Mario Little, a 28-year-old success story from the mean streets of Chicago’s Far South Side, bleeds emotionally for his city — one infested with violence to the tune of six deaths and 58 others wounded in shootings over Memorial Day weekend.
“I pray for them. Anything I can do … I can’t really do much but talk to kids,” said former Kansas University basketball guard/forward Little, who is in Lawrence following his successful season in South Korea, where he averaged 16.8 points a game off 52.7 percent shooting (35.8 from three, 80.5 from the line) as well as 4.8 rebounds for Anyang KGC.
“I have people my age that I grew up with teaching, trying to get me to come back and speak to the kids. You’ve got to change the kids’ mindset,” the 6-foot-6 Little added. “The mindset is nowhere near where it should be. It’s tough, man,” Little added of his Roseland neighborhood, one of the city’s hot spots for shootings.
The 2011 KU graduate would like to spread the message that it’s possible to make something of oneself, even if one is born in a dangerous neighborhood.
…Little said there are obvious differences between being a college basketball player and pro. He was the only starter from the U.S. on his squad.
“You go from Kansas, where everybody, from the first guy to the last guy, is being treated like an NBA guy or like a god,” he said. “It changes. Unless you go on a platform and do more amazing things (in pros), things probably are going to not be the same. It’s a fast life out there. You come back here and you get to chill. You get to relive the innocent part of basketball. It’s always good to come back here, get to see coach (Bill Self), relive some of the moments.”
WIBW Audio: Coach Self, Coach Beaty, and AD Zenger speak at Topeka Jayhawk Club
Speaking to a group of golfers at the Otto Schnellbacher Classic, the annual golf tournament for the Topeka Jayhawk Club, Sheahon Zenger stressed the position the conference finds itself in.
“The narrative around conference expansion has gotten distorted,” Zenger said, while joined by KU coaches Bill Self and David Beaty at Shawnee Country Club.
“This isn’t like five or six years ago. This is about folks wanting to be in our league. That’s a whole different deal.”
If Zenger wanted, he could have advocated KU’s position in college athletics and referenced any number of published reports — projections, more like it, from those with nothing better than to stoke the conference expansion flames — often linking the Jayhawks to the Big Ten.
Such speculation is out there.
But then, so is virtually anything else when it comes to potential Big 12 fallout and the FRAGILE stamp so many want to apply to the Big 12 brand.
Yet the conference announced last week that each school will receive $30.4 million this year as part of the league revenue split. Hardly chump change.
“There was great agreement around those meetings, great solidarity,” Zenger said. “I felt good about it going in, but I think everybody gets to see that now with some of this news.
“It’s night and day from what was going on years ago. This is about schools wanting to join us, not leave us, so the dialogue is very, very different.”
Rugged Landen Lucas, who led Kansas University’s 33-5 basketball team in rebounding during his breakout junior season, plans to improve his “offensive game” the next few months.
“There’s working on it, and there’s really learning from people who know what they are doing. So this summer I’m getting with Wayne Simien as much as possible,” the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Lucas said of the 6-foot-9, 250-pound former All-American, who lives in Lawrence and is the team’s chaplain.
“If there’s someone who knows how to score on the block, it would be him,” Lucas added of Simien, the 14th-leading scorer in Jayhawk history. “I’m trying to meet up with him, get some tips from him — workout tips, advice. If he ever is in the gym with me, (we’ll) work on some stuff.”
Lucas, who averaged 5.8 points a game off 64.3 percent shooting and 6.8 boards as a fourth-year junior, has other offseason goals as well.
…He’s ready to do what he can to make the team’s newcomers feel comfortable. Freshmen big men Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfood and Liberty transfer Evan Maxwell are already on campus for the start of summer school, while guard Josh Jackson is slated to arrive today.
“Just to take it all in,” Lucas said of advice he’ll give the rookies. “Everything is going to come at them real fast. To enjoy the process … these workouts now will seem very big and important, each one. They are, but really they just need to come in and take it slowly. Nothing is being decided right now by these workouts. Work on getting better and enjoying everything.”
Following a few weeks at home in Portland, Ore., Lucas reunited with teammates Sunday afternoon for an autograph signing at the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.
And after returning to campus Saturday and devoting most of his weekend to moving rooms, the big man said it feels great to be back on campus.
“After the way last season ended,” Lucas said, “it’s fun to get back onto campus — and get back to work, too.”
