It’s going to take a roster to learn all the new faces on the University of Northern Colorado men’s basketball team.
However, if progressing familiarity breeds success, coach B.J. Hill’s bunch might be alright.
There will be obstacles, though.
Hill said that the Bears will face the “second toughest” schedule in his six seasons as the team’s coach.
That starts with tonight’s 6 p.m. game at No. 4 Kansas University at the renowned Allen Fieldhouse and hopefully ends with a trip to the NCAA Championships.
Inbetween, there’s a big learning curve awaiting the Bears, who lost 1,000-point scorers Tevin Svihovec and Tim Huskisson to graduation.
…Playing against a storied program like KU will be a tall task to open the season.
“I want to see a team that doesn’t back down,” Hill said. “I want to see a team that takes everything we’ve worked on in practice and carry it over to the game.
“If they can do that in the KU environment and in that venue ... it will tell me a lot about what they could do the rest of the season.”
“I can’t wait,” Bragg said Thursday. “Going to weights today I was kind of nervous, just trying to get my mindset ready for the big game.”
He said it has a different feel than KU’s two exhibition games. “Yes, because I’m nervous to mess up. It’s just a lot at stake right now. I want to show everybody what I got the first time in a real game,” Bragg said.
KU coach Bill Self said jitters are natural in openers.
“I think Perry (Ellis, senior) will be nervous. I think Frank (Mason III, junior) will be nervous. I think they think they should be a little nervous,” Self said. “Even though the exhibition games have been good (wins over Pittsburg State and Fort Hays State), we were exposed in the first exhibition game on a lot of things. The second one we were a little bit better. But this will be a whole different ballgame starting Friday, and certainly a totally different feel come Tuesday.”
Bill Self hoped his team’s opener wouldn’t be like this.
The coach will start his 13th season at Kansas on Friday against Northern Colorado, but it’s clear the focus still is divided.
That’s because freshman Cheick Diallo — the gem of KU’s 2015 recruiting class — remains ineligible to play as the NCAA investigates his previous coursework.
“All he knows is, ‘I grew up in Mali. I left my family to come over here to live out a dream,’” Self said. “‘I went to where it was a good school. Now they’re saying I can’t play because of the school I went to.’
“It’s hard for us to understand that, but it’s even harder for him if you stop and think about it.”
…“He’s one of the best role models we’ve had because nobody — nobody — since I’ve been here for 13 years tries harder academically than he does. Nobody,” Self said. “Scooter (KU academic counselor Scott Ward) would tell you the same thing. Our guys see that.”
Self has seen Diallo routinely show up 20 minutes early to meetings. He’s also one of KU’s hardest workers in the weight room.
“He’s been a leader for us without question,” Self said. “We’ve benefited by his presence because he’s been so good for others to see what real work is — what trying really is.”
Diallo also has been a tough player to keep up with in practice.
“Blocking shots and running the floor, that builds a lot of energy for the team,” KU freshman forward Carlton Bragg said, “and we play harder when he does that.”
Self says the worst part is hearing Diallo talk about how he doesn’t understand what’s happening to him. The coach said the freshman left his home in Mali 31/2 years ago — sometimes losing touch with family members for days because they couldn’t afford the phone call — to try to make a better future in the United States.
“You start thinking about goals, dreams, visions, sacrifices that are made,” Self said. “(Diallo being cleared) would be good for KU, but it wouldn’t be near as good for us as it would be for him.”
Don Jackson, attorney who is working on KU freshman Cheick Diallo’s eligibility case, sent out an e-mail to media Thursday indicating the NCAA Eligibility Center was “incapable of objective analysis of African American and African student-athletes’ credentials for initial eligibility at NCAA member institutions.”
He expressed concern over a Tweet attributed to a higher-up in that NCAA department, who four days ago is said to have written on Twitter: “I Webmd’d the symptoms for Ebola. They’re identical to a hangover. Now I’ll think I have it every morning after wine wednesday #ebolajokes.”
Here’s attorney Jackson’s statement. The Journal-World is not using the NCAA official’s name because the Tweet has been unable to be located at this time. No officials were available for comment at the NCAA on Thursday night.
…“It is undeniably clear that (this person’s) superiors at the NCAA were quite aware of (this person’s) philosophical disposition and racial views. (The) comments and philosophical leanings clearly demonstrate long held beliefs that render (this person) and the Eligibility Center incapable of objective analysis of African American and African student-athletes’ credentials for initial eligibility at NCAA member institutions.”
Jackson indicated in an e-mail other reporters also attempted to locate the tweet Thursday to no avail.
Jackson stated: “Interestingly, immediately after my involvement in the case became public knowledge, I had a number of calls from coaches and athletic administrators about the tweet. These were coaches from schools that are not impacted by the current investigations.”
Because this is a mess. All of it. And it is exactly the kind of mess that the universities themselves deserve.
They earned their way into this. That’s the message from two college administrators — neither of whom work at KU, by the way — and a view shared by the attorney who has taken up Diallo’s fight.
