The Les Miles brand grew to the height of its powers in Louisiana.
It’s where Miles coached the football team at the state’s flagship university, LSU, from 2005 to 2016. And it’s a place that he continued to call home for the past two years, during his hiatus from the sidelines.
His accomplishments there — see: Miles’ 114-34 record in 11-plus seasons at LSU, including two SEC titles and a 2007 national championship — are what made his arrival at Kansas this week so buzzworthy on the national college football landscape.
The hope among the suddenly energized KU football fan base is that the coach’s ties to the state affectionally referred to as “The Boot” will reinforce a recruiting pipeline from Louisiana that the program already has in place.
The Jayhawks’ current roster includes nine players from Louisiana: freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr., junior receiver Daylon Charlot, freshman cornerback Corione Harris, junior safety Mike Lee, redshirt freshman receiver Takulve Williams, sophomore safety Ricky Thomas, freshman running back Ryan Malbrough, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Malik Clark and junior long snapper Logan Klusman.
Most of them relocated to Lawrence because of the connection they felt with KU’s third-year running backs coach, Tony Hull, a New Orleans native with immeasurable recruiting connections down south, in The Pelican State.
Since signing his five-year contract with KU, Miles has appeared open to the idea of retaining members of David Beaty’s current staff.
“When I took the job at both Oklahoma State and at LSU, I kept guys because I wanted to work with them and I wanted to see what their conversation would be about their room, the guys that they coached,” Miles said at his introductory press conference. “I wanted to see how the recruiting end was going.”
Miles plans to sit down and “interview” every current assistant, presumably early next week, after KU finishes its season.
Although Miles told the Journal-World he never directly crossed paths with Hull while at LSU, he definitely heard about the head coach at New Orleans’ Warren Easton High, where Hull’s reputation blossomed.
“I know Tony Hull — not necessarily so much him, but I know guys that know him and I did research on him,” Miles told the Journal-World. “He’s a very quality person.”
Hull, also currently KU’s associate head coach, was the lead recruiter for three of the team’s most heralded signings from the past few years: Williams, Harris and Lee.
According to Miles, he didn’t have any prior relationship with those talented Louisiana prospects when he was at LSU.
“No, I think that they got recruited when I was disposed,” Miles said. “But I can tell you that I watched those guys and they're quality men, and the corner, Corione? Yeah, he's, in my opinion, he's going to grow up to be a really good player.”
During the past several months, Miles repeatedly was spotted at high school games in Louisiana.
And Lee, who remains in touch with those he knows back in his home state, thinks KU’s coaching move created some excitement there, as well.
“Coach Miles, he’s caught a lot of Louisiana guys’ attention. And most of them are going to either commit here or they’ll be thinking about committing here just because Coach Les Miles got the head coaching job,” Lee said, speaking generally on the new KU coach’s name recognition in “The Boot.”
A former LSU quarterback with both a high school state title and an NJCAA national championship on his résumé is examining the University of Kansas as his next potential stop.
Earlier this week, Lindsey Scott Jr., helped East Mississippi Community College — the program made famous the previous couple of years by the Netflix documentary “Last Chance U” — finish the season No. 1 in the nation. Scott completed 15 of 28 passes for 170 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, as well as 40 rushing yards, in a 31-28 victory over Arizona Western at the Mississippi Bowl, the NJCAA’s Football Championship Game.
According to Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham watched Scott in person on Sunday, in Perkinston, Miss., and the Jayhawks offered the QB a scholarship on Monday.
In high school, Scott led Zachary (La.) to a Class 5A state championship in 2015, and was considered by Rivals to be a three-star, dual-threat QB in the recruiting Class of 2016.
Scott signed with LSU after picking up offers from a number of programs, including Power Five schools Maryland, Rutgers, Wake Forest and Syracuse, as well as Air Force, Army, Navy, Tulane and Harvard.
A 5-foot-11, 210-pound passing and running threat, Scott transferred out of LSU this past August after spending one season in the program as a redshirt QB. According to The Advocate, he was in a battle to become LSU’s No. 2 quarterback during preseason camp.
