Thanks for the memories!
Once a Jayhawk Always a Jayhawk!
LJW Stock Watch: NBA Draft
In the middle of a hectic NBA draft media day, Kansas one-and-done Kelly Oubre Jr. made it a point to mention the relationship and brotherhood he shared with his teammates at the University of Kansas.
As a reporter, it was my job was to see if I could get a quote from Oubre about what he thought of the team. I expected to engage in a brief conversation, and maybe get Oubre talking about the team’s chances in the Big 12 or NCAA Tournament.
Instantly, Oubre cracked a smile.
“Yeah, yeah yeah,” Oubre said, showing a little excitement in his voice. “We got that win yesterday [against Canada]. First win of the year.”
I followed up and asked him about Frank Mason III and how he played, and that was all it took. Oubre was off to the races.
“I feel like Frank would be great in the NBA, honestly,” he said. “You can see it in how Frank is relentless. He can’t be stopped because he has that mindset where he’s coming from nothing… He’s going to be the key to our season.”
Oubre then joked about Mason’s ability to get to the free throw line, and even threw up his arms to simulate how Mason is able to draw fouls. At that point, there was no stopping Oubre. The conversation just continued to flow, from Oubre’s relationship with Mason to his relationship with the team.
“We’re all brothers. We’re brothers for life,” he said. “Even though we were only together for a year, we created a bond that was something special. It will never go away.”
One NBA scout — who spoke on the condition of anonymity — said Oubre projected as a likely lottery pick before the season began. His stock slipped during his freshman season, and he perhaps could have benefited from another year in college. But when Oubre sat down to weigh his options, he believed his style was more suited to the open nature of the NBA game.
“I feel like my game is unique,” Oubre said during a workout in Charlotte earlier this month. “I can thrive at this level because of the open spacing. My length can cause trouble on the defensive end.
“I have a lot of learning to do, and I’m willing to focus on basketball solely and dedicate myself to the game. I don’t have any other distractions. The game of basketball is everything to me now, and I’m committing the time to be the best that I can be.”
In his only season at Kansas, Oubre averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds while playing 21 minutes per game. He shot close to 36 percent from three-point range, and after a quiet start, Oubre appeared to come into his own during Big 12 play. After earning a spot in the starting lineup in December, he averaged 10.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and led the Jayhawks with 26 steals during conference play.
“I just thank coach Self and the staff at Kansas for allowing me to learn,” Oubre said at the NBA combine in Chicago. “Because I came in as a highly recruited athlete. He humbled me pretty much, and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today.”
In the weeks before the draft, Oubre appeared keenly aware of the knocks against him. As of Monday, he was projected to go No. 15 overall by DraftExpress.com and rated as the No. 14 overall prospect by ESPN Draft analyst Chad Ford.
“I want to go top seven. It’s definitely one of my goals,” Oubre told Draftexpress.com. “They have great players in this draft, no knock to anybody but I feel I’m the hardest-working guy in this draft because I have a chip on my shoulder. I’m going to show everybody what they said I couldn’t do. That’s my main motivation.”
ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, who covers the draft year-round, has Oubre being selected No. 16 by Boston. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman has Oubre being tapped No. 13 overall by Phoenix. It is believed Utah has interest at No. 12 and Oklahoma City at 14.
“I will not be denied. I’m relentless at everything I do,” Oubre told Utah’s Deseret News. “You could say stuff about me, but I’m going to prove you wrong 100 percent of the time. I’m just here with a smile on my face and a calm, cool demeanor because I know I’m going to be great one day.”
Q. What is one thing that Oubre should work on this summer to take his game to the next level?
FORD: Well, Kelly Oubre is one of the most fascinating prospects of this draft, because again, he checks boxes. He checks boxes for size for position, and he has a 7'2" wingspan and he can be a 2 guard. That's freaky. He checks size for a few skills. I don't think he's an elite athlete but I call him a smooth athlete, and he can shoot the basketball. He's not an elite shooter, but it's clearly one of his skill set, and he has the ability to defend. He has all the physical tools to do that.
