Julian Wright's career was there for all to see in one first-half play Saturday afternoon against a sloppy University of Colorado basketball team.
Wright picked the ball clean near midcourt and dribbled in for an uncontested basket.
How great will this dunk be?
Where will it rank on ESPN's plays of the day?
It was sort of like the questions we ask about Wright when we get ahead of ourselves:
How great will he become?
Where will he rank all-time among Kansas University forwards?
It's way too early in the game for those questions, just as it was too early in the game for Wright to be thinking about which SportsCenter slam he would pull out of his arsenal in what would become a 97-74 victory.
As Wright went up, he lost control of his body and the ball and ended up on the floor. He spent the rest of the half on the bench.
Have you ever seen one of those Southwest Airlines commercials where someone is so embarrassed he wishes he could fly away immediately? Wright was on standby for a flight out of the building. It never came. He eventually had to get up. When he did, he limped with an injury that best could be described as bruised pride.
Afterward, teammate Brandon Rush laughed about it. The coach did not.
"Julian knows he messed up real bad, then he tried to play it off by laying on the ground like he's hurt," a smiling Rush said. "That's Julian. But he came out in the second half and played better. He had his mind right."
In the second half, Wright dunked the ball with two hands and no frills and received a huge ovation. Even so, Wright also attempted a hook pass that was intercepted when a simple pass was the correct play.
After games, the media request players for interviews, but coach Bill Self has veto power. He chose to make Wright off-limits.
Rush was left to answer what sort of dunk Wright was attempting.
"I think he was trying to windmill," Rush said. "It didn't work out too good. I ain't never seen that before, not in a game, just falling and laying there like he's hurt."
Wright is high on everybody's list of favorites, from teammates to coaches, from professors to fellow students, from the bowlers at the on-campus alleys to Lawrence residents he greets with a smile and a hello. That's what makes it so difficult for anyone to get angry with him for his tendency to let Harlem Globetrotters moments taint his game and the team.
"He missed it because he was trying to do something spectacular, and whenever he doesn't play well it's usually because he's trying to do something spectacular," Self said. "I think it's frustrating because no matter what has been said, he still wants to make spectacular plays as opposed to good plays. He had an opportunity to get just as big a cheer from the crowd making a good play as doing something that he saw as being spectacular."
Imagine how good Wright could become if he were as adept as Russell Robinson at making the simple play.
"I think Julian is a fabulous talent who makes the game harder sometimes than what it actually is," Self said.
If the dunk that wasn't becomes a turning point, it will do Wright more good than any slam he ever has finished.