Man it was awesome meeting Obama this morning !! Real cool guy! Hope to be chillin with him again this spring after a National Championship!
Blessed and honored to be able to meet President @BarackObama with my teammates today! Awesome experience!
At just past 11 a.m. Thursday, more than 15 minutes before he would climb a stage and deliver another speech on another college campus, President Barack Obama wanted to talk about his jump shot.
He stood inside KU’s Hadl Auditorium, a small, theater-styled room, seeking a quiet moment away from the large crowd that had gathered inside the Anschutz Sports Pavilion, just a short walk away through a maze of offices and locker rooms.
Obama was here to meet the Kansas basketball team — to pose for photos, shake some hands, to ask specific players about their hometowns and high schools. The mood was comfortable and cordial, the leader of the free world taking a moment to relax and make a connection with a room of young basketball players during a morning visit to the University of Kansas.
But then KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard spoke up with a specific request — Mr. President, tell us about your game — and that’s when the president slipped into a short soliloquy about his current, complicated relationship with basketball.
“He basically said he gave the game up,” Kansas coach Bill Self would say later on Thursday. “He said he’s still a very, very good shooter, and could beat anybody in Horse. But if you have to move, he wasn’t very effective anymore.”
In other words: Age catches up to us all, even the president of the United States.
‘I’m not fast for anything,” Self recalled Obama telling his team. “But I’m faster than most 53–year-olds.’”
In the minutes after President Barack Obama spoke with his team, Bill Self’s phone started blowing up.
The Kansas coach had always felt like he’d had a good relationship with his players, but he’d never received this many messages from his guys.
“Half the team texted me immediately saying, ‘Coach, that was awesome. Thanks for allowing us to be a part of that,’” Self said. “Certainly that’s a big deal for everybody.”
…The president talked about how he’d watched the Jayhawks a few games this year and joked that they disappointed him twice in the past when he’d picked them to win the national championship in his bracket.
Obama also gave the team some advice, telling the players to focus on their academics while telling them they weren’t only in college to play basketball.
When Self alerted Obama that the team had a 2.93 grade-point average first semester, Obama responded by saying, “Gotta get it up to a 3.0.”
“Which basically tells you, ‘Don’t ever be totally satisfied,’” Self said with a smile, “which I thought was pretty cool for our guys to hear.”
…Self said it was interesting to see how different players interacted with the president. Svi Mykhailiuk, who was born and raised in Ukraine, filmed Obama’s entire talk with the team. Obama also made sure to ask forwards Jamari Traylor and Cliff Alexander which high schools they attended in Chicago — a city where Obama spent much of his adult life before becoming president.
“He certainly made our guys feel very good today,” Self said.
…“Regardless of your political affiliations or what you think you believe or whatnot,” Self said, “it’s pretty cool to have the most powerful man in the world right there in Hadl Auditorium visiting with your kids.”
During his speech, Obama said: “I’ve got to admit, I took a moment to meet with coach Self and the KU basketball team. I mean, we’re here for other business but while I was here I thought I should talk to some basketball players. And it is January so that means the Jayhawks are at the top of the Big 12 hunting for 11 straight conference titles.”
Obama also joked, “Coach Self won 10 straight. I lost two straight here (vote in presidential elections in Kansas). I might have won sections in Lawrence. That’s a possibility.”
1/22/15, 3:42 PM
#KU softball player Morgan Bohanan asked the President for a little motivation, and Obama wrote: "Dream big”
No. 11 Kansas at No. 17 Texas, 2 p.m. ET, CBS, Saturday: Another heavyweight clash in the Big 12. They’re all heavyweight clashes in this league, it seems. Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology projects seven bids for the league. Entering Thursday night, seven Big 12 teams were sitting at .500 or better. It will be difficult for any team to separate. So premier home wins will be vital in this race. Kansas followed its weekend loss to Iowa State with a scrappy win over Oklahoma after giving up a 20-point lead. Kelly Oubre continues to grow. But consistency remains an issue. Not just game-to-game but half-to-half. Texas has held its opponents to .88 points per possession. Its offense, however, hasn’t been fluid. Two flawed teams who are still factors in this conference race.
Prediction: Texas 73, Kansas 72
Will and Fonda Ellis didn't know where all the anger in their oldest boy originated, but they knew it was time to intervene.
As an adolescent, Perry Ellis couldn't play a close game, much less lose one, without ending up trying to fight someone. Or throwing a chair. Or getting so worked up, he was on the verge of tears.
"He'd just kind of wild out," said Will Ellis, Perry's father. "We just sat him down and said, 'You can't do that.' I don't think we ever threatened to take him out of sports or anything. He just kind of grew out of it. Something turned on. He just grew out of it and basically stopped talking and just played."
