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Consider this sequence from the first half of an eventual 86-54 victory over Texas Tech in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 home opener. Mason and Graham were on the floor together. The Jayhawks’ offense was seamless and smooth. And in the span of two possessions, Graham found freshman forward Cliff Alexander for an alley-oop in transition, and Mason set up another lob dunk to Alexander after a drive and kickout to KU guard Wayne Selden.
When the two-possession sequence was over, the Jayhawks led 20-8 with less than 10 remaining in the half, and the 12th-ranked Jayhawks were poised to roll on.
“They both can make plays and they’re smart players,” said junior forward Perry Ellis, who finished with a team-high 15 points. “They just see the floor great.”
Graham, who was playing for the first time since injuring his toe on Dec. 10 at Georgetown, came off the bench and finished with two points, six assists, six rebounds and zero turnovers in 19 minutes. Mason posted 10 points and five assists in just 24 minutes. Alexander shot six of eight from the floor and dropped in 12 points. The Jayhawks, rejuvenated by Graham’s presence, shot 52.5 percent from the floor while improving to 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12.
The crowd roared when Graham checked into the game at the 12:51 mark.
“That actually made me even more nervous when everybody stood up and started clapping,” said Graham, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. “The fans were great the whole time I was out, being supportive. The tweets and different things like that. I really appreciate it.”
Do not try jumping with a bum toe. Far too painful. Both leaving and landing.
The past four weeks, Devonte Graham did not do much leaping. Or pivoting. Or sliding. Or running.
Not on a toe that the Kansas medical staff initially thought could keep the freshman point guard from playing basketball the remainder of the season.
Yet there Graham was Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse, all 6-foot-2 of him, breathless from weeks of inactivity. All he did was outrebound every player on the floor as KU walloped Texas Tech, 86-54.
Dismayed by that stat, Graham wondered if it was an all-time high at any level, then decided not to discredit his bigger teammates.
“They did their jobs, boxing out the other big guys, so it left me open to rebound,’’ he said.
…The initial examination of Graham’s toe led KU’s doctors to give him a 50-50 chance of returning this season, Self said.
That happens when someone as big as Joshua Smith, Georgetown’s 6-10, 370-pound center, lands on your heel and causes your big toe to bend with awkward, unsettling force.
Turf toe has always been one of the most benign descriptions of something incredibly painful. Yet Graham’s injury was worse than even turf toe. No guarantees resulted from surgery. Let it heal on its own and the best possible recovery period was six weeks. Yet Graham made it back in roughly four.
“I never wanted the medical redshirt,’’ Graham said. “Sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and fight through things like injuries. I just always wanted to get back out there.’’
He was cleared following Friday’s practice.
“It was up in the air. I wasn’t sure,’’ Graham added. “That was my first time going through a whole full practice. My toe didn’t bother me, it wasn’t sore, so I told (Self) I wanted to play today. He thought I looked pretty well in practice, so he agreed.’’
The Jayhawks, uncharacteristically, seemed to be a team content to play below the rim. Through 14 games, they’d only outdunked their opponents, 27-26. They would hustle for loose balls and scrap to win games at the end, but they weren’t the team that played with the intimidation of years past
So Saturday’s first half felt a bit like a trip back in time during the 12th-ranked Jayhawks’ 86-54 bludgeoning of Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse.
Suddenly, KU looked like its normal, high-flying, slam-dunking, bully-of-the-Big-12 self.
KU outdunked Tech, 5-0, before halftime, showing its dominance while putting the game away early.
“It gets everybody amped up, gets all our teammates amped up,” KU forward Perry Ellis said of his team’s dunks. “It’s a big thing I think. Coach is always saying, ‘Go hard to the hole and try to dunk.’”
Jamari Traylor set the tone.
Seven minutes in, the 6-foot-8 forward drove the lane then finished a one-handed dunk while posterizing Tech's Isaiah Manderson.
