Three more seniors - Rico Gathers (Baylor), Georges Niang (Iowa State) and Perry Ellis (Kansas) - along with one junior (Isaiah Taylor, Texas) make up the 2015-16 Preseason All-Big 12 Team. Four of the student-athletes on the squad have also been recognized for their academics. Ellis was the 2014-15 Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was joined by Hield and Taylor on the Academic All-Big 12 First Team, while Niang was part of the academic second team.
Hield led the Big 12 in scoring a year ago with 17.4 points per game, increasing that to a league-best average of 18.5 points in conference play. He earned Associated Press All-America Third Team accolades and has started every game the last two years, ranking 15th at OU with 1,366 career points.
Ellis was the only player in the Big 12 last season to rank in the top seven in scoring, field goal percentage and rebounding.
Preseason Player of the Year
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, G, Sr., 6-4, 214, Freeport, Bahamas/Sunrise Christian Academy [Kan.]
Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Deonte Burton, Iowa State, G, Jr., 6-4, 250, Milwaukee, Wis./Marquette/Vincent
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Cheick Diallo, Kansas, F, Fr., 6-9, 220, Mali, Africa/Our Savior New American [N.Y.]
2015-16 Preseason All-Big 12 Team
Rico Gathers, Baylor,
Georges Niang, Iowa State*
Perry Ellis, Kansas*
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma*
Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Honorable Mention (listed alphabetically by school):
Taurean Prince, Baylor; Jameel McKay and Monte Morris, Iowa State; Frank Mason, Kansas; Phil Forte, Oklahoma State; Devin Williams, West Virginia
* - Unanimous Selection
Because Diallo is cleared for practice, that means he will be a full participant in Late Night in the Phog Friday.
“Late Night is practice, so yeah, that’s absolutely no problem,” head coach Bill Self said. “We’re excited he’s not going to be behind from a practice standpoint because he is going to be allowed to go, and he obviously needs that because he missed the summer, and then he’s missed the last three weeks as well.”
Self said Diallo, who was praised for his constant motor in high school, will change the culture of their practices.
“He’ll give us things from an intangible standpoint,” Self said. “He’ll change the culture of practice because he’ll play so hard. He’ll keep balls alive that maybe we didn’t keep alive in past years.”
You know what's kind of wild? Kansas will be the deepest team in the country no matter what.
By any rational standard -- which is to say, one that excludes the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats -- the Jayhawks will enter the 2015-16 season with an exceptionally full and uncommonly consistent roster. Their only two departures this offseason, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, were mostly role players in their one-and-done campaigns. The heart and soul of a group that won an 11th straight Big 12 title -- and then some -- is very much intact.
…Throw in four-star freshman forward Carlton Bragg (and, if you like, four-star shooting guard Lagerald Vick), and Bill Self will have 10 (or 11) good-to-very-good players on his 2015-16 roster. Self's players will be more experienced, more developed, more cohesive. Self will have positional and rotational flexibility. Kansas' ceiling might not be as high as Maryland's or Kentucky's; its talent might not be as overwhelming. But KU's baseline expectation -- the confidence with which you can project another ho-hum conference title -- will be the nation's highest.
So: What makes this otherwise banal prediction wild?
Because all of it is true whether or not freshman center Cheick Diallo plays a single minute of college basketball.
And yet, at the same time, Diallo represents the best chance Kansas has of exceeding its already-high baseline. His presence could well prove the difference between a very good team and a real national title contender. His rim protection could close the gap between a solid defense and a dominant one. And Diallo's sheer talent -- his athleticism, enthusiasm and sense of flair -- could transform an otherwise unremarkable viewing experience into one of the sport's most exhilarating.
…Fortunately for KU, its hopes for the 2015-16 season don't rest on its marquee prospect. This will be an extremely deep and high-quality team -- top-five good, even -- if Diallo never leaves the practice court.