However, Scott decided to transfer to the junior college level and play immediately. At Eastern Mississippi, within a spread offensive attack, he completed 65 percent of his 398 passes, while throwing for 3,481 yards, with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also averaged 60.8 rushing yards a game and ran for six scores.
Now that his one fall of juco football is over, Scott has three years of eligibility remaining. The QB said during a Wednesday interview with Matt Moscona, on 104.5 FM ESPN Baton Rouge, he will visit Kansas this weekend, and follow the trip up by checking out Western Michigan.
Scott identified KU, WMU, Tulane and Texas-San Antonio as the four teams he is considering right now. In another interview, with the Biloxi Sun Herald, he said Tulane has recruited him hard since he left LSU.
Asked during his radio Q & A whether he will reach a decision this month and make it official during the new NCAA early signing period, Scott admitted he wasn’t certain. He could potentially wait until February.
“With juco recruiting things can change quickly,” Scott told ESPN Baton Rouge. “So I guess the extra time would just be beneficial to me.”
As Scott weighs his choices, he will have different styles of offenses to consider. Although Tulane runs a zone-option, he told the Sun Herald he could see himself fitting in there. But that seems to be his mentality for any system, as Scott declined to pigeonhole himself.
“I can see myself in different types of offenses,” he told ESPN Baton Rouge. “I think I’m very malleable.”
Ultimately, Scott might decide he fits best at KU if his experience during his visit to Lawrence convinces him he would be contented as a part of the rebuilding program.
“I just want somewhere that feels like home with a coaching staff that has the best interest for me,” Scott said, “and where the offense suits my skill set.”
Frisco, Texas — National Signing Day could look significantly different this year for the college football coaches eagerly waiting to see their recruits’ names on official NCAA documentation. Whether that’s a positive or negative, Kansas football coach David Beaty said, remains to be determined.
It used to be prep football talents couldn’t sign with their college programs of choice until February. But the NCAA is introducing this year an earlier option, in late December, lasting just 72 hours.
Asked at Big 12 Media Days about how the new early signing period for high school prospects could change the way Beaty and his staff approach the uber-competitive world of recruiting, the third-year Kansas coach had to take a wait-and-see stance.
“I don’t know that we’ll know the answer to that for a couple years,” Beaty admitted Monday at Ford Center, while speaking with a group of reporters. “I’d like to say that the research we’ve done is going to be accurate, but the truth is when you get major rule changes like that it usually takes a few years for all the things to shake out.”
High school football seniors this winter will have the option of signing with a university between Dec. 20-22 — also the first three days of the mid-year signing period for junior college players. If they don’t make their commitments official then, the prospects still can do so on Feb. 7, 2018.
“One of the most interesting things for me,” Beaty said, “is when kids are committed and that first period comes around how many of them actually sign and how many don’t, because if they don’t sign then, they’re not committed.”
KU’s 2018 recruiting class has the potential to be the most significant in program history, thanks to the non-binding verbal commitments Beaty and his staff already have received from five-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason and his Landry-Walker High teammate, four-star cornerback Corione Harris.
Jason has stated in previous interviews he is on pace to graduate high school early and enroll at the university of his choice for the 2018 spring semester to get a head start on his college football preparation. So Beaty and associate head coach Tony Hull, who recruited the first five-star commit in program history, might have known Jason’s status by December even if the new signing period had not been implemented. But the recruiting rule change still holds importance for the rest of KU’s targets. Beaty indicated he would like to get as much of the 2018 signing class officially on board as soon as possible.
“Now, they still may sign on that second one,” the coach added, referencing the later February date. “But if there’s a paper available and they don’t sign it, that’ll be very interesting for me to see how many kids actually open their recruiting back up at that point, which I think that there will be some.”
As of Tuesday, Rivals ranked KU’s 2018 class 28th in the nation, thanks to the presence of Jason and Harris. The Jayhawks’ list of commitments currently stands at 13 players, nine of whom have been assessed a three-star ranking.
An oral commitment from a recruit never has provided college coaches with much certainty. Beaty said those in his profession will keep refining their sales pitches and doing all they can to get players signed. Three days in December now provide them with a new wrinkle in those endeavors.
