1 – Udoka Azubuike – The big fella was fantastic in every way, imposing his will on the overmatched Buccaneers and finishing with 21 eye-popping points on 10-of-13 shooting. His blend of patience and power was a sight to behold.
2 – Devon Dotson – Started the game off with a bang, attacking the basket, being a pest on defense and helping Kansas deliver an early punch from which ETSU never fully recovered. Also hit 6 of 6 from the free throw line en route to a 19-point night.
3 – Tristan Enaruna – So smooth already and getting smoother by the game. His length, poise and all-around ability make him a serious weapon that can strike when opponents have their hands full with Dotson, Azubuike and the rest of the KU starting five. Tallied 4 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in 24 minutes.
4 – Marcus Garrett – Made 4 of 6 shots, dished three assists and swiped 3 steals. Would have made a push for the No. 3 spot if not for those 3 turnovers on his line.
5 – Silvio De Sousa – Bill Self said De Sousa contributed as much to KU winning down the stretch as anybody. That’s two pretty strong outings in a row for the KU forward who got off to a slow start to the season.
6 – David McCormack – Back in the starting lineup, McCormack played 12 minutes and scored four points and grabbed three rebounds. Not bad but nothing like we saw from him off the bench last Friday night.
7 – Ochai Agbaji – Another off shooting night has Agbaji 3 for 17 in his past two games. He played 34 minutes and he played hard. The shot’s just not falling right now. That’ll change soon enough.
8 – Isaiah Moss – Scored just two points in 17 minutes, but, more glaringly, had two pretty bad turnovers on a night he took just two shots.
9 – Christian Braun – Played eight minutes and had little to show for it. Remains a work in progress but is definitely capable and still worthy of real minutes.
T1 – Devon Dotson – 30
T1 – Udoka Azubuike – 30
3 – Marcus Garrett – 25
4 – David McCormack – 24
5 – Tristan Enaruna – 22
T6 – Isaiah Moss – 17
T6 – Ochai Agbaji – 17
8 – Silvio De Sousa – 15
9 – Christian Braun – 8
10 – Jalen Wilson – 2x
x = broke his ankle 20 seconds into the second game of the season and is expected to be out at least three months.
Three games into his KU career — head spinning, heart racing and time flying — Kansas freshman Christian Braun has gotten a pretty good feel for what college basketball is all about.
There will be new lessons learned — from both successes and failures — pretty much every game and each week for the next three months. But what Braun has picked up during the first month of KU's season has been incredibly valuable and has helped make him a key part of KU’s rotation.
Credit Kansas coach Bill Self for making sure the hard-nosed, 6-foot-7 freshman was ready to absorb everything that has come his way.
“It’s different for sure,” Braun said of playing at the college level. “But I knew coming into it there was going to be a lot of ups and downs. Coach told all the freshmen there were going to be ups and downs all year. But I've learned a lot.”
The biggest thing Braun has learned thus far is simple — don’t take anything for granted.
“The attention to detail you have to have at this level is so different,” he said.
Whether that means devouring the scouting report leading up to each game, watching intently from the bench during the action or executing while on the floor, Braun has learned that there is very little down time in college basketball.
What you might have been able to conquer with size, speed and athleticism at the high school level takes an entirely different focus in college. And while so much of that lesson comes from experiencing it for yourself, Braun has been lucky to learn firsthand from one of the biggest no-nonsense players in the game in teammate Marcus Garrett.
“Super tough,” Braun called Garrett. “All the time. Everything he does. He plays super hard.”
Those same words have been used to describe Braun’s game. Dating back to the summer, both Self and several of Braun’s teammate marveled at just how hard the freshman from Blue Valley Northwest competes.
Whether that’s defending with his nose in the chest of the man with the ball or diving into walls and over tables to save a possession, Braun, like Garrett, knows just one way to play the game. And it’s that mindset that inspired Garrett to compare Braun to himself during the exhibition portion of KU’s schedule.
“I just feel like he can do everything on the court,” Garrett said after KU’s exhibition win over Fort Hays State in which Braun tallied eight points, three rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes. “He can pass. He’s athletic. He can defend. He can rebound.”
Braun called the comparison, “awesome,” and said he was thrilled to be linked to such a complete and talented player as Garrett. He also said he understood why Garrett might have said it.
“I don’t know if you’ve watched, but my defense really needs some improvement to be compared to him,” Braun joked. “But I think our mentality, when it comes to the game of basketball, just playing hard and being tough, that’s where we’re most similar.”