Yet Diallo is also the best hope Kansas has to transcend safe predictions and incremental trajectories. He is the biggest reason why the Jayhawks could go beyond solidity and experience and depth -- why they might yet become something more.
Now in his 12th year at Kansas University, Kurtis Townsend is the longest-tenured assistant men’s basketball coach in school history.
The former Western Kentucky point guard who joined Bill Self’s staff in Self’s second season at KU, passes Sam Miranda, who worked for Ted Owens for 11 seasons. Joe Dooley worked for Self for 10 campaigns.
“That is an unbelievable stat considering we’ve had so many coaches who coached here a long period of time,” Self said. “The success we’ve experienced is in large part due to him and his ability to recruit and relate to players. Anybody who has worked with Kurtis or been around him knows there’s nobody better with people than K.T.,” Self added.
Townsend — who was born in San Jose, California — worked as assistant coach at California, Eastern Kentucky, USC, Michigan and Miami prior to reporting to duty on Mount Oread.
“I feel blessed every day. I get to drive up Naismith Drive and be able to help kids and be part of one of the most historic programs in college basketball,” Townsend said.
Townsend, who was instrumental in the recruitment of Andrew Wiggins, Ben McLemore, Brandon Rush, Julian Wright, Sherron Collins and Darrell Arthur, knew he’d love working in Allen Fieldhouse following a trip here with Cal-Berkeley in 1993.
“We had Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray ... we had a nice team and they gave it to us (73-56). I walked out of Allen Fieldhouse and said, ‘Gosh that place is special,’’’ Townsend said. “I did love the basketball here and knew working for a person like coach Self would be incredible.”
…It’s not just landing key recruits and an NCAA title ring in 2008 that has made his stint at KU worthwhile.
“Ben McLemore ... seeing what his life was before (in poverty in St. Louis as youth) and what he was able to become is amazing,” Townsend said. “It will be one of the happiest moments I’ve ever had when I see Jamari Traylor get his diploma in December. From living in cars (in high school) ... what he had to overcome ... he’ll have a degree at Kansas and have played here. When it is time for me to leave, that is the kind of stuff I’ll never forget. Some of the most incredible people I’ve met in my life I met here. I really do feel blessed.”
As the official beginning of the 2015-16 season looms, marked by the fast-approaching Late Night on Friday, a handful of Jayhawks shared their methods of choice that helped them get over another season-ending disappointment.
“Honestly, the thing that helps you get over it is just to not think about it,” said junior Brannen Greene. “I mean, it’s hard to do when you’re so used to going straight to practice after class and going to weights and seeing coach every day. All of a sudden fans aren’t Tweeting you any more, nobody’s talking about the season any more. Other teams are playing. To get over it, it’s really just time. There’s no magic formula.”
The closest thing to that seems to be getting back into the gym as quickly as possible.
“We start working out right away, maybe a day or two after it,” junior Frank Mason III said. “Other than that, nothing changes. Still make it to class. Still around people on a daily basis. Just try to have a positive mindset and focus on next year.”
For this year’s team, moving on was made a little easier thanks to the opportunity to represent the United States in the World University Games in South Korea over the summer. Instead of having to wait more than six months to get going, Bill Self’s squad was able to fire up its competitive juices a mere three months after that disappointing walk off the floor in Omaha, Nebraska, where KU was outclassed by Wichita State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s always in the back of your mind until you’re back in that situation,” admitted senior Perry Ellis of those postseason disappointments. “But, this summer, getting a chance to play for that gold really gave us a lot of confidence and taught us how to win. And I feel like that’s definitely a push forward for the season.”
…Asked if he was worried that losing early in the tournament a couple of years in a row could make the Jayhawks desensitized to the disappointment that accompanies such endings, Traylor laughed.
“No chance we could get used to that,” he said. “If you do, this ain’t the place for you. We all want to win every game when we step out on the court. I know it’s gonna be hard to go undefeated, but that’s the mindset we have. Every game you go out there on that court, you should try to win it. Every time. And we’ve got a good chance of doing it. We’re gonna make something special happen this year.”
