Posts tagged with 2018-19 Season

NBA early-entry deadline passes with no word from KU center Udoka Azubuike

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) hangs on the rim after a dunk before Louisiana forward Malik Marquetti (1) during the second half, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) hangs on the rim after a dunk before Louisiana forward Malik Marquetti (1) during the second half, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The NBA’s early-entry deadline for the 2019 draft has passed without so much as a peep out of Kansas junior Udoka Azubuike.

While that does not mean that the 7-foot center who tested the waters last year only to return for his junior season at Kansas, did not declare for the draft, it certainly makes such a scenario more likely.

But Sunday’s news — or lack thereof — does not exactly create a crystal clear picture of Azubuike’s future.

While keeping a declaration from the public eye suggests that Azubuike will return to KU for his senior season in 2019-20, it does not guarantee it by any means.

There’s always the chance that Azubuike, who missed all but nine games of the 2018-19 season because of an injured wrist, could have been waiting to announce a decision — either way — until after Easter, perhaps sometime Monday.

KU coach Bill Self, as late as 7 p.m. Sunday night, told the Journal-World he had not heard a final decision from Azubuike and Self, last week at KU’s season-ending team banquet, told Azubuike in front of a crowd of more than 500 KU supporters that the program would always have the big man’s back.

“I tell Dok this all the time and I do believe this,” Self said at the banquet. “He’s going to get the last laugh on everybody. But his attitude’s gotta stay great and I’m so proud, first of all, how he handled being hurt the second time, his sophomore year, and how he handled this year. He was still positive, he was not a negative guy, even though his window of opportunity was shrinking on him and, no, there was nothing he could do to change it. I thought his attitude was unbelievable. And, Dok, just hang in there and whatever you decide to do you’ve got us, no matter what. Love ya. And you’ll get the last laugh.”

Twitter was abuzz throughout the day Sunday with KU fans waiting for word from Azubuike. A hashtag “UdokaWatch2019” was a popular place to mine for information and KU fans and media members continually checked in about the decision throughout the day.

Azubuike’s decision whether to test or not likely was made more difficult by the fact that he is not expected to be cleared for full basketball activities until June. The wrist injury he suffered as a true freshman — identical injury, opposite hand — kept him from returning in full until the summer and could have caused an issue with teams wondering if he could workout in the coming weeks or attend the NBA’s pre-draft combine.

Azubuike attended the pre-draft combine in 2018 and received valuable feedback about what NBA personnel wanted to see from him during his junior season. Unfortunately for the native Nigerian, the injury bug hit again just before Big 12 play and Azubuike did not get to show whether he had improved in certain areas or not.

The two wrist injuries are among five significant injuries Azubuike has suffered during his time with the Jayhawks.

The first wrist injury, which hit in late December of his freshman year, cost him all but 11 games of his rookie season. After that, a lingering back issue that flared up but did not causee him to miss time midway through his sophomore season and a serious knee injury that hit just before the Big 12 tournament of the 2016-17 season, cost him part of the postseason. And before his second wrist injury during the 2018-19 season, Azubuike missed several games because of a severe ankle sprain.

One of the things some NBA officials wanted to see is what Azubuike could do with a full season of injury-free basketball.

Whether Azubuike stays or goes, the Jayhawks still have plenty of work to do on the recruiting trail in the coming months and plenty of resources with which to work.

As of Sunday night, KU had six scholarships available to add players to the 2019 class that currently consists of 4-star guards Christian Braun and Issac McBride.

Those scholarships became available when K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore announced their decisions to transfer and Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson and Silvio De Sousa declared for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Any of that foursome that declared for the draft — along with Azubuike — could return to KU next season provided they follow NCAA rules regarding their work with agents and withdraw their names from the draft pool by May 29.

De Sousa has said he will be back if he wins his appeal of a two-year NCAA suspension. And people close to the KU program believe Lawson and Grimes are likely gone and Dotson is a likely candidate to return.

Those realities figure to make the next several weeks both busy and incredibly interesting as the KU coaching staff races to refill its roster, with or without Azubuike in tow. As of deadline time on Sunday night, though, all signs were pointing toward that being with Azubuike in the lineup for the 2019-20 Jayhawks.

Reply 19 comments from Marius7782 Majayhawk Stuart Corder Lance Dirk Medema Jayscott Shimsham Barry Weiss Matt Tait Karen Mansfield-Stewart and 6 others

Trying to make sense of where the Silvio De Sousa appeal goes from here

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa, right, points to teammates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Kansas defeated Texas Tech 79-63. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa, right, points to teammates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Kansas defeated Texas Tech 79-63. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) by Associated Press

Sorting through the NCAA policies and procedures handbook is not for the faint of heart, so take what I’m about to share with you with a grain of salt and more as a possibility instead of something that’s set in stone.

I’ve got my chisel and rock handy and am working on firming up the details, but have not been able to nail down anything just yet.

With that said, my endeavors to try to find any kind of timeline for the recently announced Silvio De Sousa appeal of the NCAA’s 2-year suspension of the KU forward have led me to believe that the magic number here is 7 business days.

