Kansas University’s 13 basketball players practiced bright and early Saturday morning, before attending the Jayhawks’ home football game against Kansas State.
“We went an hour and 45 minutes, and we were totally gassed, in large part because there’s no subs,” ninth-year KU coach Bill Self said at halftime on the Jayhawk Radio Network. “We’re not deep. We’re thin. This is a totally different type team. We don’t have the depth we’ve had in the past, but I really like our guys.”
So far, Self has not asked any former KU players who have been locked out by the NBA to help fill in at practice.
“No, we haven’t done that. We’ve gone with what we’ve got,” said Self, who will be on the lookout for possible big-man additions at upcoming walk-on tryouts. The Jayhawks, of course, will gain some practice relief in mid-December, when partial qualifiers Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor will be allowed to practice, but not play in games, until next season in accordance with NCAA rules.
“At Tulsa my first year, we went on road trips with six players. Seriously, we went with six, and we had one reserve sitting on the bench, and we played great,” Self said of a Tulsa team that went 19-12 overall and 9-5 in the league. “It was unbelievable how well we played. Of course, if you get foul problems, it can get real ugly real soon. It will be so important (big men) Thomas (Robinson) and Jeff (Withey) be in such great shape they can play 30 minutes a game, which is totally different for these guys. If we had one more big guy, I think it could take a little bit of pressure off them. Justin Wesley is kind of becoming that,” he added of the 6-8 Lamar transfer.
So far, Self has been pleased with the work of his main players at practice. KU has eight recruited scholarship players who are eligible, 10 scholarship players overall with Wesley and Conner Teahan on grants this year.
“Thomas is doing well. He tries so hard, and he wants to be coached. He wants to get better,” Self said of 6-10 junior Robinson. “I do think he’ll have some growing pains. Defenses will be designed to stop him or slow him down. You now have two 6-10 guys running at you, trapping every time you catch it in the scoring area. I think he’s up to the challenge.
“Tyshawn has been fabulous so far. I should probably knock on wood or my head or something,” Self added of senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. “He’s a guy who is living up to what we thought he could be right now. I look at our league and don’t know all the personnel yet because there’s so much turnover from last year and how they all fit, (but) who is better at point guard than Tyshawn? (Myck) Kabongo, they say, at Texas has a chance to be. Tyshawn from a talent standpoint is right up there. Elijah (Johnson) may be the most talented point guard, other than Sherron (Collins) that we’ve recruited. He can run, jump, slide, change directions, explosiveness, catch and shoot, get to the paint, vision ... he can do a lot of things.
“Travis (Releford) is probably going to be as good a ‘steal-you-an-extra possession-guy’ as we have in our league, which every team has to have one of those. His stroke has improved so much.
“And Jeff (Withey) is talented. I just don’t think Jeff always plays as tough. He’s talented. It’s easy to be talented when you are playing 15 minutes, playing in short spurts, and you know you are coming out and let it go, than if you are playing 30 minutes a game. Can you extend those short spurts into long spurts? That’s what we’re struggling with a little right now with Jeff. I really like those guys, our first five. I don’t want to lock them into being the first five because things can change. they have separated themselves with (Conner) Teahan being right there.”
KU will continue practicing all week with the first exhibition game set for Nov. 1. The Jayhawks will meet Pittsburg State in a 7 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse.