Kansas suspends star freshman Jackson for Big 12 opener
By DAVE SKRETTA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Kansas suspended star freshman Josh Jackson for the opening game of the Big 12 Tournament Wednesday after he backed into a parked car and fled the scene, the latest in a string of distracting legal troubles for the top-ranked Jayhawks.
Jackson will miss Thursday's quarterfinal against eighth-seeded TCU or No. 9 seed Oklahoma, but coach Bill Self said he would be eligible to play in the semifinals if the Jayhawks advance.
"You don't ever want to minimize it, or maximize it, but he made a mistake by backing into someone's car. I think that's probably been done many times in a parking lot," Self said after practice at the Sprint Center. "Then he compounded it by not being responsible at that moment."
Jackson received three traffic citations for the Feb. 2 incident, and Self said the all-Big 12 forward has taken care of the legal fallout. But Jackson didn't tell Self about any of it until this week. Combined with more legal trouble earlier this season, that may have been the final straw.
"To me it was a pretty easy decision," Self said. "If it was a singular event, I obviously would not have (suspended Jackson). He handled it. He did what he was supposed to do afterward. But he should have left his information there, even if he's never had any experience. And he should have notified us. So based on some other we've dealt with, it was something I felt we had to do."
Jackson, a likely NBA lottery pick, also faces a misdemeanor charge of criminal damage to property after he allegedly kicked the car of a female student in December. He issued a statement shortly after he was charged, apologizing and saying he had "offered to pay for any damage that I directly caused." His arraignment is scheduled for April 12.
On Monday, Jackson was voted the AP's newcomer of the year in the Big 12 and joined teammate Frank Mason III on the All-Big 12 first team. Jackson is also a Wooden and Naismith award finalist.
"Coach addressed us about it. He talked to us about it. It's going to make everybody have to step up and play a bigger role," guard Devonte Graham said. "It's going to take a big, big team effort."
Jackson's traffic incident is only the latest headache for Self, whose team rolled to its 13th straight regular-season Big 12 title and could be the No. 1 overall seed in next week's NCAA Tournament.
The trouble began weeks ago when police investigated a reported rape at McCarthy Hall, the new $12 million dormitory that houses the men's basketball team and other students. No suspects have been identified in connection with the incident the night of Dec. 17, though five players are listed as witnesses.
Police uncovered drug paraphernalia during the investigation and sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. was charged with possession. He was briefly suspended before being granted diversion.
Bragg also was suspended in December after he was arrested following an altercation with a woman. That charge of domestic violence was dropped when video evidence suggested he was acting in self-defense.
Soon after, the Kansas City Star reported that Lagerald Vick - who will start in Jackson's place in the Big 12 Tournament opener - may have struck a female student two years ago. The school office of Institutional Opportunity and Access investigated and recommended Vick receive school probation.
Then last month, hours after the Jayhawks wrapped up the Big 12 title, junior guard Devonte Graham was arrested for failing to appear in court. Graham had been ticketed for driving with expired license plates, and said that the car belonged to an ex-teammate and he thought the ticket had been paid.
Asked whether the string of incidents had been frustrating as an upperclassmen and team leader, Graham replied Wednesday: "I think it's frustrating as a team, yeah."
Jackson's suspension may not hurt the Jayhawks on Thursday, where they will still be heavily favored, but it could cost them down the road. Everyone else will have to make up his minutes, and the 6-foot-5 Vick will be forced to play the power-forward spot alongside center Landen Lucas.
"Guys like Lagerald need to step up," Lucas said, "and the other bigs are going to be asked to do a lot. They have to make sure they're mentally prepared and ready when they get on the court."
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Updated March 8, 2017