Jamari Traylor grinned when asked if he’s ever been approached by somebody who thinks he’s former Kansas University basketball All-American Thomas Robinson.
“That happens all the time, more than I like,” Traylor, KU’s 6-foot-8, 220-pound red-shirt freshman power forward, said of folks tapping him on the back thinking he’s T-Rob. “I guess they think I look like him. I don’t know if it’s me putting on weight or me just looking like him or something. Hopefully it stops. Once I get out there, people will know it’s me.”
KU coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks open the exhibition season against Emporia State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Allen Fieldhouse, isn’t ready to compare Chicago native Traylor with the 6-10, 240-pound Robinson, the No. 5 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
“Thomas is an inch or two taller and outweighs him by 20 pounds. Other than that, they are just alike,” Self said with a smile.
“I think Jamari is a better athlete as far as quick-twitch and being explosive. He’s just not as big. The thing about Thomas that is so great is if he got one mitt on the ball ... I mean he was fierce, a tough, competitive rebounder. He was unbelievable at 50-50 balls. I don’t know if Jamari is at that level. Jamari is going to be good, but we’re talking about a guy 19 years old who hasn’t played basketball. He played one year of high school a little bit.
“In Europe (this past summer), he looked good in practice, but the game is faster. It will take time,” Self added. “He is a competitive kid. He has great bounce and energy. You can’t expect him to do anything remotely close to what Thomas did even as a sophomore. Maybe some of the things Thomas did as a freshman we’ll see out of Jamari as well.”
Traylor, who practiced second semester last season but could not play in games in accordance with NCAA partial-qualifier rules, is ready to get started in actual games.
“Tuesday will be exciting. I know it will be a weight lifted from my shoulders, and I know I’m going to give it my all,” Traylor said. “It’s definitely been a year (since he last played at Florida’s IMG Academy). It seems longer than that. I’ve been determined to get out there.”
Traylor, who has been described as a fierce rebounder, said he put in countless hours in the gym to expand his game this past summer.
“I worked on my offense a lot,” said Traylor, who may be even more important to KU’s team now that senior Kevin Young is out 10 days to two weeks with a broken bone in his right hand. “I can knock down open shots. I can also make plays for my team a lot better than I could last year. I like to think I have a feel for the ball. I’m getting a lot of loose balls and rebounds. I think that’s where I’ll contribute this year.”
He said sitting out a year has made him extra eager for this year’s debut.
Red-shirt freshman guard Ben McLemore, who like Traylor arrived as a partial-qualifier, said Traylor has been an inspiration.
“He just tries so hard,” McLemore said. “In the classroom, I got a 3.2 (GPA), and he got a 3.3. He did great. Watching him helped me stay focused in class, too.”
Jackson cut by Jazz: Former KU forward Darnell Jackson has been cut by the Utah Jazz, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Jackson played in six exhibition games, averaging 1.7 points and 0.7 rebounds. The 6-9 forward, who played in Ukraine last year, played in 138 games with Cleveland, Milwaukee and Sacramento.
“He’s always been a tough-nosed type of player,” Utah’s Al Jefferson told the Salt Lake Tribune in lobbying to keep him on the team. “Go hard every time you step on the court. So when I found out he was in our camp, I knew it was going to be a very physical camp, that he was going to make you step up and play hard. He’s always been that way.
“When he gets on that court, he’s a machine, he’s gonna make you play. We’re friends off the court, but he’s going to go at you on the floor, and that’s the type of guy you need. It’s not my decision, but a guy like him, every team needs a guy like him on it.”