Kansas’ Frank Mason and Josh Jackson are two of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy, which honors the country’s most outstanding college basketball player, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Wednesday.
Others: Lonzo Ball, UCLA; Ethan Happ, Wisconsin; Josh Hart, Villanova; Justin Jackson, North Carolina; Luke Kennard, Duke; Jonathan Motley, Baylor; Caleb Swanigan, Purdue; and Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga.
The Atlanta Tipoff Club will announce four finalists on March 19. The award will be presented at the Final Four on April 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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Kansas scouting juco forward
KU coach Bill Self was to travel to Hutchinson Community College on Wednesday to watch a practice of Shakur Juiston, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound sophomore forward originally out of Paterson (N.J.) Eastside High School.
Juiston — who is averaging 16.7 points (on 61.4 percent shooting), 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game — is also being recruited by Iowa State, Illinois, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, St. Bonaventure, Seton Hall and VCU, according to The Hutchinson News.
Juiston scored 17 points and grabbed a school-record 20 rebounds in Monday’s 104-66 victory over Dodge City. He is fourth on the Blue Dragons’ career rebounding list with a two-year total of 643.
“Shakur is a walking double-double,” Hutchinson assistant coach Jay Cyriac told Zagsblog.com on Jan. 10. Juiston has 19 double-doubles. “He has an unbelievable motor and does everything you need to win. He won a lot of games for Paterson Eastside and at the Peach Jam with the N.J. Playaz (AAU team) and was an important player last season as a freshman. He’s a tremendous athlete and better kid.”
Juiston, who has made 54.2 percent of his free throws, was unranked by Rivals.com coming out of high school. Zagsblog.com says he’ll make official visits to colleges this spring.
“He’s not like most of the kids today who need to put up their recruiting status on their social media,” Playaz director Jimmy Salmon told Zagsblog.com. “He’s old school. He just takes care of business. When he’s ready to announce, he will. He’s not interested in giving everybody a play-by-play.
“He’s an old-school basketball player. He has exceptional IQ for the game and can defend the 2, 3 and the 4 effectively,” Salmon added.
Juiston, according to The Hutchinson News, kisses the side of his fist and points to the sky after made baskets as a tribute to his late brother, Shadir, who was shot and killed a few blocks from their New Jersey home on Jan. 21, 2011. He was 14 when his brother, 19, was killed.
“Every point is for that specific reason and I play this game for him and my family,” Juiston told The News.
KU checks in on Langford
A member of KU’s coaching staff was to watch a workout of Romeo Langford, a 6-4, 185-pound junior shooting guard from New Albany (Ind.) High, this week.
Langford, who is considering KU, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Purdue, UCLA among others, told the Louisville Courier-Journal he’s in no hurry to pick a school.
“It’s going to be at the beginning of the season (next year) or after the season,” Langford, Rivals.com’s No. 3-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2018, told the paper.
Of Langford’s ability, New Albany coach Jim Shannon told The Courier-Journal: “He has NBA range. That’s his strength. He can shoot from anywhere. He’s really good off the dribble. I’d like to see him take it to the basket a little bit more. Defensively, we’re working with him on the little things — fronting the post, hands up when he’s defending, lateral movement. There’s always stuff fundamentally he can do better. We’re always looking to make him better, and he’s always looking to get better.”
Shannon added: “The fascinating thing about him is that wherever he goes, he’ll want to win a national championship. He won’t make demands. He’s not worried about starting or how much he’ll play. He just says, ‘I want to win a national championship,’ just like he told me, ‘I want to win a state championship.’ I dare say wherever he goes to college, they’ll win a national championship when he’s there. I think he’ll do that in the pros, too.”
Hamilton nets KU offer
Jairus Hamilton, a 6-8, 220-pound junior forward from Cannon School in Concord, N.C., who is ranked No. 31 in the Class of 2018 by Rivals.com, has received a scholarship offer from KU, he reported on Twitter. He has heard from North Carolina, Wake Forest, California, North Carolina State, Arizona and others.
Smith has KU on list
Former Missouri baseball commit Mark Smith, a 6-4 senior combo guard from Edwardsville (Ill.) High who has decided to play basketball in college, is considering KU, Illinois, Kansas State, Nebraska, Indiana, Northwestern, Missouri, Butler, DePaul and others, Rivals.com reports.
Rivals.com’s No. 78-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2017 visited Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois and Wright State in the fall before he started receiving interest from many more schools.
Husker Online reports that Smith’s cousin, Joe Acker, is a freshman outfielder on the Cornhuskers’ baseball team. A buddy of Smith, Travis Anderson, has committed to NU on a track and field scholarship.
“Just a place that feels like home,” Smith told the Rivals.com affiliate. “I want a good relationship with all the coaches, especially the head coach, and just a place I can develop and be the best player I can be.”
Horejsi expansion planned
KU is in the process of raising funds for an expansion of Horejsi Center, home of KU’s volleyball team, which has advanced to the NCAA Tournament five straight seasons. Horejsi, which has sold out for every match the past few seasons, has a capacity of 1,300.
“We are actively fundraising in hopes of renovating Horejsi to bring the capacity to 3,000 which would permit KU to host the regional round of the NCAA Tournament,” KU associate AD Jim Marchiony said. “We are looking at ways of enlarging Horejsi.”
KU’s odds listed at 7/1
Nevada’s Bovada sportsbook lists KU’s odds of winning the NCAA title at 7/1. North Carolina and UCLA are 6/1. Gonzaga is 8/1, Villanova 10/1, Duke 11/1, Kentucky 12/1, Oregon 14/1, Louisville 14/1, Arizona 16/1 and Virginia 20/1.
Another record to fall soon
KU’s basketball team will set a record for most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (28) this March, surpassing North Carolina, which played in 27 straight tourneys from 1975-2001. The Jayhawks last missed the tournament in 1988-89, Roy Williams’ first year at KU. The Jayhawks were on probation that season.
“Not only are the Jayhawks good to make the tournament every season, but they’re getting a terrific seed almost annually. Since 1990, KU has been seeded No. 2 on average. Kansas has been seeded worse than fourth just twice! Jayhawks fans talk in hushed tones about the dark ages: 1998-2000. A No. 8 seed. Shudder,” CBSsports.com’s Matt Norlander wrote in an article about the streak.
“If KU can win five games in the tournament this year it will make for the fifth title-game appearance for the program during this streak. And given how good Bill Self is, this run is far from done. So long as Self is there, it’s basically impossible to see KU not playing in the tournament. This run could hit 40 straight years if Self opts to stay in Lawrence for another 10-plus seasons,” Norlander wrote.