“But for the most part if you do the studies and you look at basically signing trends, the majority of the kids still sign with the guys that they’re committed to and they don’t switch very often,” Beaty added. “I think (switching is) becoming a little more prevalent, but I think that’s where it comes down to coaches and their talent, in terms of how well they continue to recruit. Because make no mistake it’s not done with them there (when players commit).”
As Kansas football coach David Beaty and his staff keep persevering in their ongoing venture to reinvigorate a program that had been left to languish, the offseason months are just as critical as Saturdays in the fall.
The two most direct avenues for improvement — as Beaty referenced shortly after the conclusion of his second season at KU — are player development and recruiting. While the head coach thinks the Jayhawks already on campus are steadily getting bigger and better, Beaty knows that’s just one part of the process.
“And then I think the other thing is understanding we’ve gotta go out and continue to recruit and get some marquee players to help us,” Beaty said, “’cause every good coach I know has some really, really good ones. And we’ve got some good ones already, and we’ve gotta go get some really, really good ones from this point forward to be able to do what we want to do, which is win a lot and compete for championships.”
Just a week after those words left Beaty’s mouth, Kansas will welcome some highly sought after high school prospects to Lawrence. Adrian Ealy, a 6-foot-7 offensive tackle from Gonzales, La., will be in town this weekend to check out Anderson Family Football Complex and hear the KU staff’s recruiting pitch.
Running backs coach and Louisiana native Tony Hull, of course, deserves credit for getting Ealy — a four-star O-lineman who already has visited Oklahoma and has offers from Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Texas and many more — to give Kansas a look. A high school senior at East Ascension, Ealy is listed at 282 pounds. Rivals.com ranks him the 20th best prospect in the nation at his position.
As reported by Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, Ealy won’t be the only talented Louisiana recruit in town. Tevin Bush, a speedy 5-foot-5 athlete from New Orleans’ Landry Walker High (the same program that gave the Jayhawks starting safety Mike Lee), will visit Kansas this weekend, too.
A high school senior assessed three stars from Rivals, Bush already has verbally committed to West Virginia, but must be intrigued with Kansas as an option — thanks again to Hull — if he is making a visit. Bush also has picked up offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Texas Tech and others.
Although Ealy and Bush visiting campus obviously doesn’t guarantee anything for Kansas, it’s another indicator that Beaty seems to be steering the program in the right direction.
KU’s 2017 recruiting class already includes eight three-star prospects: former Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender, juco defensive back Hasan Defense, Texas prep linebacker Kyron Johnson, Louisiana prep receiver/athlete Travis Jordan, Derby standout receiver Kenyon Tabor, Garden City Community College defensive end Jamie Tago, Chicago high school defensive back Robert Topps and Texas prep running back Dominic Williams.
As Beaty suggested, Kansas needs a number of members in its latest recruiting class to come in and make a difference — just like Lee, defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., defensive tackle Daniel Wise and receiver Steven Sims Jr. did before them.
The more impactful recruits the staff lands, the quicker KU can escape the Big 12 cellar and start chasing Beaty’s hopeful longterm goals.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self and his assistants remain in the hunt for a high school player who can help the Jayhawks in the upcoming 2016-17 season. In the meantime, it seems increasingly likely they will also add a transfer with college experience.
Reports surfaced in early April of KU’s interest in Kory Holden, formerly of Delaware. News on the transfer front heated up Monday, though, with the names of San Francisco’s Devin Watson and Duke’s Derryck Thornton being linked with Kansas, as well.
All three play point guard, and if any were to join KU it would mean sitting out a season. It seems as though Self wants to bring in an experienced ball handler to share the backcourt with Devonté Graham in 2017-18, after Frank Mason III completes his senior season with the Jayhawks.
Here’s a look at what each potential transfer could bring to KU.
Kory Holden | 6-2, 180
In two seasons at Delaware, Kory Holden didn’t experience much team success. The Fightin’ Blue Hens went 10-20 in his freshman year, and finished 7-23 in 2015-16.
However, Holden, rated a three-star point guard out of high school, proved to be one of the program’s few bright spots. While Holden distributed the ball well, dishing 4.6 assists a game in 59 appearances (55 starts), he also increased his scoring average from 12.4 points in Year One to 17.7 points as a sophomore.
