Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jayhawks will have new look next year

Returning KU players hope to carry over culture

Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 24, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 24, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.


As March comes to a close, and the Jayhawks, the top overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, watch from afar while four other programs battle for a national championship, no one — not even Bill Self — knows exactly what the Kansas University basketball roster will look like next fall.

Wayne Selden Jr. won’t be back. The same goes for Brannen Greene. There is a legitimate chance Cheick Diallo won’t, either. The days and weeks ahead could bring more names of KU underclassmen who either want to find out what NBA decision-makers think of them (without hiring an agent) or desire to move on from college basketball for good, in order to play professionally.

How will Self fill those holes, as well as the ones left by seniors Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor? For now, at least, only 6-foot-9 forward Mitch Lightfoot and 6-11 center Udoka Azubuike plan to join Kansas from the Class of 2016 prep ranks — though more surely will commit this spring.

When the 2016-17 season begins in November, there might only be a handful of Jayhawks left who have been on the floor contributing to victories during the madness of March.

“The one thing that I really believe that will carry on,” Self said, following KU’s Elite Eight loss to Villanova, “is culture.”

According to junior big man Landen Lucas, whose insertion into the starting lineup in late January helped fuel a 17-game winning streak, KU’s departing seniors helped reestablish that culture Self referenced.

“The biggest thing I could take from all of them, whether it be Evan (Manning), with his dad (Danny), and everything he’s meant to this program and cared. Hunter (Mickelson), when times weren’t going well, he wasn’t playing, still bringing it every day. Or Perry and Jamari just caring so much. They all cared about this program,” Lucas said. “They all really wanted it for the school. And that’s big in this day of one-and-dones and people who don’t really get attached to the school. We have four seniors that really cared and it rubbed off on the whole team, where we all really fed off of that.”

When Kansas lost in the Round of 32 in 2014, the Jayhawks didn’t have a four-year program veteran on which they could lean — Tarik Black and Justin Wesley began their college careers at other schools, and walk-on Niko Roberts played 84 career minutes.

The 2015 NCAA Tournament, too, came and went without KU reaching the Sweet 16. That team, which also went 1-1 in The Big Dance, had one senior: walk-on Christian Garrett (67 career minutes).

Lucas said Ellis, Traylor and company cultivated a different level of commitment among the players in their final season with the program.

“If there’s anything we could take from them, for the younger guys, for the people coming in,” Lucas said, “it would just be to care as much as they did.”

According to Lucas, who averaged 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds as KU went 3-1 in the tourney, the season-ending loss to No. 2 seed Villanova felt different than early exits against 10th-seeded Stanford and seventh-seeded Wichita State the previous two years. Looking back on those underwhelming performances, Lucas said the Jayhawks let opponents “out-compete” them. That didn’t happen, he added, against Villanova.

Next season, Lucas will be a senior. The veteran big man, senior-to-be Frank Mason III and junior-to-be Devonté Graham project as KU’s core of leaders. While Lucas doesn’t know which other rotation players will be back in the mix, he thinks the Jayhawks can build on their March run and the habits this season’s seniors help put in place.

“The last couple years we were all kind of growing up together and we didn’t really have anyone who was here who could go show us how much it means to care about it, to play for this program,” Lucas said. “They definitely showed us that, so we’ve just got to build off of that and make sure that we learn from that and take that moving forward. That’ll be my job and everybody in this locker room’s job to relay that to anybody coming into this program. This is a big deal.”


Joe Ross 6 years, 6 months ago

Every team is unique. The 2008 title team had pieces and parts and characteristics that were different than the team who played for the title in 2012. Many times Self has referenced the differences and, on some occasions, the similarities between two teams. It should be noted however, that in defining a culture, you have to look at things which compromise the sum total of the experience for people in a group at that time. I think it's important to recognize that both individual teams and the overall program have a set of characteristics which defines their "culture".

I also think it's important to understand that culture is never static. It is always in flux, and it is ever-changing. It is a product of various inputs. The way to make your perspective of culture useful is to look at the culture of every particular team as a way to judge the inputs. What are some of these? The background each player brings to the game. The attitude each player possesses that shapes his style of play. The skill set and abilities of the players and coaches. Ideas that begin in coaches minds that filter down to instruction. Intensity of practice. Ideas about what system you want to run and which players fit into that system. How to recruit. How to approach games from a mental standpoint. And on and on and on.

