Charlie Weis and NFL conversations

By Rustin Dodd

Charlie Weis would like to spend the rest of his career at Kansas, he says, but that hasn’t stopped him from fielding calls from NFL teams during his two years in Lawrence.

Weis divulged the conversations with NFL teams during Big 12 media day on Monday — though he was quick to delineate between “phone calls” and serious job offers.

“Phone calls doesn’t mean you get job offers. You just get phone calls,” Weis said. “And we haven’t even won. Now I’m going to coach the rest of my career at Kansas, so it’s really not relevant. But the next part of the question comes: ‘Now who would you recommend?’”

Weis’ disclosed the conversations while answering questions on why NFL coaches seem to get more second chances than their college brethren. Weis spent more than 15 years as an NFL assistant, spending time with the New York Giants, New York Jets, New England Patriots, and after a failed stint at Notre Dame, with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010.

While Weis says he’s not motivated to return to the NFL, he has played the part of casual consultant while hearing from NFL teams.

“There’s very few coaches in the NFL,” Weis said. “There’s very few teams. So when you have job openings, there’s only a handful of guys that are really in that mix. Look, I get phone calls and I’ve only won four games in the last two years.”

Entering the third year of a five-year contract, Weis said on Monday that he would like to spend another five years in Lawrence, hopefully experiencing some of the fruits of his early labor.

“I’d like to be able to enjoy some of the success,” Weis said. “What do you think I just want to do all the grunt work and hand it off?”

What’s facing Charlie Weis this season

By Rustin Dodd

While Charlie Weis has managed just one Big 12 victory during his two seasons at Kansas, the veteran coach is undefeated at Big 12 Media Days.

It is, quite simply, one of Weis’ greater gifts — the ability to step in front of a microphone, sell his program, and usually say something that generates some buzz.

Last year, Weis called his team a “pile of crap” while explaining his recruiting strategy from the previous year. The year before, during his Big 12 media day debut, Weis offered this line on the team he had inherited from Turner Gill:

“The bottom line,” Weis said then, “is there’s too many games they’re getting the crap kicked out of them. And they’re the ones that I’m concerned with first.”

So now Weis heads back to Dallas for round three at Big 12 media days, which begin on Monday at the Omni Hotel. The Jayhawks, who will report for fall camp on Aug. 7, begin their season against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 6 at new-look Memorial Stadium. Before Weis tries to defend his title at media day, let’s look at some of the emerging themes for another Kansas football season.

1. The stakes are real now: During Charlie Weis’ first two seasons, the Jayhawks have been stranded in the Big 12 cellar, winning just four games and going 1-17 in conference play. On the field, Kansas has rarely inspired much hope, either. But some of the growing process could be described as foundational to Weis’ long-term plans. KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger has continually praised how Weis brought a measure of discipline, accountability and organization to a program that needed all three.

Last year, Weis loaded up on junior college players, and the roster is now teeming with seniors. Stated or not, Weis has been building toward his third season. After two years of building, Kansas is waiting to see if the on-field results will follow.

2. Ben Heeney is real: Last season, linebackers coach Clint Bowen stepped in as the de facto defensive coordinator (he now holds the actual title) and the Kansas defense took a step forward. Safety Isaiah Johnson was selected the Big 12’s defensive newcomer of the year. And the secondary was one of the team’s strengths. But the defense will start with Heeney, a kamikaze senior linebacker from Hutchinson. He’s been on all the preseason watch lists and was voted preseason All-Big 12 by the media. This will be Heeney’s last opportunity to play in a bowl game, and Weis believes his defense can slide into the top half of the Big 12.

3. The spread is back: After struggling on offense for two seasons, Charlie Weis fired himself as offensive coordinator. In his place: John Reagan, the former Rice offensive coordinator who once served as the offensive line coach at Kansas under Mark Mangino. Reagan used spring practice to install his own version of the no-huddle spread, and while we don’t know too many specifics, we do know that sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart will be the man leading the way. Reagan says the offense will still rely heavily on the run-game, and Cozart says the offense will have the opportunity to go at multiple tempos. The Jayhawks lost leading rusher James Sims to graduation, but they do return seniors Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox and junior-college transfer DeAndre Mann. Weis also expects to get a spark from transfer receiver Nick Harwell, who will play out his senior year at Kansas after spending three years at Miami (Ohio).

