Kansas University’s four senior basketball players brought out the bling for Wednesday’s Big 12 Media Day festivities in Sprint Center.
Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and Kevin Young each wore their NCAA Final Four/Big 12 title rings, with their intent NOT to be boastful around players and coaches from the other nine league teams.
“No. No. No. We’ve not been walking around flashing them in everybody’s faces,” KU senior guard Releford said. “We kind of don’t have to because they are huge.
“We know it’s our last time wearing these rings. We can’t be midseason wearing (NCAA) runner-up rings. We’ve got to put that in the past and go out and try to compete and win another one.”
…As far as the questions about his rotation, Self said: “We’ll start the season playing nine, then it will go to eight, and who knows where it will go after that? We could have a 10th, 11th (man) that will be pretty disappointed because they are pretty good. Last year we had a happy locker room. Everybody knew exactly what their role was and who was going to play and that kind of stuff. This year will be different. There will be some guys disappointed. That also brings out competition, which is good.”
Self said that, so far, the seniors have been the ones who have stood out at practice.
“They didn’t play well in Europe (on August tour). Kevin did OK, but Jeff, Elijah and Travis didn’t,” Self said. “They’ve been better since practice started. Of the freshmen, I’d say Ben (McLemore) and Jamari (have stood out). They have come a long way the last couple months.”
Self said he thinks “we have the potential to be good defensively. Offensively, I don’t know if we can score inside on the block enough.
“We probably will shoot more jump shots than we have at any point in time since I’ve been here. I’m not sure that’s a strength. We should play through our bigs more. We have a lot of guys that can rise up and make a shot. Hopefully we won’t become a jump-shooting team so to speak, but probably more this year than past.”
The 2006-07 Kansas University men’s basketball team, which won Big 12 Conference regular season and postseason tournament titles and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, will be inducted into Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame at 11 a.m., a week from today, in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.
…Withey was asked at Wednesday’s Big 12 Media Days to pinpoint the reason he elected to return to KU for his senior season.
“I thought I could go higher and I wanted to win a championship,” Withey said. “To be so close and lose (in final to Kentucky) is heartbreaking and gives you motivation to come back and try one more time. Elijah came back and Travis (Releford) came back and that definitely helped my decision to come back, having them by my side.
“I was with Elijah a lot (before draft declaration date) and talked to him a lot. At the end of the day, we want to win a championship and coach (Bill) Self is a pretty fun guy to play for.”
Seven-footer Withey said he will not be thinking about the NBA at all this season.
“It’s pretty easy not to focus on it,” Withey said. “The way I think is, I have a great year, I’ll be in the NBA. I’m focusing on this year now and winning games. If I do that, the benefits will show themselves.”
In Withey’s first three years at Kansas, Danny Manning was always the one working closely with Withey on his low-post game. But Manning’s departure to take the Tulsa head coaching job created a hole in the Kansas staff.
Former Self assistant Norm Roberts returned to the staff to fill that void.
“I feel like he’s watched a lot of film from last year, because we’re doing a lot of the same things from when coach Manning was here,” Withey said. “He’s been extremely good with me.”
Roberts’ previous experience under Self eased his transition into his role at Kansas. Before leaving to take the head coaching job at St. John’s, Roberts coached in the same capacity under Self in each of his previous coaching stops.
In his first go-around on Self’s staff, Roberts used many of the same coaching techniques later implemented by Manning.
3. Ben McLemore, G/F, Redshirt Fr., Kansas
Top 100 Ranking: 20
McLemore sat out his freshman year at Kansas due to eligibility issues. He practiced with the team all year however, and drew praise from both coaches and observers who watched him play.
Head coach Bill Self has been raving about McLemore over the summer comparing him to a young Brandon Rush. McLemore has many of the same positives -- he's long, athletic, can shoot the rock and defend multiple positions. He also has a similar negative -- he can be way too unselfish.
The Jayhawks are going to need him to step in right away and produce. If he can lead this team to yet another Big 12 title, he could easily be a lottery pick in June.
5. Jeff Withey, C, Sr., Kansas
Top 100 Ranking: 33
Withey was a revelation as a junior last year. He had his coming out party at the Maui Invitational and by the end of the season, he was one of the best shot-blocking big men in college basketball.
Withey was basically plucked out of obscurity last year, so everything he did was gravy. Now, the expectations are much higher. Withey's calling card is on the defensive end. Only Anthony Davis blocked more shots per 40 minutes last season. Offensively, he's still a work in progress, though he did show progress all season.
