It’s easy to see why basketball analysts and fans would compare Kansas freshman guard Josh Jackson to former KU guard Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Both stand 6-foot-8. Both weigh about the same. Both entered college as the No. 1-ranked high school prospects in the country.
“I think there are a lot of similarities from a body standpoint,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday on the weekly podcast of Jon Rothstein of Compass Media. “Josh is a terrific athlete. I think Andrew was kind of on a different planet from an athletic ability standpoint. I’ve never been around a guy with a better first step or better second jump.
“Josh is better with the ball. He can make plays for himself, but he can also make plays for others,” Self added. “The knock on Andrew when he came in here was, ‘Could he shoot the ball?’ He quickly showed he was a good shooter. Josh is kind of going through the same thing. Josh has been terrific shooting the ball.”
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That indeed has been positive news coming out of summer workouts and preseason practices.
“If he can get where he can consistently knock it down to kind of set up his other game, I think he can be terrific offensively,” Self said of Detroit native Jackson. “Defensively he can be an elite collegiate defender his first game out. He has some things you can’t teach from an anticipation and toughness (standpoint) and he has some alpha dog in him that every team needs.”
The 19-year-old Jackson weighs 207 pounds, while third-year pro Wiggins, 21, is listed at 199 pounds on the Wolves’ roster.
“I believe Josh is more a jack of all trades right now. Hopefully that will translate to being a stat stuffer, so to speak,” Self said. “He can get 12 points and dominate a game. I don’t know if ‘Wiggs’ could do that, but ‘Wiggs’ could go off and get you 30 pretty much any night if things fell right.”
Who looks good?
Self said sophomores Lagerald Vick and Carlton Bragg have “made the biggest jump” of all returning players since last season.
“Both had great springs, summers and falls,” Self said. “Lagerald hardly played at all last year. I think he has a chance to be a terrific college player.”
Will the Big 12 Conference expand?
“I don’t see it in the immediate future,” Self said on Rothstein’s podcast, “but I think there’s a chance we could. I think if we do, there’s a better chance of doing football only. I don’t think it would affect basketball.”
The Big 12 could, in theory, add two football programs to go to 12 for football, while allowing basketball to remain at 10 teams so there could be a true round-robin in league play. The round-robin has been popular with league coaches and fans who like the idea of a true champion with teams playing each another twice.
“I basically have no clue,” Self said, stressing he “had no insight at all to what the presidents and commissioner and really basically our AD (Sheahon Zenger) is thinking.
“I could see it going any of three ways: adding two (teams), adding four, adding all sports. I could also see not doing anything. The last one I could see a hybrid of that, adding football only. That would be my gut hunch without any inside knowledge,” he added.
Vitale mentions Jayhawks
KU senior guard Frank Mason was named fourth-team preseason All-Rolls Royce by ESPN’s Dick Vitale on Monday. Junior guard Devonté Graham was named to the fifth team. Vitale’s first-team Rolls Royce (All-America): Grayson Allen, Duke; Melo Trimble, Maryland; Ivan Rabb, California; Kris Jenkins, Villanova; Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin.
Chalmers still recovering
Former KU guard Mario Chalmers remains an NBA free agent as he continues to rehab after Achilles surgery in March.
“He said he’s about a month away from being ready. Several teams are staying in touch with him. The backup point guard market is thin. If he’s healthy he’ll be back in the league quickly,” writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly have interest in Chalmers, who played for Miami eight seasons and Memphis in 2015-16.