Monthly Archives: June 2012

KU football signs juco linebacker Shelby

The Kansas football program announced the signing of junior college linebacker Jon Shelby on Friday, completing the Jayhawks’ 2012 recruiting class.

Shelby, a native of Brockton, Mass., played two seasons at Nassau Community College in New York, the same school that produced fellow 2012 KU signee Aslam Sterling, an offensive lineman.

Shelby was an All-Northeast Conference performer while recording 82 tackles and two sacks in two seasons at Nassau County. According to, Shelby’s relationship with Sterling helped in the recruiting process.

“I liked the people there and the facilities are phenomenal,” Shelby told “I didn’t expect a lot going in and I was impressed once I got there. After the Kansas visit I was 95 percent that’s where I was going.”

Shelby is the 27th member of Kansas’ 2012 recruiting class.

Draft analysis: Examining Robinson’s rebounding numbers

When KU’s Thomas Robinson is selected tonight in the first round of the NBA Draft, he will almost surely become the highest drafted player during Bill Self’s nine years at Kansas.

If most projections hold, Robinson will likely go somewhere between No. 2 overall to Charlotte to No. 5 overall to Sacramento. The latest buzz, according to ESPN Draft guru Chad Ford, has the Bobcats and owner Michael Jordan zeroing in on Robinson at No. 2.

This morning, we examined how Robinson’s skillset — which made him so dominant during his junior year at Kansas — would translate to the NBA. At this point, there’s no way to know for sure if Robinson will be an All-Star power forward , a decent role player, or somewhere in between.

But from a statistical standpoint, there’s one number that suggests Robinson will at least have one above-average skill at the NBA level: Rebounding.

During his junior season, Robinson led the nation with a defensive rebounding percentage of 30.5 — meaning he grabbed more than 30 percent of all defensive rebounds while he was on the floor. In the past five years, only five players have eclipsed Robinson’s mark. And the only other player from a major conference on the list? Former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin, who has turned into an athletic superfreak for the LA Clippers.

Here’ the full list, courtesy of

1 Kenneth Faried, Morehead State, 2010, 36.7

2 John Bryant, Santa Clara, 2009, 36.3

3 Eric Coleman, Northern Iowa, 2008, 35.0

4 Kenneth Faried, Morehead State, 2009, 33.8

5 Kenneth Faried, Morehead State, 2011, 31.6

6 Blake Griffin, Oklahoma, 2009, 32.4

7 Carlos Monroe, Florida Atlantic, 2008, 31.4

8 John Bryant, Santa Clara, 31.4, 2008, 31.4

9 Kenneth Faried, Morehead State, 2008, 31.0

10 Thomas Robinson, Kansas, 2012, 30.5

Others notables:

Michael Beasley, 2008, Kansas State 29.9

Kevin Love, 2008, UCLA, 28.5

DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, 2009, 27.8

Faried, who was drafted 22nd overall by the Denver Nuggest last season, averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds in 22 minutes per game during his rookie season. And Robinson has often been likened to a more offensively skilled version of Faried. Likewise, Love and Griffin have both been able to translate their rebounding success in college into NBA production.

In the end, Robinson’s offensive development may determine whether he can become a star. But his rebounding ability and tireless motor will likely provide a solid foundation for a productive career.

Draft Q&A: Answering questions about Robinson and Taylor

Here’s the weird thing about the NBA Draft: It’s substantially shorter than it’s mega-hyped and bloated cousin, the NFL Draft. The top players are more instantly recognizable than their NFL counterparts — the result of smaller rosters, the NCAA Tournament industrial complex, and the lack of, well, helmets. And the impact of one player on a basketball team — even if franchise NBA players are rare — can be dramatically larger than one player in the NFL. At least, that seems to be the case.

And yet, the NBA Draft may not get one-tenth of the coverage you see during the three-day NFL Draft avalanche. (The takeaway: The NFL is king, of course, but the NBA Draft may actually be better television. Matter of opinion, we suppose.)

Anyway, the NBA Draft begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. And it could be a historical one for the University of Kansas.

Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is a lock to go No. 1 to the New Orleans Hornets. But KU All-American forward Thomas Robinson still has a chance to be the highest drafted Jayhawk since Danny Manning went No. 1 to the Clippers in 1988. (The second highest draft pick from Kansas: Raef LaFrentz, who went No. 3 overall to Denver in 1998.)

The Eagle already caught up with former Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, who is hoping to sneak into the first round on Thursday night. And we’ll have more on Robinson on Wednesday.

But we also spent a few minutes on Tuesday discussing the draft with former NBA small forward Wally Szczerbiak, a former All-Star who spent 10 seasons playing for Minnesota, Boston, Seattle and Cleveland.

Szczerbiak now works as an analyst for the CBS College Sports Network, and we asked his thoughts on Robinson — some of which will come out in a story on Wednesday — and Taylor and the rest of the draft.

Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

The Eagle: Let’s start with Robinson … his most definable skill, of course, is his rebounding. I believe he was the most efficient defensive rebounder in the country last year. Is that something that NBA execs will be more attracted to — the fact they know they’re getting someone who can be productive without touching the ball on offense?

WS: A guy like that, you know what you’re gonna get. You can count on him to bring it every single night. And if he gets paired up with the right point guard, and the right system, he could be very successful, like some of those other names I just mentioned. (Szczerbiak compared Robinson to Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand).

More and more, the great teams have guys that really fill certain roles. And you can’t just have a guy that’s just a rebounder anymore. He’s got to be able to score. He’s got to be able to make a 10- or 15-foot jumpshot.

If he has a mismatch, he’s got to be able to make a move with his back to the basket and score over a smaller guy, and I think he’s capable of doing all that; on top of the fact when he’s out there, he’s gonna get you extra possessions, he’s gonna really work the defenses often.

The Eagle: How much did you watch Kansas last year? What did you like about Robinson and Taylor?

WS: A lot… I really liked Jeff Withey, too. I thought (Withey and Robinson) made a great tandem, a high-low combination. I think Jeff Withey is gonna be a pretty good pro in the years to come, with his length and his athleticism, his ability to run the floor and shot-blocking.

Tyshawn Taylor, I love him. He’s like a poor man’s Russell Westbrook. He can get his shot at anytime, he can score. Obviously, he’s a point guard for the runner-up to the national championship, so obviously he can run a pretty darned good point-guard position.

Whether he’s a little reckless with the ball, turns the ball over a little bit … a lot of the great point guards do. I mean, LeBron James has had his share of seven- or nine- or 10-turnover games, same with Dwyane Wade. So all the great ones have games like that. But I just think he’s wired to make big plays at big times in big moments. And I think his game is gonna be taylor-made for the NBA.

And we’ll see if he’s gonna be able to break through and prove that. At the same time, there’s a lot of guards that can do those things. A lot of guys can score, shoot — and I think he’s gonna have to incorporate the playmaking side into his game a little bit more at the next level.

The Eagle: You say his game is taylor-made for the NBA. About that… do you think the style and rules of the NBA game play into the hands of a speed guard like Taylor?

WS: The rules can benefit really quick, fast, explosive guards. Because you can’t touch them. And if you can get to the foul line and cash in at the free-throw line, that can be a huge asset to have at the next level.

The Eagle: Last question: Who’s the number two pick? That seems to be the big question heading into draft night.

It’s a tough spot to be in if you’re (Charlotte Bobcats owner) Michael Jordan. I think – I’ve said on our draft shows that I think Jordan should go for (UConn center) Andre Drummond. I think he should shoot for the stars, the potential’s there. You know, put your nose to the grindstone, get the right coach to work with him and realize the potential. And he can be a big-time-caliber pick.

In my opinion, kind of the safest pick at No. 2 is (North Carolina sophomore) Harrison Barnes. He measured legitimate, I think, at 6-8 or 6-7. I just think you know what you’re gonna get with him. He’s got legit NBA size. He’s got an improving jumpshot. He’s gonna be a pretty solid, successful player at the next level. I don’t think too many people can debate that.

KU notebook: Weis likes the look of early schedule

LAWRENCE | It’s not even July yet, but Kansas coach Charlie Weis has already spent a healthy part of his summer evaluating and scouting his program’s upcoming fall schedule. His first impression: The first four games could fall into place perfectly for a team coming off a 2-10 season.

“If you were gonna make a schedule,” Weis said, “you couldn’t have set it up any better than the way the first four games are.”

Let’s sort through Weis’ rationale. KU will open with two non-conference home games — South Dakota State on Sept. 1 and Rice the next week on Sept. 8. The matchups won’t be easy, Weis says, but they should provide an adequate warmup for a team that will still be finding its footing under a new coach.

Next comes Big 12 newcomer TCU at home on Sept. 15. A difficult challenge? Sure. But Weis likes the fact KU will stay at home for its first conference game.

“Pick them out of a hat,” Weis said. “Which game in the Big 12 is easy for us right now?

“… Tell me which one’s easy? I mean, Iowa State? The team that went to the Pinstripe Bowl last year? You want to just automatically say they’re an easy one?”

Finally, the Jayhawks will finish their non-conference slate with a road game at Northern Illinois on Sept. 22, a game that Weis believes will serve as a nice lead-in to the Jayhawks’ first Big 12 road game — a biggie against Kansas State on Oct. 6.

“It’s almost like it’s its own season,” Weis said Monday during a lengthy interview session.

