Monday, July 23, 2018

Junior guard Sam Cunliffe leaving Kansas

Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.


The Kansas career of guard Sam Cunliffe, which really never got off the ground, has come to a close.

According to a news release sent out by KU officials on Monday afternoon, Cunliffe will transfer this summer and will sit out one more season while retaining two years of eligibility beginning with the 2019-20 season.

No decision has been made yet about where Cunliffe will continue his college basketball career, but KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World on Monday he would support whatever Cunliffe wanted to do.

“I think he may have some ideas,” Self said of where Cunliffe might end up. “But he hasn’t done anything yet. We talked about it this weekend and we just met (around 1:00 Monday). I don’t know if he would need our help, but certainly, if he does, we’ll do whatever we can to help him. Absolutely.”

The former Arizona State transfer, who came to KU after the first semester of his freshman season in December of 2016, sat out the second semester of the 2016-17 season and the first semester of the 2017-18 season before becoming eligible last January.

That eligibility, though exciting for the Seattle native, never led to the kind of playing time he hoped he would get at Kansas, even on a team with limited depth.

Cunliffe played in just 15 games for the Jayhawks during last year’s run to the Final Four, averaging 1.9 points per game in 4.9 minutes per outing. That came in stark contrast to the 10 games he started as a true freshman at Arizona State, leaving the ASU program having started every game he played and averaging 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Through it all, Cunliffe kept a smile on his face and stayed engaged with both his teammates and the opportunity to put on a Kansas jersey and represent the school and the program.

“I’ve had nothing but great times here," Cunliffe told the Journal-World when reached by telephone on Monday afternoon. "I was looking forward to adding to that on the court. It wasn't meant to be. But it was a good ride, man. It’s sad. But it is what it is, and I’m thankful for everything."

In June, Cunliffe talked to the Journal-World about his new opportunity at Kansas and called the move into the 2018-19 season hitting the reset button.

“For sure. One hundred percent. All the way,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”

That will still be the case for Cunliffe. It just won’t be at Kansas.

A big factor in Cunliffe’s decision was the unexpected return of Lagerald Vick. Even if Vick, the lone senior on this year’s roster does not start, he figures to play significant minutes at the 3 spot. His presence, along with the fact that Devon Dotson, Charlie Moore, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett and even freshman Ochai Agbaji and Memphis transfer K.J. Lawson all are expected to hold down meaningful roles, made the prospect of playing time tough to envision for anyone else.

“It’s a crowded house,” Self said. “That’s seven guards already. So Sam probably did the right thing for his own good.”

Added Self in the release: “Even though we hate to see Sam leave, we totally respect his decision. Sam has been terrific since he’s been here. He’s been a great teammate. He’s been a guy that has put forth the effort and it hasn’t translated to playing time for him yet. I respect this because the opportunity for him to impact another program would probably be greater now than it would be a year from now. We wish him the best. We’ll always been a fan and pull for him.”

Despite things not working out in Lawrence or at Arizona State before it, Cunliffe recently told the Journal-World he had no bad feelings about his path.

“Looking back at it now, I’m really thankful,” he told the Journal-World in June. “Being in it, I was kind of frustrated, but looking back at it now, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Added Cunliffe in the release: “After the season I was exploring my options, trying to do what's best. I wasn't for sure if I wanted to go but I needed see it out and go until I came to a clear decision. After going through (summer) workouts with the team and talking with the coaches and my family, we all agreed that this is the best decision for me, to go play somewhere else.

“I have loved every moment that I have been at Kansas," Cunliffe added. “Even though I didn't get to play as much as I wanted to, I have lifelong friends here. I am cool with the coaches. I don’t have any bad blood. I want to thank Coach Self, Coach (Kurtis) Townsend, all my coaches, all the academic people, the fans and everybody whose put time into helping me. I've become a better player and a better student in my time here.”

Having been recruited twice before already, Cunliffe said the third time would be different. He hopes to find a school closer to his Seattle home and, above all, would like to join a program where he knows the coaches and people already so he can make an easier transition.

Regardless of where he lands, he hopes to have a new home within the next week.

"It’s my third time, so it’s not like I’m going to be wanting to go through a big recruiting process," Cunliffe said. "It’ll play out pretty quickly and I hope to know something by next Monday.”


Todd Hudnall 4 years, 4 months ago

Sam is an extraordinary athlete with a great attitude, who is too good to spend another season on the bench. You have to appreciate his positive comments and perspective. I hope he lands in the best place for him and makes the most of his last two years of eligibility. I think he's good enough to play professionally but if not he's going to getting plenty of good free education.