Although he finished with 11 points, two rebounds and an assist in last week’s blowout win over Monmouth, the 17 minutes he played in that one more than doubled his minutes played in KU’s first two games of the season.
“He’s just not where he needs to be yet,” Self explained this week, when talking specifically about Braun’s defense. “But how many freshman are? I’m real pleased with Christian.”
And Braun is real pleased with where he sits heading into Game 4 of his freshman season.
He’s learning, he already has a spot in the rotation and he knows that if he keeps putting in the work and striving for consistency, more minutes will come
“I think we’ve all had that urgency,” Braun said of wanting to get things right as quickly as possible. “We all we all want to do our thing and just help the team in any way we can.”
KU and Braun will play host to East Tennessee State tonight at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse on Big 12 Now and ESPN+.
Credit Sam Cunliffe for the Kansas men’s basketball team’s rise in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Cunliffe, the former Jayhawk now playing at Evansville, helped the Purple Aces shock No. 1 Kentucky a week ago, sending Kentucky tumbling from the top spot all the way down to No. 9 and allowing a handful of teams to move up.
Kansas (2-1) was one of them, jumping from No. 5 to No. 4 in this week’s Top 25.
The Jayhawks are joined in the top 5 by the only team to beat them thus far — No. 1 Duke — along with No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 5 North Carolina.
Duke received 52 of the 65 first-place votes, with Louisville getting eight, Michigan State four and No. 7 Virginia getting the final first-place nod.
As a result of Kentucky’s loss, every team in last week’s top 10 moved up one spot except for Gonzaga, which stayed at No. 8, just ahead of the Wildcats.
In all, four Big 12 teams appear in this week's Top 25, which also includes seven teams on KU's 2019-20 schedule, eight if you count Michigan State, which Kansas could face in next week's Maui Invitational.
Ohio State had the biggest jump in this week’s poll, followed by No. 14 Arizona’s five-spot climb. Auburn moved up three places from No. 22.
Kentucky’s eight-place fall was the biggest of the week. Villanova was next, losing seven spots to No. 17, and No. 25 Washington fell five places.
Three teams moved into the AP Top 25 this week. No. 20 Tennessee is ranked for the first time this season after knocking off Washington. No. 21 Virginia Commonwealth, the preseason No. 25, is back in the poll following a 2-point win over LSU and a rout of Jacksonville State. And Texas moved in at No. 22 with wins over California Baptist and Prairie View. The Longhorns are ranked for the first time this season.
Florida had a precipitous drop after losing to Connecticut, falling out of the poll from No. 15. LSU was out from No. 23 following its loss to VCU, and Saint Mary’s dropped out from No. 18 after losing to Winthrop at home.
Here’s this week’s complete AP Top 25:
1 – Duke, 4-0 (52)
2 – Louisville, 4-0 (8)
3 – Michigan State, 2-1 (4)
4 – Kansas, 2-1
5 – North Carolina, 3-0
6 – Maryland, 3-0
7 – Virginia, 3-0 (1)
8 – Gonzaga, 4-0
9 – Kentucky, 2-1
10 – Ohio State, 3-0
11 – Oregon, 4-0
12 – Texas Tech, 3-0
13 – Seton Hall, 3-1
14 – Arizona, 4-0
15 – Utah State, 4-0
16 – Memphis, 3-1
17 – Villanova, 2-1
18 – Xavier, 4-0
19 – Auburn, 4-0
20 – Tennessee, 3-0
21 – VCU, 4-0
22 – Texas, 4-0
23 – Colorado, 2-0
24 – Baylor, 2-1
25 – Washington, 2-1
Others receiving votes: Florida State 91, Florida 67, LSU 61, Saint Mary's 55, Evansville 43, Oklahoma 29, Vermont 11, Michigan 11, Marquette 11, Purdue 11, Butler 10, Mississippi State 9, Virginia Tech 7, West Virginia 6, Providence 5, Wisconsin 5, Liberty 4, Arkansas 3, Missouri 2, Connecticut 2, USC 2, New Mexico 2, San Diego State 2, Dayton 1.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
1 – Isaiah Moss – Looked a step closer to 100% and was absolutely lights out from 3-point range. Every shot looked so good when it left his hand and he finished with 21 points in 15 minutes on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. You can see clearly what a weapon he can be for this team.
