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Kansas ties easy to find as AD search begins at KU

Incoming freshman learn how to wave the wheat  at KU Traditions Night Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium. The annual event held before the start of each new school year aims to teach incoming freshmen about the traditions that make KU unique.

Incoming freshman learn how to wave the wheat at KU Traditions Night Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium. The annual event held before the start of each new school year aims to teach incoming freshmen about the traditions that make KU unique. by Mike Yoder

The tendency, when it comes to hiring searches of any kind, is to identify a handful of candidates who have ties to the place that has the job opening and go from there.

While that makes perfect sense, and while ties to any particular institution, in this case a university like KU, certainly can't hurt a candidate's chances, the connection is not something that makes any given candidate a lock to be a finalist or even receive serious interest from those doing the hiring.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a handful of potential athletic director candidates with ties to KU who might be worth kicking the tires on as Drue Jennings, Chancellor Doug Girod and the search firm KU has hired to help find their next AD goes out into the world to begin their search.

Less than 24 hours after the news of Sheahon Zenger's firing had been made public, I received a handful of phone calls from people trying to rally support for their guy. In each case, their guy had those Kansas ties we talked about above and some were more interesting options than others.

• Mike Harrity, Senior Associate AD at Notre Dame

Harrity, a Kansas City native who received a journalism degree from KU and also has a Master's degree in education, worked in both the KU and Minnesota athletic departments before moving to Notre Dame in 2011.

Since joining the Fighting Irish athletic department, Harrity has handled a number of roles and duties, most of them designed with the student-athlete experience in mind.

According to his Notre Dame bio, Harrity works “closely with the Athletics Advancement team on top priorities, including the Advisory Council for the Student-Athlete, to secure funding for key department strategic initiatives. The Advisory Council for the Student-Athlete is comprised of alumni, family and friends of Notre Dame who invest their time, talent and treasure helping fuel the vision for Athletics while building an endowment for all coaching positions, grants-in-aid and student-athlete services. Harrity serves as Athletics Chair on three of the four Advisory Council committees: Sports Science/Sports Performance, Leadership and Personal Growth, and Career Development.

A few people I spoke with said they thought Harrity would consider the KU AD position a dream job and one even called him the perfect fit for the position.

Age, Harrity was in school around the same I was and is likely in the 39-41 range, and limited experience could make it difficult for Harrity to crack the list of finalists, but he seems like a name worthy of a spot on the radar.

A few years back, I talked with Harrity about one of his crowning achievements outside of a college athletic department, his 2012 book titled “Coaching Wisdom,” in which he solicited the help of 13 college coaches who had won a combined 103 championships — including Lou Holtz and John Wooden — to examine the creation of cultures of sustained excellence.

• Greg Gurley, Assistant Athletic Director, Major Gifts at KU

Gurley's is another name that I received a couple of calls about in the past 24 hours and I even saw Fox Sports anaylst Doug Gottlieb out on Twitter trying to promote Gurley as a decent candidate for the job.

There are, without question, qualities that Gurley possesses that would serve him well in an athletic director role, but those qualities do not outweigh Gurley's lack of administrative experience.

Yes, he has worked closely with the Williams Fund for years in a fund-raiser role — in addition to his gig as a color analyst for KU men's basketball games on the radio with Brian Hanni — but Gurley's resume pales in comparison to the candidates who likely will be on the search committee's list, many people who have made it their life's work to pursue the path of one day winding up in an AD role.

I caught up with Gurley about the idea on Tuesday afternoon and he seemed to be in agreement that his limited experience would not make him the best candidate for the job.

“It's very flattering to hear that people think I might be good at it,” Gurley told the Journal-World. “But I'm very happy in my current position. My goal is to be a lifer in this athletic department and to eventually be in a John Hadl type of role where I've been around for a long time and done a little bit of everything. I'd like to be a guy who ends up putting my stamp on a bunch of things in college athletics, but administration is not really my thing.”

Beyond that, Gurley, who has seen some of the inner workings of the athletic director job, added that the role of an AD in today's world is “a stressful job and I respect the heck out of the guys who do it.”

• Terry Mohajir, Athletic Director at Arkansas State

Mohajir's name was on our initial list and it's possible that he might wind up on the committee's list, as well.

