Sports editor Tom Keegan and assistant sports editor Gary Bedore held an oceanside conversation Thursday while C.J. Giles, Russell Robinson, Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Micah Downs, Mario Chalmers, Moulaye Niang, Matt Kleinmann and Sasha Kaun played in the massive waves and, in some cases, even body-surfed on Kaanapali Beach in Lahaina, Maui.
Gary: Look, they're in the water. They never used to go in the water when they came down here before. And look how big the waves are.
Tom: Somebody told me the waves are always big on Thanksgiving.
Gary: I heard that, too. Bob Newton of KU's radio crew told me that.
Tom: That's right. That's where I heard it. That's a good sign, don't you think? It shows they're not afraid.
Gary: But look at that wave! It's all the way to C.J.'s head. It's great these guys are having some fun before they have to go back.
Tom: It's cool that Self lets them have some fun.
Gary: Yeah, I mean for three days at the Maui Invitational all they did was work on basketball. Even though they wanted to do better than 1-2, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There's absolutely no reason to be thinking about basketball with massive waves in your back yard and the plane not leaving for another eight hours. College students should not live on basketball alone.
Tom: You know, I've been thinking about that last possession against Arkansas and about how Rush wasn't aggressive on the final possession. You know what that reminded me of?
Tom: Dwyane Wade on the final possession of the last game of his first college season at Marquette. He should have driven, and he passed the ball, and his team lost to Tulsa, a bunch of players recruited by Bill Self and coached by his successor. Once you make a mistake like that, you're way less likely to make the same mistake. That's the thing about young players. Even though they're super-talented, they're going to make mistakes. That's why this team's fan base is going to have to be patient. Do KU fans have it in them to be patient?
Gary: Oh, probably not. They definitely are used to a lot of wins and tend to go crazy when the team loses. Maybe I'm talking too much about the talk show, Internet circuit. The average fans in the stands are probably more patient than I give them credit for being. Patience would be recommended with such a young team.
Tom: Think they'd be more patient if Mario Chalmers was the starting point guard, instead of Jeff Hawkins?
Gary: Probably, but they need to realize if Mario's playing 25 minutes a game, it probably doesn't matter whether he starts or not. It's pretty apparent Mario's the point guard of the future, but most coaches like experience, and I'm sure Hawkins is going to play a lot because he's a fifth-year senior. Do you think Mario should play more?
Tom: Before I answer that, what makes you so sure Mario's the point guard of the future? The point of the future is Sherron Collins, if he passes his ACT. It's the point guard of the present that's the issue here. Self obviously doesn't think Chalmers is ready for that, and if he gives him the job before he tightens up his game, where's Mario's incentive to tighten up his game? There is no more powerful carrot to dangle than playing time. Still, once Big 12 season starts, either Chalmers is the starting point guard or this team isn't as good as I thought it would be. No question he's a great passer and a better shooter than he's shown, but that's the key question. The key question is, can he be the primary ballhandler against intense pressure without turning it over. Don't you think that's the key question to the whole season?
Gary: Yes, but it should be noted that none of us is really surprised Hawkins is starting the season out as a starter. Most coaches are going to do it for the reasons you suggested: the carrot for Chalmers and the fact, as a fifth-year senior, Hawkins so much more knows what's going on. Remember as much as fans appear to like Mario, he did have those two freshman turnovers in a row against Arizona. The problem is, Jeff has never really shown the ability to score, except in those two games against TCU and Baylor. So I think it's going according to plan. Jeff is aggressive on defense, and Bill has said Mario needs to be better on defense. At this stage of the season, I don't think any of us should be surprised. The question is, Tom, how many minutes should Jeff and Mario be playing? What do you think?
Tom: If you grilled Self the way you grill me, you'd be in line for a big raise.
Gary: Hey, I grill the coach plenty. Just ask him. He probably soon will block my phone number from his cell phone.
Tom: Hold on. Look at that wave. The one right next to the beautiful brunette in the flowered bikini.
