University of Kansas

Bill Self follows fortunes of his KU players in the NBA

Andrew Wiggins is averaging 19.5 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves through the team’s first eight games of the 2017-18 season.
Andrew Wiggins is averaging 19.5 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves through the team’s first eight games of the 2017-18 season. The Associated Press

If a high school basketball prospect decides to watch an NBA game on TV, there’s a strong possibility a University of Kansas player will appear on the screen.

“I think there’s a lot to be excited about. We’ve got 16 guys (in the league) right now,” KU coach Bill Self said Thursday at a Williams Fund-sponsored Roundball Club luncheon in Wichita. Kentucky (27) and Duke (20) are the only schools with more current NBA players than KU. North Carolina also has 16.

“If you ever go watch Joel (Embiid) or Andrew (Wiggins) play and are ever in a situation where you are out having dinner, just make sure those guys buy. Both of ’em just signed for $148 million,” Self added, speaking to those in attendance at the Wichita Marriott Hotel.

Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves recently signed $148 million extensions to their NBA rookie contracts.

Those two players could emerge as Self’s first KU players to become NBA All-Stars. KU has had 11 NBA lottery picks in the 15-year Self era. Overall, Self has coached 27 players at KU who have gone on to play in the NBA. None have yet appeared in the All-Star game.

“The two who need to carry the water for us, so to speak are Andrew and Joel,” Self said. “If you get two of the 24 guys who are All-Stars that would be a nice bonus for us in recruiting. They both have a chance to do that, Jo for sure. He’s the best center in the NBA right now.”

The Jayhawks have a pair of rookies on NBA rosters: Josh Jackson of the Phoenix Suns and Frank Mason of the Sacramento Kings. The Memphis Grizzlies employ three Jayhawks — Mario Chalmers, Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden — the most Jayhawks on any team in the NBA. Minnesota (Wiggins, Cole Aldrich) and Washington (Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre) each have a pair of Jayhawks on the roster.

Others in the league: Darrell Arthur, Denver; Tarik Black, Houston; Marcus Morris, Boston; Cheick Diallo, New Orleans and Jeff Withey, Dallas. Nick Collison, who played for Roy Williams at KU, is with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There’s still a chance free-agent Brandon Rush could be acquired by a team this season. Cliff Alexander and Brannen Greene are playing in the NBA G-League, although Alexander has been suspended five games to open the season for violation of the league’s anti-drug policy.

“Ben and Wayne are in the trainers room. They will be back out there soon,” Self said of two injured Jayhawks, noting that “Kelly Oubre (third-year pro) is doing very well.”

Of the rookies, Self noted that: “Frank isn’t getting much time at all with Sacramento yet, even though when he has played he’s played very well. Josh is off to an above-average start with Phoenix.”

Mason has played in four of the (1-7) Kings’ first eight games, averaging 6.0 points, 1.5 assists and 12.8 minutes per contest. Jackson, who has come off the bench since starting the first three games, has averaged 9.9 points and 3.5 boards while logging 23.4 minutes per outing.

“One of the talks I had with him (Jackson) individually was the fact that he was drafted to be a slasher and a defender, and we haven’t really seen it yet, and now we want to see it,” the Suns’ interim coach, Jay Triano, told arizonasports.com. Triano took over for Earl Watson, who was fired after three games.

“He’s embraced coming off the bench, which is a real nice sacrifice for a player to make,” Triano added.

Of coming off the bench, Jackson told arizonasports.com: “Coming into the NBA, trying to play the 4, where I’m guarding guys like Blake Griffin, trying to rebound with DeAndre Jordan, it’s kind of hard for myself. So I’ve just got to come in and try to be somewhere for myself where I’m comfortable, which is the 3 position.”

CBS ranks Graham, Newman in top 101

KU senior point guard Devonté Graham begins the 2017-18 season as the 10th best player in college basketball, a panel of experts at CBSsports.com stated this week.

In all, more than 4,500 players were considered for inclusion on the website’s list of the top 101 players in Division I. Sophomore guard Malik Newman was the only other Jayhawk to make the list: Newman checked in at No. 42.

“After Frank Mason won National Player of the Year for 2016-17, Graham has a shot this season, which would give the same school back-to-back winners,” wrote CBSsports.com’s Matt Norlander. “The most recent instance of two different players from the same school taking National Player honors in consecutive years? In 2002 and ’03 when KU’s Drew Gooden and Nick Collison did it (with the NABC Award).”

Of Newman, CBSsports.com’s Reid Forgrave wrote: “Newman was considered a potential one-and-done prospect when he came to Mississippi State in 2015-16, but after a difficult season — Newman was inefficient and turnover-prone — he transferred to Kansas. Newman has never seen a shot he does not like. Do not be surprised if it’s Newman, not Graham, who leads Kansas in scoring this year.”

Michael Porter, Jr., of Missouri, was No. 3 overall behind No. 1 Miles Bridges of Michigan State and No. 2 Marvin Bagley of Duke.

CBS listed KU’s Billy Preston as the 19th-best freshman in the country. Porter was No. 1.

Williamson to visit South Carolina

Zion Williamson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward from Spartanburg (S.C.) Day School, who is ranked No. 2 in the recruiting Class of 2018 by Rivals.com, will attend South Carolina’s game against Virginia Tech on Sunday as part of an unofficial visit to USC, Thestate.com reported Friday. Williamson has taken official visits to KU, Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina. He also has USC and Clemson on his list.

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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