After spending 13 months at KU — following a stint on Glen Mason's football staff in the 1990s — Mohajir has been at ASU for the past six years in addition to his time as a Senior Associate AD at Florida Atlantic from 2004-11, when he oversaw development, ticket sales, corporate sales and the media relations department.

Mohajir's ties to KU may be somewhat limited, but his work away from Lawrence has put him in a favorable light.

While at Kansas, his duties included many of those that he handled elsewhere and expanded to include assisting in the operations for the Williams Educational Fund and directing the efforts of the Marketing and Game-Day Experience staffs.

Since landing at Arkansas State, his alma mater, Mohajir has impressed with his ability to upgrade facilities and also worked with elite football coaches, first for one year with Gus Malzahn, who now is at Auburn, and later hiring Bryan Harsin, who now leads the Boise State program.

• Banks Floodman, Sunflower Development Group

The former face of the Williams Fund who was a standout linebacker at KU during his days as a college athlete, Floodman had long been one of the more polished, popular and liked people in the KU athletic department.

However, in 2016, almost to the day, Floodman announced that he as leaving KU to get into the commercial construction business and, from talking to those who know him well, he has just started to flourish in his new role.

That does not mean that Floodman would not be interested in talking about the KU AD job. But one person told me that, while Floodman “has AD material written all over him” he might be a better candidate the next time the job comes open, when he has both more experience in the business world and more time to make connections that might serve him well.

While heading up the Williams Fund for three years, Floodman played a crucial role in raising the funds to build the relatively new basketball dorm, McCarthy Hall, the DeBruce Center, which houses James Naismith's original rules of basketball, and a $2 million renovation of the Anderson Family Football Complex next to Memorial Stadium.

• Richard Konzem, head men's and women's golf coach Rockhurst University

A familiar name and face around KU throughout the past few decades, Konzem has been involved in intercollegiate athletics for more than 35 years, including four years as the athletic director at Rockhurst University, from 2007-11, and a stint as the interim AD at KU during his days with the Kansas athletic department.

Konzem spent 23 years at KU, filling a bunch of difference roles, including Senior Associate AD who supervised men's and women's basketball, football, baseball and golf.

He also had a stint as the AD at Benedictine College in Atchison and also was the Chief Operating Officer for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

By far the biggest athletic department veteran on this list, Konzem's name would be familiar to boosters and his love of KU is well known. His time away from major college athletics might be too much of a hurdle to overcome for him to merit any serious consideration for the job. He could, however, be a valuable resource for the department after a hire is made or perhaps even during the search.

His role in the hiring of Bill Self back in 2003 was significant and he has connections and history with administrators throughout other athletic departments in the Big 12.

• Sean Lester, interim AD at Kansas

Another name on the original list, Lester is beginning his second stint as interim AD at KU and his role under both Lew Perkins and Zenger seemed to increase just about every year since he arrived in 2003.

Lester, who has played a key role in overseeing men's basketball, football and baseball, as well as special projects throughout his time at Kansas was promoted to Senior Associate AD in July of 2011 and promoted again to Deputy AD in January 2013.

The fact that he now has been twice trusted to handle the transition from one athletic director to the next says something.

• Pat Warren, President Kansas Speedway

A blast from my personal past came up this afternoon when Pat Warren's name was tossed my way. Warren, who served as an Associate AD at KU under Bob Frederick when I was in school in his late 20s and early 30s was the KU official I interviewed for a story I did way back when about KU's construction of the giant press box and suites that have been a fixture at Memorial Stadium for the past couple of decades now.

Anyway, here's why he's a name worth watching. Warren is sharp. Like big time sharp. He's loaded with university and business-world experience and also has a KU law degree on top of his political science degree from KU. In addition to that, he holds a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in marketing and finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Promoted to Speedway president in March of 2010, Warren seeks to provide strategic leadership across all aspects of the facility’s operations including financial and capital planning, ticket sales, event execution, sponsorship sales, marketing and public relations. He also represents Kansas Speedway within the industry and community, continually elevating the facility’s profile both regionally and nationally.

Warren was previously Kansas Speedway’s Vice President and was responsible for developing and executing marketing plans, developing all corporate partnerships, overseeing the development and execution of media relations plans for Kansas Speedway and its events, and community relations.

Prior to his time at Kansas Speedway, Warren, an Overland Park native, worked for Embarq, a spin-off company of Sprint-Nextel, where he worked in consumer marketing after leaving KU.

