LAWRENCE — Kyle Cuffe Jr. reiterated this week that he has no regrets about regrading and making the jump to college basketball a year early last year at Kansas.
Cuffe, speaking on the latest edition of “Hawk Talk with Bill Self” on Tuesday, said it was the best option for his development. He was able to learn under Bill Self, the head coach of the Jayhawks, while redshirting Kansas’ run to a national championship. And Cuffe could begin laying the foundation for his own legacy at this level, as did his father in St. John’s.
But earlier this season, Cuffe suffered a knee injury in practice that assistant coach Norm Roberts described as Cuffe tearing his MCL and PCL. The redshirt freshman guard’s sophomore season with the Jayhawks would see him play in just two games, contests in November against Omaha and North Dakota State.
Because, as it was revealed this week, the decision was finally made for Cuffe to wear a medical shirt.
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“You can’t play a guy and then decide to put a red shirt on him and then he’s 100% healthy. The whole key was whether he could heal, and the answer is that he’s not 100% yet,” Self told reporters Thursday. cheers that you can be the best out there for us.”
Cuffe, who will have four years of eligibility left after this season — not three — as a result of the decision, explained that he has been trying not to dwell on his unfortunate circumstance in recent months. He tried to see it as a blessing in disguise. In a way, it was an avenue through which he changed his approach to food, workouts and more.
Although Cuffe never watched movies before arriving in Kansas, things have changed dramatically. Roberts and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend are among those he singled out for helping him there. Cuffe said he studied his own game, as well as that of others.
Self, also on Tuesday’s show, said Cuffe’s attitude was a 12 out of 10 as Cuffe has been working to come back. While Cuffe probably won’t be 100 percent for another two to three months, Self said he can still help them practice. And Cuffe is also committed to always being a vocal presence.
“I thought I was just going to be left with this,” Cuffe said. “Like, the first day or two I thought there was, like, nobody necessarily going to be in my corner, like, trying to help me get back to where I was. But then Bill Cowgill, Ramsey (Nijem), coach, had my back and all my teammates, even friends outside of basketball.
Had Cuffe been able to stay healthy, Self said Thursday he hopes Cuffe would have been able to contribute. Cuffe has a level of athleticism worth noting and a history of being a 247Sports Composite four-star prospect in the class of 2021. But Self also added that Cuffe would have to beat someone who is playing right now to do so, and at the moment Self would not have Cuffe in that position.
To take the next step, Cuffe will look to continue developing his basketball IQ. He will try to keep working to be back in full strength. And he will try to continue learning from a teammate, redshirt junior forward and All-America candidate Jalen Wilson, whom he holds in high regard.
“His freshman year got hurt and he came back a different player,” Cuffe said. “So, that’s what I’ve been trying to model myself as, sort of, in the sense of, like, the coach always talks, all the time, like (Wilson) came back a different player after he got hurt. His mentality has changed.
“And I was like, ‘I want to be like this, and eventually, like, I’ll probably get over it.'”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas athletics at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the National Sports Media Association Sportswriter of the Year for the state of Kansas for 2022. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.