With the first day of Kansas University football practice a day away, head coach Charlie Weis opened up fall camp Thursday morning by speaking with the media.
Entering his third season at KU, Weis hit on the program's progress, key players, a late addition to the roster and much more.
Here are some of the highlights:
• The new NCAA rules that allow two hours of football work a week during the summer were invaluable. The only guys that are behind for KU are the ones who are walking in the past couple of days. The Jayhawks spent six hours a week this summer on strength and conditioning. The other two of the allotted hours went toward football meetings. The KU coach's vacations got cut short so players could get prepared mentally. That also helped the new guys play catch-up.
• The only guys not physically here yet who are on the KU roster are 6-foot-3 junior "buck" Damani Mosby and 6-3 freshman linebacker Josh Ehambe. Mosby is finishing up final juice requirements and Ehambe is waiting for NCAA clearance after attending Prime Prep Academy.
• Junior linebacker Schyler Miles had a knee scoped a couple weeks ago with a two to three week recovery window; he is not gone for the year. He could be ready tomorrow.
• Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart won the starting job in the spring and then the summertime was his to step up and be a leader. He won't take over for senior receiver Nick Harwell in that role, but he put himself in a position where he can handle and manage the team. … Cozart has become more accurate. Key for him will be not being nervous. Inaccuracy didn't show up in practices, when he wasn't getting hit.
• Coaches and this year's seniors had a conversation about senior leadership at the end of spring football. KU has a lot of older guys who have played. They're in a bit of a different position now.
• Now that senior receiver Tony Pierson isn't a running back, he should be in good shape to stay healthy. But they will also be cautious with him because of his history of concussions. There will be just enough contact to have him ready for the season-opener.
• In the spring, Rodriguez Coleman was ahead of Justin McCay at wide receiver. But that has changed since.
• Junior receiver Nigel King is the new member of the KU football team. The 6-3 former Maryland player graduated last Friday and asked for a release from his scholarship. His high school coach had a relationship with KU receivers coach Eric Kiesau. The Jayhawks have six receivers now that coaches feel like can all play. This all happened fast with King. As of Thursday morning, Weis had only seen him on video. King adds experience and production — has made plays and scored touchdowns. "It'd be nice to have some receivers scoring some touchdowns," Weis said.
• As far as Cozart's backup, junior Michael Cummings probably starts camp ahead of sophomore T.J. Millweard. Both of them will battle it out, and red-shirt freshman Jordan Darling is in that mix. But the close race is between Cummings and Milweard. They have plenty of time to settle that.
• Senior CB JaCorey Shepherd and junior CB Kevin Short are close in competition. It isn't fair to list Short ahead of Shepherd when Short has never played a down for KU.
• Now that Weis is just the head coach and not the O-coordinator, he will spend some time in offensive and defensive rooms, but he will spend a lot more time with special teams. He wants to create a level of importance for the special teams. On game days he will be more involved with special teams, too. … Some of the terminology remains the same from Weis' offense. … He lets the coordinators determine the depth chart.
• In Weis' opinion, the quarterback is more important than the scheme. You also have to look at all of your personnel before you get to the QB. Part of the reason Kansas hasn't had productive QBs is because the players around them weren't strong, either. Cozart has athleticism and that makes it tougher to defend, with an extra runner. In offensive coordinator John Reagan's scheme, Cozart is another guy the defense has to account for.
• KU will be "very big" on the offensive line. Weis looked in the hallway and saw juniors Larry Mayzck and Devon Williams both pushing about 370 and there was no room to walk down the hallway. In past years, opponents looked a lot bigger than Kansas.
• With the offensive change, the main concern is getting the system in and developing during fall camp. On defense, there is far more self-scouting and there are just tweaks to what they were doing in 2013.
• "Im pretty happy with our running back situation now," Weis said. Seniors Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox have been waiting for their turn and junior DeAndre Mann didn't come here to play behind them. That's without even mentioning freshman Corey Avery.
• Avery is a natural running back. He might evolve to be like Tony Pierson, but he has "giddy-up." Avery arrives fourth on the depth chart without including Pierson. He has a ways to go to get in that mix.
• In the Big 12, it didn't take long to figure out if you don't have athleticism on defense you don't have much of a chance. And that includes defensive linemen. You need a middle linebacker like Ben Heeney who can run sideline to sideline. This is the best Weis has felt about the talent at KU by a wide margin. But they've done very little to back it up.
• Pierson gives KU the chance to get into different formations and force defenses to decide if they want to defend him as a RB or WR.
• Junior defensive lineman T.J. Semke is someone who very few people know about here. In the summer he works in the bail bonds business. He is tough and he works so hard that he makes his teammates better. All he did was push, and he has the respect of both coaches and players. … Semke was the strongest defensive lineman tracked this summer by the strength staff.
• Freshman safety Joe Dineen from Free State High, in Lawrence, has to decide if he wants to be a defensive back or a linebacker. Weis liked him as a QB in high school as well. Dineen would be an emergency QB if it ever got to that point. He makes plays all over the field… Cassius Sendish is clearly the leader of the secondary. You could see Dineen turning into that guy, having that glow. Weis loves the fact that he's local and gets to play in his hometown.
• After Weis arrived and gutted the program, they knew there would be a high risk-reward situation. Now they have upperclassmen with experience on the roster. They have athletes who can play. That's why the Jayhawks have expectations to be a lot better than most people think.