Holden shot 38.8% from 3-point range in his final year at Delaware, connecting on 69 long-range bombs.
Against some of the stiffest competition the Hens faced this past season, Holden more than held his own. The lead guard scored 35 points and shot 6-for-13 from deep in a loss at Boston College. In his very next game, Holden put up 23 points, going 6-for-10 from 3-point distance, in a road loss to eventual national champion Villanova.
Devin Watson | 6-1, 165
A significant jump in minutes also meant a massive leap in production for second-year San Francisco guard Devin Watson, who will be moving on from the Dons.
Watson, playing for former Kansas guard and since-fired coach Rex Walters at USF, became a workhorse for the West Coast Conference program as a sophomore. Playing 34.7 minutes a game, the small guard passed out 4.9 assists a game while also scoring 20.3 an outing.
Not quite as good a shooter as Holden, Watson (also rated as a three-star point guard in the Class of 2014) connected on 65 of his 186 3-pointers for San Francisco this past season (34.9%).
Watson tied his career high with 33 points in what turned out to be his USF finale, a WCC Tournament loss to Pepperdine, a game in which he went 4-for-7 from 3-point land.
His other 33-point outing came in January, when Watson also distributed 7 assists and shot 5-for-12 from downtown in a loss to Gonzaga.
Derryck Thornton | 6-2, 175
After playing 36 games for Duke as a freshman, Derryck Thornton might be on the move from one college basketball blue blood program to another.
Thornton’s numbers — 7.1 points, 2.5 assists, 27 of 82 on 3-pointers in 26.0 minutes (20 starts) — might not be as eye-popping as those of Watson and Holden, but Delaware and San Francisco certainly don’t have the type of talented teammates Thornton had at Duke.
What’s more, Thornton was much more highly regarded coming out of high school, with a five-star rating and offers from the likes of Duke, Arizona and UCLA.
The Blue Devils, who finished 25-11 and lost in the Sweet 16, were 15-5 with Thornton in the starting lineup.
His most productive games, however, came against inferior competition. Thornton only turned out one double-digit scoring performance in the final three months of the season — 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists at Georgia Tech.
During Thornton’s brief stay in Durham, N.C., his best showings came in the non-conference, with a career-high 19 points against VCU, and 18 points against Long Beach State on 8-for-12 shooting (2-for-3 from 3-point range).
With Kansas basketball underclassmen Cheick Diallo, Wayne Selden Jr. and Brannen Greene already tossing their names into the 2016 NBA Draft pool for consideration, and senior bigs Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor moving on — not to mention the possibility of more underclassmen testing the draft waters — right now very few things are certain about the 2016-17 KU roster.
One player, though, coach Bill Self knows he will have at his disposal while pursuing the program’s 13th Big 12 title in a row is incoming freshman big man Udoka Azubuike.
The massive 6-foot-11 center, while playing for Potter’s House, in Jacksonville, Fla., has made a habit of first destroying overmatched defenders in the post, then unleashing on the rim.
Obviously, that won’t be as easy to do once Azubuike gets to college and faces Big 12 defenders in the paint. But the native of Lagos, Nigeria, got a taste of more intense competition this week in Chicago, at the McDonald’s All-American Game. Said to weigh around 280 pounds, with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Azubuike played for the East all-stars and registered nine points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes.
You can bet his fellow all-Americans tested his prowess at practices leading up to the all-star showcase, too. In a video interview for DraftExpress.com — conducted by Markelle Fultz, who will play at Washington — Azubuike revealed a little about his McDonald’s experience, and a lot about his expectations as a college basketball player.
“It’s pretty fun, like playing against some of the best players in the country,” Azubuike told Fultz, “playing against some of my teammates, and all of that, so it’s pretty fun and intense.”
Interestingly enough, the future Kansas big man, who said he projects as a center for the Jayhawks, didn’t hesitate when asked how long he expects to play college basketball.
“Pretty much two years,” Azubuike responded. “Two years and I’m goin’.”
