Three different planes carrying Williams Education Fund donors, KU fans and the team contingent left Kansas City during the morning Aug. 5 for Kansas Europe 2012, a 10-day excursion to Switzerland and Paris that will include four exhibition games for the Kansas men’s basketball team. Two-thirds of the group made it to Zurich, Switzerland, and will begin sightseeing today ahead of the first scheduled game on Aug. 7. But for the KU team, Zurich will have to wait 24 hours.
Shortly before its scheduled landing at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., the pilot informed the KU team that weather was preventing flights from entering or leaving the airport. The plane was diverted to Pittsburgh, Pa. Upon arrival, the pilots announced that a leak in the cockpit needed to be fixed. The group had to deplane, and it soon became evident that it would miss its connecting flight to Zurich from Washington, D.C.
Once back on the plane, KU team administrators worked with the travel agent to attempt to get on the final flight of the evening, which could get the team to Zurich through Munich, Germany. This led to what was described as an Amazing Race experience, rushing from gate to gate through trams and escalators at Dulles Airport. It ended, unfortunately, with no luck for the just more than 40 in the team travel party.
All was not lost at the Dulles Airport. Freshman guard Andrew White III’s family came to see the team off for Zurich and was able to have an extended visit due to the circumstances. The family followed the team to the Dulles Airport Marriott.
Now the plan is for the KU team to catch a late afternoon flight and join the remaining travel party on what will be the morning of the Jayhawks’ first game, Aug. 7, against the Swiss National Team. Start time will be 7 p.m. local, which is noon in Kansas.
The Dulles Airport Marriott did bring some memories to the veterans on the team; it’s where the team stayed when it came for the funeral of Lisa Robinson, mother of KU 2012 Consensus All-American Thomas Robinson, in January 2011.
KU AD Euro Blog
Self is not stressed about keeping alive KU’s 39-game winning streak in exhibition contests. The Jayhawks last loss an exhibition game — actually three in a row — during the last trip to Paris. Roy Williams’ Jayhawks went 0-3 in Dec. of 1995 with a team that won the Big Eight title and reached the Elite Eight.
“I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do it,” Self said of approaching the games, which will be played in four 10-minute quarters with European rules such as the 24-second clock. “I’ve talked to my staff about a strategy, what we are going to do from a coaching standpoint. The way I visualize it is, everybody will play about 18 to 20 minutes. If it gets down to the last five minutes and we’ve got to win the game, we’ll try to do that.
“This (Swiss National) team we play the first two games ... they beat Texas A&M twice last year and Villanova twice last year. The year Butler went to the finals against Duke, they beat ’em twice. I don’t know if it’s the same cast of guys. The Sefoloshas (Oklahoma City Thunder’s Thabo and brother Kgomotso) and those guys were playing.”
Ben McLemore, who hit two three-pointers and an inside shot in the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s Kansas University basketball intrasquad scrimmage, was on pace for quite an offensive performance in the Jayhawks’ practice facility next to Allen Fieldhouse.
However, the smooth-shooting, 6-foot-5, 185-pound red-shirt freshman from St. Louis had his day cut short after suffering a left hip-flexor injury while playing defense at the conclusion of the first of four 10-minute sessions.
“Ben is good offensively,” KU coach Bill Self said of McLemore, who practiced second semester of the 2011-12 season, but did not play in games after being deemed a partial academic qualifier. “He can do a lot of things. Right now he is more a shooter and just an athlete more than knowing how to plug himself in and use his athletic ability. He’s going to be a nice player,” Self added.
The good news is McLemore’s injury is minor and he should be fine for Tuesday’s noon European tour exhibition opener against the Swiss National Team in Fribourg, Switzerland.
…Self, who has been impressed with McLemore’s work in the 10 practices that were allotted to the Jayhawks by the NCAA, said McLemore could be the best defensive player the Jayhawks have ever had and is one of the most athletic players KU has had.
“I definitely like it,” McLemore said of his coach’s praise. “It is a motivator. I don’t think it changes anything. I’m going to play my game and do whatever coach wants me to do.”