• What KU is doing on offense gives it a better chance to win. Bringing in Reagan and Kiesau have helped invaluably. … Reagan likes to run first. There might be a misconception that he likes to throw more because it is a spread formation. They have a chance now because they have a QB who can run it, too. Weis likes that run-first mentality. There are other schools that KU plays that you know they'll throw it 70 times. If KU is throwing it 70 times, it means the Jayhawks are getting blown out.
• Cummings has a powerful arm and they wouldn't be afraid to play him. Cozart has just proven to be better "at everything."
• On KU's kickers: sophomore Matthew Wyman has a "pro leg." His whole summer was spent on being more dependable and accurate. With freshman John Duvic coming in, Wyman will have to work for the job because the new kicker is accurate. It's clearly between those two for field goal kicks.
• On the three non-conference games: Weis loves opening at home, and he thinks playing at Duke is a great opportunity. People might say the Jayhawks have no chance, but no one in the locker room will be thinking that way.
• Sophomore offensive lineman Brian Beckmann played both guard and tackle in the spring. He'll know both positions. He is clearly big enough to be in the two-deep.
• Based off of senior O-lineman Pat Lewandowski's mannerisms and what he picked up in the summertime, he hasn't expected for someone to come in and replace him. Someone will have to work hard to move past him.
• Backup CB Ronnie Davis, a junior, doesn't look like the same guy after a summer of strength training. Probably added 20 pounds. … Strength coach Scott Holsopple molds the players in the offseason and can spot in the high school ranks which players are capable of putting on that kind of weight.
• Weis would like to red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Jacob Bragg. But Bragg looked so good in the summer, it seemed like he might be capable of playing this fall.
• By the end of his first year at KU, Weis could tell Heeney was a frontline player. He has grown as a person, too. Heeney has turned himself into a leader. There are a bunch of guys on defense who want to be like Heeney. A couple of years ago that might've been a bad thing. … Heeney reminds Weis of former pro LB Zach Thomas because people said he was too small, not big enough. "He might be as good as any defensive player in the league. Period," Weis said of Heeney.
• Weis has been "very encouraged" with freshman LB Kyron Watson. Heeney has taken him under his wing. Watson would like to be Heeney when Heeney is gone.
• The field at Memorial Stadium really looks good now after the summer project of removing the track. They could practice there every day, once it starts getting dark early. There is so much more space with the expanded turf.
• RB Cox has had some injury issues in the past. So he is on a big stretching program to minimize those things. He is so muscular that he gets really tight.
— Listen to the complete audio: Charlie Weis talks new addition, depth chart, offensive changes and more
In the college athletics business, July 1 marks the start of the new year. Goodbye, 2013-14. Hello, 2014-15.
Consequently, today holds great significance for some of the country's most famous conferences. The Big Ten — or B1G, as the league's marketing folks like to call it — now boasts 14 teams with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers.
Not one to take conference realignment lying down, the ACC officially adds Louisville today, reaching 15 teams when you count Notre Dame, which remains independent in football.
(Aside: How great is ACC basketball going to be? Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Pitt and Syracuse? That's a ginormous wow factor, even without mentioning resurgent Virginia or Notre Dame, North Carolina State and Florida State.)
Of course, the league Kansas University calls home — the Big 12 — isn't welcoming any new institutions today. But the 10-team conference rolled out a new logo.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the following in the league's press release:
“Today marks an exciting day for the future of the Big 12 and its member institutions. The Conference is proud to launch a new logo that integrates the league’s iconic heritage with a progressive new look.”
So, without further ado, here it is. Cue the drumroll and hold onto your hats.
That do anything for you? No? Well, how about this?
Not exciting enough. I get it. Good news. The Big 12 has you covered.
Sparks! Magic! Different colors! Flames! Ice! Melted ice! Plants! Paint! Spinning! Lasers!?!? Smoke! Graphics! Lights!
THE BIG 12!
Now that's a logo unveiling.
The conference's Twitter account is posting different photos featuring the new design throughout the day. Here are some of the highlights so far.
But let's face it. Nothing's going to beat that video.
Check out the league's revamped website at Big12sports.com.
No one reading this blog has forgotten what happened the last time Oklahoma State played at Kansas.
The Cowboys prevailed, 85-80, and Marcus Smart performed a backflip after OSU won at Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since 1989.
Saturday afternoon, No. 9 Oklahoma State (15-2 overall, 3-1 Big 12) will attempt to knock off No. 15 Kansas (12-4, 3-0) on its home floor again, rather than wait another 24 years.
Coach Travis Ford's Cowboys have won three straight games since falling, 74-71, at Kansas State, and the Jayhawks will be the fourth ranked team they've played this season. In the non-conference, OSU split two games with Memphis and beat Colorado.
Oklahoma State's strength of schedule (40th) isn't close to Kansas (1st), but the Cowboys lead the Big 12, as well as the nation, in scoring margin at plus-20.2 a game, and put up 84.8 points an outing, compared to 78.9 for KU.
Now it's time to meet the guys that make Oklahoma State explosive.
Marcus Smart, No. 33
6-4, 220, so. guard
A unanimous Associated Press pre-season All-American, Smart averages 17.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field. And because he is stronger than most of the guards trying to check him, as well as some of the larger players who slide over to help, he gets to the foul line regularly. Smart has converted 87 of his 123 free throws — both team highs.
If you ever want a thorough scouting report video on an NBA prospect, look no farther than DraftExpress.com's YouTube channel.
There's a great one there on Smart (posted below). Ignore the stats, because the video was created in the off-season, but the highlights begin at the 1:50 mark and show off the beast of a point guard's wide array of skills, including a series of post-ups in which he shows better footwork than most big men in the country.
Or — if you prefer a (relatively) more condensed Smart highlight reel — watch him torch Memphis for a career high 39 points earlier this season.
