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Summer Ball
June 09, 2011

By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

The Big 12 Conference held its annual summer teleconference with its men's basketball coaches. Here's the team-by-team rundown of some of the highlights.

Baylor, Scott Drew
* Perry Jones III decided to return for his sophomore season and Drew says that is a positive for his program.

"We're all excited to have Perry back," Drew said. "He's an outstanding person. I think it's a compliment to the Big 12 and Baylor University that he wanted to experience another year in college. He had games last year where he was dominant but he was inconsistent. I like the term 'consistently dominant.' I think he'll be much better in his second go-round.

* Incoming freshman Quincy Miller is continuing rehab for a knee injury and is not 100 percent yet. Drew, though, thinks that Miller and Jones could be a talented duo even though both have similar styles of play.

"It's a good problem to have," Drew said. "Perry has worked on his perimeter play, he's trying to become more consistent from the outside. When he was hurt, all Quincy could do was work on his outside shot. I think we'll have the ability to have them on the perimeter and the post either one or flash either one to the middle. We think they can play off each other."

Iowa State, Fred Hoiberg
* The Cyclones need to replace point guard Diante Garrett, who had an outstanding senior season in Hoiberg's first season in Ames. Junior-college transfer Tyrus McGee and freshman Tavon Sledge are the top candidates.

"Tyrus is a great shooter, a tough kid and a leader," Hoiberg said. "He's a leader and can create havoc on defense. It will be interesting to see how his game transfers to the next level. Tavon has had a great spring in all-star and AAU events. He's 5-9 and he might be the fastest player with the ball that I've ever seen."

* A number of the players Iowa State will count on sat out last season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements. Hoiberg said they helped the Cyclones who were eligible to prepare for Big 12 games.

"The great thing about that group is how they prepared the guys who were playing," Hoiberg said. "Those guys competed every day. They're competitive and they didn't like sitting out. One thing you're not sure is how it will go when they get back to playing games. Royce White hasn't played in two years. Practice doesn't get you ready for the timing you need in games."

Kansas, Bill Self
* Over the last two seasons, Kansas has lost five players who have left early for the NBA. The Jayhawks have compiled records of 33-3 and 35-3 the last two years.

"I don't think we'll take a step backward, we'll take a step sideways," Self said. "I'm really excited, my batteries are about as charged as they can be. It's like after we won the national championship. You're trying to figure out how to win the next season. We'll have less margin for error and it's going to be hard to match our record the last two years. I think we'll be very good again."

* A number of Big 12 coaches were asked about new Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. Self has a unique perspective because he followed Kruger as Illinois' coach.

"Of all the coaches that I followed, Lon was the easiest to follow," Self said. "I went into a great situation at Illinois. He's about as ego-less as a coach can be. He was so into helping me helping his former players. I took over a healthy program. That was the smoothest transition because of the man he is. (Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione) made a tremendous hire."

Kansas State, Frank Martin
* Junior guard Rodney McGruder, who was a key factor in the Wildcats' late-season surge, figures to take over for Jacob Pullen as the team leader in 2011-12.

"Leadership is on the players," Martin said. "If I have to assign a leader, we're gonna have problems. The players have to determine if they want that responsibility. Rodney I think has the personality, demeanor and work ethic … he's a stand up guy."

* Martin takes pride in the fact that his team's Academic Progress Rate has improved each of the last four years.

"We continue to get better and it's a tribute to our staff and our academic people," he said. "And it's not just our team; Kansas State has led the Big 12 in graduation rate for four consecutive years. But it still comes down to the student-athletes. If they don't want to do the work, they're not gonna do the work."

Missouri, Frank Haith
* Two Missouri players have been selected to try out for Team USA which will compete in the World University Games.

"It's a great opportunity and a great experience," Haith said. "It says volumes about what people think of those two guys; and Marcus also has been invited to Chris Paul's point guard camp. I was involved with coaching Team USA a few years ago and the World University Games are a great experience. You're playing against older guys, experienced teams. And it's a great chance to represent your country."

* Missouri has two exhibition games scheduled, the maximum based on NCAA rules. But Haith is working on playing a third exhibition game against Division II Missouri Southern, which is based in Joplin. All proceeds from that game would got to tornado relief in that Southwest Missouri town.