• Jay Hinrichs, Development Director, Johnson County Parks and Recreation District

Don't let the current title scare you off. Hinrichs is one of the few people on this list who actually has sat in an AD's chair. He did so for eight years at Northern Colorado after leaving KU, where he served as an associate AD from 2002-04.

Prior to that, Hirnichs was the Vice President of Business Development for two years with the Kansas City Royals and he worked as the Royals' Assistant GM and Director of Stadium Operations for 15 years prior to that.

Hinrichs has been in parks and recreation for the past couple of years and holds degrees from KU in psychology and personnel administration and an MBA in finance.

Reply 9 comments from Chriss Robert Lofthouse Brett McCabe Ronfranklin Oldjayhawkjack Spk15 Jeff Coffman Max Courington John Myers

NBA Combine 2018: Jayhawks jump in front of the camera

After weeks of waiting and preparation, five Kansas Jayhawks finally made their way to Chicago this week to participate in the annual pre-draft combine, which featured nearly 70 participants this year.

Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman, Billy Preston and Udoka Azubuike all arrived in Chicago this week and kicked off this year's combine on Wednesday with a round of interviews, measurements, photo shoots and more.

In case you missed it earlier, here's a quick look at how the five Jayhawks, particularly Graham, prepared for this week's combine, along with a recent update from KU coach Bill Self on what Azubuike, who remains eligible to return to KU for his junior season, could get out of his four or five days in front of all 30 NBA franchises.

We'll have all kinds of reaction from Chicago, as well as results of their measurements and on-the-court performances, throughout the week.

Some of the Jayhawks in attendance are pegged as second-round picks in the June 21 NBA Draft in the various mock drafts that are out there, but each of them could improve their draft stock with a good showing this week in Chicago.

As an appetizer for what's still ahead, here are some of the results of the photo shoots the former (and one still current) Jayhawks participated in during Wednesday's opening day.

Check back for more photos of the rest of the KU crew from @NBADraft.

None by NBA Draft

None by NBA Draft

None by Billy Preston♕

None by NBA Draft

Under Armour is the official sponsor of the combine and will be providing workout uniforms and other types of gear for the attendees throughout the week.

None by SLAM Magazine

Reply 3 comments from Titus Canby Shannon Gustafson

KU coach Bill Self to rappel down a 7-story building for charity later this summer

Kansas head coach Bill Self lauds his players before 14 Big 12 conference championship trophies during the celebration following their 80-70 win over Texas on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. The win gave the Jayhawks an outright win of their 14th-straight Big 12 Conference title.

Kansas head coach Bill Self lauds his players before 14 Big 12 conference championship trophies during the celebration following their 80-70 win over Texas on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. The win gave the Jayhawks an outright win of their 14th-straight Big 12 Conference title. by Nick Krug

Later this summer, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self will be literally stepping out of his comfort zone in an effort to help raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.

Self, on Aug. 25, will be rappelling down the side of a seven-story building in Downtown Lawrence as the featured guest in an “Over the Edge Global” fund-raiser to benefit the local chapter of the Boys & Girls club.

According to a press release, Self was among the first people to sign up for the event, which asks participants to raise at least $1,000 from their friends, family and fans to sponsor the act of bravery.

“I’ve never scaled a building or bungee jumped or done anything that is remotely comparable to what we’ll be doing on this day,” said Self, who will be scaling down the side of the 888 Lofts building (888 New Hampshire) along with others on that day in late August. “But I’m excited and it’s for a good cause. Hopefully it will generate a lot of interest from a lot of people.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence is still seeking others to join Self as “edgers” for their big event and the fun is open to people of all ages.

No experience is required in order to rappel, and there is no age requirement. Over The Edge will send professional, certified technicians to install and supervise all rappelling equipment and participants. The only requirement is that participants must be between 100-300 pounds. Even people in wheelchairs are able to rappel for charity but must contact Alissa Bauer — abauer@bgclk.org — at the Boys & Girls Club to arrange the proper accommodations ahead of time.

For Self and his wife, Cindy, who have been longtime supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, the fun of stepping off of a building is about much more than tackling something he never has done.

“I participated actively in the Boys & Girls Club in Oklahoma City when I was young,” Self said. “With coaching, I’ve seen so many players, especially from the inner cities, that were involved — and in many cases saved — by the efforts of Boys & Girls Club. It’s something that is very near and dear to us.”