Take a minute to think about this. A snapshot of the culture of a particular team at any given moment in time is the summation of all of these individual influences.

What culture is not is a listing of all things various groups had in common with each other, even though those commonalities might benefit the team (like caring a lot about the program). Culture is not some autonomous force that behaves with its own consciousness, influencing players on the team to do this or that.

Ways of thinking, playing, interacting etc. are all parameters which affect the culture of a team whether the ways they think, play, and interact are positive or not, and whether, in fact, they share these identities with other teams or not. What's important is that these things all start out at the level of the individual (where they can be influenced and "coached", thank God) before they become expressed at the level of the team.

But here's the important part of this rant: I believe we need to get innovative in our thinking and set coaching of mentality on equal footing as coaching systems of offenses and defenses. There is certainly a difference between moving to spots on the floor within the offensive motion, and the attitude and mental state one has when he's doing it.

I've seen the word "toughness" bandied about. I dont know what it means exactly, but if the notion is to have any real meaning it must include the confidence, aggressiveness, and mental approach a player takes to his play, and that will TRULY affect a culture.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

Culture is one thing that can and should be a constant at a place like Kansas Basketball. My specific concern would be more about the esprit de corps or morale of the team. By that I mean that feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of the team that plays with confidence, enthusiasm, intelligence and discipline, especially in big moments.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 5 months ago

Culture is not constant. It is always evolving even as it retains the ceremonies and traditions that set it apart from others. It needs to have players who are willing to set aside 'the me' for 'the team'.

The most obvious example of culture in our society today is the military. It is born in boot camp and will most often continue even after the individual leaves the military. For who haven't served, boot camp is both physically and mentally challenging. During this time periodl the individual learns about the history, the traditions and most importantly, the core values of honor, courage and commitment.

So getting back to basketball, some of the first things new players need to learn is to trust his teammates, learn the system and commit himself to the success of the team over personal accomplishments.

Culture also separates the team from the rest of the student body. Once practice is over, you do not leave behind the values and the ethical behavior that comes with being a part of a larger group/team. It is often in these moments (separated from the team) that will test the commitment that you made to your teammates.

Everyone makes mistakes esp. at this age but these transgressions need to be dealt with in a manner that will help him regain the trust of his teammates.

Not as eloquent as Joe's statement, just a few points that I wanted to see included..

And as for Joe's statement, I thought he did an outstanding job and brought up a lot of well written statements.

Sae Thirtysix 6 years, 6 months ago


Read the JBilas book. BSelf contributed. It's good.

Toughness is: Trust, Preparation, Courage, Communication, Persistence, Next Play, Commitment, Acceptance, Resilience, Self-Evaluation

Dirk Medema 6 years, 6 months ago

Not sure about all of "out competing" 'Nova, but the difference in the game mostly certainly was 3 plays by their guards out hustling/competing our players to a hand-off pass from a teammate. That's not a matter of reading a passing lane, or scouting report. It was just plain and simple going faster to the ball than the offensive player. And it wasn't just 1 player exploiting a weak link in our team. It was 3 different 'Nova guards out working 3 different KU guards.

There were plenty of times when the team competed very hard, but that's not the back drop on the leader that only gets 5 shots saying in hindsight that he should have worked harder to get his shot.

Not angry or anything like that. Just pointing out the obvious fact, so that the remaining players aren't deluded into thinking that we somehow competed hard enough. Each step of the way there is a greater level of pain to be endured; pushed through. Part of getting to that most elite level is to realize there's more, and go that much harder to get it. Sounds like we're not quite there if the effort mentioned above is perceived as enough. It is enough for a nice season, conference championship, tourney championship, but no not enough to be the most elite. There's even more for that level.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

We all know the exact plays you are referencing at the end of the game. Mix those in with some first class horrible calls and it results in a tragic way to end the game and the season. All the guys played their hearts out. We can't ask for anything more from any group of kids.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

The middle of the game, first half even, was when the 2 steals at the top of the key happened, It's why Coach Self commented on them at half time. Only one was at the end of the game.

It doesn't change whether a call on a different play was good or bad, the same way those calls don't change the fact that our players were out hustled on those plays.It also doesn't mean that the guys didn't try or hustle. But as Coach has often said, the difference between championships and not is often just a couple plays.

