Posts tagged with Ku Basketball
Throughout each KU men's basketball season, our sports editor, Tom Keegan, does a thing after every game where he rates the players of the game in his Keegan Ratings.
This is not that.
It is, however, a ranking that illustrates which KU players the Jayhawks' 8-0 run to the World University Games gold medal helped the most in South Korea.
So let's get to it. As Keegan does in his ratings, we'll go with scholarship players only and not worry about the guys who play at other schools.
1. Wayne Selden – By far KU's best player throughout the touranment, Selden emerged as a go-to option and really showed well as a leader. He looks more determined than ever and his confidence should be sky high come October when the Jayhawks get going for real.
2. Hunter Mickelson – Throughout most of the second half of last season, KU fans everywhere wondered why Mickelson did not get more of an opportunity to play. I don't think anyone will have to worry about that any more. The transfer from Arkansas played quality minutes and put up surprising numbers throughout the tournament, even working his way into a starting role. That kind of lift to his confidence should only make him continue to work harder and harder throughout the rest of the season.
3. Carlton Bragg – Bragg's numbers were not exactly amazing but the thing the long freshman gained that should benefit him the most is his ability to play through adversity. After breaking his nose before things even got going, Bragg played tough and looked unfazed by the injury throughout the tournament. That kind of toughness and sacrifice goes a long way with KU coach Bill Self and you can bet Bragg will get plenty of positive feedback about it. That should only make him more comfortable when the season rolls around.
4. Frank Mason – Mason played exactly the way KU fans would have expected him to play heading into the tournament, so I'm not sure the bulldog point guard gained a whole lot in terms of learning anything new about his game. Still, he was fantastic in leading the offense, set up more plays and buckets than he even got credit for and played a ton of minutes while running the show the whole time.
5. Landen Lucas – There were up and down moments for Lucas, who still lacks some of the skills necessary to be a force down low. But the man can rebound. And he did that pretty well in Korea. With the addition of Bragg and Cheick Diallo and the emergence of Mickelson, Lucas might not get a ton of minutes this winter. But it now seems like a safe bet to say that when he's in there he can have a real impact on the glass.
6. Lagerald Vick – Vick's a long shot to play this season, but it won't be because he doesn't believe he can. The young guard was out there during some pretty crucial moments throughout the tournament and he looked pretty salty at times, especially as a scorer. A loaded roster ahead of him and his inexperience and limited defensive skills will likely keep him off the court this winter. But this experience will no doubt help his development and help him be in a better position to push the guys ahead of him in practices.
7. Perry Ellis – Ellis was good at times and average at others in South Korea but didn't really stand out. The good news for KU was that he didn't need to. He can save that for the college season and what figures to be a big senior year. That said, he looked healthy, moved well, shot the ball with confidence and, like Mason, performed pretty much exactly the way people expected him. That's by no means a knock on him, but I'm not sure the tournament helped him a whole lot.
8. Jamari Traylor – Traylor's minutes were down and Lucas and Mickelson played much bigger roles. For a guy who already is quick to get down on himself, that probably didn't help. Still, Traylor's a good teammate and I noticed him genuinely fired up on the bench late in the gold-medal game when it became clear that KU was going to win. That's a good sign that even though he didn't set the world on fire with his play, he stayed in it for his teammates.
9. Devonte Graham – Graham did not get to play because of injury, but you have to think that just being there helped him a little bit. He saw how his teammates competed in various settings. He was able to observe how Nic Moore and Frank Mason handled things on the floor. And he no doubt did all he could as a vocal leader from the bench. Plus, can a player ever be around too much winning? Even though he didn't play a minute, just feeling that feeling can be something that sticks with Graham, too.
Be sure to make your vote count in our KUsports.com poll about which player the trip to Korea helped the most.
I've spent more than my fair share of time being critical of Wayne Selden's game during his first couple of seasons with the Kansas University men's basketball team.
And I stand by everything I've said in the past. But the good thing about the past is that it's always behind you. The present is what matters most, and Selden's present sure looks like a gift for the Jayhawks.
