Bill Self is looking for a power forward or center to add to the frontcourt of this year’s Kansas men’s basketball team.
“Maybe we can find a kid over in Italy,” Self, KU’s 15th-year coach said with a smile while speaking Friday at the Hardwood Classic AAU Tournament at Sports Pavilion Lawrence at Rock Chalk Park.
Maybe Self was kidding — the Jayhawks are soon headed overseas to play four exhibition games Aug 2-6 in Rome and Milan — maybe he wasn’t in the wake of Wednesday night’s news that 6-foot-9 William & Mary transfer Jack Whitman had decided to leave KU and return to his hometown of Lexington, Ky., to assess his own future plans.
Whitman’s departure leaves KU with just three eligible frontcourt players: Udoka Azubuike, Billy Preston and Mitch Lightfoot. Dedric Lawson and his brother, K.J., are forwards who can practice this season but not play in games in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. They played at Memphis a year ago.
“We definitely have a scholarship,” Self said. “The good thing about Jack leaving when he did is we are able to replace him in the fall (before 2017-18 season), but the chances of finding a player this time of year are not high either. We have one to give, but we’re just not going to give it away. If we find somebody to make us better, then we will. But if we can’t, then we won’t.”
Self was asked if he might search the junior college ranks for a big man.
“We’ll go wherever we have to, to try to find something,” Self said. “If there’s an unsigned (high schooler) or a juco (player) or overseas or whatnot, but the chances of finding somebody I don’t think are real high. If there’s a big walk-on out there, we’d probably be interested in him,” Self added.
Self said the loss of Whitman “doesn’t affect how we play at all. We’re going to play three bigs. We’ve still got three bigs who are going to play. Jack would have provided depth. Where it could affect us … if a guy becomes injured, now you are going to probably look at playing small a lot more.”
Self, who said he had not spoken with Whitman since the player informed him he was leaving, conceded he was “disappointed at the timing,” of Whitman’s departure. “But I think it’ll be fine for us,” he quickly added. “Certainly we wish him well. If he didn’t want to play basketball here this year, I would much rather find out in the summer than find out when we were actually depending on him.”
Azubuike, Vick playing in Philly
KU sophomore forward Azubuike has been playing well at the Under Armour Association All-America camp in Philadelphia.
“He’s doing well and Lagerald (Vick, junior guard),” Self said of camp counselors at the event. “It’s what they (tourney officials) told us. I’ve been there the last two days (recruiting high school players), but we couldn’t watch them play.”
The NCAA only allows college coaches to watch the high school players at the Under Armour event, not their own college players.
Brown to present Self at Hall
Self, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass., said former KU coach Larry Brown will be his presenter.
“I asked coach a long time ago,” Self said of his former boss at KU and one of his mentors. Self worked on Brown’s KU staff as a grad assistant during the 1985-86 season.
Self on Svi’s performance in Crete
Self on senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk, who has averaged 20.4 points a game in five games at the FIBA Under 20 European Championships in Crete.
“He nicked his wrist up, came back in the game and got 25 after getting hurt,” Self said of a recent outing of Team Ukraine. “He’s doing well.”
Self said the wrist injury was not serious.
“I’m happy he’s playing,” Self said. “He needs to play, needs to see the ball go in the hole. I thought it was more important (he play for Ukraine) last year. He hadn’t had a chance to be ‘the man’ a little bit. He’s played a lot off ball. That’s fine,” Self added. “When he gets back, he is going to have to really commit himself in the weight room. I guarantee you whatever they’ve done he hasn’t done what he’d be doing with Andrea (Hudy, KU strength coach).”
Self said Mykhailiuk would join KU’s team in Italy for the exhibition games.
Self on practices for the European tour
Self said practices for the Jayhawks’ trip to Italy have been “OK.”
“We don’t look very good,” he said. “We only practiced five times. We’ve got five left. We will practice Sunday through Wednesday and the next Sunday, then take off (for Rome).”