One general manager referred to him as basketball illiterate, and I think that's the issue with Kelly Oubre right now. The physical tools are there, and even some instincts of the game are there, but his understanding of the game, his understanding about anticipating what's happening, especially on the defensive end, and you saw this at Kansas, that one of the reasons Bill Self really struggled to play him at first because he just didn't have a feel for what was happening on the court, and it's very difficult to play anything other than on‑the‑ball defense when a player doesn't really understand what's happening with the offense.
I just think that Kelly has been able to survive like so many kids are able to in the AAU culture by being a good athlete and being talented physically, and he got to Kansas and all of a sudden he had to understand the game of basketball, and I just don't think he'd been really coached.
And unfortunately in the college game, there's just not a lot of time for that. I think Bill Self did a good job. I think he forced Kelly to learn how to play defense, but there is so much more that Kelly needs to work. He's been working out with Drew Hanlen pre‑draft, and Drew Hanlen has worked out Bradley Beal, he worked out Andrew Wiggins last year, and one of the things I love about Drew is Drew takes tape of players that you're similar to and he starts to show you the tape so you can start to learn what these players are doing and you can start to learn the game. And then he takes what you saw on the tape and takes you back out on the court and trains you how to do that.
Drew just released a mix tape of Kelly Oubre. You can look at it on YouTube or on Twitter, and you can see Oubre is getting better. He's starting to figure things out. The training is there.
So if he keeps working hard and he keeps learning and he keeps hungry, he could be one of the 10 best players of this draft hands down. But that's what he's got to do. He's got to continue to be hungry, continue to learn, and continue to grow that basketball IQ because it's just low right now.
Chad Ford Q&A
USA Today: Cliff Alexander From HS to NBA Draft
In the months before the NBA Draft, Cliff Alexander set out to change minds, one scout and general manager at a time. He really had no choice. He needed to start over.
Alexander, the former Kansas forward, yearned to re-tool his image, to redeem his reputation, to reshape the way the basketball world has come to view him. He is not exactly sure how this all happened, how people have come to see him in a negative light. He knows his freshman season did not go as planned. He knows he did not live up to expectations. He knows there were off-court problems that colored perceptions. But as he takes the next step in his basketball career — a career that he hopes last years — he would first like to start with one thing.
“Just trying to clean up my image,” he says, sitting before cameras in the weeks before Thursday’s NBA Draft. “Because everybody wants to paint a bad image of me.”
…In his latest mock draft, ESPN analyst Chad Ford projected Alexander to go No. 44 overall to the Phoenix Suns. Jonathan Givony, an analyst at DraftExpress.com, has Alexander going No. 34 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA talent evaluators have concerns about Alexander’s basketball IQ, his size and his raw skill-set. At the NBA combine, Alexander measured in at 6 feet 7 1/4 without shoes. By comparison, former KU power forward Thomas Robinson, a lottery pick who has struggled to find a foothold in an NBA rotation, was measured at 6 feet 7 3/4 at the combine in 2012. Alexander, though, is unusually long — his wingspan has been measured at 7 feet 3 1/2 — which helps nullify some of the size questions.
Self, though, is still optimistic about Alexander’s potential. When Self recruited Alexander, he thought of him as a possible Buck Williams-type power forward, comparing Alexander to the former undersized player who made three All-Star appearances in the 1980s.
“I think he can be a very good, prototypical-type power forward,” Self said this week.
“Cliff’s very athletic, very athletic and strong,” Boston GM Danny Ainge told ESPN.com. “He can shoot a little better than you could see at Kansas.”
Alexander averaged 7.1 points off team-best 56.6 percent shooting. He grabbed 5.3 rebounds per contest (17.3 minutes a game in 28 games), missing the last eight games because of an NCAA issue. He also had 37 blocked shots.
“I think we all know what happened. It’s certainly not the end of the world. I don’t think it reflects everything that Cliff is about,” Ainge told ESPN.com, referring to the NCAA issue.
“I’m not (a bad) guy,” Alexander told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m a great guy to be around. When I was at Kansas, it was just a struggle. I got dealt a bad deck of cards, that’s all it was.”
Alexander said he’s been working on his shooting and “getting my timing better on blocking shots, moving my feet, getting my lateral movement going.”