The jams flowed from there.
Ellis had recently struggled going against length while also shying away from physical play inside. The 6-foot-8 junior had failed to score six points in three of his last five contests.
“I was just more relaxed in this game,” Ellis said. “That was the key thing, just going out there and relaxing and letting the game come to me and not worrying about things.”
KU coach Bill Self believed that Ellis could still be more aggressive than he was Saturday, as he attempted just four 2-pointers — tying a season low.
“I love the fact that he made 3s. I love the fact he shot them. But the reality is, he’s still got to get inside and get some easy baskets and do some things inside, which he’s labored to do,” Self said. “At least he saw the lid come off the basket today, which is a big positive sign for us.”
Ellis admitted after the game that he knew he was going through a rough stretch, but he felt like he had support from KU’s coaches, who told him to continue to attack in practice.
He also said there was still some adjustment to playing without offensive threats like Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
“That took a lot of the spotlight off of me. It’s definitely different,” Ellis said. “I’m just trying to get better.”
Ellis was KU’s leading scorer for the sixth time in 15 games. His 12.5-point average also remains the top mark on the team even after his recent funk.
…Senior walk-on Christian Garrett made the first basket of his career during the final minutes of Saturday’s victory. Garrett finished a layup while the Kansas bench exploded.
“It’s actually kind of funny,” Garrett said. “You can take it for what it is, but me and Perry (Ellis), we pray before every game. Last night, we both felt the Lord say (Ellis) was going to play good and I was going to score. With those things, you just kind of got to wait and let it play out, but it happened.”
Garrett, a native of Los Angeles, has been at Kansas since the 2011-12 season and had missed his previous six field-goal attempts.
... Sophomore guard Frank Mason scored in double figures for the 12th straight game. That marks the longest streak by a KU player since Ben McLemore scored in double figures in 13 games in 2012-13.
…Self improved to 6-0 against Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith during his Kansas tenure.
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Wayne Selden leaped high into the air on the Kansas University basketball bench, teammate Devonté Graham breaking his fall on the way down as both Jayhawks joined a wild celebration after senior Christian Garrett scored the first basket of his college career with 1:56 left in Saturday’s 86-54 rout of Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse.
Also, Jamari Traylor jumped up and down while pumping his right fist, Hunter Mickelson and Cliff Alexander waved towels wildly, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Kelly Oubre Jr. screamed and Brannen Greene and Perry Ellis pranced about with smiles on their faces in recognition of the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder’s drive through the lane and floater that drew nothing but net.
“Coach told us to run normal ball-screen offense, but he definitely had everybody open the lane up so I could drive it and score,” said Garrett, who breezed by two Red Raiders after accepting a pass up top from fellow walk-on Josh Pollard.
“Coach always wants us to play hard no matter what, even if it’s the last minutes of the game. I’m obviously thankful I was able to get some room, make a move and drive,” Garrett added.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk’s mom, Inna, and dad, Iurri, chatted with Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self with an assist from their son on Saturday morning in Allen Fieldhouse.
“No, they don’t (speak English). I (translated),” Mykhailiuk, Kansas University’s freshman guard from Cherkasy, Ukraine, said after scoring five points off 2-of-4 shooting with his parents cheering enthusiastically during KU’s 86-54 victory over Texas Tech.
“They said they are really happy, like me, that they came and ‘welcome,’’’ Mykhailiuk added.
Svi’s dad is a college history professor; his mom is a high school biology teacher. Svi said his dad has been in the U.S. before.
“They arrived last night. I’m happy they are here. I’ve not seen them for four months,” Svi said. “It was fun (playing before them). I’m just really happy they came here.”
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“They always tried to make Okafor the golden child,” said Mike Oliver, Alexander’s coach at Marie Curie High School, “and Cliff the thug.”
