Kansas senior Perry Ellis' trophy case just got more crowded as the forward was named the 2016 Big 12 Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year the conference announced Thursday. Ellis is winning the honor, selected by the league coaches, for the second straight year.
A sport management major, with a minor in business, Ellis is a three-time Academic All-Big 12 honoree in addition to earning a spot on the Big 12 Academic All-Rookie Team his freshman year. In his senior year alone, the Wichita, Kansas native was a Consensus All-America Second Team selection, a unanimous All-Big 12 First Team honoree in addition to being tabbed one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award and one of five finalists for the Karl Malone Power Forward Award. He completed his Jayhawk career eighth on the Kansas career scoring list and 12th on the KU rebound list.
The Big 12 Conference established its Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award in 2012-13. A recipient is named in each of the conference's sponsored sports. Each Big 12 institution nominates one individual per sport with the winners selected by a vote of the league's head coaches for that sport, who are not allowed to vote for their own student-athletes.
Udoka Azubuike and Tony Bradley are two more examples of how big men can be contrasts of themselves and would make an ideal 4-5 combination in the pre-three point revolution era. After concerns over his injury possibly keeping him out, Azubuike did play and had his best game of the three all-star contests. His positioning for rebounding the ball was solid as many pointed out how he had to improve on the fundamental aspects of boxing out his man. He also gave scouts a glimpse of having skill on the block with good spin moves and dribbling leverage to get the angle he needs to throw the ball up. Although there’s still more steps to be taken, as well as the concern with how Kansas did not served as the best development at all for its last two big men top recruits of Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo, Azubuike showed plenty of upside to justify his lottery pick potential.
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Detroit native Josh Jackson could have asked Prolific Prep founder Jeremy Russotti to take him to see Calistoga’s Old Faithful Geyser, tour a vineyard, go bike-riding on a mountain trail or even walk on the Boardwalk on his first day in Napa, Calif., two summers ago.
Instead, the country’s top-rated high school basketball player, who on Monday committed to play hoops at Kansas University, immediately forgot about entertaining himself and asked if he could join his future teammates in a relief effort in the northern California town.
Let Russotti explain:
“I picked him up at the airport, right when the Eagle landed. Literally that same morning we had an earthquake centered in Napa,” Russotti said. “Downtown Napa was in a state of emergency. Our team met at a church that had been turned into an emergency-relief center.
“Josh just got off the plane, just got back into the country after playing for USA Basketball, and our players were helping clean up a house that literally got split in half.
“Josh said, ‘Give me a hardhat. Let’s go help.’ Here you have the No. 1 player in the country spend his first two, three hours in Napa helping clean up a house. There were a lot of important community members saw that and were so impressed,” Russotti added.
Jackson — who had yet to convert his first bucket for Prolific Prep, where he averaged 26.9 points, 13.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists his senior season in solidifying his status as the country’s top recruit — made Russotti smile again a week later.
“One night I kept getting texts (with) people saying, ‘Josh is the greatest kid ever.’ I said, ‘OK,’’’ Russotti said.
“Finally I get a picture texted to me, and it’s the mascot from the football game (at Justin-Siena High, where Jackson and other Prolific Prep players take classes). It was the first game of the school year, and somebody said, ‘Josh is in the (Braves) mascot uniform, and he’s going crazy, high-fiving all the parents and the kids.’ He was the mascot.
“That was his way of fitting in and being a normal kid, showing people, ‘I’m no different than you.’ It was cool for him to own the hearts of families and communities,” Russotti added.
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“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!”
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To anyone who thinks Tubby Smith will fail as the new head coach of the Memphis Tigers: Stop it.
I covered Smith’s first four seasons at Minnesota, where he led that disheveled program to multiple NCAA tournament appearances. Trust me. If you can convince kids to come and play in a city with two seasons -- winter and a teaspoon of summer -- you can sell them on Memphis. If you can win in Lubbock, Texas -- a five-hour drive from Dallas -- you can win in Memphis.
If you can win at Minnesota and Texas Tech without a practice facility, you can shine at a school that broke ground on a multimillion-dollar edifice last year.
If you can win with the unheralded athletes Smith molded into standouts -- guys named Lawrence Westbrook and Toddrick Gotcher anchored some of his best teams -- you can do plenty with the elite athletes he’ll chase at Memphis.
Some of his friends from his coaching days at the University of Colorado might think Ricardo Patton has lost his intensity.
Patton had been on the job as an assistant coach at the University of Denver for one week. Asked what he could do to help 33-year-old Rodney Billups make a smooth transition to head coach, Patton said: "I'm going to suggest that he smile every day. Something I didn't do enough of at CU was smile."
