A look at returning Kansas basketball players

Kansas guard Malik Newman

Kansas guard Malik Newman by Nick Krug

Kansas is still recruiting a point guard and for the moment has 11 players on scholarship. A look at the best-case scenario in terms of what the 11 players can do to help Kansas to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament in 2018:

1 - Malik Newman: Take into games the great scoring potential he showed in practice this past season, use his terrific athleticism and turn it into defensive ability. No reason the 6-foot-3 guard who transferred from Mississippi State can't be Big 12 player of the year.

2 - Devonte’ Graham: More of the same, but with more consistent drives to the hoop to make defenses collapse. Graham typically guarded the other team’s best perimeter scorer and in the first three games of the NCAA tournament made 13 of 22 3-pointers.

3 - Udoka Azubuike: Get into the best shape of his life. If he can build enough stamina to be able to get up and down the court well enough to keep up with the team’s rapid pace, the rest will take care of itself. His blend of quickness for a man his size, soft shooting touch, and feel for blocking shots all mean that with experience he’ll develop into a dominant college center.

4 - Billy Preston: Embrace Josh Jackson’s win-every-possession-at-both-ends mentality. He’s a big man who has guard skills, but he’s coming to a school where that’s not going to blow anybody away. Kansas has had plenty of big men who handled the ball and shot like guards, but only the ones willing to do the little things and get their noses dirty became productive, popular, winning forces. The sooner Preston realizes that, the sooner he’ll fit in.

5 - Svi Mykhailiuk: Increase on hard, late-season drives he took out of hiding, and when hot from the perimeter, demand the ball.

6 - Lagerald Vick: Steer clear of trouble off the court, and cure one strange recurring problem as a shooter. Does anybody remember a player who on 3-pointers from the corner hits the side of the backboard as frequently as Vick? Maybe he’s standing too close to the baseline. Anyway, he has a nice shooting touch and he’s such a quick leaper and has a chance to make a big leap forward as a junior. No reason he can’t get a ton of steals.

7 - Sam Cunliffe: In 10 games for Arizona State, he averaged 25.4 minutes, shot .405 from 3-point range and should be able to join the rotation as soon as he’s eligible at the end of the first semester.

8 - Marcus Garrett: He can earn playing time by becoming as strong a defender as possible as quickly as possible. It sounds as if he knows that, so it will be interesting to see him chase minutes.

9 - Dwight Coleby: His knee should be stronger, which is good because he’ll be needed to lend muscle off the bench.

10 - Mitch Lightfoot: He’ll find a way to contribute because he obviously cares and embraces physical approach to the game.

11 - Carlton Bragg: Transfer. That’s his best path to getting his career back on track.

Comments

Phil Leister

Keegan and his continued beef with Carlton...

I admit Carlton has been a letdown these last couple years, both on the court and off. But he's still a member of the team with a high ceiling. Saying a transfer is his best path really, really underestimates Bill Self and his ability to resonate with a player.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Noel Backwards

I don't think Bragg should transfer. His best minutes as a Freshman came playing the PF spot and not the C. With another true C to hold down the middle, I think Bragg can turn his career around at Kansas and become an impact player for the next 2 years.

Not all top recruits are ready to be big impact players as underclassmen and I think that gets forgotten all too often in this OAD era, but there is value in being a super talented upperclassmen at one of the best programs in America. Bragg will be fine and I look forward to his upperclassmen years in a Kansas uniform.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Joe Joseph

Agreed.

Bragg is the type of player that, if he transfers, we'll all end up wondering "what if."

He clearly has major skill. Hopefully he can learn to slow down a bit. He just seemed so sped up all of the time. I'm pulling for him and expect him to make a major leap next year, one way or the other...

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Waylon Cook

Vick at 6?

LOL..

Vick should have been in the second half at Oregon way more. He was who kept us in the first half.

Telling Bragg to transfer? Nothing like an overweight "journalist' degrading a young athlete. What a joke.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Greg Ledom

Agree with your take on Vick. Would suggest that the thought of Bragg transferring isn't necessarily a bad thing for a guy who's struggled both on and off the court for the last two years. It may not be the right move for him, but I guarantee he's considered it, if for nothing else, a fresh start. Personally, I'd like to see him stick it out provided he has a very short leash related to off court bs. Lastly Waylon, where do you get off, or maybe you get off on saying it, by calling Tom out on his weight. He's actually lost a fair amount of weight just by looking at his picture and I don't even know the guy. I'm sure your quite the physical specimen, but no need to call another out sitting behind you internet post. Just saying.......Rock Chalk!!