If you've been paying attention at all to what's going on in Korea — whether you've watched the games yourself or read and viewed the fantastic coverage from our own Bobby Nightengale and Mike Yoder — you know that Selden has been tearing it up.
He's averaging 20 points per game, has led the Jayhawks in scoring in three of the four games they've played — all victories — led the team in minutes per game all four times and has looked much more explosive, confident and determined than I ever remember seeing him.
His averages through four games: 1 victory, 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in 36 minutes.
I still question whether the Selden we're seeing in July will be the same guy we see this winter, mostly because I can't help but think that the competition — and, particularly, the type of athletes he'll see in opposing uniforms — will be drastically different than what he's facing today. But still, just like a team that benefits from playing an easy schedule, all a guy can do is attack the guys who are trying to guard him and Selden has been doing just that.
One of the biggest improvements Selden has made has been near the bucket. He's still not making everything, but he is finishing in close a lot better than he did during last season's colossal struggle and a big reason for that is his aggressive nature. He's not just floating and hoping any more. He's going all the way to the rim and either finishing or drawing the foul. For a guy that size, that's always the right move. And it's often easier said than done. But props to Selden for doing it over and over overseas.
Beyond that, his outside shot — his biggest weapon thus far — has continued to look smooth and put points on the board when the Jayhawks needed them most.
It's not just the numbers that have impressed me. It's the mindset Selden has displayed. My biggest criticism of the guy throughout his career is that he always seemed, to me, to be a more worried about how he looked out there on the court than how he produced. I haven't seen an ounce of that in Korea.
Selden looks tough, is always in attack mode, is carrying himself like a true leader — something KU lacked big time the past two years — and has that presence about him that seems to indicate that he knows nobody can stop him.
So far, he's been correct. And following his lead, the Jayhawks/Team USA are in a real position to challenge for a gold medal that I'm not sure anybody thought was in reach.
By now, if you've been a longtime reader of KUsports.com, you know that every once in a while we post various odds that are sent to us from the folks at Bovada.lv, an online betting service that dabbles in all kinds of college and professional sports propositions.
If that sounds famililar at all, you're probably recalling blogs about KU's odds of winning a national championship, Andrew Wiggins' chances of becoming national player of the year or even KU football's low over/under win total.
All of those, and more, have been sent to us and posted on the site during recent years.
Tuesday, I received an email from Bovada outlining the odds for the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year. Given that the draft just happened and that KU's Kelly Oubre was the highest and only Jayhawk selected, I opened it wondering if his name would be on there and how good or bad his odds might be.
It wasn't. Oubre, who has been touting himself as the greatest player in the draft of late, was nowhere to be found and, obviously, neither was undrafted former Jayhawk Cliff Alexander.
Oubre's omission was not that big of a surprise, but the list remained relevant to KU fans for one other reason. Joel Embiid.
Embiid, the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, is listed as a 10-1 pick to be named rookie of the year next season. Those aren't terrible odds, provided Embiid is healthy.
The 7-foot center from Cameroon, of course, missed all of his true rookie season nursing back and foot injuries and, therefore, would qualify for the award if he plays this season and plays well enough to outdo all other candidates. Both are longshots at this point, which is why the 10-1 number was a little surprising.
Here's a quick look at the rest of the list, with Embiid's new teammate, No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor leading the way.
Jahlil Okafor 7/2
D'Angelo Russell 4/1
Karl-Anthony Towns 7/1
Emmanuel Mudiay 7/1
Justise Winslow 9/1
Joel Embiid 10/1
Mario Hezonja 16/1
Willie Cauley-Stein 22/1
Jerian Grant 22/1
Myles Turner 25/1
Sam Dekker 25/1
Frank Kaminsky 25/1
Kristaps Porzingis 25/1
Stanley Johnson 33/1
Cameron Payne 33/1
Trey Lyles 33/1
Devin Booker 33/1
Bobby Portis 33/1
By now, even if you weren't one of the thousands of people who packed the Sprint Center last week to check out the latest and slightly modified version of the KU basketball team in its two exhibition games with Canada, you surely have seen the uniforms.