KU’s basketball players have moved into the $12 million McCarthy Hall in time for the big recruiting weekend. “I’m just impressed every time I go over there,” KU coach Bill Self said recently. The apartment complex is a three-story building located south of Hoglund Ballpark. The building will house 36 male residents in two-bedroom/two-bath and four-bedroom/ two-bath apartments. Each apartment consists of a living room, dining room and full kitchen. Other features of the apartment building include study rooms and a lounge on each floor, a multipurpose room with kitchen, a recreation room with pool table and ping pong, media room, audio-video access control, and a half-court basketball court. It is occupied by 16 basketball players, 17 students not affiliated with basketball with two beds for guests and one for an RA on the lower floor.
The all-too-familiar sound of an alarm pierces the air.
For most, the noise is far from pleasant — perhaps even excruciating — but for Kansas assistant coach Jerrance Howard, it signifies something more.
“The season is here.”
At the collegiate level, the responsibilities for an assistant coach in season can be pretty broad. Day-to-day tasks can include recruiting, running practices, working with particular players and just about everything in between, but Howard said he has one main responsibility that supersedes the rest.
“Once we get here, my role is to bring energy and bring some enthusiasm,” Howard said. “While they’re stretching, we’re clapping, telling them to get their minds right.”
That energy, which Howard brings with him on a daily basis, is absolutely infectious throughout the team. Several of the men’s basketball players lit up while talking about their coach at Kansas Men’s Basketball Media Day — a couple players even noted a few of his catchphrases.
“He always runs into the gym and yells, ‘The season is here,’” senior forward Hunter Mickelson said. “He’s definitely the energy guy. And what comes along with that is you never really know what he’s going to say.”
“[He’ll yell] ‘fight through it; it’s all mental,’” sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham said. “That was one of the big things — [what takes place] in between your ears. You’re not really tired; you just think you’re tired."
And Howard said bringing that energy isn’t a challenge; it just comes naturally.
“It’s just me being me. I’ve been like this since day one,” Howard said. “That’s one of the reasons Coach [Self] brought me on board — just to bring that energy.”
…At just 35 years old, Howard not only relays Self’s messages to the team but also brings a unique perspective as someone who played college basketball relatively recently. Because of that, the players say he knows exactly what to do to get them in the right state of mind, especially for the early morning practices.
“When we’re getting to stretch, he comes in really vocal, just trying to get everybody awake,” senior forward Perry Ellis said. “He’s younger, so he can relate real well to us. I feel like that really helps.”
He can promise, however, that his team will compete a certain way.
“We’ll play really, really hard,” Schneider said during KU women’s media day Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse. “I think we’ve always been a team that would rotate and take a charge, that would jump over the scorer’s table after a loose ball, would dive on the floor.
“I want us, especially here early, for fans and media and parents and everybody, to evaluate us on how hard we play.”
It’s the first part of a mantra Schneider has already set for his program: “Tough and together.” The words appear on the front page of the media guide, Schneider believes those two qualities will help set the groundwork for future success with the program.
The former Emporia State coach already thinks he has a bit of a head start in this particular rebuild.
“Culture-wise, a lot of times you go into a program and inherit a mess. That’s not the case at all here,” Schneider said. “We have terrific kids, and they work really hard, and they want to get better.”
Toughness was emphasized most in September, as the women’s team completed a three-week “training camp” — something that hadn’t been done in previous years.
Just one day after kicking off the 2015-16 season with the first day of practice, Kansas women's basketball opened its doors for media day on Wednesday, Oct. 9, inside Allen Fieldhouse. The media-only event began with head coach Brandon Schneider's preseason press conference followed by one-on-one interviews with every member of the team suiting up this season.
The Jayhawks will conduct their second practice of the season this Thursday as the team gears up for Late Night in the Phog, set for Friday, Oct. 9.