Since 2008, Over The Edge Global has helped non-profits raise more than $70 million and put 52,000 people safely “Over The Edge.”

While the August event will be the first of its kind in Lawrence, the closest OTE rappel session happened at the Westar Energy building in Topeka back in September of 2015, when funds were raised to benefit the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.

“This is not your everyday auction or golf tournament,” said Boys & Girls Club CEO Colby Wilson. “We wanted to expand our already awesome group of supporters. I’m really looking forward to seeing who we can engage with this. The timing lines up perfectly with the grand opening of our new facility, and we will have a lot of people we want to thank and have fun with. This event will help us do both.”

To register to join Self in climbing down the building or to learn more about the event, check out the Over The Edge Lawrence web site.

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Devonte’ Graham scheduled for 4 book signing appearances this weekend

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) looks out over the crowd before his senior speech.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) looks out over the crowd before his senior speech. by Nick Krug

With the biggest audition of his life just around the corner, hard-working Kansas point guard Devonte' Graham will carve out some time this weekend, just days ahead of the NBA draft combine in Chicago, to reconnect with KU fans in the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas.

Graham will be signing copies of Jason King’s latest book, “Beyond the Streak: Untold Stories from Kansas Basketball’s Unrivaled Big 12 Reign.” Released in November, the 512-page book chronicles the Jayhawks’ record-setting streak of conference championship and features interviews with more than 100 former KU players, coaches and opponents.

Graham, the 2018 Big 12 Player of the Year, first-team All-American and national player of the year finalist, is featured prominently in the bottom right corner of the book’s cover and is quoted extensively inside.

Graham finished his KU career with 1,750 points (13th all-time at Kansas) and is one of just three players in school history to tally at least 1,700 points, 600 assists and 190 steals. Equally important was the energy and and spirit Graham provided during each of his four seasons in Lawrence.

“In all my years of following the Jayhawks, I can’t recall a player who was as loved and embraced by KU fans as Devonte' Graham,” King said in a press release announcing the book signings. “I know Devonte' is excited about these book signings because it will give him a chance to interact with so many of the people who have supported him the past four years.”

Fans attending the signings will be allowed to get two autographs from Graham (on any item of their choice) for every book purchased.

“Beyond the Streak” retails for $26.95 plus tax. Graham will not be signing copies of previously-purchased books.

Here's a quick look at the schedule for Graham’s signings:

Friday, May 11

Johnny’s Tavern
8262 Mission Rd.
Prairie Village, KS
Time: 7 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, May 12

Kansas Sampler
9750 Quivira Rd.
Overland Park, KS
Time: 10 a.m. to noon


Kansas Sampler
5918 SW 21st St.
Topeka, KS
Time: 2 to 4 p.m.


Kansas Sampler
921 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, KS
Time: 5 to 7 p.m.

The cover of "Beyond the Streak"

The cover of "Beyond the Streak" by Matt Tait

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Say What? Tait’s regular appearance on KLWN’s Rock Chalk Sports Talk

In the regular Tuesday time slot, I joined Nick Schwerdt to talk KU basketball and the dream showdown being kicked around between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Will Tiger and Phil go head to head for what Schwerdt hopes is an uncomfortable amount of money?

On the hoops front, we talked Joe Cremo to Villanova and where Kansas looks next to fill it’s final scholarship.

Another grad transfer, a red-shirt transfer, a project and hanging on to the scholarship are all options at this point. And the Jayhawks remain 10-12 deep even after Cremo heads to Villanova.

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How one recommendation from The Commission on College Basketball might have affected KU in the past

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) dribbles the ball up the court during a practice on Friday, March 30, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) dribbles the ball up the court during a practice on Friday, March 30, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. by Nick Krug

Raise your hand if you think the Kansas men's basketball team could have been a No. 1 seed and reached the Elite Eight in 2017 with just eight scholarship players.

Keep your hand up if you think the 2017-18 squad could have followed that up by breaking down the door to the Final Four with a less-talented crop of eight or nine scholarship players the following year.

Those of you with your hands up are either blindly loyal or flat-out lying. But in the wake of Wednesday morning's recommendations on how to address a laundry list of issues plaguing the sport, The Commission on College Basketball, headed up by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, unveiled a list of how to fix the game.

