Even somebody as finely-tuned and well-conditioned as Frank Mason III has to prepare himself mentally for Bill Self’s Kansas University Basketball Boot Camp.
“You just have to get in your mind to work hard, grind hard and just be ready to get through the day,” said KU’s junior point guard from Petersburg, Virginia, who has made it through the first three Boot Camp conditioning sessions with today through Friday workouts still on tap.
“It’s tough but you just have to think positive and you’ll get through it.”
…Mason, who also played 32 and 35 minutes in a pair of exhibitions vs. Canada, actually took some coach-ordered time off following the Games.
“I did a lot of recovery with Hudy,” the 5-11, 185-pound Mason said of strength coach Andrea Hudy. “I still got in the gym, got up shots, ballhandling, a little conditioning. I just tried to stay fit, do what I usually do. That’s what I did.”
Mason and his teammates have been playing in pick-up games since the start of first semester classes the third week of August.
“Everyone so far,” Mason said, asked which players have been faring well. “Everyone shoots the ball pretty well throughout the practices and individual workouts we have (two hours a week in accordance with NCAA rules). I’d say everyone has improved.”
Of first-year Jayhawks Carlton Bragg, Dwight Coleby, Cheick Diallo, Lagerald Vick and walk-on Clay Young, Mason said: “They are hard workers. They never stop trying. Even when they are doing drills wrong, they want to learn and want to get better.”
The nonconference schedules have been released, which means it’s time to identify the biggest games of the season. There are some matchups that simply can’t be missed.
Kentucky at Kansas, Jan. 30
You can make your case for all of these other games, but this is the one to circle for the 2015-16 season. Not only because it’s two of the most storied programs, or that the two coaches aren’t exactly chummy, but also because this one takes place in arguably the most electric environment in the country – Allen Fieldhouse.
Kentucky is, well, Kentucky. The ‘Cats may not be quite as deep and powerful on paper as they were a year ago, but John Calipari’s team is still plenty capable of going to another Final Four. This may be Bill Self’s best chance to win it all since the Jayhawks cut down the nets in 2008 – when they happened to use Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer to help knock off Calipari’s Memphis Tigers in the national title game.
These two coaches fight for recruits and national titles, these two fan bases fight over Midwest supremacy, and these two teams are as talented as anyone out there this season.
There’s not a nonconference game I’d rather be at this year than when Kentucky walks into Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 30.
…In addition to no shortage of talent on both sides, this one should be fairly evenly matched. Kentucky has plenty of NBA talent once again with Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray projected as likely lottery picks and Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Isaiah Briscoe and even Tyler Ulis on the radar of NBA executives. Kansas may not have quite as much NBA-caliber talent, but the Jayhawks possess a handful of guys the NBA has on its draft boards: Cheick Diallo, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and freshman Carlton Bragg.
...There are intriguing matchups just about everywhere. We’ll start with the backcourt where Kansas has a veteran guard duo of Selden and Frank Mason – and plenty of depth on the perimeter with Devonte' Graham, Mykhailiuk and Brannen Greene. Selden hasn’t quite lived up to the hype his first two seasons, but he’s a junior and is coming off a strong performances in South Korea at the World University Games. Mason has made significant improvement, but he’ll have the difficult task of trying to keep diminutive floor leader Ulis in check. Ulis should be the primary ballhandler now that Andrew Harrison is gone, but Kentucky also has a pair of freshman combo guards who will make immediate impacts: Canadian Murray and McDonald’s All-American Briscoe.
Then there’s the frontcourt. Kansas has some experience with Ellis and Jamari Traylor while Kentucky its own veterans in Poythress and Lee. Poythress may struggle early in the season after missing most of last season with a knee injury, but by late January he’ll have shaken off the rust. Despite vets up front, it could be a pair of freshmen who determine this one: Kansas’ hard-playing forward Diallo (if he is cleared by the NCA) and Kentucky’s skilled forward Labissiere. They are completely different, but both should be among the elite players (not just frosh) next season.
...Bill Self’s record at Allen Fieldhouse is a ridiculous 190-9, so the numbers certainly tilt heavily in favor of Kansas in this one. While most of the 190 victories didn’t come against teams the caliber of Kentucky, I’m still going with Kansas. Allen Fieldhouse is as hostile a venue (Kansas and Duke are 1A and 1B) as any in the country. However, one advantage Kentucky will have is that this SEC/Big 12 matchup won’t come in the first month of the season – as the majority of the nonconference matchups. It will be played on Jan. 30 – and the Wildcats should have plenty of swagger and the freshmen (Labissiere, Murray, Briscoe) enough experience coming into this one.
I’ll still go with KU due to home court, experience and more depth – with the caveat that Diallo is cleared to play this season. Diallo is everything that many felt that Cliff Alexander would be a year ago – a tough, physical inside player who goes hard on every possession and is able to dominate on the glass.
Final Score: Kansas 71, Kentucky 68.
ESPN ($) Goodman
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
Big 12 / College News
Kansas State publicly unveiled the new men’s basketball uniforms its players will wear this season.
On Tuesday, the Wildcats shared a photo on Twitter of Justin Edwards, Steven Hurt and Brian Rohleder wearing the new home white uniforms. They feature purple at the top and bottom of the shorts and purple on the top of the jersey.
It’s not a huge change from last year’s look, but a change nonetheless.
ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale and his wife have donated $1 million to the University of Notre Dame to provide financial assistance to undergraduate students with demonstrated need.
Vitale said he and his wife, Lorraine, developed a love for the university where their daughters attended and played on the tennis team.