Smart opened his barrage with a filthy spin move in transition, before offering up a step-back three, a post-up in the paint, a fast-break throw-down and a dunk via alley-oop, to name a few of his most impressive offensive plays.
Basically, Smart does everything the Cowboys need him to do, as you can read in a John Helsley piece for NewsOK.com, which came in the wake of Smart's 22-point, 13-rebound, five-assist night at West Virginia on Jan. 11:
The best way he can make the Cowboys better right now is by being the best player on the floor, which he's doing, with an added bonus of playing big, not just figuratively but literally. Against Texas, Smart posted a staggering stat line: 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals and a blocked shot. And zero turnovers. At West Virginia, it was more of the same. Smart scored seven of OSU's final 15 points and either scored or assisted on his team's final four buckets.
Smart plays with the strength of a power forward, the mentality of a sniper and is built sturdier than a number of NBA point guards.
Markel Brown, No. 22
6-3, 190, sr. guard
Brown brings nearly as much offensive punch as Smart, adding 16.6 points, while pulling down 5.2 boards a game and dishing out 2.9 assists.
The OSU veteran scores efficiently, too, hitting 50 percent of his shots (93 of 186) and 79.2 percent of his free throws.
He's the Cowboys' third-best option from long range, as well. Brown drilled a three that held up as the game-winner when Oklahoma State's trip to West Virginia came down to the wire.
As if that weren't enough, the guy can sky. Known for putting on slam dunk shows, Brown compiled a list of his top 10 dunks for NewsOK.com.
His No. 1 favorite came a couple years ago against Missouri — remember those guys? — and Brown actually earned a technical on the play, his second of that game, which led to his ejection. Apparently it was too nasty to drop on the list, despite the repercussion.
NewsOK.com dubbed Brown: "mayor of LobStilly."
Here's what the living myth of a dunk artist had to say about his vertical ferociousness:
“When I do one of those dunks, immediately I get tweets saying, ‘Markel's going to be on SportsCenter.' Things like that. I like doing those type of dunks. It's exciting. It gets the crowd pumped up. It gets my teammates some hype."
Le'Bryan Nash, No. 2
6-7, 235, jr. wing
Nash has the potential to play just as lethal a brand of basketball as Smart and Brown. But he still hasn't found that consistency that would make Oklahoma State even more trouble for its opponents.
Nash averages 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds this season and has made 52.3 percent of his shots, but check out his scoring totals from his previous five games: nine vs. Robert Morris, 20 at Kansas State, 2 vs. Texas, 18 at West Virginia and 13 vs. TCU.
Like Smart and Brown, Nash is at his best when he's attacking, and he gets to the foul line, where he is a 70.5-percent shooter, averaging 5.6 freebie attempts a game.
Brian Williams, No. 4
6-5, 210, jr. wing
The most likely player to score outside of Oklahoma State's top four (the Cowboys' fourth-best offensive option comes off the bench, and we'll get to him in a moment). Williams averages 8.4 points and isn't great at any one thing, outside of scoring efficiently.
Williams has only hoisted 10 three-pointers, so much of his job duties come near or in the paint. He has made 52 of 93 shots and 36 of 47 free throws.
Plus, ball-handlers beware: Williams has swiped at least two steals seven times this season.
Kamari Murphy, No. 21
6-8, 220, so. post
When he gets a touch in the paint, odds are the ball is going through the hoop. Murphy has made 60 percent of his field goals this season.
He has only started four games to date, but Murphy has made 39 of his 65 shot attempts, and averages 5.9 points and 5.9 rebounds (tied with Nash for the team lead).
The young big man gets a lot of those when the Cowboys have the ball, and Murphy leads OSU with 32 offensive boards this season.
If there is a situation late in the game in which Kansas needs to foul someone from OSU, Bill Self and his staff will target Murphy if he's on the floor. While a nice role player, his one problem area is the free-throw stripe, where he has missed more than he has made: 16-for-35 (45.7 percent).
His 23 blocked shots are a team best.
Phil Forte, No. 13
5-11, 185, so. guard
The deadeye shooter's 46 three-pointers and 47.9-percent accuracy from deep lead the Cowboys.
Forte hops off the bench and starts killing his opponents from deep, averaging 12.0 points and 2.7 made threes a game.
Plus, when he goes to the foul line, he's the best in the Big 12, at 90.2 percent.
Stevie Clark, No. 5
5-11, 175, fr. guard
A lot of times this season, Clark has been the guy leading off an OSU highlight on SportsCenter. He's the one placing the ball perfectly near the rim for Brown or Smart to flush.
Clark averages 3.3 assists a game, with a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
He only scores 6.0 points a game, has hit 16 of 36 from three-point land, and only attempted 13 shots inside the arc, making three of those (23 percent).
Fourth-year Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg doesn't have much to complain about these days.
His Cyclones have shot up through the rankings this season as they won 14 straight games, beating the likes of Michigan, BYU, Iowa, Boise State and Baylor along the way.
ISU, which many figured would enter tonight's Big Monday showdown with Kansas unbeaten, suffered its first setback of the season Saturday at Oklahoma, 87-82.
For a program with legitimate Big 12 title aspirations, a conference loss always stings, but potentially worse for No. 8 ISU (14-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) heading into its home game against No. 15 Kansas (11-4, 2-0) is how the game at OU ended. The Cyclones' breakout star, senior guard DeAndre Kane, injured his left ankle with 22 seconds left.
Hoiberg said Monday morning Kane will be re-evaluated before tonight's game to see whether he will be able to play. However, it seems more likely that he will play.