RJ King 6 years, 5 months ago

or getting to play Gonzaga instead of Michigan State.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm glad this article focused on Lando for next year's team because he is indeed out big man in the middle. After watching the McD game last night, it was clear to me that Azubuike has a long .... and I mean LONG way to go before he can compete on an elite level. Azubuike reminded me of a bigger and slower version of Cam Ridley. Incredibly, Azubuike seems to have slower feet than I recall Ridley did. It will be interesting to see how he develops over 3 or 4 years compared to Ridley. Unless we sign Maker, and he proves to be more of an immediate help, Bragg will be playing tons at the 5 next season.

Josh Jackson looked to be the 100% real deal who could step right in and star for KU, perhaps at a POY (Big 12 and National) level. He may not have the ceiling Wiggins had but he appears to be a vastly more complete player coming in than anyone Kansas has ever had since perhaps JoJo White.

Aaron Levine 6 years, 6 months ago

Who in their right mind actually thinks that Bragg will spend time at the 5? Lucas will play 30 minutes at the 5 and Azubuike will spend the other 10 if we don't land Maker. Bragg will start at the 4 and get his 30 minutes w/ Coleby pulling back-up duties if he can get healthy.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

If we sign Jackson and Mykailiuk returns, I don't think Bragg will start. We will have a super fast team of Mason, Graham, Mykailiuk, Jackson and Lucas. Bragg played some 5 this year.

If you watched the McD game last night, surely you don't think Azubuike will play any kind of significant role for next year's team. The guy is a long term project. I don't know if he has the chops to make it.

Allin Herring 6 years, 5 months ago

Bragg will play allot next year but if he does not gain about 20-25 pounds and spends allot of the off season in the weight room much of his minutes will be spent pulling himself out of the third row of most arena's. He gets pushed around way too easily. Maker is just a taller version of Bragg and will get manhandled as well.

Danny Hernandez 6 years, 6 months ago

Two plays were handoffs from Perry to a guard that somehow a nova player was able to stick his hand in between the KU players And not foul were total crap by the refs. They were fouls and led to 4 points by nova, one was a break away and the other they missed but were fouled, leading to 2 free throws.

I feel great about the upcoming basketball season, rock chalk

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 6 months ago

You're a lot more optimistic than I am. Not only are three seniors moving on but, there is also three more players leaving early. This team has been basically gutted and has many holes that need to be filled. As I said on another post, we could have six scholarships with two of them are already taking.

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 6 months ago

Just reading the comments, and decided to post my thoughts on the Nova game.

KU seemed primed at the tip off to force the action and force the pace. We got two quick easy turnovers that should have been 4 quick fast break points. Then the refs blew the whistle on us a few times and took us right out of our game plan. It appeared that they weren't going to let us play our signature aggressive on-ball defense. Our players seemed to shrink. The early fouls took us way out of rhythm and we would never recover.

But we still had many chances to win the game.

We turned it over too much. The botched hand-offs from Perry were bad. The guards throwing the ball away were bad. But to me it seemed like the refs didn't know what to do about Nova's aggressive D. Just like WVU, they get away with all kinds of off-the-ball mayhem and "swarm-fouling" in the paint.

But we still had many chances to win the game.

Frank Mason didn't make a three till desperation time. Selden missed on all 6 attempts, each closer than the one before. Aside from Graham no one made a three in the body of the game.

But we still could have won the game.

Ellis scored 4 points on 5 attempts. Perry Ellis. Our teams top scorer. Mister Consistent. Our teams most skilled offensive player. Only. Got. Five. Attempts. Lucas only got 3 attempts. Credit Nova for denying the pass, but Perry has to demand the ball. Every once in awhile forget about the offensive sets and just go get the ball and do something with it. It was time to get creative. How about Perry gets the ball at mid court and initiates the offense. How about Mason sets him a ball screen. We've seen Perry time and time again set the ball screen take the pass at the top of the key and blow by his man for that signature six foot running hook shot. Why not Perry get the ball screen. Just get the ball in his hands and tell him he needs to get some shots up. Perry getting Erased is what hurts the most. We've won ugly so many times before. We've won when we couldn't buy a bucket. We've won despite turnovers. If Perry had gotten involved it would have opened up Lucas more, too. He'd have gotten offensive rebounds. He'd have gotten more layups and dunks.

It was time to get creative and get Perry involved. And we didn't do it. That's what I saw.