In a 20-page document titled “NCAA DIVISIONS I, II AND III COMMITTEES ON STUDENT-ATHLETE REINSTATEMENT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES” which was updated last December, the NCAA lists two different types of appeals processed by the Student-Athlete Reinstatement committee.

The first is dubbed “Reinstatement of eligibility appeals – violations.” And the second is titled, “Waivers and extension request appeals.”

Efforts to gain clarity through both KU and the NCAA have been unsuccessful thus far, but it seems to me that De Sousa’s appeal would fall under the first classification.

If that’s the case — again, if — the timeline for reviewing the appeal would fall under the following parameters.

“Review of a violation appeal by the appropriate divisional committee via paper review will generally take seven business days.”

For what it’s worth, if De Sousa’s appeal for some reason falls under the other category — though I can’t see how it would qualify as a waiver or extension request at this point — the review is said to “generally take three weeks.”

A couple more interesting tidbits I discovered while reading the document include the following:

• The SAR committees, which are made up of members within the NCAA, “have one or two scheduled appeal times each week.”

Furthermore, “appeals will be scheduled during these times unless pending competition or a student-athlete’s class schedule warrants review during another time. Appeals will be scheduled based on date of receipt of appeal and pending competition.”

It has to be considered good news for people in the De Sousa camp that these reviews are a regular thing within the NCAA’s daily and weekly business. No waiting until the end of the month or the end of the quarter to hear the case.

In fact, according to the latest data available on the NCAA’s web site, 830 reinstatement requests were processed by the SAR during the 2015-16 academic year. What’s more, the NCAA points out that an astonishing 99 percent of those resulted in the student-athlete being reinstated, though some, as pointed out with the data, required a condition.

• As for why KU waited 75 days after learning of De Sousa’s suspension to file the appeal, this section may provide a little clarity on that matter, though nothing specific is known and, as of the time of posting this, KU had declined to comment.

“For all appeals handled by the committees, all factual and interpretive disputes must be resolved prior to the divisional committee reviewing the matter. Prior to consideration of the matter, the reinstatement staff will make available to the members of the divisional committee the institution's request and the information on which the reinstatement staff based its decision. The institution will receive a copy of the same information. The reinstatement staff shall include applicable case precedent in the appeal materials.”

So it’s possible that KU, while working with De Sousa and his lawyer, have been seeking to resolve “factual and interpretive disputes” for the past couple of months so the appeal could be filed.

If so, the above section indicates that the SAR committee may have heard/seen/read at least some of the details of De Sousa’s situation, at least in some manner, which, one would think, might make it easier and quicker for them to review the appeal now that it is officially in their hands.

• Finally, without knowing exactly whether the appeal will be reviewed in person, via teleconference or on paper, it’s hard to know what the proper procedure will be from here.

But the following section outlines what will happen in the case of a review that is heard by the SAR via teleconference.

“For all appeals conducted by teleconference, at least one of the following institutional representatives must participate: chancellor or president (or individual designated by the chancellor or president); faculty athletics representative; senior woman administrator; director of athletics; or compliance officer. In addition, the institution's legal counsel and the prospective student-athlete's or student-athlete's legal counsel may participate.”

“Coaches and sport-specific noncoaching personnel (e.g., director of basketball operations) are prohibited from participation on a teleconference appeal unless the individual also serves in a previously mentioned capacity at the institution.”

Stay in touch with for more on the particulars of De Sousa’s appeal.

For those of you who so desire to see the entire document, have at it.

Reply 5 comments from Gerry Butler Dirk Medema Cassadys Dale Rogers Pius Waldman

Kansas coach Bill Self far from panicked about current recruiting challenges: ‘Oh, we’re going to get some guys’

Kansas head coach Bill Self flashes a smile as the Jayhawks pull away during overtime on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self flashes a smile as the Jayhawks pull away during overtime on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

With just two players signed in the 2019 recruiting class and neither one ranked higher than 94th in the national rankings per, the outsider’s view of the current state of Kansas basketball recruiting is that things have hit a rough patch.

The man on the inside, however, sees things a little differently, and Tuesday night, after KU’s season-ending banquet, Bill Self talked in general terms about where things sat with KU’s current recruiting efforts.

“Oh, I think we’re going to get some guys,” Self said. “I think we’re going to better ourselves, without question.”

Although no definition of “some guys” was given, Self projected the image of a coach in complete control of the situation, one that even seemed to border on optimism for the immediate future.

Top targets Matt Hurt (No. 7 overall per and Cassius Stanley (No. 33) will announce their decisions in the next five days. And Kansas remains in the running for both players, even if the Jayhawks currently look like they’re running second to Duke in both cases.

Even if KU strikes out on both Hurt, who will reveal his choice Friday and Stanley, who will announce his pick Monday, Self said he felt good about where things sat with his overall roster and emphasized that he and his staff would have a much clearer picture of its needs and challenges “in the next 10 days.”

—> 9:03 p.m. Update: Cassius Stanley on Wednesday night Teeeted that he now will announce his college choice next Monday (April 22), backing the big reveal up for a second time. <—

“You guys can look at it however you want, but you’ve got a chance to be better before the season even starts next year,” Self explained. “You’ve got a chance without adding any players. So I’m pretty optimistic that things will fall into place.”