Below are quotes from Schneider and the student-athletes.
No. 10 Kansas Volleyball swept Texas Tech, 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-20), on Wednesday night at United Supermarkets Arena to reach a program-record 16th consecutive victory.
With an undefeated record through 16 matches, Kansas (16-0, 4-0 Big 12) continues its best start to a season in program history and sets a program record for longest overall winning streak. The previous best start was 10-0 in 2001 and the previous longest winning streak was 15 matches in 1991.
"I'm proud of this team, but we know it is early October and there are a lot of matches to play still," KU head coach Ray Bechard said. "This team has high expectations and high goals for this season, and we know that there will be many upcoming opportunities to take our game to another level."
“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
Keith Easterwood, a former AAU coach based in Memphis, told CBSSports.com last year that Hamilton sought to profit off players.
"He wanted to talk," Easterwood told CBSSports.com of a conversation he said he had with Hamilton. "And one of the things he asked me was, 'How can I make money off of a basketball player?'"
According to CBSSports.com, Easterwood considered Hamilton someone who fit into the category of "hobos, heroes and street-corner clowns."
Hamilton, who runs a 501(c)(3) foundation called Reach Your Dreams, could not be reached for comment. A message left on his telephone voice mail led to an email from Lindsey, who said Hamilton was unavailable. Hamilton wanted future requests for interviews to go through UK, Lindsey said.
Labissiere isn't the first UK player in recent seasons to have his eligibility in limbo as pre-season practice began. The same was true for freshmen John Wall and Enes Kanter in 2009 and 2010, respectively. In both cases, questions about amateurism or improper benefits jeopardized the players' eligibility.
Ultimately, the NCAA ruled Wall eligible, although he had to sit out the season's first game and pay back costs linked to traveling expenses. Kanter, who had played for a professional team in his native Turkey, was ruled ineligible and never wore a Kentucky uniform.
During a 17-minute speech at the 2015 Wildcat Tipoff Luncheon in Louisville on Wednesday, UK Coach John Calipari did not mention Labissiere's eligibility. There was not a question-and-answer session after his talk, and the UK coach left immediately after speaking.
Dayton senior Dyshawn Pierre, who was suspended by the school for the first semester after a sexual assault accusation, is suing the school.
His lawyer, Peter R. Ginsberg, released a statement to ESPN on Wednesday saying his client intends to sue the school and fight the ruling due to a "fundamentally unfair and defective internal process that deprived him of vital rights and protections and has resulted in a disruption in his education, a drastic blow to his reputation, and a potentially fatal interference with his dream to bring a national basketball championship to Dayton."
The school investigated an allegation of a sexual assault that was said to have happened April 23 and was reported in May, the Dayton Daily News reported. The Montgomery County, Ohio, prosecutor's office declined to press charges "due to insufficient evidence," the newspaper reported.
"What has been done to me has been grossly unfair. The allegations against me are false," Pierre said. "And now I find myself with my reputation tarnished, my schooling interrupted and my dream of helping the basketball team win a national championship being threatened. I want justice, and I want a return to my normal life."
The school said last month that Pierre is not enrolled at the university for the fall semester. Sources told ESPN that Pierre has been suspended but is optimistic of returning to the team for its Dec. 22 game against Miami (Ohio).
Pierre is the Flyers' leading returning scorer, at 12.7 points per game, and rebounder, at 8.1 per game. Dayton won 27 games last season before losing to Oklahoma in the round of 32.
Here's the truth: College basketball coaches are among the biggest control freaks on the face of the earth. They know everything. So why do they suddenly know nothing around those NCAA cops?
"I see your point," said Bobby Cremins, over the phone from Hilton Head, S.C., where he resides as a 68-year-old expert on these things. He's in his third year on the NCAA committee on infractions. He's also a Georgia Tech icon after spending two decades through 2000 turning the Yellow Jackets into a national power. Since Cremins is a friend of several of the guys I mentioned, and since those coaches all have business with the infractions committee, Cremins isn't allowed by the NCAA to handle any of their cases.