Getting away from Illinois gave Alexander an opportunity to start over where plenty of players like him had done the same. It helped that during Alexander’s sophomore year at Curie, as KU coach Bill Self began recruiting him, KU’s Thomas Robinson developed into an All-American forward with an inner-city style.
“It influenced me a lot to know that he’s the same kind of guy,” Alexander said. “He does what I do: Run the floor, block shots and dunk everything.”
Robinson’s breakout season came during his junior year. He left for the NBA right after. Alexander came to Kansas hoping he could leave for the league this June, but for the first time in his career, he wasn’t even in the starting lineup.
…Alexander grew up in the North Lawndale suburb in Chicago. It’s a town that in 2013 tied for seventh out of 77 areas in Chicago for violent crimes, according to the Chicago Tribune. That includes robbery, battery, assault, sexual assault and homicide.
North Lawndale ranks third in the city in quality-of-life crimes — including criminal damage, narcotics and prostitution. Nearly 40 percent of its townspeople live below the poverty line.
Which is why every weekday morning for four years, Oliver would make an extra stop on his way to teach at Curie High School. He lived just a few minutes away from Alexander on Chicago’s West Side, and with Curie located an hour bus ride south, it wasn’t exactly feasible or safe to expect a kid to make the trip alone.
…The stories about Alexander’s past were infamous before he got to Curie. The teachers had heard he was a problem in elementary school. He would disrupt classes and act out. Oliver says they were told he had a behavioral disorder.
Maybe it was the conversations with his coach on the drive south, but that attitude never showed in the halls of Curie. Alexander spent time helping out in special needs classrooms during his lunch breaks. Any extra time was spent on the court, where there were always kids lining up to get in on his pick-up games.
…“Coach is always putting us in the same sentence all the time,” Traylor said, beginning to mimic Self. “ ‘You’re supposed to be from Chicago, you’ve got to be tough. Let’s see where those Chicago boys come in on this sprint.’ ”
Alexander may become a great KU big man, but it’s taking longer for him to adjust.
Self said Alexander is as coachable as any player he’s had, and in small spurts, it’s begun to show.
“He can shoot,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He’s a good shooter. I don’t think he’s a three-point shooter or 18-foot shooter, but inside 16 feet he’s pretty good. ... The best shot he made was the jump hook and it will look more natural as he develops it.”
In the impatient world in which we live, basketball fans are as guilty as anybody in that they want to see it all and they want to see it all now. It doesn’t work that way and Alexander knows that.
“The dunk was always there for me in high school,” he said after the game. “It’s a lot different from high school to now.”
He said he’s enjoying working on expanding his scoring options.
“It’ll be hard to guard me,” he said, meaning once he polishes the shots he’s adding. “I can knock down the elbow jumper. I just haven’t taken it. I have a nice little jump hook and I can use both of my hands for jump hooks.”
The four freshmen combined Saturday for 33 points, made 13 of 20 field goals, 3 of 6 three-pointers, picked up 14 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and three blocked shots in 67 minutes.
Kelly Oubre Jr.’s the most advanced, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has the highest ceiling, Graham makes the team better at both ends.
Alexander’s not interested in measuring himself against teammates or classmates playing elsewhere. He just wants to get better.
The story of perfection begins on the basketball floor at Mary Persons High School, a plain gymnasium in the small town of Forsyth, Ga. Brecklyn Greene, the younger sister, would stand just off the free-throw line, pulling her brother’s shirt tail and pushing him in the back. Jeffrey and Lori Greene would gather a few feet away, two parents feigning an argument while music blared from speakers in the background.
For the Greene family, this was a mental test, of focus and preparation, and in the middle of the chaos stood oldest brother Brannen, clutching a basketball in his hands and focusing on the rim in front of him.
“We used to really make it difficult for him,” Jeffrey Greene says.