James Donnell 6 years, 6 months ago

I had the same impression. Why not bring Perry out top to get him involved in the offense--let him blow by his man and get shots or fouls?? But those botched hand offs leading to those easy FOUR points in a low scoring game had to be demoralizing (was to me) and led to the 7 point halftime deficit--lot harder to get over that hump psychologically than a 1-3 point deficit. Even so, we still could have won. Throw in the almost bizarre officiating and Wayne's rather inexplicable ability to hit a couple open 3's, and there were too many strikes against us. This happens I guess but still is painful.

Barry Weiss 6 years, 6 months ago

It is sort of amazing that despite all the little things that did not go our way, we still were in that game to the very end.

Nick Kramer 6 years, 5 months ago

Couldn't agree more on failure to utilize Perry Ellis. Always give your best player the chance to win the game for you. Perry has been terrific the entire season operating at the free throw line or FT line extended. After showing signs of willingness to dominate in previous games, Perry reverted to passivity and our guards were allowed to ignore him. I wonder how long Brown would have stuck with Prichard, Gueldner, and Barry if they had failed to get Danny the ball against OU in 88.

Jay Scott 6 years, 6 months ago

Mason, Graham and Lucas will be the veteran core. Svi to some extent if he returns. This will be a good team. 13 in a row!

Steve Macy 6 years, 6 months ago

KU has started the season with more questions and turn over, coach Self is on the recruiting trail, hopefully he will fill out the roster. History shows he will.

Barry Weiss 6 years, 6 months ago

Having our two starting guards back is hugh, probably bigger than any other factor.

Scott Lippoldt 6 years, 6 months ago

With the seniors gone as well as Seldon, Greene, and likely Diallo, has anybody added up how many minutes per game of playing time that opens up this year? There should be a bunch of minutes to spread around...

Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

30 + 10 + 5 & 30 + 15 + 5 = 95 (by recollection) out of 200 which seems high.

Ryan Zimmerman 6 years, 6 months ago

"more surely will commit this spring" Very optimistic Who?

Joe Ross 6 years, 6 months ago

Kansas is in on Ferguson, Jackson, and Maker...all highly prized.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 6 months ago

Other schools are also trying to land Ferguson, Jackson and Maker. I wonder if we will use up all our scholarships? As of seems we will have a total of six scholarships with two of them already taken. I suppose we could recruit other three-star recruits

Joe Ross 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes but it's more than just the fact that other schools are recruiting them. Jackson is a Kansas lean. Ferguson was down to Alabama and Kansas before he chose Alabama. After backing out of the recruitment (one) and with the openings at Kansas (two), Ferguson could see wide open playing time...especially if HCBS has Devonte backing up Mason instead of starting alongside him. Youd basically be able to play 3 guys (Svi, Jackson, Ferguson) in two spots. And as far as Maker goes, he's beaten down a path to Kansas with the number of visits he's had here. Especially if Diallo jumps, Maker could fill that void quite easily. So Kansas is being heavily considered by all 3.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

Just like Jackson (at least) waited for Selden to commit, I think Maker waits until sometime after Diallo decides.

I'm also okay with Coach finding another Mason/Graham/Vick hiding under some rock.

Steve Macy 6 years, 6 months ago

Good reason to be, Coach Self is a good recruiter, has hauled in recruits late in the recruiting period before, and there are a ton of playing minutes available. Transfers are also a possibility, transferring in, not out.
As old as I am, DV was behind me at Heights, I am not as bitter and pessimistic as some seem to be.

Corey Sparks 6 years, 6 months ago

Joe Russ, Devonte is gonna start. You're delusional if you think he comes off the bench. Maybe once or twice next season but no more than that.

We are a better team with Devonte and Frank on court together. Remember, our 08 team was a two gaurd team and so was our 2012 team. Self will not bench Graham for a freshman. NOT HAPPENING