Aside from McLemore ... everybody’s healthy heading into today’s travel day to Switzerland. Senior guard Elijah Johnson, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in April, had several pinpoint passes for easy baskets and unofficially had 10 points (including one made three) in Saturday’s four-quarter scrimmage that included the international 24-second clock.
“I feel great. My knee is getting stronger. I just need to get in better shape,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who is KU’s vocal leader on the court, said the 10 practices have been beneficial.
“Right now, the coaches are instilling things in their (eight scholarship freshmen) heads that they usually don’t learn until October. It gives them a head start,” Johnson said. “It gives them a chance to warm up. I think they need that extra time to be able to settle down and study.”
LJW Video: Coach Self after practice
KU AD: Europe trip notes, video of Coach Self interview
Senior guard Travis Releford has been one of the leaders Kansas relied on to show the ropes to the new players. Now with the team traveling to Zurich, Switzerland on Sunday, Releford hopes it’s an experience to grow with his new teammates.
“Just bonding with the new guys and to figure out how they will come in and help us this year,” Releford said. “It’ll be a fun trip.”
Sophomore Nadir Tharpe will also be one of the players the Jayhawks look towards for a big role this season. He also pointed out the benefits of early season practices.
“We want to become much more of team,” Tharpe said. “This summer has given us a chance to be practice with each other, get use to each other and this trip is only going to help us grow. That’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
Self said Tharpe had been inconsistent throughout workouts, but had a good last day of practice.
The real story of the trip will be how the freshman get adapted with the rest of their teammates.
It’s only August, but Kansas’ guard rotation — at least after Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and McLemore — figures to be one of the most interesting subplots of the early season. Of most importance: Who will serve as the primary ballhandler when Johnson is out of the game?
Sophomore Naadir Tharpe, who played sparingly last season, will have a chance to battle for those minutes, and Tharpe appeared more assertive in his role during Saturday’s open scrimmage.
But judging by his post-practice comments, Self is either not quite satisfied with Tharpe’s play over the last few weeks — or trying to push Tharpe even more on the practice floor.
“You saw him on his best day,” Self said. “So, Naadir has been hot and cold, to say the least. But today he was much better. He’s had a problem passing the ball all over the place.
“It’d be nice if he could kind of settle in as the backup point guard, but I don’t really know. I don’t know yet. Because he hasn’t been very consistent.”
Although international rules, including the ball being used in the Olympics with the funky splash of yellow, will be in effect, the Jayhawks must use the trip to get to know each other.
In effect, this is freshman orientation. Only with the Alps as a backdrop.
“The biggest thing is just to get them some game readiness,” coach Bill Self said.
These aren’t the same Jayhawks you remember clawing their way to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament, even though Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey return as starters.
Even KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger asked for a roster shortly after he arrived to the practice gym.
“I’ve met all these guys, but they look a little different when they get out there in this setting,” Zenger said.
Imagine when the uniforms are pressed, fans are in the seats and score is kept for real.
Self did not want to wait for that day to fall in November. Not with so many newcomers squaring off against Michigan State in the Champions Classic.
“What we’ve gotten out of it, we’ve already gotten out of it and that’s practice,” Self said. “The guys have worked hard for the most part and we’ve done a lot of offensive breakdown stuff in 10 practices.
“I want to give us the best chance to win games, because we’ve got some big ones in early November. With eight freshmen, this gives us a better chance.”
…These are pros the young Jayhawks are going to play.
Ellis could have trouble finishing his nice array of moves. Jamari Traylor needs to play hard each time he takes the floor. Zach Peters and Landen Lucas will confront experienced brutes underneath. Milton Doyle, Rio Adams and Andrew White must learn to be careful with the ball.
Those conclusions could be drawn Saturday regarding each of those freshmen.
Consequently, with the Jayhawks just four months removed from an NCAA title appearance, their 39-game win streak in exhibition games is in jeopardy.
Know what? Big deal. It’s still August. Technically, these are practice games. Early practices at that.