Whether you saw them when the photo gallery of all of the different looks was released prior to those games or in photos from the games themselves, your eyes probably have made a pass or two over the red, white and blue-themed duds the Jayhawks will wear during the next two weeks at the World University Games in South Korea.
Having done this for as long as I have, I think it's safe to say that I've learned one thing about KU fans, and, really, fans in general — they like to talk about uniforms.
Even with a football team that has struggled mightily during the past half decade, you can always find someone trying to Photoshop a new look for the uniform or, more often, the KU football helmets.
It's a fun exercise, probably doesn't take too long to pull off and even if it does, who cares.
With that in mind, I'm curious what people think of these uniforms. Were you surprised to see them say Kansas instead of USA? Do you like the way adidas meshed the two, with both KU and the United States getting a little love in the look?
Or, would you have liked to see something completely different?
Personally, I thought they would be USA jerseys, given that it's KU that is representing the country and not the other way around. This concept of Kansas against the world is a little strange, and I think it would be cool if the uniforms said USA on them, much the way the uniforms for the rest of the teams competing will say the name of that country.
Taking this a step further, I even dreamed up a scenario before the uniforms were released that I thought would've been incredible — not to mention a hot seller.
Picture this: Do what you want with all of the other stars and stripes and reds and whites and homage to KU's past and all of that. Those touches are all nice. But the centerpiece of the jersey should feature the letters U-S-A, with the cutout in the A being a Jayhawk.
If you have to include “Kansas” somewhere on the uniform, you could possibly stick it on the back above or below the name or go with the “KU” on the shorts. The possibilities are endless.
Regardless of what the final look became, I don't think there's any question that KU fans would've bought those at a scary pace. And it would've been a cool way to keep things in common with the rest of the teams competing in the Games.
It is just a uniform, though, and it's not that big of a deal. I'm just curious what everyone else thought and if any of you had any designs in your heads, as well. If so, explain away or, if you're the Photoshop type of person, post your vision in the comments section below.
Because this has become one of the most enjoyable — if not ridiculous — exercises in sports, let's take a quick look ahead to the 2016 NBA Draft to see what might happen for the current members of the Kansas University men's basketball team.
Last night, in Brooklyn, New York, former Jayhawks Kelly Oubre (15th pick in the first round) and Cliff Alexander (undrafted) learned their pro fates.
By recent KU standards, that's a pretty uneventful draft. It marked the first time since 2009 that Bill Self did not produce a lottery pick, with Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore and Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins all being lottery picks between 2010-14.
According to the 2016 draft projections at DraftExpress.com, the Jayhawks will jump back into the lottery next season, with freshman-to-be Cheick Diallo slated to be the 14th pick as of today.
Obviously there is still a ton of time between now and then and a ton of basketball yet to be played, but based on his status coming out of high school and his skills, Diallo definitely has a shot to become a lottery pick with a good freshman season at KU.
Beyond that, there are at least a couple of other guys on the KU roster who could hear their names called in next year's draft. In fact, the very next slot on DraftExpress's oh-so-early mock draft for next season features another Jayhawk, with Ukrainian sensation Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk plugged into that spot.
KU coach Bill Self has said for months that Mykhailiuk could very well be the best pro prospect on the roster. He's a great athlete with good offensive skills, a solid basketball IQ and an insatiable desire to learn the game.
Beyond that, Svi has great NBA 2-guard size (listed last season at 6-8, 195), he's not afraid to play defense and he can flat-out shoot the ball.
If he makes the kind of jump this offseason that many believe he's on pace to make, he easily could move up on the draft board by next June and become a lottery pick himself.
Those were the only two Jayhawks on DraftExpress's early look at the 2016 draft, but there are a few other KU players who easily could wind up being selected next June should they have good seasons and/or decide to leave school.
Senior Perry Ellis, who somehow was not on DraftExpress's Top 60 for 2016, seems like a strong candidate to get a look by NBA brass. He's poised to have a monster year, just keeps getting better and has great work ethic, drive and, perhaps most of all, is a high character guy who any GM and coach would love to have on his bench.
That alone won't get Ellis a roster spot but that combined with a big year certainly could.
