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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

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LJW photo: Former Jayhawk standout under Roy Williams and Bill Self Aaron Miles was the guest speaker at Self's camp on Tuesday.

LJW Video: Billy Thomas back in town

KC Star Audio: Bill Self's Big 12 teleconference*

Kansas University sophomore guard Travis Releford, who missed last week’s Bill Self campers game because of a painful skin irritation, says he’s healed and ready to play in today’s Camp Game Part Two.

...Though nobody ever knows for sure who will play before the 3 p.m. game, alumni Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Darnell Jackson have said they will participate. Thomas last Wednesday said he planned to play again this week.

...Self said Tuesday he was in favor of changing the rule that forces high school players to attend college a year prior to turning pro.

“In my personal opinion, I think kids should be allowed to go out of high school or (if they enroll in college) stay in college for three years. I think it will move to two (years), and I think that would be good because if someone wanted to make a mockery of our education system, they could with the one-and-done player,” Self said.

“They (the one-and-dones) could take six hours in the fall and not go to school in the spring, and the next thing you know they are still eligible to play the full year.”


During the teleconference Self also pointed out how Aldrich could develop as a player by improving his lower body strength.

“He’s got to be stronger, lower body, and have a stronger base about him,” Self said. “I do think, visiting with a lot of people that have watched him and have been impressed with his progress, that’s one area that he can make himself a better player, is through lower body strength.”


Even though the season doesn’t tip off for another five months, the Big 12 Conference is already making its case as the best basketball league in the country. On paper, at least.

After all, highly regarded recruiting classes have been signed, and, somewhat surprisingly nowadays, no coaching changes made this off-season.

Kansas, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country, returns its top two players, guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich, and adds a top-notch recruiting class led by shooting guard Xavier Henry. Texas, a likely preseason top-five team, has guard/forward Damion James coming back, along with a highly touted recruiting class led by guard Avery Bradley and forward Jordan Hamilton.
It doesn’t stop there.

Oklahoma, even without star forward Blake Griffin, is still strong with former North Crowley guard Willie Warren leading the way and two freshmen that should make an immediate impact in center Keith Gallon and guard Tommy Mason-Griffin. Texas A&M, which lost top scorer Josh Carter and forward Chinemelu Elonu to the NBA Draft, still returns eight of its top 10 scorers, including guard Donald Sloan and forward Bryan Davis.

And, look out for Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas State, which have good recruiting classes coming in.

"I don’t think there’s any question that our league is better than it’s ever been," Texas’ Rick Barnes, the longest-tenured coach in the conference, said in a league teleconference Tuesday. "We’ve fared pretty well over the last 10 or 12 years, and our league has been as good as any in the country. I think the way our coaches work at it and the players we attract, it’ll be a great league this year."

FW Star-Telegram

From a conference that pushed three teams into the Sweet 16, one to the regional finals and had an NIT finalist, seven of the 10 members of the first and second all-league teams return.

So do all five players on the all-freshman team.

But the mix of veterans and newcomers is what has coaches revved. Recruiting classes for six Big 12 programs were judged to be among the nation’s 25 best by ESPN Scouts, Inc.

“There’s no doubt that when you’re playing in this conference, you’re going to be playing against the best night in and night out,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.

The best team, at least the one most discussed as preseason No. 1, is Kansas. The starting five and top nine scorers return and will be joined by a Xavier Henry-led recruiting class widely regarded among the nation’s top five.

“We have a chance to have a great team,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.Texas, which loses only guard A.J. Abrams among its starters, also has a recruiting class ranked near the top and will find itself on many preseason top five lists.

KC Star*

Kansas already has been touted as a national title contender.

What boosted the 2008 national champions into the role was the return of Aldrich and Collins plus the late signing of 6-6 Xavier Henry away from Memphis, filling the one hole ? wing shooter ? that sometimes slowed the Jayhawks last season.

KU coach Bill Self said his team isn't ready for the full bull's-eye yet.

“We're going to get some knots put on our heads, in some form or fashion,'' he said. “Hopefully, it's not a lot of losses.

“We do have a chance to have a great team. But there is not as much margin for error as when we basically had seven pros playing a couple of years ago.''

Texas, under dean of Big 12 coaches Rick Barnes, is slowly attracting more national attention.

The Longhorns have two premium point guards arriving to go with the return of James and the improving play of 6-11, 300-pound Dexter Pittman.

