff.
Although Miles has been able to meet with his staff via Zoom, he will not do so with the media on Monday in his normal weekly press conference time slot.
Instead, four KU assistant coaches will be made available to the media for brief interviews Monday morning. They include offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon, recruiting coordinator Joshua Eargle, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot and special teams coordinator Jonathan Wallace.
Dating back to his days at LSU, it has been a long-standing practice of Miles' teams that coordinators do not speak with the media during the season. But the chance to talk with a few of them on Monday should shed some light on KU's struggles to open the season.
Fresh off of their second bye week of the 10-game season, the Jayhawks sit at 0-3 overall and 0-2 in Big 12 play, with a 50-game conference road losing streak still in tact.
Be sure to check back with KUsports.com throughout the day on Monday for the latest from KU's coordinators and a handful of players who are slated to meet with the media early Monday afternoon.
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
Despite the fact that Kansas football coach Les Miles announced Thursday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, the plan, at least as of today, is for him to coach the 0-3 Jayhawks in their next game at West Virginia on Sept. 17.
However, considering that we know about as much about COVID-19 as we do the current KU quarterback situation, you have to at least consider that Miles might not be able to make that trip after the Jayhawks’ bye week this weekend.
His condition could worsen. He could still be positive when the Jayhawks take their tests on the Friday before the WVU game (Oct. 16), therein making him unable to get on the plane to leave Kansas. Other roadblocks to a return could surface, as well.
So who would take the reins as KU’s interim head coach if Miles were to miss it?
There are really only two answers — offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon and wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator Emmett Jones.
Those two, along with first-year tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Joshua Eargle, are the only members of Miles’ staff with head coaching experience.
Dearmon’s came at his alma mater, Bethel College, and, before that, at B.C. Rain High in Alabama. And Jones was a head coach in the wild world of Texas high school football before joining the college ranks.
Coordinators typically get the first look when programs go searching for an interim coach because they’re already sort of serving as the head coach for one half of the team. But current KU defensive coordinator, D.J. Eliot, despite his 20 years of experience in major college football, has never held the position of head coach at any level, and it’s probably best to let him continue to focus his efforts on getting the KU D up to speed.
In addition to having called the shots at the top before, Dearmon and Jones carry with them the personalities required to lead a team in an emergency situation.
The fact that the two work together to map out KU’s offensive game plans each week would make it even easier to bump one of them up for as long as Miles is sidelined. One could fulfill the head coaching duties, from practices and procedures to meetings and strategies, and the other could remain locked in on his regular role on offense, carrying a little more weight than normal to get through it.
Both would continue to communicate with each other throughout the week, and neither would get much sleep.
If Miles has to miss KU’s next game, one assistant technically would be put in charge. But the reality here is that everyone on the coaching staff would have to step up to handle his absence.
If Dearmon or Jones is running things at the top, both would need additional help from Eargle, offensive line coach Luke Meadows and running backs coach Jonathan Wallace to ensure that things continue to get done in the offensive meeting rooms, during film sessions and on the practice field. Because that’s where the work will really need to get done.
While it might be one heck of an adrenaline rush on Saturday afternoon in Morgantown to have the headset and call the shots, running things in Miles’ absence on game day would probably be the easiest part of filling in.
So which is the better option between the two, Dearmon or Jones? It probably does not matter much, but I would think the answer would be tied to whether or not KU believes one of them could one day be Miles’ successor.
Last season, when the KU offense experienced a major jump in production after Dearmon took over as OC, the talk among the KU fan base was that Dearmon was well on his way to becoming KU’s head coach in waiting.
I haven’t heard anything concrete on that from the KU administration, but if that’s even in the backs of their minds, why not see how Dearmon handles a week as the head honcho?
It might not reveal much. But it could show you a lot.
As for Jones, KU stepped up in the offseason to make sure he stayed in Lawrence, upping his pay and giving him a new title.
In addition to his reputation as KU’s top recruiter, Jones is a master motivator and seems to be universally liked. Those traits can only help you in an interim head coaching position. Just think back to how much the players stepped up while playing for Clint Bowen in 2014.
Because KU Athletic Director Jeff Long said in a statement on Thursday that the plan is for Miles to be back in action by Oct. 17, all of this could wind up being useless information.
There’s one problem, though. Long said in the statement that as long as Miles did not “develop symptoms or have a fever,” they anticipated having him for the WVU game. However, on Wednesday night, during his “Hawk Talk” radio show, Miles said on the air that he had a cold. That might not equate to developing symptoms, but it definitely could.
Either way, given the fact that KU’s next game is just nine days away, it doesn’t hurt anything to start preparing for the very real possibility that Miles might not be there.