Meanwhile, those coaches fret over a 2004 NCAA rule that was strengthened three years ago: A coach will be held responsible for violations in their program unless the coach can clearly demonstrate that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.
Which brings us to Boeheim, the czar of Syracuse hoops for 39 years. Czars know everything. Even so, Boeheim said he wasn't aware of the multiple examples of academic fraud the NCAA found in his program. It included news that two of his staff members did homework for a player.
"I'm guilty of not monitoring, which is a very nebulous term," a defiant Boeheim told ESPN. "Nobody has defined it. What does that mean?"
…"To say I'm shocked is an understatement," Pitino said, trying to go from control freak to innocent bystander in a flash.
Months before, Williams did the same when he said he was "in shock and in disbelief" after he heard former North Carolina star Rashad McCants triggered an NCAA investigation by saying he was among the players from Williams' regime to have others write papers for them.
McCants also said he rarely went to class. Which was interesting, because Williams said he didn't know about that or about several of his players joining 3,000 other North Carolina students in taking African-American studies classes that mostly didn't exist.
…control freaks are never off duty.
Six years ago, when I was in Springfield, Mass., for Michael Jordan's induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Williams went from North Carolina coach to self-proclaimed ruler of the local Marriott. I stayed there, along with a collection of Who's Who of sports and entertainment. As I walked the hallways interviewing the likes of John Havlicek, Hubie Brown, Wayne Embry and others about Jordan, everybody was cooperative.
Except the guy who helped recruit Jordan to North Carolina.
"What are you doing in this area?" said Williams, glaring at me, and I'll quickly add this: During the previous times I encountered Williams through the years, I never had a problem with him. But he continued in front of the growing crowd, raising his voice, "I don't think you're supposed to be in this area. In fact, I KNOW you're not supposed to be in this area."
The area wasn't restricted for anybody. As I stood my ground, Williams said a few words about Jordan, and then he moved toward the elevator with his entourage. After a few steps, he turned around to say, "I answered your question, but you're not supposed to be in this area."
A high-ranking NBA official saw the whole scene. After he shook his head, he said what was in my head: "Why was that necessary?"
We both knew the answer …
Sports On Earth
Chris Burns stands before his players in Bryant University’s men’s basketball locker room. He is shaking, yet resolute. He’s rehearsed this conversation in his head dozens of times. But that’s just practice. This is game time.
“There are parts of this business that lead me to believe what I’m about to tell you is not acceptable here,” the assistant coach says. “This is something I struggle with. It’s made me consider giving up coaching. It’s made me think I’m not supposed to be here.”
Players are wide-eyed. Burns takes a deep breath.
“I’m a gay man,” he says, at last.
He goes on to say he hopes none of this will affect the players negatively, that he wants it to unite them. Bryant’s players surround him with hugs. They tell him they love him. He can exhale.
“There was an initial shock factor,” senior forward Curtis Oakley tells USA TODAY Sports. “But everyone was, like, ‘Yo, Burns, we rockin’ with you.’ It was all love.”
The first huge Midnight Madness festivities takes place in Lawrence this weekend, with “Late Night in the Phog” bringing in several of the top prospects in the country. Bill Self and the Jayhawks are expected to play host to Harry Giles (No. 1 in the ESPN 100), Malik Monk (No. 5), De'Aaron Fox (No. 7), Marques Bolden (No. 20) and Schnider Herard (No. 67). Up to this point, Kansas doesn’t have a single commit in the 2016 class. It’s still too early to really get concerned, as the Jayhawks landed five-stars Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg late in the process a year ago. However, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly where a potential elite pledge might come from. Duke is considered a leader for Giles, while Monk is likely a Kentucky and Arkansas battle. Kentucky has made up a ton of ground for Fox, and Duke is battling hard for Bolden. This is a major weekend for Kansas, as it needs to take advantage of having so many prospects on campus and really make a move. The Jayhawks are also bringing some younger prospects on campus, including Michael Porter Jr. (No. 3 in 2017), Trae Young (No. 25), Cart'Are Gordon (No. 23 in 2018), Wyatt Wilkes and Chaundee Brown Jr.