Three other storylines

Once again, Kansas will face a brutal schedule. In addition to nine games in the Big 12, the Jayhawks will take an early-season road trip to Duke, which played in the ACC championship game last year and has a majority of starters returning. Making the Big 12 schedule even tougher: Kansas doesn’t get to play itself.

What will the offensive line look like? While Reagan takes over at offensive coordinator, he also replaces the departed Tim Grunhard as offensive line coach. The Jayhawks could be going to battle with an inexperienced and patchwork group.

Who’s the backup quarterback? Former starter Jake Heaps transferred to Miami (Florida) earlier this summer. That means the backup job could fall to either transfer T.J. Millweard or junior Michael Cummings.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/campus-corner/article741809.html#storylink=cpy

Mykhailuk won’t be at KU for start of classes

For now, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is preparing for a late summer arrival to Kansas. It could be late August, KU coach Bill Self has said, or even into early September.

Mykhailiuk, the 6-foot-7 guard from the Ukraine, signed with Kansas on May 21, the final piece of another vaunted freshman class. But some national-team obligations in his home country have kept him in Ukraine throughout the summer.

Mykhailiuk, who turned 17 in June, is set to play for Ukraine in the FIBA U-18 Division B European Championships, which are begin July 24 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Ukraine will open against Portugal.

The tournament, which will conclude Aug. 3, was originally set to be played in the Ukraine before the country slipped into some ongoing political unrest.

Mykhailiuk, according to Self, will then likely participate in practices with the Ukrainian senior national team in August in the buildup to the 2014 FIBA World Cup, which begins Aug. 30 in Spain.

KU and the NBA Draft

By Rustin Dodd

Former Kansas standouts Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid have a chance to make NBA Draft history on Thursday night in Brooklyn, New York.

Just once has Kansas had two players go in the top 10 of the same draft — Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce in 1998 — while Wiggins could be the first KU player to go No. 1 overall since Danny Manning in 1988.

Before suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, Embiid was also poised to go in the top three. But his draft fate is now uncertain after undergoing surgery last week.

Here’s the list of Kansas’ all-time first-round selections:

2013, Ben McLemore, No. 7, Sacramento Kings

2012, Thomas Robinson, No. 5, Sacramento Kings

2011, Markieff Morris, No. 13, Phoenix Suns

2011, Marcus Morris, No. 14, Houston Rockets

2010, Cole Aldrich, No. 11, New Orleans Hornets

2010, Xavier Henry, No. 12, Memphis Grizzlies

2008, Brandon Rush, No. 13, Portland Trailblazers

2008, Darrell Arthur, No. 27, Portland Trailblazers

2007, Julian Wright, No. 13, New Orleans Hornets

2005, Wayne Simien, No. 29, Miami Heat

2003, Kirk Hinrich, No. 7, Chicago Bulls

2003, Nick Collison, No. 12, Seattle Supersonics

2002, Drew Gooden, No. 4, Memphis Grizzlies

1998, Raef LaFrentz, No. 3, Denver Nuggets

1998, Paul Pierce, No. 10, Boston Celtics

1997: Scot Pollard, No. 19, Detroit Pistons

1997: Jacque Vaughn, No. 27, Utah Jazz

1995, Greg Ostertag, No. 28, Utah Jazz

1993, Rex Walters, No. 16, New Jersey Nets

1991, Mark Randall, No. 26, Chicago Bulls

1988, Danny Manning, No. 1, Los Angeles Clippers

1981, Darnell Valentine, No. 16, Portland Trailblazers

1976, Norman Cook, No. 16, Boston Celtics

1972, Bud Stallworth, No. 7, Seattle Supersonics

1969, Jo Jo White, No. 9, Boston Celtics

1966, Walt Wesley, No. 6, Cincinnati Royals

1962, Wayne Hightower, No. 5, Philadelphia Warriors

Other Kansas NBA Draft facts

Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will become the 10th and 11th players to be recruited to Kansas by Bill Self and drafted in the first round.

