When former high school teammates get together, it doesn’t take long for some shenanigans to break out — even at the NBA Combine.
With Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. and Iowa State forward Georges Niang both in Chicago for this week’s pre-draft combine, it only makes sense that the former Tilton School teammates would reunite as they embark on an important step in their professional careers.
This morning, Selden didn’t hesitate to take advantage of an opportunity to try and clown Niang, a star for one of KU’s biggest rivals over the past few seasons.
Apparently when Niang wasn’t around, Selden put his KU 2016 Big 12 Tournament champions T-shirt with his buddy’s phone and snapped a pic to share on Twitter, claiming Niang was showing his support for the Jayhawks.
Not exactly a likely scenario for one of the most popular ISU players in the program's history.
However, maybe Selden should have chosen another piece of KU gear for the joke. He set up Niang for an easy comeback, considering the Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament in both 2014 and 2015.
“That’s cute that you only won one of those things,” Niang tweeted in response, “I’ll make sure to bring my 2 shirts out tonight!!”
Selden had no choice at that juncture but to bring out the big guns — or big rings. The KU guard posted a photo of him wearing two Big 12 regular-season championship rings.
“Bear with me,” Selden added, “my 3rd one is being made now.”
The hype for Kansas University’s 2015-16 men’s basketball season received another early boost to accompany the just-announced January showdown versus Kentucky, at Allen Fieldhouse.
With actual games still almost six months away, The Sporting News rolled out an updated preseason Top 25 and placed the Jayhawks at No. 1.
KU, of course, hasn’t advanced past the Round of 32 in the previous two NCAA Tournaments, so the selection might come as a surprise to some.
“When the best answer to the question of ‘Why Kansas?’ is ‘Why not?’, you’ve got yourself a pretty strange college basketball season on the way,” Mike DeCourcy wrote.
Between reliable senior-to-be Perry Ellis, the addition of incoming freshman big man Cheick Diallo and a number of Jayhawks capable of making significant strides in their development, The Sporting News likes KU’s potential rotation.
Still, attempting to predict next season’s elite teams, DeCourcy said on SportingNews.com, wasn’t as easy as it was in 2014-15, with Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke leading the pack.
“What we have now are a lot of teams that have potential, but flaws,” he said, “and they’re gonna have to overcome those flaws in order to be champions.”
Settling on Bill Self’s Jayhawks, DeCourcy added, came with some trepidation.
“There’s just not any single player that says, ‘I’m your star,’ and usually you need someone to carry you to a title,” he indicated. “Nobody at Kansas at this point has emerged as that sort of player.”
DeCourcy questioned whether Ellis possesses headliner power and pointed to Wayne Selden Jr. as someone who hasn’t proven to look comfortable in that role. Diallo, he added, projects as “a great defensive weapon,” but might not be as reliable on offense.
“One of those guys has to be a star for us to be right,” he offered, “but we like them more than some of the other contenders.”
Ultimately, DeCourcy said The Sporting News staff believes in Self, and thinks the Jayhawks will play great defense in 2015-16.
The two teams immediately following the Jayhawks in the advance rankings have Kansas ties. Former KU guard Mark Turgeon’s Maryland Terrapins snagged the No. 2 spot and Self’s predecessor at Kansas, Roy Williams, leads No. 3 North Carolina.
Wichita State, which knocked the Jayhawks out of The Big Dance this past March and adds former KU guard Conner Frankamp to the roster this coming season, landed at No. 9.
The Big 12 earned four total spots in the rankings, with No. 7 Iowa State, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 16 West Virginia joining KU.
Sporting News College Hoops 2015-16 Preseason Top 10
3. North Carolina
7. Iowa State
9. Wichita State
Shortly after Kansas University guard Wayne Selden completed his freshman basketball season, he underwent a minor surgical procedure on his left knee.
In the words of his coach, Bill Self, "He was playing on a bad wheel all year."
Self didn't reveal until after KU's postseason banquet that Selden played with a nagging knee injury. The coach told reporters back in April: “He’ll be fine going into the summer, 100 percent. I think we’ll see him become even more explosive.”
If Selden's Instagram video from Sunday is any indication, Self's prediction was correct. It's the first week of June and and the 6-foot-5 guard from Roxbury, Massachusetts, is back to his rim-rattling ways.
