Bill Self's young Kansas team. The player to the far right must be a fifth-year senior. (Looking good, Max!)
Smack-dab in the center of the Jayhawks’ media guide stands Perry Ellis, his stoic face atop a noticeably more muscular frame. While the rest of the team emits playful energy around him, Ellis is a rock, his eyes locked dead ahead.
Forget a tagline, it’s all too apparent what the program is saying: The 2013-14 Kansas Jayhawks are Perry Ellis’ team.
“Perry could easily be our leading scorer,” Kansas coach Bill Self said during the year’s first press conference.
To reiterate, a team stocked with Wiggins, Wayne Seldon, Conner Frankamp – all with unconscious scoring ability – will follow Ellis’ pace.
“I think he’s a natural scorer,” Self said. “Last year he was trying to fit in and be one of many, this year he’s got to have more of a hungry attitude.”
It was all too easy for Ellis to coast through most of the year. His quiet demeanor didn’t lead to any noteworthy comments and his gradual transition to the college game didn’t merit much excitement.
Then, one day, everyone looked up and saw Ellis dropping 23 points against Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament seemingly out of nowhere. He played as calm and cool as he had all season, but with an air of confidence guiding him to the hole.
“I think the big thing with Perry is him being comfortable,” Self said. “It’s nice to see him grow in that way.”
The worst part of his transfer to Kansas might just be that Black’s name goes in the same recruiting class as Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, et al, which is good news for Kansas.
“Not very often do you recruit a senior that’s already started three years,” Bill Self said of Black at Kansas’ media day. “And have him come in and be as well respected and basically be the leader of our big guys already.”
If there’s such a thing as a lower pressure job in high stakes college basketball, Black found it.
…“Kansas is my type of place,” Black said on media day. “I’ve always liked Kansas’ style of the way they function.” And, according to Self, none of Black’s experience will go to waste.
“He’ll have a great chance to play as much as he wants,” Self said. “I’m expecting him to have a big year.” Black’s automatic points won’t be the only thing Self is counting on. He’s going to need him to help with the growth of the Jayhawks’ other bigs, namely Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor.
Ellis already said that Black has helped improve his game, and Black sees his role as more of a blessing than anything else. “I’m definitely cool with it,” Black said. “If coach believes in me, then why wouldn’t I believe in myself.”
Some of you have never forgotten Calvin Rayford, the supremely gifted point guard who led Milwaukee Washington to the 1990 state basketball title and is still the only player from the city to be named a McDonald's All-American.
And then there are the middle schoolers who knew nothing of Calvin Rayford. They did, however, know their teacher, Mr. Rayford, and at 5 foot 6 inches he didn't strike them as one of the best players the city has ever produced.
So when word got out that Rayford played some ball in his day, he went to the Internet for proof.
"They have no clue," he said. "I go on the Internet and Google myself and show them and they're like 'Wow, he did really play with Paul Pierce."
Rayford reached heights most of us wanna-be ballers can only dream of and rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in the sport. In high school, he dropped dimes to a little-known guard who eventually made it to the NBA, Latrell Sprewell. At the McDonald's All-American game, Rayford was joined in the starting lineup by Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson and Fab Fivers Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard.
At Kansas, he played for Roy Williams and helped the Jayhawks reach the 1993 Final Four. He also played with Pierce, whom Rayford says is still a close friend.
It's a hall of fame career that will be officially recognized as such by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Saturday at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
"I'm very humbled, very excited about getting this honor," he said. "Everybody doesn't get this honor. To me this is another chapter in my life. It lets the kids know that you never know what will happen 20 years later if you handle your business off the court."
…These days Rayford is still focused on school. He teaches at LaFollette Elementary at 9th and Ring.
"I'm teaching seventh and eighth grade, all subjects and I'm loving it," he said. "I taught the sixth-graders here last year, so most of the kids I'm familiar with. I have them again.
"I love coming in the inner city and MPS. A lot of people say MPS is not good, they don't have a good education, but I'm a product of MPS. To see me coming from the projects and graduating from MPS and college, and to still be getting recognized 20 years later, it's a good feeling."
Rayford graduated from Kansas with a degree in criminal justice in December 1996 then played seven years professionally in countries like Mexico, France, Poland, Norway and Venezuela before living with Pierce for a few years.
…"I played for some heady coaches. They make you think the game," Rayford said. "(First) Coach Gordon and when I got to Coach Williams he just took it to another level as far as being disciplined. I always talk about the three D's of life: dedication, desire and discipline and I think those were the things that were instilled in me by Coach Gordon and Coach Williams."
