A batch of newcomers — three transfers and at least three highly regarded high school players in the recruiting class of 2018 — figure to play huge roles in Kansas’ pursuit of a 15th-straight Big 12 basketball title and second-straight Final Four berth during the 2018-19 season.
“Our roster will be totally different next year, I would think,” KU coach Bill Self said after the Jayhawks’ 95-79 Final Four semifinal loss to Villanova on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
“There are a lot of unknowns out there,” he added.
What is known is Devonté Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk will be lost to graduation, and Lagerald Vick, Malik Newman and Udoka Azubuike could be lost to the NBA Draft.
Reinforcements include transfer additions Charlie Moore (Cal), K.J. Lawson and Dedric Lawson (Memphis) and McDonald’s All-Americans Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack as well as three-star player Ochai Agbaji of Oak Park High School.
Dedric Lawson, a 6-9, 230 pound junior, is expected to be one of the squad’s most productive players and a certain starter. Moore, a 5-11 sophomore point guard, is expected to be a certain rotation player, while 6-8 sophomore guard K.J. Lawson figures to be in the mix for minutes.
Dotson is a a 6-1 point guard from Providence Day High in Charlotte, N.C., who is ranked No. 17 in the class of 2018 by Rivals.com. Grimes is a 6-5 combo guard from College Park High in The Woodlands, Texas, and is ranked No 11 nationally. McCormack is a 6-10 forward from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., who is ranked No. 33. Agbaji is currently unranked by Rivals.com. Agbaji has been compared to former KU wing Travis Releford, somebody who may need some seasoning before eventually becoming a rotation player.
They join current freshman forward Silvio De Sousa, who joined KU’s team last December after originally being the No. 25-rated player in the recruiting class of 2018 by Rivals.com.
KU could still add to the recruiting class. Romeo Langford, a 6-4 senior combo guard from New Albany (Ind.) High, has a final three of KU, Indiana and Vanderbilt. Langford is ranked No. 6 nationally by Rivals.com.
Guards Marcus Garrett (freshman) and Sam Cunliffe (sophomore) and forward Mitch Lightfoot (sophomore) are slated to return. Former Arizona State player Cunliffe did not play much, which always lends speculation as to a possible transfer, something that figures to be sorted out when Self holds one-on-one meetings with players usually a week or so after the season.
Newman, Azubuike and Vick all said after Saturday’s season-ending loss to Villanova that they have not been thinking about possibly starting their pro careers, just the college season at hand. None of the three said they were definitely returning to KU, only that they would think about their respective futures now that the season has ended.
“I haven’t thought about anything,” Newman said. “I just want to get back with my teammates, make sure they’re good. Later in the week or sometime down the line I’ll sit down with coach Self and my family and have that (NBA) discussion. Right now I haven’t really been thinking about it.”
“No, it’s too early to talk about that. I have not been thinking about that,” Azubuike stated, also acknowledging there was a decision to make.
KU actually is one over the scholarship limit of 13 for next season, and would be two over the limit if Langford commits to the Jayhawks.
Of the season, Newman said Saturday: “I’m proud of these guys. I love this group of guys, their leadership, the way they approach every day, the love and joy they have for the game and the community.”
Azubuike said: “It’s not a happy feeling when you lose. Coach asked us to keep our head up. Nobody believed we would get where we are now, at the Final Four fighting for a championship. He told us to give them (the Wildcats) credit. They shot the ball real well. They were the better team.”