“Texas is like that horse that won the Kentucky Derby,'' Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said of the early long shot. “People better not forget about those guys. Rick's got a chance to be one of the top four or five teams in the country.''

Omaha World-Herald

“I almost forgot what it was like. It’s been a while,’’ Iowa State’s Greg McDermott said Tuesday on a summer conference call of Big 12 basketball coaches. “We’re excited to have seven players back who played for us a year ago. ... I feel like we’ve finally got our program to a place we should have had it a year ago if it wouldn’t have been for some defections.’’

Craig Brackins heads the list of experienced Cyclones after flirting with early entrance into the NBA.

Others around the league also were projected to be ready for the pros. Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins at Kansas ... Denis Clemente at Kansas State ... James Anderson at Oklahoma State ... Willie Warren at Oklahoma ... Damion James at Texas.

Those returnees make it hard to trim an All-Big 12 preseason team to five guys. Heck, everyone returns off the conference’s all-freshman team in an era when One-and-Done is almost part of the NBA’s marketing lexicon.

“The players that return probably made this league, unfortunately for coaches, the best in the country next year,’’ said Nebraska’s Doc Sadler. “All those guys are very, very good players who can make a difference in your league and someday will probably be playing in the NBA. All that does is add the depth that everybody in the league wants to have. But it’s going to be interesting this year.’’


“In my three years here, it’s been one of, and at times the best conference in the country,” said OU’s Jeff Capel. “If you look at what teams have accomplished, winning a national championship, four different teams getting to the Elite Eight. Then you look at what’s happened because of that. Two number two (NBA draft) picks with Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant. National players of the year three consecutive years. You look at the lottery picks that have come through this league. You look at the success our league has had in recruiting...

“People are starting to take notice of what our league has been able to accomplish and where we are going. I know I’m excited about it.”

The problem Capel, charged with a post-Griffin transition, and his peers face is maintaining consistent high levels of success in what Kansas State’s Frank Martin referred to as “a ridiculously difficult league to win in.”

Tulsa World*

KC Star: Big 12 three-pointers - summer version*

Kansas University coach Bill Self plans to attend today’s memorial service for former KU athletic director Bob Frederick, who died Friday at the age of 69. The service is 1 p.m. at the Lied Center. Doors open at noon.

“I’ve known him from back when I was a graduate assistant (at KU),” Self said on Tuesday’s Big 12 coaches summertime media conference call. “I knew him when he was the AD at Illinois State.

“The things that he did epitomized class. Everybody that I ever visited with about him thought that he was as professional and as classy a gentleman as there is. He was a great role model and someone that people look at and say, ‘He’s a guy I want to be more like,’ which I think is a fabulous compliment. I had somebody tell me ? somebody that has been at the university for many years ? that this is the biggest loss our university has had, just from the standpoint of how he’s been viewed, his community involvement, his reputation and the impact he’s had on different things.

“Through coaching, whether it be at Lawrence High School, through charity work in the community, the contribution he made through the athletic department and the educational system. He was a fabulous instructor that all students really thought a lot of.”


Bob Frederick: 'What it means to be a Jayhawk'

Bob Frederick tributes

Kansas University has received a $60,000 grant from the NCAA to promote women’s basketball next season.

KU is one of only 18 institutions or conferences to receive a grant as part of the NCAA Div. I Women’s Basketball Grant Program, which is in its second year. The 2009-10 NCAA grant program dedicated approximately $750,000 nationally to increase awareness, exposure and increase attendance of women’s basketball.

With its grant, Kansas Athletics will implement a program entitled “Schools for Success.” Through partnerships with community schools, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Jason’s Deli, Kansas Athletics’ overall goal is to enhance attendance at and promote awareness of KU women’s basketball home games.

“Schools for Success” includes a seasonlong attendance challenge, as well as a “School Day,” in which Kansas Athletics invites local students to spend a day with the Jayhawks. The event includes educational programming provided by Kansas Athletics staff and student-athletes, Lawrence Memorial Hospital staff, a KU women’s basketball game, lunch courtesy of Jason’s Deli, and a T-shirt to commemorate the occasion. A similar event last season drew a crowd of 5,186 fans to Allen Fieldhouse to witness the Jayhawks’ 76-55 victory over Iowa, televised live on ESPN.


NY Times: Rutgers women's star leaving early to turn pro in Europe*

Current recruiting news & college basketball news can now be found here.

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