KU basketball coach Bill Self supportive of Kansas City’s push for the temporary relocation of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors
Add Kansas basketball coach Bill Self to the list of people in the area who are in full support of Kansas City, Mo., making a push to become the temporary home of the Toronto Raptors.
Self was asked on Friday about the Raptors’ potential need to relocate for the 2020-21 NBA season because of travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and he did not hesitate to offer his opinion about the move and Kansas City’s attractiveness as a pro town.
“There’s no question (that) having an NBA team play here, even if it’s only temporary, (would) put us in a position to show what we can do to attract a team," Self said. "Personally, I think it’s a must. We’ve got to go for the throat on that.”
While Self resides in Lawrence and has spent the past 18 years of his professional life there, Kansas City has always been a second home of sorts to the Kansas basketball program.
The Jayhawks routinely have played both regular season and postseason games at Kemper Arena and Sprint Center (now T-Mobile Center) and the support Self has seen and felt for his team during its time in Kansas City, Mo., has stuck with him.
“This place is obviously a hotbed for basketball,” Self said. “This place obviously loves their ball and we’ve shown that we love ball historically.”
Self said the T-Mobile Center set-up, along with the atmosphere of downtown Kansas City that surrounds it, would be reason enough for the Raptors "to seriously consider Kansas City.”
According to reports, Kansas City's mayor, along with other elected officials in the area, recently have been in contact with the NBA to express their interest in being involved if the need to relocate the Raptors arises.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid also backed their city as a potential NBA site during press conferences earlier this week.
“Chiefs players like playing here, Royals players like playing here from everything I hear,” Self said. “There’d be no reason why NBA players wouldn’t like Kansas City.”
Self likened the potential move, and what it could lead to, to what Oklahoma City experienced with the New Orleans Hornets when Hurricane Katrina forced the franchise to relocate from 2005-07.
The reception the Hornets received and the support they got from the state of Oklahoma paved the way for OKC to attract the Seattle Supersonics when that franchise decided to leave its longtime home in the northwest prior to the start of the 2008-09 season.
“I can see Kansas City doing the same thing,” Self said. “I think people would rally around it. … I think it would be an unbelievable move if the Raptors have to go somewhere.”
It’s easy to remember the big game Christian Braun had against Kansas State last season and to think of that as the highlight of his freshman year.
But to do that would be underselling the impact Braun made during his first season with the Jayhawks. Particularly during the Big 12 portion of KU’s schedule.
In 31 games while playing 18.3 minutes per outing and making five starts, Braun averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds per game while shooting 44.4% from 3-point range.
He became a key part of KU’s rotation and grew more confident with each outing and each fearless drive to the rim.
He also had no problem showing how comfortable he had become, developing an arrow-shooting routine after made 3-pointers that Kansas fans grew to love.
While that jump was important for both Braun’s adjustment to college ball and the team’s chances last season, an even bigger jump could be in store this season now that he knows what to expect and has had an offseason to tailor his game to what he learned last season.
Here’s a quick look at what to expect from the sophomore guard this season.
He will: Be the one KU player that every fan base in the Big 12 loves to hate
He’s got the game, he’s got the mentality and he even has the smirk that tends to get under people’s skin.
That alone could make Braun an easy target for heckling and disdain from opposing crowds, both in person and those watching on TV across the country.
But when you add to that the fact that he could be one of those players who frustrates opponents by outplaying them and producing big time numbers at the same time, you’re looking at a guy who could quickly become that guy in the Big 12 Conference.
It’s one thing for a bunch of five-star McDonald’s All-Americans to come to Kansas and beat up on the competition. But when a young player from Kansas who was mostly overlooked during his recruitment starts to do it, the cries from KU’s opponents tend to grow louder.
Braun, a former four-star prospect who picked KU over K-State, Illinois, Missouri and others, was ranked No. 93 in the Rivals 150 in the 2019 class, but his start at Kansas has him looking like a much bigger piece of the KU puzzle for the next few seasons.
And that is likely going to drive Big 12 fans nuts. Not quite in the same way that they grew tired of seeing Perry Ellis in a Kansas uniform, but I’m guessing they’ll replace the Old Man Ellis jokes with shots at Braun before it’s all said and done.