On some days, Jeffrey Greene would call out certain situations. (Down one, three seconds left.) On other days, Brannen Greene would refuse to leave the gym until he made 50 free throws in a row — a drill that came after another long shooting workout. Jeffrey Greene, a former college basketball player at Pittsburg State, had read about sports psychology ideas and the importance of mental preparation, and re-called an especially memorable quote from Earl Woods, the famous father who had guided and nurtured the career of his son, Tiger.
“Always be in character,” Jeffrey says.
…For years, Jeffrey Greene would emphasize certain aspects of his son’s shooting stroke. They would talk about trajectory and balance, and proper head placement. There were fewer basketball discussions last season, when Greene averaged 6.6 minutes per game as a Kansas freshman. But the Greene family relocated to Olathe last June — in part to be closer to family in Neosho and Joplin; in part to cut down on the commute to Allen Fieldhouse.
The Greene family, Jeffrey says, spent so much money traveling to Kansas games that it was “almost cost prohibitive to not move.”
The family’s new home has given Greene a closer support system — on Thursday night, he joined his family in Olathe for his favorite meal, seafood pasta — and the next step is to find consistency in Kansas’ rotation.
On certain days at practice, Greene will joke with Kansas coach Bill Self that he can make it through the entire season without missing a free throw. And while Self might point out that this is because Greene rarely gets to the free-throw line, the Jayhawks’ head coach has grown to appreciate Greene’s inner confidence.
“Basically, he has no conscience,” Self says, “which is a good thing with a shooter.”
When the story of Kansas’ preposterous 11th consecutive Big 12 championship is told it will probably not include much about this first week of conference play. That’s just not the way these things go. Our memories tend to be short.
So the story will focus on Kansas’ clinching game or Cliff Alexander’s improvement or maybe about how well the Jayhawks are set up in the backcourt for the next two years with Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. The details still need to be filled in.
But when the story is told about the streak that just won’t die, it should be mentioned that it took all of a week to see how this would eventually play out.
Kansas beat Texas Tech 86-54 on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse and, in a vacuum, this had all the surprise of a sunrise.
…The KU combination of talent, expectation, luck, and perhaps the country’s biggest homecourt advantage will take on a worthy challenge from a league field that’s the best it’s been in years. It’s actually a good bet that KU will share the league title for what would be the fifth time during the streak, mostly likely with Iowa State or Oklahoma.
But the streak is going to live, still, like the rat you can’t catch, and we’re already seeing how this is going down.
KC Star Mellinger
1/11/15, 8:09 PM
#okstate at Kansas Tuesday. None of their last 5 meetings was decided by more than 7 pts. Total combined score of those 5: OSU 372, KU 370
"I thought he could bring us energy," Scott said of Black, who was key in the Lakers' 101-84 win over the Orlando Magic. "And that's what he did."
Indeed, the surprise of the night was Black, who in his Staples Center debut scored 14 points on 4-of-4 shooting (6-of-7 from the free throw line) to go along with nine rebounds in 17 minutes, all of them coming in the second half.
"Just came in with a ton of energy," Scott said. "That's how he plays. It really elevated everybody else."
Lakers reserve guard Nick Young shares a locker next to Black and praised the young forward.
"He was an animal out there," Young said.
Added Jeremy Lin, "That was awesome, man. That was awesome."
Black sat at his locker surrounded by a large scrum of reporters. Though he doesn't yet have a nameplate, Black gushed about how thankful he was just to play for the Lakers.
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Referee Karl Hess, accused of making ethnic remark to booster, won't work #SEC games, either apne.ws/1wHBkKx #ACC
It was a slugfest, all right, Iowa State's most recent basketball thriller. Elbows flew. Arms were tangled. Players were hit in all parts of bodies. It followed the script.
And you say the 17th-ranked Cyclones can only play with finesse?
You obviously didn't see this 74-72 victory against 14th-ranked West Virginia at the Mountaineers' WVU Coliseum.
A road win for the ages?
Absolutely. At least in the ages that encompass coach Fred Hoiberg's four-plus years in Ames.
