New KU forward Jack Whitman eager to test skills at Kansas

Duke's Chase Jeter, rear, Matt Jones, left, and William & Mary's Jack Whitman (41) reach for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.

It was a wild 18 hours for William & Mary forward Jack Whitman, the newest Kansas basketball transfer who committed to the Jayhawks on Tuesday morning.

Whitman, who will graduate from William & Mary in a week and a half and, therefore, will be eligible to play immediately, had been looking to take a step up in his basketball career and Kansas provided the perfect situation.

For the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward who averaged just over 10 points and five rebounds per game at W&M; last season, getting genuine interest from a blueblood program like KU provided the perfect backdrop for a “no-brainer” decision.

After learning about the opportunity to join the Jayhawks and finding out how he could blend in with the current KU roster, Whitman began to discuss things with his family. He also had interest in joining defending national champion North Carolina but quickly canceled his visit after receiving a scholarship offer from KU coach Bill Self on Monday night.

From there, the conversations with his parents turned serious and, less than 12 hours later, Whitman told Self and company he was coming to Kansas.

Not long after that, he was on the golf course, trying to shoot par while daydreaming of his basketball future.

Tale of the Tait

Read more in Matt Tait's latest blog, which provides an overview of KU's current scholarship situation and reasons why the Jayhawks are all right.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” Whitman told the Journal-World between strokes. “I want the challenge and I want to see how good I really am. Kansas is a place I can do that.”

Whitman becomes the seventh transfer on KU’s current roster, joining Dwight Coleby, Malik Newman and Sam Cunliffe, who all will be eligible to play next season, along with transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson, of Memphis, and Charlie Moore, from Cal. That trio will sit out the 2017-18 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.

His presence, buoyed by his veteran status and strong drive to both prove himself and get better, figures to be a nice addition to KU’s roster.

With Billy Preston being the only big man in KU’s 2017 recruiting class — and preferring to play more on the wing at that — the Jayhawks faced the reality of heading into next season with a fairly inexperienced front court.

With 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, senior-to-be Dwight Coleby and second-year player Mitch Lightfoot all returning, the bodies were in place. But the experience was not.

That foursome, including the newcomer Preston, combined to play 378 minutes in 61 games last season, with Lightfoot leading the way, with 26 games played, but also averaging the fewest minutes per game of that trio at 3.9.

Azubuike, who started six of the 11 games he played in appeared to be well on his way to becoming a force inside for the Jayhawks before a wrist injury before Christmas cost him the rest of the season.

Self has said in recent weeks that Azubuike’s rehab was right on schedule and the big man from Nigeria figures to be a sure-fire starter heading into next season.

How Whitman factors into that front court remains to be seen, but his experience and size figure to give him a chance to at least compete for minutes and that’s exactly what he hopes to do. Whitman, who said he would join the Jayhawks as a scholarship player, said the KU coaching staff did not go into too much depth about how he would factor into the rotation, only that he would get a chance to compete and earn playing time.

Whitman said he considered himself more of an athletic forward than a bruiser and added that he would like to develop into a stretch 4 man during his time with the Jayhawks.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a 4 man right now,” he said. “I definitely played with my back to the basket more at William & Mary but I’m hoping to expand my game.”

That was a big reason he believed Kansas was the place for him. Not only are the Jayhawks one of the elite programs in college basketball, Whitman said he also has admired from afar Self and his staff’s ability to get the most out of players, particularly big men.

“It was just the absolute right fit for everything I was looking for,” Whitman said. “I wanted to go to a higher level than William & Mary, which Kansas obviously is, and I wanted to go somewhere I felt I could really develop.”

Whitman said he hoped to wear No. 41 with the Jayhawks because he had worn it since his high school days and said the rest of the details as far as his arrival date and future roommate were still up in the air.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “It’s sunk in a little bit, but it definitely hasn’t sunk in all the way.”

Comments

Harlan Hobbs

Sounds like a good pick up. We can use additional talent up front, and a senior transfer should be a considerable help. He's obviously a smart individual from a pretty prestigious academic school, and if North Carolina was interested in him, we aren't the only "blue blood" who likes him.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jay Hawkinson

Scored 13 in 16 minutes against Duke. UNC was after him. Seems like a nice addition.

