“Perry said (in locker room after game), ‘Hey I’m exhausted.’ Hunter said, ‘I’m tired.’ It’s not from a physical tired but a stress,” Self said. “Winning on Senior Day sometimes is a great great boost, but I also think sometimes it can be an added weight, too. I felt for whatever reason we didn’t play loose and free like we’ve been playing.”
Overall, Self was not thrilled with KU’s performance.
“The reality is I couldn’t be more confident about these guys moving forward, but I also know the energy level we had defensively in the first half, that may be enough to go home disappointed in a one-and-done game,” he said.
Perry Ellis selected USA Today All-American 2nd team
Perry Ellis selected Bleacher Report All-American 2nd team
The blood speckles started just below the adidas logo on Perry Ellis’ shorts, imprints of his left elbow after an aggressive second-half boxout resulted in a flagrant foul and also a brief connection with Iowa State forward Deonte Burton’s tooth.
In the minutes after No. 1 Kansas’ 85-78 victory over 21st-ranked Iowa State on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, Ellis forward remained in his white jersey a few steps from center court, waiting with teammate Evan Manning for his turn on a television interview.
“That was a big-time shot,” Manning, a senior guard, said to him, floating his right hand to the sky before pointing to the north goal.
“I had to,” Ellis, a senior forward, said with a smile, before turning to give his buddy a bro hug.
…With KU leading 74-71 with 1:53 remaining, coach Bill Self pushed four fingers up to the air, signaling “4-up” — the play that might as well be called, “Try to guard Perry Ellis in space.”
After Ellis faked a high ball screen and received a pass, he went right to work. He drove left on Iowa State’s Georges Niang then spun back right, putting in a soft layup high off the glass.
“I just wanted it to go in,” Perry’s mother, Fonda, said of her view from behind Iowa State’s bench in Section R at Allen Fieldhouse. “I was so happy it went in.”
…The fact he made plays down the stretch — that included a final 4 minutes where he “locked in and guarded” Niang defensively, according to Self — had to be considered more impressive considering the circumstances.
With Kansas trailing by two late, Graham worked his way into the corner and slipped behind the defense. Graham fired a corner 3 and knocked it in to give the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks (27-4, 15-3 Big 12) a one-point advantage.
…Self said Graham and junior Frank Mason did a much better job playing defense on Monte Morris, who had 13 points but missed seven of his 10 shot attempts. Morris had 21 points in the teams’ last meeting, an 85-72 victory for ISU on Jan. 26 that represents KU’s last defeat.
Graham finished Saturday’s game with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting including four 3-pointers and three assists. The 6-foot-2 guard’s game was filled with clutch baskets, including one with 2:29 to play.
Ellis dove to the floor after a loose ball, corralled it in and kicked it to junior Wayne Selden. Selden took the feed and sent a bounce pass weaving past the defense and through the paint to Graham. Graham was open in the lane and converted the lay-in to put KU up three.
“We always talk about closing,” Self said. “It’s an even game, a coin-flip game, and those possessions totally turned for us.”
After KU grabbed the lead back from the Cyclones, the Jayhawks began inching closer to their 32nd consecutive senior night victory. With 47 ticks left in the clock, Graham hit another 3 to give KU an eight-point cushion, effectively icing the game.
In Ames, Iowa, back in late January, ISU point guard Monté Morris carved up the Jayhawks at will, finishing with 21 points, nine assists and no turnovers in a 13-point Iowa State win that featured the Cyclones outscoring the Jayhawks 49-29 in the second half.
“Morris was the best player in the game,” KU coach Bill Self said after that January loss. “He dominated. I mean dominated.”
Morris’ final line from KU’s Senior Day victory was not at all indicative of the role the ISU junior played. He finished with a respectable 13 points, four rebounds and four assists versus one turnover in 40 minutes. But for much of the game he was a non-factor.
KU junior Frank Mason III deserves most of the credit for that and Self deserves props for making sure Mason understood the importance of putting the clamps on Morris.
“We talked about it,” Self said. “I mentioned 21, nine and zero a thousand times this week. Not even saying it to Frank but definitely knowing he was gonna hear it.”