Junior wing Wayne Selden is another Jayhawk who could have an NBA future based on his size, athleticism and ability to shoot the ball. In fact, many believed Selden would be gone by now. But a decent freshman year in the shadows of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid followed by a sub-par sophomore season left Selden in Lawrence, where he'll be looking for his best season yet this winter.
If it comes, Selden's a definite candidate to land in the first round next June. If not, the NBA may never come calling.
The last guy on the roster with a real shot at the NBA in 2016 is freshman forward Carlton Bragg, who's size, length, soft shot and good handles have him poised for a big role during his first season at KU.
He's still way too skinny to bang with the big bodies in the NBA on a regular basis and needs to add some polish to a few areas of his game, but he's definitely one of those guys NBA GMs drool over when looking at his potential.
I've heard of more than a few people (including Self) who believe that junior sharpshooter Brannen Greene is a future pro, but he's coming off of hip surgery and still has yet to fully break through. Because of that, projecting him as a possible 2016 draftee seems like a bit of a reach.
That said, identifying five other guys with a shot at being draft worthy in 2016 only adds to the idea that this year's KU squad could be in line to contend at the highest level.
Thursday will mark the first NBA Draft since 2009 that I have not been in attendance.
Most years, draft day sticks out to me like a lighthouse on a rocky shore both because there is so much planning that goes into covering it and also because it's always been one of my favorite events in sports.
This year, however, it crept up faster than I can ever remember.
My not being there in the Big Apple — one of my favorite cities in the world — has nothing to do with me not wanting to be there. I would cover the draft — or anything else in NYC for that matter — at just about any time. But with the KU men's hoops team heading to South Korea and us sending both a reporter (preps writer Bobby Nightengale) and a photographer (Mike Yoder) all the way to the Far East, I started hearing about that costing more than a few hundred bucks and figured this was as good of a year as any to sit it out.
The reason goes far beyond the financial element.
See, part of the fun of covering the draft has been covering the people and personalities associated with it. I'll never forget 2010 and how gracious Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry were to let me follow them around for just about the entire day before their big moments.
Same thing in 2013 with Ben McLemore, who I even asked at one point if he was tired of getting peppered by questions. Not only did he say no but he invited me to ride on the bus back to draft headquarters in case I needed any more questions answered. I did. And most of it made it into my story. Later, when I told KU coach Bill Self that McLemore had said he wasn't tired of me, Self quickly quipped, “Well, he lied.”
A year earlier, Markieff Morris was equally friendly with an old, familiar face, perhaps because twin brother Marcus was in Charlotte up until draft day running through one last workout and it was better knowing somebody there than nobody.
In each case, as well as the others, the thing that made covering these guys in one of the biggest moments of their lives so enjoyable was the fact that I knew them and they knew me. It wasn't like we were friends or even owed anything to one another, but there is a certain appreciation — both ways, I think — that comes with familiarity.
Surrounded by dozens of other reporters asking everything from silly questions about their first purchases to uncomfortable questions about personal things ranging from family life to eligibility issues, there just appeared to be something pleasant to these guys about a guy who knew their story, knew their game, knew Lawrence and knew KU.
That guy was me and it allowed me to get some good access and better information.
A year ago, Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 pick in the draft after spending less than 12 months in Lawrence. Wiggins was plenty friendly and helpful while I was there to cover his big day but there was no real connection. And how could there be? I think I only interviewed the guy 10 times or so and only rarely was it in a one-on-one setting.
For all the talk about what the one-and-done movement is doing to college basketball, this is the way it most impacts me. I know that doesn't mean much to anybody else and I'm certainly not trying to portray some sob story. But it is a bummer to go out to such a big event in such a cool place and have it become just another day on the job when just a few years ago it was so much more than that.
That, I suspect, is what it would've been like had I made the trek this year to cover Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander's draft dance.
First off, Alexander won't even be in New York and there's no telling where he'll be drafted. And Oubre, like Wiggins before him, was not in Lawrence long enough to really get to know.
