The start of the season is senior guard Frank Mason III in the locker room before the sun has even come up, preparing for the fifth day of Bill Self’s boot camp when the only sound outside is insects buzzing. About 90 minutes later, it’s Mason with his hands on his knees after almost 25 sprints, missing Self’s expected time by a second or two, then snapping at his teammates, “Sprint! Come on.” And then it’s the line of blue Kansas basketball t-shirts running again.
It’s the managers and coaches clapping along through the two minutes on jumping rope in this one-court practice gym off to the side of Allen Fieldhouse. It’s the constant squeaking of Adidas basketball shoes and an occasional line of encouragement from Self or assistant coach Jerrance Howard. It’s nearly an hour of these conditioning drills without a basketball in sight.
Then it’s sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. shuffling, putting his hands up as to defend assistant coach Kurtis Townsend — who’s standing stationary — letting out a brief “ah!” then shuffling further down the court in a zig-zag motion.
This is the fifth day — the halfway point — of Self’s 2016 boot camp. It’s a conditioning extravaganza that lasts no more than 50 minutes each day.
“They did great. They are trying hard,” Self stated after the final Boot Camp session of the week. The Jayhawks will be awarded Saturday and Sunday off, then continue Monday through Thursday in advance of Late Night in the Phog, set for Oct. 1.
“It may be hard to beat Lagerald (Vick), and Svi (Mykhailiuk) is in great shape, too,” Self added when asked to name a first-week MVP. “I don’t know if I have an MVP. They’ve all done pretty well.”
Asked what 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Vick did to stand out, Self said: “Quickness, staying in stance, being able to recover quickly, not worrying about where the finish line is, just going as hard as you can knowing you will eventually get there, whereas some guys worry about the finish line so they pace themselves. I think those are some things.”
…“Malik’s back tightened up on him. He can’t go. Hopefully he’ll be able to go Monday and ‘Doke has a groin strain we’ve been told to be cautious with,” Self said. “Nothing serious. Those guys were doing really well, also, especially ‘Doke until he got nicked up. Hopefully we’ll get through next week without any further injuries and hopefully get those guys back on the court soon.”
It will come as a surprise if Bragg veers far from an average of 12 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. And it doesn’t take much imagination to project a standout freshman season from Josh Jackson, a terrific talent who plays with an aggressive confidence.
Freshman center Udoka Azubuike, on the other hand, doesn’t fit quite so easily into any projection window. His ceiling is even higher than Bragg’s, but it’s not as easy to guess how close to Big 12 competition. He turned 17 just eight days ago. On the other hand, he's so physically advanced for his age.
So far, the 7-foot native of Nigeria blessed with a 7-foot-5 wingspan is showing encouraging signs. In the past, his weight had been listed as high as 300 pounds. He has trimmed to 280 pounds and received praise from coach Bill Self for his Boot Camp effort until a groin injury sidelined him.
Azubuike appears fully invested in improving and never gives off the vibe that he views college as an unfortunate detour on the way to the NBA.
LJW Keegan: X Factor is Biggest Player
“With all the expectations, when are we going to give Bill Self his due?” (Scott) Pollard asked emphatically. “When he breaks the record UCLA set for conference championships in a row? Are we going to give him his due then? There is more parity now than ever in the history of the game. UCLA was beating up on JV teams to keep those records alive. We are dominating in a conference that’s been ranked No. 1 in the country the last couple years.”
“I thought Scot was great. He didn’t look like a rookie at all,” said Pollard’s former KU teammate, Greg Gurley, now director of development for KU’s Williams Fund. “This has been a project of his, something he’s always wanted to do. He’s been in some other movies no one has ever seen — as an axe murderer and stuff like that. His acting is really good. It’s that caveman face that will ruin his career,” Gurley added jokingly.
One professional film critic in the audience — The Kansas City Star’s Jon Niccum, who also had a small part in the film — gave Pollard more than passing grades for his convincing performance.
“Scot is a really good, naturalistic performer. He is used to being in front of the camera. I think he has a lot of power when he performs,” Niccum said of Pollard, the 10th-leading rebounder (850) and 34th-leading scorer (1,209 points) in KU history who last played for the NBA champion Boston Celtics in 2007-08. In all, he played 11 years in the league.
