KU’s Jalen Wilson within striking distance of the best 4-game scoring stretch of the Bill Self era at Kansas
At a recent banquet for the 125-year anniversary of Kansas basketball, KU junior Jalen Wilson was on his way out the door when an older gentleman grabbed him for a quick chat.
The man was Ron Kellogg, widely regarded as one of the best pure shooters in Kansas basketball history, and he had a couple of words of wisdom for Wilson.
“Young fella,” Kellogg began. “I love your game and I love watching you play. But I’m gonna need you to tuck that right elbow when you shoot the ball.”
Kellogg continued: “And, I want you to look at where you’re shooting it. Look at the target every time.”
Wilson smiled again, this time shaking his head because his dad had told him the same exact things just one day earlier.
The encounter with Kellogg was before the Iowa State game and Wilson scored 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range in the two-point KU victory. It wasn’t exactly the kind of performance that easily allowed me to connect the dots between Wilson and Kellogg for that days game story, so I didn’t think much more of it.
Since then, however, the Big 12’s leading scorer has been on an absolute tear, riding one of the biggest heaters of any Kansas basketball player in recent memory. Could it be that the advice from Kellogg just needed a few more days to sink in?
Wilson scored 38 points in an overtime loss at Kansas State. He followed that up with 30 points in a home loss to TCU. And he added 23 points during Monday’s road loss at Baylor.
His 91 combined points during that stretch are the second most by a Kansas player in a three-game span in the 20-year Bill Self era. Only Andrew Wiggins can top that. Wiggins scored 93 points in three consecutive games during the 2013-14 season, including a Self-era best 41 in a loss at West Virginia.
Wiggins followed up his 41-, 30- and 23-point performances with 19 points the next time out, giving him 112 over a 4-game span.
That means, if Wilson hits his season average (21.4) this weekend at Kentucky, he would tie Wiggins for the most points by a Jayhawk in the Self era over a four-game stretch. Anything more than his season average — which would be no small feat considering the opponent — would move Wilson into the top spot all by himself.
He needs 11 points to top Devonte’ Graham’s best four-game total of 101 and just six and seven points to get by Lagerald Vick and Ochai Agbaji’s four-game bests. According to KU’s game notes ahead of the matchup with Baylor, that group had the highest two-game totals in the Self era, with Wilson’s 68 points ranking third.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Wilson is putting up these kinds of numbers after having that conversation with Kellogg nearly two weeks ago.
But anyone who saw Kellogg play probably isn’t surprised.
Although the 3-point line did not enter college basketball until after he was done playing at Kansas, Kellogg still managed to top 1,500 points for his career. By the time he was finished, in 1986, his 1,508 points easily ranked inside the Top 10 on KU’s all-time scoring list. He still sits 22nd overall, ahead of Wilson’s 1,179 and counting in his three seasons with the Jayhawks.
When he eclipsed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season, KU coach Bill Self noted that Wilson could probably get to 2,000 points if he wanted to stay for two more seasons as his eligibility would allow.
That won’t happen. But maybe this recent conversation with Kellogg sparked something in him that will land him closer to Kellogg’s total by the end of this season.
To get there, Wilson would need to average 21.9 points per game for the next 15 games. KU is guaranteed 13 more games — 11 left in the regular season and one each in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
If Kansas can win a game or two in each of its postseason tourneys, the average required to reach Kellogg’s 1,508 would come down.
They won’t hand out a plaque if Wilson gets there. And a slightly more significant achievement would come if he can get to 1,549 for his career, moving him past Calvin Thompson and into the Top 20 on KU’s all-time scoring list.
But given their recent encounter, which I gathered was the first time the two had ever met, getting to Kellogg’s total would be a pretty cool accomplishment for Wilson.
It also likely would mean pretty good things for the Jayhawks, as well.