Mason heard it, all right. And Morris, no doubt, left Lawrence wishing he hadn’t.
Georges Niang sat down, a blank stare on his face, despondent.
It’s not hard to imagine three words rattling around his mind.
Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.
“That annoying song they sing at the end,” Niang said. “That’s one thing I’ll for sure remember.”
Kansas’ distinctive chant once again ushered Niang and the Iowa State men’s basketball team off the Allen Fieldhouse floor with a loss, this one an 85-78 loss to the top-ranked Jayhawks in which the 21st-ranked Cyclones led with less than 4 minutes left.
With the versatile 6-foot-4 Burton on the floor, ISU reeled off a 13-2 run in which it made four-straight shots - a 3-pointer for Burton and Hallice Cooke along with buckets from Burton and Niang - as the Cyclones ran nearly everything through Niang on the right block.
Then, with just less than 8 minutes to play and ISU down one, Burton took a hit to the face that pushed his tooth through his cheek and earned Kansas’ Perry Ellis a flagrant foul.
“I honestly don’t remember,” Burton said, “all I know is feeling my face and then my neck and then I didn’t know what happened. I just knew I was hit.”
Despite the pain, Burton stepped on to the floor to make two free throws.
“Focus,” he said.
The injury, though, was followed by Burton retreating to the bench, where he stayed for the rest of the game as a coach’s decision.
“I didn’t care what happened,” Burton said. “I just wanted to get back on the floor. I wanted to win. That was me trying to stay focused to come back in and help the team win.
“I felt like I was just starting to get a rhythm and then I couldn’t get back in.”
“I thought that was nice, and I’m sure he’ll remember that for a long time,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Our people have enjoyed watching him play for four years. They’ve enjoyed watching him compete. And how can you not respect his game?”
After KU beat ISU 85-78, longtime Kansas broadcaster Bob Davis was addressing the crowd at Allen Fieldhouse. He spotted Niang on press row, doing an interview with the ISU radio crew. Davis pointed Niang out to the crowd, saying "What a great battle."
The crowd stood up and applauded the decorated ISU senior.
KU coach Bill Self said he can remember only two other times an opponent received a standing ovation: Buddy Hield and Kevin Durant.
“Fatigue, for sure,” point guard Monte Morris said after the 21-10 Cyclones lost a one-point lead with 4:45 to play, and made just one field goal in the game’s last 7 minutes, 5 seconds.
“This building was very hot. And when they make runs — you really feel it.
“That mid-range shot I shot over (Landen) Lucas — I always make that every day of the week.
“I didn’t get enough legs. We just have to rest.”
…“We’ll be in a great mindset,” said Jameel McKay after scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds during 36 solid minutes. “Right now, our confidence is skyrocketing. We gave them a tough fight in probably the toughest environment in the country.”
Des Moines Register
"Kansas is really good at defense," said Niang, who scored 22. "Obviously if you're going to do something down the stretch and it's working, somebody's got to make an adjustment. I thought we made adjustments and ran other plays, but I think the thing is we missed shots we could have made -- I missed a couple. That's just how the cookie crumbles sometimes."
Perry Ellis scored 22 points, including a hook shot over Niang to ice the game, as Kansas stretched its nation-leading home winning streak to 42 games.
…"Obviously I'm disappointed," Niang said. "Anytime you get to finish your last Big 12 regular season, it's disappointing to end it on a loss. Winning in (Allen Fieldhouse) is something I wanted to do. So (losing) is real disappointing, but that's not going to take away from what this team could do in the future."
Flowers, portraits, wisecracks and videos were prevalent Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas observed senior day after all, with tributes to all such participants, including one who actually qualifies for AARP discounts, Bob Davis.
In between pregame and postgame recognition, however, a basketball game broke out. A close one. Something so fretful that inside the final TV time out, Kansas actually trailed Iowa State.
A senior day defeat, something Davis never described in his 32 years as the voice of the Jayhawks, was a distinct possibility. Then, the Jayhawks went on a decisive 11-0 tear and, presto, an 85-78 victory was sealed as Kansas won its home finale for the 33rd consecutive year.