“I do agree with that,” said Don Jackson, an Alabama-based lawyer who has worked eligibility cases for years. “The reality is, the membership afforded the NCAA the authority to do this. They afforded them the authority to create these initial eligibility standards.”
In other words, even the man leading the fight against the NCAA doesn’t believe the NCAA is the villain here. The villains are the schools who have allowed, supported, and funded an organization that long ago lost much of its credibility to continue serving a function for which it is fundamentally unqualified.
…This would be easily fixed if student-athletes — whom the NCAA supposedly exists to protect and serve, according to the rhetoric — had due-process protection. It is such a simple solution and would keep teenage athletes from being bullied by a system that assumes they are guilty until proven innocent. Give student-athletes due-process protection, and the innocent would not be forced to miss competition. In other words, the athlete would be presumed eligible until proven otherwise.
Look, there are legitimate reasons for the academic background of athletes to receive extra scrutiny. Most schools already lower their admissions standards for athletes, and without any oversight, the spirit of competition and lure of big money would further erode the motivation to learn and the importance of academics.
So having a third party provide oversight is an entirely reasonable notion. It’s just that the oversight is currently being done by an unqualified organization.
KC Star Mellinger
The workout is just a few minutes old when a scream halts play in the Kansas practice gym.
A scowl on his face and anger in his voice, Bill Self storms toward one of his players.
“Cheick,” he yells, “the least you can do is play hard!”
Cheick Diallo might only be a 19-year-old freshman forward, but that means nothing to Self. The Kansas coach is not going to let one of his best players slide.
The message immediately is received. On the next possession, Diallo outhustles a teammate for a defensive rebound, gets the ball to a guard, races down the floor, then catches a pass and finishes with a dunk in transition.
The display of ferocity isn’t something Self hopes for. It’s what he expects.
The coach, who officially began 30 years ago as an assistant for Larry Brown at KU, has built a career preaching the same message to his players.
Shots may go in. They may not. But one thing you can always control is your effort.
And also your frame of mind.
It doesn’t take much time around Self to realize what he believes is most important.
The picture he is most proud of in his office features Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur diving for a loose ball in the Final Four against North Carolina, their bodies parallel to the floor.
Go to Self’s practices, and you immediately notice there are no fouls called and no out-of-bounds lines, leaving players tumbling against walls and chairs as they chase down rebounds.
Self’s favorite play from last season isn’t a game-winning shot; instead, it’s a hustle play from Jamari Traylor where he rose quickly from the baseline after taking a spill against Texas, sprinted to midcourt and snagged a loose ball.
“The best play I’ve seen since I’ve been at Kansas,” Self said afterward.
…Just after he started first grade, Bill Jr. came up to his parents crying, telling them his legs hurt. A few hours later, he couldn’t move them at all.
“We drove 100 miles an hour to get him to the hospital,” Bill Sr. says. “We didn’t know what was wrong with him.”
It took a few days for doctors at Saint Francis in Tulsa to diagnose the issue.
Some children in the area had received a bad batch of measles shots, and Bill Jr. was having a serious reaction to it. The doctors didn’t know how to treat the issue, so they put Bill’s legs in traction splints to straighten them out. His pain was so excruciating that he was given sedatives.
A week later, Bill Jr. regained the use of his legs, and his parents were able to walk their son out of the hospital.
They realized later that year how fortunate they were, as one girl who lived nearby became a paraplegic after receiving the same measles shot.
“He was lucky that he ever walked again,” Bill Sr. says.
The living-room conversation turns to toughness and, more specifically, why Bill Jr. values it so much.
…The Naismith Coaches Circle was unveiled two months ago, an 8-foot bronze sculpture of the game’s inventor displayed prominently on the plaza at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
The granite base includes engraved names from some of the game’s best current and former coaches, along with an inspirational quote from each.
The selections were wide-ranging. UCLA coach Steve Alford picked a Bible verse. Kentucky coach John Calipari quoted himself.
On the left side, just below Naismith’s right foot, is where you can find Bill Self’s choice.
“Don’t worry about the mules, just load the wagon.”
Self heard the saying repeatedly growing up. To him, it conveyed a simple message: “Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Just do your job.”
TCJ (much more at link) Also LOL at Calipari quoting himself.
TCJ: Self’s Six Toughest Jayhawks
TCJ: Self’s 5 Best “toughness” Games
Seven months after that loss in Omaha, Selden sits as perhaps the most pivotal member of this year’s version of Kansas, a group with Final Four goals and NCAA title aspirations. Senior power forward Perry Ellis could be Kansas’ leading scorer and its steady hand. Junior guard Frank Mason could be its MVP and its pulsating heartbeat. But if the Jayhawks want to claim a 12th straight Big 12 title and slay their recent March demons, Selden may have to prove himself as the third piece of a leading triumvirate, a jump-shooting wing who plays up to his potential and ceiling.
“He’s going to be inconsistent,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Most players are. But if he relies on his athletic ability and is aggressive enough to play to his athletic ability, I think consistency will come.”
