Kansas University’s basketball trip to Kansas City, Mo., for games tonight and tomorrow night is viewed by many as the team’s first true test of the young season. Maybe so, but it’s another test that could prove just as intriguing, one of patience for a fan base accustomed to winning big.
How long are the memories of KU fans? Long enough to remember that Mario Chalmers, in his first game against a school you see playing often on television, did not have an assist and had seven turnovers against Arizona in Maui? Long enough to remember that a year later, a team that had Julian Wright and every player who played in the national-title game except Cole Aldrich (four minutes) lost in Allen Fieldhouse to Oral Roberts University?
Both of those KU teams had more experience than this one, though not by much in the case of the first.
“Coach reminds us about that a lot,” Kansas freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor said of the Arizona game in Maui. “He says we remind him of that team. ... The youth and how they started the season (3-4). He doesn’t want that to happen again. He kind of put it in our mind to not let that happen.”
Chalmers had trouble getting the ball past midcourt against Arizona. Two games into his KU career, against inferior competition, Taylor has five turnovers in 37 minutes. His problems haven’t come in the backcourt, rather in the lane. He gets where he wants to go, it’s just that defenders tend to know where he’s going. He’s a hard-throwing bonus baby bringing every pitch at 98 mph.
“He’s a speed dog,” Collins said of Taylor. “He moves so fast sometimes and speeds himself up too fast at times. He’s fine. He just needs to learn to play under control. I’m just trying to teach him, trying to keep his confidence up, keep his head up. He’s just got to slow down and play under control.”
In a 40-point victory against Florida Gulf Coast — not to be confused with South Florida, which is on Florida’s Gulf Coast and not in South Florida — Taylor showed he could pack as many highlights and lowlights into short stretches as less explosive players have in a week.
Midway through the first half: Taylor takes the ball from the right of the key and dribbles with his left hand to the foul line, stops, and delivers a perfect two-handed bounce pass to Aldrich near the right block to set him up for a dunk. At the other end, Taylor steals a pass and feeds the ball upcourt to Collins, who takes it in for a bucket. In 11 seconds, Taylor is responsible for changing a 19-9 score to 23-9 without scoring a bucket.
Midway through the second half: Taylor drives into the lane, leaves his feet and barrels into two defenders who end up on the floor. Trying to make up for it, he reaches in and is called for a foul in the backcourt. On FGCU’s next possession, Taylor turns his back on his man, Ben Vega, and Vega immediately steps behind the arc, catches a pass and buries an uncontested three.
Same game. Same player. It’s called being a freshman in November. Nobody has to like it, but it makes it easier to take when realizing that the banner hoisted last week would have told the story more accurately if it said, “2004-2008,” because that’s when the first key pieces to coach Bill Self’s championship puzzle arrived on campus.