2 – David McCormack – Started this one on the bench and did not let that impact his effort. After playing just five minutes in the first half, McCormack was a man possessed in the second half, finishing the game with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists in 16 minutes.
3 – Devon Dotson – Wasn’t his best night from a shooting and efficiency standpoint, but he helped set the tone for the blowout with strong defense early and his relentless attacking of the rim.
4 – Udoka Azubuike – Played big, gave KU’s guards good targets and finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes. Hit the front end of two trips to the free throw line, too.
5 – Marcus Garrett – Don’t look at the numbers here. Look at the way he played the game. After failing to look inside enough to please the coaches and the KU big men in the first two games, Garrett, more than anyone, made sure to get the ball inside whenever possible in this one. That helped KU dominate down low and opened things up on the outside, as well.
6 – Silvio De Sousa – Started and played 13 minutes in the first half but didn’t have much to show for it. That changed in the second half, however, when he scored eight straight points for Kansas to kick off the final 20 minutes. Still thinking a little too much at times, but he played a little freer in this one and got some quality stats as a result.
7 – Christian Braun – Hit a couple of 3-pointers and got more comfortable the longer he was on the floor. Easily his best game as a Jayhawk so far.
8 – Tristan Enaruna – It’s crazy when the guy who had hands down the offensive play of the night is ranked No. 8, but this is where Enaruna lands. Outside of his incredible windmill dunk — off of a McCormack outlet pass — and first-half alley-oop finish, Enaruna was relatively quiet. Still, that breakaway dunk was as big a highlight as KU has had so far this year.
9 – Ochai Agbaji – Wasn’t his night and Kansas didn’t need it to be. Agbaji finished 1-for-9 from the floor and made a couple of bad decisions with the ball to boot.
1 – Devon Dotson – 22
2 – Udoka Azubuike – 21
3 – David McCormack – 20
4 – Marcus Garrett – 19
T5 – Isaiah Moss – 15
T5 – Tristan Enaruna – 15
7 – Silvio De Sousa – 10
8 – Christian Braun – 7
9 – Jalen Wilson – 2x
x = broke his ankle 20 seconds into the second game of the season and is expected to be out at least three monhts.
All three Kansas basketball commitments in the 2020 recruiting class now have sent their letters of intent to Lawrence.
Four-star center Gethro Muscadin, a 6-10 big man from Aspire Academy in Louisville, became the final piece of the puzzle on Thursday morning, joining juco wing Tyon Grant-Foster and five-star guard Bryce Thompson in making their commitments official.
Muscadin reported the news on Twitter saying simply, “It’s official babbyyyy.”
In Muscadin, the Jayhawks have landed a prospect whom KU coach Bill Self believes could have a major impact on both ends of the floor for years to come.
“This past summer, Gethro showed everybody that he can shoot the basketball with range,” said KU coach Bill Self in announcing Muscadin’s signing. “He’s a runner. He’s a jumper. He’s a shot blocker. His activity level is very high. We feel like he is a guy that could develop into one of the better big men in this class.”
Affectionately known by those close to him as “G,” Muscadin hails from Gonaives, Haiti, and is playing his senior prep season at Aspire Academy in Louisville, Ky.
He played his sophomore and junior seasons at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kan., after spending his freshman year at Life Prep Academy in Wichita. Ranked by Rivals.com as the 131st overall prospect in the 2020 class, Muscadin averaged 9.3 minutes, 4.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game for Sunrise Christian.
Muscadin has a personality and demeanor similar to that of current KU forward Silvio De Sousa. Like De Sousa during his recruitment, Muscadin’s relationship with KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend played a big role in him picking Kansas.
“I’ve got some goals,” he recently told the Journal-World. “You know what I mean? And I feel like that’s the place that can help me achieve those goals. I play hard and I compete every day."
Added Self: “We all loved Gethro on his visit. We could tell he felt at home and seemed so happy. His personality along with his talent will make him a fan favorite from day one at Kansas.”
After landing three quality signees in the early recruiting period, the Jayhawks are off to a strong start in the 2020 class. According to the latest Rivals.com team rankings, that three-man haul makes up the No. 8-ranked class in the current recruiting cycle.
And with the Jayhawks expected to have four or five scholarships to give following the 2019-20 season, Kansas still could add another player or two before the class is complete.
The coaching staff continues to pursue a variety of options and, because they already have signed a guard, a wing and a big man, Self and company move forward with flexibility in who they target in the weeks and months ahead.