He won’t: Take as long to find his rhythm this season as he did during his freshman year
Like a lot of freshmen, Braun needed time to get acclimated to the college game last season. But once he was, he became a legitimate and valuable part of the Kansas rotation.
The former Blue Valley Northwest standout scored in double figures five times last season and four of the five came during the final 14 games of the season.
Not coincidentally, in those four games he also played at least 22 minutes, further illustrating how Braun’s role increased the more comfortable he got.
He finished the season with six consecutive 20-plus minute games and was poised for more in the postseason.
That same progression was consistent in other categories, as well — 3-point shooting and rebounding most notable among them — and now that Braun is past the new-kid-on-the-block stage of his college career, it will be interesting to see how his experience and wisdom open up his game even more than he’s already shown.
He might: Lead the 2020-21 Jayhawks in 3-point shooting
Last season, in limited minutes, Braun ranked fourth on the team with 32 3-point makes and also was the team leader by percentage among high-volume shooters.
So it will be interesting to see how that translates to Year 2, when he figures to play more minutes and have a more important role on the team.
Nowhere is that more true than behind the arc, where the Jayhawks will be looking to replace 87 3-point makes from Devon Dotson and Isaiah Moss a year ago.
There is no shortage of options for players who could take and make those shots this season. But Braun would only need 18 of them (21%) to push his total to 50 for the season.
That would still leave 69 to be spread out among Ochai Agbaji (46-of-136 last season), Jalen Wilson and newcomers Bryce Thompson and Tyon Grant-Foster.
Assuming Agbaji — Braun’s top challenger to lead the Jayhawks in 3-point shooting in 2020-21 — can up his total by four, that would give Kansas a pair of 50-make 3-point shooters (at least), something the Jayhawks had just twice from 2012-13 through 2015-16, when Self began to allow his teams more freedom beyond the arc.
Consistent 3-point shooting is still a bit of a question mark for the 2020-21 Jayhawks, and Braun’s ability to build on what he did a year ago will go a long way toward providing the Jayhawks with at least one of the answers they need to keep their long-distance attack where it needs to be.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2020:
The identity of the fourth team headed to Florida over Thanksgiving surfaced on Wednesday morning, one day after news broke about a potential four-team event in Fort Myers, Fla., featuring Kansas, Auburn and Gonzaga.
According to CBS Sports college hoops analyst Matt Norlander, Saint Joseph’s, of the Atlantic 10 Conference, is the fourth team headed to Fort Myers. Sources told Norlander that Saint Joseph’s would play Auburn on Nov. 25 and Kansas on Nov. 27 at Suncoast Credit Union Arena, the home of Florida SouthWestern State College.
According to reports, KU and Gonzaga are slated to square off on Nov. 25, opening day of the 2020-21 college basketball season.
Nothing official has been announced from any of the four schools rumored to be involved in the event.
ESPN.com’s Jeff Borzello listed Kansas freshman Bryce Thompson at No. 27 in his recent Newcomer Impact Rankings for the 2020-21 season.
The 93-player list, which includes both freshmen and transfers also ranked KU junior Tyon Grant-Foster ranked at No. 69. Grant-Foster was the lone junior-college transfer on the list, and Borzello said the 6-foot-7 wing “will bring serious scoring punch to Lawrence.”
As for Thompson landing in the top 30, Borzello also lauded Thompson’s scoring ability saying, the 6-5 freshman “can fill it up in a hurry.”
Kansas versus Gonzaga. It’s a doozy of a showdown if it does in fact happen in Fort Myers, Fla., late next month.
And if we have to have something other than KU-Kentucky to open the college basketball season, this is a pretty darn good replacement.
The Jayhawks facing the Zags is a matchup we always figured could happen in late March, and it pits two of college basketball’s winningest teams of the past decade — both in the regular season and the NCAA Tournament — against each other to open the 2020-21 season.
KU is tied for third in college basketball with 24 NCAA Tournament wins in the past decade, with a national runner-up finish, another Final Four and three Elite Eights in that time.
Gonzaga is sixth in college basketball with 20 NCAA Tournament wins in that same time, with a national runner-up finish in 2017 and three Elite Eights.
