Sophomore sixth man Sherron Collins didn't feel totally comfortable speaking up on the court and in the locker room last season.
"We had guys older than me - juniors and seniors who were great players. It was not really my place," said Collins, who deferred to the likes of starters Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur.
It has all changed with the loss of eight players from KU's national title team - and Collins embraces the change - heading into his junior campaign.
"I look to be a leader. I take my leadership role seriously," said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound floor general, KU's leading returning scorer at 8.9 points a game.
"I'll be more talkative, more vocal out there. I look forward to the young guys asking me questions because I was in the same situation my freshman year, asking Mario a lot of things. I know enough to tell them what to do. Hopefully I'll tell them the right thing," Collins added.
He welcomes the possibility of additional playing time. Collins logged 23.8 minutes per contest for the 37-3 Jayhawks.
"With the ball in my hands more, doing more on the court, it will give me the chance to be more vocal and explain things to the young fellas," said Collins, who will take freshman Tyshawn Taylor under his wing.
"I need to take this seriously, mold the young kids," Collins maintained. "I think we've already done a good job explaining the importance of the season and telling them all how important it is to win and play big. Just because it happened last year doesn't mean it will again. It's a whole new year. They (seven newcomers) have not played a game yet. They'll get it in time."
The Big 12 coaches apparently believe Collins will be the face of KU's program this season.
They named him first-team preseason all-conference, with no other Jayhawk even making honorable mention.
"Some people may think that," he said, asked if he was an emerging "star."
"I'm not trying to be a star. I'm trying to stay within my game, do everything it takes to win. I know I've got to do a lot more, but it is nice of people to say that."
KU coach Bill Self has said Collins needs to be the "best conditioned player in the league because he will take more shots than anybody in our league.
"I don't know if he'll get 20 off, (but) I really believe he can attempt in that 18-range average for the year. If he does that and makes half of them, you are looking at a guy who averages 22 (points) a game. You've got to be in great shape to be able to get your own shot like he'll have to. Defenses will be designed to stop him," Self said.
Collins has embraced his coach's words.
"I don't know about 18 shots a game. I am glad he's giving me the freedom to do that," Collins said. "I'll do whatever he needs me to do and asks. I'm ready to step up to the challenge."
Self believes Collins is making strides in all areas.
"I am proud of the man Sherron has become," Self said. "He has improved in so many areas. He gets in his own way a little bit. Since school started he has been as good as anybody could be. He's a great leader, worker, accepts responsibility. I think this past year helped him mature."