Here at RCT, Dave (PenHawk) and I got the opportunity to speak with Clark Kellogg, who is a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports. Clark is touring as an Advisory Board member for the Capital One Cup, and we thought we would get his thoughts on the Kansas Jayhawks, Andrew Wiggins, March Madness, NBA 2K and more.
Clark Kellogg: Good afternoon, guys.
Tom Fehr (TJFsports): Good afternoon, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. To start off, what are your thoughts on how the Jayhawks are doing lately, how they're shaping up for the tournament. Do you think they're going to be a one seed?
Kellogg: I think they've got a chance, yeah. I would look at (Kansas), Wichita State, Arizona, Syracuse and Florida if I was handicapping the potential for number one seeds, those are the five that I would separate out as a potential one seed at this point in time. Kansas is right there in the mix.
Tom: How would you evaluate the play of Andrew Wiggins at this point in his freshman season? There's been a lot of hype, a lot of over-analyzing, but how do you think he's been doing?
Kellogg: I think he's been doing fine, and you framed it and said it exactly right. A ton of hype and high expectations, it's really hard to meet those, but I think he has, quite honestly. He's done a nice job, he's been pretty consistent. As a young player he's had a few offensive struggles with assertiveness and consistency on occasion, but by and large, I think he's been fantastic. I've not done any games in person, but I've watched him quite a bit and I've been very impressed with his demeanor, his skill level, his potential, all of that has been good. He's averaging 16 points a game and 6 rebounds a game, and that's a pretty good freshman year. Those are good numbers for upperclassmen across the country, so I don't think from my standpoint he's disappointing at all.
Dave (PenHawk): How would you say Wiggins compares to some of the other heralded freshmen coming in this year?
Kellogg: Oh, he's right there, clearly. You're thinking Jabari Parker, who has gotten a ton of attention and deservedly so; Joel Embiid, a teammate of his, I think he's surprised some people with how rapidly he's improved and the impact he has on that team; Tyler Ennis at Syracuse is having an outstanding year as a point guard; Aaron Gordon at Arizona and Noah Vonleh at Indiana; and Julius Randle at Kentucky. Those guys I think have all done themselves well in their first season of college basketball. Came in with a lot of attention and hype and have been impactful players on teams that are winning and going to be in the tournament.
Tom: Kansas just locked up its tenth consecutive, at least a share, of the Big 12 Conference title. How do you think it ranks in terms of other streaks in sports?
Kellogg: It's remarkable, and it's one of the more special streaks you can have, particularly in the Big 12, where, for the most part, they play close to a round robin schedule most of the years, and Kansas always has some teams at the start of the season that are going to challenge them, and somehow, someway, they continue to separate themselves. It's a remarkable run of success. I still value conference championships. I know some people don't. But I think those are probably harder to win than the NCAA championship in some ways. So I put a lot of stock into that, and it'll get sweeter as time passes for those players that have been a part of those ten consecutive championship teams, and the coaches that have been a part of them, and even the fans can take great pride in being able to do that. It's a heck of an accomplishment.
PenHawk: Some people have questioned how much of "The Streak" has to do with KU's talent level during that run, and how much of it has to do with the quality of the Big 12. How would you say the Big 12 has ranked during the other power conferences during that time?
Kellogg: Well, I would just simply say that you can go across every conference and make some of those same arguments. I think that the Big 12 has been one of the top five conferences in the country every year, and sometimes in the top two or three as it is this year, I think it's either one or two, depending on how you want to split hairs and evaluate it. And there have been other years where that's been the case. I would just venture to say, "Find another team that has won ten straight titles, anywhere." Regardless of competition, when you don't have a lot of people in that roll call, it tells you how distinct and distinguished that kind of an accomplishment is.
Tom: I would assume you think that Kansas is the most dangerous team coming out of the Big 12, for the NCAA Tournament, and if so, who would you say is the second most likely Big 12 team to make a run?
Kellogg: You know what, it's interesting. Looking at what Oklahoma State has had to endure, with Marcus Smart's suspension, injury, some turmoil, I tell you what: keep an eye on that team. They're very still in the tournament picture, though they need to get a few more wins obviously, but I like what that team has the potential to do under Marcus Smart's leadership and I'm imagining and assuming and expecting him to be a little different and re-focused after going through his adversity. All indications are he's a high-quality kid and just hit some speed bumps, which we all do. Often times you come out on the other side better than that. I like Oklahoma's ability to score, and I like what Texas has been able to do. If I had to pick one team outside of the Jayhawks, right now I would maybe tip my hat toward the Longhorns, with Oklahoma State being my second choice to surprise on the upside in the tournament.
Tom: This is probably the least clear season that I can recall in that I'm not quite sure who the Big 12 Player of the Year is going to be. The top candidates are probably Wiggins, DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim, or maybe Joel Embiid, but who would you put for it right now?
