The topic of toughness was addressed in Kansas University’s basketball locker room the other day.
“I asked our guys, ‘Who are the toughest guys on our team? Not physically, but mentally playing hard every day?’’’ KU coach Bill Self said Sunday on his Hawk Talk radio show.
“Our guys said, ‘(Brady) Morningstar and (Tyrel) Reed.’ I said, ‘Really? Morningstar and Reed.’ You’ve got a kid from Burlington, Kan., and Lawrence, Kan., and we’ve got kids from D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, and those guys just told me they are our toughest guys.
“It shows it doesn’t make a difference where you are from. There’s tough kids everywhere.”
Aware of the contributions of Burlington High grad Reed and Free State High’s Morningstar, Self does acknowledge that Baltimore freshman Josh Selby is off to a good start in the toughness department.
He showed guts in stepping up and hitting the game-winning shot against USC on Saturday in his major-college debut.
“I think there is something with Sherron (Collins, inner-city Chicago), and Josh will have it too — something with being raised in a manner you had to fight to survive for everything that’s going on ... if you can draw that toughness on the court, you’ll have something special,” Self said. “Josh certainly doesn’t lack for confidence, and that says something about him.”
Selby poured in 21 points — including the game-winning three with :26 left — in Saturday’s 70-68 victory over USC. He came off the bench and played 27 minutes. Self was asked Sunday when the 6-foot-2 newcomer will be moved into the starting lineup.
“Josh will start here soon. I don’t know if it’ll be in Berkeley (vs. California, 10 p.m. Wednesday, Haas Pavilion). It very may well be. People around here, and rightly so, because it gets so much attention, worry about who is starting. The best players finish games.”
If Selby starts, one perimeter player from the group of Reed, Morningstar and Tyshawn Taylor will take on a first-player-off-the bench role.
“I don’t know who will come out. Tyshawn (Taylor) will not come out. If I do start him, Brady or Tyrel ... one (of them) will come off the bench, which I’m fine with,” Self said.
Self said Selby will play some lead guard, but remain “off the ball” when Taylor is in the game
“A point guard is more than somebody who dribbles it up,” Self said. “A point guard is somebody who should be responsible for everything going on with everybody on the team. Tyshawn made some poor plays, but for the most part he’s been good this year. If we have a good offensive possession, I’ll say the point guard gets the credit. If we have a bad possession, the point guard should probably shoulder some of the blame. Defensively, it’s the same way. The point guard initiates everything. For a kid that hasn’t practiced as much, hasn’t been around as much, and had a lot of pressure on him, I don’t think it’s best to make him responsible for every single thing going on now.
“We will give him many opportunities to be on the ball, and he will play for Tyshawn some. I just didn’t think this past Saturday it was best to put him under that kind of heat in his first game.”
Self said Selby was quite attentive at a film session Sunday.
“Watching tape today ... he’s the first (to realize) he made shots, but he has a long ways to go from playing well,” Self said. “He knows that. He gets it. He just wants to get better. I think yesterday was a great day for us, for him and everything. I think it’s more exciting for me moving forward than it was yesterday because I’ve seen some great things that can happen. Certainly we have a to tighten a lot of screws up.”
Self said suspended senior guard/forward Mario Little will not travel with the team to California. Little was arrested on charges of battery, criminal damage and trespassing last week.
“I would anticipate him being back with us in some capacity, whether just practicing or whatever after Christmas,” Self said. “The bottom line is, he is a big boy. He gets it. He knows mistakes were made, and so he will deal with it.
“I certainly believe and appreciate he’s been very forthright with us. The way we’ll deal with it basically is not deal with it for a while (until more facts are in), accept that he will not be a participating member of our team in competition, but he is still a member of our team and will be. And we have to make sure he graduates. He needs six to nine more hours to get that done in the spring.
“I don’t know how it’ll hurt our chemistry or not. Our guys really like him. I don’t think it’s going to be a big blow,” Self added of Little’s absence. “Because sometimes when guys for whatever reason get injured or screw up or whatever, it creates opportunity for somebody else. A lot of times when that opportunity presents itself, they make the most of it.”
Little played some power forward as well as small forward for KU. Self said 6-foot-6 Travis Releford currently was the team’s best inside “post defender.”
“He guarded (6-10 Nikola) Vucevic for seven to 10 minutes, and he never touched it, not one time,” Self said. “If you don’t have to trap, you don’t have to do a lot of things. He’s going to play some in there. We are awfully small. If guys can’t touch it, size is negated. I’m pleased with Travis.”