For what it's worth, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who will be part of the Big Monday broadcast, offered his prediction on the situation via Twitter:
I fully expect DeAndre Kane tonight. Be stunned otherwise.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) January 13, 2014
(Update:1:30 p.m.) -- Still no official word, but Kane seems to like his odds of playing tonight, too.
Ankle feeling good pic.twitter.com/j00wNS86WW— Deandre kane (@King_Kane50) January 13, 2014
Here's another indication that Kane will play against KU, courtesy of CBS's Doug Gottlieb:
Been told from a spy that DeAndre Kane is ok, will play tonight, was jogging (Or Yogging if you like Anchorman) yesterday) #KUvs#ISU— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) January 13, 2014
The Cyclones, who have four players averaging double-digit scoring, are far more lethal with Kane. If he can't go against the Jayhawks or isn't at full strength, it could allow Kansas to build an early cushion in the Big 12 standings.
Of course, ISU is far from a one-man show. Here are the guys who hope to harness some "Hilton magic" and give KU its first conference loss of the season tonight.
Melvin Ejim, No. 3
6-6, 220, sr. forward
Even if Kane doesn't play, Ejim leads Iowa State in scoring and is third in the Big 12 with an 18.0 average. The small forward has a nice all-around offensive game and has posted double figures in 17 straight games, dating back to last season. He put up 20-plus in six of those games.
He's shooting 52.1 percent from the field this year and has made 19 of his 55 three-pointers.
The Big 12's active leader with 26 career double-doubles, Ejim averages 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists, as well, despite being just 6-foot-6.
DeAndre Kane, No. 50
6-4, 200, sr. guard
The 24-year-old, a transfer from Marshall, arrived at Ames, Iowa, and quickly became one of the nation's stars, as detailed in a feature by Eric Prisbell of USA Today.
The versatile veteran, in his first season at ISU, has posted back-to-back 20-plus point efforts, and averages 16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists.
As Bryce Miler of The Des Moines Register puts it, Kane is a "matchup disaster" for opposing guards.
Kane, a 34.5-percent three-point shooter, had 23 points and nine rebounds Saturday at Oklahoma, but the Big 12's assists leader left after injuring his ankle with 22 seconds remaining.
One could try to make a case that another player in the Big 12 has had a better all-around season, but it would be a waste of breath. That's why the injury Kane suffered Saturday could be such a blow to the Cyclones if it lessens his ability or keeps him out of tonight's Big Monday clash.
Georges Niang, No. 31
6-7, 240, so. forward
Every player in Iowa State's starting lineup can knock down three-pointers and the big guy from Methuen, Mass., is no exception. Though Niang has started the season cold (30.2 percent) from deep, his 53 attempts are fourth among ISU players and Hoiberg trusts in the sophomore wherever he touches the ball.
Niang averages 15.3 points, 4.1 rebonds and 3.5 assists (quite a number for a big) and averaged 15.7 points in three meeting with Kansas last season.
He has proven to be confident in clutch situations, too, going 11-for-15 from the floor in last five minutes of games this season.
Dustin Hogue, No. 22
6-6, 215, jr. forward
Just this morning, Bill Self called him "a guy that's as good a rebounder from his spot as any kid in the country."
Another mid-sized ISU forward with huge game on the glass, Hogue leads the Big 12 in rebounding at 9.3 boards a game, while contributing 12.3 points as a 58-percent shooter.
Like every member of the Cyclones' seven-man rotation, Hogue will take three-pointers when he is open. The junior has hit 11 of 32 from three-point land so far.
Matt Thomas, No. 21
6-3, 200, fr. guard
His 65 three-point attempts are second on the team, but Thomas has made just 22 this season (33.8 percent).
He averages 6.8 points and 2.7 rebounds, but Hoiberg has him on the floor for his decision-making. Thomas has 13 assists and no turnovers since Iowa State's win at BYU on Nov. 20.
Naz Long, No. 15
6-4, 205, so. guard
Hoiberg said Long could have the ball in his hands a lot tonight if Kane is out. And Long's shot is the long shot, so if he is behind the three-point arc, expect to see him jack and drain some treys, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Long averages 8.4 points and is a 49.4-percent shooter. His 32 three-point makes and 70 attempts (45.7 percent) lead Iowa State.
Monté Morris, No. 11
6-2, 170, fr. guard
Morris hasn't started once this season, but if Kane doesn't play against Kansas Hoiberg said the freshman will take over a lot of the ball-handling responsibilities.
A guy who figures to be a major part of the ISU program for four years, Morris averages 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists. His most impressive stat, though: just three turnovers in his last 245 minutes of play.
In the past few weeks, Bruce Weber’s Kansas State Wildcats (12-3 overall, 2-0 Big 12) emerged as one of college basketball’s surprise teams of the season.
The guys in purple that reside an easy drive west on I-70 from Lawrence didn’t start off 2013-14 in great form, dropping a game to Charlotte and getting blown out by Georgetown in November at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. But the Wildcats have won 10 straight since then, with victories over Gonzaga (currently ranked No. 22) and Oklahoma State (which fell from No. 6 to No. 11 following its 74-71 loss at Manhattan last weekend).
The Wildcats’ most recent victim was TCU, which fell, 65-47, at home to K-State. Below is a dramatic interpretation of what transpired, courtesy of the K-State Sports YouTube channel:
Far more awe-inspiring, though, is how K-State shocked most Big 12 observers by beating Oklahoma State on Jan. 7. The ‘Cats are winning with their defense. Their 58 points allowed per game leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 9, nationally. What’s more, K-State boasts a 25.1-percent three-point field goal percentage defense (No. 5 in the nation) and has held 13 of its last 14 opponents below their scoring average.