His strengths: “My high energy level,” he said, “running the floor non-stop, grabbing every rebound. I have a lot to prove. I feel I have to get my name back out there more and redeem myself.”
SLAM Magazine remains optimistic, recently writing that Alexander’s “strong play in the month of January and the way he got his stats will make him a first-round pick. His chiseled 239-pound frame has shoulders that are nowhere near filling out and he has simply effortless explosiveness around the rim. The physical profile is there of an elite NBA big man, now it’s just a matter of getting his skills to a similar level,” SLAM Magazine added.
ESPN’s Ford has Alexander being taken No. 14 in the second round by Phoenix.
When it comes to basketball royalty in Kansas City, the Rush brothers are king.
Now, there’s an award-winning short documentary about their lives: “The Rush Brothers.” It focuses on the eldest Rush, JaRon, and the off-court troubles at UCLA that halted his career.
The film’s director, Jordan Haro, was working on a different documentary when he came in contact with Bonnie Jill, a former NBA scout and current broadcaster who is the girlfriend of Kareem, the middle brother.
“She said I should contact Kareem, who had an interesting family and life story,” Haro said. “So I did, and we got working from there.”
…Brandon Rush, the youngest brother who just won an NBA championship with the Warriors and was a member of Kansas’ 2008 NCAA title team, played a smaller role in the documentary than his brothers. But in one scene, KU basketball coach Bill Self points out one of Brandon’s best games, vs. Kentucky as a freshman, was because of JaRon.
“The first time JaRon saw him play was when we played Kentucky, and Brandon turned out,” Self says during the documentary. “It was all because JaRon was there. He was proud.”
Brandon also points out that Kevin Durant, then playing at Texas, once asked him about JaRon and said he was his favorite player growing up. “That’s kind of crazy,” Brandon says.
KU, which beat Canada, 91-83, in a World University Games exhibition on Tuesday in Sprint Center, will again tangle with Canada at 7 p.m., Friday, in Sprint Center. Self told the J-W that longtime broadcaster Max Falkenstien will serve as an honorary assistant coach and sit on the bench during the game. “Can you believe Max has never done that? He’s going to sit on the bench and do it Friday,” Self said.
Too often, Jamari Traylor looked like a young man whose emotions were residing in a cave, dark and damp. He didn’t look that way Tuesday night at Sprint Center, where he helped Team KU/USA to an entertaining 91-83 victory against Canada.
Quite the opposite.
His body language and vocal participation revealed him as a senior ready to make the most of his last chance. One game does not a change cement, but it was an encouraging night for the power forward who experienced many a cold-and-gray Chicago morning before coming to Kansas.
Traylor played 19 minutes off the bench and contributed 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots vs. Canada. He played as if there was nowhere he rather would be, nothing he rather would be doing.
Though the two can no longer call themselves teammates, McLemore remains close with senior forward Jamari Traylor. The duo arrived together in the 2011 recruiting class, and both had to sit out the 2011-12 season as partial qualifiers.
“That’s my guy, man. He’s like a brother to me,” McLemore said of Traylor, adding the 6-foot-8 post player will make a big impact for KU in the 2015-16 season.
With veterans such as senior forward Perry Ellis and junior point guard Frank Mason III leading the way, McLemore predicted plenty of success ahead for Kansas.
“I like ’em. They got young talent coming in, a lot of veteran guys that’s been on the team that understand what it takes to win games and continue the streak of Big 12 championships,” the former all-conference guard said.
Sacramento’s starting 2-guard wants to keep his career trending upward, too. After starting all 82 games for the Kings in his second season, McLemore improved upon his rookie-year numbers in scoring (12.1 points per game in 2014-15), field-goal percentage (43.7 percent), three-point shooting (35.8 percent) and free-throw shooting (81.3 percent).
“I feel like I was a little bit more consistent this year, focused a lot and also just wanted to go out there and just compete. I just played my hardest on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively, and then my confidence was on a different level this year,” McLemore said. “I want to continue to do that next season, just come in with a different mindset, different skills, so everybody can know, ‘Ben worked on his game this summer.’”