The possibility of defeat — against an opponent that stung the Jayhawks in Ames back in January — never crossed the mind of KU’s top player, Perry Ellis.
“You know, I never think that way. I never have. It’s over when it’s over, and I’m going to play until it’s over,’’ Ellis said.
…Clinging to a one-point lead, the Jayhawks looked as if they would come up empty on a key possession late in the game.
The ball was loose. The Cyclones had numbers if they could corral it. So Ellis dove, managed to maintain possession, then passed to teammate Wayne Selden, who deftly delivered the prettiest bounce pass of the season to Devonte’ Graham.
The easy layup bumped KU’s lead to 74-71 with 2:29 left and was part of the late flurry that enabled the Jayhawks to pull away and spoil Iowa State’s bold upset bid.
“That was the biggest play of the game,’’ Graham said. “We were up one at the time and I came down and lost the ball and they were about to have a fast break. Perry dove on the ball.’’
“It’s been a long season. To finish it on a win at home on Senior Night with so much emotion ... it’s always going to be a hard game to win,” Evan Manning shared. “Coach said, ‘Good job. There’s a lot of things we have to do better.’’’
Manning did not attempt a shot.
“Coach told me, ‘Good defense.’ He knew I wanted to shoot one. I didn’t get one (shot) up. I would have if I was open, if it was a good shot,” Manning added.
Late-game leads have turned into late-game losses at an all-to familiar rate for the Iowa State men’s basketball team.
The regular season finale against top-ranked Kansas was no exception.
Just like they’ve done for 40-straight games in Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks squashed any notion they would leave their home building with a loss.
“Disappointed for our guys,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. “I thought we played really well in stretches and put ourselves in a position up here with three minutes to go in a one-point game with a chance to win up here.
“We just weren’t able to finish.”
No. 20 Iowa State has had seven of eight conference games that it lost leads in the final five minutes and while the 85-78 loss at No. 1 Kansas wasn’t sealed until the final 60 seconds, the hiccups started much sooner than that.
…Junior Monte Morris had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists before asking Prohm to leave the game with 14 seconds to go. He was fouled by KU guard Frank Mason on a 3-point attempt and was diagnosed with a shoulder strain.
“I’ve never had nothing like this so I don’t know how it’s going to be, but I know I’ll be ready to go by Thursday,” Morris said. “But right now I’m in a lot of pain.”
She had spent the last five seasons watching her boy grow into a man, and to her, at least on this afternoon, the players, coaches and fans that played a role in that development were just as important.
“They’ve become a second part of our family,” Golson would later say. “The way it feels for (Jamari), it feels for me. I can’t believe it’s over. I just can’t believe it’s over.”
…Earlier in the week she had tried to persuade her son to prepare his comments ahead of time, worried he would fall back to his signature “ums” and “uhs” too much. He insisted on winging it.
While there were no shortage of “ums” or “uhs” throughout Traylor’s 7-minute, 25-second speech, there were also plenty of other things. Laughter. Memories. Shoutouts. And tears. A lot of tears. From Traylor, from Golson and from KU coach Bill Self, who called Traylor’s journey from homeless teenager in Chicago to college graduate and grown man in Lawrence “maybe the greatest story we’ve ever had here.”
…“He’s a completely different person,” Golson said. “I think it’s basically the male role models that he has in his life now, because before, he was just going through life with no structure, no anything. I tried to give it to him, but as a woman, you know, it’s kind of hard raising a man, especially in Chicago.
“After a while, he stopped listening to me. So I just thank God for (the coaching staff). I just thank God for them.”
One of those male role models is assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, who recruited Traylor personally and made a visit to Chicago to get Golson’s blessing to let her son choose Kansas. Townsend promised her Jamari would be taken care of, and she responded with one request: Treat him like a son. If he acts up, she said, don’t be afraid to take care of it “… however you need to.”
The road wasn’t always easy, but in his speech, Traylor also got emotional when remembering that house visit. He thanked Townsend for being a man he can talk to about anything. Townsend said Traylor’s comments touched his heart, and their relationship is something that transcends basketball.