Kansas has never had two players drafted in the top five picks in the same year.

This will be the fifth straight year that Kansas has had a player taken in the first round, the longest such streak in school history.

After this year, KU will have had eight players drafted in the first round in the last five years — the same number as during Roy Williams’ entire tenure.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/campus-corner/article607345.html#storylink=cpy

Frank Mason flips into form

Bill Self cradled a microphone in his right hand, looking out into a sea of young faces. It was an afternoon in June, and Self was finishing up a short speech to a couple hundred kids at his Kansas basketball camp.

But first, the Kansas coach had a question:

“Who do you think the most athletic player on our team is?” Self asked, looking back toward his team, lined up near midcourt.

A moment later, Self began to name off players.

“Who thinks its Wayne Selden?” he said.

“Who thinks its Jamari Traylor?”

“Who thinks its Perry Ellis?”

Each time Self called out a name, a few dozen hands would shoot into the air. But this was just a setup, of course, a ruse for the campers, something Self had planned out beforehand. Finally, Self called out a final name.

“Frank,” Self said.

Self summoned sophomore guard Frank Mason to the front, provided a short cue, and then stepped aside for a rather dizzying display of tumbling. Mason, if you can believe this, began to reel off a succession of back handsprings across the floor inside the Horejsi Center — and then he kept going.

“I think Frank is the most athletic player on our team,” Self said.

So Mason’s flip game is not necessarily a new development. He pulled off a couple of standing back flips during an open practice before the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament games in March. But here it was again, a reminder of Mason’s natural explosiveness.

 “I don’t really think much of it,” Mason said. “It’s just something I’ve always done. It’s just easy to do.”

Before we go any further, a little background: Mason never had any formal gymnastics training or anything like that. His tumbling skills are self-taught. Growing up in Petersburg, Va., Mason simply wanted to try to see if he could do it. So he and some friends would mess around with back flips — sometimes using their hands, sometimes not.

“I’ve been doing it since I was like 5 or 6 years old,” Mason said.

“I think it’s easier with no hands. But at a younger age, it’s easier with hands.”

For now, Mason’s athleticism makes for a nice act for a gym full of basketball campers. But as he enters his second year at Kansas, Mason would like to be known for other reasons — like being Kansas’ starting point guard.

Mason won’t say this, of course. He is much more political when the subject comes up, careful to stay humble and team-oriented. Before he talks about himself, he mentions fellow sophomore Conner Frankamp and incoming freshman Devonte’ Graham, two players that can also play the point guard position. But with the exit of junior Naadir Tharpe, this much is apparent: Mason will be in position to earn substantial minutes in the backcourt.

“I think we have two good point guards in Conner and Devonte’,” Mason says, “and we also have me, and we’ll compete every day in practice and make each other better.”

Mason averaged 5.5 points in 16.2 minutes per game during his freshman season. He started three games during the non-conference season, and was a key component in an early-season victory over Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago.

But he often looked like … well, a freshman. He shot 33 percent from three-point range, and at times he looked more comfortable attacking the basket than he did facilitating offense for others. Not surprisingly, these are two areas in which Mason would like to improve this summer.

“I’m just trying to get a better feel for the game, watch more film and just get better at the things I wasn’t pretty good at last year,” Mason says.

High on the list: Shooting. Earlier this summer, Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend noticed that Mason was using too much palm in his shooting stroke. Instead of shooting the ball with his fingertips, the ball was often resting on his palm. To Mason, it felt normal. It was something he had always done. But he’s hopeful the slight tweak will help him be more consistent from the outside.

“I’ve just been working on getting a little space under (the ball) and getting it under my finger tips,” Mason said. “It just gives you a better feel of releasing the ball. If you shoot it off your palm, it can just go anywhere.”

The rest of Mason’s offseason checklist is close to what you would expect: He wants to be in better shape; he wants to work on his ballhandling; he wants to learn how to make his teammates better.

In short, Mason wants to work on being a point guard.

“Little things,” he says.