While their suggestions ranged from eliminating the one-and-done rule to addressing transparency among AAU programs and shoe companies, one of the more interesting aspects of what amounted to be a 25-minute statement read by Rice in Indianapolis early Wednesday morning had to do with what might happen if the NBA and NBA Players Association are not interested in allowing 18-year-olds into their league.

Make no mistake about it; this was a power play by Rice and college basketball in an effort to put the onus on the NBA.

The gist of it goes like this: Eliminate the 19-year-old age requirement and allow high school graduates to enter the draft or run the risk of (a) losing the marketing that has made such players so attractive following their freshman seasons or (b) run the risk of not getting them until they have a college degree in their hands.

Whether the NBA brass caves to the pressure or laughs in its face, Rice's panel made it clear that they are expecting the NBA to make some kind of decision, sooner rather than later — by the start of next basketball season is the way it was worded. If that does not happen, they promised to reconvene and explore the idea of implementing options A or B into their bylaws.

Here is the exact language from the report explaining that scenario.

"We must emphasize that only the NBA and the NBPA can change the one-and-done rule. If they choose not to do so by the end of 2018, the NCAA must still find a way to address this situation. In that circumstance, the Commission will reconvene and consider the other tools at its disposal. These could range from the baseball rule, to freshman ineligibility, to “locking up” scholarships for three or four years if the recipient leaves the program for the NBA after a single year. That would be a disincentive to recruit an athlete for a one-year run at the title. In short, the current situation is untenable."

For the sake of this blog, let's assume the NBA does not want 18-year-olds in its league — the reasons for this run deep, are too many to list and are probably best explained in another blog — and college basketball reacts by saying that, regardless of how long players actually stay in college, scholarships are locked in for four years as soon as the player signs, a move that could significantly impact the way coaches recruit and, worse yet, would impact the way college rosters look for years to come.

Think less scholarships available and more preferred walk-ons playing more minutes.

There are alternatives to this same concept, with a three-year lock being possible or a plus-one model, meaning that the scholarship is off limits for one season after the player leaves for the NBA. But all three possibilities focus on the same outcome — to make college programs value the players they're bringing to campus.

Had a four-year version of the rule been in effect five years ago, Kansas basketball would have been affected dramatically in the two cases mentioned at the top of this blog.

Take the 2016-17 team for starters.

With five Jayhawks — Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo — from the three previous teams leaving for the NBA as one-and-done players, the rule would have made all five of those spots unavailable for additional players and kept those scholarships “locked” for the 2016-17 season.

Provided recruits would not have changed their minds in any way and decided not to come to KU because of the roster limitations, that means that Kansas would have been forced to operate with just eight scholarship players during the 2016-17 season.

It's worth noting here that any time a university has one of its scholarships taken away because of some kind of rules violation, it's viewed as a major blow. This would be five times that and probably have people losing their minds.

While the eight on scholarship would have been a solid group — Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Carlton Bragg and Udoka Azubuike, Landen Lucas and Lagerald Vick is my guess — the team's depth would have been limited and made up of walk-ons willing to pay their own way.

Mitch Lightfoot might have been an option there, but that also might be a pipe dream. After all, there were plenty of other Division I schools willing to give Lightfoot a free ride to come play for them.

Assuming all other things stayed the same and Bragg turned into a shell of the player he was as a freshman and Azubuike still hurt his wrist 11 games in, it's tough to picture that team surviving the season with Mason, Graham, Jackson, Svi and Lucas being backed by Clay Young, Tyler Self and Tucker Vang.

Remember, those five spots being locked up means no Dwight Coleby, likely no Lightfoot and no Malik Newman waiting in the wings. There simply would not have been room for KU coach Bill Self to have those guys.

Speaking of Newman, that brings us to the 2017-18 team and KU's Final Four run. No Newman in 2016-17 means no Newman in 2017-18 — he likely would have gone pro after his freshman season if he were still intent on leaving Mississippi State — and KU, once again, would have had less than the maximum number of 13 scholarships available to hand out because of four or five spots being “locked” up by the four-year commitments of players long gone.

In that case, KU would have been left with a top eight of Graham, Mykhailiuk, Vick, Azubuike, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe and maybe Silvio De Sousa.

Considering Preston never played and Cunliffe and De Sousa were only eligible for half of the season, that hardly looks like a Final Four team. Especially without Newman.

