KU Jayhawks Q&A: On Udoka, Romeo and football expectations
By Jesse Newell firstname.lastname@example.org
We're back for another Kansas Jayhawks Q&A.
Thanks for the questions, and please follow my Facebook page if you haven’t yet.
Might as well start with the news of the day: Udoka Azubuike announced this morning that he would enter the NBA Draft without an agent, meaning he has until May 30 to decide if he wants to return to KU next season.
As far as his decision goes ... I think it's the right move. You get to "test the waters" once in your career, and it's unlikely that the sophomore Azubuike will return for a potential senior season in Lawrence two years from now anyway.
By declaring, he's able to get additional feedback at the NBA Combine (if he's invited) and perhaps will get a better grasp of how NBA teams view his strengths and weaknesses.
It's also worth pointing out that Azubuike taking his time shouldn't affect KU's roster construction much. The Jayhawks already have an open scholarship available (more on that in a second) and also appear to have plenty of frontcourt depth even if Azubuike decides to stay in the draft.
Let's tackle these both at once.
What are KU's odds to land Romeo Langford, Rivals' sixth-ranked player in the 2018 class who is announcing April 30?
Let's say it this way: KU is probably not the favorite, but it's also difficult to ever rule coach Bill Self out in these types of situations.
ESPN's Jeff Borzello wrote about Langford some in an Insider article two days ago, saying KU is making a late push even if Indiana is still considered the leader.
To address the second Twitter question above: No, I don't believe the KU-FBI situation should affect Langford's recruitment. Our Sam Mellinger wrote a good story on the topic earlier this week, and as he mentioned, nothing from the FBI has linked KU's coaching staff or program to having knowledge of the payments made by Adidas' Jim Gatto to KU players.
A weird radio interview from Keelon Lawson this week (that I'm sure he wishes he wouldn't have done) might have raised the attention of people who haven't followed the situation closely, but for Langford, I wouldn't think the latest FBI findings would affect his thoughts on KU.
This is an important question and probably the biggest recruiting pitch Self is making to Langford.
KU has a lot of talent coming back next year — ranked preseason No. 1 in nearly every poll — yet the Jayhawks are losing nearly every good outside shooter from this season.
So who are the best returning shooters for next year? It's a tough question at this point. Maybe Charlie Moore, who had 35-percent three-point accuracy his freshman year at Cal? Or Dedric Lawson, who can shoot both inside and out? Or maybe even Sam Cunliffe, who struggled to gain Self's trust this season?
Jacob brings up a good point, though. Finding reliable perimeter shooting will be one of the biggest story lines to watch for this team, especially if Self is not able to land Langford late.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger was asked a similar question about KU football's progress by 810 WHB's Soren Petro in an interview Thursday, and while he predictably didn't put a win total goal, he talked about it being important for fans to see signs of improvement this season.
From my perspective? I think you'll know a lot from KU's first three games.
In the nonconference, the Jayhawks host FBS opponent Nicholls State, travel to face MAC school Central Michigan and host Rutgers. Say what you want about KU competing against strong teams in the Big 12 ... the baseline expectation in Year 4 under a coach should be to defeat an FBS school at home and not get blown out by a MAC school (which happened twice last year).
For the last question: I don't think Zenger is the type of person who goes to work thinking or worrying about his job security. But yes, if KU starts 0-3 or 1-2, I don't think there's any question that there could be pressure on chancellor Douglas Girod to make some personnel moves.
It was the plan all along for Newman to go pro after this season.
Things can change, of course. Newman could have gotten hurt. His stock could have tanked.
Still, both sides — Newman and KU — started the season with the understanding that if all fell correctly, he was going to leave early.
So the Jayhawks, in essence, recruited as if he wasn't coming back. That's how you land talented freshman guards like Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes.
Meanwhile, Newman played great at the end of the season, which potentially has pushed him into the second round. As our Gary Bedore wrote a couple days ago, ESPN, SI and NBADraft.net all have draft projections with Newman being taken.
I also believe this: It still could be a good decision for Newman even is he's not drafted. He seems ready to start his professional career, and another year at KU would have only made him a year older while not helping him with what is likely his biggest flaw (many scouts believe he's undersized as a shooting guard).
Newman was great for KU in the two years the school had him. He was a good teammate and the Jayhawks' best player during a run to the Final Four. Self, in the meantime, stockpiled two top guards to help replace him.
It appears to be a scenario that worked out well for all sides.
KU broke ground on its new $26 million indoor practice facility this week, with plans to have it completed by late fall.
As far as the spring game goes ... it's now not a game but an open practice because of KU's depth issues on the offensive line.
Still, if you're making plans to go (at 1 p.m. on April 28), it's always worth watching the quarterbacks. This will be the fourth time under Beaty that position will be unsettled heading into fall practices, and for now, it appears incumbent Peyton Bender and 5-foot-10 juco transfer Miles Kendrick are the two favorites.