His explosiveness might not even be back to the level he wants it at yet, but Selden can still pull off a between-the-legs, reverse jam after throwing himself a bounce-pass alley-oop.
But he has to feel good about the progress. As he wrote on the Instagram post: "Bounce coming back…"
A fully healthy Selden — more capable of driving to the paint and elevating for 3-pointers — in his sophomore season would go a long way toward keeping the Jayhawks near the top of the college basketball world.
From the time of Big 12 divisions, through realignment and the subtraction/addition of teams and a new 10-team format, one thing has remained constant in the conference for the past decade: Kansas University's men's basketball team has always finished in first place.
All week long, we've been looking back at KU's 10 consecutive Big 12 championships by highlighting the top players and moments of each conference schedule, from 2005 to today.
Big 12 record: 14-4
Top 5 scorers
(Stats through March 7)
Andrew Wiggins, 16.0 points, 5.8 rebounds
Perry Ellis, 13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds
Joel Embiid, 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks
Wayne Selden, 10.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists
Naadir Tharpe, 9.2 points, 5.1 assists
3 memorable moments
- Naadir Tharpe (19 points) hit 6 of 7 shots and scored 12 of the Jayhawks' final 18 points down the stretch to defeat Oklahoma, 83-75, at Allen Fieldhouse, where KU clinched a share of its 10th straight Big 12 championship.
“Naadir closed the game the way point guards are supposed to close. The last 10 minutes is as good as Naadir has played since he’s been at KU. All teams that have a chance at having a great season have guys that can close, when you don’t run offense and put the ball in his hands. It’s what great teams have.”
— Bill Self
- Andrew Wiggins scored a game-high 19 points, his last two coming when he picked up a loose ball in the paint and put it in the basket with 1.7 seconds remaining in a 64-63 Kansas victory at Texas Tech.
“It was slippery, like it slipped on the way up. I just had to guide it in… It bounced high. I was worried about it, but it went in."
— Andrew Wiggins, on game-winner
- Frank Mason foiled a would-be buzzer-beater from Le'Bryan Nash to finish off an 80-78 Kansas home victory over Oklahoma State in which Naadir Tharpe scored 21 points and dished six assists.
“It was accomplishment definitely more than relief. They’ve been talking about Oklahoma State and Kansas for a while. Since the beginning of the year, that’s all we’ve been hearing. It’s all we’ve been hearing even before conference play started, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma State. It’s more an accomplishment we went out there and played our game more than anything.”
— Naadir Tharpe
2014 BIG 12 STANDINGS
Iowa State, 11-7
Kansas State, 10-8
West Virginia, 9-9
Oklahoma State, 8-10
Texas Tech, 6-12
10 years of Big 12 supremacy
Friday: 2013 and 2014
It's time once again to catch the vibe of the national media's perception of Kansas basketball, by hopping around the Internet and the Twitterverse to see what's out there on the No. 6 Jayhawks — now 16-4 overall and a perfect 7-0 in the Big 12.
We'll start with Eamonn Brennann's latest Wooden Watch list. Brennan blogs and writes about college hoops for ESPN.com, and he has two Jayhawks in his most recent rankings of the nation's best players.
KU freshman center/lion-killer/how-did-he-do-that? specialist Joel Embiid comes in at No. 6, and freshman guard/forward/swingman/dunk-monster Andrew Wiggins cracks the top 10, too
Brennan had this to say about Embiid:
On Wednesday night, I looked up from my laptop early in Kansas’s 92-81 home win over Iowa State just in time to see Embiid take the ball on the left block, engage with the post defender, pivot toward the baseline into his right shoulder and sink a tidy little 6-foot turnaround jumper. It’s possible Embiid has made that exact shot before, but I haven’t seen it. It may have been the first time he attempted it. Here’s the point: This happens all the time.
He offered this about Wiggins:
Here’s the thing about Wiggins: He has been pretty good for most of the season. He hasn't been LeBron James 2.0. He hasn't been perfectly consistent from game to game. But a baseline, his all-around, all-court performance has been immensely solid. Now -- with 56 points in his past two games, 29 of which came Wednesday against Iowa State -- we're starting to see some of the brilliance that had NBA scouts so excited.