In addition, these two teams, which finished 1-2 in the final Associated Press poll of the 2019-20 season, are also 1-2 in terms of overall winning percentage in the past decade, with the Zags sitting in first at .858 (308-51) and KU second at .819 (299-66).
To say these two programs have always been in the mix when it counts the most during the past 10 years is a bit of an understatement.
All of those past teams and great former players won’t be there next month, though. So let’s take a look at those players who will.
Even that is a pretty powerful matchup of top-level talent and, of course, will feature head coaches Bill Self and Mark Few on the bench.
A year after the Zags went 31-2 overall and ripped off a 19-game winning streak from Dec. 4 through Feb. 21, Few returns a good chunk of his team and has added a couple of significant reinforcements.
Picked as a top-5 team in pretty much every preseason poll — including owning the No. 3 spot in the most recent ESPN.com poll — Gonzaga features returning starters Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi.
Kispert, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound junior forward who averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game last season and is a 43.8% 3-point shooter, is receiving plenty of first-team preseason All-American consideration, and likely will be counted on to boost those numbers in 2020-21.
Drew Timme, a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds a game last season while playing just 20 minutes, is expected to step into the spot vacated by All-American Filip Petrusev, who averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds last season before leaving early for the NBA draft.
According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Borzello, the key question for the Zags this season will be what kind of point guard play they get. And it looks like it will be five-star freshman Jalen Suggs (6-4, 185) who will get first crack at running the show for Few’s talented team.
Suggs was ranked No. 11 in the 2020 class per Rivals.com and No. 5 in the ESPN 100.
Redshirt freshman Anton Watson, a 6-8 forward from Spokane, Wash., is projected to round out the Zags’ starting lineup, and freshman Dominick Harris (No. 78 per Rivals) and Southern Illinois transfer Aaron Cook are expected to provide depth for Gonzaga right out of the gate.
“This team has talent, depth, versatility and experience,” wrote Borzello, who could easily have said the same thing about Kansas, which he ranked ninth in his most recent preseason poll.
“Kansas could take a slight step back after losing All-Americans Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike from last season’s team,” Borzello wrote. “But Bill Self has lost elite players before and replaced them without missing a beat. … There are a few more questions than usual in Lawrence, but Self has shown time and time again he can figure it out.”
Like KU, which appears to be on track to face Gonzaga, Kentucky, Creighton and Tennessee in a tough nonconference schedule, the Zags also have lined up a bunch of challenging nonconference games, with Kansas, potential preseason No. 1 Baylor, Iowa, Auburn and Tennessee all on their schedule.
Both teams will be battled tested entering conference play and they may very well still be standing at the end of the season, as well.
What better way to prepare for all of that than by facing each other in the season opener?
A matchup that Kansas basketball fans have been intrigued by for years may be just a few weeks away from happening.
CBS Sports college basketball analyst Matt Norlander reported Tuesday morning that sources have told him that Kansas and Gonzaga are slated to open the college basketball season against each other on Nov. 25 in Fort Myers, Fla.
KU officials would not confirm anything about a possible KU-Gonzaga matchup as of 11:20 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The matchup, if it happens, would take place on the first day the NCAA has allowed games to be played, and, according to Norlander, would be a part of a four-team event that also would include Auburn and a team that has not yet been determined. CBS's Jon Rothstein reported the Gonzaga/Auburn involvement in a Fort Myers event late Monday night.
Auburn and the fourth program also would play on Nov. 25 and and Kansas would play the fourth team on Nov. 27, when Gonzaga and Auburn would square off.
The two games in Fort Myers would leave Kansas looking for one more nonconference game to fill out its 2020-21 schedule.
Fort Myers is no stranger to hosting college basketball games, launching the Fort Myers Tip-Off in 2018. Games for that event have been played at Suncoast Credit Union Arena, the home of Florida SouthWestern State College.
Kansas State, Pitt, Bradley and Northwestern competed in the Fort Myers Tip-Off in 2019, and the field for that event in 2020 was originally scheduled to include Butler, Colorado, South Florida and Wisconsin.