For now, Weis is preparing for some time off in July before the grind of the season begins with the start of camp on Aug. 1. In fact, Weis says, he’s already scripted out the first seven practices of the season and his staff has finished evaluation of the opening four-game stretch.

“The first four scouting reports,” Weis said, “and analysis of our first four opponents will be finished (Tuesday).”

Position switches

Sophomore Pat Lewandowki, a former Blue Valley West standout, is switching from the defensive line to offensive tackle, Weis announced Monday.

Lewandowski redshirted in 2010 before appearing in all 12 games last season. Weis said he believes Lewandowski will have a better opportunity to play on the offensive line.

“If we were playing in a league where they play smash-mouth football, I think Pat would be better suited to play defensive line than in the league we’re playing in,” Weis said. “In the league we’re playing in, the whole game is in space. You have to have guys that can play in space.”

Newcomers blend in

Nearly the entire roster will have reported to campus by the end of this week, Weis said. The staff is waiting on two players to finish high school, while two more players will report in July. The list of newcomers on campus includes linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone, both senior transfers from Notre Dame, and defensive lineman Josh Williams, a senior transfer from Nebraska.

“He hasn’t gotten nearly as much ink as you would have expected from him,” Weis said of Williams. “This guy is a frontline player for a top program for years.”

On Monday, Weis continued a theme from spring: The Jayhawks’ two-deep depth chart will be packed with newcomers when it’s unveiled in August.

“(Defensive coordinator Dave) Campo and I spent a lot of time together revamping this personnel,” Weis said. “When we hand out a depth chart on August 1, there’s going to be a lot of new names on the two-deep. I don’t mean a few new names – there’s going to be a lot of new names.

A lot of new names on the two-deep. Even in the secondary, no starters will change, but you’re going to have three new names in the two-deep, even in the secondary.”

Praise for Parmalee 

Weis believes his staff may have picked up a late recruiting coup in the form of freshman receiver Tre Parmalee, a former standout at Bishop Miege and the son of Chiefs tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee.

For a while, Parmalee flirted with the idea of playing defensive back in college, but Weis, who coached Bernie Parmalee while he played for the New York Jets, thinks Parmalee is better suited to play receiver.

“We sat there and watched tape of Miege play,” Weis said. “Have people not watched tape of this kid?”

The elder Parmalee also coached under Weis during his tenure at Notre Dame.

Former KU left-hander Freeman enjoying ride with Cardinals

KANSAS CITY — He couldn’t get anyone out. At least, that’s what the numbers would say, ugly stats that suggested a future in the 9-to-5 world of cubicles, or perhaps coaching – or some other profession tangential to the game of baseball.

But a major-league reliever? Generally, these are guys that can manage better than a 8.53 ERA in 31 2/3 innings while playing for a college team that finishes 30-27. Most times, these are guys that have better than a one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio in their only season in Division I baseball.

Normally, of course, they don’t look like Sam Freeman, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound left-hander who spent the 2008 season at Kansas. Freeman, a junior-college transfer who arrived at KU after a short detour to Marshall, made just 13 appearances for the Jayhawks during his only semester on campus.

“I didn’t really pitch too well,” Freeman says, “so that was a little depressing.”

And yet, here is Freeman at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday morning, a member of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, preparing for another day in the big leagues just 45 miles from his final college home.

Since making his major-league debut against the New York Mets on June 1, Freeman has posted a 5.40 ERA in 8 1/3 innings over nine appearances, including a scoreless inning against the Royals in the Cardinals’ 11-4 victory on Friday.

Growing up in Carrollton, Texas, near the north edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Freeman was always a two-way player. He hit. He pitched. He put up solid numbers.

But after playing at North Central Texas junior college — and being selected by St. Louis in 2007 — Freeman was searching for a school where he could simply focus on pitching. Kansas, he says, was one of the schools willing to give him that chance.

“I was a two-way (player), but I just wanted to pitch,” Freeman said. “… And multiple other schools had contacted me about doing both, and Kansas just wanted me to pitch.”

Once again drafted by St. Louis in the 32nd round in 2008, Freeman faced some seriously long odds to move through the system. But Freeman says those odds never bothered him much, even after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 before splitting time at high-Class A and Class AA in 2011.

This season, he recorded a 1.56 ERA in 17 1/3 innings for Class AA Springfield before being promoted to Class AAA Memphis. Six appearances — and six innings — later, the Cardinals called on Freeman to help bolster a bullpen that was in desperate need of left-handed arms.

“As far as like the round and stuff, I never really paid attention,” said Freeman, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on Sunday. “I never looked at it like, ‘I can’t make it because I was a late-round pick’. That never really made sense.

“I just had the mindset, either way, you have to show you can play.”