Tuesday, October 31, 2006

But what about our frontcourt?

SI.com's Luke Winn lists Kansas as the nation's #1 backcourt:

The Jayhawks' three-headed monster (with superstar freshman Collins in reserve) comprises the nation's top backcourt. Rush, a sweet-shooting, physical wing, leads the scoring barrage while Robinson and Chalmers wreak havoc on defense.

Also, a week after Giles is suspended, Sasha Kaun steps up by tearing a tendon in his right knee, and will be out for 3-6 weels. We'll see a lot of Darrell Arthur right away.

Andy Katz caught up with the Jayhawks earlier this month:

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Finally, last week, Glenda Rush had to come to Lawrence and collect her son's trophies.

Bill Self had seen enough of them. He didn't know what to do if Brandon Rush didn't want the awards. They were getting dusty sitting in his mailbox in the basketball office.

Constant reminders were futile. Rush showed no interest in the four national freshman of the week plaques and his first-team all-Big 12 trophy.

It's not that Rush doesn't care. He loves basketball. He is enthralled with Kansas, so much that the NCAA Tournament first-round loss to Bradley last March was enough to make him decide to return instead of take his chances as a possible first-round NBA draft pick.

It's just that Rush is one of the least assuming stars returning this season. He is a legit first-team All-America candidate, and the likely preseason Big 12 player of the year, but none of that matters. He'd rather you go talk to anyone but him. He is the antithesis of LSU's Glen Davis or Florida's Joakim Noah. When the spotlight shines on Rush, he hides.

"Most kids who get an award like that put it on their dresser, but this kid hasn't even thought twice about it," Self said. "He told me, 'What do I need this for, Coach?'

"He doesn't like the individual spotlight. [During Late Night at the Phog last Friday] he was clowning around with everyone and we saw a side of his personality we haven't seen. He was comfortable with everyone else, but he doesn't like it when [the attention is] just on him."

There is a reason. Rush is naturally jaded when it comes to attention because there was so much on his family. One older brother, JaRon, was the subject of an exhaustive summer-league scandal involving Myron Piggie; he also served a suspension while at UCLA, ultimately left the Bruins and never was able to sustain a pro career. Kareem, his other brother, has been much more of a success, with a four-year NBA run after a solid stint at Missouri, but he, too, drew plenty of attention while in college.

Rush drew the spotlight when he declared for the NBA draft out of Mt. Zion (N.C.) Academy two years ago. His decision to go to college and his subsequent recruitment over the summer created a stir, as well.

Something happened, though, when he got to Kansas. He was surrounded by enough talent that even though he averaged a team-high 15.1 points a game as a freshman last season, he didn't seem to be the only face thrust forward.

And that was fine with him.

"I don't like doing interviews," Rush said. "I especially don't like doing them on TV, since I tend to freeze up and stutter a lot. There are so many superstars here that they don't need to pay as much attention to me. I just want to go out and play. Just let me play."

Rush said he feels the pressure of having two older brothers who were pros.

"I don't need the attention," Rush said. "I don't like to be in the spotlight. Everyone has always paid attention to my life."

Still, Rush's desire to have the ball, to get it in every game-winning situation, means he can't avoid the headlines, even if he'd rather just let his game speak for him.

"I like [the game] being on my shoulders," Rush said.

Self talked about freshman Darrell Arthur having the most talent on the Jayhawks, but Rush is his most complete player and the one who is ready to make the jump to the first round of the NBA draft, possibly into the lottery. Still, that doesn't mean Rush couldn't improve in the offseason.

"He had to work on his ballhandling and to become a better passer," Self said. "He's got to become more aggressive, more explosive than he was last year. He deferred too much. Your best player shouldn't defer. He still does it too much, even though he's equipped to be a take-charge guy."

Self said he was convinced at the end of January that Rush was gone once the season ended. Rush's freshman season was going too well, and since Rush was a late signee over the summer, it's not like Self ever believed he was getting Rush for the long haul. Self changed his opinion, though, as Rush's production went down in the last month of the season.

