Ink-stained arms. Wanted to go straight to the pros. Never stayed at one high school for long. Came out of a prep school known far more for its basketball program than its academics.
Given those sketchy details, it wasn't difficult to formulate a guess as to what sort of player Kansas University was getting when the NCAA clearinghouse finally gave Brandon Rush the green light: A ballhog of a scoring machine who would carry himself in arrogant fashion, distance himself from teammates and do the bare minimum defensively in order to stay on the court.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.
Rush isn't a ballhog. KU coach Bill Self made him ride the treadmill throughout his freshman season every time he passed up a good shot.
He doesn't walk around as if he's better than anybody else. He's extremely approachable. It's obvious teammates enjoy hanging out with him.
The most off-target forecast was the one about what sort of defensive player Rush would make. His length and quick feet gave him potential to play well defensively. His decision to sign on with a big-time program coached by a man who insists on intense defensive effort from players increased the chances of him reaching that potential. But it's Rush who deserves the most credit for making defense a priority and taking advantage of the instruction he's getting.
Early in his KU career, Rush repeatedly ran into screens and was taken out of plays defensively. He got better in a hurry and hasn't stopped improving. Most talk about KU's versatile roster centers on Julian Wright, a slick ballhandler and fancy passer as well as an explosive inside threat.
Defensively, there isn't a more versatile player on the team than Rush. When Self needed somebody to shut down Oklahoma guard Terrell Everett last season in Allen Fieldhouse, he turned to Rush, and the freshman took the senior right out of the game, completely shut him down. Rush also had a hand in slowing down Florida power forward Joakim Noah. Rush started and finished the game on Corey Brewer, but for a long stretch of the second-half, Self had him check Noah. Accustomed to using his quickness advantage against opposing power forwards, Noah couldn't figure out what to do with Rush.
Averaging 13.6 points, second to Darrell Arthur's 15.9, and 6.0 rebounds, Rush hasn't performed like a first-team All-American, but that's no slam at him. After all, he never said he was one. It's not as if he selected himself to the preseason team. He didn't have a vote. Last season, Rush averaged an almost identical 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds.
"We have talked about it a lot," Self said on his weekly radio show of Rush's scoring. "A lot is his mindset is such he doesn't want to step on toes. He has a different mindset you'd anticipate him having. He just wants to fit in. That's no good. The biggest thing is we need guys looking for him, too. ... knowing where he shoots from. ... Against Florida, he was more aggressive. He got in the paint several times. ... He will not get 25 a night. He'll average 17 to 18 over time. We need him to get more aggressive. We want him to shoot whenever he's open. He's one of those guys, when he misses a couple he defers. That won't get it done."
If his scoring could just catch up to his defending.