It was just the Cyclones' second win against a ranked road Big 12 Conference opponent since he's been the coach. The other was in triple overtime at No. 19 Oklahoma State last season, and if this one would have gone to OT, Iowa State probably wouldn't have been as fortunate.
Monte Morris, the Cyclones' press-breaker, fouled out with 54.9 seconds to play. Dustin Hogue, the team's hero on Tuesday, joined him on the bench 33 seconds later.
And still, Iowa State improved its records to 12-2 overall and 2-0 in the mighty Big 12 Conference after Naz Long made one of two throws with 1.6 seconds to play, and West Virginia badly missed a shot from three-quarters court at the horn.
Des Moines Register
Kansas State’s overtime victory at Oklahoma was a welcome result for a team trying to move past a disappointing start.
It also gave the Wildcats a jolt of confidence as they try to achieve one of their preseason goals.
“Coming into the Big 12, we knew we had to step it up to get a NCAA Tournament bid,” junior forward Stephen Hurt said. “So it was big for us.”
That’s right, K-State, 9-7 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12, has not given up hope on an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. It’s a lofty aspiration for a team sporting a RPI of 124 and one top-50 victory, but the Wildcats think it remains attainable.
“We told them we were coming here to win,” Weber said. “I told them we were going to make ‘SportsCenter’ tonight for a good reason. Two weeks ago we made it for a bad reason. We had a lot of guys step up … we had a lot of guys play well.
“The last thing I put on the board was, ‘Somebody be special.’ Marcus was awfully special.”
He needed to be. Before Foster stepped up, K-Sate appeared doomed.
Though it controlled things much of the way, leading at halftime and holding a 44-36 advantage in the second half, an ill-timed scoring drought put Oklahoma ahead in the final minutes of regulation until Foster led a rally.
What's the matter with Texas?
Stop me if you've heard this before. A team that cruised through November and December thanks to excellent offensive rebounding and outstanding interior D suddenly can't buy a 2-pointer. That shoe fits not only Kentucky but also Texas, which currently sits at 1-2 in Big 12 play.
In the wake of the Longhorns' 69-58 loss at Oklahoma State, Rick Barnes pinned the blame on defensive breakdowns by UT in the second half. It's true that the Texas defense has taken a step back, but in the long run the main concern for this team may be an offense that's opened the conference season scoring just 0.92 points per possession. Isaiah Taylor is 8-of-28 on his 2s in those three games, and it's not at all clear that there's a better option for these attempts -- the team as a whole has connected on just 35 percent of its tries inside the arc in league play.
Can Myles Turner halt this slide? Stranger things have happened. The one bright spot in the loss to the Cowboys was a 4-of-4 showing from beyond the arc by the 6-foot-11 freshman. Add that to five blocks in just 26 minutes and you have a good individual showing in an otherwise dispiriting loss. Most importantly, Turner seems to have put his early-season foul troubles behind him. In three conference games, he's averaged just 2.4 fouls per 40 minutes.
That's huge, because the freshman is, as expected, one of the best rim protectors in the nation. More minutes for Turner likely means fewer points for opponents. If Texas can simply hit the league average on offense, the Longhorns' season can yet be salvaged.
"We're not a very good team right now," Calipari said.
But surprisingly, that's OK with the veteran coach.
"I don't want us to be great right now anyway," he said. "We need to be great at the end of February and March ... you win and you learn. It's winning and learning and that's all we're trying to do."
Tyler Ulis put Kentucky ahead with a 3-pointer deep in double overtime to help hold off Texas A&M for the 70-64 win.
A little scoop shot by North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige with nine seconds left on the clock got the No. 18 Tar Heels — down 13 points in the second half — past Louisville 72-71 in the Smith Center on Saturday.
No. 5 Louisville missed a 3-pointer and a put-back on the other end before the final horn sounded.