Joe Ross 6 years, 6 months ago

I start analyzing the process by considering what Self has said before with respect to starting (that it doesnt matter who starts, only that when it's your time to contribute you have to be able to) and by working the problem backwards. Ill deal with the second of those first. If you imagine a scenario in which you are able to successfully recruit both Jackson and Ferguson, you will have to invent a scenario which sees them both getting playing time. If these players are quality players, and I believe they are, I dont care so much that it keeps them happy (even though it will); I actually care more about placing impact players on the floor. And with the number of defections we've had due to graduation and declaring for the draft, this becomes very critical. One way to do that is to evolve your strategy to the personnel that you have; that is to say that rather than utilizing the two guard set of Mason and Graham that we used this year, switch it up such that youre playing 3 guards around 2 bigs. By virtue of their inexperience, I would see Graham starting at the beginning of the season, sure. But as these guys grow I would have no problem developing their potential by utilizing them more, such that at the end of the season they become starters. If they develop sufficiently, there should be no distress about this. Basically, youd be utilizing 5 guards (Mason, Graham, Jackson, Ferguson, and Svi) for 3 positions. If everyone shared equal time--they wont--each player would play 60% of the 40 minutes which is about 24 minutes each. That number appears low, but it is high enough to develop freshmen and low enough to conserve fresh legs in a long season. It is also higher than the 20 minutes Cal distributed (on average) to his guards under the platoon system a season ago. They were able to be kept happy. Again, Self has mentioned and reiterated that it doesnt matter who starts as long as youve cracked the rotation, and guys have seemed to buy into this. It's important to correct the language, however, in noting that I am not talking about "benching" Graham. That means not seeing the floor. And no doubt, the combination of Frank and Devonte was effective, but I see no reason to close our minds to the possibility that Mason or Graham running the point with Jackson and Ferguson at the wings would not be equally or more effective. It may not be. But you dont know if your approach is as single-minded and unadaptable as yours. That kind of inflexibility closes down options that may present a better overall strategy or, on the other hand, one that is more effective in a particular situation vs. another.

Jay Scott 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure the geniuses who labeled Mason and Graham Mid Major players think that any minutes are too many and that a new point guard is need immediately.

Robert Brock 6 years, 6 months ago

  1. Bragg
  2. Lucas
  3. Coleby
  4. Lightfoot
  5. Azubuike
  6. Graham
  7. Mason
  8. Mykhailiuk
  9. Vick

  10. Maybe...Cheick Diallo

If Diallo returns (a BIG if) the Hawks would have 3 scholarships to give. Who's it gonna be?

Corey Sparks 6 years, 6 months ago

Jackson's the key IMO. If we can land him we should be a great team next year.

Brad Farha 6 years, 6 months ago

Every time Landon Lucas speaks, I respect him more. And I already had a lot of respect for him. He seems wise beyond his years.

Corey Sparks 6 years, 6 months ago

Self also mentioned that for now on, he's going to try to stick to the 2 gaurd system. Graham and Mason have way too much experience, and we would be much better off with them playing together for the most part. Plus I highly doubt both Ferguson AND Jackson BOTH commit to us. One will one won't. Hopefully for our sake I am completely wrong about this, but I just don't see how we would get two 5 star 3's in the same season....but to be fair that was kinda what happened with Wiggs and Selden 3 years who knows

Dwight Murray 6 years, 5 months ago

what are the chances that Mason might go pro? Somebody PLEASE tell him the pros love those guards that can jump and pass the ball (away)and choke except when its does mean much. Why Self puts up with such poor play is just crazy.

RJ King 6 years, 5 months ago

Wow. Someone's panties are in a wad.

Tom McPhillips 6 years, 5 months ago

Its so hard to follow College Basketball today. I thought for that sure, after the loss to Villinova, i had next year to look forward to with what seemed to be a very formidable squad that Bill Self would have for next year, but alas, it seems have the team is taking to the Pros's even though they lack the skill set and maturity to play at that level. I have no idea what next seasons team will even look like or if it will have the competitiveness and consistency of past teams, and I have been following Kansas Basketball since the Jo Jo White days. But more then anything, I would like to see players exhibit something us old school folks remember fondly, "Loyalty". Thats something they will not see in the NBA these days...

Robin Smith 6 years, 5 months ago

It should be quite a good situation, very similar to this year, with mostly upperclassman and a host of new talent. The bench could be even deeper if some things fall into place. Svi will step into Selden's role, Bragg will take a big leap. Vick will be a key guard off the bench. Freshman could be difference makers (and quickly) too:

PG Mason III - Sr. SG Graham - Jr SF Svi - Jr PF Bragg - So C Lucas - Sr G Vick - So F Coleby - Sr (he could be a real surprise F Lightfoot - Fr C Azubuike - Fr (and who I think we'll end up landing to close out the class) SF Jackson - Fr SF Corprew - Fr PF Maker - Fr SF Antetokounmpo - Fr (this is a personal dream recruit of mine; we have not offered this young man)

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