But giving what for the moment appears to be the last scholarship to this guy means the coaches know something we don't. Maybe Svi is definitely staying in the draft. Maybe Duval and Tilmon definitely aren't coming. Maybe someone is leaving the program. Who knows. But I don't think you'd take this guy if it meant shutting the door on Svi or a 4/5 star.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Gavin Fritton

Matt,

Any word on how his scholarship will be handled? We don't know if Svi is coming back but I have to believe he would be welcomed back with open arms if he wanted to return, right? If so, we're out of schollies, aren't we? Does someone take a bullet for the team and give theirs up so Whitman can have one? Does he qualify for an academic scholarship at his grad school program (that seems like something the NCAA would not approve).

Also, am I the only one thinking that the W&M coach refusing to comment seems like a fairly snotty way to act? Is he just refusing to endorse Whitman because he doesn't want to say anything bad and he has nothing good to say? Or does he not want to say anything good because he refuses to endorse Whitman transferring despite the fact that Whitman has done everything asked of him, maintaining his eligibility, playing as asked and earning his degree and now doing what is best for him and not for his former coach?

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Suzi Marshall

Damn...this most likely means the coaching staff knows Mykailiuk will not be returning. Secondary thought is someone will be transferring or loosing their athletic scholarship. I can't imagine who the later could be.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jim Chastain

Svi seems most definitely gone. If he's this far into the process I'm thinking he's gone. Too bad. I'd love to have him back and feel we still haven't seen his best basketball. I think he'll turn into (in time) a really solid pro player.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Suzi Marshall

I feel the same way. Next year could be a huge year for him, which could vault him into the first round of the draft.

I'm hoping the William's deal has some sort of provision that would allow Svi to return for his senior season. With the finals in San Antonio, I'm absolutely sure Self has an extra bit of incentive to put together a powerhouse team for next season.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jay Hawkinson

On Twitter Matt said that Svi may still be back, and he'd explain why later.

Some possibilities:

Lightfoot hasn't redshirted and has an uphill battle for playing time. He seems to love KU, but we've seen guys who fit that description transfer before.

Coleby is likely eligible to be a grad transfer himself. Not sure why he'd do it from a basketball standpoint, but maybe he wants to be closer to his family in the Bahamas. Also possible that he could retire due to his knee, though he looked good late in the season.

One of the other incoming players could be ineligible. Some people have mentioned concerns about Billy Preston, or it's possible that there's an issue with one of the transfers.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brian Wilson

I disagree. They can juggle the scholarships and....alternative scholarships and educational financing is much easier to find when you have the entire athletic department helping. It would not surprise me to find some of the transfers or maybe Garrett or whomever can make the sacrifice to have alternative educational financing for a year.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

As Harlan comments it would appear that he is a good scholar. Any chance he is a preferred walkon starting grad school with academic funding? It seems that he is a solid player but not on par with the other players. I would expect dominant stats against most of W&Ms opponents to be competitive in the Big 12 and March though the 13 in 16 minutes is nice.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Joseph

Could be a conditional paid scholarship? Like, "if we have one available, you'll get it" type of thing.

Probably unlikely. Unless this guy comes from money and just really wanted to be a part of a winning program.

I'm still holding out hope Svi returns.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Karen Mansfield-Stewart

Well shoot. Maybe Svi decided he is going to play in the NBA or professionally in Europe.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Eliott Reeder

Great footwork. He's like a 5th year Mitch Lightfoot!

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Andy Tweedy

I agree, he moves well!

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Ashwin Rao

He is a very mature player! We have not had this type of a post player in a while! He is not afraid of taking it in traffic! He may have a bit more trouble in Big12, but I am thrilled!

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Love all of the speculation. I say, just let it play out. Whitman certainly would likely qualify for an academic scholarship if necessary. Therefore, if Svi wants to return, he would be welcomed back. If he doesn't return, there could still be a scholarship available if Whitman gets an academic one.

There are several ways to get around the issue. I remember back in the Roy Williams era that Roy honored his scholarship offer to Chris Lindley of Kansas City even after Chris lost his foot in a train accident. Don't recall if Chris qualified for an academic scholarship or they found some kind of "hardship" scholarship to let him get his education without having it count against the number of basketball scholarships.

