University of Kansas

KU coach Bill Self praises ‘security blanket’ Landen Lucas ahead of Baylor game

Kansas' Landen Lucas dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. Kansas won 79-73.
Kansas' Landen Lucas dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. Kansas won 79-73. AP

Kansas’ Senior Night is still about a month away.

Yet, in a sneak preview, appreciative 14th-year KU basketball coach Bill Self on Monday showered lavish words of praise, oft-times reserved for a player’s final home game, on fifth-year senior Landen Lucas at his weekly news conference.

The 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward no only scored 13 points (on 6-of-6 shooting) and grabbed five rebounds in the Jayhawks 79-73 victory at Kentucky on Saturday, but also also helped hold freshman sensation Edrice “Bam” Adebayo to 10 points and eight boards in 37 minutes.

“He’s like your binky or your security blanket,” Self said of the Portland native, who was an unranked, three-star recruit in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com.

KU coach Bill Self spoke Monday about his No. 3 ranked Jayhawks taking on No. 2 Baylor Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Lucas leads the Big 12 in rebounding (11.3 in league contests only) entering Wednesday’s 8 p.m. showdown between No. 3 KU and No. 2 Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse.

“No matter how bad we think, ‘You know what, if we could just get somebody else,’ we haven’t found anybody as good or better. I mean, he’s been really good,” Self stated of Lucas, who averages 7.6 points and 7.9 rebounds overall, including 9.5 points per game in Big 12 contests.

“I’m going to be a little bit negative about Landen, OK? Landen is a guy that when we recruited him, we thought could be a rotation guy in time. Like I talked to his dad, I talked to Landen, ‘We’ll red-shirt him freshman year, won’t play him. Maybe by the time the end of his sophomore year he can be in the rotation.’

“Well, by the end of his sophomore year he was a starter, and then last year he wasn’t a starter. We were looking kind of for something else, and what did we come back to? Landen,” Self said.

Lucas started 19 of KU’s final 20 games in 2015-16 after several rotation players told Self they were quite comfortable with Lucas manning the middle.

“This year he was starting and then we kind of went a different direction (freshman Udoka Azubuike) because we didn’t think he (Lucas) was playing very well, and what did we come back to? Landen,” Self said.

Lucas started the first five games, then gave way to Azubuike the next six. Lucas returned to the starting lineup the last 10 games after a season-ending wrist injury to Azubuike.

Lucas has had some big games in league play, including 15 points and 17 boards against TCU; 18 points and 12 boards against Kansas State; 10 points and 13 boards versus Oklahoma; 14 points and six boards against Iowa State; 12 boards versus Oklahoma State and 14 boards against Texas.

Again, they qualify as impressive numbers for a player not even ranked in high school.

“When you coach at a place like Kansas or Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky, you’re always thinking, ‘Recruit these high, high-level guys, and you want to do that.’ But sometimes when you recruit high, high-level guys, people forget they’ve still got to beat out somebody that’s darned good that’s been here and experienced and that kind of stuff,” Self said.

“I probably don’t tell him as much, but he’s as appreciated as any kid that we’ve ever had here. He’s smart. He’s so good with you guys (media). He’s intelligent. He has done everything we’ve asked him to do, even when the fan base may get onto him because he can’t finish as well and all this stuff, but he just keeps coming back."

KU senior Frank Mason spoke during a press conference on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, about the No. 3 ranked Jayhawks taking on No. 2 Baylor on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Duval to visit for BU game

Trevon Duval, a 6-foot-2 senior point guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., who is ranked No. 3 in the recruiting class of 2017 by Rivals.com, will make an official recruiting visit to Kansas for Wednesday’s game against Baylor, Duval announced on Twitter. He attended Late Night in the Phog on an unofficial campus visit.

Duval, who spent part of his high school career at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., has a list of KU, Baylor, Duke, Arizona and Seton Hall.

Mason a Cousy watch finalist

KU senior guard Frank Mason has been named one of 10 finalists for the 2017 Bob Cousy point guard of the year award presented by College of the Holy Cross. Others: Monte Morris, Iowa State; Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga; De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Joel Berry, North Carolina; Dennis Smith, N.C. State; Lonzo Ball, UCLA; Jalen Brunson, Villanova and Markelle Fultz, Washington. Five finalists will be named in March. The winner of the award will be announced at ESPN’s College Basketball Awards show on April 7 in Los Angeles.

Jackson honored again

Kansas freshman Josh Jackson on Monday was named the Big 12 Conference’s newcomer of the week in a vote by a media panel that covers the league. It’s the fifth time Jackson has earned the honor, which is a KU record for newcomers. Tyshawn Taylor was honored four times during the 2010-11 season. Jackson averaged 21.0 points and 7.0 rebounds against West Virginia and Kentucky. The 6-foot-8 Detroit native was 6 of 9 from three in the two games. Former Kansas State forward Michael Beasley was named newcomer of the week a record eight times in 2008.

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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