“He’s gotten in some trouble since he’s been here, and I was the first guy he called,” Townsend said. “He grew up a lot different, but at the end of the day, he always listened, and I think his mom deserves a lot of credit, because she said, ‘Hey, I’m turning him over to you,’ and she told Jamari, ‘You listen to him like you did me, like he’s your own father.’
“It meant the world to me.”
Of Traylor’s speech and his own reaction captured on the video board, Self said: “I’m not the most emotional guy. When you know his journey I can’t do anything but respect him. To know how frustrating he’s been to me ... to know how many times I’ve called him in (his office) and said, ‘One more screw-up.’ All those things.
“To me he’s been so much fun to be around. I don’t think you have to be buddy/buddy with guys. I never have. There’s something about believing in kids and having them respond the way they do and I felt that five years with Jamari. He’ll go down as one of my all-time favorites. I’m not saying I don’t care for the other guys as much. Seeing the deck stacked against him and how he responded to it I have nothing but admiration and respect for him.”
Of the speech, Self added: “He’s very emotional and certainly held it together. He said some nice things from the heart because he knows this place has changed his life forever”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self doesn’t cry often in public, but he couldn’t hold back during forward Jamari Traylor’s senior speech after the Jayhawks’ 85-78 victory over Iowa State on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
Traylor — Self had called him “one of my all-time guys” earlier this week after he overcame obstacles like homelessness in high school — was emotional during his time at the microphone when recalling a story from his freshman year. KU was having a bad practice, and Self called his players together in a huddle, telling them that no one should be having bad days, as no one had been through difficulties like Traylor had earlier in life.
“I was looking at you while I was talking, and your eyes got watery. I was like, ‘Man, this guy really cares about me,’” Traylor said, bringing his jersey up to his face to wipe his eyes.
The Allen Fieldhouse videoboard immediately showed Self, who wiped away a tear running down the left side of his face.
…KU senior forward Perry Ellis embraced the “Ellis is old” jokes on social media during his postgame speech.
“You know, many people would say I’ve been here forever. And you know, they’re right. I had a chance to play with Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning. It’s been great,” Ellis said. “You know, I’ve been thinking: Since I supposedly have unlimited eligibility, why don’t I just come back again next year?”
Teammates lauded the one-liners from the typically stoic Ellis.
“He came out and actually was talking for the first time,” guard Devonte’ Graham said with a smile.
Perry Ellis has heard all the jokes, read all the posts on Twitter about how he looks older than he is and how long he’s been a member of Kansas University’s basketball team.
“So many people say I’ve been here forever and you know, they’re right. I got a chance to play with Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning,” the 22-year-old KU senior said in his Senior Day speech that followed his stellar 22-point, seven-rebound outing Saturday in an 85-78 victory over Iowa State in Allen Fieldhouse.
“Since I supposedly have unlimited eligibility, why don’t I just come back next year?” Ellis added to a thunderous ovation from 16,300 fans.
That’d obviously be great for KU, not so much the other teams in the league, who Saturday saw Ellis add another wrinkle to his game — floor burns.
…“I get on Perry quite a bit for not getting on the floor as much as what I think he should, but he did there at that point,” said KU coach Bill Self, who was moved to tears during an emotional post-game speech of Jamari Traylor (eight points, three steals, two boards). “That was the biggest possession of the game. It was huge for us.”
“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
Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
This vote was a veritable dead heat between Self and Tubby Smith at Texas Tech. On one side, you had the overachieving Smith with the Red Raiders doing something that very few people expected coming into the year. We at CBS Sports had Texas Tech ninth in the Big 12 coming into the year, and Smith has turned it around to where the team is now likely to make the NCAA Tournament. Just a remarkable job.
However, what Self is doing at Kansas is even better. This season, the Jayhawks clinched their 12th straight Big 12 title under Self, just a totally insane achievement that seems unlikely to ever happen on the high-major stage again. In 2016, he's doing it with what looks to be no first round picks in his starting lineup and a young bench that he's begun to rely on more and more as the season has gone forward. This team has genuine national title hopes, and for good reason. Self's a big part of that.
