In the midst of all the trophies, framed championship photos and autographed basketballs in Bill Self’s office, a photo unlike all the rest sits in a wooden frame on a shelf near his desk.
In the picture, a toddler is holding a basketball while sitting on Oral Roberts’ court. Bill can’t look at it without smiling.
Out of the nearly 200 players he’s coached, that toddler — his son Tyler — is his favorite. There’s no one else even remotely close.
Fast forward 20-plus years. Tyler has graduated with his bachelor’s degree in sports management. He’s currently enrolled in Kansas’ Master’s of Business Administration program. And he has one year of basketball eligibility remaining.
“There’s a lot of things that, and I don’t tell him this enough, but there’s a lot of things that I’m proud of,” Bill said. “I’m really proud of the man he’s become.”
…With Tyler’s final season about to get underway — the Jayhawks play their final exhibition at 7 p.m. Sunday against Emporia State — he’s feeling slightly nostalgic.
“I’m ready,” Tyler said. “I’m not sad. I don’t want it to be over by any means, but I’m ready for this last go-round. … This will always be home.”
Dad is feeling it, too.
“Certainly it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced as a coach, maybe the best thing, is the chance to be with him every day,” Bill said. “No matter what happens, no matter what crap we’re going through, it’s better because he’s here.”
Azubuike, a 7-foot center from Delta, Nigeria, who scored five points, grabbed one rebound and blocked two shots in his debut, presumably would like to play more than eight minutes against Emporia State.
That’s the amount of time it took for him to pick up five fouls Tuesday.
“If fouling out in eight minutes is not a record, it’s borderline close,” KU coach Bill Self said. “He got a couple tough whistles. It’s a great learning experience in how to move your feet. Fans should be excited about him while understanding he’s real young (17). He should be a high school junior. Imagine where he’d be in two years with his graduating class. He’s green, raw, but a sponge and tries hard every day.”
As far as the other two rookies …
“All it is with Josh is getting comfortable,” Self said. “Mitch is the most active of our big guys. He has to settle down and understand what we are trying to do. He will. I like those three freshmen.”
They won’t have to worry about remembering the playbook Sunday night.
For the second straight exhibition, KU will run no set plays.
At his weekly press conference Thursday, Self acknowledged Jackson was better with the ball in his hands in the second half, but also took the time to point out he needs more from his star freshman when it comes to the rest of his game.
“We get so hung up on what we do when we have the ball,” Self said. “Josh played 19 minutes the other day. He probably actually had the ball maybe a total of one minute or a minute and a half. What did he do the other 17 minutes that you don’t actually touch the ball?”
For a good portion of those 17 minutes, Jackson was slotted at the four, filling the role of what would normally be a team’s second forward. While Self acknowledged he wanted to test a small lineup earlier in the week, there was also some necessity to the move, as Landen Lucas picked up two quick fouls and his replacement, Udoka Azubuike, also found himself in early foul trouble.
Jackson snatched three rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the game but was less impressive in that area over the final 30 minutes, managing just one additional board. Self was asked Thursday if he expects Jackson to be able to help out on the glass in the regular season. His response couldn’t have been any more clear.
“He better,” Self said. “He’s a 6-(foot-)8, 6-9 hair, 6-7 maybe without … extra possession guy. That’s what he’s known to be. So he’s got to do more of that.”
…As for the other freshmen, Azubuike seemed to fit in on the court but was the recipient of a “bum whistle,” according to Self, and fouled out in six minutes. Lightfoot also had his moments, but felt the freshman jitters at the free-throw line, where he shot just 3 for 9. As a whole, the KU freshmen made just 5 of 16 free-throw attempts.
“The first time you look up and there’s that many people sitting behind the basket, I’ve never seen that before in my life,” Lightfoot said. “Gotta get used to it.”
Though Jackson claims to be nervous in front of large groups (he held a basketball in both hands during KU’s media day as a soothing device), it certainly hasn’t shown yet. He is composed around cameras and confident in his responses, appearing to be ready to be one of the faces of the program from the season’s start.