That exhibition string happens to extend to December 1995. That year, the Jayhawks went 0-3 on a midseason trip to, of all places, France. Guys named Haase, LaFrentz, Pierce, Pollard and Vaughn were starters. Later, they won the Big Eight before advancing to the Elite Eight.
Good to remember that bit of trivia as the current KU squad uses this latest European trip to bond.
Defense has not even been stressed, according to Self. And rest assured, he will eventually stress defense.
“Coach is nice right now,” Johnson said. “He’s not pressuring us. He’s letting us have fun right now. He wants us to enjoy it and let us realize we’re at Kansas, so he’s letting us breathe right now. But once it’s time to knuckle down, it will definitely get more intense.”
Kansas University freshman Rio Adams, a 6-foot-3 guard from Seattle’s Rainier Beach High, has qualified academically for a scholarship, coach Bill Self said Saturday.
Self said he received word from the NCAA Clearinghouse regarding Adams on Wednesday or Thursday.
In July it was reported that freshman guard Milt Doyle, 6-4 from Chicago Marshall High, had qualified. Both had some concerns about their academic eligibility heading into the final days of the 2011-12 high school academic year.
Self said all of KU’s incoming players are eligible and will make the trip to Switzerland on Sunday for KU's upcoming four-game tour of Switzerland and Paris.
The Celtics have a team option on Paul Pierce's contract for the 13-14 season.
"I think I am going to play this one out," said Pierce. "I want to see what it feels like to be a free agent for once in my life. I think I am going to play this one out. A lot can change in two years. My body (may not) be where I want it to be, I could retire, a lot of things could happen. It's not about the money at this point. I love the game. I made as much money as I possibly can. It's about winning a championship and if I feel like it's the right thing to do, maybe so (come back) but I really don't know the specifics on the (Kevin Garnett) deal or Jason Terry's deal. If i solidify my third year, maybe they opt out, so it's about keeping your options open."
Pierce isn't bothered by the possibility of the Celtics not picking up that option.
"Not at all. I mean if they don't want me back, I feel like I'm good enough and I'll be wanted by a lot of teams. I'm coming into this year and I just made another all-star team at 34. So I'm still feel like I'm playing at a great level."
Former Kansas men’s basketball player Sasha Kaun scored a team-high 18 points for Russia but Australia’s Patrick Mills made a three pointer in the final seconds to give the Aussies an 82-80 victory. The contest was both teams’ final competition in Group B of the 2012 Olympic Games. Despite the loss, Russia (4-1) won Group B play with brackets for the Olympic quarterfinals to be determined following Monday’s final group games.
Against Australia, Kaun, who played at Kansas from 2005-08 and was a key reserve on KU’s 2008 NCAA National Championship team, started and played just over 26 minutes, scoring a team-best 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting. The Tomsk, Russia, native also pulled down six rebounds for the game.
Diamond Dixon has been preparing for the Olympics since she was in fifth grade.
But back then, Dixon never would have called it training.
Before all the records, before she became a champion and before she secured her place in University of Kansas sports history, Dixon just called her training “going home.”
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Kansas 2012-13 Schedule
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North Carolina State freshman guard Rodney Purvis won't accompany the team for its exhibition trip to Spain because the NCAA is still reviewing his eligibility.
N.C. State says Purvis won't make this weekend's trip "due to an ongoing process with the NCAA Eligibility Center.'' The school says the NCAA is giving an "extended review'' to Purvis' high school. Purvis' class is the first to graduate from Upper Room in Raleigh.
The NCAA requires all freshmen to complete that process to play in a summer foreign tour.
"Above the Rim Management represents the next chapter in my career, and I am excited about the future," exclaims C. Lamont Smith. The new sports management firm will focus on professional basketball players and coaches as the sister company of All Pro Sports and Entertainment ("APSE"), which is traditionally known for its legendary football roster of Jerome Bettis, Barry Sanders, and Eddie George. APSE will continue to represent high-level football clients who are consistent with its core values of excellence and public service.
