Kansas University’s basketball team gathered for practice Wednesday night after a refreshing 3 1/2-day holiday break.
“It wasn’t very good (practice), but attitudes were good,” KU coach Bill Self said.
He and son Tyler experienced no travel problems Wednesday morning returning from Edmond, Okla., where the Self family visited relatives for a couple of days, including Tuesday’s Christmas holiday.
“The roads weren’t bad. They were expecting eight inches (of snow). The storm never hit. It brushed through Edmond,” Self said.
His players also had good luck in returning from all over the country. Wednesday proved to be a horrible day for thousands of travelers if they happened to be in the path of a huge snow/ice storm.
Only KU senior Jeff Withey and freshman Landen Lucas were not at practice Wednesday night. Withey today will attend a memorial service in California for his grandmother, who died last week. He’ll be back in Lawrence tonight. Lucas, who is being red-shirted, has been given a few extra days off by Self, since he’s not able to play in Saturday’s game against American (7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse). Lucas, who is from Portland, Ore., will return Saturday.
As far as practice, Self said Wednesday: “It’s no fun for our guys right now. There are no students here. They are leaving family. It’s going to get boring. Once (Jan. 6, Temple game) gets here, it’ll get hot and heavy (with games). We’ve got to figure a way to get in a couple things. It’s really our last chance to practice up until the end of the season. We play two games a week after (Jan. 6). This is a chance to get in extended practices and a few things, tinker with stuff. School doesn’t start until the 22nd so we have a lot of time to watch film.”
Stats ’n’ such: The Jayhawks have compiled some impressive team and individual statistics befitting the squad’s No. 6-national ranking.
Senior 7-footer Withey, who has blocked 55 shots in 11 games (5.0 per game), ranks second nationally behind St. John’s freshman Chris Obekpa, who has 64 blocks (5.3 per game) in 12 games. Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski, a 7-foot-2 junior from Calgary, Alberta, has 54 blocks (4.5 per game) in 12 games.
KU ranks second nationally and first in the Big 12 in total blocks (90 or 8.18 a game). St. John’s has 112 blocks or 9.33 per game while playing one extra game than the Jayhawks.
KU red-shirt freshman guard Ben McLemore is second in the Big 12 in scoring (16.5 ppg to Baylor senior Pierre Jackson’s 19.0), second in free-throw percentage (.860), second in three-point field-goal percentage (.408), and fifth in field-goal percentage (.488). Withey is third in field-goal percentage (.573), fifth in rebounding (8.3 per game; ISU’s Melvin Ejim and Texas Tech’s Jaye Crockett lead the league at 8.9 per game).
Senior guard/forward Travis Releford leads the league in free-throw percentage. He has made 28 of 32 for 87.5 percent.
The Jayhawks rank fourth nationally in field-goal-percentage defense (.347). Big 12 member Texas leads the country at .335. The Jayhawks’ scoring defense (59.2 ppg) ranks fourth in the league and No. 39 nationally. TCU leads the league at 53.8 ppg.
Some other stats of interest: In the Big 12, KU ranks first in scoring margin (plus 18.3), first in field-goal percentage (.493), second in scoring offense (77.5), second in free-throw percentage (.737), second in field-goal-percentage defense (.347), second in three-point field-goal percentage (.346), second in assists (16.7), fourth in threes made (5.82 per game), seventh in three-point field-goal-percentage defense (.302), fourth in rebounding (39.0 per game), third in rebounding margin (plus 5.5).
“As a staff, we think we are making positive strides,” Self said. “There’s a ton of things we need to work on. We haven’t had a ton of teams play us a lot of zone or press a lot. There’s plenty we need to work on.”
Next foe: American University of the Patroit League will take a 4-8 record into Saturday’s game. American has defeated Quinnipiac, Mt. St. Mary’s, St. Francis (Pa.) and UMBC and lost to Georgetown (65-48), Hampton, Columbia, Howard, St. Joseph’s, Florida Atlantic, San Francisco and Minnesota (72-36).
The team’s leading scorer is Stephen Lumpkins, a 6-8 senior who averages 15.5 points a game. The only other double-digit scorer is Daniel Munoz, a 6-foot senior who averages 10.0 ppg.
American University is located in Washington, D.C., with an enrollment of 6,783.