“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
Oklahoma president David Boren said Wednesday that he would like to have a 12-school Big 12 again. But he will have to convince his fellow chief executives at other conference schools.
“We talk about membership at every meeting,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday afternoon. “I think our presidents individually have their own opinions on things. President Boren expressed his today.
“I have not got the indication that the majority of our presidents feel that way. I get the feeling that nothing has changed since we last discussed it.”
Boren, who has supported a 12-team league since realignment left the Big 12 with 10 schools, spoke to reporters after an Oklahoma board of regents meeting.
“I’m an advocate of a 12-member Big 12. I’m an advocate of us living up to our name,” Boren said. “That doesn’t mean go out and find anybody. You’ve got to be very careful about it. … I think we should scientifically — not emotionally, but scientifically look at that.”
Boren said that the “right partners” in expansion would not dilute conference revenue. Bowlsby confirmed that the Big 12’s TV contract calls for pro rata increases or decreases based on membership. But other revenue, like money from the NCAA Tournament and College Football Playoff, would have to be split 12 ways instead of 10. Bowlsby said that represented about 40 percent to 45 percent of current conference revenue.
Boren also raised the Big 12’s omission from the first CFP.
“Psychologically, if you’ve got 16-member conferences and 14-member conferences and then a 10-member conference, I don’t think that’s advantageous to the 10-member conference when you’re going through the playoffs and deciding who gets in,” Boren said.
Bowlsby said he wasn’t troubled by Boren’s comments and that the expansion discussion is not necessarily new.
“At some point, the majority may represent the position that we should get bigger,” Bowlsby said. “I have not heard at this point that they feel that way.”
Dallas Morning News
The vast majority of NBA players prepare for life as a professional during their time in the NCAA. The basketball approach is far cheaper than baseball's minor league system. In fact, it doesn't cost the NBA a penny.
The problem, according to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, is that "we're getting what we pay for."
As outspoken as any owner in sports, Cuban has been on the warpath on this issue for the past couple of years. In the wake of this year's March Madness, he called the physical, slow-down, low-scoring style prevalent in the college game "uglier than ugly," adding that it harms the NBA because prospects enter the league not knowing how to "play a full game of basketball."
Cuban has also harped on the "hypocrisy" of NCAA rules and regulations, particularly regarding so-called student-athletes who arrive at their chosen college basketball powerhouse planning to leave as soon as their season ends. He has suggested that such one-and-done prospects would be better off spending that transitional year in the NBA Development League.
The question is whether this is a case of Cuban being Cuban or whether the NBA's loudest owner speaks for many.
Cuban's answer: "Everybody knows it's a problem. We just don't know what the solution is."
The NCAA has approved several rule changes designed to quicken the pace and improve the game offensively. Included among the changes are reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, expanding the restricted area arc from 3 to 4 feet and reducing physical play to allow greater freedom of movement, changes that should take the college game a step closer to the NBA style.
"It's a step in the right direction," Cuban said, "but it doesn't really change all that much."
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who built mid-major Butler University into a national power before jumping to the NBA, actually wonders whether college basketball as a whole will truly benefit from trying to speed up its game.
"I actually think that will hurt [college basketball], because you're talking about 347 teams, not 12," Stevens said. "I think that certainly teams with the most talent, the most ability to space, the most shooting, that will really be helpful, but there's a lot of other teams, too. It's different when you're comparing 30 teams against each other versus 347 all under the same umbrella."
…"One of the real bad things about this situation is we have a lot of kids going to college who have no interest in getting a college education," said a high-ranking executive with an Eastern Conference team, who would prefer to make high school graduates draft eligible again and allow franchises to stash players in the D-League without committing NBA roster spots to them.
"It's not because they're dumb; it's just because they want to play basketball. Why would we have a system that makes a kid go to an academic institution to further their basketball career? I mean, baseball and hockey don't do that. Football and basketball do.
"In baseball, if you don't want to go to school and you just want to become a baseball player, you just go to the minors. Same thing in hockey. And I think it should be the same way with us, so that guys who just want to play, they should have a place to do that, and we should provide it."
…In Cuban's opinion, likely lottery picks aren't opting to go from high school to the D-League, because the NBA hasn't marketed the possibility and put programs in place that would be tailored to elite teenage prospects.
"There's still the element of you don't want to seem like the big ogre stepping on everybody," Cuban said. "It's not like we're going and visiting the top recruits and saying, 'Why don't you consider the D-League? Don't go to Kentucky and be one-and-done. Come play in the D-League. Yeah, you might compete and be in the championship game in March Madness, and you won't play in front of more than 2,000 to 5,000 people in the D-League, but you're going to be better prepared for your profession. You've already got a foot in the door, and that's your chosen profession.'
"We're not out there marketing and competing, and I can see why. People love college basketball: the romantic side of it, March Madness and the Final Four. So there's going to be a lot of people who aren't going to take to it. Being a good corporate citizen, we can't just dive in and say we're going to compete. You have to talk to the NCAA and just come to some agreement."
"I've said I felt very comfortable for a very long time because we've been investigated by 73 people and all 12 disciples of the Lord, it feels like, and every one of them has said Roy Williams didn't know anything about this; he didn't do anything,'' Williams said Tuesday during an interview with ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports. "So there was a sense of relief, but it's what I expected. It wasn't a big relief, because it's what I thought was going to be there.
"But how can you say it's a relief when there are five allegations against your university, very serious things? How can it be a lot of relief?''
…Williams and North Carolina did eventually move their players out of the AFAM major – but the majority of the 2005 national championship team was in that major. When asked if he had concern about having that many players in a tainted area of study, Williams said no.
"They were juniors when I got here [in 2003]," Williams said. "I can't change their majors. Think about that."
He said the 2005 championship should not be vacated and that even if players were given no credit for the AFAM classes, they still would have been eligible.
"Even if you give a guy four Fs in that spring semester, he's still eligible,'' he said. "We didn't have ineligible players. They took courses that the university offered.''
The United States Basketball Writers Association is creating an award named after Smith. It will go to anyone associated with college basketball who "embodies the spirit and values represented by Smith."
USBWA executive director Joe Mitch said that could mean a coach, player, administrator or an official -- a designation that president Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports said was meant to be "very open-ended" in finding someone who makes an impact both in the sport and away from the court.
Smith retired in 1997 as the winningest coach in Division I history and was known for his stands on social issues such as racial equality and an opposition to the death penalty. He died in February after years of declining health.
The Smith family has long kept a low profile, though Smith's son, Scott, attended Wednesday's announcement along with Linnea Smith and current Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams in the campus arena bearing Smith's name -- the site of his public memorial.
Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), the high school powerhouse that has four players likely to be drafted, including a whopping three likely first-rounders in Kelly Oubre (Kansas), Christian Wood (UNLV), and Rashad Vaughn (UNLV) and a fourth player, Brandon Ashley (Arizona), likely to be taken in the second round. Sure those players were in college last season, but it’s amazing that four from the same high school could go into the league at the same time.
If Findlay Prep does have four players chosen, the Pilots will tie the record set by Dunbar (Baltimore) in 1987. The players taken that year from Dunbar included three first-rounders in Reggie Williams, Muggsy Bogues and Reggie Lewis, along with second-rounder David Wingate.
When Oregon basketball target and consensus five-star combo guard Jamal Murray went off for a game-high 30 points in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland (Ore.) many Duck fans hoped they were seeing the first glimpses of the future star of their program.
Quietly, however, many Oregon fans had to admit the performance was a sign that Murray might go elsewhere. Overnight, Duke, Kentucky and many other top-flight programs joined the list of suitors pursuing the once under-the-radar guard.
For months, Murray was rumored to be an Oregon Ducks lean, but a visit to Kentucky this spring and the storied recruiting reach of coach John Calipari led many to believe the Canadian star was a surefire Wildcat.
But in the days leading up to the decision many still projected Murray to choose the Ducks, and forward Elgin Cook tweeted him a "welcome to Oregon" message last week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Murray finally put all the rumors to rest, ending a tight-lipped recruiting process by announcing his commitment to Kentucky over Oregon on Canadian sports channel TSN:
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