Friday’s thoughts while dedicating this column to the late John (Johnny Sunshine) Watkins, who went to heaven on this day six years ago and was like my big brother. Miss that man terribly...
• KU STILL IN THE NEWS — Even though Kansas has long been dismissed from the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks are always in the news.
KU’s two signees so far for next season, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, competed this week in the McDonald’s All-Star Game.
Both showed they’re going to be contributors right away next season. Alexander is a 6-8 power forward who plays with a high motor. Put his “want-to” in Perry Ellis and you have yourself an All-American. In the All-Star Game, Alexander seemed to grab every rebound available, as he snatched 11 while playing just over half the game. Hopefully when he arrives in Lawrence, Ellis will take note of Alexander’s energy and learn from it. Ellis has all the tools to be a star, he just needs to play harder, especially on the defensive end.
Oubre is a slender 6-7 tweener, who could play the off guard or small forward. He’s reportedly a big-time shooter, who scored 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds while playing on the opposite team of Alexander. In fact, the two had a major meeting at the rim and neither backed down.
Oubre, though, is very similar to this year’s freshman swingman Brannen Greene. Then you have the practically invisible Andrew White III still on the roster (for now) and you don’t really need three 6-7, 6-6 types with similar skills.
Oubre is thought to be Andrew Wiggins’ successor. He’s hardly the freakish athlete that Wiggins is, but few are. But his ballhandling and shooting skills may be on the same level. Wiggins was a terrific talent, but has obvious holes in his game that could be exposed at the next level. Until he develops a mid-range jumper, he’s not going to be a star.
My only concern right now is that Bill Self has not addressed his point guard situation. Naadir Tharpe has one more year, but given his poor decisions both on and off the court, you have to wonder where he rates on the pecking order. Frank Mason and NCAA Tournament breakout performer Conner Frankamp both return, but Mason can’t shoot and Frankamp is a defensive liability and not a true point guard. I’m not sure any of the trio can be the steady hand the Jayhawks need at the point.
KU reportedly is still in on the top unsigned player in the country, 6-11 center Myles Turner. The buzz is that he’s waiting for Joel Embiid to make his decision. If Embiid goes, which I think he will, Turner could be headed for KU. If Embiid stays, you can probably scratch the Jayhawks off Turner’s list. He’s another potential one-and-doner, as is Alexander.
As much as I’d like to see KU sign Turner to add to their burgeoning list of big men, without a quality point guard the Jayhawks won’t go far come tournament time.
• MARSHALL HIGH IN KCAC STATS — McPherson High graduate Aaron Marshall, a sophomore at Ottawa University, is compiling a baseball season to remember.
Marshall’s name is listed in nearly every KCAC offensive category this week as conference pitchers are finding him to be a difficult out. The sweet-swinging left-hander is somewhat of a baseball anamoly, as he stands 6-8, yet has tremendous speed as he covers a lot of ground with his long strides.
Marshall is tied for the KCAC lead in home runs with 8, is second in both stolen bases with 20 and slugging percentage, fifth in batting average at .394, eighth in RBIs with 22 and ninth in hits.
Marshall was an outstanding player at McPherson High and also for the McPherson American Legion program. This past summer, Marshall had one of the best seasons in Legion history.
Marshall also is coming off a weekend to remember, which came against McPherson College, no less. He was 9 of 15 with 3 homers and 8 RBIs, which easily earned him KCAC Player of the Week honors. One of his homers was a walk-off game-winner.
Here’s to wishing Marshall continued success for the rest of the season and hope he earns numerous postseason honors.
• ROYALS’ HOME OPENER TODAY — Kauffman Stadium has hardly been kind to the Kansas City Royals in recent years. In fact, it’s been more like a House of Horrors.
The Royals have taken a wrecking ball to a couple of their recent seasons by starting off badly at home.
Now they need to turn “The K” into a home-field advantage. They make their debut before the home fans this afternoon against Chicago, which should have swept the Twins, only to blow a lead late Thursday in losing 10-9. I think the Royals must win at least two of three, or their past memories could surface again.