“I’ve been doing interviews for kind of a long time now,” Jackson said. “It’s kind of part of the job.”
Jackson’s game is sure to be dissected locally and nationally, as his greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses already seem to be well known.
First, the good: Jackson is an explosive athlete. He’s hard to stop in transition, combining great ball handling with an innate ability to find teammates.
His size also is an advantage. At 6 feet 8, he should be tall enough to guard 4s yet versatile enough to pick up guards off ball screens. He’s also shown, with his quickness, a knack for creating steals and transition opportunities.
Now, the bad: Jackson’s jumpshot needs work, as he has a noticeable hitch and a low release.
Self, while saying he likes Jackson’s shot, has delegated assistant coach Kurtis Townsend as the person who is allowed to work with him on technique. That means Jackson separating his fingers on the ball for better control and working to shoot it from above his head.
“In high school, I shot it from my face a little bit,” Jackson said. “I think my shot’s getting a lot better.”
A lot of things didn't go the way Emporia State men's basketball head coach Shaun Vandiver envisioned Friday when the Hornets opened play with an exhibition match against Division I's University of Arkansas.
ESU shot 30 percent in the first half and hit just one 3-pointer and one free throw as the Razorbacks rolled to a 94-44 win.
"Their pressure — 30 turnovers — they just pressured us," Vandiver said. "(Forty-two points) off turnovers, 46 points in the paint, 23 off the break; you can't do much when you have a night like that."
The Hornets, who sought to not get sped up, fell victim to an Arkansas marathon that rolled into the second half before the Razorbacks subbed in a slough of younger players and the game slowed.
"That was embarrassing on our part," Vandiver said. "I told our guys what was coming . Arkansas
didn't do anything that we thought they weren't going to run. They just imposed their will — and we broke."
“We're going to play three bigs for the most part,” Self said. “And then we'll go small.”
Doing so will force KU to rely on 6-foot-8 wings Josh Jackson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and 6-5 guard Lagerald Vick for production beyond points and assists, and Self was less than pleased with the rebounding performance of that trio in the opener.
…Self continued: “Guys aren't really exploding and going after the ball, kind of waiting for the ball to come to them. That's something we can definitely improve on and get better at, but certainly our big guys and Josh and Lagerald more so than anybody. They have got to rebound the ball better.”
…Self said Thursday that his coaching staff was well into the process of preparing for the team’s regular season opener — Nov. 11 vs. Indiana in Honolulu — but that neither he nor his players had yet jumped into the scouting report.
“I'll get on that this weekend,” Self said. “We'll start working on some things that we anticipate Indiana doing, a little bit Friday, a little bit Saturday. And then beginning Monday, that will be, you know, all we'll talk about besides trying to improve ourselves.”
The Jayhawks will travel to Hawaii on Tuesday and arrive around 9 or 10 p.m. Central time. The travel day will be the final of 12 days off required by the NCAA between the start of practice and tip-off of a team’s first game.
Third-ranked KU and No. 11 Indiana are slated to meet at 8 p.m. Friday on ESPN.
Mississippi State men's basketball coach Ben Howland experienced chemistry problems early last season.
The signing of five-star Callaway High School guard Malik Newman in May completed Howland's first recruiting class at MSU. The buzz when Newman arrived suggested he would come in and take the team over, have a successful freshman season, and leave school early to go to the NBA.
Howland said that affected MSU throughout November and December.
"We had new players coming in and there was definitely some jealousies I thought early on toward Malik from the older kids, and that was a problem for us," Howland said Wednesday. "I don't feel any of that now. I feel like everybody's on the same page."
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Bill Self's second-ranked Jayhawks start with two neutral-court games against top-tier teams, first facing Indiana in the season opener as part of the Armed Forces Classic (Nov. 11). The big early showdown comes next against preseason No. 1 Duke in the Champion's Classic at Madison Square Garden (Nov. 15). The matchup of the two teams in the country, with both rosters featuring key returnees as well as must-watch freshmen (ahem, Josh Jackson). In the CBE Hall of Fame Classic (Nov. 21 and 22), KU might not face any marquee names but they draw a really good mid-major in UAB and then face either Georgia or George Washington, a tough opponent either way.