With three Class of 2020 commitments expected to make their pledges to Kansas official by signing letters of intent sometime today, the recruiting rolls on for the Kansas basketball program.
Landing five-star guard Tulsa guard Bryce Thompson on Tuesday was massive news and that pick up positions KU’s 2020 class to hover around the Top 10 nationally no matter what happens from here.
So where do the Jayhawks turn their attention now in their efforts to finish off a strong class?
Two letters is all you need to answer that question — KK.
K.K. Robinson is the next big target on the Jayhawks’ 2020 wish list and the Jayhawks are still in the hunt for the 6-foot, 170-pound point guard from Oak Hill Academy.
Robinson, who visited KU in early October, has zeroed in on a final group of Kansas, TCU, Illinois and Arkansas. And, according to Evan Daniels of 247 Sports, Robinson plans to announce his decision during Thanksgiving break.
Although that means Robinson’s destination will be known in the next few weeks, his commitment will not be official until the spring, when he can sign his letter of intent.
The current early signing period only runs through Wednesday.
A native of Arkansas, Robinson is finishing his prep career at Oak Hill in Virginia and has made official visits to all four programs.
Illinois snagged a point guard last week and the Razorbacks are considered by many to be the favorite for Robinson’s services.
Originally recruited to Arkansas by former Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson (now at St. John’s), Robinson has been impressed by what new Arkansas coach Eric Musselman and his assistants have done to make him a priority in the recruiting process.
“They definitely made a big jump from where they were at first,” Robinson told Nikki Chavanelle of Rivals site HawgBeat.com last month. “I had them in my top four, they're probably one or two now. The detail and the planning that they have for me (separated them from the rest). They brought out about 20 books and showed me how I would be able to get better and fit into their game system.”
While Arkansas could be viewed as the program to beat, Robinson has been high on Kansas throughout his recruitment.
“That is a really big and legendary school in basketball,” Robinson said of KU in an October interview with Corey Evans. “Being able to be recruited by them, it is just a blessing. He (Self) has done good with guards that are my height in the past and he has a plan for me. … Talking to the coaching staff, I really could tell that they wanted me to play for their program.”
It appears to be a two-team race for Robinson and it will be interesting to see what the commitment by Thompson does for Robinson, both in terms of how he sees himself fitting in at KU and how much more comfortable he is with Kansas now that a five-star, Top 20 prospect has shown he is not afraid to join the Jayhawks.
Robinson, who is ranked No. 80 in the 2020 class by Rivals.com, has all seven staff votes aligned with Arkansas in the Rivals FutureCast projections. His Crystal Ball standing at 247 Sports also favors Arkansas, with 100% of the votes going to the Razorbacks.
One more to watch
Another name worth keeping an eye on is Texas point guard Latrell Jossell.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound point guard from Keller, Texas, reported on Twitter on Wednesday that he had received an offer from Kansas.
KU assistant Jerrance Howard is the lead recruiter for Jossell, who projects as a rotation player who could provide quality depth at the point.
Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi called Jossell a player who is "very high on the Jayhawks" and one that "at a minimum, KU fans should be watching closely throughout the signing period."
Said Bossi of Jossell: "He is a very good athlete, can shoot a bit from deep and plays really hard. Currently, I think he's maybe more of a combo guard and might be more prepared to help out at a little bit lower level right out of the chute. But Self has shown he can find under the radar guards and develop them."
Bossi said it's too early to know exactly what type of player Jossell could become. But he noted that similarly overlooked, undervalued guards like Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham have done well at Kansas in the recent past.
"Guys like him with heart and a chip on his shoulder can often surprise after a few years in a good program with other good players around them," Bossi noted. "Jossell hasn't announced any signing plans or anything like that. But, again, his situation is worth keeping an eye on."
Any time Kentucky falls, a not-so-small section of the Kansas basketball fan base lets out a little cheer.
When that loss comes at the hands of someone who is tied to the KU program, that cheer gets a little louder.
That was exactly what happened on Tuesday night, when John Calipari’s newly-top-ranked Wildcats fell at home to unranked Evansville, 67-64, in a game the Purple Aces pretty much controlled from start to finish.
Former KU guard Sam Cunliffe, who sat out last season after transferring from KU following the 2017-18 season, played a rather significant role in helping Evansville pull off the upset.