We’ve been waiting a while to see the revamped Kansas men’s basketball schedule and now that it’s out, we have a much better idea of what the upcoming season will look like.
There’s a lot of work still to do between now and Nov. 25, when the NCAA has said that the college basketball season can start.
And even though the earliest game currently listed on KU’s schedule is set for Dec. 1, it’s likely that at least one of those three additional games the Jayhawks are still working on procuring would be played closer to Nov. 25 if not on it.
That, of course, is if nonconference games can be played at all. It certainly seems like that’s the case as of today. But the pseudo-bubble in Orlando looked like a lock for weeks before it recently fell apart. So who knows exactly what will happen.
Assuming we’re not doing this again in a few weeks, here’s a quick rundown of the five most exciting games on KU’s schedule as it stands today.
Those other three games, whenever they’re finalized, could all wind up on this list, as well. Or they could simply wind up being games against middle-of-the-road opponents just so Kansas can fill out the entirety of its schedule.
Time will tell on that. For now, here’s the five games that hopped off the page on Monday.
1 – Kansas vs. Baylor on Feb. 27, 2021, in Allen Fieldhouse
It doesn’t get any better than this. The Bears, who are coming off of a terrific 2019-20 season, have nearly everyone back and may very well be the No. 1 team in college basketball entering the season. There’s a lot of time between the start and the finish, but can you imagine if we get to this point and Baylor and Kansas are tied for the Big 12 lead with one game to play — AGAINST EACH OTHER?!?!?!? There might only be 1,500 fans in Allen Fieldhouse on that day, but if that’s the way it plays out, I think it’s safe to say they’d do their best to sound like 16,300. Even if that’s not the case, this is a big time game on paper any way you slice it.
2 – Kansas vs. Kentucky on Dec. 1, 2020, in the Champions Classic
Yeah, yeah, yeah... another KU-Kentucky game on the docket. Big whoop, right? Well, it is. Because, well, it always is when the two winningest programs in all of college basketball get together. And the Champions Classic is a first-class event. What jumped out at me though was the fact that the location of this game is now TBD, yet it’s still on the schedule. Reports on Monday indicated that ESPN was hellbent on keeping the Champions Classic alive. And Indianapolis has emerged as one potential city to host this game. If it’s played — and the guess here is that it will be — you’re looking at a pair of top-10 teams with all kinds of talent facing off on the big stage. Sign me up!
3 – Kansas vs. Creighton on Dec. 8, 2020, in Allen Fieldhouse
Not only is this by far the biggest nonconference home game on the schedule, but it’s also one of the few non-con games that was on the old schedule (Dec. 3), as well. And thank goodness it survived. In addition to being a great matchup of Final Four contenders, this one will mark the return of Eudora High standout Mitch Ballock to Allen Fieldhouse, a place he visited dozens of times throughout his high school career while almost signing with KU. Instead, he’ll come to town as the opponent and one of the top offensive weapons on a team that was an under-the-radar pick for the Final Four a season ago. “I’m looking forward to that atmosphere,” Ballock told me in May. “I’ve seen it from the stands and it will be unbelievable to experience it from the court. Just being in there, playing on the opposite bench, will be an unbelievable opportunity and hopefully I can take a moment to soak it all in.”
4 – Kansas vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 8, 2021, in Allen Fieldhouse
This one jumped out at me simply because it’s the lone Big Monday game inside Allen Fieldhouse this season. Typically, KU has four Big Monday games, — and it’s often two at home and two on the road — but this season the Jayhawks got just three games on ESPN’s Monday night showcase. This one will be as good as any of them, though. In addition to being at home, it will feature the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, Cade Cunningham, visiting Lawrence for the first time in his college career.
5 – Kansas vs. Tarleton State on Dec. 13, 2020, in Allen Fieldhouse
Tarleton State’s certainly not a name you see on the schedule every season, so, right away, this game jumped out. And it’s also a strange name, so that made it pop a little more. But it didn’t take long to connect the dots about why this game is there in the first place. Former Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie, a longtime close friend of KU coach Bill Self’s, is now the head coach at Tarleton State, a school of 14,000 students in Stephenville, Texas, that is known as the Tarleton Texans. And given the strange nature of the offseason and the start of the 2020-21 season, it makes sense for people who know each other to hook up to try to help one another out. That was the case once already, when Stephen F. Austin, coached by former KU staffer Kyle Keller, was added to the schedule (former KU guard Elijah Elliott is playing there, by the way) before being taken off in this latest rebuild. Besides, Gillispie’s team probably won’t have the skill, talent or size to matchup with the Jayhawks, but you can bet he’ll want to bring his best effort to both impress his old friend and try to help him out.