The two didn't speak during the season about Rush leaving. Self just knew when the season ended that Rush would be back.

"His stats fell, his shooting percentage fell and he didn't finish the season the way a great player should," Self said. "In order to be drafted where he wants to be drafted, he has to average more than eight or 10 points a game in the last 10 games."

Self said Rush's public announcement that he would return sealed it as well. He told Rush not to say a word if he wasn't sure. Once he did public functions, he knew Rush wouldn't embarrass himself.

Underclassmen can declare twice during their college careers; Rush declared out of high school, which wouldn't have counted against that limit.

"He didn't want to send the wrong message to the NBA, where twice they were telling him he's not good enough yet," Self said. "He's smart in that regard."

"I made up my mind right after that Bradley game that I was coming back," Rush said. "I felt like my team didn't go far in the NCAA Tournament and that meant I wasn't a guarantee first-round pick."

Watch practice and you'll see that as talented as Rush is, he still shies away from being vocal.

"He's a laid-back leader," said point guard Russell Robinson, who is the most verbose of the bunch. "He's not as animated as most people. He's not as aggressive. He lets the game come to him. He probably jokes more than anyone on our team and he has fun laughing.

"He knows the spotlight is on him but he doesn't care. He does what he wants to do. He plays hard and scores."

And that's enough to get him plenty of attention this season -- whether he likes it or not.

The Jayhawks are recruiting as if Rush is gone following this season, one Rush expects will end in Atlanta. If it does, there's a good chance he'll take a piece of that net, a player's personal national championship trophy, home with him.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bring on the Ichabods

That #3 ranking is all well and good, but what are our chances against the Washburn University Ichabods?
KU plays their first exhibition game Thursday the 2nd at 7pm. We face an Ichabod squad that went 4-0 on their August trip through China. Leading scorer Dylan Channel looks like a threat from outside after going 3-4 from downtown against Shanghai Normal.

Nevertheless, I think our Jayhawks survive the D-II Ichabods. Score? How about 95-60. Any takers?

I would be remiss not to mention the football team's first conference win, over Colorado. Knew we could do it (?).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ok, let's have it...

What will be the Jayhawks' Destiny this year?
Under 500. Meteor hits Allen Fieldhouse and reduces it to a smoldering pit.
3rd Place in Big XII behind 2 south teams or (*ugh*) K-State.
2nd place Big XII 1st or 2nd round tourney loss
Big XII Champs Reg Season
Big XII Tourney Champs
1st Rd NCAA Loss
2nd rd NCAA
Sweet Sixteen NCAA
Elite 8 NCAA
Final 4 Baby!
Finals Appearance
Rock Chalk Jayhawk goin' all da way!!!
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Monday, October 23, 2006

Just Don't Put Us On The Cover

SI's Davis picks KU to cut the nets in April.

Postcard from Kansas
Talent-laden squad my pick to win the NCAA title

-Seth Davis

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- I was sitting courtside in Allen Fieldhouse Monday night when I mentioned to Chris Theisen, Kansas' sports information director, that even though it was cool outside the arena felt a little bit muggy. Chris told me it was because the Fieldhouse has no air conditioning, which is why it gets so hot on game days. Just then, KU coach Bill Self plopped down in a chair next to us, flashed that charming hillbilly grin of his and drawled, "Well, if you sit in just the right place, you can actually catch a nice breeze in here."

It was a light exchange that would be commonplace during an idle moment in the empty gym. What made it notable, however, was the fact Self was actually in the middle of conducting a very rigorous practice. The workout had entered a brief lull while the players shifted off to separate work stations, giving Self the chance to sit down and chat. At certain junctures the coach stopped talking to bark out an instruction -- "Julian, jump to the ball!" -- but then he'd quickly return to our light banter. After about 10 minutes, the practice picked up again, and Self was back on the court putting his players through their paces.

