Self, Underwood land big-time recruits

By Steve Sell
July 01, 2016

Friday’s favorites...

• NEWMAN TO KU — The Lawrence Journal-World is reporting today that former 5-star basketball recruit Malik Newman is transferring to Kansas and he’ll be eligible for the 2017-18 season.

Newman is a 6-3 combo guard who was supposed to be one-and-done at Mississippi State. He was — just at that school. He didn’t overly impress the pro scouts during his one year and hopes the transfer will be the elixir for his career.

Don’t expect Newman to play more than one year at KU. He’s going to practice against some of the best guards in the country in the next year, including Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. Then he’ll probably be the Jayhawks’ lead guard in what will be his sophomore year.

Newman had a so-so freshman year by averaging 11.3 points a game, far below what was expected of him. He at one time was ranked as the top prospect in the country his senior year and was heavily courted by KU and Kentucky, among others, before settling to play in his home state.

Obviously he knows KU is a high-profile program and the exposure playing for Bill Self should make him a lottery pick in 2018.

In Newman’s defense, he played last season with some nagging injuries, including a terribly painful turf toe as well as a bad back.

Newman will be highly motivated when he finally takes the court. He wants to show he’s more substance than hype and I have no doubt under Self’s tutelage he’ll be a good addition.

• UNDERWOOD SIGNS TOP JUCO BIG MAN — While on the subject of college basketball, new Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood scored a key signing recently.

The McPherson native has added burly 6-9 and 240-pound power forward Tyrek Coger, who had also been a top target of Bruce Weber at Kansas State, among others. He was regarded as one of top juco recruits still available before joining the Cowboys.

Coger averaged 12.2 points and 7.0 rebounds last season for Cape Fear Community College in North Carolina. He gives the Cowboys what they had been lacking most, a physical presence and rim protector.

He was ranked as the No. 21 junior college player in the country and is a model of consistency, scoring in double digits in 22 of his games.

Underwood has a great guard combo in Phil Forte and Juwan Evans, who will rival any duo in the Big 12. Now if he can bolster his frontcourt, he could make the Cowboys a contender for the upper division in his first year.

• CARDINALS’ DEFENSE TERRIBLE — It was painful to watch my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, as they put on a defensive clown show.

Three more errors on Thursday against Kansas City helped pave the way for a 4-2 Royals victory. KC has been among the worst road teams in baseball, yet swept the two-game series from its I-70 brethren.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Cardinals manager Mike Metheny has to take some of the blame as he’s become enamored with players being used at multiple positions. While it does give him some flexibility, it’s obviously had an effect on the St. Louis infielders as Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta spent the four days boxing balls hit at them.

St. Louis has amazingly lost seven straight home games, a place where it used to dominate teams. While it’s long been said that “the best fans in baseball” reside at Busch, their patience is being heavily tested.

• MORALES IS LAVA HOT — Rex Hudler, the sometimes cartoonish Royals analyst, is right in describing how hot KC’s DH Kendrys Morales is — lava hot.

I have to admit I thought the Royals needed to look at other options after two months that produced a sub-.200 batting average for last year’s top DH in baseball. His bat looked slow and he couldn’t lay off pitches out of the strike zone.

But he stayed with it and now he’s hitting everything in sight. He’s 32 of his last 69 and it’s been a loud 32 hits, including Thursday’s monstrous homer that carried more than 450 feet.

More importantly, Morales has handled right field with aplomb, which gives the Royals more options moving on. Manager Ned Yost took a huge risk by playing him in the field, but he’s been adequate and has even run down some balls in the gap.

Now if the Royals could just get Alex Gordon going, they might be on to something. Gordon seems burdened by trying to live up to his overblown contract that he signed during the offseason, which was more of a lifetime achievement pact. Gordon has a history of going cold, but then getting firecracker hot. Hopefully that’s just around the corner.

• MHS-HESSTON TO PLAY TUESDAY – For those looking for something to do on Tuesday, be at the McPherson College Sport Center approximately 8:45 p.m.

The McPherson High basketball team and Hesston will meet for the championship of the McPherson College Summer League’s varsity boys division.

This is a great opportunity for coach Kurt Kinnamon to get an idea of what his team could look like next year. Kinnamon, whose team is 71-3 over the last three years with two state championships and a runner-up finish, will have almost a brand-new lineup next season. Gone are Mr. Basketball Drew Pyle, Spenser Wine, Marcus McDaniel and Jacob Loecker. Ben Pyle is the only returning starter, so Kinnamon does face a challenge in filling in around his expected All-Stater.

Hesston is been one of the top teams in 3A, but it also must replace a bevy of starters.