CBS SPORTS ALL-BIG 12 TEAM
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Monte Morris, Iowa State
Perry Ellis, Kansas
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Taurean Prince, Baylor
Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Frank Mason, Kansas
Jaysean Paige, West Virginia
Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma
Wayne Selden, Kansas
Kansas heads into the postseason as arguably the hottest team in the nation. The Jayhawks won another Big 12 title playing in what was perhaps the toughest conference this season. They’ve won 11 straight and 13 of their last 15 and look every bit like a potential NCAA tournament No. 1 overall seed should.
But is there such a thing as building momentum for the postseason? Does it even really matter?
Well, it’s not so simple. Consider the following ...
Numbers to know:
Looking at the past 10 national champions, only Connecticut in 2011 won it all despite having a losing record its final 10 games of the regular season. But only six of the past 10 title holders also won their conference tournaments.
So should Kansas stumble in the Big 12 tournament, it can take solace in the fact that both Duke (2015) and Kentucky (2012) were 10-0 to close the season, didn’t win their respective league tournaments, but still ended up cutting down the national championship nets.
Then again, the numbers suggest winning the conference tournament could also be cause for concern. (See, told you it’s not that simple.) Of the Final Four participants over the past 10 seasons, Kentucky (2015), Florida (2014) and Ohio State (2007) went 10-0 to close the regular season and won their conference tournaments, but failed to even make the national title game.
So is it actually good to lose a game? Five teams that went 9-1 over their last 10 regular-season games reached the national title game in the past 10 seasons. Three of them won (Louisville in 2013, Duke in 2010, North Carolina in 2009), with Wisconsin in 2015 and Memphis in 2008 coming up short.
Could that bode well for teams like Michigan State and Villanova this season, which have closed out the season winning nine of 10?
There are also a proud group of “underachievers” that ended up reaching the Final Four. In the past five seasons, four teams reached the final weekend despite finishing the last 10 games of the regular season at 5-5. Three of those teams played in the 2013 Final Four (Syracuse, Michigan and Wichita State), while VCU made a surprise run in 2011 after its uninspiring regular-season finish.
…The place to be
The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The Big 12 was arguably the nation’s best conference this season. And while Kansas ran away with its 12th straight regular-season title, its regular-season dominance hasn’t resulted in a tournament crown the past two seasons. The league tournament figures to be one of the most unpredictable in college basketball. Seven teams finished at .500 or better in the Big 12, which was the highest percentage among Power 5 conferences. With teams playing one another for a third time, there’s no telling what will happen.
A lot of this is nitpicking, or judging on style points in a competition decided by actual points. Because this team has a lot of strengths, too. They are relentless. They are experienced. And since a wobbly three weeks in the middle of January, they have shown themselves to be tough as hell, mentally more than physically, in total comfort in the game’s hottest moments.
If it goes the other way — especially if Kansas loses early — the story will turn, and quickly. It will be said that their regular season won’t mean much, that the Big 12 wasn’t nearly as good as many thought, or that they can’t respond away from the overwhelming advantage of Allen Fieldhouse when an opponent punches back.
But before any of that happens, it’s worth stopping to consider that one of the country’s most storied programs is without an obvious lottery pick and won the nation’s top conferences and will take some fundamental flaws and a No. 1 ranking into a postseason it plans on attacking with the attitude of a midmajor.
“It’s pretty much a different feeling,” Jamari Traylor said when asked to compare this with his four other teams (he redshirted) entering the postseason. “I feel like we’ve got a group of guys who are a little more hungry.”
The Star’s All-Big 12 team
Perry Ellis, F, Kansas, Sr.
Georges Niang, F, Iowa State, Sr.
Taurean Prince, F, Baylor, Sr.
Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma, Sr.
Jaysean Paige, G, West Virginia, Sr.
Player of the year: Hield
Coach of the year: Tubby Smith, Texas Tech
Newcomer of the year: Deonte Burton, G, Iowa State, Jr.
Kansas beat Iowa State 85-78 on Saturday to extend its winning streak to 11 games, improve to 27-4 overall, 15-3 in the Big 12 and, more than likely, secure the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens in the Big 12 Tournament.