You can see why Self has a reputation for being one of the most approachable, accessible and likeable coaches. But don't let the hillbilly charm fool you. He can just as quickly shed that grin and morph into an exacting, dyspeptic, slightly whiny coach who brooks no lapses from his players. I watched Kansas practice twice this week, and believe me when I tell you that when those players are on the court, they don't find Self easygoing at all.

This dynamic is why I believe Self and Kansas are such a great fit. KU fans have been rightly spoiled by the program's success, but they're also the most knowledgeable and supportive fans in the country. So it helps that Self is such a bulldog on the recruiting trail. Remember, this is the guy who loaded Illinois with the players who went 30-2 two years ago and lost in the NCAA championship game to North Carolina.

Self has recruited four former McDonald's High School All-Americas to his current roster. By my count, KU has three surefire pros (sophs Brandon Rush and Julian Wright, plus freshman Darrell Arthur) and at least three others who have a good chance at pro careers (guards Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins). Two days before my arrival in Lawrence, Self hosted Medford, Ore., native Kyle Singler, a 6-foot-9 wunderkind who I believe is the best player in the Class of '07. (Singler will choose between Kansas, Duke and Arizona in the next few weeks.)

Self doesn't just get good players. He also knows how to coach. Not for nothing is he the only man ever to take three schools to the Elite Eight (Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas). Self is catching a little heat these days because the Jayhawks lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament the past two years, but people forget he had the Jayhawks in overtime in the 2004 Regional Finals before losing to Georgia Tech. He preaches toughness and unselfishness, and his teams have always reflected that.

Finally, as demonstrated by the practice scene described above, Self is a genuinely low-maintenance guy who does not let external pressures encroach on his life. I've seen him take losses very, very hard, but unlike many of his peers, Self doesn't obsess over his setbacks or his critics. He knows his team has high expectations, but he's not going to go Lou Holtz on you and say those expectations are not warranted.

"We've been here three years and we won the league twice, but I know that at Kansas the standard isn't what you did in the league. The standard is [what you do] after the league," he said over a steak dinner at Ten restaurant in Lawrence Sunday night. "I don't mind the expectations because I know we have a lot of guys who can make plays. As a coach, my only thought is, what is our ceiling and how close can we get to it?"

After watching the Jayhawks practice on Monday and Tuesday, I can assure you their ceiling is sky high. This team is loaded with thoroughbreds; my neck is still sore from watching them press and run nonstop. KU led the nation in field-goal percentage last season, but the scary thought is this team should be even better defensively. Self is intent on pushing the pace to take advantage of his players' multifaceted skills in transition.

For instance, on the last play of Tuesday's practice, Wright, the long-armed 6-8 sophomore power forward from Chicago, ripped down a rebound, speed-dribbled to lead the fast break, faked a pass to his left, took off from the foul line and flipped in an easy layup. High ceiling, indeed.

Kansas' ability to score off its defense will be critical because if there's a question about the Jayhawks, it's their ability to score in the halfcourt. Neither Chalmers nor Robinson is what I would consider a pure point guard. (Collins is a pure point and he's really, really good, but he's still a freshman and will probably come off the bench.) This team also doesn't have a consistent scoring threat in the post, though the 6-9 Arthur could become one. Wright and Rush are good passers, but they tend to be a little too loose with the ball when running Self's offensive sets.

On the other hand, Rush, the team's leading scorer (13.5) and rebounder (5.9) last year, made 47.2 percent from three-point range as a freshman. If he and the three guards -- not to mention Wright, who showed a surprisingly efficient offensive touch in practice -- can consistently knock down long-range shots, that will make this team nearly impossible to guard. Given that the Jayhawks return all five starters from a callow team that won 15 of its final 17 games and captured the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles, it's logical to think they will again improve as the season wears on.

I guess I'm like everyone else in the state of Kansas. I expect big things from the Jayhawks this season. You might think that would put a lot of heat on a head coach, but Self always seems to find the spot with the cool breeze.