What Self likely meant by that read has to do with the stay-or-go decisions facing players like Devon Dotson, Udoka Azubuike, Quentin Grimes and Silvio De Sousa.

Much like two years ago, when KU missed out on all of the top high school point guards it went after but landed a big victory when Devonte’ Graham elected to return for his senior season, KU’s outlook for the 2019-20 season would improve dramatically if even just Dotson and Azubuike decide to return.

Right now, KU has five scholarships open and could have two more to play with if Azubuike and De Sousa enter their names into the 2019 NBA Draft. That would push the number of open roster spots to seven and create a situation unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory.

“That’s if everybody leaves,” Self clarified. “But everybody’s not going to leave. But, yeah; I’d say if we need to sign seven this spring, that wouldn’t be the ideal situation.”

As for his thoughts on why a blue blood program like Kansas is in this situation in the first place, Self said there was “no question” that the uncertainty surrounding Kansas and the federal investigation into college basketball had hurt the program’s recruiting efforts, adding that recent reports that Self was leaving KU did not help either.

Self on Tuesday adamantly reiterated that he had no plans to leave KU any time soon and even said he was not upset by other programs using KU’s current struggles against them in recruiting battles from coast to coast.

“If somebody told me that there’s a report out there that someone’s going to take another job and we were going head to head with that other school, that article might find its way to the right eyes,” Self conceded. “That’s not being negative. That’s just how it is.”

There was, however, one thing Self said he would not do to bolster the look of his next team and that was to spend any amount of time trying to talk players into staying.

He never has done that in the past and is not about to start now.

“Some of you may think that the most important recruiting we could do is right here on campus,” he said. “But I’m not going to do it. If it’s best for them to go try (to enter the NBA draft), then go try. That will determine if they come back or not. I know I have strong feelings (about) what I think would be smart. But they can investigate it themselves, with their families, to determine what’s smart. And I think we’re going to be just fine moving forward.”

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Say What? Tait’s Weekly Appearance on Rock Chalk Sports Talk

So much of the current situation surrounding the Kansas men's basketball program is fixed on the stay-or-go decisions of several of KU's top players from the 2018-19 season.

K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore are transferring.

Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson have declared for the 2019 NBA Draft and are exploring their chances of staying in the draft and leaving school.

Udoka Azubuike has yet to announce his plans. Silvio De Sousa also has a decision to make.

And no matter how many of them leave and how many of them return, the Jayhawks will almost certainly have to dip into the transfer market during the offseason to fill the roster for the 2019-20 season.

So what might that look like, who might that include and just how difficult will it be for Bill Self and company to figure it all out?

Tait and Nick Schwerdt talked about that and more on the latest episode of Rock Chalk Sports Talk.


Memorable moments from the 2019 KU men’s basketball banquet

Dedric Lawson, this year's winner of the Danny Manning Mr. Jayhawk Award, watches the action during Tuesday's KU basketball banquet at the Burge Union on KU's campus. (Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics)

Dedric Lawson, this year's winner of the Danny Manning Mr. Jayhawk Award, watches the action during Tuesday's KU basketball banquet at the Burge Union on KU's campus. (Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics) by Matt Tait

Most years, the Kansas men’s basketball program’s season-ending banquet features more than a few reasons to celebrate, smile and look back on some big time moments that came in the months leading up to the April event.

This year, after finishing 26-10, falling short in both the Big 12 regular season race and the Big 12 tournament and getting sent home from the NCAA Tournament in the second round, the Jayhawks had a little less to look back on and feel good about.

But that did not stop KU coach Bill Self from making Tuesday’s two-hour event one to remember, with Self using as many humorous moments and one-liners to help offset the lack of major accomplishments to talk about.

Don’t get me wrong. This team did still win 26 games while playing the toughest schedule in the country and was a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Self even reminded folks that, when whole, the 2018-19 Jayhawks were the No. 1-ranked team in America and likely would have been as tough of an out as any team around had injuries, suspensions and a little bad luck not been such a regular part of the most recent season.

But like with any year that ends short of the ultimate goal, time usually takes care of the disappointment and frustrations that can be felt throughout February and March. And so when the Jayhawks showed up at the Burge Union on Tuesday night, looking dapper, refreshed and ready to celebrate the season, there were still plenty of parts worth pointing out, both in terms of what took place during the 2018-19 schedule and what’s still to come.

With that in mind, here are a few of the more memorable moments from Tuesday’s KU basketball banquet.

• With so many heavy things surrounding the program these days, there were some topics that carried a more serious tone with them on Tuesday night. One such topic was KU’s involvement in the ongoing federal investigation into corruption in college basketball. And while those things have been well documented during the past year and a half, Self did his part to reassure the crowd of KU supporters that things were going to be just fine in the end.

“What you have to understand is we can’t talk about what’s going on,” Self explained. “But I feel very good about having total support of our administration and I know our staff and players do, as well.”

• Another topic that has been grinding on Kansas fans is the status of KU forward Silvio De Sousa, who missed all of 2018-19 and is facing a two-year suspension from the NCAA for his guardian’s role in a pay-for-play scheme that is a part of the federal investigation.

At least four times on Tuesday night, De Sousa was singled out for the way he handled the sticky situation that has kept him on the sideline. KU AD Jeff Long referenced him during his opening remarks.

