Kansas basketball coach Bill Self and his assistants aren’t the only ones doing the teaching during early-season practices.
The veteran players take on the role of tutors of the newcomers as well.
“It’s a good feeling, being able to come out and help the young guys,” said fifth-year senior forward Landen Lucas. “I’ve been through a lot in my time here. I’m looking forward to bringing them along with some of the other seniors and leading the team to a successful season.”
He’s been mentoring freshman bigs Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot as well as giving some pointers to former Liberty forward Evan Maxwell, who is in his first year at KU.
“Landen is a cool guy sometimes,” said Azubuike, a 7-foot Nigeria native. “Off the court he does not talk a lot. He is kind of a silent guy. In practice he always gets on me: ‘This is what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to post up. You’ve got to push yourself.’ He’s been here a long time. He knows all the plays. He comes to me and explains stuff.”
Asked if 6-10 Portland native Lucas can be hard on him, Azubuike said, “Sometimes, yes. He’ll say, ‘You’ve got to do it this way.’ Sometimes he tries to make me do it the right way and stuff.”
Lightfoot, a 6-8 player from Gilbert, Ariz., said the returning bigs have been extremely positive.
“Carlton (Bragg) and Landen have been a huge help for me. They usually go first in the drills we do. I get to watch them perform the drill first,” Lightfoot said. “If we have questions, they are there to help. It’s mostly Carlton for me. Landen is there for Udoka a bunch. Carlton has done a great job helping me adjust.”
Bragg, a 6-10 sophomore from Cleveland, is not exactly a veteran yet, but he does know all the plays and what’s expected at practice.
“When we’re on the court and there are bad plays I just tell them to get through it,” Bragg said. “Smile. Everybody’s going to make mistakes. You just have to learn from it and take it in.”
Freshman guard Josh Jackson (6-8, Detroit), who along with sophomore transfer Malik Newman (6-3, Jackson, Miss.) and junior walk-on Tucker Vang (6-2, Wichita) are newcomers on the perimeter, have been listening intently to senior Frank Mason and junior Devonté Graham.
“Frank is the pit-bull type .He gets on guys a lot. That’s one of his ways (of showing leadership), making them mad to make them play harder,” said Graham, a 6-2 junior from Raleigh, N.C. “I just kind of try to coach guys. A lot of the freshmen we have don’t know certain things and I just try to help them out.”
Graham said KU’s veterans realize it’s tough to get used to college.
“I think that’s the hardest thing, the constant effort, competing on every play, not taking a play off is one of the biggest things,” Graham said. “In high school, All-Americans don’t play a lot of defense, but you can’t do that here.
“It definitely takes a while, because when you first come in as a freshman, you don’t really know your role. During practice, you’ve just kind of got to figure it out on your own. A lot of the older guys — me, Frank, Lando (Lucas) kind of help the guys. We just put them situations where they know what to do.”
Of course the most help and correction comes from the head coach — Bill Self.
“I need someone that is going to get on me when I make a mistake,” Lightfoot said. “I’m not afraid to have him get on me.”
As to how the freshmen have actually looked in practice so far, Graham said, “Really good. They’re picking up on the offense pretty well. It’s not easy. We’ve got a lot of plays, so we’ve been going over a lot of stuff. They’re picking it up really well.”
Lucas noted: “The young guys have come out here eager to learn. There’s that adjustment phase that they all go through, but because we’ve all been able to get up and down a little bit during the summer, they’ve gotten past that. With the way the schedule is set up (first two games against Indiana and Duke), we need them to come along a lot quicker than most schools do. So, hopefully they’ll be ready to learn right away.”
Self likes Big 12 staying at 10
Self commented to The Star on Monday about the Big 12’s decision to stay at 10 teams: “I personally like the decision. I love how competitive our league is due to the round-robin,” he stated.
Mason on Cousy list
KU senior Frank Mason has been chosen one of 20 candidates for the 2017 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award presented by the College of Holy Cross, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Monday.
Monte Morris, a senior from Iowa State, and Jawun Evans, a sophomore from Oklahoma State, also were on the list.
The other candidates are: Jalen Adams, UConn; Maurice Watson, Creighton; Jack Gibbs, Davidson; Frank Jackson, Duke; Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga; De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Joel Berry, North Carolina; Dennis Smith, North Carolina State; Lonzo Ball, UCLA; Jordan McLaughlin, USC; Jalen Brunson, Villanova; London Perrantes, Virginia; Seta Allen, Virginia Tech; Markelle Fultz, Washington; Brunson Koenig, Wisconsin; and Edmund Sumner, Xavier.
Magic cuts Alexander
Former KU forward Cliff Alexander has been cut by the NBA’s Orlando Magic. He played 10 minutes total in two preseason games. Alexander, who was not selected in the 2015 NBA Draft after one season at KU, played for Portland his rookie season.
My time is coming. I know it is,” Alexander wrote on Twitter. He could be picked up by another team, play in the NBA Developmental League or head overseas.