The Oubre I interviewed starting last summer and running all the way through the NCAA Tournament in Omaha last March, was a very likable dude. And I'm sure it would've been easy to follow him around and tell his story the way I told the stories of those other guys in the past.
But the deeper connection probably would not be there. And that's a shame.
I'll go back to the draft in the future, perhaps even as soon as next year. And I'm sure there'll be plenty of fun stories to tell and moments to share. But I can't help but wonder if the days of walking out onto 5th Avenue with Aldrich and Henry to get a quick picture for the front of the next day's sports section are done for good.
It's an exercise that could be done and could change every NBA season and never stop being enjoyable and entertaining.
And it hit me last night while I was watching Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Cleveland and Atlanta.
As Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague had his way with the Cavs' smaller guards in the first half, my mind wandered and tried to remember where Teague played his college ball. After a few minutes of thinking, it hit me and the following “conversation” played out in my head. “Wake Forest. That's right. Wake's pretty well represented in the NBA these days with Teague, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan. I wonder who else they have.”
Perhaps spurred on by an earlier conversation at work about which Florida guys Billy Donovan might try to stockpile on the Thunder, I then got serious and started racking my brain and searching the internet for a current NBA starting five from several of the powerhouse college programs.
Kansas, of course, was included in the exercise and I have to admit, for all that talk about Bill Self not having put too many bona fide stars in the league, the KU squad is pretty nice.
Here's a quick look at it and several others that helped me pass the time as the Cavs pulled away and LeBron James moved one game closer to a fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. Unreal.
KANSAS – If you're trying to put the best KU players in the starting five, the Jayhawks wind up a little small. But I'm not putting Pierce on the bench and I think I'd rather have McLemore out there than Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson or Cole Aldrich.
PG Mario Chalmers
SG Andrew Wiggins
SF Ben McLemore
SF Paul Pierce
PF Markieff Morris
FLORIDA – Beal might not be a true point guard, but I'm sure he could handle the role with this squad of hard-working, defensive-minded Gators.
PG Bradley Beal
SG Corey Brewer
SF David Lee
PF Al Horford
C Joakim Noah
NORTH CAROLINA – I thought the UNC squad was going to be pretty bad but it's better than I thought. Lawson's a stud, Green and Barnes are lights out shooters and Hansbrough is, well, Hansbrough. Not the best on this list but not terrible either.
PG Ty Lawson
SG Danny Green
SF Harrison Barnes
PF Tyler Hansbrough
C Ed Davis
MICHIGAN STATE – Richardson's an actual old man and Harris has barely played (though I think he has a bright future), but those other three are pretty legit.
PG Gary Harris
SG Shannon Brown
SF Jason Richardson
PF Draymond Green
C Zach Randolph
KENTUCKY – There's no doubt that UK was everybody's guess for the best current NBA squad and I think this lineup proves it. A lot of talented former Wildcats didn't make the cut here, which only further speaks to Kentucky's stellar presence in the Association.
PG John Wall
SG Rajon Rondo
SF Eric Bledsoe
PF DeMarcus Cousins
C Anthony Davis
UCLA – I didn't even really want to do a team for UCLA, but Westbrook's too talented to not mention. As it turned out, the team was better than I expected. Even if it is lacking size, it's not lacking scoring or athleticism.
PG Jrue Holiday
SG Russell Westbrook
SF Matt Barnes
PF Trevor Ariza
C Kevin Love
TEXAS – The backcourt leaves more than a little to be desired, but Durant and Aldridge earned UT a spot at the table. Tristan Thompson is starting to come into his own, as well, making this one of the best front courts on the list.
PG Corey Joseph
SG Avery Bradley
SF Kevin Durant
PF Tristan Thompson
C LaMarcus Aldridge
DUKE – Nothing too special here... yet. Once Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justice Winslow land on an NBA roster next month, all three will probably crack this starting five and help the defending champs' current NBA squad stack up with the rest a little better.
PG Kyrie Irving
SG J.J. Redick
SF Luol Deng
PF Ryan Kelly
C Carlos Boozer
WAKE FOREST – As I mentioned above, this whole thing started with me wondering who else Wake had in the league and I quickly found out that the answer was not much. Still, CP3, Duncan and Teague is a pretty nasty trio.