That's how far KU is now ahead of the so-called pack.
The Jayhawks finished the regular season with 14 top-50 RPI wins, and the only thing you need to know about that is that no other school in the nation currently has more than 10. And the school that has 10, Oregon, also has four losses outside of the top 25 of the RPI, whereas Kansas only has one loss outside of the top 25 of the RPI. So I honestly can't envision a scenario where anybody has a superior resume to Kansas on Selection Sunday regardless of anything that happens between now and next Sunday. And did I mention that KU just won its 12th straight Big 12 title by two games even though the Big 12 was the nation's toughest league this season by a comfortable margin, according to KenPom?
Needless to say, KU remains No. 1 in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one).
It was unfolding like a horror-movie sequel, and not one that would warrant any critical acclaim. Same villain. Same victims. Barely altered plot, with a setting only 8.8 miles away from the original. Grayson Freakin’ Allen—last seen in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry on Feb. 17, a young man in black, making a joyous sprint across the Dean Dome court after a 74–73 upset in which the Tar Heels were shockingly gutted and stripped of a seven-point lead over the final 11 minutes—was becoming a problem again on Saturday.
He had turned a 10-point Carolina lead, with 19:13 left in the second half, into a 49–49 tie with 11:56 left on a pull-up three, and grinned and nodded at a Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd on tilt as Roy Williams called a 30-second timeout to try to stanch the bleeding. The speakers at Cameron began pounding with an infernally repetitive club track called “Turbulence.” The 76-year-old stone building felt as if it were shaking, and the Tar Heels looked as if they might once again fall apart. It would lead to the same inquiries that nagged them after losses to Duke, and at Virginia, Notre Dame and Louisville.
“They,” senior Brice Johnson said, meaning all of us in the punditry, “would have questioned our toughness again.”
And rightfully so, because it would have created a scenario in which the nation’s preseason No. 1 team would be entering the NCAA tournament without a single high-quality road win on its resume, and having made no compelling argument that it had the makeup of a national champion.
SI.com Luke Winn
Missing shots and winning games do not go well together. Wichita State hit just 8 percent (2-of-24) of their three's against Northern Iowa and it led to their demise. Conner Frankamp and Fred VanVleet were the only two Shockers to hit a long ball.
VanVleet had a rough tournament, overall. The MVC player of the year hit just three field goals in two games.
Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has been cleared by the university of alleged misuse of school resources while having an extramarital affair.
Deadspin first learned of the investigation, which took place in 2015, and received a statement from Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank that Ryan’s resignation was “entirely his decision.” The longtime Badgers coach stepped down mid-season, in December, allowing assistant coach Greg Gard to take over the program.
According to the State Journal, a Wisconsin spokesman confirmed the woman is Robin Van Ert, a massage therapist from Madison. But a Wisconsin spokesperson told SI.com the school had not confirmed that. In the email, also obtained by the State Journal, the woman wrote that Ryan mentally abused her and put her on a “roller coaster.” She called Ryan a “predator,” that she nearly ended her life as a result of their relationship, and that their affair lasted nearly six years.
“I am not sending this to you for attention nor gain or for anyone to feel sorry for me,” she wrote in the email. “I take full responsibility for my actions and unfortunately I believed the things he said to me. However, I do feel and I believe most in the community would agree with me that a man who is manipulative, a liar, cheater and deceptive, should not be coaching and mentoring or be a role model to the young men on the basketball team.”
Find out the tournament history for specific seeds, teams, coaches or conferences.
NCAA Tournament Brackets and History interactive tool
CBS Interactive Tool: Pick two teams to compare record, RPI and SOS details head to head. By default, the top two teams in RPI are shown.
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
"Basically, I would replace Perry Ellis as a skilled big for them," Maker told me Sunday night by phone. "They get Udoka [Azubuike] and he would play the five but they recruit 2-4 bigs a year and my job is to replace Perry Ellis and bring that same type of skillset and energy."
Maker added of Ellis: "He was the heart of the team. Even though the offense doesn't look like it runs through him, he was the heart of the team."