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Despite averaging 10.4 points and 12.8 rebounds at summer league, Robinson doesn't consider his Las Vegas performance as anything exceptional, calling it "a step forward." Robinson said he thinks his second NBA season will go better than his first because he expects to be given more opportunity to play and prove himself than he was as a rookie. Will he be the Blazers' first frontcourt player off the bench? "If it's up to me, then I would do all I can to make sure I'm the first big off the bench, but I'm not the coach, so … whenever my name's called, that's when I'll go out."
…The Trail Blazers report that they've exercised the third-year options on point guard Damian Lillard, center Meyers Leonard and forward Thomas Robinson.
The Gonzalez twins are on the injured list as the Kansas University freshmen prepare for the start of their first season in women’s college basketball.
Dylan Gonzalez, a 6-foot freshman from Highland High in Pocatello, Idaho, had hernia surgery on Friday and likely will miss at least a couple weeks of practice, KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said Monday. Dakota Gonzalez, also a 6-footer, has been out after suffering a concussion.
“Dylan won’t do anything this weekend,” Henrickson said, indicating Dylan Gonzalez will miss Friday’s Late Night in the Phog scrimmage. “They say typically within a week you can start on the exercise bike. Dakota ... we’re being cautious. We’re hoping she can go on Friday. She’s able to go halfcourt.”
Big 12/College News
In the 1940s, dunks weren't a big part of basketball. Nobody celebrated a slam. Basketball was three decades away from the first dunk contest.
But Kurland was the first. He is credited with being the first to dunk in a game and to regularly use the high-percentage shot.
Kurland, who led Oklahoma State to two national championships in the 1940s, died at home in south Florida on Sunday. He was 88.
The Aggies from Oklahoma A&M, as they were known then, were built around Kurland, one of basketball's first stars. A 7-footer, he towered over most opposition in leading coach Henry Iba's teams to the NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946. Kurland, a three-time All-American, was chosen the NCAA Tournament's most outstanding player in both events.
The dunk happened by accident, Kurland recalled in a 2012 story by the Orlando Sentinel. The team was playing a game at Temple in 1944, and the ball bounced away under the Aggies' basket.
"The ball happened to be under the basket," Kurland said. "I got it up and stuffed it in. That started it, I guess . . . it was an unintentional accident. It wasn't planned."
Kurland also influenced the rule book. Because he and DePaul big man George Mikan often leaped to swat away or simply snag opponent's shots above the rim, basketball instituted defensive goaltending in 1945.
The game's premier big men played in one of college basketball first major showdowns, after the 1945 season when Oklahoma A&M met DePaul, the NIT champion. Mikan fouled out in the first half with nine points, and Kurland scored 14 in the Aggles' lackluster victory.
Kurland, from Jennings, Mo., considered attending Missouri. But Oklahoma A&M played a game at Saint Louis University. Iba invited Kurland to dinner on the trip and offered a scholarship. Missouri could only offer Kurland a job.
Big XII composite schedule
ESPN College GameDay Schedule
2013-14 Early-season events schedule
Having No. 1-ranked Andrew Wiggins and five other highly regarded freshmen on campus could assist Kansas University’s basketball coaches in their recruiting efforts this school year.
“Yes, I think so,” KU coach Bill Self said, asked if signing so many top propects in the Class of 2013 might attract others in ’14, ’15 and down the line. “The more kids you sign that advance and go on to play the next level is the best for recruiting, but there is no question that kids want to go where other good players are playing. There are many other schools that can stake that claim, but we are certainly one of them.”
KU — which has had six first-round picks in the past four NBA Drafts, including one-and-dones Ben McLemore and Xavier Henry — will have three stellar senior prospects in town for Friday’s Late Night in the Phog (6:30 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse).
They are: No. 4-ranked (by Rivals.com) Cliff Alexander, 6-8 power forward from Chicago Curie High; No. 12 Kelly Oubre, 6-7 shooting guard from Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.; and No. 17 Malik Pope, 6-8 small forward from Laguna Creek High in Elk Grove, Calif.
…KU, which has two scholarships to give in recruiting — for senior Tarik Black and certain one-and-done Wiggins — may have more scholarships to award if other players turn pro or transfer. No. 1-ranked Jahlil Okafor, 6-10 from Chicago Whitney Young, and No. 5 Tyus Jones, 6-1 from Apple Valley (Minn.) High, will visit on Oct. 18-19. No. 6 Myles Turner, 6-11 from Euless High in Trinity, Texas, has yet to finalize a visit date. He is attending a USA Basketball event this weekend in Colorado Springs, thus cannot attend Late Night.
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