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Archive for Sunday, May 8, 2005

Players must earn playing time at practice

May 8, 2005

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Editor's note: This is the second in a series of columns where Journal-World assistant sports editor Gary Bedore answers questions about Kansas University men's basketball.

Q: Gary, we have seen the following remark all season long "whoever has the best practice will play in the game."

That philosophy may sometimes be flawed. It is evident that practice production does not always flow through to actual game time. Practice time does not equate to the excitement and competition of playing against a first-class opponent with a fieldhouse full of fans. Some players may perform better under the exposure while others are intimidated.

Do you remember Lincoln Minor? He seldom missed a three-point shot during practice. The "best practice" policy would indicate that his three-point shooting efficiency would carry through to game time. However, Minor went 0-17 for threes during games of the championship year.

Milt Newton would never have been playing during the 1988 national-championship games if Archie Marshall had not been eliminated because of an injury. Milt was buried deep on the bench because he wasn't one of the top five practice players.

Instances from another time, another coach. BUT, big winners.

I don't recall when the junior varsity team was eliminated, but it seems to me that it might be time to reinstate that program. There are enough dollars flowing through the basketball program that funding should not be a problem. The talented and much-touted freshmen on this year's squad would have had the opportunity to mature, develop, and build a feeling of being a part of the team.

The JV team plan that was abandoned afforded the players a 10-game series played against junior-college teams. That is how I remember it, but I don't have any way to research the details. When the junior varsity team was dumped I thought it was a bad decision, and this year's experience has reinforced my thoughts. There will be at least 17 players on the team next year just as there were this year. The JV team could help the underclassmen to avoid the pitfalls experienced by this year's team. The opportunity to play a full game against a top notch juco program as opposed to 2-to-3 minutes tops (if any playing time at all) as a sub off the bench would be a true opportunity to showcase abilities and improve weaknesses. If you also think the JV should be reinstated I feel that you have the power and influence to start the conversations in the right places. You have the clout in the KU basketball community to approach this subject with Lew Perkins and perhaps get a discussion started. Good ideas often come from outside a program whether it be sports or business.

A: A JV program would be valuable but was outlawed by the conference years ago.

As far as practices vs. games, you are probably right, but coaches have to play the guys that EARN the time during practice. I mean it's always been the basis of coaching and playing. You gotta produce in practice and win your spot at practice.

Sure, some guys are game-day players, but it's an age-old rule: you play the guys who EARN the minutes at practice. I can't argue with that, can you?

Q: When is Late Night in the Phog?

A: Oh if I had a dollar -- or the Royals had a victory -- for every time I'm e-mailed that question. Late Night is always the Friday closest to Oct. 15. This fall it'll be Oct. 14.

Q: Would you give me the entire roster of the '96-'97 team that lost to Arizona? I think that was the year we had maybe our best team ever and went 32-2 or something like that. Thank you.

A: Sure, Ryan Robertson, Jacque Vaughn, Billy Thomas, Joel Branstrom, Nick Bradford, B.J. Williams, C.B. McGrath, Scot Pollard, T.J. Pugh, Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase, Steve Ransom and Raef LaFrentz made up that team.

Q: Should KU build a new arena, like Missouri?

A: Nope. When you've said Allen Fieldhouse ... you've said it all.

Q: I heard rumors that some people want Bill Self to resign or be fired cause they are mad that Roy Williams won a national championship after only two years at UNC and they don't understand why KU didn't. It seems they have a lot of reservations that Self isn't the best coach for KU. Is this really true or is it just vicious rumors from a nut that is still mad that Williams left?

Also who is Rodrick Stewart? I hear he is a new KU recruit for next year, but there is no info on the Web site like there is on Chalmers, Wright and Downs. My son also heard that a 6-foot something, 300-pound player was to visit KU campus within the last couple of weeks, is that Stewart or someone else? I know Dwight Lewis will visit but for 2006 recruiting class.

What is the real reason Galindo is transferring? To play closer to home or for other reasons? I've heard many theories. Is there rumors of anyone else transferring?

I hope this not too many questions, but I love my 'Hawks and want to know everything. Thank you.

A: Wow, a plethora of questions. So many questions I'm gonna need an intermission after answering all six of them.

I don't think anybody wants Self to resign or be fired. I think there was the usual overreaction by some angry fans right after the Bucknell Bummer, but I think most everybody agrees it takes a while for a coach to build one's own program and get one's own players playing his own system.

So Self he won't be resigning or getting fired. He's one of the top five or so coaches in the country, so why would he get the boot??

Rodrick Stewart is a 6-4 guard who transferred here from Southern Cal. He's a very good athlete who didn't shoot well in his one season at USC.

You might do a search under his name on KUsports.com archives for the stories we've had on him. We've already had plenty of stuff on Mr. Stewart. He's supposed to be a lock-down defender who can run the floor and jump.

The big question is ... will he be able to stick a jumper and score?

The 300 pounder you mention, Chicago's DeAndre Thomas, has committed to Missouri. KU recruited him for a time, but never offered him a scholarship or anything close to that.

Galindo has said he was leaving to be closer to home. Obviously that's part of it, but certainly not all of it. Had Alex had a big freshman year, points- and minutes-wise, I'm sure he'd be happy as can be, and be staying.

He didn't play a lot when he was healthy, so assuredly playing time figures into his decision. It normally always comes down to playing time when kids leave.

In fairness to Alex and the KU staff, he did suffer injuries which stymied his development.

There are no rumors of anybody else leaving at this time.

Q: Where will Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Michael Lee get drafted?