The magnitude of Rutgers' upset over No. 4 Wisconsin Sunday night, a result that shook the college basketball world, could not be measured by point spreads or rankings or even the seismic blast of 6,987 fans erupting as the final seconds ticked off the 67-62 verdict.
Ultimately, it was measured in tears.
Head coach Eddie Jordan broke down four questions into his postgame press conference. Always stoic after both wins and the gut-punch losses his program has endured, the second-year skipper could not hold it together when asked what the victory meant.
Kyle Washington hopped on a courtside table to celebrate amid a crowd of North Carolina State fans jumping around at midcourt. Anthony "Cat" Barber posed with fans taking selfies amid the chaos.
The Wolfpack had turned No. 2 Duke's latest visit to Raleigh into yet another party -- complete with ending the Blue Devils' unbeaten start.
Trevor Lacey scored 21 points and N.C. State shot 55 percent to beat Duke 87-75 on Sunday, knocking off one of the last three undefeated teams in the country.
In a nail-biting game that came down to a missed shot, the Oregon State Beavers upset the 7th-ranked Arizona Wildcats, winning 58-56 in men's basketball at Gill Coliseum Sunday night in Corvallis.
A layup by guard Langston Morris-Walker put the Beavers ahead by two with 26 seconds to go. Arizona took possession and guard T.J. McConnell missed his shot with one second to go. A rebound by Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson died at the buzzer.
Coincidentally, Oregon State's last win over a top-10 team came in 2000 the Beavers hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to upset No. 3 Arizona, 70-69.
1/11/15, 9:38 AM
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Kansas coach Bill Self was back in Kentucky Friday night to watch two players — New York forward Cheick Diallo and Mississippi guard Malik Newman — he has been recruiting play at the McCracken County Mustang Madness.
He was at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in December and Thursday got a verbal commitment from Cleveland power forward Carlton Bragg, who played in that event. Bragg was also a Kentucky target as Diallo and Newman both are.
Self said he enjoys coming to events like this one. He stayed over six hours watching a variety of players play in four games.
…Self, who had an assistant coach with him, said he likes evaluating players in this type setting more than during summer AAU games.
“AAU ball is good and gives kids great exposure, but they are not being practiced like high school team are practiced,” Self said. “These games you can see them in real live situations in which they practiced and different strategies and things going on to see how they really plug potentially into a college team.
“In AAU ball, nothing against it and guys do great job, but they are so limited with time and practice that a lot of times you are just seeing athletic ability and skill set. Here you are seeing can they play.”
Central KY News
A much-anticipated, much-hyped prize fight heading into Jan. 10, “the thrillage at the Village” proved to be worth the price of admission for those thoughtful enough to get their tickets early as the VASJ Vikings served up a fourth-round knockout of Mentor, 72-59, at Viking Village.
…After starting the game on the bench, for what Kwasniak said was not meeting a team standard, Bragg began delivering haymakers in the second quarter. Following a Jack Korsok 3-pointer for the Cardinals and another Pardon bucket, the charter member of the 2015 Kansas Jayhawk recruiting class laid in two straight scores off of feeds from Parker, who flirted with a triple-double. He had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Bragg continued his onslaught, taking the reins in the open court and scoring 11 of VASJ’s 18 points in the second en route to tying his career-high of 31 points for the third time this season.
…Bragg said he enjoyed that his team’s opponents never lay down.
“I love it,” Bragg said. “The competition was very high today, running up and down with them. They kept battling and battling. We knew we were physically bigger than them, but they came back.”
With Potter in foul trouble for most of the game, Bragg had a decisive advantage inside, and he took advantage. A missed dunk at the end would have given him a new career-high.
Cleveland PD (Box Score at link)
VIDEO: Postgame with Carlton Bragg
By becoming the first player to pledge to Kansas in the 2015 class, five-star forward Carlton Bragg is blazing an important trail and he gives the Jayhawks insurance if Perry Ellis or Cliff Alexander leave early. Bragg is a talented inside-outside threat with a lot of natural ability and his commitment is important for Bill Self. Now Self can focus more time and energy on the wing and perimeter and also hone on in adding a big man to add alongside Bragg.
