LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The timing could hardly have been better for Kansas coach Bill Self.
Every four years, the NCAA allows schools to embark on a foreign exhibition tour, and along with the games comes an opportunity to practice 10 times in preparation for it. Those additional practices usually give schools a jump on preparing for the regular season a couple of months later.
After losing AP Player of the Year Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas to graduation, first-round pick Josh Jackson to the NBA and backup forward Carlton Bragg Jr. to transfer, the Jayhawks will look a whole lot different from their Big 12 championship team when they depart for Italy on Monday.
“I’ll be in a good mood the entire time, so I can’t imagine the players not having a good time and enjoying themselves,” Self said.
“Even though we are going there to play ball, it’s also kind of a reward trip. So hopefully we’ll go over there and get a little bit better basketball-wise, but most of getting better basketball-wise is going to take place here, in Lawrence.”
By that, Self means those practices that allow him to piece together his team.
Sure, the Jayhawks lost a quartet of important pieces from a team that went 31-5, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and eventually lost to Oregon in the Elite Eight. But that also means there will be six newcomers this season — and eight if you count a pair of transfers who sat out last season.
There’s a trio of freshmen headlined by four-star point guard Marcus Garrett and potential one-and-done forward Billy Preston. There is graduate transfer Jack Whitman, a forward from William & Mary who is eligible immediately. And there is former Mississippi State point guard Malik Newman and ex-Arizona State shooting guard Sam Cunliff, who should help the Jayhawks absorb the loss of Mason and Jackson.
Three more transfers — brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson from Memphis and Charlie Moore from Cal — will have to sit out this season, but will also participate in the trip abroad.
In other words,…