• Jan. 18, 2021 - KU at Baylor. The Big 12's top two teams do battle on Big Monday in Waco.
• Dec. 17, 2020 - KU at Texas Tech. KU's Big 12 opener is on the road against another talented Texas Tech team led by Chris Beard.
• Jan. 30, 2021 - KU at Tennessee. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge is always fun, and Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has a potential top-10 team this season.
ESPN is canceling plans to host its men's college basketball events in Orlando, the network announced Monday afternoon.
"ESPN Events set out to create a protected environment for teams to participate in early-season events in Orlando," an official statement from ESPN read. "Based on certain challenges surrounding testing protocols, we opted to resume these tournaments during the 2021-22 season."
ESPN had planned to move eight of its 10 nonconference events to the ESPN Wide World of Sports property at Walt Disney World in Orlando — recently used by the NBA for its bubble — including the Champions Classic, Charleston Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational, NIT Season Tip-Off, Wooden Legacy, Orlando Invitational, Jimmy V Classic and Diamond Head Classic.
However, according to a report from ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello, "the challenges around testing protocols refers primarily to re-testing players who had already previously tested positive for coronavirus and been cleared. The protocols for a player testing positive while in the Orlando bubble were another key discussion point."
CBS Sports insider Jon Rothstein reported Monday that the schools expected to compete in Orlando would be told it was a no-go by the end of today.
And Seth Davis, of The Athletic, reported that sources had told him that ESPN called off the idea of hosting more than 20 teams and 10 events in Orlando “due to ongoing differences between the network and the participating schools regarding the health and safety protocols required for participation.”
“We’ve decided to redirect our efforts to be sure the teams have enough time to make other plans,” Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, told The Athletic. “At the end of the day our bias was toward safety and making sure that what we pulled off was in the best interests of the sport. In the absence of those things, we decided we’re better off letting schools do their own thing.”
For Kansas, that means no Wooden Legacy or Champions Classic in Orlando, but it does not necessarily mean those events will not be played.
Rothstein Tweeted early Monday afternoon that Indianapolis — one of the three cities in the Champions Classic rotation to begin with — had emerged as a front-runner to host the Kansas-Kentucky and Duke-Michigan State matchups this season.
And Overby told Davis that ESPN hoped to salvage the Champions Classic and Jimmy V Classic at other locations, though no date nor location was given.
Meanwhile, with several schools still scrambling to put together the nonconference portion of their 2020-21 schedules, the Big 12 Conference announced today that the conference schedules for the Big 12 men’s and women’s programs would be released later Monday afternoon.
KU did one better than that, releasing all but three games of its 2020-21 schedule just after 3 p.m.
Even with that, we still do not yet know when the season will actually begin. The NCAA has set Nov. 25 as the first day competition can begin, but not necessarily a day that all teams will play. That was pushed back from the original opener of Nov. 10 and dozens of programs now have less than a month to piece together a schedule of 25-27 games.
For KU, 18 of those will be conference games. And, depending on what happens with the multi-team events, KU could still have anywhere from seven to nine non conference games to get scheduled and announced.
That's if there are nonconference games to be played. CBS Sports college basketball reporter Matt Norlander also tweeted on Monday afternoon that two power-five coaches told him today that they were predicting that college basketball goes to league-only schedules in order to get the season played.
From there, it's entirely possible — perhaps even likely — that the 2021 NCAA Tournament is played in some kind of bubble in March.
Junior college transfers are a rare sight in the Kansas basketball program, but the Jayhawks believe they found a good one in 6-foot-7 wing Tyon Grant-Foster.
Just how good remains to be seen, but there are some high hopes and big expectations being attached to Grant-Foster, who comes to KU from Indian Hills Community College by way of Kansas City, Kan.