“Scot is very convincing in this movie because he’s playing a pseudo version of himself. I really appreciated his work in the movie,” Niccum added.
Willmott, who directed former KU basketball player Justin Wesley in the movie “Jayhawkers,” also lauded Pollard the actor.
Paul Pierce: One More Season
Nerlens Noel is unhappy in Philadelphia. The night before media day, the Philadelphia 76ers center did not exactly ask to be traded, but he said that the team's frontcourt logjam is "silly" and "doesn't make any sense," directly criticizing the front office for keeping three young centers -- Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid -- rather than balancing out the roster this summer, via the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey.
Q You have the past two Rookies of the Year. What steps do Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns have to make?
A Continued growth. They’ve had very good starts to their careers. You don’t want to stay the same. Every year, you want to improve. You learn from each experience. So the challenge is not only to do well individually but also how they can bring the best out of their teammates. As leaders of the team, we expect them to set an example every day.
Q What do you see for roles for Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill?
A A big part of our thought process was to add depth. Over the course of a season you need to have a deep team. The way Cole played the second half of last year, I think he’s figured out who he is. The last two years have been very good for him. He fits in well, plays to his strengths, covers up his weaknesses, makes the team function well.
Minn Star Tribune: Q & A with Tom Thibodeau
At just 20-years-old, Kelly Oubre is already looking to make waves off the court. He finished his rookie year with the Wizards averaging only 3 points, but the future is bright for the 6-7 forward. He can handle and has a smooth stroke. And he hustles, on and off the floor.
Oubre’s looking to get into the fashion world sooner rather than later. He was in New York for Fashion Week a few weeks back, not only as a fan, but as a student. He’s trying to cultivate his brand, Dope$oul, which is more a lifestyle than a clothing brand. He’s taking lessons from anyone he can, including Kanye West.
In the video above, during his trip to NYFW, he shared a story about the time he met with Yeezus. Here’s what Oubre, who’s also an adidas athlete, said:
I met up with Kanye when he came to DC. It was a great experience. He said, ‘Did you see the football cleats that I just made? I’m tryna get to the basketball side.’ I told him we could work together on that. Don’t be surprised if you see me and Ye come out with some fire.
Why Allen Fieldhouse is the BEST!
“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
Brad Underwood knows that Kansas has been the gold standard in the Big 12 Conference for more than a decade now, but the new Oklahoma State coach is on a mission to restore the Cowboys to glory.
Bill Self and the Jayhawks have earned at least a share of the Big 12 title for 12 straight years, but Underwood says the Cowboys should consistently challenge them for league supremacy.
"Absolutely, it should happen, it should happen," he told me on Friday at the Brayden Carr Foundation Coaches Clinic at Prudential Center. "We have very passionate, educated fans and when you have Mr. [Henry] Iba, you have Eddie Sutton and you have an arena [Gallagher-Iba] which to this day is the loudest arena I've ever been in in my life as a player and as a coach, we'll get back to that.
"And we do that then we become a relevant name again and that's something that's not just our goal, but I think it's the place we belong."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams told ESPN he hasn't been asked to attend the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions hearing and is optimistic he won't need to go, despite the fact that the school still hasn't been notified of who will be expected to be in attendance.
Williams said he was uncertain of the actual date of the hearing, only to say he's hopeful "it's very soon."
North Carolina officials have not been told the date of the meeting and don't yet know who will be asked to attend.
Williams' name was mentioned once in the initial NCAA report, and it was to reference the date of the interview. He wasn't mentioned at all in the amended notice. The NCAA has alleged five Level 1 violations -- none involving the men's basketball program.
If Williams isn't asked to attend the COI hearing, it would further the notion that the Tar Heels coach and his program won't be hit with significant sanctions following a lengthy academic fraud investigation at the school.
Williams said he has been investigated as much as anyone over the past few years.
"Five investigations, five different groups that concluded Roy Williams didn't know what was going on, didn't know anything about it," he said. "We're down the stretch run now."
Villanova's prized freshman Omari Spellman will not be eligible during the 2016-17 basketball season and will spend the year as an academic redshirt, the school announced Friday.
The 6-foot-9 big man still has four years of eligiblity remaining.