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Kansas went three deep for Ayton with Self and two assistants and the 7-footer told ESPN's Jeff Borzello that Kansas was working the hardest for him.
There was a palpable buzz in the crowd for this game.
Following a strong showing at the Nike EYBL stop in Brooklyn, Brandon Randolph picked up an offer from Kansas.
The 6-foot-6, 175-pound Class of 2017 shooting guard helped the PSA Cardinals go undefeated on the weekend. Kansas head coach Bill Self and assistants Norm Roberts and Kurtis Townsend were all on hand.
Kansas also offered 6-4 Class of 2018 shooting guard Romeo Langford, according to Brian Snow of Scout.com.
Randolph, a Yonkers, N.Y., native, saw his recruitment blow up recently as he added offers UConn, Alabama, Florida State, Louisville, Marquette, Xavier, St. John's, Seton Hall and more.
Xavier planned to watch Randolph on Monday (today) at the Westtown (Pa.) School.
A slew of big-time coaches watched the Cardinals all weekend.
"It's nice, it's exciting because you get to see them on TV and then you see them live and in person," Robin Randolph, Brandon's mom, told SNY.tv. "It's a nice feeling. I'm glad Brandon is not really phased by it, he's just playing ball.
"They're all working equally hard, and we're just enjoying the processs."
UConn has long been linked to Diallo because his school is in the state and his high school teammate Mamadou Diarra committed to the Huskies for 2016.
"Coach Ollie called me right away the minute that Hamidou decided to play with the Rens and let me know that he still loves him," said Borman, whose team is with Nike after playing on the adidas circuit last summer when they were led by Rawle Alkins and Mustapha Heron.
Diallo declined to go into specific schools, but it's clear that Kentucky and Duke are zeroing in on him, while others like UConn, Kansas and Arizona have already offered.
"I'm interested in every school that's recruiting me," Diallo said. "It's just the truth. I don't really have no favorites, just enjoying the process."
Diallo did say he wants to keep working on his shooting and defense as the spring and summer progress.
"Just being to knock down the three-ball consistently," he said. "I'm getting better every day defensively, working on lateral quickness."
Junior forward Billy Preston has cut his list to four schools: Arizona, Kansas, USC and Maryland.
The 6-foot-10 Preston is ranked No. 7 on ESPN's Top 60 for the Class of 2017.
"I got kind of tired of the recruitment process," he said Saturday at the Nike EYBL stop in Brooklyn where his RM5 team played Phoenix Family. "I kind of already had in mind a couple of schools I wanted to go to so I figured there was no point in wasting coaches' time. I might as well get it out the way, and if any other schools want to offer me, I'll definitely take it."
…Preston also plans to visit Arizona and Kansas. A Los Angeles native, Preston said he's already familiar with USC's campus. He said he visits it frequently when he is home, and has an in-home with the USC staff next week.
The junior has above average ball handing skills for his size and is a good rim protector. Preston battled against Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 recruit in ESPN's Top 30 for the Class of 2018, on Saturday.
"He's a great player," Bagley III said. "He does a lot of things well. He drives the ball. He scores the ball, rebounds extremely well, so it was a good experience to go up against guys like that."
Saturday's Phoenix Phamily-RM5 game drew a throng of high-major coaches. Bill Self, Larry Brown, Lon Kruger, Shaka Smart and Duke assistant Jeff Capel were just some of the coaches surrounding Court 1, which featured not only Bagley, but also another 2017 star power forward Billy Preston. Bagley holds offers from Kentucky, Duke, and a host of others, but there is no list, and nothing recruiting-wise is imminent. He says he visited UCLA recently, and Duke 'not too long ago,' but wasn't giving up much beyond that when the topic came up.
On June 15, college coaches can contact class of 2018 kids directly for the first time. It will be then that Bagley's recruitment picks up major steam.
"They're all showing love," Bagley said. "I'm not worried about the college part of it yet, I still have another two years left of high school. I'm just sucking it all in, the high school experience, being able to play with my teammates in different states, going around the world.
"I'm just enjoying it. When the college time comes, that's when I'll worry about it. I see the coaches out there, but I try not to think about it."
Georgetown has landed Robert Morris graduate transfer Rodney Pryor.
Pryor, a 6-foot-5 wing, had also considered Florida and Gonzaga.
"The history, the tradition, the brotherhood really stood out to me. Everything felt like it was a family," Pryor said. "They checked all the boxes I was looking for in a school and the need and want for me, and off the court having a Georgetown degree is second to none."
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