In 29 minutes off the bench, Cunliffe scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds to help lead the Aces to victory. He shot 6-of-13 from the floor, 2-of-6 from 3-point range and sank two clutch free throws in the final seconds to force the Wildcats to try to tie the game with a 3-pointer instead of having all options available.
After the game, Cunliffe talked with national college hoops analyst Jeff Goodman about the victory and had some kind words to say about Kansas and Bill Self, who sent Cunliffe a congratulatory text after the win.
“It was the first text I responded to,” Cunliffe told Goodman. “He was really hard on me. Seeing that text from him meant a lot to me. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I dd tonight without Kansas. Coach Self made me tougher.”
In two games with the Purple Aces (2-0), Cunliffe is averaging 17 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes per game off the bench.
After starting his career at Arizona State and transferring to KU after a semester, Cunliffe sat out the second semester of 2016-17 season and the first of the 2017-18 season before appearing in 15 games with the Jayhawks during their run to the Final Four in 2018.
Opportunity was always the issue for Cunliffe. At least at Kansas. And now that he’s in his first year of competition at Evansville after redshirting the 2018-19 season, the redshirt junior from Seattle appears to have found a place that is willing to give him consistent minutes.
5-star guard Bryce Thompson the latest recruit to show faith in Kansas despite looming NCAA allegations
On Tuesday morning, new Kansas commitment Bryce Thompson became the latest member of the 2020 recruiting class to show that the NCAA allegations surrounding the Kansas men’s basketball program did not bother him.
Following in the footsteps of recent KU commitments Gethro Muscadin and Tyon Grant-Foster, who both told the Journal-World they were not worried about the future of the program and trusted KU coach Bill Self and the coaching staff to take care of things before they arrived, Thompson essentially said the same on Tuesday.
In an article he dictated to Tulsa World reporter Eric Bailey, Thompson shared his thoughts on KU's current clash with the NCAA.
“I am aware of the controversy currently surrounding Kansas,” Thompson wrote. “It did concern me a bit at the beginning until I went on my visit and I was able to talk face-to-face with some of the administration, including Athletic Director Jeff Long.”
Thompson said his parents also played a key role in finding out as much as they could about the NCAA allegations.
“My mom doesn’t play,” Thompson wrote. “She asked every question in the book. Mr. Long was able to answer them directly and stayed on point. He didn’t veer off into some other conversation. I appreciated that.”
Thompson added: “I leaned on my parents when coming to this decision. As former college athletes, they’ve been through the recruiting process and I trust them to highlight areas I may have missed. We took most visits as a family and debriefed after each one. I’m grateful to have my family to lean on through this process. They know my goals and are committed to helping me position myself to achieve them.”
With KU now more than 50 days out from receiving a notice of allegations from the NCAA for its role in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting, not much has been cleared up nor has there been much movement in the process. Typically, a school has 90 days from the time it receives an NOA to respond and the NCAA then has 60 days to respond to that before a hearing is scheduled and conducted.
However, the NCAA several weeks back suspended the 90-day deadline for a response, bringing further uncertainty to the exact time table Kansas is facing.
Although he has refrained from discussing the details of the case, KU coach Bill Self has said repeatedly that he looks forward to KU getting to tell its side of the story to the NCAA in defense of the allegations.
With that kind of cloud hanging over the program, many believed it would have a negative impact on KU’s recruiting efforts until a final ruling is handed out. And while Self said last month that he knew of a couple of instances where the FBI case and KU’s involvement cost the Jayhawks recruits, the situation appears to be having much less of an impact on future recruiting classes.
Thompson’s commitment is by far the biggest indicator of that. The five-star guard who is ranked No. 19 in the 2020 recruiting class by Rivals.com and 247 Sports could have gone to North Carolina, Michigan State, Texas and several other programs. Or he could have stayed close to home and attended Oklahoma or Oklahoma State like recent Oklahoma prospect Trae Young did.
Instead, he chose the school that he called the best fit for him and never looked back.
“I couldn’t have gone wrong with any of my finalists: Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and North Carolina,” Thompson wrote. “Each has a great staff and skilled players. I’ve often been told that I have great options. I agree, and it’s something that I don’t take for granted. I’m appreciative for all the college coaches who invested their time in me during this recruiting process.”
While several great ones came calling, including Lon Kruger at OU and Roy Williams at UNC, it was Thompson’s connection to Self that put Kansas over the top.
“Coach Self is the type of coach I want to play for,” he wrote. “Coach Self coached my dad at Tulsa. That means a lot. Their relationship has remained strong since my dad graduated in 1998. As one of coach Self’s players, my dad knows coach Self's level of expectation and the intensity he requires each time players take the floor.