His size, length, athleticism and natural scoring ability make him one of KU’s most versatile weapons and, at the same time, KU’s veterans and other capable scorers will keep the pressure off of him in Year 1.
The guess here is that he’ll be one of those players who progresses month by month and makes some pretty big jumps in January and February.
KU junior David McCormack recently listed Grant-Foster’s “goofiness” as the first thing that jumps out at him
Here’s a quick look at what you can expect from Grant-Foster in the months ahead.
He will: Need some time to find his footing
Shortly after the Jayhawks reported to campus in early August, Grant-Foster sustained a minor ankle injury that slowed his early progress and made things hard out of the gate.
While that alone qualifies as him needing some time to find his footing, I’m expecting it could happen when the season gets going, as well.
Grant-Foster was a full-go for boot camp, and KU coach Bill Self said last week that the 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing was “on an uptick.”
That’s a great sign that the ankle injury is behind him, and, as long as it is, he can spend the rest of the preseason studying KU’s playbook and figuring out how he fits into what KU runs.
All of the practice time in the world can’t replicate what he’ll experience on game nights, so the learning curve will reemerge when the games get going in late November.
But as long as the coaching staff and KU fans are patient with him, Grant-Foster should be a big time addition to the rotation.
He won’t: Be much of a factor as a 3-point shooter
Even though Grant-Foster hit 33.5% of his 3-point tries last season, shooting from distance likely won’t be a huge part of his role at Kansas.
That’s not to say he won’t take the occasional rhythm jumper from behind the 3-point arc. It’s just not likely that KU will need — or want — him to do that.
Grant-Foster’s game is attacking the rim and creating off the dribble. And he also figures to be a beast in transition and in flying to the rim to catch lobs and create offensive rebound chances.
You can’t do either of those things from outside of the 3-point line, so don’t expect Grant-Foster to live there very often.
Think of him a little like Josh Jackson, but not quite with the No. 4 overall pick in the NBA Draft pedigree. Remember how often KU started games with the dribble hand-off action out of which Jackson would turn the corner going right and attack the rim?
Those are the types of things you should see from Grant-Foster and that’s what his teammates have seen in the first several days of practice.
David McCormack, Mitch Lightfoot and Marcus Garrett all recently used the words “athlete” “attack” and “scorer” when describing what Grant-Foster brings to the table, and given that these Jayhawks will be looking to replace 54.3% of their scoring from last season and that they should score more this season, means there should be plenty of opportunity for someone like Grant-Foster to become a double-digit scorer right away.
He might: Lead the Jayhawks in scoring
With all of that being said, I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Grant-Foster could be in the mix for the title of KU’s leading scorer by the time the season’s over.
He wouldn’t be my first pick (that’s Marcus Garrett), but his skill set and his mentality and his ability to score inside and out, off the dribble, above the rim and at the free throw line all make him a solid choice.
Beyond that, it’s not like he’d have to follow in Devon Dotson, Frank Mason III or Devonte’ Graham’s shoes to get there.
While those three former KU All-Americans all averaged at or around 20 points per game during their best seasons, Grant-Foster is likely on a team where the top scorer’s average points per night will be closer to 13 or 14 points per game.
You all know that Self loves teams with balance and he loves it even more when those balanced teams are led by balanced scoring. There’s no better example of this than the 2008 national title team, but there have been others in that mold since then.
I really think the biggest thing Grant-Foster has going for him as a scorer in Year 1 at KU is his willingness to attack the paint and the easy buckets and free throw opportunities that will lead to.
In 31 games last season at Indian Hills CC — where he averaged 16.5 points per night over 31 games — Grant-Foster got to the line 151 times (nearly five times per game) and connected on 72.2% of his attempts.
If those free throw numbers can be replicated at KU, he should easily be a double-digit scorer and perhaps much higher than that.
He Will, He Won't, He Might 2020:
One of my favorite things to do with my blog is create lists and draw up potential lineups based on the way we think the Jayhawks might play.
And while the most likely plan for the 2020-21 Jayhawks is to play four guards around one big man, KU coach Bill Self on Thursday said he and his coaching staff had been tinkering with ways to play five guards this winter, too.