The Jayhawks' schedule gets cushier in December, especially at home — with the toughest test in Lawrence being Stanford (Dec. 3). Another neutral matchup against Davidson will boost their RPI (Dec. 17), as will a road clash with UNLV (Dec. 22). But perhaps the most important — and glittering — non-conference game comes in the middle of league play on Jan. 28 when KU faces Kentucky in Lexington for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The freshmen-laden Wildcats will be much more developed by then and will undoubtedly be a game under the magnifying glass of the NCAA tournament selection committee.
USA Today: Five Toughest Non-Con Schedules
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, who likes to stay in contact with his former players, communicated with Jamari Traylor earlier this week.
“I told ‘Mari’ I knew I’d miss him. I didn’t know I’d miss him this much,” Self said of the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward, who averaged 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds a game as a fifth-year senior rotation player last season.
Traylor is now starting for the Redwell Gunners in Oberwart, Austria.
“He was so mature, so good for the young guys, and he was such an energy guy,” Self stated. “We are not as quick at the big spots as when we had Perry (Ellis) and Jamari out there. Those are facts. It’s why we’ve got to get turned up. We are bigger and taller (now). That doesn’t mean more aggressive and athletic. He brought some intangibles you kind of take for granted until they are not there,” Self added.
BIG 12/COLLEGE NEWS
1. Kansas Jayhawks
► What to watch: Kansas won 33 games behind rebounding and three-point shooting last season, a credit to the all-around game of All-America forward Perry Ellis. Incoming mega-recruit Josh Jackson will have his opportunities to leave his mark on the program, but he also will need to make up for significant losses throughout the roster. Kansas is replacing Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene on the wing and Jamari Traylor and Cheick Diallo inside, with mostly unproven talent.
► Bottom line: Jackson’s freshman season should remind Jayhawks fans of Andrew Wiggins. One of the best guard tandems in the country, Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham combined to average 24.2 points, 8.3 assists and 7.6 rebounds. Forward Landen Lucas averaged 6.8 rebounds in 18 minutes while shooting 64.3% from the field. Bill Self has won the Big 12 regular-season title 12 years running, and that trend shouldn’t stop anytime soon.
USA Today: Big 12 Conference Preview
In their second and final exhibition contest, Indiana rolled past Division II No. 3 Bellarmine, 73-49, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Saturday night.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win:
...Newkirk showing major promise at the point: It’s just two exhibition games, but Pittsburgh transfer Josh Newkirk appears ready to be a major contributor for Indiana.
In two exhibition games, Newkirk logged 51 minutes and dished out 11 assists with just one turnover. And while he hasn’t shot it particularly well, Newkirk looks more than capable of commanding Indiana’s offense when the ball is in his hands.
…OG Anunoby’s 16 points in the opening exhibition game against Hope College may have been a sign of what’s to come with the talented sophomore.
Anunoby has received plenty of preseason accolades, but there were questions on how he’d respond to an increased role and more minutes. So far, so good.
Anunoby poured in a game-high 25 points against Bellarmine on 10-of-11 shooting from the field. And he made it look easy around the rim as his length and athleticism was too much for Bellarmine to handle.
…The Hoosiers were dreadful from behind the 3-point line, finishing 6-of-29. But it didn’t matter because of the defensive intensity. Indiana was engaged on that end from the opening tip and never let up. As a result, Bellarmine committed 20 turnovers and shot just 35.3 percent on 3s.
…The numbers don’t jump out on the stat sheet, but freshman De’Ron Davis improved upon his performance from the first exhibition.
The freshman from Colorado logged 14 minutes, up from nine in the Hope College win, and was active in the passing lanes and around the rim. Davis isn’t an explosive athlete and is still working his way into game shape, but his length and instincts are impressive.
…Stats in exhibition games don’t count, but Indiana’s free throw shooting thus far hasn’t been good.