Herewith my breakdown of the Kansas Jayhawks:

Heart and soul: Robinson. Ideally, I'd put Rush in this category, but unfortunately he is still a little too quiet and deferential. Robinson is not the vocal type either, but he gives this team a tough New York City swagger it otherwise lacks. Plus, he'll have the ball in his hands more than anyone else. Everyone I polled for my breakdown immediately gave Robinson as their choice in this category. He is the team's unquestioned leader.

Most improved: Chalmers. One of the main reasons Kansas struggled to a 3-5 start last year was the difficulty Chalmers had in making the transition from high school. Chalmers has attacked this preseason with much more strength and confidence than he did a year ago. His conditioning is vastly improved, and he continues to demonstrate a sweet outside stroke.

Glue guy: Sasha Kaun. It's easy to forget that Kaun, a junior center from Russia, is on the roster, but Kansas' opponents would be wise not to forget about him. Kaun isn't the most agile center around, but he's big (6-11, 245 pounds), efficient (56.2 percent on field goals last year) and experienced. He can knock down open shots, and because he's surrounded by so much talent he should get lots of clean looks.

X factor: Arthur. Self pulled off a recruiting coup when he added Arthur to the program last spring. Arthur was battling tonsillitis this week, so he spent a lot of time during practice tugging at his shorts. Still, I saw enough to know this kid has some astonishing gifts. He is a very quick repeat jumper, and while he's not much of a long-range shooter, he can score in a variety of ways around the basket. My sense is it will take Arthur some time to get his body to where he can make a regular contribution. If he gets there, KU will get that much closer to its ceiling.

Lost in the shuffle: Rodrick Stewart. I was inclined to go with 6-8 junior Darnell Jackson here, but that was before 6-10 junior center C.J. Giles blew off a morning workout this week and was essentially suspended from the team. Self is leaving the door open for Giles to return, but my guess is he's done at Kansas. That means Jackson, who might have redshirted, gets bumped up in the rotation. On the other hand, Stewart, a 6-4 junior from Seattle, averaged just 3.2 minutes per game last year. With Collins in the fold and clearly capable of contributing right away, it's hard to see how Stewart's minutes will increase.

Bottom line: Giles may be prone to inconsistency and immaturity, but he gave Kansas another long, athletic body up front. His absence will hurt. Still, making predictions isn't just about assessing talent. It's about forecasting where that talent will be in five months. I like where Kansas is, but I like where they are going even more. Until further notice, you can consider KU my pick to win the 2007 national championship.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

CJ Rumor Mill

Giles' court date adds to his troubles
By Tom Keegan (Contact)

Posted Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Add alleged failure to pay child support to the list of personal fouls that could prevent reserve junior center C.J. Giles from ever wearing a Kansas University basketball uniform again.

Giles is due in Douglas County District Court on Monday morning to face an allegation that he owes $4,097 in unpaid child support, according to court records.

“I’m not concerned about money 100 percent,” Laura Bender, mother of Jaiden Giles, born March 31, 2005, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “I’m concerned about him taking responsibility for what’s his. … It’s very expensive to raise a child. Yes, I’m concerned about the money. At the same time, it’s important for Jaiden to have a father in his life, and he doesn’t have one.”

A 2004 graduate of Free State High, Bender said she would be open to a payment plan delayed until Giles could land summer employment, if necessary.

“That’s fine,” she said. “I just hope that C.J. opens his heart to his son and will take responsibility and help out.”

A full-time student at Johnson County Community College and a hostess at Lawrence restaurant “On the Border,” Bender said that Giles had seen their son four times.

Giles was ordered in April 2006 to pay Bender $241 in child support per month, plus a judgment of $2,892 for expenses she had incurred since the baby’s birth.

An affidavit filed Aug. 31 by an attorney representing the state’s Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services alleges that Giles “failed, neglected, or refused to fully comply with the orders of the court; no payment has ever been posted to this case.”

Bender said she did receive a payment for the first time, about “a week-and-a-half ago,” for the month of October.

“I was really surprised,” to receive the payment, she said.