Matthew Roesner 4 years, 4 months ago

Agree. Am a fan of his talent and attitude. Sadly, when he got into games he sometimes played like it was bench clearing time rather than playing to the system and game plan. Wishing him all the best and I do think he is going to flourish in a more free flowing/slashing system. Best of luck. Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk.

Doug Longstaff 4 years, 4 months ago

To each his own!

Vick is much more of a proven commodity at this level, which is kind of the one thing we're lacking on this team (not to discount the Lawsons at all, but this is not that AAC). I'm very happy to have Vick back.

Josh Galler 4 years, 4 months ago

I have no tolernce what happend wiht his ex G/F and what KU did to cover it up People forget. that is mostly rather why I rather have Sam and I think we would be just fine without Vick b/c Sam most likely would not play much anyway

Doug Longstaff 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't think anyone really knows what happened with his ex girlfriend. Not sure how KU covered it up--it was a sealed Title 9 investigation that neither party was allowed to discuss in public.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

Self wasn't very happy with his "proven commodity" last year. He could play outstanding one-week and disappear the next. I thought Vick had a better sophomore year then his junior year.

Vick is a better player than Sam, not a cut on Sam, just a fact. Vick has the ability to carry Kansas in a very close game. Sam doesn't. The problem is that it's just as likely for Vick to disappear at key moments.

If Vick can keep his head in the game, he could be the leader on next year's team.

[''] 4 years, 4 months ago

Interesting..... or maybe Loyola-Chicago....but where ever he goes he will need to learn to play D and pass the ball otherwise he's a bench warmer again.

Joe Black 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't think any of those suggestions are closer to Seattle.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

He only played 4.9 mpg in 15 games while scoring 1.9 ppg.

Never saw him play enough meaningful minutes to see what he could do. If he didn't play D in practice than no wonder he didn't get more time.

Good luck Sam! Find a school where you can play and don't follow Bragg, Tharpe, and others. Get your degree.

Kerby Rice 4 years, 4 months ago

Gonzaga pops into my mind immediately with both the geographic proximity to Seattle and their history of transfer players. Similar to Andrew White III, if Sam lands in the right situation I could see him averaging 15+ PPG somwhere. Lastly, may be wrong, but I believe your FGCU reference was in regards to Joe Dooley and the Jayhawk Connection there. Dooley is now the coach at East Carolina.

RJ King 4 years, 4 months ago

Gonzaga would be perfect if a scholarship available. Lots of good basketball minds in the Pacific NW or Bay Area. Mike Hopkins at Washington, Dana Altman at Oregon. Terry Porter former NBA at Portland. Randy Bennett at Saint Mary's would be great. Another former ASU connection would be Herb Sendek at Santa Clara. He mentioned becoming a better student. Could he play for Jared Haase at Stanford?

Three years at any of those spots not a bad gig AT ALL. Best of luck to Sam.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

I looked at Gonzaga and they are pretty much stacked at guard. Six scholarships and a walk-on player. They list several redshirts but weren't specific as to if they are now eligible and I got lazy after that.

Doug Longstaff 4 years, 4 months ago

We've known all along that there were (and are) going to be players on this team who could start on each of the other nine Big 12 teams who will barely see the court this year for KU. It is not surprising that one would look elsewhere. If he can have two more years elsewhere, it's probably in his best interest to do that.

Best wishes!

BTW....these transfers are starting to add up for Sam's family. Sister, Hannah, was an NCAA national champion sprinter in track and spent time at OU and Oregon before starting her pro career with a year of eligibility remaining.

Robert Brock 4 years, 4 months ago

He can transfer to the U. of Seattle and make them forget Elgin Baylor.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 4 months ago

Honestly, I think most of us saw this train coming down the track a long time ago, Vick or no Vick. The only question now is will the KC Kid pass on putting on the red shirt and play some minutes to evaluate where he is?

OOPS!! Suddenly, Bill has another schollie to play with although my guess is he'll stand pat and hold for next season.

Speaking of which, Sam's schollie, Vick's, Dok's, at least one of the Lawsons, De Sousa [assuming he even has one], Grimes......that's SIX.

It looks like Bill has going to have to hit the road again but KU will possess plenty of that precious commodity for '19-'20, PLAYING TIME!!!

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

Sam made a mistake in leaving ASU. Maybe he thought he would just slide into that starting role. The word must be out on BS in that you don't play 'till your ready and you don't start till you've earned it.

Best of luck Sam.

RJ King 4 years, 4 months ago

Only in hindsight was it a mistake. But, "maybe he thought he would just slide into the starting role" ??? Kind of snarky. You attribute a cockiness or sense of entitlement without any idea what he was actually thinking.

Maybe he thought Svi would leave sooner. Maybe Garrett's playing time came as a surprise. Maybe he wanted to test himself alongside some of the best.