PG Chris Paul
SG Jeff Teague
SF James Johnson
PF Al-Farouq Aminu
C Tim Duncan
MARQUETTE – I did this one strictly for Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan (a Marquette grad, in case you're somehow unaware of that) and the rapidly-emerging Jimmy Butler. That guy's a stud and this team's better than you think.
PG Darius Johnson-Odom
SG Wesley Matthews
SF Dwyane Wade
SF Jimmy Butler
PF Jae Crowder
SMALLER SCHOOLS – No way I could leave Steph Curry, the reigning NBA MVP off of here, so I went with a “smaller schools” category that clearly features some absolute studs.
PG Steph Curry
SG Damian Lillard
SF Kawhi Leonard
PF Kenneth Faried
C Andrew Bogut
NO COLLEGE – And, finally, I rounded the whole thing out with the guys who never went to college at all. No surprise here that this team is absolutely loaded. Even with Kobe and KG getting up theere in years, it's still the best of the bunch.
PG Monta Ellis
SG Kobe Bryant
SF LeBron James
PF Kevin Garnett
C Dwight Howard
Did I miss anyone that belonged on these teams or forget to include a college that should've been on here, as well? I probably could've done a dozen or so more but had to cut it off somewhere.
Through his first three seasons as a Jayhawk, we've seen KU forward Perry Ellis do just about everything.
He's been good in the post and hit from the outside. He's shown the ability to put the ball on the deck and create for himself and score by hitting the offensive glass. His mid-range jumper (particularly from the baseline) is as smooth as butter and he's a career 74 percent free throw shooter.
When he started his four-year journey back in 2012 we knew that Ellis had all of the raw tools to develop into that kind of player. But they did not all show up at once. Little bit little — game to game, week to week and even year to year — Ellis unveiled new parts of his game that almost always took him to another level.
Remember the 2013 Big 12 tournament, where he helped carry the Jayhawks to the title and landed a spot on the all-tourney team? That was the first time Ellis showed consistent willingness and ability to be a force around the rim. And he never took a step back from there, even if asserting himself and his personality remained a work in progress.
Remember the end of the 2013-14 season and start of the 2014-15 season, when Ellis showed that he was both able and willing to shoot more three-pointers? He took 46 and made 18 (39 percent) over the course of his junior season and never looked anything but comfortable doing it. Those numbers doubled his career totals from his first two seasons.
Remember Ellis' insanely productive stretch during the 2014-15 season before he got hurt, when he improved his point total in six straight games and topped 18 points in five of them? That included a 28-point, 13-rebound explosion in a home win over Texas and seemed to indicate that Ellis finally understood that he could dominate games. He got hurt in the very next contest and he was not quite the same the rest of the season.
That stretch, perhaps as much as anything, may have been what led Ellis to decide to return for his senior season at Kansas.
It's not necessarily that he had anywhere to go nor was he deemed a lock to succeed in the NBA. Far from it. Instead, it seems logical that the most productive stretch of his career reminded Ellis just how much more he could improve and served as all the feedback he needed to believe that, with a return to KU, he could hone certain skills and better showcase his abilities in hopes of landing a spot in the NBA in 2016.
Time will tell how likely a prospect that last part is. But both Ellis and KU coach Bill Self believe it can happen and that will be a crucial driving force this offseason.
Talking after Monday's team banquet, Ellis pointed to things like better ball handling, improving on the perimeter and becoming even quicker, particularly defensively. Those specifics point to a guy who realizes that his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame is not power forward material in the NBA and his only path to achieving that dream is likely as a small forward.
While it's logical to think that Ellis, with his skills, work ethic and determination, can get there, it's also important to point out who some of the top small forwards in the NBA game are today — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Jeff Green, Josh Smith, Draymond Green and Luol Deng.
Ellis has a long way to go before he's on the same level as any of those guys, but you don't have to squint too hard to see it happening, at least in terms of him being able to compete at their position. Draymond Green was a power player for the Michigan State Spartans during his college career and he's now another one of those perimeter weapons for the Golden State Warriors. Leonard was among the conference leaders in rebounding during his days at San Diego State but now looks like one of the most dynamic offensive players in the game.