If he can continue to add strength and improve his low post game, he has a chance to stick in the NBA. The league always needs back-up centers and Withey's defensive abilities should guarantee him a spot somewhere in the late first round.
Others to watch: Elijah Johnson, PG, Sr., Kansas; Marcus Smart, SG, Fr., Oklahoma State; Pierre Jackson, PG, Sr., Baylor; Deuce Bello, SG, So., Baylor
ESPN Insider: Ranking Big 12's Top NBA Prospects($)
If there's a team that could give the Jayhawks a run for their money, it may be Self's alma mater, Oklahoma State. While there's a lot of pressure on freshman guard Marcus Smart to perform, Billy Donovan (who coached Smart this summer) told me that Smart is the best leader he's ever been around. If Smart can get the Cowboys to play to their potential, the talent is there (including Le'Bryan Nash) for Oklahoma State to have a great season.
…If Kansas wins the Big 12, I'd expect senior guard Elijah Johnson to have the inside track at the league POY award.
…4. Who will be the Big 12's top newcomer?
I'm going with Kansas' McLemore for this one.
ESPN Insider 5 burning questions for Big 12 ($)
How will Kansas replace Thomas Robinson?
I know the Jayhawks have the goods to make a run at their ninth consecutive Big 12 title. Jeff Withey proved his worth in last season’s run to the Final Four. He’s one of the top interior defenders in America. And he has spent a lot of time working on his mid-range game. He should be a different player this season.
…Robinson, however, was an emotional leader for the team as much as he was its top player a season ago. There were moments in which the Jayhawks appeared to be on the brink of collapse and he simply willed them to a victory. I think that’s the one question facing this team. Who’s that guy right now?
…Can Baylor put it all together and upset Kansas?
Baylor is America’s “on paper” team. On paper, last season, the Bears looked like national championship contenders with Quincy Miller, Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. They were good. But various challenges throughout the season brought criticism to Waco. Even though they reached the Elite Eight, the Bears didn’t seem to come together until March. In 2012-13, Scott Drew has a roster that can challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title.
ESPN: What I can't wait to see in the Big 12
KU’s streak of eight straight Big 12 championships is an affront to parity and a point of fierce pride around Allen Fieldhouse. People take this stuff pretty seriously in Lawrence, which is why Elijah Johnson had to chuckle at the idea of KU ever growing complacent in its run of conference titles.
“There’s no forgetting about that,” Johnson, KU’s senior point guard, said Wednesday at Big 12 Media Day. “You don’t go two or three days without hearing about it.
“The only way you can’t hear that is if you just can’t hear, and you’ve still got to read the shirts everywhere.”
…As predictable as KU winning the Big 12, of course, is Bill Self’s annual case for why the Jayhawks aren’t a shoo-in.
“My team, I see all their warts,” Self said. “I don’t see anybody else’s warts. I would say Baylor and Oklahoma State, to me, are the favorites, but I do think that we’ll be in the mix.”
Assuming the Jayhawks are indeed in the mix, they will be bidding for their ninth straight conference crown, by far the longest active streak in the country. Logic says the streak can’t continue forever, and no one at KU wants to be associated with a team that failed to claim at least a share of the Big 12 title.
That’s especially true of KU’s seniors, although Johnson prefers not to dwell on the thought.
“It’s going to break sooner or later,” Johnson said. “I also don’t like to put all that pressure on yourself to think like that. You should just go out and do what the other groups did: Go out, have fun, learn the game and do what you’re supposed to do.”
Ask Self about source of KU’s Big 12 dominance, and he points to the players who have managed to pass the baton every year without a bobble.
“We’ve had some hard-rocking guys come through here,” he said.
Ask the players, and they point to Self, the common thread in KU’s run of Big 12 titles.
“The people who were there eight years ago, they’re not there now,” Johnson said. “He’s still there …
“I just appreciate the fact that he tries to share the light and make it look like it’s us who’s doing it when all of us know who it really is. It’s the head honcho.”
…“When you talk about KU winning all of those, I think there is one guy really responsible, and that’s Bill,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He’s a great coach.
“Of course, having all those players doesn’t hurt anything either, in case you were wondering.”
How many guesses would it have taken you to land on Cole Aldrich if asked at the start of the preseason which Thunder player would be the biggest standout through the first two games?
But that's what the Thunder's second string center has become while starting in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins.
Aldrich has recorded two double-doubles and blocked six shots the first two games. His style hasn't always been pretty, but at the end of each game no one could argue that he wasn't effective.