Both great points. Kansas seems to be playing a more and more comfortable brand of basketball as a team, and the jumping off point for that development starts with the team's most talented players. As Wiggins and Embiid grow, so does the ceiling for what this team can accomplish — if there even is a ceiling.
BleacherReport.com's Jason King talked with three NBA scouts about the draftability (I don't care if that's not a real word) of a ton of underclassmen in his latest installment of King's Court.
This is some of what one scout had to say about freshman KU guard Wayne Selden:
There’s no question that he needs to come back for his sophomore year. Right now, when you think of Kansas, you think of Wiggins and Embiid. Selden hasn’t done anything to stand out. What’s his niche offensively? He hasn’t shown that he’s a great shooter.
The scout goes into a little more on Selden in King's report, but here are the numbers on Selden's shooting, following KU's Wednesday night home win over Iowa State: Selden has hit 46.4 percent of his shots this season and 36.8 percent from three-point range (25 of 68). In Big 12 play, the freshman guard has connected on 13 of his 36 threes.
In the very latest CBSsports.com Top 25 (and one), which is updated daily, KU is ranked No. 7.
Three teams that have defeated the Jayhawks this season occupy half of the six spots in front of Kansas: No. 6 Villanova, No. 4 Florida and No. 3 San Diego State.
It's been been a little more than a quarter century since Larry Brown coached Kansas to the 1988 national championship, but he will always be associated with the program because of that feat.
Brown, now at SMU, is the oldest coach in Division I. In a piece by Scooby Axson for SI.com, Brown discusses the relative success the Mustangs (16-5 overall, 5-3 American Athletic Conference) have achieved this season.
Here is a snippet from the story:
Tradition? There isn't much to speak of. Fan support? Nowhere to be found. After all, this is a program that has no NCAA tournament appearances in the past 21 years and only 10 NCAA berths in 97 seasons of playing basketball.
"You can walk on campus at Kansas, North Carolina, or UCLA, kids will tackle you," said Brown. "There was so much interest and enthusiasm. [Here] I really couldn't believe it. I kept saying to myself, 'What did we do?'"
ESPN's Jeff Goodman had a lot to say about Kansas on Wednesday night.
Goodman also got into the debate about where Wiggins will be selected in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Back to the subject of the 2013-14 college hoops season, ESPN's John Gasaway shared some telling numbers on how red-hot KU has been, offensively, in conference play:
You can almost hear Dick Vitale screaming at his TV, while sitting at home on his couch:
The Jayhawks, not surprisingly, have the whole college hoops world taking notice. Kentucky beat writer Kyle Tucker tweeted this out:
However, not every media tweet about KU was based in reality:
Sports Illustrated college hoops scribe Luke Winn this week unveiled his "Magic Eight." Before you say, "So what?" you should know as far as he's concerned, one of the eight teams on this list will win the national championship.
And guess what, the Kansas Jayhawks (12-4 overall, 3-0 Big 12, ranked No. 15) made the cut.
Here are Winn's other potential title winners, some more obvious than others: Arizona, Wisconsin, Syracuse, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa State, Michigan State.
This is why Winn likes the Jayhawks' chances:
"… possible one-and-done freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden have elevated their games in the opening portion of Big 12 play. Embiid's rim protection and Wiggins' rebounding against Iowa State on Monday were incredible, and if they continue on this trajectory, they'll have a title-caliber defense."
Embiid capable of carrying KU
ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf called Embiid "the most important player on the Kansas roster."
As Medcalf points out, the Jayhawks have won six of their last seven and Embiid averaged 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in that span.
More from Medcalf:
There is no ceiling for Embiid, who has as much upside as any college basketball player in the country. And against Iowa State on Monday, he seemed to realize it in the second half.
He didn’t just block Dustin Hogue, he robbed him in midair. He passed out of double teams. He dribbled on the baseline and scored.
He affected every possession when he was available.
The key for KU, of course, the ESPN college basketball reporter adds, will be keeping the 7-foot phenom on the floor and out of foul trouble. But it's clear more people are realizing what a force Embiid can become and how he just might make Kansas one of the best team's in the nation by the end of the season.
Jayhawks climbing power rankings
Kansas shot up eight spots, from No. 18 to No. 10, in ESPN.com's latest college basketball power rankings.
The nine teams ahead of KU include three teams that defeated the Jayhawks: No. 9 San Diego State, No. 7 Florida and No. 5 Villanova.