The little things, however, don’t include his flip game. That comes easy. The soft-spoken Mason isn’t one to show off too much, so don’t expect to see the flips after any regular-season victories. But if the Jayhawks make some noise in March, he might make an exception.

“I’ll do 20 after a national championship,” Mason said.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/college/big-12/university-of-kansas/article560597/Kansas-guard-Frank-Mason-flipping-into-form-during-the-offseason.html#storylink=cpy

Comparing Calipari, Self contracts

By Rustin Dodd

In September 2012, just months after appearing in the NCAA championship game, Kansas awarded coach Bill Self with a lavish, 10-year contract extension.

The details of the extension were complex — the contract includes 32 pages and includes part of previous contracts — but they amounted to this: If Self remains the coach at Kansas through the 2021-22 season, he will be compensated with more than $52 million.

The extension, which came after Self’s second title game appearance in five years, was designed to keep Self among the highest paid men’s basketball coaches in the country.

The market, of course, keeps going up.

Kentucky on Thursday unveiled a new seven-year extension worth $52.5 million for coach John Calipari. Next season, Calipari’s guaranteed compensation will be $6.5 million, and it will steadily rise until peaking at $8 million annually from 2018-21, the final three seasons of the deal.

Calipari has taken Kentucky to three Final Fours in five seasons at the school, including an NCAA title in 2012 and a championship game appearance this past season.

Given the nature of contracts, it’s hard to neatly compare Calipari’s extension with the one Kansas gave Self in 2012. Calipari’s deal features zero performance bonuses other than a $50,000 yearly bonus if his program makes a 950 score on the Academic Progress Rate.

Self, meanwhile, can cash in on yearly bonuses for Big 12 regular-season titles ($50,000); Big 12 tournament titles ($25,000); the AP Coach of the Year award ($100,000) Final Fours ($150,000); and NCAA titles ($200,000).

Calipari’s deal includes $16.3 million in retention bonuses over seven years, while Self’s 10-year deal features more than $22.4 million in retention bonuses, including a lump sum of $6 million for staying at Kansas for the entire contract.

When Kansas awarded Self his latest extension, KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger talked about using benchmarks in the market to find the right compensation package for Self.

Calipari’s new deal is certainly a rather hefty benchmark. Calipari will make close to $7.5 million in average salary during the next seven years, more than $2 million more than Self’s average salary — if he stays through 2022.

According to the USA Today database on college basketball coaching salaries, Calipari soared past Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($5.76 million annually) into second place among coaches salaries. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is still believed to be the highest paid coach in the country. In 2011, Krzyzewski was credited with making $9.682 million, according to USA Today. As a private school, Duke is not required to disclose the salaries of employees.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/campus-corner/article495720/How-Kentucky-coach-John-Calipari%E2%80%99s-new-contract-extension-compares-with-Bill-Self%E2%80%99s-deal.html#storylink=cpy

Weis appears ready to move on from Heaps at QB

By Rustin Dodd

On the day Kansas football coach Charlie Weis unveiled his quarterbacks of the future, he leaned back in his chair inside the Anderson Family Football Complex, a content perma-smile on his face.

He looked like a proud father, doting on his own kids, and he sounded like one, too. A few feet away sat Dayne Crist, a former five-star recruit who had spent four seasons at Notre Dame, and Jake Heaps, another lauded recruit who began his career at Notre Dame.

These were his guys, and this was his plan. Crist would start right away as a graduate transfer, and Heaps would sit for a year before being eligible for two seasons at Kansas. These were the guys that would lead a Kansas turnaround.

“I wanted to address quarterback,” Weis said, “and how’d I do?”

Two years later, the quarterback question is still following Weis, haunting a program that is still feeling for solid footing after going 9-39 over the last four years. Kansas has won just four games in two years under Weis, and his quarterbacks have been unmitigated calamities.

Crist was benched during his one season at Kansas, and Heaps is set to transfer after losing the starting job to sophomore Montell Cozart, a former standout at Bishop Miege.

To this point, Weis has refused to publicly comment on the specter of Heaps’ departure. But in an interview with The Star, Weis appeared ready to move on at the quarterback position.

“When somebody leaves, if I was a fan, I wouldn’t worry too much about them leaving,” Weis told The Star. “Because it’s probably better for them, and it’s probably better for the team, too.

“If they’re any good, they wouldn’t be leaving. That’s the way it is in football. If a guy wants to transfer, do you think he’s transferring because he’s playing? They don’t transfer because they’re playing.”

For now, Heaps’ next destination is unknown. If he leaves — as expected — he could move to another Division I school and play right away as a graduate transfer. He could also transfer down a division, to an FCS or Division II school, and play right away.

But don’t expect Weis to spend too much time talking about Heaps’ decision.

“When training camp starts, it’ll be: “Here’s who’s on the team, and here’s who’s not on the team,” Weis said, speaking generally about personnel matters.

But in announcing Cozart as the starter after spring ball, and in other general comments about transfers, Weis is pretty clear that Cozart will be the man going forward.

“In every school in the country, there’s always a certain amount of movement,” Weis said. “But when people think about a good player leaving, a good player never leaves. A good player never leaves because of football. Because if they’re good, they’re playing.”

So now Weis turns to Cozart, and the search for an adequate quarterback enters its third year. For the KU program, it’s been even longer. Since Weis arrived in early 2012, he has brought in five scholarship quarterbacks to the program through either recruiting or transfers. After adding Heaps and and Crist in early 2012, he signed Cozart and Shawnee Mission East quarterback Jordan Darling in the 2013 recruiting class. He then added T.J. Millweard, another transfer from UCLA, to the program last fall.

But while Weis horded quarterbacks like collectible coins and installed a pro-style system, the Kansas passing attack sunk deeper into the abyss. Crist and Heaps couldn’t complete 50 percent of their passes, and the receiving corps kept dropping balls, and last season the Jayhawks ranked 117th out of 123 Division I teams in passing offense.

Kansas passed for just 140 yards per game in 2013, which looks even crazier when compared to the video-game offensive numbers being piled up across the Big 12. If Weis burnished his credentials as a quarterback whisperer in the NFL, his magic hasn’t seemed to take root in Lawrence.

So this past winter, Weis went back to the drawing board.

The problems of the last two years, Weis says, are why he hired offensive coordinator John Reagan, a former Rice assistant, to guide the Kansas offense in 2014. Reagan, a former KU assistant under Mangino, is more comfortable with the finer points of the spread offense and Weis is hopeful this new scheme will be more quarterback friendly.

Two years ago, Weis believed he had answered the quarterback question. But now he is calling an audible. When the season begins this fall, Cozart will become the sixth different Kansas quarterback to start a season in the last six years.

A year ago, Cozart completed just 36 percent of his passes while playing in seven games. Weis chalks some of that number to youth. Cozart learned plenty as a true freshman, Weis says, and the coach expects his starting quarterback to flourish.

“We didn’t pick him just because, ‘Oh, let’s pick him,’” Weis said.

In the modern landscape of college football, programs can rise and fall on the backs of the quarterback position. For now, Weis is betting that he’s found his new guy.

“Just because you saw him throw inaccurate, doesn’t mean he is inaccurate,” Weis said. “I think a lot of that comes with freshmen jitters. He’s got a live arm and he’s a fairly accurate thrower. It’s just, that’s not the guy that you’ve seen to this point.”

A look at KU’s non-con basketball schedule

By Rustin Dodd

One hundred and eighty-six days.

The unofficial countdown to Kansas’ regular-season opener began on Tuesday morning, when the school announced its nonconference basketball schedule for 2014-2015.

Plenty of time to analyze, of course. It’s May. But some early thoughts: This nonconference slate should allow for some early-season breathers — something that didn’t exist last fall.

Last season, the Jayhawks played the nation’s toughest nonconference schedule. And, yes, it came with a few benefits. A young Kansas team was battle-tested by the Big 12 season, and the Jayhawks added a 10th straight Big 12 title.

But by late February, Kansas coach Bill Self was lamenting the fact that the relentless early schedule provided few opportunities for some young players to gain some confidence and experience. One example: Conner Frankamp.

If Frankamp could have played more in November, Self wondered, would Kansas have looked different in March?

We’re still a summer away from the college football season. So no rush. But now that we know whom Kansas will be playing in November and December (and one game in January), let’s take a quick run through the nonconference schedule.

Kansas will also play home exhibitions against Washburn (Nov. 4) and Emporia State (Nov. 11).

Nov. 14, Friday, vs. UC Santa Barbara in Lawrence

Record last season: 21-9, no postseason

What you should know: Alan Williams, a 6-foot-8 center, is a statistical monster. Averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 rebounds last season. Shot 53 percent from the floor. Could be an NBA prospect. In short: It should be a solid early matchup for freshman forward Cliff Alexander.

Nov. 18, Tuesday, vs. Kentucky at Champions Classic in Indianapolis

Record last season: 29-11; National runner-up
What you should know: Kentucky should be No. 1 when the teams arrive in Indy; The Wildcats lost Julius Randle and James Young but return everyone else, including 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein, who played at Olathe Northwest.

The Harrison twins are back in the backcourt, Dakari Johnson is back in the middle, and John Calipari added four McDonald’s All-Americans. Kentucky has won its last two meetings against KU, both during the 2011-12 season: 75-65 in the Champions Classic in New York; and 67-59 in the NCAA Championship game in New Orleans.

Nov. 24, Monday, vs. Rider in Lawrence

Record last season: 14-17

What you should know: Rider coach Kevin Baggett is entering his third season. He led the school to a 19-15 record in 2012-13 before a step back last year. We know that.

Nov. 27-30, at Orlando Classic in Florida

What you should know: Last season, Kansas stumbled through a Thanksgiving trip to the Bahamas. This year, it is Orlando. KU will play three games in four days at the Orlando Classic — sponsor to be added later. The rest of the field: Georgia Tech, Marquette, Michigan State, Rhode Island, Rider, Santa Clara and Tennessee.

Dec. 5, Friday, vs. Florida at SEC/Big 12 Challenge in Lawrence

Record last season: 36-3, Final Four

What you should know: Rematch. The veteran Gators handled Kansas in Gainesville last season, but coach Billy Donovan lost four senior starters. Florida is reloading around former top recruit Chris Walker, a forward, and should be a top 20 team entering the season.

Dec. 10, Wednesday, at Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Record last season: 18-15, NIT

What you should know: Kansas’ first-ever road game to Georgetown. The Jayhawks handled the Hoyas 86-64 last season at Allen Fieldhouse. Expect a sizable Kansas contingent in D.C.
Dec. 13, Saturday, vs. Utah at the Sprint Center

Record last season: 21-12, NIT

What you should know: A tricky little Sprint Center matchup. The Utes are coming off their first postseason appearance under coach Larry Krystkowiak. They should be expected to finish in the top half of the Pac-12.
Dec. 20, Saturday, vs. Lafayette in Lawrence

Record last season: 11-20; no postseason

What you should know: The first meeting between the two schools. The Leopards are in the Patriot League, the same conference as Bucknell and Lehigh.

Dec. 22, Monday, at Temple in Philadelphia

Record last season: 9-22, no postseason

What you should know: Last season was a rare Dumpster fire for coach Fran Dunphy, whose Owls finished 4-14 in the American Athletic Conference. It was the first time Temple had missed the NCAA tourney since 2007.
Dec. 30, Tuesday, vs. Kent State in Lawrence

Record last season: 16-16, no postseason

What you should know: Could be the final easy victory before Big 12 Conference play. Or one of the last chances to get guys on the fringe of the rotation some experience.

Jan. 4, Sunday, vs. UNLV in Lawrence

Record last season: 20-13, no postseason

What you should know: The Runnin’ Rebels were hit with a rash of departures after last season. Khem Birch, the two-time reigning defensive player of the year in the Mountain West, put his name in for the NBA Draft. So did Roscoe Smith. Bryce Dejean-Jones transferred to Iowa State. Nobody wanted to stay in Vegas, apparently.

UNLV coach Dave Rice did add Rashad Vaughn, a McDonald’s All-American shooting guard. But this is a young roster. Last year, Kansas finished off its nonconference schedule against a San Diego State team that advanced to the Sweet 16. This will be slightly easier.

 

Saturday mailbag

By Rustin Dodd

Earlier this week — Wednesday, to be exact — we passed one month since Kansas’ season-ending loss to Stanford in the round of 32 in St. Louis.

Now Andrew Wiggins has turned pro. So has Joel Embiid. The potential top two picks in this June’s NBA Draft both leaving campus after one season.

The rest of the roster is back, though, and Kansas coach Bill Self is still waiting on decisions from five-star center Myles Turner and rising point guard Devonte Graham.

So as the summertime approaches, let’s empty the mailbag and dive into some KU developments.

•  “Is Devonte Graham just another version of Naadir Tharpe or some of the other point guards Bill Self has recruited over the last few years? Would he actually be an upgrade?” — Scott, Atlanta

An upgrade in 2014-15? Too early to know for sure on that. Graham, a 6-foot-1 guard out of Brewster Academy in New Hampshire (the same school that produced Tharpe) visited Kansas earlier this month before taking an official visit to NC State. He’s visiting Virginia this weekend, while also considering Providence and Virginia Tech.

For now, Graham says he has no timetable on a decision.

So why does Graham matter? This late in the recruiting game, he is perhaps the most coveted point guard on the market — a legitimate talent at a position that has vexed Kansas since the graduation of Tyshawn Taylor.

A late bloomer, Graham originally signed to Appalachian State out of high school before deciding to take a fifth year at Brewster Academy. It took Graham nearly all season before Appalachian State granted his release from his letter of intent, and Graham recently went from unranked to No. 36 in Rivals’ final rankings for the class of 2014. Some of the rise, of course, could be based on timing. Graham is in high demand and one of the only uncommitted players left on the market. But in college basketball circles, his stock skyrocketed during his prep year.

NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from commenting on prospective recruits, but two coaches in Kansas City this weekend for the Jayhawk Invitational suggested that Graham could be one of the top four or five point guards in the 2014 class.

If Graham chooses Kansas, he would join a backcourt that currently features returning starter Wayne Selden at the two, and sophomore Brannen Greene and incoming freshman Kelly Oubre on the wing. Point guard Naadir Tharpe is slated to return for his senior season after a mercurial junior campaign, while Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp both have the ability to play point guard as well.

It would be a crowded backcourt, but Graham would almost certainly have the opportunity to compete for minutes after nobody took charge at the point last season.

“I like the campus and the atmosphere and the players I really got along with, and all the coaches,” Graham told SNY.tv after his Kansas visit. “Basically, I would come in and have an impact right away, is what I was told.”

Graham, a native of Raleigh, N.C., said he also feels comfortable with the idea of playing at home at North Carolina State. He has known NC State coach Mark Gottfried for several years.

“I’ve known him for a couple of years because his son played high school ball with me,” Graham told SNY.tv, “so that always felt like a family environment and it’s home. That was my first time on campus and it was pretty nice.”

Entering his 12th season at Kansas, Self desperately needs a point guard that can provide stability on the defensive end and make plays in transition. Maybe that point guard is already on the roster — Mason and Frankamp could make major strides — but Self is likely to keep searching and recruiting until he finds one.

•  @TonyKargbo: @ rustindodd I notice(d) this poll http://cbsprt.co/1kFwacR has (Myles) Turner as expected Texas newcomer; do they know something we don’t?

It’s no secret that Texas has been the perceived favorite for Turner for a while. Turner, the 7-foot center from Euless, Texas, is scheduled to make his college announcement at 3 p.m. Wednesday on ESPNU.

His list still includes Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Southern Methodist, Texas and Texas A&M.

Turner has always maintained that he doesn’t have any “favorites”, and earlier this month, he rejected the oft-repeated rumor that it was a two-horse race between Kansas and Texas. Still, there are multiple reasons why Texas has surfaced as a likely destination. He’s said repeatedly that he’d like to stay close to home, so that his parents could easily get to his games. (Austin is a three-hour drive from home.) He also idolizes Kevin Durant, the former Texas star.

But this is recruiting, of course. So predict at your own peril. Remember: Last year at this time, most recruiting types (but not all) had Andrew Wiggins headed to Florida State.

•  “… Guess we can circle the Kentucky game in Indianapolis as the biggest game of the non-conference (next season) … ” — Matt, Overland Park

Yep. Even if Myles Turner goes elsewhere, the Kansas-Kentucky matchup at the Champions Classic in Indy on Nov. 18 will feature 13 McDonald’s All-Americans — including nine on the UK roster. Maybe not a record — we’ll have to Google that — but that’s a lot.

The Harrison twins are headed back to Kentucky. So is Olathe Northwest graduate Willie Cauley-Stein. The Wildcats will likely be the preseason No. 1.

So where will Kansas be slated in the preseason rankings? Probably somewhere between four and six, depending on who you believe.

•  “The offense in the spring game looked a little suspect, but the new spread looked like an improvement. Still need some stability up front, but … any guesses on a breakout player on offense this fall?” Mark B., Prairie Village

Charlie Weis keeps pointing to junior receiver Rodriguez Coleman, a junior college transfer entering his second season. The Jayhawks need a lift at receiver, and Coleman received a lift himself when he was granted an extra year of eligibility this past winter.

But we’ll point to senior running back Brandon Bourbon, who has suffered through an injury plagued career while playing behind James Sims. Bourbon was once a top recruit, wanted by Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. He may actually be bigger and faster than Sims. While new offensive coordinator John Reagan will implement a new no-huddle, spread offense, expect the Jayhawks to run the ball a lot. That could mean big numbers for Bourbon.

Gardner tourney to host KU recruit

By Rustin Dodd

It’s lining up to be a convenient basketball recruiting week for Kansas. The nation’s No. 1 overall player in the class of 2015 — combo guard Malik Newman — is expected to be in KU’s own backyard this week, competing in the Under Armour Jayhawk Invitational in Gardner.

In the world of AAU basketball, schedules and rosters can fluctuate at the last minute, but Newman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Jackson, Miss., is slated to play for Mo Williams Academy, which will open the tournament at 8:20 p.m. Friday against Kansas City-based Run GMC at New Century Fieldhouse, 551 New Century Parkway.

Run GMC features Blue Springs South standout Kevin Puryear, Lee’s Summit’s Drew Lock, who has committed to play quarterback at Mizzou, and Columbia Hickman standout Jimmy Whitt.

Kansas coach Bill Self, of course, is still working on adding some final pieces to his 2014 recruiting class. But while KU waits for decisions from five-star center Myles Turner and rising point guard Devonte Graham, Newman figures to be one of Self’s top targets in the 2015 class. Self and assistant Jerrance Howard conducted an in-home visit with Newman earlier this month.

Newman, who has led Jackson-Callaway High School to three straight Mississippi state titles, has drawn heavy interest from Kentucky, Duke, Baylor, Missouri (before the departure of Frank Haith), Memphis, as well as Kansas. The list of suitors is longer than that, of course. But Newman still has an entire summer before he begins his senior year of high school.

Rivals’ recruiting analyst Eric Bossi likened Newman’s game to former UConn star Ben Gordon, an athletic combo guard with a scorer’s mentality.

Rivals’ scouting report described him as a “a scoring machine who is virtually unstoppable on the offensive end. (Newman) has a beautiful jumper that features deep range and he’s plenty capable of creating off the dribble; has a body that is built for contact. Ideally, (Newman) will develop more point guard skills because he is slightly undersized as a two.”

At least two other five-star recruits are expected to be in town this weekend: Diamond Stone, a 6-foot-10 center from Milwaukee, will play for the Young Legends team that opens the tournament against 1 Nation at 7:10 p.m. Friday at the New Century Fieldhouse. Stone is rated as the No. 3 overall player in Rivals’ 2015 class, holding offers from more than a dozen schools.

Stone will face off against 1 Nation’s Josh Jackson, a Detroit shooting guard rated as Rivals’ No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2016. Jackson holds scholarship offers from Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State, Memphis and Oregon, among others, according to Rivals.