Consistency, of course, can come in many forms, but Self is hopeful Selden found something — comfort, confidence? — during a gold medal-winning stay at the World University Games last summer. Self’s faith is bolstered by numbers. In 10 games against international competition — including exhibition games against Canada — Selden averaged 18.9 points and 6.5 rebounds, averaging 34 minutes. More impressive: After shooting 39.5 percent from inside the three-point line as a sophomore, Selden increased that clip to nearly 60 percent in Gwangju, South Korea.
Selden views the summer performance in a simplified manner. On a team that competed without Svi Mykhailiuk, Devonte’ Graham, Brannen Greene and freshman big man Cheick Diallo, the Jayhawks needed offense.
“I knew I was going to have to score,” Selden says. “We have a lot of young guys. We have Perry, we have Frank. But I knew I was going to have to score, and coach made it apparent before we went over there.”
Forgive Jamari Traylor if his memory is a little fuzzy. He’s a fifth-year senior. He’s had more than a dozen teammates or so during his years at Kansas. He’s been through this four times now, the early-season routine, the exhibition games, the season opener and a November trip to the Champions Classic, the marquee event that serves as college basketball’s unofficial national christening.
So as Taylor sat inside Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday afternoon, his mind drew a blank for a moment. As the topic of the Champions Classic came up, he could not recall last year’s showdown against Kentucky. He instead jumped back two years to a victory over Duke.
“We played against Duke and we won,” he said, correcting a question about Kentucky.
A moment later, it hit him: The 72-40 Kentucky demolition in Indianapolis. The brutal practice the next day. The loss that caused Kansas coach Bill Self to jokingly hope his postgame drink was premium vodka.
“Ah yeah,” Traylor said. “As you can see, that’s not even in my head anymore.”
Adidas has unveiled a collection of monochrome black and white uniforms to welcome the start of the 2015–2016 college basketball season, a new set of uniforms that the company has dubbed “iced out” due to the reflective finish that illuminates when hit with a camera flash.
The uniforms for Arizona State, Indiana, Texas A&M, Kansas, Louisville, Miami, Nebraska and UCLA feature a diamond pattern—inspired by basketball nets, says Adidas—with a reflective finish running along the sides of the jersey top and shorts.
“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
Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-6 freshman at Central Florida, has been granted an academic waiver by the NCAA and has been cleared to play in the Knights' opener, coach Donnie Jones told ESPN on Friday.
"I'm so happy for Tacko. He handled this with such humility, and we're so thankful the NCAA understands his story," Jones told ESPN.
The Knights open the season at Davidson on Saturday night.
Fall's guardian for the past two years, Amanda Wettstein, told ESPN on Tuesday that they were prepared to sue the NCAA if the waiver wasn't granted.
He is a 6-foot-8 power forward who likely will be at Kansas for four years, a high-motor scorer with ties to Kansas City. With this in mind, KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self calls Mitch Lightfoot, the Jayhawks’ latest signee, a “great fit.”
Lightfoot, a native of Tucscon, Ariz., officially signed his letter of intent on Thursday afternoon, becoming the first member of Kansas’ 2016 recruiting class. Self has visions of a four-man recruiting class, and if history is any precedent, the Jayhawks will likely land more highly-touted players than Lightfoot, who is ranked as the nation’s 117th best recruit by Rivals.com.
But for the moment, Lightfoot is the first piece locked into place, and Self is bullish on his future.
“Mitch is one of those guys at 6-foot-8 that can play the power forward position and maybe even a little small forward in time,” Self said in a release. “He gives us great versatility and is a guy that knows how to play with other good players. He will develop himself into one of the premier players in our program.”
Self said he’d like to sign four players this recruiting year.
“We have to sign some size,” Self said. “Losing Hunter (Mickelson), Jamari (Traylor) and Perry (Ellis) and then with a great chance of someone else will probably leave early, we’re probably looking at replacing four of our top big guys up front. Even though our backcourt are underclassmen, we anticipate that at least one of those guys will have the opportunity to maybe move on to the next level after the completion of this season.”
Of his signing, Lightfoot said: “It’s a thrill to fulfill my dreams and now start new ones.”
Recruiting: Thon Maker, a 7-foot senior center from Orangeville Prep in Mono, Ontario, will attend tonight’s KU-Northern Colorado game on an unofficial visit, Jayhawkslant.com reports. Maker is also considering Kentucky, Indiana, Notre Dame, Arizona State and St. John’s. Maker, who was born in Sudan and grew up in Australia, has said he will announce in April. He’s not currently ranked because he was originally in the Class of 2015 ... De’Aaron Fox, a 6-3 guard from Katy, Texas, on Thursday chose Kentucky over KU, Louisville and LSU.
Six schools are working hardest to get Thon Maker at the present time.
“Arizona St, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame and St. John’s,” Maker said on ESPNU on Thursday.
When Maker was asked about his thoughts about going to college next year instead of pursuing a pro career, he said that it was likely he will end up on a college campus next year.
“Most likely,” Maker said. “I am, yeah, but I’m not thinking about pro in terms of going overseas and that, but I’m thinking about college.”
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2015-16)
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