Self and assistant Norm Roberts went recruiting after Tuesday’s Boot Camp session. They checked in on DeAaron Fox and Trae Young, Jayhawkslant.com reports. Fox, a 6-3 senior point guard from Cypress Lakes in Katy, Texas, is ranked No. 5 in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com. Young, a 6-1 junior point guard from Norman (Oklahoma) North, is ranked No. 26 in the Class of 2017.
The University of Louisville rejoined the battle for five-star Class of 2016 forward T.J. Leaf a little late, but coach Rick Pitino met with Leaf and his family on Tuesday evening in California and appears to have caught the Cardinals up.
Leaf, a 6-foot-9 post scorer who was once committed to Arizona but recently opened his recruiting back up, has set an official visit to Louisville for Oct. 2, his dad, Brad, told The Courier-Journal.
Leaf will join four-star Texas guard Andrew Jones that weekend. The duo will see Louisville conduct the first of two Red-White intrasquad scrimmages at the KFC Yum! Center.
…An added element that helps Louisville with Leaf, though, is its proximity to his grandparents and extended family. His mom was born and raised in Evansville, Ind., while his dad grew up in Indianapolis.
"Oh, we're Midwestern people," Brad said. "We've just been out here for 15 years."
In addition to Leaf and Jones visiting that first weekend in October, Louisville also has five-star 2016 guard De'Aaron Fox scheduled to visit this weekend. According to a report from InsideTheVille.com, Fox convinced U of L's only 2016 commitment, V.J. King, who is friends with Fox, to also come down to campus for an unofficial visit.
The high school basketball Class of 2016 is one of the deepest in recent memory, and Kentucky coach John Calipari has been burning up the recruiting trail trying to round up his share of the talent.
On Monday, he had an in-home visit with the nation's top point guard prospect, De'Aaron Fox, and on Tuesday was reportedly visiting No. 1 overall recruit Harry Giles and the mother of five-star forward Edrice "Bam" Adebayo. Calipari saw both Giles and Adebayo last week as well.
Within the past two weeks, the Wildcats coach also spent time with at least four more five-star prospects, visiting center Marques Bolden, power forward Wenyen Gabriel and shooting guard Malik Monk and hosting small forward Miles Bridges for an official visit.
…PG De'Aaron Fox, No. 3 overall in 247Sports Composite: The 6-foot-4 playmaker from Texas didn't start out this recruiting cycle at the top of the Cats' list, but "I think what happened is Calipari actually watched him and realized, like I've known for a while, that he's the best point guard in the country," Meyer said. "Everything changed after they watched him in July. You name anything a point guard needs to do, and he does it at an elite level. He's a winner, has intangibles, makes players around him better, doesn't carry baggage, is coachable and has a complete game. Someone would have to tell me what his weakness is.
"My read on Fox is that Kansas was the favorite, but he always had his eye open for Kentucky or Duke, and Kentucky stepped up. So Kentucky's in great shape."
...SG Malik Monk, No. 6 overall in 247Sports Composite: High school basketball's version of Russell Westbrook, the 6-foot-4 scoring machine will visit UK and home-state Arkansas on consecutive weekends next month. Most figure he'll ultimately choose between the Cats and Razorbacks, for whom his brother was a two-sport athlete.
"I think Kentucky's got a great shot," Meyer said. "I feel good about it (for the Cats), but man, those are deep ties to Arkansas, obviously. That will be interesting to watch, but right now, if I'm pressed to make a prediction, I'd go with Kentucky."
…"I'm still of the belief that Giles will end up with Duke," Meyer said. "There's always hope, especially when you're Kentucky, but if I'm betting, I'm betting Duke. And I'll tell you this, because I see it all the time in this business: just because players are saying certain things and they're visiting places and they're entertaining coaches doesn't necessarily mean the decision hasn't already been made."
…"Marques is a tough one. The intel I'm getting is Kansas, although a lot of people think Duke, but I really haven't heard anyone talking Kentucky," Meyer said.
Last night he was in Houston, visiting De’Aaron Fox, who may just be the best lead guard in a class overloaded with talented floor generals. Cal’s visit is a story in and of itself, but what happened during the visit is much more interesting that the visit itself.
You see, Fox invited a classmate of his to the visit, a student named Seth Barnett. Barnett is a diehard Kentucky fan, his family relocating to Texas when Seth’s dad got a job there, according to Kentucky Sports Radio.
Don’t be surprised if there is some backlash here. The twitter account for Fox’s high school basketball team tweeted out the pictures with the hashtag #brandbuilding. Was this a genuine gesture, or was this an attempt to improve his public persona — One orchestrated by the marketing genius that is Coach Cal?
Some of the top college basketball recruits in the United States and Canada may play in a showcase event in Wichita in November.
While details and teams are not set, Sunrise Christian Academy coach Luke Barnwell is optimistic about the potential for a field that includes elite prep, post-graduate and high school teams. So is Athlete Institute’s Brandon Lesovsky, a Kansan who coaches a high-profile team from Canada. His players include center Thon Maker, a five-star prospect recruited by Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame and others, and forward Nikola Djogo (Joe-go), who is interested in Wichita State.
“It’s pretty exciting for me to take a team back to Kansas,” Lesovsky said.
The showcase is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 14, Barnwell said. Sunrise’s gym, at its Bel Aire campus, is too small, so organizers are looking for a site. In the past, Sunrise played at Newman University and Maize South High. Barnwell said the field could range from four to eight teams and he wants to get commitments locked in within the next two weeks. Sunrise’s high school team will play.
“We're really excited because it's going to bring a high level of basketball to Wichita,” Barnwell said. “There’s going to be some really, really good players. With the level of talent coming in, I would think people from all over the city would be interested in watching.”
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2015-16)
Late Night in the Phog
Bill Self Camp KU Alumni games
60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
and more, now on YouTube