Those who follow Kansas basketball know the 6-foot-8 junior forward hasn't talked much since.
…Ellis has tried to lead the best way he knows how. By being consistent. By being dependable. By being patient.
"For two years I have spent a lot of time trying to get him out of his comfort zone and to be something that is not comfortable for him," Self said. "He's responded to that pretty well. But the bottom line is I don't want to take away from who he is."
Ellis currently leads the team in scoring (12.8 points per game) and rebounding (6.7 per game). If he can keep it up, he'll be the first player to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding since Thomas Robinson during the 2011-12 season.
"I've been vocal at times, but really, coach recognizes that's not my personality," Ellis said. "So for me to step up it has to be in my play and actions. That will speak a long way for me."
That Ellis is an introvert doesn't make him closed off to his teammates. Sophomore guard Wayne Selden Jr. said Ellis laughs harder than anyone else in the locker room. But the thing is, outside of the locker room, most people would never really know it.
"He opens up to us, that's about it, us and his family, but that's it," Selden said. "You're not going to get much out of him."
Ellis actually picked up a lot from Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, while being in the same car. When Ellis drove home to Wichita, Wiggins would often hitch a ride to go see his older brother Nick, who played at Wichita State.
"Honestly, we're both real quiet dudes," Ellis said. "I can't say a real deep conversation ever went on."
They listened to music for most of the two-plus-hour ride down Interstate 35 without saying too much. But through personal nuggets here and there, Ellis learned and grew to respect how Wiggins handled being in the spotlight and the overbearing expectations that came with being projected as the nation's best NBA prospect.
Ellis thought about Wiggins as he entered this season and envisioned his role expanding from a supporting one to a main player.
"We had some great players last year; the spotlight was definitely on them," Ellis said. "My third year in, it just feels like I've gotten so much better. I've taken steps and steps and just it's my time to do more."
A's: Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre
After a rough November and December, the light finally appears to be coming on for Kansas' highly touted freshmen. Oubre and Alexander combined for 32 points and 22 rebounds in the Jayhawks' 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday at Allen Fieldhouse. Oubre has been particularly effective in the last few weeks, averaging 14.3 points in his last four games.
…F's: Bottom of the Big 12
The argument that the Big 12's "strength at the bottom" gives it the edge as the nation's top conference is losing steam. TCU, which went 13-0 in nonconference play, is just 1-4 in the Big 12 and lost at home to Texas on Monday by 18 points. Texas Tech is 0-6 with four of its setbacks coming by double digits.
…Kansas: Nation's best home-court advantage makes the Jayhawks the Big 12 favorite.
The question is whether the Longhorns' defense is enough to carry them through this gantlet of a Big 12. Offensively, Texas is averaging less than a point per trip in conference play, thanks to a combination of shaky shooting and turnovers. Jonathan Holmes has struggled in recent weeks. Forward Cameron Ridley is putting up solid-but-unspectacular numbers that are nearly identical to his sophomore season stats. The lone bright spot, freshman center Myles Turner, was great against West Virginia -- but whether he can frequently reproduce his best against top competition remains an open question. If he can, he could be good enough to carry Texas's offense. If not, "average" might be its ceiling.
Either way, one thing is clear: The Longhorns' defense looks like the Big 12's best. It might be the best unit of any Big 12 team on either side of the ball -- a major advantage in the true round robin schedule that will force every team to play every other at least once on the road.
That's why it's far too soon to discount Rick Barnes' group in the multi-team battle royale that is the race for this conference title, and why Self is already looking ahead to March and wondering if his team will have enough left in the tank. Winning the 2014-15 Big 12 doesn't mean handling business 80 percent of the time and getting up for the big ones when they come. It means overcoming a constantly respawning stream of challengers. Winning this league isn't actually about winning. It's about surviving.
…In the first nine games of his Kansas career, highly touted freshman wing Kelly Oubre Jr. turned the ball over on 29.9 percent of his possessions. In his last nine games, as SI's Luke Winn teased out this week, Oubre has turned it over on just 13.9 percent of his touches -- a 16 percent drop. Suddenly, the Jayhawks freshman has morphed into a valuable member of the rotation. His breakout game came this week against Oklahoma, when he finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. If Monday's performance is in any way indicative of what's to come for Oubre, Kansas's already-good offense will go toe-to-toe with Iowa State for the league's top efficiency honors.
No. 11 Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season title for 10 consecutive years. The last time someone other than the Jayhawks won the conference, freshman forward Myles Turner was in the third grade. Let that sink in for a minute.
Yes, it’s been a while. But, in the preseason, many deemed this year as the one in which Kansas’ conference dominance could come to an end — not because the Jayhawks lacked the depth and talent of previous years, but because Texas finally seemed capable of dethroning the reigning conference kings.