“I’m 100 percent going on the Kansas visit,” Bolden said. “I will say this; I feel like I’m getting way closer to deciding, I’m not ready to do it just yet though. The biggest things that will go into my decision are the style of play and my relationship with the coach.”
"I've been here seven times and every time it's an honor and a blessing. It's about catching up with family and USA family. Out here having fun and watching everyone compete," Giles said. "Being one of the older guys and veterans of this group [is important]. Give them info and give them feedback of how to be successful. People did it for me and now I have to do that with them."
On the floor, Jackson and Tatum set the tone by often torching the younger classes with a variety of moves. The 6'7" Jackson established himself as the alpha male of the camp by dunking with authority through fouls, fighting for loose balls and playing with one of the highest motors in camp. The 6'8" Tatum, a Duke commit, looked much-improved as a straight-line driver after gaining a reputation as a skilled mid-range shooter the last few years
Events like this weekend's USA Basketball camp gives 5-star prospects like Tatum and Jackson a measuring stick for top honors in the class during a slow time of the year. It's a great sign for both the class of 2016 and USA Basketball that the best players came to play with chips on their shoulders.
Jackson and Tatum might have been the proven 5-star prospects with gold medals, but USA newcomers like Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Markelle Fultz also made positive impacts in Colorado Springs.
Kevin in New York
* Izzo is killing it for the 2016 class and it sounds like Josh Jackson is really looking at MSU as well. And obviously we don't currently have a scholarship for him other than if someone leaves early. In my humble opinion it would seem that Alvin Ellis is the most likely to depart. I have heard many people talk of Eron Harris leaving early for the NBA but with Ellis' diminished role and his stay in Izzo's doghouse I feel like he is about a quarter-step from booking a ticket on the Heel-Toe Express out of East Lansing. I mean, other than the chance to ride the pine on a title contender, what is his motivation to stay if he really wants to see significant minutes or at the very least a significant role?
Seth in Washington, D.C.
The Josh Jackson/MSU scholarship situation question is approaching "What time does MSU's NCAA tournament game start?" territory at this point. So let's deal with that here and then move on, realizing that nothing will change nor be determined any time soon. First of all, Kevin, I appreciate the sentiment about not wanting to speculate or "wish" a player to transfer.
As for why Izzo would still recruit Josh Jackson? I don't think any coach in his right mind would stop recruiting a talent of that caliber just because there's no clear scholarship opening. They happen unexpectedly all the time. People transfer. People leave early for the NBA. People get hurt. MSU's 2016 early entry possibilities would be Harris and Deyonta Davis, though I'd be surprised by the first and shocked by the second. But we'll have to watch them play this season and see what happens. And for all we know, Ellis will work his way out of the doghouse and into an essential role as a junior. He would seem to be a transfer candidate, but I thought so after last season, and he stayed. At this point, it's all speculation and no answers on any of it are coming any time soon. But if you're Izzo, you continue recruiting Jackson. There's no question about that.
Detroit Free Press
Center James Banks, the No. 56 player in the ESPN 100 for 2016 and the sixth-ranked center in the country, will attend Texas.
Banks -- Shaka Smart's first ESPN 100 pickup for 2016 -- picked the Longhorns over Georgetown, Illinois, Vanderbilt and Purdue. The news was earlier reported by Scout.com.
"I felt like Texas made me such a priority," Banks told ESPN. "They were at all my games during the live period and on the first day of the contact period I had a 6 a.m. workout -- Coach Smart and assistant coach Mike Morrell were there at 5:30 a.m.
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