Ellis will never be as good as Leonard or Green. But the one delivered by Green, who stands 6-7, 229 pounds, is the perfect type of transformation for Ellis to aspire to have. Think Poor Man's Draymond Green on the end of some NBA bench. Sound a little underwhelming? I bet Ellis would take it in a second.
If Self and the Jayhawks can land a couple of big men in this recruiting class — say Cheick Diallo, Mike Thorne Jr., and/or Stephen Zimmerman — that will give Ellis more freedom to hone those small forward skills, much in the same way Marcus Morris was able to do it during his time as a Jayhawk.
If not, well, what's Ellis have to lose by returning to school and passing on a draft that might not have had a spot for him anyway?
Let me start by saying I thought Wayne Selden's announcement — via press release — that he was returning to Kansas University for his junior season was handled perfectly.
Selden, who enjoyed a solid freshman season but took a step back in a few areas as a sophomore, sounded sincere, outlined several good reasons for his return and even addressed how motivated he was by his rough 2014-15 season.
Good on ya.
The problem, though — at least in my eyes and surely many of yours — is that I'm not really sure Selden needed to announce that he was returning in the first place.
The stay-or-go question posed to Selden after his freshman season was legitimate given his recruiting ranking, his productive season and the inevitable departure of his then-teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. But that same question was not really on the minds of those who follow KU basketball this time around.
Selden has talent. He has good size, can shoot the ball, is a terrific passer and has been trustworthy enough in the eyes of Bill Self to average roughly 30 minutes per game during his first two seasons as a Jayhawk. That last part is no small feat.
But I've often wondered what's driving Selden as a college athlete, and Friday's announcement only added to my curiosity.
To me, it seems Selden spends too much time worrying about his image — how he looks when he plays, how he's perceived in the eyes of all kinds of people and how he's talked about as a prospect. If he worried as much about consistently playing hard as he did about looking hard, I think he could become a serious impact guy and a future pro.
As it stands, he's been a pretty good college player and may very well be on his way to becoming a four-year player. Remember when that wasn't a bad thing?
Taking this a step further, this whole thing seems to be a cultural problem, though, not just a Selden problem.
So many college players these days, talented and otherwise, seem to feel like they're missing out or falling behind their peers — or, worse yet, the high school guys coming behind them — if they're not constantly thrusting themselves into the national conversation or following the ever-growing trend of self promotion that has turned college basketball into a spectacle at which even Hollywood would blush.
On the handful of 2015 NBA mock drafts I searched, Selden was listed on just one — and that was as a late second-round pick. No way that guy's going to jump to the NBA unless there were some extenuating circumstances that would make such a move necessary. With Selden there are none, which made his return to KU not only the right move but also the obvious one.
No need to announce it. No need to give it a second thought. Just get into the gym and go to work. Maybe doing that will make the question relevant again next year.
Regardless of how it was announced or whether it even needed to be, at least Selden made the right move and didn't allow outside influences or his own ego to send him down the wrong path.
That's something. And it should be very interesting to see what the Wayne Selden Experience 3.0 looks like.
Wayne Selden By The Numbers
2013-14: 9.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 53% 2pt, 36% 3pt, 25 steals, 66 turnovers
2014-15: 9.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 39% 2pt, 37% 3pt, 21 steals, 70 turnovers
The 2014-15 college basketball season may just have ended — in thrilling fashion, no less; I mean, how about those Kentucky-Wisconsin and Duke-Wisconsin games to finish things off! — but there are plenty of people already looking ahead to the 2015-16 season, which is still six months away.
The folks in Lawrence, Kansas, certainly make up a large chunk of that group, as Jayhawk fans are always in basketball mode and the intensity only grows after a disappointing tournament exit like the one the Jayhawks suffered a few weeks ago.
With that in mind, let's take a quick ride down Prognosticator Place, where several national college basketball writers were bold enough to post their “way too early Top 25” lists for the 2015-16 season.