In honor of the winningest coach in Spartan Basketball history, Michigan State Athletics will name a portion of the on-going renovations at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center in recognition of men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, pending Board of Trustee approval. The Tom Izzo Hall of History is expected to be completed in the fall of 2017.
The $20 million addition, funded through private support, will be a multi-faceted construction project and upon completion will feature a new ticket box office, a championship display, the Draymond Green Strength and Conditioning Center, a recruiting lounge, alumni locker room and interactive areas that will enhance the fan experience for the more than 500,000 people attending events each year. Open on non-game days throughout the year, the Tom Izzo Hall of History will celebrate the extraordinary success of Spartan Basketball throughout all eras.
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KU will be bringing in five uncommitted seniors to the upcoming Late Night in the Phog, plus various underclassmen.
So far, those seniors who will attend are: Collin Sexton, 6-1 point guard from Pebblebrook High in Mableton, Ga., ranked No. 7 nationally by Rivals.com; Billy Preston, 6-9 forward from Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va., ranked No. 8; Troy Brown, 6-6 shooting guard from Las Vegas Centennial, ranked No. 12; Cody Riley, 6-7 forward, Sierra Canyon High, Chatsworth, Calif., ranked No. 34; and Tremont Waters, 5-11 point guard from Notre Dame High in West Haven, Conn., ranked No. 36.
Marcus Garrett, a 6-5 combo guard from Dallas Skyline, who has committed to KU, will attend on an unofficial visit. He’s ranked No. 37 overall.
“We do it every year,” Self said of bringing in a horde of recruits. “I think we’ve got … we probably have too many coming. That’s kind of how it’s worked out. We will have many unofficials too. It’ll be a busy weekend.”
While the Jayhawks only are slated to lose seniors Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas to graduation following the upcoming 2016-17 season, Self and his staff are bracing for the departure of more.
“This situation, it’s not anything that new,” Self recently told the Journal-World. “On paper, you have two guys (who definitely will leave), but you know that you’re gonna have other underclassmen that probably will leave. It’s pretty much common knowledge that at least a couple of others probably will, or at least that’s the percentage play.”
Included on that list of “a couple of others,” of course, are freshman Josh Jackson, sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr. and juniors Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. While it will take a perfect storm of sorts for the Jayhawks to lose all six, it certainly is possible. And Self and his staff are going after prospects in the current recruiting class with that in mind.
As if landing the top talent in any given class is not already hard enough, Self said the uncertainty surrounding the future of several current Jayhawks can add to the headache.
“It’s difficult sometimes,” Self said. “Because even though we know what will more than likely transpire, sometimes other programs that we’re recruiting against spin it in a different way.”
Tremont Waters, a 5-11 point guard from Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Conn., visited Indiana. Waters, Rivals.com’s No. 36-rated player in the Class of 2017, also has visited Georgetown and Kentucky and will be at KU for Saturday’s Late Night in the Phog.
Troy Brown, a 6-7 forward from Las Vegas Centennial who is ranked No. 12 nationally, visited Oregon. He is also slated to visit KU for Late Night and Georgetown on Oct. 5. He’s already visited Alabama and Ohio State.
…Deng Gak, a 6-10 center from Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., who is ranked No. 91, visited Miami. He will visit KU on Oct. 21-23 and also has visits planned to Florida and Indiana. Duke also is on his list.
Cole Anthony has definitely noticed a Who's Who of big-time college basketball programs coming through the Archbishop Molloy gym in recent weeks.
…As far as Anthony goes, he and his family -- his father Greg Anthony is the former NBA point guard -- have kept it close to the vest on his recruitment. And understandably so. He's still only a rising sophomore and has plenty of time to make a decision.
…McCleary said Anthony was espeiailly pleased to see Duke's Jeff Capel and Kansas' Norm Roberts in the gym.
"He was happy when Duke was here last week but he was also happy that Kansas was here," he said.
"It's pretty much every kid's dream who picks up a basketball," Anthony said. "Those are two of the best colleges in the country. They got some of the best alunni, it's just an honor."
Asked if he grew up a Duke fan, Anthony said, "Duke and North Carolina but I'm open to everybody."
Annual Late Night in the Phog
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60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
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