Kansas basketball coach Bill Self will be seated in the green room of Barclays Center on Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y., expecting the best for certain NBA Draft lottery pick Josh Jackson and consensus college player of the year Frank Mason.
“Thursday is obviously a big day. I’m hopeful that Josh is one of the first couple players taken,” Self said of Jackson, KU’s one-and-done wing from Detroit, who invited his college coach to join him at the 2017 Draft, set for a 6 p.m. start on ESPN.
“I’m hopeful Frank can sneak in the first round,” Self added of the 5-foot-11 Mason, who as a projected second-round selection will not be in New York for the proceedings. “Even moreso than that I hope they get in good situations.”
Self also wouldn’t be shocked to see former KU big man Landen Lucas be selected late in the second round though none of the mock drafts are listing the 6-foot-10 Portland native as a possible pick.
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“Landen has worked out for a ton of teams,” Self said. “I don’t know what the chances of him being drafted are. I do think soon after the draft he’ll be lined up with a summer league team and try to make it the hard way (as free agent).”
Self’s only advice for his players is to relax as the draft unfolds.
“It’s a big night — a night I hope the guys can enjoy and not get too stressed,” Self said.
Jackson — he averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds last season for the Jayhawks — figures to be a top-five pick. Philadelphia, which Monday completed a trade with Boston to acquire the No. 1 selection, is expected to take former Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who pick second, held a pair of workouts for Jackson, but according to many experts are leaning toward taking UCLA guard Lonzo Ball.
Boston at No. 3 could opt for Jackson or former Duke forward Jayson Tatum, who worked out for Boston while Jackson did not.
“They (Celtics) did a little bit of moving around with their pick,” Jackson told ESPN on Wednesday. “I felt like they made it pretty clear who they were going to draft with the No. 1 pick (Fultz), so I didn’t really feel like it was worth either of our times for me to work out with them. But then after they did the flip and went to No. 3 (via Monday’s trade), by then it was too late.”
Asked if the decision to skip a workout in Boston could affect his status Thursday he said: “It could. It may or may not. I’m just happy to be here today. Wherever I end up Thursday, I’ll be happy.”
Jackson did provide the Celtics with his medical records Wednesday.
“I think it would be great to play in Boston,” Jackson told cbssports.com. “Anybody who knows me knows that I love to win and I see that in a lot of the guys on their team. I would love to play in Boston.”
Some say Boston doesn’t need the 20-year-old Jackson because they have a 20-year-old forward in former Cal player Jaylen Brown. Brown averaged 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while logging 17.2 minutes a game his rookie season.
“A lot of people talk about ‘they’re the same player’ or ‘they play the same position,’ but, I mean, playing with Jaylen would be pretty good, I think,” Jackson told cbssports.com. “I think it would be pretty special just because of how much the game is changing today. When you look at two of the best teams in the league and they’re playing three small forwards at the same time, sometimes even four. So I don’t really see how people would think two guys like me and Jaylen playing together would be any type of issue at all.”
If the Lakers and Celtics pass on Jackson, he could be gobbled up by Phoenix at No. 4 or Sacramento at No. 5. One-and-dones DeAaron Fox (Kentucky), Jonathan Isaac (Florida State), Lauri Markkanen (Arizona), Malik Monk (Kentucky), Dennis Smith (N.C. State) and Zach Collins (Gonzaga) are all top-10 candidates who could move into the top five depending on what teams are thinking.
“It’s always been my dream to be in the position I am today,” Jackson told ESPN. “Pretty much everything that happens from this point on is out of my hands. I’m just going to have to deal with the cards I’m dealt. Whatever comes Thursday I’ll just be happy and try to make the best of it.”
Under Armour on Wednesday night reported on Twitter that Jackson had reached an endorsement deal with the company.
Jackson discusses ‘character issues’
Jackson on Wednesday addressed his off the court trouble at KU.
He was originally charged with one misdemeanor count of criminal property damage after prosecutors alleged he kicked the driver’s door and rear taillight of a car driven by KU women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert during the early morning hours of Dec. 9 outside the Yacht Club.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge on April 12, with his attorney, Hatem Chahine, saying then that he planned on filing for diversion. That document was signed by Jackson on April 26. He has stated publicly that he has attended anger management class as stipulated in the diversion. He must complete 20 hours of community service by Oct. 31.
“A lot of the character issues that you guys have probably been reading, it’s really been blown out of proportion a lot,” Jackson told nesn.com. “Obviously, I did a few things wrong that I shouldn’t have done. But it’s been blown up a lot, just because I am who I am. The people who are close to the situation, the teams that are considering drafting me that I’ve talked to, they know exactly what’s going on. They know exactly what’s happening. It’s just a minor mistake.”
He added: “I’m a humble guy. I’m a competitor, a really high-character guy. They (NBA officials) know what I bring to a team. They know I’m competitive and I’m all about winning. So, whatever team gets me, I’m going to do the best I can to help that organization win as many games as we can.”
Mason ‘embracing’ draft process
Former KU point guard Mason worked out for the Sacramento Kings twice. The Kings pick at No. 34 in the second round. He also has worked out for Philadelphia — a team with four second round picks (36, 39, 46 and 50).
“I’m just embracing it all,” Mason told draftexpress.com.
Asked what he would provide a team, the 5-11 Mason said: “I think I’m good at getting in the paint and creating shots for others. Over the years I’ve worked on being more vocal and verbal and think I’ve gotten better at that. I will work hard and do everything I can to help my team win.”
Little reports KU offer
Kansas has offered a scholarship to Nassir Little, a 6-foot-6 senior small forward from Christian Prep in Orlando, Fla., Little reported Wednesday on Twitter. Little, the No. 49-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2018 according to Rivals.com, also is considering Duke, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Auburn, Clemson, Creighton, Illinois, LSU, Memphis, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, SMU, South Carolina, St. John’s and Stanford among others.