“Despite the injuries, despite the frustration and the unfair situation that my friend Silvio has had to endure, player absences and other challenges, this team has accomplished so much,” Long began.

KU broadcaster Brian Hanni even put De Sousa in the poem he penned, stealing a page out of his predecessor, Bob Davis’ playbook, saying, “Lord, please, please free Silvio, what a front court we could boast. Our depth would be rich, with, yes, Prison Mitch, manning up down in the post.”

And then there were Self’s words, saved for the end while the KU coach was introducing the team, player by player.

“The last guy, you see him all the time smiling,” Self began. “The worst hand anybody’s been dealt, in my opinion, to no fault of his own nor really to anyone, in our opinion. (For him) to sit out and have our team be affected, the fact of the matter is he didn’t let that be a negative for us. He was positive and certainly he’s one of these kids that, you know, he’s got a big W (for winner) written all over his chest and he’ll be successful in whatever he does. We’re still holding out for hope on Silvio participating at Kansas moving forward, even though we don’t have any answers on that yet. But give it up for probably as good a attitude guy as we’ve ever had, Silvio De Sousa.”

• Just before Self got to De Sousa’s situation, he touched on Udoka Azubuike, the junior center who, like many of his teammates is facing the should-I-stay-or-should-I-go decision during the next several weeks.

To date, Azubuike has not declared for the 2019 NBA Draft. In order to be eligible to workout with pro teams, get help from an agent and attend the pre-draft combine in Chicago in mid-May, Azubuike will have to declare for the draft by Sunday’s deadline.

Self, after the banquet, talked briefly about the big fella’s situation and also addressed it with Azubuike directly during his remarks from the stage.

“I tell Dok this all the time and I do believe this: He’s going to get the last laugh on everybody. But his attitude’s gotta stay great and I’m so proud, first of all, how he handled being hurt the second time, his sophomore year, and how he handled this year. He was still positive, he was not a negative guy, even though his window of opportunity was shrinking on him and, no, there was nothing he could do to change it. I thought his attitude was unbelievable. And, Dok, just hang in there and whatever you decide to do you’ve got us, no matter what. Love ya. And you’ll get the last laugh.”

Added Self of Azubuike and De Sousa’s futures, after the banquet: “Well, you know they’re staying if they don’t announce by the 21st because the 21st is the deadline. But I’m actually OK with whatever they decide to do.”

• Speaking of players with decisions to make, Self addressed the draft declarations made by freshmen Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, during his remarks on the podium, singing Grimes’ praises for growing tougher during a rough year, and dead-panning about what he thinks Dotson should decide to do.

Of Grimes, Self said: “He was there every day, he had a great attitude and sometimes you can’t control the ball going in the basket. But I would take him on my team any day, and, over time, we’ll win a lot of games. … We should all join in and wish him the best in his endeavor to showcase his talents and show people he deserves to be in the NBA. So, good luck, Quentin.”

Of Dotson, Self joked: “The guy obviously had an unbelievable freshman year and has a chance to be one of the better guards that we have had at our school, if he makes a great decision and comes back to our school.”

Added Dotson after the event of Self’s ribbing and playful comments: “He’s been supportive. All the coaching staff has been supportive of my decision, but he’s been throwing just little, like, jokes here and there, but at the end of the day they’re supportive of whatever I do.”

• As expected, Dedric Lawson was this year's recipient of the Danny Manning Mr. Jayhawk Award, given annually to the player who embodies everything it means to be a Jayhawk, both on and off the floor.

Last year, teammates and best friends, Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk shared the honor and this year, after listening to his coach joke with the crowd about whether they remembered Manning, Lawson grabbed the microphone for a brief moment.

"Coach is going to make me say a few words," Lawson began. "So I just want to thank everyone that came out to every game and gave me the most support that I could ever ask for as a player. Coming to KU was truly a blessing for me and was definitely the best experience I had in college. Thank you."

• A couple of injury updates from Tuesday night, Self said sophomore guard Marcus Garrett, who suffered a high ankle sprain on Feb. 1 yet played through it down the stretch after missing five games in February, still was not fully cleared to resume basketball activities.

And freshman guard Elijah Elliott, who was planning to redshirt and then got injured anyway, was also still on the mend after suffering a leg injury and just recently started running again. Self said the athletic guard from Southlake, Texas, would “be full-go next year and will be a great addition to our program.”

• Finally, after Senior Night came and went with no mention and his leave of absence midway through Big 12 play turned into a permanent departure and the end of his college career, KU senior Lagerald Vick received one more nod from his head coach during Tuesday’s banquet.

Vick was not in attendance on Tuesday, but his accomplishments were – in the form of trophies and highlights — and Self put a bit of closure on the Memphis guard’s Kansas career with some kind words before the end of the evening.

“I hope that everybody realizes and understands what a great career Lagerald Vick had at the University of Kansas,” Self began. “You know, he didn’t play a lot as a freshman. Obviously he was a key player as a sophomore and last year he was unbelievable, when you think about those plays he made inside the zone against Duke, to give us a chance to win, at 6-foot-4-and-a-half. Unbelievable.