"The administrations at both schools are working toward that," Haith said. "(Missouri athletic director) Mike Alden has taken the lead and we're trying to get a waiver from the NCAA. We hope to get a decision soon."

(UPDATE: The NCAA has granted the waiver for the exhibition game.)

Oklahoma, Lon Kruger
* The Sooners' new coach has been campaigning like a presidential candidate. He says that his "meet and greet" schedule and philosophy is about the same as other coaching stops he has made.

"It's pretty normal," Kruger said. "You inquire, you ask a lot of people. The people around here know a lot more about Oklahoma basketball than I did two months ago. The best way to find out is to talk to and ask people who have a better feel for OU basketball."

* Kruger was a star for the Kansas State basketball team and also pitched for the Wildcats baseball team. At the recent NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, he was asked to throw out the first pitch at a game.

"Yeah, I short-hopped it," he said. "I did throw it underhand, like a softball pitcher. I asked if I could throw it over hand but they said no. I guess I wound up throwing a sinker."

Oklahoma State, Travis Ford
* With the Big 12 going to a round-robin, 18-game schedule, nonconference scheduling is a hot topic.

"We're not gonna make any changes in how we go about scheduling," Ford said. "We're going to continue to have a strong non-conference schedule. This will be the toughest schedule I've had in my four years here. And we'll continue to schedule based on how good we think we can be."

* Based on that, the Cowboys could have their best season in Ford's fourth year in Stillwater.

"I love our team, I'm very excited about our team but we are very young," he said. "(Freshman) LeBryan Nash is a very talented individual with a variety of skills. But like any freshman, he's got to learn how hard you have to compete every day, whether it's lifting weights, practicing or playing pickup games. He has had a tendency to play hard when game are close or when he's challenged."

Texas, Rick Barnes
* New Missouri coach Frank Haith was on Rick Barnes' staff at Texas before leaving to take over the Miami (Fla.) job.

"Frank is a person I have great respect for," Barnes said. "He has great integrity and character. He came up the hard way. He's done a great job recruiting wherever he has been. Missouri hired a great coach."

* Texas lost three starters - Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph - to the NBA Draft. Hamilton would have been a junior while Thompson and Joseph would have been sophomores.

"With the rule being what it is, there are a lot of kids who go into college hoping to be one-and-done players," Barnes said. "To be honest, we've brought in players who we didn't think would be one and done. We're going to continue to recruit the best players. Tristan and Cory both had the chance to play for us and we pride ourselves in player develop. That gave them the opportunity to get better."

Texas A&M, Billy Kennedy
* The first-year Aggies coach has brought in two familiar faces to be on his staff. He recently hired Kyle Keller, who had been on the Kansas staff and previously coached at Oklahoma State, and Glenn Cyprien, who has coached at Memphis, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Cyprien will be the associate head coach.

"In both cases I wanted to hire someone I knew," Kennedy said. "Kyle is from Dallas so he knows recruiting in Texas and has a feel for the Big 12. He'll make my transition much smoother. Glenn and I both grew up in New Orleans so we go way back. He has worked with Kyle and I'm a big believer in chemistry."

* Aggies junior forward Khrys Middleton has been selected to try out for Team USA to represent the United States in the World University Games.

"It's a great chance for him to compete against some of the best kids in the country. He'll learn what he needs to do to get better plus he'll get a better understanding of the things he does well. The biggest thing is it's great for our program that we've got someone playing with the best players in the country. It will make him better and it will make our program better."

Texas Tech, Billy Gillispie
* Adding height to the roster was one of Gillispie's recruiting objectives as he heads into his first season as the Red Raiders' coach.

"We didn't want to add height for height's sake but I think we've added some long, tall athletic guys who can play," he said. "I think we'll be taller than we have been in the past. The way I like to play is throw it inside and then kick it back out for a 3-pointer if there's nothing inside. I think we've brought in some guys who will allow us to play that way."

* The former Texas A&M coach was out of coaching the last two seasons. The start of practice can't arrive soon enough.

"I'm looking forward to it," Gillispie said. "Coaching is the best job in the world. When you're out of it, you realize the relationships with the players are what you miss the most. I'm really anxious to get back on the floor and start working with the players."

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