This group of Wildcats is stingy, particularly on the perimeter, where each guard stays glued to his man and rarely lets a shot get off uncontested. Though Oklahoma State put up 71 points at Manhattan, the Cowboys went 21-for-52 from the floor (40.8 percent), thanks in large part to a woeful night from deep: 3-for-14 (21.4 percent).
Meet the players who want nothing more in the world today than to come to Allen Fieldhouse and knock off No. 18 Kansas (10-4, 1-0) — the Jayhawks have won 47 of the last 50 meetings in the Sunflower Showdown.
Marcus Foster, No. 2
6-2, 200, fr. guard
Just to give you an idea of how well the freshman has played since arriving Manhattan, some observers in the Little Apple are comparing him to Mitch Richmond.
Yes, that Mitch Richmond.
Foster is averaging 14.1 points and 3.9 rebounds, and has hit 33 of 90 three-pointers (36.7 percent) to date. The dynamic young guard reached double-digit scoring in 10 straight games, including a team-best 17 against Okie State.
And, just in case you missed it, Foster posterized David Stockton of Gonzaga. Prepare to be amazed. The highlights themselves show off Foster’s explosive skill set, but the production level on this clip is off the charts, too.
Thomas Gipson, No. 42
6-7, 265, jr. forward
Gipson led K-State with 19 points against TCU, and the team’s most reliable big is averaging 13.3 points on 61.6-percent shooting during his team’s 10-game win streak.
The third-year player missed the first two games of the season with an injury, but has regained his form of late, with a double-double (10 points, 11 boards) against Oklahoma State, and has made 60 of his 101 field-goal tries this year (59.4 percent).
Shane Southwell, No. 1
6-7, 215, sr. gaurd
The K-State senior is one of the players Weber can rely upon to do a little bit of everything. Southwell has led the team in assists six times this season and been the top scorer on three occasions, while averaging 10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists on the year, and has 16 steals to his name.
Despite his experience and versatility, Southwell doesn’t always take smart shots, and it shows in his percentages: he is 59-for-148 from the floor (39.9 percent) and 17-for-59 from downtown (28.8 percent).
Wesley Iwundu, No. 25
6-7, 195, fr. forward
In his college debut this season, the swingman from Houston posted a double-double, with 14 points and 10 boards off the bench against Northern Colorado.
Iwundu, now a starter, averages 7.0 points and 4.4 rebounds on the year, and has got to the foul line more than any of his teammates, making just 44 of 64 free-throw attempts (68.8 percent).
Will Spradling, No. 55
6-2, 185, sr. guard
Now in his final season in a K-State uniform, Spradling has started 87 times in his career. While he only averages 6.9 points and 2.5 assists this year, Weber clearly trusts him — the heady guard averages 28.9 minutes a game. Spradling ranks in the top 10 all-time at K-State with 154 career three-pointers and 273 assists.
Still, he hasn’t got going this season, making just 30 of 90 shots (33.3 percent) and 21 of 65 from deep (32.3 percent). Even his free-throw percentage (63.9) isn’t great.
Jevon Thomas, No. 5
6-0, 180, fr. guard
Thomas officially joined the team on Dec. 21, after sitting out the fall semester. In his four games, he has 17 assists and just four turnovers.
His eight points and five assists helped K-State knock off Oklahoma State last weekend, and Thomas proved to be just the play-maker the Wildcats had lacked. He can thread the needle on passes inside to get Gipson and other frontcourt players easy baskets.
Nino Williams, No. 11
6-5, 220, jr. forward
A sub averaging just 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds might not seem like much of a threat, but Williams has averaged 6.8 points in his last six games and made 14 of his 25 shots in that stretch.
Strong, though undersized for a forward who mixes it up inside, his biggest night came in K-State’s marquee win over Oklahoma State. Williams hit three of his four free throws in the final 13 seconds to help seal the win and finished with a season-high 15 points.
No matter what happens today against Kansas, or for the rest of their lives for that matter, the Wildcats can always say they did this:
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self and sophomore forward Perry Ellis addressed the media Friday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, less than 24 hours before the Jayhawks' Big 12 home opener, Saturday at 1 p.m. versus Kansas State.
KU (10-4 overall,1-0 BIg 12) is ranked No. 18, and K-State (12-3, 2-0) is No. 25 entering the Sunflower Showdown.
Here are the highlights from the Q & A.
Being from Kansas, with two Kansas schools playing, he gets a little fired up, but he tries to take every game the same.
K-State had a good program, good people when he was recruited by them, when Frank Martin was there. But he gladly picked KU.
Ellis played much better at Oklahoma, compared to game vs. San Diego State. It translated from how he practiced.
Wednesday night was great for Wayne Selden. Players have been encouraging him to attack like that and he had a great game.
KU had a couple plays where Jayhawks got on the floor at Oklahoma. "That's Kansas basketball right there." Coaches showed that again yesterday, and it got the players fired up to play that way.
- He had a lot of fun on Wednesday, and he wants to continue to play like that.
K-State is guarding and their freshmen are playing more minutes and gaining confidence.
Jayhawks will talk about the rivalry today. Those from outside this region don't know a lot about the in-state rivalry. They'll talk a lot about it today.
Marcus Foster is hungry/thirsty for K-State. He will be an all-league player eventually. The K-State freshman has impressed so far.
Some have compared Foster to Mitch Richmond. Richmond "one of the baddest boys" in the country when he played at K-State. Richmod was an Olympian. But Self can see why the comparisons are made. People are comparing Joel Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwaon.