KU's next opponent, Oklahoma State, which comes to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, sits at No. 8.
Kellogg on finding balance with a young team
CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg discusses KU's struggles in the non-conference in an SI Now video you can watch here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/video/ncaab-video/20140114/2014-01-14-clip05.sportsillustrated/
The discussion on Kansas begins at the 1:30 mark, and addresses how KU seems to be playing better now, with the start of Big 12 action.
Around the 2:45 mark Kellogg gives his opinion of Wiggins and whether he should follow through on his plan to be one-and-done at KU: "At the end of the day, you have to make what you think is the best decision for you, and not allow others to influence that in a negative way."
BleacherReport.com's Jason King wrote the biggest threat to Wiggins' once assumed position as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft appears to be his 7-foot teammate, Joel Embiid.
After covering the Jayhawks' 77-70 win at Iowa State, attended by NBA front-office types, King called ISU coach Fred Hoiberg's declaration of Embiid as the top player in college basketball — Doug McDermott anyone? — "a bit of a stretch."
Longterm NBA value is an entirely different discussion. Here's an excerpt from King's column:
When it comes to pro potential, though, Embiid is the best NBA prospect in college basketball. And after watching Embiid score 16 points, grab nine rebounds and block five shots Monday, I can’t fathom how any team would pass on Embiid with the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft.
Wiggins or Embiid?
Over at Grantland, Andrew Sharp's Freshman Watch piece is titled: "Who's Your Favorite Jayhawk?"
Sharp lists six freshmen to watch in terms of NBA draft potential: UCLA's Zach Levine, Kentucky's Julius Randle, Arizona's Aaron Gordon, Duke's Jabari Parker, and Jayhawks Wiggins and Embiid top the list.
Regarding Wiggins, Sharp writes:
He may not be a Kevin Durant– or LeBron-type superstar, but that’s still his ceiling, and in the meantime the floor is pretty high. He could be a lockdown defender. He’s already a one-man fast break. He could rebound from the wing as well as anyone this side of Durant. He could rain 3s and then cut through the lane and finish at the rim.
And, like most anyone who has watched Embiid, Sharp thinks the big man's development could make him a prized commodity among NBA executives:
On the other hand: IMAGINE JOEL EMBIID IN A FEW YEARS. It’s ridiculous. He’s so big, and so coordinated, and so impossible to deal with on either end of the floor. We’re not used to centers like this, because centers like this mostly stopped existing 15 years ago.
Some scouts say Selden should stay in school
While Embiid and Wiggins garner all the hype and praise, freshman Wayne Selden has also been mentioned as a potential late-lottery or first-round pick if he wants to dive into the draft pool.
In this Adam Zagoria piece from zagsblog.com, however, it appears at least a couple of NBA scouts would advise Selden to stick around Lawrence for at least another year.
Zagsblog.com picked up the below comments on Selden from SNY.tv:
“[He's a] late-first [round pick],” the aforementioned scout said. “He should definitely stay in school.” A second veteran concurred. “Yes,” he told SNY.tv. “Great upside, will show great improvement after one year of college ball. Will be a dominating player next year. The difference between 24-28 and 8-12 in the Draft.”
Wiggins slipping somewhat
It's becoming more clear as the season progresses that neither Wiggins nor other members of the touted freshman class can do for a franchise what LeBron James did as a rookie. It's addressed well in Mark Heisler's piece for Forbes, called "NBA wakes to find Andrew Wiggins and entire class of '14 aren't all that."
The article goes into great detail about where Wiggins stands currently, and why he is slipping — a relative term, considering he would drop from a consensus No. 1 pick to No. 3 or so. Here's an introductory excerpt:
This just in: Wiggins is slipping out of contention for No. 1-2. The NBA guys I talk to say that will be Parker and Kansas seven-footer Joel Embiid. At No. 3, Wiggins has yet to separate himself from Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, Australian point guard Dante Exum and, depending on whom you talk to, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.
- Not every college basketball analyst marveled at Kansas after its 77-70 win at Iowa State. This from CBS's Doug Gottlieb:
- People in the greater Kansas City area love their college hoops:
- Iowa State fans, according to SI/CBS contributor Seth Davis, have more to worry about than the Cyclones' Big Monday prefermance: