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.
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.
• “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.