As you'll see, the Jayhawks were given a lot of love from these guys, just like they seemingly always are.
8. Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks will look awfully familiar in 2015-16. Freshman wing Kelly Oubre Jr. began the season in shaky form, turned into a reliable slasher, and still provided a minor shock when he announced his decision to turn pro. That may be the Jayhawks' only notable departure. Oubre's highly touted classmate, Cliff Alexander, proved to be too raw to play a major role as a freshman; he could benefit as much as any player in the the sport from another year in the Bill Self developmental churn. Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., Frank Mason III and Brannen Greene -- who should slide into Oubre's spot, and provide more 3-point shooting in the exchange -- are the same group that fended off a brutal Big 12 for KU's 11th straight regular-season title. Throw in Top-25 recruit Carlton Bragg, and there's no inherent reason to expect anything less from the Jayhawks in the year to follow.
Key losses: F Kelly Oubre, F Cliff Alexander (projected to leave)
Key returners: G Frank Mason, G Wayne Selden, F Perry Ellis, G Devonte Graham, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Brannen Greene G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Notable newcomers: F Carlton Bragg
Outlook: Thanks to the anticipated return of point guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham and wings Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kansas appears pretty loaded on the perimeter. What will determine whether the Jayhawks extend their Big 12 title streak and make a deeper NCAA tournament run next March is how they address a series of questions about their frontcourt. Will all-conference forward Perry Ellis return for his senior season? Can heralded incoming freshman Carlton Bragg make an immediate impact? Will Kansas further bolster its frontcourt by landing spring targets Stephen Zimmerman, Cheick Diallo or Thon Maker? The return of Ellis would be critical because he was Kansas’ lone low-post scoring threat this past season. Undersized forward Jamari Traylor and reserves Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson are all back too, but each are better suited for backup roles. If Ellis returns and Kansas adds another big man to its class, the Jayhawks could be poised for a special season. If Ellis unexpectedly turns pro, there will be pressure on Bragg and any other incoming freshmen to develop a college-ready low-post game quickly.
Notable players definitely gone: Kelly Oubre
Others expected to leave: Cliff Alexander
Notable players expected to return: Perry Ellis, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Jamari Traylor, Brannen Greene, Devonte' Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas
Others expected to join the roster: Carlton Bragg
Why the Jayhawks are ranked here: KU's roster will lack starpower. But so many quality pieces from a Big 12 championship team are returning that it would be silly to have Kansas outside of the top five. In other words, yes, the Jayhawks should win a 12th straight league title next season -- unless one of the next two teams listed wins the Big 12 instead.
No. 7 Kansas
Why They're Here: Consistency. Even with losing Kelly Oubre and likely Cliff Alexander, Kansas has a veteran core returning. As long as Perry Ellis doesn't leave for the NBA as well, Bill Self will have four of the five guys back who were starting at the end of the season. The Jayhawks will also be banking on a big jump for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Even though he only played 11.2 minutes per game and had 10 DNPs this year, NBA scouts considered the Ukrainian KU's best pro prospect. Mykhailiuk turns 18 in June and has the ability to be an All-Big 12 wing if he's able to relax and just play—he often looked sped up and nervous as a 17-year-old freshman.
Greatest Asset: Guard play. Frank Mason made a huge leap his sophomore season—averaging 12.6 points and 3.9 assists per game—and he should continue to improve. Wayne Selden has been a bit of a disappointment at Kansas because of his inconsistencies, but there's a reason scouts once viewed him as a first-round prospect. If Mykhailiuk doesn't assert himself, Self has plenty of options. Backup point guard Devonte' Graham came on strong at the end of the year, and Brannen Greene is a knockdown shooter who is a nice asset when his shot is falling.
Will Change If... Ellis leaves or Self adds another blue-chipper or two. There are rumblings that Ellis will consider skipping his senior season. Self is also still in the mix for several of the top unsigned players.
And, of course, we can't forget Joey Brackets, who already has unveiled the first edition of his ESPN.com feature, Bracketology, which has KU listed as a 3 seed in the Midwest, where North Carolina and Roy Williams loom as the No. 1 seed.
Let the countdown begin!