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brock Wells

I think you over-weigh Lagerald's impact against Oregon in the first half. And your dingdong comment about Tom "degrading" Carlton with a personal attack on a public comment board... is, like, LOL. Not sure if that word means what you think it means.

Carlton needs to look at all options, and if Suzi is correct about getting in with a bad crowd, then yes transferring is a great option. Tom might have some inside info in regards to that and he is foreshadowing what's to come.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Glen Miller

Bragg has to get out of his own head and the coach's doghouse...... he does those two things, then we will see the Carlton that we all expected to see last season. It's obvious the kid has talent, but transferring isn't the answer. He can thrive here at KU, I have no doubt about that. Gut check time, how good of a player do you want to be and how far do you want this team to go. His answer to those questions if the right ones could spell a good season for Mr. Bragg.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

Bragg..transfer....man, that was cold!

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Sae Thirtysix

TKeegan, really?!! Mix in a salad. But down the dingdongs.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Joe Joseph

Next year's team has the potential to be one of Self's best, assuming Udoka has the wind to play 25 minutes per game and Newman has the type of season that will put him on most first-round draft boards.

If all returning players can just make incremental progress... wow. And then you throw Preston into the mix!

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Suzi Marshall

Geezzz Tom, you have a lot of 'ifs' in those assumptions. Looking over the best potential line-up, a couple of things strike me; 1) Self will have a strong team to make a push to San Antonio to defend our title down there on our 10th anniversary, and 2) our conference win streak is probably to end after next season at 14, since we likely lose so many from the '17-'18 team. Anyway, specifics big assumptions are:

1) Newman - Totally agree. He's going to be 'The Man' next season.

2) Graham does not have the Mason personality to provide those relentless drives to collapse the defense. Self needs to sign Duval to get that.

3) Azubuike - lost almost an entire year. He couldn't do boot camp last year nor stay out of foul trouble the bit he did play. Sure he's got tons of potential but next season will be his rookie season, since his injury occurred so early this past season. Expect about 20 mpg from him.

4) Preston -I'm sure you have talked to countless people that probably all told you the same thing about Preston. 'The guy has all the talent in the world. He can do anything. He usually just doe not play hard...."

5) Mykailiuk - in addition to assertiveness, he needs to work on his lateral quickness. His defense the last half of the season was an Achilles heel for the team.

6) Vick - same thing as Mykailiuk with regards to defense. Like you say, his shot was incredibly erratic...and not just from the corner!

7) Cunliffe - pass...I don't know anything about him other than the self-promoting u-tube.

8) Garrett - I've seen this kid play at least a half dozen times over the past couple of HS seasons. He's the real deal but needs a year to adopt to the pace of play and of Andrea to get stronger.

9) Coleby - He needs to be able to play 20 mpg at a high consistent level, which I believe he will.

10) Lightfoot - We need to sign another big so he can red shirt. If we can do that, he'll be able to give us some 3 darn good years.

11) Bragg - Apparently something happened with Bragg between his freshman and sophomore years. Several students, who I believe to be of high character, said he was a first class guy as a freshman. From what I heard, he got mixed up with some bad influences last summer and over the fall. Nevertheless, his horrible hands and inability to play defense leave me wondering if he can be an elite contributor.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Pius Waldman

Message to Bragg:
Many of us appreciate the potential you possess. Next year will be your best season,

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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John Fitzgerald

Dang man, you guys are a little harsh on The Keegs.