Saturday at 1 p.m., the Longhorns have their chance to make good on those predictions.
Of course, it won’t be easy. The Jayhawks boast depth and balance few teams in college basketball can match.
…The Big 12 has waited a long time for someone to finally dethrone Kansas as the conference’s tyrant. Saturday, the Longhorns might do just that.
The three-time NBA champion Miami Heat have decided to part ways with a struggling pair of point guards on Thursday.
According to the NBA Trade Machine, Pat Riley will be trading six-year veteran Mario Chalmers to Portland and Norris Cole to New York.
The 76ers are still not ready to rule rookie center Joel Embiid out for the season, according to The Intelligencer. In fact, alll Philadelphia coach Brett Brown will do is say Embiid, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, will not be back until after the mid-February All-Star game.
“We're not prepared to give any further timeline right now,” Brown said. “I go right back to how we handled (Noel) Nerlens. I think everybody's got to see how we're treating our guys and the risk involved when somebody is not 100 percent, especially with a man of (Embiid's) size.”
Embiid has been doing standstill shooting and off-court cardio work to improve his conditioning.
“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
Baylor defeated Huston-Tillotson on Wednesday, 81-61. The reason why the No. 21 Bears were playing an NAIA school in January (or at all) will stir sports cinephiles everywhere.
Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg reached out to Baylor’s sports information director, who told him that the game was scheduled in order to film a Coach Carter sequel.
There were apparently plans for the real 56-year-old Ken Carter to play for Huston-Tillotson this year, as well as plans for a second movie, “and Baylor provided a big-time college opponent to feature Hutson-Tillotson playing against in the movie.” Carter wound up not suiting up, but HT honored its contract anyway.
Kansas State on Saturday will unveil “Tex Winter Drive,” a road on campus that honors the former K-State basketball coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
The drive runs from Kimball Avenue to Bramlage Coliseum and the basketball training facility.
A 9 a.m. ceremony Saturday will include words from former K-State player Ernie Barrett and athletic director John Currie. K-State plays host to Oklahoma State at 11.
Winter, who turns 93 in February, was 261-118 from 1954-68. He’s second in school wins behind Jack Hartman and won eight conference championships.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery wants ESPN color commentator Dan Dakich to apologize to Hawkeyes center Adam Woodbury for calling him "gutless" and "cowardly" during the broadcast of an 82-50 loss to Wisconsin.
Dakich called out Woodbury after the center appeared to poke the eyes of Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky in separate incidents Tuesday.
McCaffery defended his player while blasting Dakich during the taping of his weekly radio show on Wednesday. A message seeking comment from Dakich was not immediately returned.
When New Mexico Lobos senior Hugh Greenwood scored a season-high 22 points and dunked for the first time since his freshman year, it’s not a surprise that the sideline reporter after the game wanted to know where the outburst came from.
In a moment of surprising honesty, Greenwood said a Twitter troll made him furious and motivated him to play well:
“Actually, it was a man on Twitter. I’m not going to shout him out; he doesn’t deserve to,” Greenwood said. “Talking about my mom battling second [stage] breast cancer, he was making cancer jokes all afternoon, talking about bringing my mom to the game in a hearse. There’s a line, and it gets crossed, and I was mad about it tonight. Got my first dunk since my freshman year, and I credit it to him for getting us a win tonight because that’s what motivated me.”
University of Miami officials apologized to North Carolina State after a fan shoved a Wolfpack player Thursday night in the final seconds of the Hurricanes' victory.
N.C. State's Anthony Barber was struck in the back by the fan, who was in one of the courtside seats at the Bank United Center. The fan's identity, if known, was not released by Miami officials.
An investigation was ongoing.
Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga apologized in the hallway outside the interview room to N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried after the game, and athletic director Blake James issued apologies to Gottfried and Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Yow.
Kentucky will play South Florida and Ohio State will meet Memphis on Nov. 27 in the inaugural Hoophall Miami Invitational presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The matchups were formally announced Thursday.
The games will be at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena, home of the NBA's Miami Heat. Team president Pat Riley, scout Bob McAdoo and former star Alonzo Mourning -- all Hall of Famers -- helped make the announcement.
In addition, Riley pledged $50,000 to the Hall of Fame, and said he hopes other NBA teams and arenas open their doors for similar events.
Why are these offenses struggling so much? Let's start with the rules.
Two seasons ago, pace of play was the slowest it had ever been, with just 65.9 possessions per 40 minutes, according to KenPom.com. Scoring was the lowest it had been in more than 60 years, with teams each scoring an average of 67.5 points per game.
In response, the Men's Basketball Rules Committee and officiating community reacted in a decidedly pro-offense way, limiting contact with the ballhandler and interpreting the always-murky block/charge call in a way most favorable to the offensive player. There was an adjustment period, sure, but most in and around the game felt the changes were for the better, and that after a flurry of early fouls, teams would learn to play defense with their feet instead of their hands, and offensive players would have more freedom of movement.