As the No. 14 overall prospect in the 2015 class, according to Rivals, Bragg is an All-American talent coming on board, but I’m not sure how he’ll immediately translate to college level. Production can go up-and-down for Bragg, especially if he misses his first few shots. He’s been prone to taking too many perimeter jumpers at times and settling for easy looks. Self has gotten a lot of power forwards to the NBA though and Bragg has pro ability if he can focus his efforts to producing each game.
Kansas needs someone who can come in — or currently develop — into a go-to scorer. A tough and focused guy who can get things done when the game is on the line. Bragg probably isn’t that guy. But if Kansas adds someone like Jaylen Brown or Brandon Ingram it means that Bragg is the perfect complimentary piece for the 2015 class.
Jaylen Brown (No. 2): This one is expected to drag out until after the high school season is finished. Brown isn’t tipping his hand one way or another, but Kansas is in very good shape after getting an official visit in the fall.
Malik Newman (No. 3): The Jayhawks have picked up momentum in this one, especially after Kentucky landed a commitment in November from Isaiah Briscoe
Ivan Rabb (No. 5): Kansas might be playing catch-up for Rabb, as local school California has done a terrific job so far with the 6-foot-10 power forward.
Cheick Diallo (No. 7): Kansas has been in the driver’s seat or the co-driver’s seat in Diallo’s recruitment for most of the past year, along with Iowa State.
Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10): This recruitment has changed so much, but Kansas is the pick on RecruitingNation's Hot Board. He’s also visited Kentucky, UCLA and Arizona, while UNLV gets a boost because of proximity. Zimmerman’s recruitment will continue to take twists and turns.
Brandon Ingram (No. 12): The prevailing thought for much of Ingram’s recruitment was that he would stay in the state of North Carolina, either at North Carolina or Duke. Since visiting Kansas in the fall, though, the Jayhawks have really made up some ground on the in-state options.
Tyler Dorsey (No. 33): In the fall, it looked as if Dorsey would decide early -- but he chose to prolong his recruitment. Kansas had the early buzz after Dorsey’s decommitment from Arizona, but California picked up plenty of momentum in the fall and has made him a priority moving forward. The Jayhawks are behind in this one.
…The Jayhawks have made an effort to get back in the mix for Thomas Bryant (No. 16), who was down to Missouri, Indiana and Syracuse before adding Kentucky to his list recently. Kansas would obviously be playing catch-up for the 6-foot-10 big man. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are also one of the two schools -- along with Kentucky -- thought to be in good shape for 2016 stud Thon Maker. There has been talk of Maker reclassifying; should that happen, expect Kansas to be in play for his services.
“He was not as good as he usually is at Marshall County (Hoop Fest) in December. He was a little off. He was coming off an extended injury layoff and was a little bit rusty,” Stelzer said. “But you could tell here that he can play. He can move really well. That quickness, speed are important in basketball and he has that.”
Assistant coach Eric Jaklitsch said in the last month, there has been a noticeable improvement in Diallo’s play. Kansas coach Bill Self was here to see him Friday night and Kentucky coach John Calipari was expected for his game Saturday night, especially after UK target Carlton Bragg picked Kansas over Kentucky on Thursday.
“He has gotten a lot more comfortable, a lot more in tune with his teammates.You miss four months — the preseason and beginning of season — and it changes your timing, changes a lot of things you do within the team concept,” Jaklitsch said. “In the last month we have won a bunch of games and beat a bunch of nationally ranked teams and he has won a bunch of MVP awards and the team is doing pretty well.
“When he is playing great, everybody else on the team feeds off his positive energy. His motor, he’s cranking it up. He is back in the basketball swing of things.”