The Hoosiers finished the preseason just 27-of-46 from the line for 58.6 percent. That may have not mattered in previous seasons early on with inferior competition, but it could matter on Friday against Kansas.
Last season, Indiana was a 73.1 percent free throw shooting team, which was good for 59th nationally. Are the numbers in the exhibition game an anomaly or something to be concerned about? We’ll begin to get our answer on Friday.
This is the Wesley Iwundu that Kansas State hopes it gets all season.
Iwundu, a senior wing who spent hundreds of hours re-tooling his jump shot over the summer, did everything for the Wildcats during a 73-58 exhibition victory over Washburn on Friday at Bramlage Coliseum. He scored 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, sent out three assists and played solid defense.
Duke wrapped up exhibition play with a 98-45 victory over reigning Division II national champion Augustana Friday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
For the second straight game, sophomore guard Luke Kennard led all scorers, dropping 17 on 7-of-13 shooting. Junior guard Grayson Allen (16), freshman guard Frank Jackson (16) and sophomore forward Chase Jeter (15) also posted double-digit points.
Jeter shot a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, helping the Blue Devils shoot 31-of-66 from the field in the contest.
Duke opened the game on a 13-0 run, holding Augustana scoreless over the first 4:08 of the contest. The Blue Devils spread the points around over the stretch, with Jeter scoring five, Kennard netting four and Jackson contributing two of his own.
Duke’s offense was locked in to open the contest, as the Blue Devils shot 47.1 percent from the field in the first half. Eight of the nine Blue Devils that saw action in the opening 20 minutes netted at least two points, with Allen leading the offensive charge with a game-high 14 first-half points.
The Blue Devils showcased their defensive prowess in the opening stanza as well, forcing the Vikings into committing 16 turnovers and scoring 22 points off Augustana’s miscues. Senior guard Matt Jones led Duke’s defensive efforts to open the game, posting a team-best four first-half steals. He would end the game with six steals.
There have been eight one-and-done players from Duke since the 2010 NBA Draft. Kansas has had seven one-and-done players in that time.
“Kentucky, Duke and Kansas have separated themselves in embracing this philosophy,” ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg said. “He (Calipari) was the architect of it. There’s no doubt about it.”
Duke, which once refused to retire a jersey because the player had not graduated, does not acknowledge following Kentucky’s lead.
Calipari has noticed a difference in how Kentucky and Duke are perceived. Questions surround renegade UK. Quiet acquiescence greets Duke.
“Every one of you,” Calipari said to a table full of reporters at the Southeastern Conference Media Day, “as soon as Duke did it, it was OK.
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Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
Another key date in the recruiting efforts for the Class of 2017 has emerged, as five-star small forward Troy Brown, of Las Vegas, recently announced that he would reveal his decision on Nov. 7.
That’s Monday. And although many recruiting analysts have said that Brown’s recruitment has been a wide open and slightly mysterious affair, it appears as if Kansas and Oregon have emerged as the two most likely destinations for the 6-foot-6 senior ranked No. 12 in the class by Rivals.com.
Brown made official visits to KU, Oregon, Ohio State, Georgetown and Alabama during the past couple of months and has made a handful of unofficial visits to Lawrence to visit his sister, Jada, who plays for the women’s basketball team. UNLV and Cal also remain in the mix for Brown’s services, according to some reports.
Brown is expected to be one of two Top 12 prospects to make his decision known next week, with five-star, Georgia point guard Collin Sexton planning to reveal his choice on Nov. 10.
Eric Bossi, of Rivals.com, recently reported that credible sources have told him that Sexton may take an official visit to Georgia this weekend. What that means for Sexton's recruiting remains unclear, as his decision for a couple of weeks has appeared to be down to Alabama and Kansas. There’s speculation that the No. 7 ranked player in the class may be headed to Alabama because of the coincidence of four-star forward John Petty also having Nov. 10 as his decision date. Analysts have pegged Petty to be Alabama-bound for a while but one recruiting analyst recently said that the decision date outlined by Petty came well before Sexton decided to announce on Nov. 10.
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