A: That is the million-dollar question.

I would encourage you to read a great column on ESPN Insider by Chad Ford which has identified the glut of players expecting to be drafted in the first round. He says eight or more players will be disappointed on Draft Day.

I would say Dub will be tapped No. 21 in the first round. That's my prediction. Hopefully he'll fare better than that and go in the Top Ten, but I don't see how with all the underclassmen and foreign players taking up space.

Mike Lee won't get drafted. I predict he'll play for the Kansas City Knights if the ABA is still in existence, which it figures to be.

I predict Aaron Miles and Keith Langford will be tapped in round two. I predict Keith will be picked by the Rockets or Mavericks or Spurs in his home state of Texas. I predict the Trail Blazers will pick up Portland, Ore.-native Miles.

There's a possibility Miles and Langford won't be chosen. If that happens, I predict both will play for NBA summer-league teams and hopefully head to Europe if it looks like they are not going to get good looks at veterans' camp in the fall.

Remember, it took Billy Thomas seven or more years to make the big leagues.

Q: Gary, has anyone questioned Coach Self or has he questioned himself on the correlation between the late season swoon and his "shortening" of the bench ... it seems to me that as soon as he stopped using the freshman players to any extent the team's record began to fall almost immediately.

It would seem to me that he would of liked to use the younger players both to keep the seniors' legs and to give the freshmen invaluable experience. The Final Four teams all seemed to go 9 or 10 deep on regular basis.

A: Yes, Bill Self has said he probably could have done a better job with the freshmen. The freshmen sure did not contribute a whole heck of a lot, which, as you pointed out, sure did not help the team any during its stretch run which contributed to the one and done.

All the freshmen showed great promise during KU's summer trip to Canada. What happened to them??

Injuries slowed the progress of C.J. Giles and Alex Galindo and to a certain extent, Darnell Jackson.

C.J. had a boot on his foot half the season or more. Galindo's groin woes were a nuisance at least half the season. Jackson had a scope after the Canada trip and various bumps and bruises all year.

As far as Russell Robinson, who knows what happened? He's said publicly he hit the "freshman wall" just past the halfway mark of the season. Once he hit that wall, he never again really received much of a chance during games.

Self has said Jeff Hawkins simply passed Russell by on the depth chart. Too bad because the Robinson that showed flashes of brilliance in Canada and early in the nonconference season, could have been valuable in the end, I feel.

Sasha was good in some games, pretty ordinary in others. He also didn't receive much playing time down the stretch. His minutes were spotty.

I will say this -- I think it's pretty obvious Dub felt most comfortable playing next to the veteran big man, Christian Moody, who knows how to set a screen, execute the high low and pass the basketball.

For a long stretch of the season, it looked like Simien and Moody would lead the team to the promised land, however. Then came Moody's injury and staph infection and it was pretty much downhill for KU from that point on.

I wouldn't consider the freshmen failures. Remember Kaun and Jackson have only played basketball four or five years now. I will agree their development was not steady this past season.

Self says he has not lost faith in the freshmen, so we'll see how they do during their sophomore seasons. Let's hope they don't endure the dreaded "sophomore slump," or things really could get ugly.

Q: When I was a child (I am now 77 years old) my mother quoted a "cheer" that went, 'Johnny took a bite, Katie took a chew. Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KSU' Tell me please, was there ever such an institution as KSU? The younger generation of Jayhawk grads think I am putting them on.

A: Happy 77th birthday! A nice long life you've lived with 20 or more birthdays certain to come.

Your question, however, has pretty much stumped me. KSU, of course, is Kansas State U. Could that be what you meant?

Q: Gary, are you surprised by Kirk Hinrich's success in the NBA?

A: Nope. I always thought the kid could play in the NBA. He's very very fast, deceptively fast.

I figured if John Stockton could play for 20 years in the NBA, Kirk could do the same. Both are winners. I guess he's still not the most accurate three-point shooter, but he's good enough.

Q: It seems the turning point for Kansas was the double-overtime loss to Texas Tech. From then on the team seemed to struggle and at times appeared to have no drive or direction. A coach cannot be responsible for everything as in this case the seniors should have taken ownership of the team and kept them moving forward. Am I way off-base here?

A: I don't think you are way off-base.

In retrospect, that Tech loss was huge, especially considering KU had that game won until the phantom walk call on Aaron Miles down the stretch. A killer call.

Who knows what would have happened had KU won that big road game and headed home with a big dose of confidence?? I can't imagine Iowa State coming into town and beating KU as the Cyclones did, had KU beaten Bobby's Red Raiders.

As far as the seniors' taking ownership, I respect your opinion, but there also were some extenuating circumstances.

We can't underestimate Langford's injury and illness problems. He didn't even practice for the most part for two weeks prior to the NCAAs. He lost 15 pounds. Hard to show leadership when you are hooked to an IV in the hospital. It's not his fault he was a mess physically.

Mike Lee played darn well in his last five, six games. Simien was his same, consistent self. He did miss the big game-winning shot versus Bucknell, a shot he probably hits seven of 10 tries.

Aaron Miles, meanwhile, truly picked a bad time to have one of his worst games. To not hit a shot and record only four assists versus Bucknell was definitely not the right way to go out. It's hard to say whether he wasn't mentally ready that 9 p.m. game or what.

Ultimately, you are right. It's the seniors' team. It's their legacy and responsibility. For whatever reason -- the fact they seemed to live on the edge in games all season -- sure came to bite them vs. Bucknell. A killer mentality was missing pretty much all season.

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