It was a class move by Roy Williams either way and goes a long way in explaining why young men love to play for him, just like they do Bill Self. What a blessing it has been to have such kinds of individuals at the helm of the KU basketball program. Then, when you consider that the inventor of the game, Dr. Naismith, and the father of basketball coaching, Dr. Allen, were the leaders of the Kansas tradition along with the contributions of Dick Harp, Ted Owens, and Larry Brown, no program has a more storied history.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Gavin Fritton

That scholarship was actually "honored" by the University. I am not even certain that Lindley enrolled at KU (I'm not saying he didn't, just that I'm not sure he did), but since he didn't play basketball, it didn't count against the team's scholarship limit. The University can admit anyone they want and pay for anyone they want if they aren't playing sports. The University's admission standards are their own and t hey can break them as they choose. And the school has more then enough money that the Alumni Association or the Endowment or the Chancellor's discretionary funds or what have you can be used in a case like Lindley's.

I'm not arguing with you. It *WAS* a classy move. But it was really more by the school than by Roy and it didn't take anything away from the basketball team to be done.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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John Swift

Just Goggled Chris Lindley and he died at age 34 on Feb 17, 2007 of complications from an enlarged heart. No indication that he attended KU but was active in Lawrence. Tired to jump on a moving train and fell under it and lost his foot. Sad.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Damian Glaze

Thanks for the video. I like any person that wants to finish at the rim. With all the pivots and up-fakes he is a little reminiscent of Richard Scott down low. If he can play with that kind of toughness that would be an excellent compliment to Adok. Last year, Lucas and Bragg finished weak around the rim. Adok will go strong and Coleby likes to go strong. Lightfoot has potential. I miss the days of guys that wanted to punish the rim and get in your chest to score. I'm sure Bill does too since he likes everything to go through post. Let's hope he brings a little elder statesman nastiness with him.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Steve Jacob

We are Gonzaga East now!

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Gerry Butler

ya we are if I'm not mistaking didn't Gonzaga play for the National championship last year? lol

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Ben Kane

the battle for transfers is starting to exceed the battle for recruits.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

Well, if having all these transfers gets us back to the Final Four, I'm all for it. Having one-and-dones on the roster hasn't gotten us where we belong. We've had one-and-dones on the roster every season since the 09-10 season except for one - the 11-12 season, which marked our most recent trip to the Final Four.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Ashwin Rao

William is a one-and-done! :)

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Michael Sillman

My guess is that Self picked up Whitman because he has a high basketball IQ. Otherwise as we have seen in the past it is difficult for a one and done player to fit into Self's system. Regardless you can never have too many inside bangers.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Gavin Fritton

He's not really a one-and-done in the traditional sense, though. He's more like a Tarik Black. And, while Black didn't exactly set the world on fire while he was in Lawrence, he did make 15 starts, played in 33 games and averaged 5.5/3.9 in 13.5 minutes per game. No idea if Whitman will do even that, but as you say, you can never have too many bangers and something tells me that Udoka will still be a little wild and we might need Whitman's five fouls to give.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Suzi Marshall

Black was super for the program. He almost carried the team by himself past Stanford to the regionals in Memphis. Tarik Black 5th year senior types are a very good thing!

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Gavin Fritton

Agreed. He was super valuable, well beyond what the numbers would suggest. All I meant to say is that he didn't become an every game starter despite playing a very valuable role.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Tarik was like an alpha-mentor IIRC. Great asset to the program. Would have played a lot more except for the mercurial rise of one freshman.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Ben Berglund

This is EXACTLY the piece we needed. I'm feeling great about next season. Rock Chalk!

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Robert Brock

Self needs to fire at least one of his assistants.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brett McCabe

Last name: Howard.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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John Fitzgerald

Why do you say that?

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Stone

☝🏻Huh? Why?

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Sam Pahls

Matt, could you or anyone tell me where Evan Maxwell is off to? Haven't heard a word about him since he left. I like to continue to follow former Hawks, as well. Thanks.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Tait

Last I heard he was not playing basketball any longer... Haven't heard much about him in a while, though.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Peter Miles

Nice video clips, but it is painful to see a college basketball game with numerous empty seats in the first and second rows. Boy, is he in for a big change in crowd participation!

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

all of the articles on Svi made it look almost automatic he was gone for good. If you read them, there is never a comment from coach about KU welcoming Svi back if he did not make it. I'm sure he will go to a D league team or Europe to develop. He simply is not NBA ready. I also think he knew his minutes would be down next year so he more or less had to make this move to the NBA try outs and then if not to a D league team, look for him to go off to Europe.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Art Jefferson

Thanks for the video ER. Would have been nice and reassuring though if it had included a bit of defense.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brad Avery

KU comparable: Nick Collison.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB5NJ...