Beyond that, the damage done to the 2018-19 team would have been enormous. Down a few scholarships to begin with, KU would not have had the luxury of stashing Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson or Charlie Moore as scholarship players red-shirting the 2017-18 season. Add to that the fact that neither Newman and probably Lightfoot would never have made it to Lawrence in the first place and you're looking at a 2018-19 team that would have had 10 scholarships available — Diallo, Jackson and Vick's would all be taken — and filled them with almost all new players.

The lone exceptions on the inexperienced roster would be Azubuike and Garrett. And that's only if the KU center were to pull his name out of the draft instead of turning pro.

So what you would have for next season is a roster that, again, looks somewhat similar to what KU will have, but lacks any real experience.

Provided Self were able to stay solid on the recruiting trail, the 2018-19 roster waiting in the wings would include: Guards Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe and Ochai Agbaji, along with big men Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.

That would leave the Jayhawks with three spots still to fill. If you think KU trying to land Romeo Langford is a big deal now, it would be absolutely enormous under those rules.

Getting the scholarships back and having 10 again instead of just seven or eight no doubt would have felt like hitting the lottery. But it would still force KU to play three scholarship players shy of the maximum number allowed by the NCAA.

All of this is, of course, is pure speculation. And there's no way of knowing how things really would have played out or what adjustments Self and his staff might have made to handle the realities of those rules. Leaving KU altogether might have been one of them.

But it does go to show that even the smallest aspect of what can only be described as a massive set of recommendations could have a pretty profound impact on the sport as we know it

Will all of those recommendations be implemented? Nope. Even if they were, could they all be enforced? Nope. And even if those two obstacles were deemed manageable, would the NCAA be willing to shell out the money it would take to make sure they're effective? Unlikely.

So it remains to be seen what actually will come from all of the time and effort put in by Rice and the commission of 11 other people who seem to care a great deal about college basketball.

But one thing that does seem clear is that this group, for better or worse, is expecting to see something happen fairly quickly.

If it doesn't, they've promised to go back behind closed doors, reach out a little bit more and who knows what they'll come up with then?

Reply 2 comments from Boardshorts Phil Leister

Former Jayhawk Nick Collison shown some love by Russell Westbrook, OKC fans

His NBA career may not have matched what people would expect from the No. 12 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, but there's not a person alive who can say that former Jayhawk Nick Collison's pro career has not been a rousing success.

Success, of course, can be defined in a number of different ways. Rings. Wins. Stats. And even fame are the most often talked about measurements when it comes to pinpointing the success of professional athletes.

But Collison has become a star in much different way, one that seemingly will have a lasting impression on those he played with for years to come.

Drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (five years before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City) after a stellar four-year career at Kansas, Collison recently completed his 15th season with the same franchise, though playing more of a bench-coach role on a one-year, minimum-contract salary during the 2017-18 season.

Collison's career with the Sonics/Thunder included 895 appearances — 177 of them starts — and career averages of 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. Collison's career totals include more than 5,300 points and 4,700 rebounds.

But those numbers — including a career year in 2007-08 when he played in 78 games, started 35 and finished the season averaging 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game — pale in comparison to the measure of the impact Collison has had on his teammates throughout the years.

Never was that more obvious than earlier this week, after the final regular season game of the season, when OKC guard Russell Westbrook, who had just completed becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in back-to-back seasons, was on the microphone thanking the fans and took a moment to bring Collison onto the floor with him.

In doing so, Westbrook referred to Collison as his "friend, mentor and brother," and told the roaring Thunder crowd, "He's somebody I always looked up to, it's a real pleasure to have him here. I just wanted to make sure you guys show him some love."

With that, Westbrook lowered the mic and raised his arms, encouraging the crowd to get even louder in their ovation for the former Jayhawk and franchise's favorite son.

"I'm not sure if it's his last season or not," Westbrook continued. "But he's somebody I always looked up to as a brother. He's done so much for this organization, I just wanted to make sure you guys gave him a standing ovation for the things he's done for this city."

As for whether this will be Collison's final season in the NBA, the former KU standout addressed that with reporters prior to the Thunder victory in that regular season finale.

"I still enjoy playing, enjoy being out there," Collison said. "And we've got one regular season game (and then) the playoffs and I'll figure out what I'm doing after that."