*Telling Bragg to transfer? Nothing like an overweight "journalist' degrading a young athlete*

*TKeegan, really?!! Mix in a salad. But down the dingdongs*

I wouldn't tell Bragg to his face to transfer or assume that he would, but I wouldn't be mad if he did. Does he have potential? Yes, loads of it. But he was a major distraction this year and a liability on the court. And as for the people making fun of Tom's weight, you look really stupid.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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John Brazelton

Bragg is a wing player and scorer, not a center and a rebounder. If he can leave the drugs alone and work on his game this summer, he can get KU a good two final years. There's a reason why you become a sports writer and Keegan is the prime example.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brian Wilson

Bragg should be a wing player because he is too small to play power forward but he can't because there are way too may 6'8" players like Josh Jackson, Wiggins, Rush.......that Bragg just can't beat. Much like Ellis, Bragg probably will never play in the NBA. I wish Bill Self would stop recruiting guys that fit this description. 6'8 and small for a PF while I do have to say Self usually recruits the most athletic. IMO, KU spun its wheels on Ellis by having a really good player playing too small at the four spot thereby limiting KU's March potential.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Mike Greer

Is there more than one Bragg on the team? The Carlton Bragg I'm familiar with on the team is 6'10" and 240 lbs. I'm not sure when this became ". . . too small to play power forward . . ." but he seems sufficiently large to me. There aren't many teams with two seven footers, so how tall do you expect the power forward to be?

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Chad Smith

I still think bragg will transfer. I dont want him to. But i think he will. If he doesn't, him, preston and udoka have to think inside out not outside in. As a center for udoka, this should not be hard. For preston and bragg, they need to beef up and start thinking about low post triple threat position and make teams pick poisons between leaving them one on one or passing out to our lethal perimeter group. They cant always play on the perimeter and make themselves easy to guard as tall forwards. Im telling you, self wants to get back to high low and tough interior defense. He has the team to do so assuming everyone is healthy. We would be wise to not be a perimeter based team next season. Shooting can run cold as we saw against oregon. But points in the paint, blocked shots, steals and rebounding are staples to winning every game.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

If nothing else, I think the NC game this year proved you must have a true 5 to win the NC. Even though the two pretty much battled to a draw, they are necessary 9 times out of 10. We have that next year in Dok.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dale Rogers

Looked to me more like you need the officials to make more mistakes in your favor than he does in favor of your opponents. Like maybe not noticing an out of bounds situation, for example.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

agreed, that game was really slowed down by all the whistles. And some blown calls, that seemed to go both ways.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bob Bailey

Self is on the right track, for heaven's sake don't put hin back=b on the inside only. While we're doing well, let's stick with it.

No one has commented on Graham taking 'too much relaxation' between games. Believe me it can happen!

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Trey Hohman

If Bragg doesn't transfer, what's the exercise NFL wide receivers do constantly? A ball machine shoots out footballs and the guys try catching it with one hand? 3 hours a day Bragg should work this drill and also watch Marcus Camby NBA tapes. Great shooter's touch potentially & he's 6'11.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Titus Canby

Suggesting that Bragg transfer is way too harsh. He had 2 "incidents" this year:

- Being falsely accused of abuse. Not much you can do to avoid that, other than never leaving the house.
- Being caught with a bong. Big deal. I got a speeding ticket once.

Give the kid a break. He had a bad year on the court. That's his only transgression in my book.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Pius Waldman

If I'm the only one that believes Bragg has potential and will see it become real next season so be it. Going to another school won't help that development.
Carlton remember the past is history and we all can learn from it. Hang in there and show us what you can do next year.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Daniel Schmidt

For those individuals who evidently think it's OK to attack someone personally on social media, i.e., Tom Keegan, I have a suggestion...while safely sitting behind your keyboard it's probably not a good idea to make comments that you wouldn't say to someone's face.
Everyone is entitled to their opinions whether we agree on not.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Preston is the new kid, so there's inevitably lots and lots of optimism. Hopefully, he does work out exceptionally well for us, but I'm seeing a greater probability towards a Carlton type performance. No, not the trouble, but rather the good mid-range/perimeter O-skills but weak on the boards, D, and overall toughness. IMO, that was the difference between the Morrii and TRob, and why one career ended in the FF and one ended short.

That's the thing that was most surprising about the oregon game as well. I never expected this team to get punked, but they did that game. Brooks pushing Josh on to his butt epitomized it. Josh got up stunned and passive. Game over.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Caden Ford

Carlton is transferring...Wish him nothing but the best!

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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Pius Waldman

I feel he will be selective and hopefully have guidance as to his decision.

5 months, 3 weeks ago

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