That opened the door for me to dream up five different five-guard lineups that the Jayhawks could employ this season. There are, of course, many more combinations than this that you could create from the nine scholarship guards that make up KU’s backcourt this season. But these were the first five lineups that came to mind for me.
I don’t know how much of any of these we’ll actually see (maybe none), but given the fact that KU is so deep in the backcourt, it certainly would be fun to see what these groups could do together.
Earlier this offseason, Self told me the way he views everyone from Latrell Jossell to Tristan Enaruna is that “they’re all guards.” He also noted that who each player guards on defense is more likely to determine what position he’s playing rather than anything that happens on the offensive end.
With so many talented, athletic and versatile options in the backcourt this season, Self wants these guys to play fast and attack from all areas of the court. Here’s a quick look at how some of those attacks could be built.
SMALL & QUICK
Talk about a group that can fly. With Harris and Garrett on the floor together, the Jayhawks would be able to get it and go in any situation. Add to that the fact that Thompson and Agbaji are two of the team’s next-best ball handlers and many have said that Jossell is the team’s best long-range shooter, and this could be a fun group against a small opponent. Jossell is probably headed toward a redshirt so it’s unlikely we’ll see this one, but if you’re looking for the smallest five you can find, this is it.
We already know what Garrett can do defensively, and Agbaji has been so solid in that area, too. Add to that the elite hands and pesky mentality possessed by Harris, the high-IQ positioning and athleticism of Thompson and Braun’s willingness to guard whoever whenever and you’re looking at a group that would not give opponents so much as one free dribble.
Neither Garrett nor Harris is known for his outside shooting, so, in this lineup, Thompson runs the point, and the Jayhawks fill (and spread) the floor with five guys who can shoot it from anywhere. Agbaji and Braun should challenge to lead the team in 3-point shooting this season and Wilson was known as a shooter coming in and has dropped weight to make him even more fluid on the perimeter. Thompson's likely to shoot a high percentage from 3-point range because he's smart enough to only take good shots. And Grant-Foster, like Josh Jackson, who shot 38% from 3-point range during his lone season at KU, should get a bunch of open looks because of how much opponents have to respect his ability to drive.
THE BIG SMALL LINEUP
Agbaji and Thompson, at 6-5, could also work in this lineup, too. But if you’re looking for the five tallest guards on KU’s roster, this is it, with Garrett handling the point at 6-5 and Braun at 6-6, Grant-Foster at 6-7 and Wilson and Enaruna at 6-8. Talk about matchup nightmares for opponents. This five would not give up much to KU’s smaller lineups in the way of speed and athleticism and also has enough outside shooting and off-the-dribble ability to play any style.
LENGTH & ATHLETICISM
Although neither of them look all that physically imposing, Grant-Foster and Enaruna both make up for their lack of weight with their length, which can be an asset on both ends of the floor. Thompson also has good length despite seeming more like a true combo guard than the other two and Agbaji plays above the rim as well as anybody on this roster. Plug Garrett in to run the show, with his slithery and savvy ability off the bounce, and you’re looking at a tough team to matchup with.
In case you missed it a couple of weeks ago, former KU standout Svi Mykhailiuk, now with the Detroit Pistons, joined broadcaster Fran Fraschilla on his "World of Basketball" podcast to talk about the recently completed NBA season and a whole bunch of KU-related topics.
Included in the 50-minute interview were a couple dozen interesting topics from the four or five years of Mykhailiuk's life, many of them relating to his time at KU.
Here's a quick look at the highlights, along with the full episode for your listening pleasure.
• Missing out on playing in the NBA bubble
• The surreal nature of performing in the NBA
• Discussing what he learned from LeBron James and finding out he got traded from the Lakers
• How he became an NBA fan while growing up in Ukraine and how he made his way to Kansas, along with his first impression of Bill Self
• Svi on the older players he played with at Kansas, the KU crowd, his greatest memories from his days at KU, Devonte Graham and what his relationship with Bill Self is like now
• His thoughts on Luka Doncic and 2-time MVP and Frank Mason III teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo
• And what he’s looking to improve this offseason