By the middle and end of last season, officials reverted back to the status quo. Conference play was as physical as ever. This season, with yet another interpretation of the block/charge rule, the advantage has returned to the defensive player. Physicality remains a problem, particularly in the paint.
Many involved in the sport believe there won't be a true shift in college basketball until there are significant rules changes to benefit scoring.
Right now, Byrd isn't so sure exactly what changes would actually help offenses — he personally believes that shortening the shot clock could help defenses more and would also cause the sport to lose its unique styles of play — and is hesitant to suggest changes just to try them out.
"The job the committee has is to make college basketball the best game it can be," Byrd said. "If you're going to make a rule change, you better make sure it's the best for the game."
Two former University of North Carolina athletes have filed a lawsuit against the school and the NCAA, saying neither has done enough to ensure athletes receive a quality education.
The lawsuit names former women's basketball player Rashanda McCants and former football player Devon Ramsay as plaintiffs but seeks class-action status. Filed Thursday afternoon in Durham County court, it's the second lawsuit to emerge in the wake of UNC's long-running academic fraud scandal that heavily involved athletes.
The first was filed by ex-football player Michael McAdoo in November in U.S. District Court against the school. This one, however, expands the scope beyond the Chapel Hill campus to include the governing body for major college sports.
One of the attorneys handling the case is Michael Hausfeld, who represented former UCLA men's basketball standout Ed O'Bannon in last year's antitrust case against the NCAA. In that case, a federal judge ruled the NCAA couldn't stop players from selling the rights to their names and likenesses instead of limiting their compensation to scholarships or the cost of attending school.
Robert F. Orr, a former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice who has become an advocate of NCAA reform, is also part of the plaintiffs' legal team.
"It's about a lot more than Chapel Hill," Orr said shortly after filing the 100-page lawsuit. "It's about the system."
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Zimmerman may be the biggest basketball phenom to ever come out of Las Vegas—literally. The Bishop Gorman High School senior is 7 feet, 241 pounds, but his size is hardly the only reason dozens of the nation’s top college programs would love for Zimmerman to suit up for them next season. Many recruiting services have him ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 prospects because he’s got the kind of two-way game that can turn a college team into an instant contender. He’s already led Gorman to three straight state championships and is working on a fourth, averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks per game for the Gaels this season.
Among the programs Zimmerman is considering are four heavyweights: Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona and UCLA. The only other school on his short list? UNLV—and the Rebels are doing everything they can to keep him home: On the first day NCAA coaches were allowed to contact him last summer, UNLV sent him nearly 100 recruiting letters.
…Zimmerman’s ultimate goal is to play professional basketball, and he’s already walking the NBA path. He was selected for the USA Basketball Under-18 team this summer, a program that has produced such pro ballers as Carmelo Anthony, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving. One NBA scout said Zimmerman’s physical development over the past year makes him comparable to such current pros as Chris Bosh and Kelly Olynyk.
…As big as Zimmerman is on the court, he’s just as big on social media. He’s got more than 11,000 Twitter followers (@Bigg_Zimm), and his personal brand of goofy/earnest is endearing to fans, whether he’s looping his best dunks on Vine or tweeting out his Snapchat handle. “Social media is definitely a big contributor to how I talk to everybody that I know,” he says. “That’s kind of my personality. I think I’m funny, and I feel like I can be anybody’s friend.”
The 6-4 Newman out of Callaway (MS) is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and N.C. State, among others, and isn’t expected to announce until at least April. On the recruiting front, Newman has set an official visit to Ohio State this weekend and will also visit Kentucky, Kansas and N.C. State.
The Mississippi squad will be without the state's No. 1 player in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star basketball game.
Malik Newman told The Clarion-Ledger on Thursday night that he will not participate in the annual exhibition event held on March 20 in Montgomery.
The Callaway five-star combo guard has plans to participate in April's McDonald's All-American Game, the Nike Hoop Summit and the Jordan Brand Classic if selected for each event.
“I'm trying to recruit my big man, Diallo, and Davon to go to Pitt with me,” said Wilson of Power Springs, Ga., who selected the Panthers over Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Tennessee and Virginia. “It's good to go to school with people you know.”
Wilson and 7-foot center Rozelle Nix from Pensacola (Fla.) State College signed with Pitt in November. Adding either Diallo or Dillard, or both players, would be a major coup for the Panthers.
On Jan. 9, Diallo, a native of Bamako, Mali, who plays power forward and center tweeted, “My top 5 still St. John's, Pitt, Kansas, Kentucky and Iowa State ….. Love them.”
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