(Like Svi Mykhailiuk, Azubuike will be 17 years old during his freshman year at Kansas, so draft rules dictate he couldn't enter the NBA until playing at least two seasons of college hoops.)
You have to respect the kid for being up front on the matter. Almost every high-profile basketball recruit goes to college with the idea of turning his skill set into a profession, and most dream of getting to the NBA and playing for a living as soon as possible. Good for him for not hiding his intentions.
Still, it sounds as if Azubuike — just like Diallo, or Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere, or any big man not named Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis — still has a ways to go as a player before he becomes as unstoppable in the college or professional ranks as he was against high school opponents.
A huge smile overtook Azubuike’s face when asked about his highlight of the all-star week experience
“Pretty much just going out there, dunking, having fun,” he said. “I like to dunk. I like to compete. I like to just go out there and play my heart out.”
Known for his power game inside, Azubuike described how he attacks on offense.
“Each time I dunk, I just dunk with great intensity,” the 16-year-old said (he’ll be 17 by the time his freshman season at Kansas begins). “Like people think that I’m just going out there to break the rim, but I mean it is what it is.”
Again, that approach will only get him so far in college. An SI.com story on Azubuike earlier this year described the young big as a “man among boys” at the prep level, but added he lacked touch in the paint, and his footwork needed fine-tuning.
To his credit, Azubuike realizes he has shortcomings offensively.
“I have been working a lot on my hook shot,” he told scout.com. “I am getting very comfortable. Everybody says I just dunk all the time, so I have just been working on hook shot and my jump shot a lot to get comfortable doing that.”
Members of the scout.com staff watched McDonald’s practices this week, and reported Azubuike’s size, strength and motor make him a force in the paint when he gets the ball. While he usually scores via dunks, the developing post player utilized a right-handed hook, too, in Chicago.
Azubuike, like Joel Embiid and Diallo, played soccer as a youngster before picking up basketball. He told DraftExpress he tries to practice his jump shots outside of the paint, because he knows that area is one of his weaknesses.
“My strength is just to go out there and dominate, back to the basket, kind of game,” Azubuike said. “Just trying to dominate by, you know, hook shot or just going out there to dunk.”
Imagine how helpful it will be for Azubuike to learn about his shortcomings — and improve upon those, as well as his strengths — by going up against KU’s Landen Lucas, a strong senior-to-be who made a name for himself by out-thinking and out-positioning physically strong post players.
Don’t expect Azubuike to arrive in Lawrence ready to start. It appears he will be too raw to replace Lucas as KU’s starting center. But his forceful approach to the game could make him a useful weapon off the bench for the Jayhawks next season.
And then maybe he’ll get a year’s worth of starting experience before entering the 2018 NBA Draft.
The more you hear about Kansas basketball commitment LaGerald Vick, the more impressive he seems.
National analyst Eric Bossi of Rivals watched the 6-foot-5 guard from Memphis this past weekend in New York and came away claiming Rivals.com needs to move his national ranking of No. 137 up “at least 100 spots.”
In order to get a better idea about Vick as a player, just check out his highlight videos. The 175-pound guard, who reportedly will re-classify and join the 2015 KU recruiting class with Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo, plays for Team Thad AAU, and in the past year or so he has put together quite the YouTube résumé.
Three of his scoring reels are posted below. With each one, I included some quick take-aways about what the clips tell us about this multi-skilled guard. Obviously, not everything we see here will immediately translate to college basketball and the Big 12, but there are plenty of promising signs that this previously unheralded recruit could turn into a go-to scorer for the Jayhawks before his days in Allen Fieldhouse are through.
This latest highlight reel from Courtside Films doesn’t capture the correct way to spell Vick’s first name, but it does provide an impressive array of highlights
• Vick can pull up for a 3-pointer off the dribble with ease when his defender leaves his hands down or fails to close out.
• His shooting, strength and ability to finish above the rim all look better now than they did in past highlight videos (shown below).
• When Vick’s man gets low and really tests him on the perimeter, his ball-handling allows him to not only maintain possession but also get creative and find a way to punish his defender.
• He may be a little too reliant on his right hand at this point, but he does go left off the dribble from time to time, and that’s obviously something he can continue to develop.