“It’s Kansas. It’s a great, storied program with a Hall of Fame coach. I built a relationship with the coaching staff over a long period of time during my recruiting process. I enjoyed my time with the players while on my official visit. I like their uptempo style of play and hope to contribute as a freshman.”
When it comes to recruiting in college basketball, big days come nearly as fast as they go.
And the biggest day of the 2020 recruiting cycle has arrived for the Kansas men’s basketball program.
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, during a ceremony at Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, five-star guard Bryce Thompson will announce his college decision in front of friends and family members.
The announcement will be streamed live by CBS Sports HQ.
And there’s no doubt that it will be the biggest decision day ceremony — good or bad — that the Jayhawks encounter in this recruiting class.
With a pair of quality four-star prospects already on board in big man Gethro Muscadin and juco wing Tyon Grant-Foster, Kansas is in position to build a monster class if Thompson chooses the Jayhawks.
According to 247Sports, those two players make up the 50th-ranked recruiting class in the 2020 rankings to date. Adding Thompson would send that trio skyrocketing into the No. 11 position in the current rankings, according to the 247Sports Class Calculator, which measures the impact of adding a particular prospect to any class.
But Kansas has had Top 10 classes before and probably will again in the future, with or without Thompson picking KU on Tuesday. But this commitment, if the Jayhawks were to land Thompson, would be a huge victory and mean a lot more than just plugging in a future spot in the lineup with a quality prospect.
Adding Thompson, in the midst of all of the uncertainty surrounding the program with the FBI trial and recent notice of allegations sent from the NCAA, would be a sign that the KU brand still resonates with top-tier recruits.
That fact would open the door for more elite players to follow Thompson in the near future, with Thompson serving as the steadying force that tells the rest of the recruiting world that things are OK at Kansas.
Whether they are or not, of course, remains to be seen, but KU coach Bill Self and his staff have said they have been very open and transparent with all of their current targets and their families about the current situation. And landing Thompson would be the biggest indicator yet that those assurances are working.
I asked Muscadin and Grant-Foster about the allegations and whether they were concerned about the future of the program and both players said they trusted what the coaches had told them and were not at all worried about KU’s future.
Getting that kind of commitment from four-star prospects is solid and can help stabilize future rosters. Getting that kind of boost from a Top 20, five-star prospect like Thompson can change everything and put KU on the fast-track back to going after the top five-star prospects in future classes.
Self has said that the allegations have impacted KU’s recruiting efforts, adding that, at least for the time being, he and his coaching staff would have to “grind a little bit and maybe work a little smarter and target a little differently and things like that.”
Landing Thompson would change that.
Thompson, the No. 19-ranked player in the 2020 class in both the 247Sports Composite rankings and by Rivals.com, was in Lawrence on Friday night for one final unofficial visit to Kansas. He sat behind the bench with his family for the Jayhawks’ 74-62 victory over UNC Greensboro and got one last look — or is it feel? — at Allen Fieldhouse on a game night.
Self and OSU coach Mike Boynton also were expected to be in Tulsa on Sunday afternoon for one final visit to the Thompson home.
The 6-foot-5, 175-pound combo guard is down to a final four of Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and North Carolina, and many believe it’s a three-horse race with the Tar Heels on the outside looking in.
His Crystal Ball prediction on 247Sports sits in KU’s favor, with the Jayhawks receiving 82% of the votes and Oklahoma getting the remaining 18%. And the Rivals.com FutureCast features all 10 recruiting analysts projecting Thompson to KU.
That includes two picks that were changed from OU to KU in the past three weeks and three more picks for Kansas that were put in during the past week.
While that certainly creates a situation that looks good for Kansas, those projections are far from iron-clad indicators of a prospect’s decision.
On Monday morning, Oskaloosa (Iowa) big man Xavier Foster chose Iowa State over Iowa, despite the 247Sports Crystal Ball projections sitting at 100% for Iowa.
In announcing his final four in an interview with Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World, Thompson had this to say about KU:
“Kansas is a great school. I had a great visit with a lot of players. Coach Self is a great guy. Coach Norm (Roberts) and all of the other assistants have done a great job recruiting me and making sure that I know that it is a home away from home. My dad and Coach Self have a great relationship, as well as Coach Norm. They were here at the University of Tulsa, so that was obviously a big plus. They’ve also been there for a long time. It’s a great school with great tradition.”