His coaches have tried to shield him from recruiting as much as possible. He has taken official visits to UK, St. John’s, Pittsburgh, Kansas and Iowa State. He has a bevvy of other scholarship offers, including one from Louisville.
“We try to kind of shield him a bit so he can concentrate on academics and just playing basketball and not dealing with media and stuff,” Stelzer said. “We have had (Kentucky coach John) Calpari visit. His assistant has been there three or four times already. Kansas been there. Iowa state there. We have had a lot of coaches come in and they have all had their chance to talk to him.
“It’s just a little bit too soon for him to make a decision. He is trying to devote his focus on this season to do the best he can. He is pretty focused on things he has to do.”
That’s why Jaklitsch says Diallo has been off limits to the media.
…Jaklitsch says he is a “well-rounded kid” with an unusual personality.
“He is a quiet kid, he is a fun-loving kid. He is a friendly kid,” the assistant coach said.
He says that personality will translate well to the school Diallo eventually picks.
“Any kid is going to enjoy playing in front of big crowds in college and whatever college he goes to he will enjoy a lot,” Jaklitsch said.
The assistant said his top five schools have not changed and likely won’t.
“Everything is the same in recruiting and will stay that way until he makes his college choice after the season,” Jaklitsch said.
Central KY News
Zimmerman isn’t the first player to refuse to sign a letter of intent during the recruiting process. But it’s rare, and he might be the most high-profile example. Universities hold the upper hand and can pressure players to sign the letters by warning that their spots could go to other recruits unless they sign.
Ranked No. 10 in the class of 2015 by Rivals.com, Zimmerman’s remaining suitors — UNLV, Kansas, Arizona, Kentucky and UCLA — are willing to save a spot for the 7-footer, even if it means he could change his mind and enroll elsewhere in August, leaving the program in a lurch.
“I need to trust them, and in the same way, they need to trust us,” Lori Zimmerman said. “So if our relationship isn’t strong enough that they trust Stephen is going to honor his commitment without signing, then it’s not a good situation.”
At least one coach wasn’t happy with the family’s decision and during an in-home visit with the Zimmermans, brought an example of an national letter of intent filled out, Lori Zimmerman said.
Las Vegas Sun
Thon Maker is closing in on a reclassification decision and could decide by February, which would make him eligible for the 2016 NBA Draft.
“We’re going to push,” Ed Smith, the guardian of the 7-foot Maker, told Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier Journal on Saturday. “At this stage, it’s not that he’s overdominating the competition – although he is dominating the position – but he needs to get in a higher-level type setting.”
…“The ones we’ve seen the most have been Kentucky and Kansas,” Smith said to SNY.tv. “Missouri has been with us as well for a while. But Wake Forest just jumped into the mix, Coach [Danny] Manning came up. We have heard from Kentucky and Kansas the most probably. But Indiana has been in there as well. Indiana, Kentucky and Kansas have been the ones that have been the most present, with Missouri in there also.”
…As for Kansas, Smith told SNY.tv that Bill Self’s track record of developing big men and forwards can be a feather in Kansas’ hat in the recruitment of Maker.
“Great coach, great coach,” Smith said. “If you are looking at coaching forwards and bigs, from the Morris twins who are hybrids to Joel Embiid, you can see that he understands how to coach those guys.”
“When we get transition buckets and dunks and threes, it gives us more energy on the defensive side to get stops,” Tatum said.
Tatum had 13 rebounds to go with his 31 points. Junior guard Mike Lewis had 11 points. Junior post Tyler Cook had 10 points, as did sophomore guard Reggie Crawford.
…As for the turnovers, ineffective halfcourt offense and poor play that plagued Chaminade in its first half against Vianney, Tatum said those things happen sometimes.
“We're teenagers, we get moody. We're unpredictable, you never know what you're going to get,” Tatum said. “But we always know how to finish.”
St Louis PD
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