Kellogg: I would go with the folks you mention, and wouldn't even be able to determine who would get my vote if we had to do it today, I'm actually thankful that there's still some more time to look at more sample size, in terms of games. I think it's that close. Sometimes, in that case, you may default to the player that's on the championship team. I don't know if that will be the way I would go at the end of the season, but that would factor into it. Those candidates you mentioned are all right there in the discussion.
PenHawk: You're involved in the NBA as well (Vice President of Player Relations with the Indiana Pacers), who would you say is the best pro prospect in the Big 12 right now?
Kellogg: I think the guy with the greatest upside, just because of his size and the rapid improvement he's made, and how new he is to the game, would be Joel Embiid. You just can't look at where he is and what he might become in light of how little he's played and not say that he's the guy that appears to have the most upside. That would be the one maybe most coveted by NBA executives. Andrew Wiggins has tremendous upside as well, he's gazelle-like as an athlete, he's got a nice shooting stroke, he's only going to get stronger, and he's got great speed and ability in the open court, so his upside is great, but I think the nod would go to Embiid.
Tom: I have to ask you about your work with NBA 2K. It's by far the most remarkable sports commentary on a video game there's ever been, and I was wondering what the process was. I'm was curious if you worked side by side with Kevin Harlan and Steve Kerr, how long it took, and what the general process was.
Kellogg: It's been a wonderful journey for all of us to be part of such a great video game property. I know it's one of the most popular games in the country and around the world, so to have a chance to be one of the voices it's been a real treat and blessing for me. Typically each year we get together and my part will do anywhere from 40 to 50 hours of audio recording. Some of that is side by side with Kevin. I've yet to be side by side with Steve, typically they'll record us and we can hear each other's comments in our headphones as we respond to one another, so it's seamless one the programmers get done loading all the audio files and then putting them where they need to be. Kevin and I have done a couple of days where it's anywhere from 10 to 12 hours together side by side, which is a lot of fun, then the rest of the time it's usually me in the studio for no more than 5 or 6 hours a day is all my energy level can take. On average, about 40 to 50 hours a year. Kevin may do a little more than that. I'm guessing Steve is about what I do in terms of total hours.
Tom: It's very impressive, and it's really the only game I've ever played where it really feels like you guys are commenting on the specific game that I'm playing.
Kellogg: I'm not a player, but I've listened, and it's surreal that sometimes I'll get to a room where somebody's playing that, and you hear the commentary match what I'm thinking as I see it on the screen while it's taking place. It's been really cool to be a part of that.
PenHawk: You're involved with the Capital One Cup, and for anyone that's not familiar with that, if you could just explain what it is, what it represents, and what your role in it is.
Kellogg: I'm serving as an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup, this is year four of the Capital One Cup, and it's an opportunity for Capital One to support student athletes on and off the court. The Capital One Cup is a trophy that goes to the top Division I program in men's and women's sports across 19 men's sports and 20 women's sports. Teams accumulate points based on national rankings and finishes and Capital One will present a trophy to the winning program but also $400,000 in combined student scholarships. It's an opportunity for schools to gain bragging rights. Every program wants to hang a banner or win a trophy and the Capital One Cup is certainly a trophy, but also a reward for comprehensive and total excellence across an athletic program and in addition to the trophy, winning programs get an opportunity to have 400,000 in scholarship money for student athletes contributed by Capital One. We want folks to be engaged on social media with us, @CapitalOneCup, and also on Facebook.You can go to CapitalOneCup.com as well to keep up with the rankings, and 60 points are on the line for whoever wins the national men's and women's titles over the next few weeks as we move into March Madness.
Tom: For the NCAA Tournament this year, I believe you're going to be in the studio primarily and not doing the games this year. Do you have one that you prefer, and could you talk on how they compare to one another?
Kellogg: There are benefits to both, and I have enjoyed both opportunities and both roles. It was fun being out with Jim Nantz for five years, and Steve Kerr joined us for three as part of our broadcast team. There's nothing quite like being courtside to call the actual games, and yet there's something special too about being in the studio with other commentators, watching the games and being able to compare opinions and notes. Wherever I am, courtside or in the studio, we've got great people. We've got a great product that we're talking about in college basketball. It's hard for me to choose one over the other, but if I had to pick and could only do one, it would probably be the games. But I'm certainly looking forward to sharing the desk with Kenny (Smith), Charles (Barkley), Ernie (Johnson) and Greg Gumbel and Seth Davis over the next five to six weeks.
Tom: Best of luck with the tournament, I'm sure Chuck will keep you on your toes, and thank you so much for your time.
Kellogg: Oh yeah, no question. Thank you very much guys, I appreciate it. Thanks Dave and Tom.
PenHawk: Thank you, Clark.
We are very grateful to Clark for taking the time to speak with us, it was a pretty great opportunity.
What do you guys think? Are you fans of Kellogg as an analyst? Did he say anything you disagree with? Who do you think is the second most dangerous team in the Big 12, and who do you think will win Big 12 Player of the year?
Let us know in the comments.