“This year, he wasn’t able to finish the season with us, but that should not take away from the big picture, over time, and even though Lagerald’s not here we should recognize him and give him a warm welcome for all he did here.”

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The latest news and names to watch with KU basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

So there was more than a little shifting and reshaping on the Kansas basketball recruiting trail over the weekend, and KU now enters a monster week with a new picture regarding two of its top targets in the 2019 class.

KU coach Bill Self — along with Kentucky coach John Calipari — was expected to be in Minnesota on Sunday night for one final meeting with Top 10 prospect Matt Hurt before Hurt announces his decision on Friday, but multiple reports out of Minnesota on Sunday night indicated that Hurt and his family called those visits off and will have no more communication with the four finalists — Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and UNC — before announcing a decision on Friday.

Division I men’s basketball recruiting is currently in a dead period and will be open again on Friday until a quiet period hits on April 25.

Both Hurt and Top 40 shooting guard Cassius Stanley will have made their commitments by then, with Stanley now switching up his decision date to Saturday instead of Wednesday, which is the opening day of the spring signing period.

While the Hurt news seems to be trending in the wrong direction for the Jayhawks — 65% of 247 Sports’ crystal ball predictions now belong to Duke compared to 30% for KU — there is at least some reason to believe that Kansas is still in solidly in the running for Stanley, a 6-foot-5 freak athlete from North Hollywood, Calif., who had trimmed his final list to KU, UCLA and Oregon before adding Duke last week.

Like with Hurt, many recruiting analysts believe that Stanley is headed to Duke, but the fact that he changed his announcement date after visiting Duke over the weekend to allow one final day of contact before an announcement means that KU still has a shot.

Self and company could conceivably make one final trip west on Friday to try to sell Stanley and his family on Kansas one final time before the announcement is made.

Until Duke got involved, many believed that the Jayhawks’ biggest obstacle to getting Stanley would be pulling him away from the west coast. But now that the Blue Devils are a factor, KU is facing two stiff challenges. Still, the fact that Stanley changed his date after visiting Duke instead of keeping it for Wednesday should at least be taken as a sign that him to Duke is not a done deal.

As for UCLA, which recently hired Mick Cronin after a crazy and clunky coaching search, 247 Sports site Bruin Report Online recently reported that Stanley and his family had met with Cronin but added that the Bruins were still “considered a longshot.”

Throughout the past several weeks, as some of KU’s other top targets in the 2019 class have elected to commit and sign elsewhere, the promise and potential for landing Hurt and Stanley in the spring had given KU plenty of hope to put together a strong class to help replace what could be as many as five or six departures from the 2018-19 roster.

Now, with decision day looming for both players and the Jayhawks fighting to stay alive, Kansas may be facing the very real scenario of having to fill the class through other means in the coming weeks.

While that might play out differently than many believed it would, it does not necessarily mean bad news for the Jayhawks.

For starters, 2019 signees Christian Braun and Issac McBride are ready-made contributors who are already in the fold. Both are tough competitors and mature kids who will be ready to play meaningful minutes next season if needed.

Beyond that, Self told the Journal-World recently that he would target grad transfers and potentially juco talent as a way to fill the roster if needed and the market for both is as rich as ever, with scores of kids continuing to explore their transfer opportunities year after year.

A few names to keep an eye on, whether the Jayhawks get good or bad news from Hurt and Stanley this week, are:

• Tristan Enaruna – 6-9 forward from Mount Pleasant, Utah, who Self and company have been recruiting for months. recruiting insider Matt Scott reported today that Enaruna will visit KU on April 28 after making similar trips to finalists Miami (Fla.) and Creighton in the days leading up to his visit to Lawrence.

• Precious Achiuwa – 6-9 forward from Montverde (Fla.) Academy who is ranked No. 16 in the 2019 class by and is a 5-star prospect with tons of potential. Achiuwa, both at the McDonald’s All-American Game and last week’s Nike Hoops Summit, has been one of the hotter names on the spring all-star circuit and KU has been on him for a while. His decision is expected to come sometime in late May, with North Carolina and Memphis also very much alive in the chase.

• Rayjon Tucker - This 6-5 wing and grad transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock averaged 20.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last year and has drawn early interest from KU, Memphis, North Carolina, West Virginia, Louisville and others. Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Tucker started his career at Florida Gulf Coast, where he played for former KU assistant Joe Dooley, before transferring to UALR for one season. He sat out the 2017-18 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules and started all 30 games for Little Rock during the 2018-19 season.

• T.J. Holyfield – 6-8 grad transfer from Stephen F. Austin, who missed last season because of a shoulder injury, indicated on Twitter recently that KU would be one of the visits he would take in the coming weeks, with Illinois, Texas Tech, Miami (Fla.) and Oregon also on the list. The big man with game down low and away from the rim averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season while shooting 41 percent from 3-point range.

• R.J. Hampton – 6-5 junior ranked No. 5 in the 2020 class who is considering reclassifying to the 2019 class. This would be the guy you sell out for. With or without Devon Dotson back on the floor, Hampton would give Kansas the star it needs in the 2019 class and would set things right in the recruiting world in a hurry. Many have called him the top prep guard in the country regardless of class and his ability to play fast, score all over the floor and use his size, vision and skill to produce his own numbers and set others up for theirs would be a monster addition to the KU roster.