• No matter where he gets the ball, Vick stands out as an offensive threat in his ability to create better looks for himself, whether that be with a ball fake, jab step, cross-over or hesitation dribble. He appears a real challenge to keep in check.
• By the looks of this highlight reel, Vick is as confident a 3-point shooter as one could hope for. He doesn’t overthink things when he’s open from downtown, he just rises up and lets it fly.
• Finishing in traffic isn’t for everyone. But it looks like Vick enjoys the challenge that taking on multiple defenders provides. Even when the road to the hoop looks treacherous, he doesn’t show any fear.
• It’s just a bad idea in general to leave him open anywhere on the court. He can either pull up for an easy look from behind the arc or speed through driving lanes to the rim.
• Vick often shows creativity in avoiding potential shot-blockers.
• He has a slight frame, but sometimes uses that to his advantage by slithering between defenders.
• If teams decide they want to take away his shooting ability, he could easily turn into a drive-first player on offense.
• Vick is confident and crafty when he gets into the paint, regardless of what kind of defender flies at him. In this aspect, he kind of reminded me of Manu Ginobili in his prime.
• He can play above the rim when he gets a wide-open lane or someone fails to put a body on him on the offensive glass.
• If you make the mistake of crowding Vick on the perimeter he is fast enough off the dribble to blow by you.
• Obviously his jumper is one of his strengths, enabling him to punish defenses if they leave him open (keep in mind many of these highlights come against teams ignoring basic defensive principles).
• Vick will need to clean up his ball-handling when he’s taking on college guards. He is able to play pretty loose in these types of AAU showcases and (in the past at least) carries the ball at times when using his dribble outside.
• The kid has pretty quick hops, and can head skyward in a hurry.
• Vick’s now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t methods of slashing might be the final ingredient that turns him into a big-time college scorer. He can show defenders the rock, then take it away and finish by utilizing the window he just created for himself.
• His cross-over has a strong burst to it and he’s always thinking “attack” when he has the ball in transition.
• Vick can finish with either hand once he has slashed his way into the paint.
• This scoring guard doesn’t just rely on floaters, he takes advantage of angles on the floor and uses the glass well, even six to eight feet away from the rim. Not many guys have so many tricks in their bags.
Meet Cheick Diallo.
He’s 6-foot-9, 220 pounds. He was MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic.
And he just might be the next great big man at Kansas.
Originally from Mali, the five-star post player turned himself into one of the nation’s elite college prospects at Our Savior New American High, in Centereach, New York. He joins KU as the No. 5 overall talent in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals.com.
The big man stole the show at the McDonald’s all-star game earlier this month, where his name was called repeatedly, bucket after bucket, and he wowed the Chicago crowd with a fast-break spin-move on his way to an 18-point/10-rebound performance.
He even blocked some shots in the offense-oriented showcase and dropped a dime inside.
Diallo appears to have everything you’re looking for in a traditional big man: length, toughness, and the ability to finish at the rim on one end of the floor while intimidating the opposition from doing the same on the other end.
The guy even snags defensive rebounds anticipating the ensuing outlet pass he’s about to sling down the floor.
That makes him a perfect fit for KU coach Bill Self. Even better, the lean, young big fills a need for next season’s roster.
Self continually referenced the Jayhawks’ lack of an elite interior presence during the 2014-15 season. Unlike most Kansas teams, this one couldn’t throw the ball into the post and get a basket. Even worse perhaps, there was no rim protector waiting in the paint on defense.
That gaping hole in KU’s lineup likely is the very reason Diallo will be playing at Allen Fieldhouse next season.
"I felt like Kansas was the best place for me," Diallo told ESPN.com’s Paul Biancardi. "I can earn playing time right away. I played against Joel Embiid in high school and watched his development. I need to work on a lot of things and feel coach (Bill) Self can help my game. On my visit, the campus was great and the people were nice. I could see myself there."
Picture Diallo in a Kansas uniform, playing alongside all the returning Jayhawks and fellow freshman Carlton Bragg, and it’s easy to envision KU getting past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons. And back to the Final Four for the first time since 2012.
Here are a few more Diallo highlight reels as your mind wanders about the possibilities.