Kansas is making news on, and — unfortunately — off the court. As the team prepares for the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, some players will soon have to deal with their legal woes back in Lawrence.
lawrence, kan.» As the Kansas Jayhawks prepare to play in nearby Kansas City on Thursday for a spot in the Elite Eight, not every conversation deals with how the team has played.
Many have to do with the behavior of players around campus, particularly star freshman Josh Jackson, who is likely in his final games before making NBA millions. Not only is Jackson a crucial part of a team with national title aspirations, he has also been part of three off-court issues that haunt the Jayhawks — including one case where he threatened to beat a woman who tossed a drink at a teammate, then caused more than $1,000 in damage to her car.
The legal woes have caused a divide among one of the most tightknit fan bases in college sports, one side choosing unequivocally to support Jayhawks coach Bill Self and his players, the other struggling to reconcile the unsavory headlines with the success.
“I love KU basketball. I love the players and the team,” said Matt Llewellyn, who owns and operates 23rd Street Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas. “I want to think positive things. I don’t want to think negatively about them.”
Yet even Llewellyn acknowledges his disappointment in some of the recent news.
The flood began in early December, when forward Carlton Bragg Jr. was charged with misdemeanor battery, only to be exonerated later by video evidence.
Things became much more serious about eight days later, when local police said they were investigating a reported rape at McCarthy Hall — the $12 million dormitory next to Allen Fieldhouse built primarily to house members of the men’s basketball team. No suspects have been identified and no charges filed, but five players have been listed as witnesses, including Jackson and star guard Frank Mason III.
During the investigation, drug paraphernalia was found belonging to Bragg, and the sophomore was briefly suspended. That case was settled when Bragg was granted diversion.
The case that’s been making the most headlines, though, involves an altercation outside a Lawrence bar in early December. Women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert is accused of throwing a drink at sophomore guard Lagerald Vick, and their dispute continued into the parking lot, where Jackson allegedly kicked in her taillight and caused other damage.
An affidavit released last week states Jackson threatened to “beat” the woman, prompting many — particularly on social media — to cast judgment on both sides of the dispute.
Kansas freshman guard Josh Jackson shoots against UC Davis during the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Jackson is probably in his only season at KU. Sue Ogrocki, The Associated Press