Are the current Kansas University basketball Jayhawks overcoached, undertaught, overrated or a combination of all this?
To heck with any of these guys declaring early for professional ball; so far, none of them have even staked a hardcore claim to all-league status. Brandon Rush and Julian Wright were voted preseason players of the year for the Big 12. Rush was projected as a first-team All-American. Not yet for either of them, or anyone else on Bill Self's roster.
One season at Texas, coach Abe Lemons was asked if his Longhorns would win "the championship." "What of, the state?" he replied. Is KU even the current champion of Kansas, considering Wichita State's onrush and Kansas State's pending upsurge?
Even if the Jayhawks could whip WSU and KSU in facedowns, what happens when they start running into Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas A&M; and Texas? Will Self and Co. iron out enough crimps in the fabric before games really count?
There are such roadblocks as Boston College and South Carolina as the old year ends and the new one begins. But the real gut-checks will begin when Oklahoma State comes here Jan. 10. Forget March, think January and February.
Apologists contend Rush just needs a little more confidence before he emerges as the force he is supposed to be. Now we're told this 21-year-old (senior age for a lot of guys) must be brought along slowly to prevent a damaged psyche. If he has NBA aspirations, he better get fierce fast because those guys will eat him for lunch, if he even makes a roster.
Worry not about Julian Wright. We haven't begun to see all he can do. Don't sell the rest of the guys short once they find some identity and consistency. This club was overrated early on for a lot of reasons. That'll bring some rain, of course.
In March of 2005, eggs hit the fan when I wrote that the KU senior classmen Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Michael Lee had proved to be overrated because they had been babysat early on by Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich and Drew Gooden. Langford and Miles did not have banner senior seasons. And they didn't have more chances to atone.
2006-07 Dec. 14 Hoops practice
Yet this Kansas team has weeks to get better-coached, better-taught and grow more compatible with its potential. It has full control of its fate, but first it must battle through a menacing Big 12 jungle to prove it's really good.
l Word is North Carolina legend Dean Smith will visit in February for the 55th reunion of KU's 1952 NCAA and Olympic champion crew. Not surprisingly, there is concern over how the Allen Fieldhouse crowd will greet him since many consider him the major villain in the theft of Roy Williams.
The way KU may alleviate that concern is to list all the returnees in the program, then introduce them as a group rather than individually. It would be shameful for the local crowd to boo somebody of that caliber and class, but there still is ill feeling. So maybe group recognition is the safest way to prevent embarrassment, for everybody.
l Any new KU athletic department people interested in restoring warm and fuzzy feelings with the local community should have attended the Bert Nash Mental Health track and field legend session the past Nov. 1. It provided a perfect example of how many great people there are willing to restore the lost luster of endearment if they're given the chance.