LAWRENCE — Kansas basketball’s roster logjam has become slightly less crowded.
Sam Cunliffe, a guard preparing for his junior season, has decided to leave the program, KU coach Bill Self announced Monday. Cunliffe’s departure leaves the Jayhawks with seven scholarship guards for the 2018-19 campaign.
Cunliffe said he came to his decision recently after discussing the matter with KU coaches and his family.
“I have loved every moment that I have been at Kansas,” Cunliffe said in a news release. “Even though I didn’t get to play as much as I wanted to, I have lifelong friends here. I am cool with the coaches. I don’t have any bad blood.”
Self said he wishes Cunliffe the best in the future and added he will “always be a fan and pull for him.”
“Even though we hate to see Sam leave, we totally respect his decision,” Self said. “Sam has been terrific since he’s been here. He’s been a great teammate. He’s been a guy that has put forth the effort and it hasn’t translated to playing time for him yet.”
A prized Arizona State transfer nabbed midway through the 2016-17 season, Cunliffe never quite got on track at KU.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound combo guard became eligible at semester last season but appeared in just 15 games in the shorthanded Jayhawks’ second half, averaging 4.9 minutes. A defensive miscue in a Jan. 13 home victory against Kansas State proved costly for Cunliffe — he had only one three-plus-minute appearance the rest of the season and was used primarily in mop-up duty from that point on.
The matter of playing time became even more muddied for the Seattle native last month when Lagerald Vick announced his surprising return for a senior season. While Self insisted Vick was guaranteed nothing, the return did balloon the number of players in the team’s backcourt to eight, with Cunliffe, Vick, K.J. Lawson, Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji all expected to compete for minutes as the team’s three-man.
Instead, Cunliffe is off to another program, and if it’s at the Division I level, he must again sit out a full campaign per NCAA transfer regulations.
“I respect this,” Self said, “because the opportunity to impact another program would probably be greater now than it would be a year from now.”
All told, the former four-star recruit Cunliffe averaged 1.9 points on 48-percent shooting in his lone half-season at KU.
“I want to thank coach Self, coach (Kurtis) Townsend, all my coaches, all the academic people, the fans and everybody whose put time into helping me,” Cunliffe said. “I’ve become a better player and a better student in my time here.”