The first signing of Above the Rim Management ("Above the Rim") is Jamar Samuels ("Samuels"), a collegiate star formerly of Kansas State. Samuels is one of the top basketball players in the history of Kansas State, helping the Wildcats to a 96-42 record during his four-year career. "If I work hard on the court, I know that C. Lamont Smith will be working harder for me off the court. He is a very humble man."
Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun fractured his hip in a bicycle accident Saturday hours before he was supposed to coach in a charity game in Uncasville, Conn.
Associated head coach George Blaney says the 70-year-old Calhoun was cycling in Madison when he hit some sand and fell. Calhoun was scheduled to have surgery at the UConn Health Center in Farmington.
Calhoun broke several ribs in an accident during a charity bicycle ride in 2009.
The charity event at Mohegan Sun benefits the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the UConn Health Center.
How high school athletes become eligible to play Division I sports and how they stay eligible in college is not exactly in lockstep with how the NCAA would like to see either of those two tasks accomplished.
And so the NCAA makes new rules and increased standards and the students and coaches question their fairness.
The latest changes in eligibility standards will apply to this fall's high school freshman class, but we won't know their full effect until 2016, when those students prepare to step foot on college campuses. They are already sending ripples through the college community because they are so drastic -- a jump in the required minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.3 and, perhaps more challenging, a rule that now requires high school athletes to complete 10 of their 16 required core courses prior to their senior year of high school.
There is recourse for those who can meet the old standards but not the new ones. The NCAA is now calling it an academic redshirt, a sort of nuanced version of a partial-qualifier. Students may receive a scholarship and will be eligible to practice with their teams, but won't be able to compete. Provided they pass nine credit hours in their first college semester, they can compete the following season as a redshirt freshman.
The intent is simple: The NCAA and its Eligibility Center no longer want to see transcripts in which athletes essentially backload the better part of their academic curriculum at the end of their high school careers.
Instead of taking courses in order, kids desperate to earn an eligibility stamp collect classwork like stamps, taking geometry before algebra and English 4 simultaneously with English 3.
Now the NCAA is demanding that high school students follow a typical pattern, in which learning is built on prerequisites.
ESPN Tip-Off Marathon schedule
2012-13 Early Season Events List
Purely skilled, Brannen Greene is flat out a threat to score the basketball any time crosses midcourt. He's going to put a lot of points in the book at Kansas. Greene scored 18 points on 6-10 shooting to lead USA 2013 Blue to a 76-67 win over Africa on Saturday morning before sitting in the night game with a minor injury.
Rivals adidas Nations Saturday recap
The nation's top-ranked basketball recruit for 2013 could have Michigan State near the top of his list.
Sources believe the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward out of Chicago will choose either MSU or Duke, with Kansas also being a strong contender.
Last month, Parker named 10 target schools for his recruitment: MSU, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Stanford, Florida, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul and North Carolina.
Parker's father, Sonny, told ESPNChicago.com that he could wait until the spring to decide on a school. The original plan was to announce in November.
Detroit Free Press
In the movie "Blue Chips," college coach Pete Bell, played by Nick Nolte, goes to the hometown of stud recruit Butch McRae (Anfernee Hardaway) and makes his pitch. He even walks into Neon's church and joins the worshippers in song. Anything to woo a top talent.
In reality, those trips no longer anchor the recruiting effort for many coaches.
Kids take more unofficial visits now, so they meet coaches and see campuses long before they're allotted the official visits that can now begin Jan. 1 of a prospect's junior season. Text messaging and social media direct messaging have increased the stream of communication too, so players and coaches know more about one another prior to their first face-to-face meeting.
"I haven't made a home visit in I can't remember how long," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "Our recruiting has been one of commitments early on. Official visits have almost been like celebratory things."
The value of a letter has changed, too.
On Sunday, Jones and his mother sorted through the endless letters he's received in recent years. They used to keep the mailings in a shoebox. By the time they finished organizing everything over the weekend, however, they'd filled an eight-gallon bin.
"I think a call and text seems to be more personal than a letter," said Jones' mother, Deb Jones. "When a letter comes, it's not really a letter, it's a flier."
Check here for the 2012-13 NCAA Recruiting Calendar
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