KSAL Staff - June 29, 2015 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Kansas University’s basketball team traveled to South Korea on Sunday, June 28, to represent the U.S. in the World University Games. Coach Bill Self has been working his experienced ball club to get ready for the global tournament and international rules.
KU won two exhibition games against Canada’s national team at the Sprint Center in Kansas City; the Jayhawks beat Canada 91-83 on June 23. Frank Mason was extraordinary, scoring 28 points. Perry Ellis had 17, Wayne Selden 13, and Jamari Traylor had 12.
Kansas won the second exhibition game on June 26, defeating Canada 87-76. Selden had a stellar game with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Ellis scored 18 points to go with nine rebounds. And Mason had 15 points and 11 assists. KU will play a third exhibition game against China on July 2 in Gwangju, South Korea.
After the second game with Canada, Self said, “Energy! Our guys played more minutes than their starters did, but I thought we looked fresher. What keys spurts is energy. Jamari (Traylor, six points, seven boards, and two steals) sometimes can do that. Hunter (Mickelson, five points, three boards, one steal, and one block) can be an energy guy and key spurts. Maybe our guys learned something tonight.”
Mickelson’s play was particularly encouraging to Self, who added, “Hunter is a really good athlete . . . he can run and jump. He played to his athletic ability. He looked more bouncy. I think sometimes kids—when they want to do well so bad—they think and think, and they get paralyzed. That happens a lot with a lot of players.
“I think tonight for the first time in a while, I thought he played to his athletic ability; he made a couple of great blocks. He scored with his left, which we’ve been trying to get him to do a lot. Then of course, he showed a lot of bounce, too. He was just playing with energy.”
The Jayhawks begin tournament play against Turkey on Saturday, July 4; however, because of the time difference, the Turkey game will be played on Friday night, July 3 (at 10:00 p.m. Central Time in the U.S.). There’s good news for Kansas fans: the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
Coach Self and his program are receiving national publicity with their participation in the international tournament. It’s a slow time in the world of sports and such exposure is invaluable for recruiting and name recognition.
Self’s team for the 2015-16 season looks promising indeed. When you consider that Devontʹe Graham, Brennan Greene, Svi Mykhailiuk, and prized recruit Cheick Diallo aren’t playing on the tournament team because of injuries or nationality, it becomes clear that Kansas has the necessary talent for the upcoming season. The prediction here is that Mykhailiuk will be one of the most-improved players in the nation this winter.
Following their win at Oakland (3-2) on July 27—in the second game of the three-game series—the Kansas City Royals baseball team was assured of their second series win on the current road trip.
KC’s record stood at 43-28 (.606)—their cushion of 15 games above .500 was the best of the season. Kansas City’s winning percentage was the highest in the American League and second only to St. Louis in all of MLB.
The Royals have a great defense; it’s especially formidable up the middle. Catcher Salvy Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar, second baseman Omar Infante, and center fielder Lorenzo Cain make difficult plays look easy. They are big-time defensive players. Escobar and Infante and first baseman Eric Hosmer are close to flawless on double play chances.
Hosmer is in a class by himself on defense. He makes so many run-saving plays at first base that fans and his teammates have come to expect them. It’s easy to take Hosmer for granted. And third baseman Mike Moustakas is a capable fielder with a strong arm.
Left fielder Alex Gordon won the Platinum Glove Award last year; that’s an award for the best defensive player in the American League. Gordon also won Golf Glove Awards from 2011 through 2014. Those are remarkable feats. Gordon is the best left fielder in MLB.
Right fielder Alex Rios is mediocre; he doesn’t fit the mold of the rest of the defense. Rios doesn’t get a quick jump on balls hit to his field and his arm is just okay. And Rios doesn’t show the same competitive zeal as his teammates; he needs consistent effort.
KC’s fans should enjoy every moment of watching this defense perform because they aren’t likely to be together for too much longer. But, for the present, the Royals’ defense is a lethal weapon that sometimes goes unnoticed in the short term but wins games over the long haul.