Kansas basketball coach Bill Self seeking to fill specific needs as transfer portal rages on

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets the attention of his players during the second half against TCU on Friday, March 11, 2022 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.

Friday marked the 20-year anniversary of Bill Self’s hiring at the University of Kansas, and it’s a safe bet that the KU coach did not think when he was hired that college basketball would be what it is today.

Whether you’re talking about the recent rise in transfer portal popularity or the name, image and likeness opportunities that have changed the entire landscape, things are certainly different than they were back in 2003.

Self has adjusted to the changes as well as anybody, and his resumé during his first 20 seasons at Kansas certainly stacks up with any coach out there — two national titles. Three title game appearances. Four Final Fours. Nine Elite Eight appearances.

According to KU’s official postgame notes following the Jayhawks’ final game of Self’s 20th season, the Hall of Famer now owns a record of 584-132, which averages out to 29 wins per season. He’ll enter next season needing just seven victories to move past KU legend Phog Allen as the all-time winningest coach in Kansas basketball history.

Allen was 590-219 in his 39 seasons in charge of the program.

While passing Allen seems to be inevitable, keeping his string of success going at the rate at which it has gone so far may come down to how Self and the Jayhawks manage the ever-evolving NIL world and the transfer portal.

Early this week, during a news conference before his featured speech at the Dillon Lecture Series at Hutchinson Community College, Self discussed the importance of the portal for the immediate future.

“The portal is more important to us this year than last year because last year we didn’t have anybody leave,” Self said in the Monday meeting with the media. “This year, we’ve had some defections and I think for good reason. (The departing players) can have a chance to maybe better their opportunities, which also gives us a chance to improve our status with those same opportunities. I’m excited about it. … Our success next year will be based on what we do in the next month.”

The Jayahwks recently landed their first commitment from the 2023 portal, when Towson guard Nick Timberlake committed to KU.

With Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson on campus for his official visit this weekend and talented guards/wings like Arterio Morris (Texas), Harrison Ingram (Stanford), Primo Spears (Georgetown) and Jaylon Tyson (Texas Tech) either having visited or planning to, Kansas is in on several players who could have a large and immediate impact.

“We need to sign at least three, possibly four, that are difference-maker type players for us,” Self said.

While the number of players Self and Kansas will need to add is likely to vary from year to year, this cycle is likely to continue to for years to come.

After each season, the KU players with eligibility remaining will sit down with the coaches to evaluate their options. Some will elect to turn pro. Others will elect to seek playing time and opportunities elsewhere. Others will choose to return. And based on how those conversations go, Self and his staff will know how many players they need to add in the portal.

One thing we know already is that those players will be out there. Portal entries have gone up each year since the transfer portal became a thing in 2018, with the number soaring well above 1,000 available players in each of the past few seasons.

While Self has said on multiple occasions that the portal isn’t the best thing for college basketball as a whole, it does make rebuilding and addressing team needs a little easier in the short term.

“In the portal, it’s a little different; it’s more refined because you know at this time what next year’s team’s needs are,” Self said in Hutchinson. “So, we need length. We need standing height. Two of the three (portal additions) need to be shooters. We need an explosive guy that can get it off the bounce and create for others. “We are looking at those specific things in the portal that maybe you don’t look at quite specifically a year out when you are looking at just getting the best player. Now we want the best player that fits this specific need.”

Players can enter the transfer portal through May 11 and will be eligible to sign with their new schools throughout the summer. Most are signed and on campus by early June, however, because that’s when most programs start team workouts and summer classes.


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