None by Royce Young

Reply 5 comments from Marius7782 Titus Canby Dannyboy4hawks Phil Leister Clara Westphal

One man’s bold prediction for Kansas football. Kind of…

The two covers: The one on the left, from Sports Illustrated about the Houston Astros. And the one on the right from Bryce Wood about Kansas football.

The two covers: The one on the left, from Sports Illustrated about the Houston Astros. And the one on the right from Bryce Wood about Kansas football. by Matt Tait

Now that it worked for Sports Illustrated and the Houston Astros, it seems like everybody is at least considering taking a shot at predicting the future.

The Astros, in case you don’t know, made good on a 2014 SI cover story that proclaimed them the 2017 World Series champs by knocking off the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of this year’s World Series on Wednesday night in L.A.

The win marked the first world championship for the Astros franchise, but, perhaps more notably, sent the rest of the sports world into absolute pandemonium over that 2014 Sports Illustrated cover.

Ebay and other such sites are currently selling that magazine for nearly $300 or more and its legend only figures to grow from here.

So how does this all relate to anything to do with KU Sports?

Well, thanks to Bryce Wood, a Washburn University graduate and Topeka native, we now know. Wood, a talented graphic designer who actually has done some freelance cover work for Sports Illustrated — including designing all four of this year’s NFL preview covers featuring Tom Brady, David Johnson, Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt — took to Twitter (@woodymlb4) to release his own mock SI cover featuring none other than the Kansas football team.

Themed exactly like that Astros cover from 2014, with KU quarterback Carter Stanley in the center, it reads, “An unprecedented look at how a dynasty is forming to build the game’s next big thing.... Your 2018 National Champs. P.30”

On the other side of the magazine, below his name and behind Stanley, who has the ball cocked high and ready to throw, reads, “Haha Just Kidding.”

So, obviously, Wood, who considers himself a fan of KU sports, is not actually predicting this accomplishment, nor is he going out on the same kind of limb that Sports Illustrated did three years ago with that Astros prediction.

But it’s pretty funny nonetheless and it shows two things — 1. How some KU fans currently are dealing with the football team’s struggles. And 2. Just how big that SI cover has become.

With KU sitting at 1-7 in David Beaty's third season, it's hard to imagine things turning around so drastically for this cover prediction to become true. Then again, the Astros were coming off of three consecutive seasons with at least 105 losses (in 162 games) and were 36-48 at the time the cover hit newsstands.

This mock Sports Illustrated cover was designed by Bryce Wood and pays homage to SI's incredible call of the Houston Astros' 2017 World Series title.

This mock Sports Illustrated cover was designed by Bryce Wood and pays homage to SI's incredible call of the Houston Astros' 2017 World Series title. by Matt Tait

Reply 10 comments from Lucas Town Carsonc30 Mark Kostner Shorte3355 Scott Chasen Bryce Landon Matt Tait

KU, K-State fans back together again for a common cause

Jeffery Clark and his father Jeff Clark were surrounded by cheering Kansas State fans Saturday afternoon. Kansas beat Kansas State 39-20 saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Jeffery Clark and his father Jeff Clark were surrounded by cheering Kansas State fans Saturday afternoon. Kansas beat Kansas State 39-20 saturday at Memorial Stadium. by megan-true

Back in 2011, a handful of Kansas State graduates who spent so many of their college days rooting hard against Kansas, came together to do something good for the city of Lawrence.

In honor of their friend, who had passed away after a battle with breast cancer, these K-State grads joined forces with former KU football player Harrison Hill, Lawrence business man Miles Schnaer and others in the weeks leading up to the KU-K-State football showdown to raise money to remodel Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s oncology wing, where their dear friend spent so many days during her treatment.

In just a short time, these women raised well over their goal of $100,000 and sent the money to LMH to honor their friend Jamie Pursley’s wish to make the environment and atmosphere inside the treatment rooms fresh and upbeat.

Today, this same group, now operating behind The Jamie’s Wish Foundation name, is at it again, this time for the benefit of the University of Kansas Cancer Center North, located in Kansa City, Mo.

“JWF has one goal,” the group wrote in a press release. “To make chemotherapy infusion areas more comfortable for cancer patients.”

This time around, dubbed “Together for a Common Cause II,” their efforts are under way in the memory of Andy Tyhurst, who lost his battle with appendix cancer last July.