Gary: Quit stalling and answer the Mario-Hawkins question.
Tom: OK. If Mario jacks up the intensity and does a better job of taking care of the basketball with Hawkins in his face in practice all week, I'd reward him with the starting job and play a Chalmers, Rush, Micah Downs package for significant minutes here and there. Wait, package is a football term isn't it?
Gary: It's interesting you mention the word Rush. I did not realize what a soft touch he has on his shot until we came out here. I'm seriously amazed at his touch. In fact, who would you compare it to? I can't think of anyone right now.
Tom: How about Paul Pierce?
Gary: That could be, but there's still something unique where I can't think of anybody yet.
Tom: That's the thing about basketball players. They're like snowflakes. No two are exactly alike, with the exception of Tom and Dick VanArsdale. You've covered KU for 20 seasons. I'll mention names from this roster, and you tell me past Jayhawks they remind you of, and I bet it will be a struggle.
Gary: Can you believe how hot it is right now? The sun is beating down. I may need to sprint to the ocean, but we better finish this first.
Gary: Pierce, as you astutely mentioned.
Tom: Quit sucking up. Downs.
Gary: A more talented version of Patrick Richey. Nationally maybe he resembles Mike Dunleavy.
Gary: Who does he look like facially?
Tom: I'm glad you asked that, because people often make the mistake of making appearance comparisons instead of game comparisons.
Gary: He doesn't remind me of anybody from KU lore, but maybe it's just the bad fish I ate cramping my brain.
Tom: Fish is supposed to be brain food.
Gary: That's what the Three Stooges said once.
Tom: It's true. How about Kirk Hinrich for Chalmers?
Gary: No. I just don't see that comparison. Mario's confounding me in the comparison department.
Tom: Why not Hinrich? Because Hinrich is quicker, definitely faster and a more sure ballhandler?
Gary: Not as a freshman. He wasn't great for them right away.
Tom: OK, we'll move on. C.J. Giles.
Gary: His build kind of reminds you of Danny Manning.
Tom: See, there you go with physical resemblances. His game, not his frame.
Gary: I think we need to get a film clip of his dad, because something is telling me they look a lot alike on the court, except his dad's career was ruined by injuries.
Tom: Don't you think he'd make a lot more money if he waited until he polished his game to jump to the NBA?
Gary: Yeah, definitely. He really needs to be trained under Self, and mature physically, much like Brian Cook of Illinois did under KU's coach. Cook, coincidentally, also had a dad who played at KU.
Tom: Sasha Kaun.
Gary: Maybe a cross between Eric Chenowith and Eric Pauley. Don't shoot me, KU fans, this is just a conversation at the beach. Kaun appears to have the same touch from the outside as Pauley -- Eric also had a decent stroke from 15 -- and appears to have the inside presence of Chenowith, with obviously a larger upside, since Chenowith's junior and senior seasons didn't rival his stellar sophomore year.
Tom: Who uses the word stellar in conversation? Anyway, it's getting hot. Let's go in the ocean.
Gary: We could conclude whether this trip was worth it for the Jayhawks, despite going 1-2. I will say first of all, definitely, yes, with what we just witnessed -- the bonding, the fun they were having as they were getting gobbled up by massive waves in the ocean. Bill Self says all the time teams become teams on the road and when stuff happens. Well, they had two tough losses that they can definitely learn from -- that classifies as stuff happening -- and they're never going to forget the great time they're having with their teammates, which can go a long way toward building team chemistry.
Tom: Well said, but I still say if Chalmers doesn't develop into a guard who can run the show this season, the Jayhawks aren't going to the Sweet 16.
Gary: Good point, but I guarantee you when we hold a season-ending conversation from an NCAA Tournament site, hopefully on the West Coast, we will be shocked at how differently we feel about this team. It's a marathon, baby. There will be at least three blizzards between now and then.
Tom: And it's a sprint to the beach. Aloha.