That connection between Self and Thompson’s father, Rod, who played for Self at Tulsa, has always been a big part of this recruitment.
And although it might not be the deciding factor, one way or another, there’s little doubt that if Thompson picks KU, his father’s relationship with the Kansas staff will have played some kind of role.
“This has been a family decision,” Thompson’s mother, Goldie, recently told Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World. “Because Rod and I were college athletes, we were able to provide some insight.”
The lists of pros and cons are written. The pitches have been made. And the visits and hours, days and weeks of information and contact have now subsided.
The only thing left is for Thompson to make his decision known. No matter which school he picks, Tuesday will be a monster day for that program, even if it is for slightly different reasons at all four places.
He played 16 minutes in his college debut, followed it up with another strong showing in Game 2 and soon may be in line for even more playing time.
Freshman wing Tristan Enaruna wasn’t perfect on Tuesday night in KU’s 68-66 loss to Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York City or during the Jayhawks’ 74-62 win in the home opener at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday, but he provided enough of a glimpse of his skill set to suggest that using him more in the weeks ahead might be.
Although Christian Braun was the first freshman off the bench for the Jayhawks against Duke, Enaruna played more than four times as many minutes as either of his freshmen teammates in both KU games.
Enaruna followed up a 5-point, two-rebound, two-block showing against Duke with a line of 9 points, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes in the win over UNC Greensboro and had a significant impact on both games.
Despite the 12-point win at home, KU coach Bill Self said Enaruna hit “the biggest shot of the game,” against the Spartans, a 3-pointer from the top of the key that halted a late rally by UNCG and locked up the Kansas victory.
The shot was not unlike the 3-pointer he hit against Duke, with Enaruna calmly coming around a ball screen and hitting a rhythm jumper like he had done it 100 times before.
“He’s a talented kid that’ll just get better with time,” Self said. “He just needs to keep getting stronger and being a little bit more aggressive and I think that his minutes will go way up.”
That last part is the trick. For the past couple of weeks, Self has talked about wanting to see Enaruna come out of his shell a little more and assert himself with the kind of energy and intensity that matches his talent.
“Tristan, to me, maybe has the most upside of all of (the current KU freshmen) because he’s so long,” Self said on a recent episode of “Hawk Talk.” “He’s 6-foot-8 and his wingspan is 7-2 or 7-3 and he can really slide and move. His shot is streaky, but he is so casual acting. He’s so smooth and plays so cool that sometimes it drives you nuts because you want him to play harder. The reality is he is playing hard, that’s just kind of his personality.”
Self compared him to former KU great Archie Marshall, who played for Larry Brown in the mid-to-late 1980s.
“Archie Marshall was that way,” Self said. “Archie was so smooth. And I remember coach Brown going, ‘Come on, Arch, God, come onnnnn.’ That’s what I want to do with Tristan.”
Asked about his “casual” demeanor on Thursday afternoon, Enaruna smiled as if to indicate that he, too, had heard plenty from Self about his laid-back vibe.
“I think it’s kind of just the way I am, which sometimes makes it look like I don’t try hard,” Enaruna said. “But I think it’s just something that has been with me all this time.”
Asked after the UNCG victory how he could turn up the intensity to please his head coach, Enaruna matter-of-factly laid out the game plan.
“I think it’s just a switch that you have to turn on,” he said. “Once you’ve done that it’s just all automatic, diving after balls, going to the glass, all that.”
Enaruna flashed some aggressiveness against both Duke and UNC Greensboro. But it appeared to disappear as quickly as it arrived.
However, neither game — nor either stage — ever seemed too big for him. Part of that is his cool, calm and collected nature, and part of that is Enaruna’s comfort level and confidence in most situations.
KU sophomore David McCormack lauded Enaruna’s debut but also backed Self’s claim about his laid-back demeanor.
“It’s very hard to tell with Tristan just because seems poised all the time,” McCormack said. “He’s a very casual player. But Tristan played really well. I was proud of him. He played to his size, his length, defensively and offensively.”
KU point guard Devon Dotson agreed after the UNCG victory and said a lot of what Enaruna has shown so far is what he and his teammates have seen from the 6-8 freshman from the Netherlands in practice dating back to early summer.
“His length (brings) activity on the defensive end, he gets his hands on loose balls, knocks down shots and keeps possessions alive,” Dotson said. “I’m not surprised.”