Clearly, there’s a lot of talent still out there even if the Jayhawks wind up missing out on Hurt and Stanley. These names are just a few of the players available with known ties to Kansas, but there’s no doubt that Self and company have a Plan B, Plan C and Plan D ready to roll should they need to utilize them in the coming weeks.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at the recruiting calendar for the next few months.

• April 15-18: Dead period

• April 19-24: Contact period

• April 25: Quiet period

• April 26-28, 2019: Evaluation period (only for certified events)

• May 14-19 - NBA Draft Combine: Evaluation period (for combine only)

• May 15: Quiet period

• May 16-24: Dead period

• May 25 – July 5: Quiet period

Glossary of terms:

Quiet Period: A time when prospects can talk to college coaches in person on a college campus. Coaches are not allowed to watch athletes compete in person, visit their school, talk to them at home or anywhere outside of the college campus.

Dead Period: During the dead period, coaches may not have any in-person contact with recruits and/or their parents. Coaches are not allowed to talk to recruits at their college campus, the athlete’s school, a camp or anywhere else. Athletes and coaches are, however, still allowed to communicate via phone, email, and social media.

Evaluation Period: A specific time of year when college coaches are allowed to watch an athlete compete in person or visit their school. However, coaches are not allowed to communicate with that athlete or his parents off the college campus. Coaches can sit in the stands during a recruit’s practice or game, as well as visit the recruit’s school to talk to coaches, teachers, counselors, etc. After the visit, the coach may call or email the recruit to let them know how their experience was.

Contact Period: Any and all communication between athletes and coaches is fair game. Coaches can email, text, call or direct message recruits and their parents through any NCAA-approved methods and visits can take play on college campuses, at tournaments or at the recruit’s home or school.

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Big recruiting week ahead for Kansas basketball

Kansas recruit Matthew Hurt watches the second half action on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas recruit Matthew Hurt watches the second half action on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

With the spring signing period arriving Wednesday, a potentially monster week awaits the Kansas basketball program.

But while there’s a chance that Kansas could pick up a pair of primetime players ranked in the Top 35 in the Class of 2019 in the week ahead, there’s an equally good chance that KU could miss out on both Cassius Stanley, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound, 4-star shooting guard ranked No. 33 overall by and Matt Hurt, a 6-9, 200-pound, 5-star forward ranked No. 7 in the class.

Landing both would bring KU’s 2019 class, which currently features 4-star guards Christian Braun (6-7, No. 94, Blue Valley Northwest) and Issac McBride (6-0, No. 104, Baptist Prep in Little Rock, Ark.), into the Top 20 and near the Top 10. Landing one or the other would give Bill Self and company the signature player they need in a suddenly critical rebuilding class. And watching the two commit to other programs would be a significant blow to the 2019 class and would send Kansas in an entirely different direction.

Stanley is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday and Hurt has plans to announce on Friday. Many national recruiting analysts are predicting Duke for both players.

Self was scheduled to be in Minnesota on Sunday to visit with Hurt one final time and the versatile and talented forward from Rochester, Minn., lists Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina as his final four.

Regardless of how the decisions go this week, Self and the Jayhawks have been planning for all outcomes for months.

“We have an idea (of how many we need to sign in the 2019 class) and we’ll recruit with worst-case scenario or most-case scenario, whatever our options will be,” Self recently told the Journal-World.

What that essentially means is whether it’s KU adding players like Hurt and Stanley — or potentially Class of 2020 point guard R.J. Hampton, who is ranked in the Top 5 and exploring the idea of reclassifying into the current class — or adding lesser-heralded players and graduate transfers, Self and company are ready to build whatever kind of class the market dictates.

“We’ve cast a wide net, but it’s been pretty narrow in scope,” Self said. “But there’s some things, whether it be grad transfers or things like that, that could come up depending on what our numbers are.”

With Charlie Moore and K.J. Lawson transferring out and Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson all declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft, KU could have as many as five more scholarships to fill in the 2019 class.

There’s enough reason to believe that at least one of those players will return for the 2019-20 season — most likely Dotson — but there’s also reason to believe that junior center Udoka Azubuike and possibly sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa could follow in their footsteps and announce their departures, as well.

If that happens, KU will need to add 4-6 more players to the 2019 class, which would set up a scenario much like the one the Jayhawks faced during the 2018-19 season, when seven first-year Jayhawks filled key roles in the team’s rotation.

While that certainly would be a challenge for Self in terms of roster construction and building team chemistry, the KU coach said that adding a few veterans might not be the worst thing for the program.

“It could be (grad transfers) or it could be a juco kid,” Self told the Journal-World. “But it would probably need to be immediate eligibility. (You could be) losing a lot, so we’ve got to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, but also understand that that creates a lot of opportunity, too.”

Reply 28 comments from Shannon Gustafson Joe Baker Carsonc30 Stormin Cassadys Jaston Archie Robert  Brock Dhorn Barry Weiss Glen and 8 others

Future Jayhawk Christian Braun named top prep player in KC

None by Jason Lamb

For the second year in a row, a future Kansas Jayhawk has hoisted the DiRenna Award trophy, given out annually to the top high school basketball player in the greater Kansas City area.

KU signee, Christian Braun, of Blue Valley Northwest, brought home this year’s honor, following in the footsteps of current Jayhawk Ochai Agbaji.

"Congrats CB," Tweeted BVNW coach Ed Fritz after Braun won the award. "You make us all proud."

First established in 1954 by Dr. James A. DiRenna, the award has recognized the top male and female basketball players in the Kansas City area for decades, with names like Jaron and Kareem Rush, along with Clayton Custer recently winning the award.

After DiRenna’s death in 1996, his son, Dr. James A. DiRenna Jr., carried on the legacy and paired with the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association to keep the honor rolling.

Braun, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound shooting guard who signed with KU in November, led the Huskies to a 27-2 record and the Class 6A state championship this season, averaging 27.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game, including 16 points and 10 rebounds in the title-game win over Washburn Rural High.

He also was named the Gatorade Boys Baksetball Player of the Year for Kansas and was a two-time all-state selection during his 1,000-point prep career.

Braun is one of two future KU players currently signed in the 2019 class — Little Rock, Ark., point guard Issac McBride is the other — and the Jayhawks currently have four scholarships available to hand out in the 2019 class with Charlie Moore, K.J. Lawson, Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes all electing to move on from the program in the past couple of weeks.

Reply 5 comments from Gary Denning Kall3742 Steve Quatrocky Brad Avery Karen Mansfield-Stewart

Is top 5 Class of 2020 prospect R.J. Hampton an option for Kansas in the Class of 2019?

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

It’s far from a given and might not amount to anything, but the recruitment of Class of 2020 guard R.J. Hampton is a shining example of how things are never as bad as they might seem in recruiting because angles always exist and coaches never stop working.

With the start of the spring signing period now one week away and the Kansas men’s basketball program sitting with just two players signed in its 2019 class — a group that figures to come with some serious importance both next year and beyond — many KU fans have begun to grumble about what’s going on with KU’s recruiting.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Big surprise, right? Aren’t fans always grumbling about recruiting in one way or another?

Although that does seem to be the case — mostly because fans of all programs always seem to believe their school should sign three or four of the top 10 players in every class — it makes a little more sense this time around, given that both of KU’s 2019 signees, guards Christian Braun and Issac McBride, are ranked outside of the top 100, leaving a sizable hole in the area usually filled by an Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson or Quentin Grimes.

There is, however, still time, and the Jayhawks remain in the mix for some of the top talent in the country.

Top 40 shooting guard Cassius Stanley will make his decision between KU, UCLA and Oregon on April 17. I read recently that he hasn’t heard from UCLA in weeks and, with a new coach in the mix out there, this one could be down to the Jayhawks and Ducks.

Top 10 prospect Matt Hurt, whom many have trending hard toward Duke down the homestretch, will announce his choice on April 19.

Those decisions we’ll know soon enough. And landing either player — let alone both — would be a huge boost to KU’s current class.

The rest of the list remains a bit uncertain, none more so than Hampton, who is ranked as the No. 5 overall player in the 2020 class and considered by many recruiting analysts to be the top prep guard in the country regardless of class.

Hampton recently trimmed his list to a final four, with KU, Duke, Kentucky and Memphis making the cut and in-state TCU being eliminated.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In a couple of different interviews and on his own blog on — "The RJ Way" — Hampton said recently that he was back to considering reclassifying into the 2019 class, which would put him on a college campus in a matter of months and give one of those four finalists yet another shot at hitting the jackpot.

All four have compelling pitches to make, and all four can promise to put other elite talent around Hampton. The biggest thing that many have pointed to as the factor that could make Hampton’s decision is his desire to play point.

But with Devon Dotson expected to return to KU and freshman point guards Tre Jones and Ashton Hagans recently announcing their intentions to return to Duke and Kentucky for their sophomore seasons, it looks like that could be less of a given no matter where Hampton goes.

Good thing, too. Because, according to the 6-foot-5, 175-pound 5-star prospect from Little Elm, Texas, that requirement is not actually that big of a factor after all, and he addressed it in his recent blog entry.

“A lot of people think I just want to run the point and that’s it,” Hampton wrote. “I do want to do that too, but if the coach needs me to play off the ball sometimes and guard the two or the three at times I’m fine with that too. I actually think playing with another elite point guard is a more attractive option because either one of us can bring it down and I can do what I do best and score the ball. I think that makes us a more dangerous team. Like you just saw today that Tre Jones is staying at Duke and I think that’s great. Kansas has Devon; all of the schools have really strong point guards, so, again, that only makes it a more attractive option for me.”

If you’ve watched any of Hampton’s highlight videos (see below) and know how Dotson plays, it’s not hard to get excited about the prospect of the two running the floor together for the Jayhawks next season. In many ways, the pairing seems like a perfect fit.

It only has a chance of happening, though, if Hampton reclassifies.

He also addressed that in the blog and said he expected to make a final decision in the next couple of months.

“I’m considering reclassifying to 2019 at this point,” he wrote. “I just wanted to see how the teams’ seasons ended and how the rosters were stacking up. What I’ll really be looking at with this decision is who’s there and how I’ll fit in with next year’s squad. I just really want to know how I’d be used in the system.”