The purpose of Monday’s hearing before Judge Pro Tem Peggy Kittel will be for Giles to give a reason why he should not be held in contempt of court. A court document instructs him to bring paycheck stubs and other documentation of his income.

Asked if she thought Giles would play for KU again, Bender said, “I hope so. I don’t think that having a child should stop his life. I think he deserves to have a chance to play again. I just think he needs to get his priorities straight.”

Bender said it had been “a couple of months” since she has talked to Giles.

KU basketball coach Bill Self revealed after practice Tuesday that Giles had been removed indefinitely from the team to deal with “personal issues” including but not limited to poor academic performance.

Reached Wednesday night, Self said he was unaware that Giles had a court appearance scheduled for Monday.

“I was unaware of any court date,” Self said. “I was aware he obviously was supposed to make payments, unaware there was a court date. It was all news to me. This did not initiate his suspension. It does add to the list. This is not what spurred my decision. This adds to it.”

Giles reportedly incurred Self’s wrath by missing a Monday workout.

"Right now, he is not practicing with us or doing anything with us,” Self said. “I've not had a chance to talk to C.J. He has some things that have to be addressed. … This certainly factors into the equation. I have not talked to C.J. (Wednesday). I have Media Day (today) in Oklahoma City. I've not set up anything where I will be talking to him on a regular basis. He knew some things had to be taken care of. When they are handled, I'll become aware of it (and they then may talk).”

Self has found it difficult to hide his disappointment in Giles, a prospect who has not fulfilled his potential on the court, off the court or in the classroom.

“I can tell you obviously I don't like dealing with this,” Self said. “It's almost like I'm not dealing with it. It goes along with what is consistent of the pattern of what we have been concerned with. A lot of things have come to a head very recently, and this certainly adds to that.”

—Eric Weslander and Gary Bedore contributed to this report.

Friday, October 13, 2006


The NC2A handed down punishments to our athletic dept. yesterday for various crimes and misdemeanors, including improper gifts to Darnell Jackson from donor/patron Don Davis. Men's hoops got off rather light, losing only a scholarship and eight campus visits for recruiting.

The main problem was "lack of institutional control," and the blame is being assigned, as it has been for many other things, to weaselly ex-AD Al Bohl. But it's important to remember that Hemenway was chancellor all through this Roman orgy of rule-breaking, so he deserves some blame, too.

On the other hand, KU has been getting some good pub lately as well. On CNNSI, Luke Winn says we have the best backcourt in the nation, and puts us at #2 in his power rankings. Seth Davis wonders whether in fact we have TOO much talent.

Also, Rush and Wright were selected as preseason co-Big 12 Players of the Year. They deserve it, but the fact that this honor is going to underclassmen doesn't speak well for the strength of the conference this season.

Last but not least, tonight (Oct. 13) is Late Night at the Phog (though it no longer takes place late at night). In celebration of this, the LJW has a silly but amusing article about dunking, in which the word "dunk" is repeated 36 times by my count. Typical is this comment from the always-quotable Sasha Kaun:

"I agree with what coach (Bill) Self says about the dunk. People say the dunk is just two points. It is just two points, but the dunk can change the momentum of the game. Coach Self says, and I believe him, the game can be going one way, if somebody dunks or dunks on somebody, it just gives so much adrenaline and excitement to the team that dunks. Dunkety-dunk. Badunk-a-dunk dunk."

(OK, I may have fabricated part of that quote).

All the Late Night dunks, sloppy scrimmage action, and bad skits will be streaming live here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pop Culture Event of the Week

...(in my universe) is the release of Beck's new album, "The Information." I haven't picked it up yet, but have heard several tracks on the internets.

The single "Nausea" is kind of a bore, but other songs, including "Soldier Jane," "Strange Apparition," and "1000 BPM," sound intriguing.

Some of us thought last year's "Guero" was a bit lackluster, and I'm having trouble getting this out of my head (seems to be hereditary), but dammit, it's too early to give up on Beck just yet.

More on this later. The NYT weighs in here.