Flattering to know that the Sunflower State has three programs in the top 25, with K-State and Wichita State joining KU in the rankings. There is no negative to that. Self likes to see that.
Big 12 schedule has a "monster start" for Kansas. "We need to be our best right now." Kansas has been favored several years, but league title has been up for grabs before. But this is a rare season where a lot of teams have a legit chance.
K-State defense at a very high level this season. Right now K-State coaches have them playing about as well as any team in the country on "D."
There is no question the new proposed apartment complex will help recruiting. KU currently "way behind" in terms of current housing, compared to KU's biggest competitors. Location is the best part about current housing. Bells and whistles are very important. Renovations to Allen Fieldhouse and those sort of upgrades are not different from the intent of the housing. New housing also would give athletes better protection from agents, runners, professional autograph seekers, and circumstances that could be used against the program.
Self proud of Joel Embiid just for playing at OU, with goggles. It was comical that he sometimes forgot to keep the protective eyewear down. But coaches have been nothing but pleased with his development. San Diego State gave Embiid space near the free-throw line, and Self wants Embiid to take those open looks when he gets them.
Jayhawks felt really good about themselves after winning at OU. Great for their confidence. Good for coach's confidence, too, he joked. KU obviously didn't play well in loss to San Diego State. That's a pretty big body blow. He hopes players never get comfortable with losing, and they proved they weren't comfortable with the way they played at OU.
Players were very active at OU, and that's contagious. There were seven players diving on the floor on one play. Might have been a result of getting their "butts beat" against San Diego State. Could have been the start of a "new season," Big 12 play.
Naadir Tharpe closed the game the way a point guard is supposed to close at Oklahoma.
Conner Frankamp played well at OU, it wasn't just the two shots he made.
Kansas has missed on some kids in state, made some recruiting mistakes. Local kids, in games like versus K-State, it's nice to have some players that understand the rivalry. KU has had some great local players, such as Tyrel Reed, Travis Releford. "I wish we could get a kid out of here every year."
Complete audio from Bill Self's Friday press conference is available here.
You know all about Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Naadir Tharpe and the rest of Bill Self’s No. 18 Kansas Jayhawks (9-4).
So let us take a few moments to learn a little bit about the Oklahoma Sooners (12-2 overall, 1-0 Big 12), coached by Lon Kruger, before today’s 6 p.m. clash at Norman, Okla.
KU is the only Big 12 program with a winning record against OU (the Jayhawks have won 10 of the last 11 meetings and hold a 139-65 all-time record in the series), but the Sooners might have the fire power (87.3 points a game, first in Big 12, fourth nationally) to give Kansas (77.7 points, seventh in Big 12, 74th nationally) another difficult game away from Allen Fieldhouse. Keep in mind, the Sooners beat the Jayhawks, 72-66, last season on their home court at Lloyd Noble Center.
Here’s a glance at Oklahoma’s starting five. Why just those five? Well, OU is the only Big 12 team to utilize the same starting lineup in every game, the Sooners’ top five has produced 78 percent of the team’s points and all five average double figures in scoring, another attribute no other Big 12 team can boast.
Cameron Clark, No. 21
6-7, 211, sr. forward
Clark’s 17.7 points per game average ranks third in the Big 12. And if you have any doubt about the validity of those numbers due to them coming mostly in non-conference play, you should know Clark scored a career-high 32 points in an 87-76 loss to Michigan State (then ranked No. 1) on Nov. 23, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
After making just one three-pointer all season as a junior, Clark added range to his offensive prowess, and has connected on 18 of 38 from downtown this season.
If Kansas fouls him, Clark is one of the Big 12’s top free-throw shooters: 82.9 percent (fourth in the league).
He’s not too shabby in transition, either.
Buddy Hield, No. 24
6-4, 208, so. guard
The Sooners have made 109 three-pointers this season, and Hield leads the way, with 27 makes on 74 attempts.
He averages 16.3 points a game (seventh in the Big 12), and though he plays on the perimeter, has made 81 of his 181 shot attempts (44.8 percent).
In Oklahoma’s Big 12 opener Saturday at Texas, Hield contributed 22 points, four rebounds and three assists in an 88-85 Sooners victory.
Here’s a look at what he’s capable of, in this clip from last season, against Texas Tech:
Jordan Woodard, No. 10
6-0, 185, fr. guard
We know the freshman can come through in the clutch. Woodard proved that even before he arrived in Norman. He finished his high school career at Edmond Memorial (Okla.) by stealing an in-bound pass, and eventually tipping in the game-winner in Oklahoma’s Class 6A state championship game.
KU’s guards and bigs better beware of his play-making ability (12.2 points, 4.8 assists, .357 three-point shooting) everywhere on the floor.
Though small in stature, he gets to the foul line more than any other Sooner, and has racked up 85 easy points on 111 free throws.
Ryan Spangler, No. 00
6-8, 232, so. forward
A transfer from Gonzaga, Spangler has won Big 12 Newcomer of the Week twice already this season, and posted five double-doubles. Not only does he boast a 65.6 field-goal percentage, but he has shot 50 percent or better in all 14 OU games while averaging 11.0 points and 9.2 rebounds.
As highlighted in a December story by Ryan Gerbosi for The Oklahoma Daily, Spangler played high school hoops just outside of Norman, but never caught the eye of former OU coach Jeff Capel. When things didn’t work out at Gonzaga, Kruger happily welcomed the big man back to The Sooner State.