In both his Monday blog and a recent sit-down interview with Krysten Peek of, Hampton broke down all of his finalists and had this to say about Kansas.

“With Kansas the main thing I like is the culture and the family vibe that Coach (Bill) Self and Coach (Jerrance) Howard have presented to me,” Hampton wrote. “They’ve been there since my freshman year and I love what they have going on.”

On camera with Peek, he added: “The Kansas relationship has been great. I mean, Coach Self, Coach Jerrance Howard, all the coaching staff has just been great. And when I go down there, all the players treat me like family and the fan base is amazing. They probably have the best fan base in the country when it comes to basketball.”

KU and Memphis are the only programs on his list of finalists that Hampton has used official visits to see, and there’s some chatter that both that fact and the crowded backcourt situations at Duke and Kentucky could leave KU and Memphis as the current leaders.

Time will tell how all of this plays out. And, again, if Hampton elects to stay in high school and waits until 2020 to go to college, that could change things drastically.

But if he reclassifies and joins the 2019 class, landing him in the coming months would be a big time get for a Kansas recruiting class that, at least on paper, appears to be off to a start that's slower than usual.

Here’s a quick look at Hampton’s interview with Peek, which was recorded during Final Four weekend and before he eliminated TCU. It’s still worth watching to get a feel for Hampton's personality.

None by Krysten Peek

None by

Reply 10 comments from Joe Baker Dirk Medema Jayscott Robert  Brock Ashwingrao Carsonc30 Soswalt4

A small hint at a big decision for KU junior Udoka Azubuike

Injured center Udoka Azubuike (35) watches from the bench during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Injured center Udoka Azubuike (35) watches from the bench during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Late in the Big 12 Conference basketball season, Kansas coach Bill Self provided an update on junior center Udoka Azubuike, who missed all but nine games of the 2018-19 season with a hand/wrist injury.

In it, sometime in early March, Self explained that Azubuike still had a screw in his injured hand, was limited in the weight room, was forced to wear a cast for precautionary reasons and had not participated in any contact drills since injuring the hand in early January.

None of that, of course, came as much of a surprise. When Azubuike injured the opposite hand in the same manner in late December of his freshman season, he was not cleared to resume full basketball activities until June, and a similar timeline is expected this time around.

The one difference this time, however, is the question of whether Azubuike will still be at KU when he’s cleared to get back to basketball.

Self’s comments from a few weeks ago hinted at an answer to that, too.

When asked if he thought Azubuike would be a better player after using the bulk of the 2018-19 season to study the game with his mind and later use his observations from the bench as part of his attack, Self briefly addressed Azubuike’s future.

“There’s so many things that he has been so limited on that it would be hard to get better,” Self said. “What you would be hoping for would be maintaining. He’ll be a better player next year than he would have been this year, not because of that, just because he’ll be a year older. He’s still real young. I doubt we’ll get a chance to witness that, though.”

Because Azubuike was out and therefore could not impact KU’s seed or postseason hopes, the comment kind of came and went with little to no attention. But Self’s statement was not all that surprising, given Azubuike’s past.

For one, he took his decision to stay in the draft or return to Kansas for his junior season down to the wire — announcing his return roughly 11 hours before the deadline — and spent most of the month of May trying to find a home in the NBA so he could make the jump.

It never happened, and Azubuike returned to KU with the goal of working on the areas the NBA folks told him he needed to improve. It’s worth noting that Azubuike continued to work hard in the areas he could work — mostly cardio — often running stairs or sprints while the Jayhawks practiced.

Nine games is not enough of a sample size to show whether the work Azubuike did in the offseason significantly addressed the improvements NBA officials wanted to see, so it’s hard to know whether the 7-foot Nigerian actually improved his standing in the eyes of NBA scouts and GMs.

But at the time of his injury, the junior center looked an awful lot like he did as a sophomore, averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game on 70.5% shooting in just more than 20 minutes a game.

His final numbers from the 2017-18 season were strikingly similar, albeit over a much longer period of time — 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on 77% shooting in 23.6 minutes per outing.

What all that means for Azubuike is anybody’s guess. And there’s no doubt that even with his latest injury, Azubuike has done everything he can to keep his body, conditioning and mind in the best basketball shape possible.

We saw that often during the postseason, with Dok running sprints or stairs on the side while the rest of the team practiced on the floor.

But based on Self’s recent comment and the fact that the big fella was so eager to leave a year ago, it’s not hard to envision him foregoing his senior year and turning pro.

Best case, he catches on with an NBA squad — drafted or not — and finds a way to parlay his mammoth size and ability at the rim into a nice career.

Worst case, he heads overseas and makes a bunch of money that way.

There is, of course, a chance that Azubuike could elect to return to KU for his senior season, but the native Nigerian always has struck me as a guy who’s more eager to be a pro than a four-year college player.

Either way, we should have a better idea of the 7-footer’s future plans in the next week or so.

Recent NCAA/NBA rule changes made it possible for college prospects to test via the combine and pre-draft workout stuff more than once, and it would make perfect sense for Azubuike to look to take advantage of everything at his disposal.

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