Maker took his first official to Kansas and enjoyed the atmosphere.
"It was good, it was good," he said. "They put on a show. It was not an easy team to beat on Senior Night, it was good. It wasn't an easy team to beat. Iowa State put up a fight."
..."Oh most definitely, we lose four or five big guys," Kansas assistant Jerrance Howard said on The 4 Quarters Podcast. "That's always been our goal coming into this class, recruit two or three big guys and we're on track. We're always losing guys and always adding pieces. We're always recruiting at a high level and trying to get the best kids at Kansas basketball."
Smith, meantime, was impressed by the Kansas visit.
"They're in our top five and one of the serious contenders," Smith told SNY.tv. "They have a lot of positives. They return a strong backcourt in Frank Mason and Devonte' Graham. I think they're going to get a couple of other pieces. They'll be making a push. They have a very strong supporting cast."
Josh Jackson sheepishly smiled.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had just amplified his voice by a few decibels, bringing the Breslin Center crowd from dead silence to an emphatic roar. His words were meant to close senior day ceremonies.
They also might have given Jackson a glimpse into his future.
“In the 21 years I’ve been the head coach, we’ve gone to seven Final Fours. But three of them, I thought we had a real legitimate chance to win going in,” Izzo began. “I’m putting my neck on the line. This is the fourth that we have a chance.”
In the stands, Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston reached out and gave each other a handshake and shoulder bump. Fans all around them were on their feet cheering.
A beaming Winston then turned to his left and extended his hand for another. He pulled his longtime friend Jackson toward him. Bridges then did the same.
Take that for what it’s worth. Nothing is ever quite as it outwardly appears in recruiting. However, there’s no secret the two MSU signees are trying hard to bring their longtime friend Jackson along with them.
Izzo already has signed four players for his 2016-17 recruiting class: point guard Winston from University of Detroit Jesuit High, swingman and Flint native Bridges from Huntington Prep in West Virginia, Alabama shooting guard Josh Langford and Ohio big man Nick Ward. All of them are top 50 recruits, making it arguably Izzo’s best recruiting class.
“It’s gonna be fun watching them next year, I’ll tell you that,” outgoing senior Denzel Valentine said.
Yet Izzo might not be done.
Adding Jackson, who is ranked No. 1 overall by rivals.com and No. 3 by ESPN, could solidify it as the nation’s best incoming class. The Southfield native took his official visit to Breslin to watch the Spartans trounce Ohio State, 91-76, in their home finale. The 6-foot-7 swingman, who is playing at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., has MSU among his finalists, along with Arizona and Kansas.
It remains a numbers crunch, though, for Izzo to add Jackson. MSU needs at least one player to leave to free up a scholarship for Jackson.
Recruits cannot speak to reporters while visiting campus, and coaches can’t discuss them until after they sign.
Their actions together, however, spoke volumes. There’s no doubt Jackson, Winston and Bridges share a special bond.
Remember, Bridges wore a shirt with #TheClass and all five players’ names on the back of it when he committed to MSU in October. He and Jackson go back to their 11-and-under AAU team days.
“He’s been my boy ever since. We’re really close,” Bridges said in October. Winston’s mom, Wendi, said the same about her son and Jackson.
…Then came the senior celebration. Almost all of the sellout crowd of nearly 15,000 remained in the stands around Jackson, Winston, Bridges and their families. Valentine, standing with his family as Izzo talked about his career, pointed briefly at Jackson, who subtly returned the gesture.
“If you weren’t moved by that,” Izzo said later of the ceremony, “I wouldn’t want you. … That’s what it should be all about, no matter if you’re a recruit, a mom, a dad, a little kid, a 90-year old mother like my mother that was here today. I’ll ask her what she thought of it.”
But as he said earlier this year, Izzo cares more about what 17-year-olds think right now than octogenarians (or nonagenarians, in his mother Dorothy’s case). As Jackson weaved between MSU players’ parents with Bridges and Winston and their families, he stopped to sign a few autographs along the way.
It’s the one autograph Izzo wants most right now. And he’s got a legitimate chance to get it.
Lansing State Journal
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2016)
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