Isaiah Cousins, No. 11
6-4, 186, so. guard
In his second season at OU, Cousins has made the kind of progress every coach hopes to see between a player’s freshman and sophomore seasons. In fact, as Ryan Aber wrote for The Oklahoman, Cousins points to the Sooners’ summer trip to Europe as the jumping-off point for this season’s success.
In Oklahoma’s last 11 games, Cousins produced his top eight scoring performances of his career. He only put up 85 points in 32 games as a freshman, but Cousins scored between 10 and 19 points in his eight nights of stepping up this season. The guard has averaged 10.9 points, and has made 15 of his 33 three-point tries (45.5 percent).
Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis met with the media today to discuss the 2013 December signing class and a number of other topics.
Here are some quick hits from the coach's comments throughout.
Just as an introduction, here's a look at the three players Weis will talking up:
- DB, 6-0, 181, Jr.
- Midwest City, Okla.
- Midwest City HS/Northeastern Oklahoma A&M
- 3-star prospect according to Rivals.com
- 24 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 pass breakups in 7 games in 2013
- OL, 6-2, 309, Jr.
- Baltimore, Md.
- WEB DuBois HS/Georgia MIlitary College
- Helped GMC to 11-1 mark and NO. 3 national ranking
- Anchored Bulldog's O-line that paved way for NJCAA's top rushing offense at 289.2 yards a game
- DB, 5-11, 185, So.
- Baltimore, Md.
- Highland HS (Utah)/Hartnell College
- Helped lead Panthers to Coast Conference title and 9-2 mark
- All-Coast Conference First Team selection
- Led Panthers with 74 tackles and 8 interceptions; 58 solo tackles
On to the press conference:
Keyon Haughton's coach couldn't be any higher on his size, physical ability. He'll give KU depth immediately.
Ronnie Davis and Anthony Smithson are coming in to help the KU secondary. Smithson was a late addition and KU didn't know it would have a chance on him until late in the process. Staff watched a lot of tape on him as they realized there was interest and liked what they saw.
Both should help their secondary depth immediately.
Haughton started at LG, but he could play guard or center. They'll figure it out when he gets here and starts working.
When opponents are playing three or four wide receivers, KU needs more DB's on the field. That's why bringing in more secondary options was important, and Davis and Smithson should help on that front. KU needs to bring in even more depth.
Tim Grunhard leaving, Weis said, in part came with how hard it was to see a player KU was recruiting, Shawnee Mission West's Andre Maloney, die unexpectedly. Grunhard first started thinking and talking about stepping down at that point, because Grunhard wanted to spend more time with his family.
John Reagan first got approached by Weis about becoming offensive coordinator during Rice's season, and Weis is glad Reagan's team was able to keep rolling and have success before he left for KU.
Weis wanted an O-line coach who could coordinate. Weis is confident with the KU staff and how the offense will work under Reagan. Weis is letting Reagan be in charge of the offense, lead meetings.
Reagan is respected in the Lawrence community and is highly regarded as an offensive mind. It made him an obvious choice and Weis found himself searching out Rice games on TV so he could watch the Rice offense this past season.
KU's offensive issues the past two seasons, since Weis's arrival, can not be narrowed down to one thing but the lack of production through the passing game has been concerning. There were various problems, including 47 dropped balls this season. Accuracy is another facet of the passing game, as are blocking and other intangibles.
When Weis is out recruiting, the message varies from player to player. There are some positions where he can tell a player he can come in and compete immediately, but he isn't going to lie to them. "That doesn't always work, but I'll always do it."
There are less holes on the roster now. It would be hard for a newcomer to get to campus and beat out KU's safeties, corners and linebackers. The problem is KU isn't there at every position. KU "not even close" to the same situation as last year, in terms of needs.
Darian Miller will be OK and will be a part of the program. Weis expects him to trot out there in the spring, just like everybody else. He just has some personal issues that Weis thinks will get worked out.
Smithson was headed to the Pac 12 and Utah, but he decided he wasn't interested in returning to the state where he played high school football, and Smithson's brother reached out to KU to inquire about the possibility of coming to Lawrence. The Jayhawks had a talented safety with range and it happened very quickly.
"I wasn't very happy with the offensive coordinator, so I made a change there." Weis joked he had to fire himself in order to make the program better. People might think he is dogmatic in his approach but he is always looking for a better way, and Reagan's offense gives KU a better chance to win.
Weis likes the efficiency of Reagan's offense. Especially with how it clicked when he was at KU, under former head coach Mark Mangino, and served as the run-game coordinator. The KU offense will have a staple, because Reagan is an O-line guy. That's his starting point. Weis's starting point was at QB. It should be a nice blend.
It will be interesting to watch the QB situation in the spring to see if Montell Cozart and T.J. Millweard (transfer from UCLA) have improved greatly. KU had depth at this position, and the starting/second-string/third-string assignments will work themselves out.
It's too early to talk about changes to the roster. A lot of times at mid-year things come up and players transfer. Weis is dealing with 105 different guys and each situation is different. He is sure there will be some changes. Any changes to the staff, if they were to happen, wouldn't come until the end of the recruiting season.
By February, the recruiting class should be in the 20s. By the summer time it will be full. The Jayhawks should max out at 26.
KU staff will have its spring game, evaluate for a week and then hit the junior colleges. Coaches like to get out to JUCOs before they have their spring games.
One of the Big 12's marquee programs, Texas, has a coaching vacancy. Weis thinks there are issues with going to a high profile job like that. "Who do you answer to?" ... "I think that would scare a lot of people off." The dollars will be big, but that only goes so far. "You could be miserable, too."