Maybe he and Hurley didn't get along. Maybe he wanted to join his friend, Mitch. Maybe the superficial, party atmosphere on display at the Arizona schools didn't fit. Maybe the desert got to the kid from Seattle.

Just seems like you don't account for a whole lot of other "maybes," and what probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure of your definition of "snarky" but I think having the word out that you don't play until you're ready and earned it on a Bill Self team.

I don't have enough information other than speculation on why he left a starting position being coached by one of the best college guards to play the position. Even your statement that "only in hindsight" is speculation unless you have a concrete example proving that statement.

" Just seems like you don't account for a whole lot of other "maybes," and what probably seemed like a good idea at the time."

Like these:

Maybe he thought Svi would leave sooner.

Maybe Garrett's playing time came as a surprise.

Maybe he wanted to test himself alongside some of the best.

Maybe he and Hurley didn't get along.

Maybe he wanted to join his friend, Mitch. Maybe the superficial, party atmosphere on display at the Arizona schools didn't fit.

Maybe the desert got to the kid from Seattle.?

Nah. Not to be snarky but I have far too much to do than worry about MAYBES.

Mallory Briggans 4 years, 4 months ago

Grimes Dotson Moore Lawson Garrett Vick OKC Even if he stayed he would be sixth probably ahead of OKC . He had to look at what was best for him..2 BIG 12 Regular Championship rings 2 Big 12 post season championships and the final 4 experience The Allen Fieldhouse experience and friendships that will last a lifetime.Thank you Sam and I wish you all the best

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 4 months ago

I feel bad for Sam and those KU fans (including me) who would hope to watch his explosiveness constantly game after game. But sadly, this world is unfair. Be strong, have faith, Sam.. things happen for a reason. You just have to make the best out of this. Thanks for being a part of KU tradition! Best of luck to you and fam!

Vick, on the other hand, you better show us your progress, your maturity, decision making, no-fear attitude! Make Sam's leaving a worthwhile sacrifice...!!

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

Not to make too much of a deal about this. I thought the writing was already on the wall and was surprised that he waited so long but I believe that was because he didn't want to leave or be perceived as a quitter. I really believe he liked being at Kansas, I think it meant a lot to him.

Sam is no quitter.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 4 months ago

Lesson learned: Trading players with Arizona State doesn't work out. We got Sam Cunliffe, and he's leaving. They got Carlton Bragg, and he has left the ASU program.

Dee Shaw 4 years, 4 months ago

I completely understand why he is leaving. I wish him the best. Best of luck Sam.

Bill Jacobson 4 years, 4 months ago

Sad. Another top tier talent (like Andrew White III) who somehow found his way into Self's doghouse and was demoted. He, like Andrew White III will go on to another university and average 17 points a game. Self has his favorites and if you are not one of them, you might as well hit the road. Good luck Sam..

[''] 4 years, 4 months ago

Yeah. That crazy Self and his favorites. You know, guys who play hard day in and day out on both ends of the floor, don't whine, are full-on team players. What a kook Self is for favoriting those players. He clearly doens't know what he's doing. Sheeesh!

Jay Scott 4 years, 4 months ago

Sam was one of his favorites. He just didn't fit into he lineup.

A testament to HCBS pragmatic professionalism.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years, 4 months ago

You forgot the other similarity, neither of them played defense. There is a long track record of not playing defense and sitting on the bench in Self's system, if he's got someone else he can play instead that will play defense.

Tom Jones 4 years, 4 months ago

Neither of them were "demoted". They were both going to struggle at a program like Kansas. Kudos to AWIII for being smart and going somewhere he could contribute, even lead. Good luck to Sam.

Jonathan Allison 4 years, 4 months ago

Cunliffe is on the way to playing for 4 schools in 5 years.

Let's say he transfers to Oregon. He sits this year as a transfer redshirt, then he plays next year, his junior campaign and he graduates after 4 years of college. Then he does a grad transfer to Gonzaga and plays his 5th and final season.

ASU, Kansas, Oregon, Gonzaga in 5 years.

Craig Carson 4 years, 4 months ago

Sam reminded me of a more athletic Svi but with a slightly less better shot..Svi wasnt very good on D his freshmen and Soph year either..Sams' issue was his D..he never seemed comfortable on the floor

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

Yup! That's why Svi is in the NBA and Sam needs to find the right school to play at.

I honestly don't know how you can make any fair comparisons to a four-year player who at the time was the youngest D1 basketball player and still played in 26 games, starting at 6 and averaged just over 11 minutes per game.

Any statistical analysis would simply say: not enough data.

Luan Do 4 years, 4 months ago

Sam will be a star wherever he goes. Mark my words.

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