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Harlan Hobbs

My point with the Lindley story, Gavin, was to simply point out that there are ways to allocate scholarships other than with basketball ones that count against your quota. Of course, Lindley was a "University" scholarship as there never was any chance of him playing basketball at KU after his tragic accident.

I didn't know the "rest of the story" regarding Chris, but it is definitely a sad one. My guess is that, to the end, he was very grateful for the loyalty shown to him by Roy Williams and KU.

Like your comment, Ashwin, about Whitman being a one and done. A "one and done" senior probably is better than a "one and done" freshman in this scenario.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

"A "one and done" senior probably is better than a "one and done" freshman" is just an ignorant bias against players that don't stay 4 years. Find the grad transfers that compare to Wiggins, Jackson, Henry, Embiid, ...
They are slim to none, regardless of the NBA drafts on potential, anybody with their abilities is gone before their 4th year.

It may be emotionally nice to have players stay around, but it isn't basketball performance better.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

With the footwork, pump fakes, ..., old man game the video shows, and he wants to transition from back to the basket to more facing the basket he is essentially a whiter Perry Ellis. Not a bad deal, and Coach has been learning to tweak his program to integrate the skill sets of his players.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Tim Orel

With one exception - from the video clip above, he likes to dunk the ball rather than lay it in. I see more blocks and misses of lay-ins when comparing them to dunks.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Tony Bandle

That little mustache Jack sports reminds me of Snidely Whiplash of Dudley Doright fame.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Harlan Hobbs

If you are responding to me, Dirk, my point is that, in this situation, having Whitman for one year is preferable because he should be able to hit the ground running. Not sure there is any incoming freshman left who could fill that bill.

If Udoka gets injured, we would be in very deep trouble next year, but with Whitman, we have someone who hopefully can play the kind of minutes we would need and be productive. Don't think I can say the same for Coleby and Lightfoot, although I hope that they prove me wrong.

Not to resurrect something that everyone seems to think is a dead issue, but with Duval, the situation would be totally different. If KU were to land him (not spreading a "pipe dream" Gerry, just saying "what if"), having him team up with Devonte and Malik would be awesome. Both he and Devonte at this point are "one and dones", but there certainly would be room for both if Svi doesn't return and Whitman gets an academic scholarship.

My guess is that recruiting for next year is over. If Svi doesn't return, then Whitman gets the last available basketball scholarship. Meanwhile, I predict that Duval will go elsewhere, but I have a hunch it won't be Duke. They have been the apparent leader all along, and yet he hasn't committed to them.

Could it be like Andrew Wiggins who the prognosticators said would pick Florida State because his parents went there. I made the same case then that, if they were the favorite all along, why was he waiting until the last minute to make a selection.

Oh, the joys of retirement. You get to speculate on things that really don't matter a whole heck of a lot.

As for you, Tony, "curses, foiled again!"

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Suzi Marshall

As for retirement...it's really nice to read KU Sports...go out and play a round of golf...spend time with friends in the club house....dinner...then read comments on KU sports. Only to repeat the routine every day and never gets old.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Yes Harlan, ny comment is indented under you comment as a "Reply".

A "one and done" senior probably is better than a "one and done" freshman in this scenario.

You didn't compare Whitman to remaining freshmen who aren't ready to hit the ground running. Most 1nDone will hit the ground running and will be better than virtually any remaining seniors, and especially the ones transferring.

Duvall is the one remaining 1nDone, and if he chose to come to KU, he would hit the ground running and start right between Graham and Newman.

Definitely agree with you about Duke not winning the lottery with Duvall.

Senior point guard recruit Jordan Goldwire has committed to the Duke Blue Devils, much to his own surprise. "Something I never expected." He said he didn't know he was on Duke's radar. (He wasn't, but is a flail at trying to have some semblance of a point guard after flaming without one this year.) "I was going to commit to Eastern Kentucky, but Duke showed interest recently, and it was something I couldn't pass up," (espn)

Kind of like a prom queen that gets stood up by the QB and takes a math geek instead.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Guess we will just "agree to disagree" on the one and dones, Dirk. At least, I won't call you ignorant and biased.

7 months, 2 weeks ago

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