Weis met with seniors who are moving on this past Friday and gives them advice as needed about playing at the next level. He'll talk to everyone generically but if they ask him specifically about their chances at playing in the NFL he gives them a truthful opinion but doesn't discourage them from chasing their dreams.
It's easier to evaluate whether a Big 12 player can move on to the NFL than if a high school kid can thrive in the Big 12. Sometimes kids get on campus and they just don't have what it takes.
The game is different in the BIg 12 than it was when Weis and Dave Campo were coaching in the NFL. Reagan is better suited to run offense and Clint Bowen is better suited to run the defense. Weis and Campo are in advisory roles and hope they can be wonderful resources that make the job easier for Reagan and Bowen.
When you add a player like receiver Nick Harwell, it rises everyone's game up. Harwell transferred to KU from Miami (Ohio) and became a leader at practices since arriving in Lawrence. Behind him, the position battle is open. The outside guy opposite him could be a JUCO recruit or someone already with the program who steps his level of play up.
As far as transfers from other Division I programs, there are players interested in Kansas and the program is interested in them, too. Nothing Weis can say about it on the record at this point.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self fielded questions from the media Thursday afternoon, before the No. 6 Jayhawks hit the road this weekend for a game at Colorado.
Here are some of the highlights:
On concern Jayhawks are too casual: Jayhawks don't play with the sense of urgency teams here have played with in the past. Veterans need to show the younger guys how to do that. UTEP game a great example. It's one thing to say you want to play harder. They need to think, and execute and get to a point where Self and coaches don't have to coach emotion, and those sorts of thing. Players need to take it up a notch.
UNC has beaten Louisville and Michigan State and lost to Belmont and UAB: Self saw them and noticed how young they were. He's not really an expert on other teams. But coaches sometimes take for granted how well things go when they have veterans. KU hasn't got there yet. The Duke game spoiled them a little. Guys were geeked up to play and that brought an adrenaline flow to that game.
KU's ball movement: Obviously Jayhawks haven't shot it well at all, yet. Teams aren't really guarding them hard out on the perimeter. Makes defense easier for opponents. KU has good wins, just bad three days in The Bahamas. It's not like everything is broken, Jayhawks just have to pay better attention to detail.
Andrew Wiggins sometimes swishes his jumpers, sometimes air-balls: “Pure” shooter is a stretch for anybody on this team. It's just youth and when the first shot is a tough one and doesn't fall, sometimes the confidence isn't there from that point on. When Self tells players to be aggressive, he doesn't mean forcing shots. Pure shooters at KU, under Self, include Conner Teahan, Tryel Reed and Brandon Rush.
Practices this week: Players have gone hard. Self warns his players the season is a marathon and that there will be games when they're not at their best. The reason he was disappointed at The Bahamas was because they didn't bring the same energy or passion.
Would Self have KU play zone defense?: Jayhawks practice it just about every day. But in Self's opinion, why would he bail the guys out and let them play zone when that's not the way they will need to play when the stakes are even higher and opponents more talented. “We ain't going zone.” That's the mindset he wants the kids to have. If it gets to January and they need to do something different they will. But Self would prefer Kansas to become great at man-to-man. In baseball, fastball is hardest pitch to hit. In Self's opinion, man-to-man is the hardest defense to beat. KU has been in top 10 field-goal percentage defense in nine of 10 seasons at KU and it was 12th the other year. The hardest thing to guard is the ball, and now there are guys who are 6-foot-7 who can do things with the ball only smaller players used to be able to do.
Newcomers and veterans: The thing Self found out is guys' personalities don't change when they step on the floor. Perry Ellis is never going to be as vocal as a Kevin Young. Andrew Wiggins kind of thinking too much right now. Of the guys that start, Wayne Selden Jr. might be the one who needs to be more vocal on the floor. And it is contagious once it starts happening. Self wants Selden to be that guy but it will take time. Self isn't a psychologist but the “studies” he has done with players makes him think social media and video games have taken away from situations where young people are forced to talk. But it's not that way with everybody. KU has just recruited some great players who happen to be quiet. Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers were quiet when they first arrived, too, but eventually the light came on.
Ready for hard road trip: Whoever did our scheduling, Self doesn't really understand it, he joked, being the one who did it. But it's probably not the wisest thing he has done. The coach hopes the upcoming road games at Colorado on Saturday and at Florida on Tuesday are a much better experience than the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Colorado's Coors Event Center won't be filled with Kansas fans like it used to. Self expects KU will have 1,000 fans as opposed to half the building, and that's a compliment to CU coach Tad Boyle. Boyle has a calming presence with his team, he doesn't get rattled and players respond to that.
Jayhawks will be away from Allen Fieldhouse until Dec. 21. Self thinks it's much easier to play at home because the crowd brings energy to the floor and players respond. Players should be able to use energy in opposing venues, too.
On Frank Mason: He's been great but he's not vocal. Mason had about as bad a two minutes against UTEP as a guy could have to end the game. One could make a case Mason has been the best overall player so far this season for KU (6-1).
This year's Colorado team: They lost a couple key players from a season ago, but have a low-post presence and the Buffs might have the best transition offense KU will see this season. Will be a tough, but fun game.
KU needs one of its perimeter players to step up. That would really help ball movement and half-court offense if that happens, in terms of effectiveness from behind the three-point arc, too.
On Big 12: Iowa State the surprise team, and has been really good. Oklahoma State is great. Big 12 might be the pleasant surprise of the season among the nation's conferences.
Big 12-SEC Challenge: It's a good thing, and the only thing he would change would be having all the games played in a three- or four-day window instead of spread out over a week or more.