“Cole and the word pretty, that's not a good combination,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Cole and solid is what we like. It doesn't look pretty, and that's probably saying it very nicely.”
Foot Locker’s House of Hoops is coming to Kansas City.
Block & Company Inc. Realtors has signed the concept store to a 5,206-square-foot space in the Skelly Building, at 47th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. It is scheduled to open in mid-November.
House of Hoops is a basketball-themed concept featuring Nike products and “limited edition personalized performance shoes.” There are only about 75 stores in the chain.
Still seats available for Coach Self's "Courtside View"
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Dexter Strickland's knee is healthy -- and so is his mouth.
First, we'll go with the bulletin-board material provided to Mark Gottfried's N.C. State squad -- which has been picked by both coaches and media as the preseason favorite to win the league.
"They talk those guys up every single year and we beat them every single year," Strickland said. "They are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you can't put them in the mix."
..I asked him whether he still thought about how everything might have been different last season if Kendall Marshall and he had been on the court for the NCAA tournament -- and John Henson had been healthy as well.
"All the time," he said. "I'll be honest. If nobody got hurt, you might as well have given us the trophy. Nobody had the ability to stop us."
The Tigers and Illinois announced an extension of the Braggin’ Rights basketball game through 2017 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
…“There is nothing like this game in all of college basketball,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said.
KC Star LOL
NCAA National Coordinator of Officials John Adams and Secretary-Rules Editor Art Hyland have been conducting educational sessions at regional rules clinics to help college basketball referees to make charge/block calls more accurately this season.
When evaluating the officials who worked the 2012 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Adams said officials made the right call around 90 percent of the time on all infractions. However, on charge/block calls, Adams said the accuracy rate was about 65 percent.
That’s natural, Adams said, given the nature of the play. He evaluated more than 100 charge/block calls from the 2012 tournament and found about 25 percent to be inconclusive, even on slow-motion replay.
“And I’m looking at these plays in a sterile, controlled environment with no one around, “ Adams said. “I can’t tell whether it was the right call or not on a quarter of them. The size of our court hasn’t changed, but look at how much bigger and faster the players are. They are trying to get to the same spot, and it is hard to tell who got there first in so many cases.”
To improve the accuracy rate on those calls, men’s officials are being asked to apply the following guidelines, which the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee approved in May:
• Before the offensive player (with the ball) becomes airborne, the defender must have two feet on the floor, be facing the opponent and be stationary to draw a charge. Otherwise, it should be a blocking foul.
• Secondary defenders (help defenders) moving forward or to the side are also in violation and those should be blocking fouls.
• Contact that is “through the chest” is not de facto proof of a charge. The rule in its entirety must be considered before determining a foul.
• In some cases, it appears a defender is being rewarded solely for being outside the restricted-area arc, without considering the other aspects of the rules.
A defendant in the University of San Diego sports bribery case was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in scheme that strove to fix college basketball games by paying players to influence their outcomes.
Steven Goria, 33, pleaded guilty in August to sports bribery, part of a larger case that also involved marijuana trafficking and illegal sports gambling, U-T San Diego is reporting.
According to court documents, Goria admitted in his plea agreement that he profited more than $120,000 from the scheme, including a February 2010 game in which San Diego lost a lead late and fell, 72-69, with the Las Vegas line favoring USD by 3.5.
Goria admitted that guard Brandon Johnson was paid to influence the game.
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As for Roberson, he has visited SMU and Syracuse officially and now has three straight officials set to Kansas (Oct. 19), Villanova (Oct. 26) and Kentucky (Nov. 2).
Asked if he was tired of all the travel, he said, “A little bit but I got Kansas coming up. Villanova is not too far away so that shouldn’t be too bad. The last one is Kentucky.
“It will be all over soon because I hope to make a decision in the fall. It will all be over soon.”
Faith played a major role in the healing of an injury suffered by Ishmail Wainright , and it did the very same during the college process. On Thursday night, the four-star prospect made his choice.
As his college decision came down to St. John's, Texas, Baylor and Ohio State, the Missouri native and his family found one school to be flawless.
The 2013 6-foot-6 small forward out of Montrose Christian (MD), by way of Kansas City, gave a verbal commitment to Baylor.
"The Christian atmosphere and school separated it from everywhere else," he told Rivals.com. "My father, Calvin, and mother, Mary, are both very religious and my mother is a minister. We felt very comfortable with it in that regard."
A source close to Randle’s recruitment informs Busting Brackets that Florida and Texas, not Kentucky, are the two leaders for Randle’s services at this time.
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