The way last season ended — a 64-59 loss in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion Villanova — is still a sour subject for Lucas, who had six points and 12 rebounds in the defeat.
“It hurts,” Lucas said. “Some people come up and they’re like, ‘Oh, at least you lost to the champions.’ But when your goal is to do what the team that barely beat you did, I think it hurts because we know that we were really close to accomplishing our goals if we change some things up and end up winning that game.”
Crean drew extended laughs when he noted that for the second consecutive season Indiana will play November basketball in Hawaii. IU opens its season against Kansas at Pearl Harbor.
“We want to play better at Pearl Harbor than we played at Maui,” Crean said. Indiana lost two of three games in the Maui Invitational, finishing sixth before rallying to win the Big Ten regular season title by two games.
…IU athletic director Fred Glass said the dedication of the renovated Assembly Hall will likely be Oct. 14.
“Assembly Hall was already the best building in college basketball,” Crean said. “Now there won’t even be a close second.”
“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
Mike Tranghese met the men’s basketball coaches of the Southeastern Conference en masse for the first time here this week.
Frank Martin almost hugged him. He may still.
“Mike gave us somebody that…” Martin said, searching for the right description. “I don’t know. It was a different voice, a different vision, a different energy…”
“Yeah, there you go, that’s a good word,” South Carolina’s men’s basketball coach said. “He has a refreshing perspective that, ‘Hey, listen, what we do is good enough. Now we have to go out there and do a better job of making people understand that.’ It felt good as a coach to hear that.”
The SEC men’s coaches need some group therapy these days. Tranghese is the former commissioner of the Big East conference and one of the most respected college basketball voices in the country. He’s a man who commands attention in all the hotel hallways and selection committee meeting rooms where major college sports decisions get made. He is now a paid consultant for the SEC, and he’s in charge of increasing the men’s basketball profile of a conference that has long been linked first, second and third to football.
“I almost stood up in there and gave him a standing ovation at the end of the meeting,” Martin said. “He brings an unbelievable basketball perspective into our conversation. He brings unbelievable credibility. He brings insight. I’m ecstatic.”
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More than a dozen schools have contacted Mississippi State to speak with Malik Newman about transferring, the university told The Clarion-Ledger.
Eleven of those schools play in Power 5 conferences, including one in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt is the only conference foe to inquire about Newman, joining Kansas, Purdue, Georgia Tech, Arizona, North Carolina State, Arizona State, Miami, TCU, Iowa State and Oregon.
Butler, Western Kentucky, Colorado State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Cal State Northridge have also shown interest. Schools are required to go through Mississippi State before directly contacting Newman.
Kansas was heavily involved in Newman's recruitment out of Callaway High. Former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury coaches Western Kentucky.
When MSU announced the transfer last week, most of the requests filed in. The interest has slowed this week. Currently, MSU has not restricted the schools Newman can speak to, sources told The Clarion-Ledger.
NCAA rules require Newman to sit out one season after transferring.
1. DeAndre Ayton is great but what kind of player will he turn into?
DeAndre Ayton has the tools to be an elite, elite center. Like, we’re talking once or twice in a decade type of athleticism out of a player his size. Just watch this tip slam from Pangos on Friday night and you’ll see what I mean.
The 7-foot Ayton has the kind of quick lift off the floor you seldom see in a big man, but there are some questions as to what type of player he will be (or wants to be) at the next level. Ayton has publicly stated that he wants to try to play a bit on the wing before, but that doesn’t seem realistic given his athletic gifts for his size. No coach is going to let a dude that big and athletic not play near the basket for a good chunk of time.
There are also some questions about Ayton’s ability to protect the rim at an elite level.
Ayton hasn’t shown much interest in being a shot blocker. He’s the type of big man who will happily switch onto a smaller perimeter player (and he usually can with his lateral quickness), but he’s not one for absorbing blows at the rim and re-directing shots as some sort of menacing rim protector.
With the way basketball is beginning to embrace switching one through five on defense, Ayton could be some sort of defensive freak who can stay with a lot of guys on the perimeter, but that would also depend on a coach using that style of play and having the right personnel around Ayton to make that possible.
Either way, Ayton’s continued development is going to be a ton of fun to watch. He’s currently the No. 1 player in a very solid class and he’ll definitely be pushed for that spot if he wants to hold onto it.
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