Opinion: Jayhawks old, new entertain in games
In a moment, a word on the one new player who looked like he’ll be the biggest difference-maker on a Kansas University basketball team that otherwise lacks precisely what he brings. But first, a look back on some of the more entertaining moments from Wednesday’s camp game as well as Thursday’s charity-benefit exhibition game for two young area cancer patients.
In the camp game, Sherron Collins, still way too heavy to command a hefty paycheck overseas but working hard to change that, showed just what a terrific, instinctive, skilled basketball player he remains on relentless drives to the hoop, long three-pointers and pinpoint passes. Wayne Selden brought power to his dunks, softness to his shots. Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp barely moved the nets. Tarik Black is a physical presence.
In the charity game played Thursday at Free State High, the top moment came before the game, when advanced-cancer patient Jakob Askins received a heartfelt ovation from both sets of packed bleachers. Jakob hasn’t had a lot to cheer him up, and he’s going to hold onto that moment forever. Event organizer Brian Hanni, a Topeka native who used to have a talk show on the radio in Lawrence and now calls Texas Tech games in Lubbock, pours his heart into this event every year.
Another highlight: Pint-sized Cooper Woestendick of Cedar Creek Elementary in Olathe drew a charge from Tyshawn Taylor, one of the game’s many Globetrotters moments. Woestendick, grandson of late KU great Delvy Lewis, had the beginnings of a shiner to show for it. And then there was Scot Pollard, the winning coach, taking his glasses off, insisting the referee was more in need of them. At one point, Pollard protested the game, walked onto the court and ushered Kevin Young off the floor with two words: “Too young.”
OK, fun stuff.
Now let’s ponder a more subtle revelation from the camp game the previous day that could mean a great deal to how good Bill Self’s young team can become next season. Freshman Frank Mason, the guy nobody’s talking about because he didn’t score a lot of points Wednesday and barely cracked the top 100 in the recruiting rankings, is exactly what this team needs. He’s physically developed beyond his years, is explosive and has a natural feel for how to put pressure on a defense and set up a teammate when defenders collapse. Mason’s a pure point guard, something Kansas didn’t have last year. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t start more games at point than anybody else on the roster.
Check out the depth: Mason, Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Black starting. Naadir Tharpe, Frankamp and Greene, pushed by Andrew White III, in reserve on the perimeter. Jamari Traylor and either Joel Embiid or Landen Lucas in reserve in the post.