“JWF bridges a divide between KU and K-State fans,” the group said. “Making cancer care more comfortable for patients is a big win for both teams.”

With that in mind, the Foundation is hosting a tailgate event for this weekend’s Sunflower Showdown at Memorial Stadium from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 11th and Mississippi from Lot 96 to Lot 130 at Memorial Stadium.

The area will be marked by pink balloons and more than 300 KU and K-State fans who have been inspired by JWF and Tyhurst and Pursley plan to put the Rock Chalk Chickenhawk and Little Brother barbs aside — at least before the game — to raise money for this great cause.

To donate or learn more about Saturday's fund-raiser, visit jamieswish.org or contact the Foundation’s head of media relations, Jamie Borgman, at (913)-568-8221 or jaborgman5@gmail.com.

KU (1-6 overall, 0-4 Big 12) and K-State (3-4, 1-3) will kick off this year's Sunflower Showdown at 2 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Reply 1 comment from Len Shaffer

KU coach Bill Self opens up on pressure surrounding recruiting, college basketball

Kansas head coach Bill Self tries to pump up his players during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self tries to pump up his players during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In discussing the “tough week” that hammered college basketball from nearly all angles this week, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self on Thursday night focused mostly on what could be done to fix a culture that has allowed shoe companies, third parties and the high-stakes world of recruiting to take control of the sport.

But although Self admitted that many of the ideas he had either thought of or heard about — ideas that, on the surface, might make the game better — he also acknowledged that finding the solution likely would be a long and difficult process.

It remains to be seen just how deep the ongoing FBI investigation will go and how many more schools, coaches and athletes will find themselves in serious trouble, but there is no doubting that every aspect of the college game is suddenly under heavy scrutiny and facing dangerous days ahead.

That fact only figures to add to the already existing pressure that surrounds the game. And Self on Thursday night opened up about the numerous layers of pressure that exist within college basketball.

“The money is what’s driven the pressure,” he said. “There’s pressure on the NCAA, when they’ve got a how-many-billion-dollar industry? There’s pressure on the schools to hire the right guys and pay them a high salary that gives them the best chance to (win). And then there’s pressure from the alumni that expect certain things, and in order to make bills meet you jack up the ticket prices, so now there’s pressure on coaches even from alums that say, ‘You’re not giving us the product that we’re paying for.’

“And then there’s pressure on the kids because if they don’t go to the league after their sophomore year, they’re considered failures. There’s pressure on everybody. And I do think it’s more magnified now and it probably is more than it has been because of all the money that’s involved in our industry.”

Most, if not all, of that pressure has always existed in the world of college athletics, but Self said he thought the advancement of social media has taken it to new levels year after year.

“Coaches don’t win games, players do,” he said. “And in order to win you need to have as good of guys or better guys than the people you’re competing against. That’s common sense. So I’ve always thought there was pressure in recruiting. But I do think that the attention has been elevated so much through social media. Instead of getting on the message boards, you could almost call it rumor boards, too. There’s things that are said all the time and now you have to defend yourself all the time. And it’s everybody that has to do this.”

One of the biggest sources of pressure, according to Self, is the frustration that comes from not knowing exactly what is going on with every prospect a program recruits. Sure, coaches are able to keep in touch with the players on a regular basis, and, yeah, they meet the parents and AAU coaches and, occasionally, even a young man’s extended family. But Self said sometimes that is not enough.

“You have too many third parties involved,” he said.

And the only way to eliminate that altogether, or at least lessen their influence, is to overhaul the entire system.

“You’re also talking about where it’s totally legal for agents or financial planners or whatever to go meet with a 15-year-old and his family or a 16-year-old and his family,” Self said. “And you think that everybody that is meeting with them are 100 percent ethical and above board? There’s a lot of stuff. And that’s why there needs to be reform. There’s no question about that. I just don’t know if anybody’s come up with a perfect scenario to do that.

“Some people say just pay players and we won’t have this issue. I think that could open up a whole other deal. So there’s some serious things that have to be discussed and decisions made to allow our sport to move on in a favorable way.”


More news and nuggets from a crazy week in college basketball

  • AUDIO: Bill Self discusses "a tough week for college basketball"
  • Reply 16 comments from Carsonc30 Mike Greer Texashawk10_2 Joe Ross Ray Winger Len Shaffer Titus Canby Jayhawkmarshall Steve Corder

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