Sunday, January 11, 2009


Rookie big men struggling


Audio clips

2009 KU-Michigan State

— Timing is everything in life, and on the topic of the Kansas University basketball team’s frontcourt, the timing shapes up as less than perfect.

Ideally, a big man making the transition from the high school game to faster, more physical college basketball need not worry about playing major minutes until his sophomore season. Coach Bill Self had such an experienced stable of big men last season he had the luxury of easing Cole Aldrich into a college game so different from the high school league he left behind in Minnesota.

His roster thinned by the NBA Draft after the national championship, Self faces a far different situation this year. He needs a couple of his freshman big men to contribute right away. Training wheels aren’t an option.

So far, the new big men aren’t up to the challenge. That never was more evident than Saturday afternoon in the Breslin Center, where Michigan State’s student-cheering section known as the Izzone aimed much of its clever, relentless sarcasm at KU’s struggling twin freshman tandem of Markieff and Marcus Morris.

Before examining the statistical performance of the twins and everyone else Self used to try to give Aldrich some support, consider the most revealing number of all: Aldrich played 36 minutes, “a lot of minutes for a big fella to play,” Self said.

“He’s a really good player, but we’re not doing enough to help him out,” Self said. “I don’t think the guards are doing enough to help Sherron, and I don’t think the bigs are doing enough to help Cole.”

True, but it’s easier to see that changing in the backcourt than the frontcourt. Freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor played his poorest game, but he has shown enough in other games — 17 points against Syracuse, 23 against New Mexico State — that there’s no reason to believe anything but that he’ll have a terrific Kansas career. He’s so eager to please.

In contrast, the jury remains out on whether the three first-year post players — the twins and freshman Quintrell Thomas — will be able to play to the standard of excellence required.

Jeff Withey, the 7-footer who originally signed with Arizona, is supposed to begin practicing with Kansas on Saturday and will be eligible to play in games after first semester next year. If Withey and power forward recruit Thomas Robinson prove ready to contribute as freshmen, it’s possible KU will need the twins and Thomas more this season than next, by which time Aldrich will have added strength that will make him an even bigger force.

Self attributed the lackluster performances of the Morris twins (combined six points, three rebounds, seven personal fouls in 22 minutes) to youth.

“I don’t think they’ve found their niche at all yet,” Self said. “I think Markieff is closer than Marcus because he kind of figures out who he is — of course he thinks he’s a championship wrestler the way he fouls everybody, mauls everybody. I think it will happen, but there are certain things you have to understand enough to help the team win.”

Self said he thinks it will happen. He didn’t sound convinced. How could he be?


cklarock 11 years, 3 months ago

It's not realistic to expect freshmen to have it all figured out by conference play. Some players need a full season to really understand their job, and some need years to become impact players (a la Kaun and Jackson).Keep in mind that those freshmen just went up against the best team they've played since . . . ever. Michigan St. are legit. It's not surprising that some of our guys looked like deer in headlights. The fact is, it'll be a rollercoaster all season long. The better teams are going to make our guys look worse.Personally, I accept the reality and am still enjoying the process. It's a great time to be a Jayhawk!

jaybate 11 years, 3 months ago

Don't overestimate the wins.Don't overestimate the losses.It took this young KU team three tries before it could beat a good D1 team on its home court (or annex court). Syracuse? No. UMass? No. UTenn? Monster win. That is just about the right number of tries without a future college and NBA hall of famer on the team, don't you think?It should also take this young KU team 3-4 tries, before it can beat a legitimate D1 power on that team's wood. Aridzona? No. MSU. No. Who's got next D1 power on the road?The next good D1 team on the road is Baylor.The next D1 power is OU February 23.The next comes quickly: Tayhas on March 7.I'm not saying KU will win all of its road games before Baylor, but Baylor is the next barometric test of road pressure with a proven good team. Mark February 2 on the calendar. Set the barometer needle on your Brookstone Basketball Weather Center the morning of February 2. Check whether it has risen, or fallen, after that evening. If the needle has fallen from the marked level, that means road pressure has fallen, because KU has won. But even if KU loses to Baylor, leap not to the conclusion that KU is a beaten dog, ravaged by the hail in Baptist land.

jaybate 11 years, 3 months ago

Next up are the Capel-led Mugger Ballers--you remember those guys. They are the guys that fouled RR so hard that he actually flew off the court and into the arena shadows, as if it were a World Wrestling Federation contest played for keeps with Jesse Ventura main lining methamphetamines. It will have been the toughening provided by this loss to Ratso Izzo and his East Lansing Hit Men that just might carry us to an OU win...if the frosh indeed have been toughened and not cowered by the experience. OU is terrific, but not deep. KU was supposed to be deep, until Quintrell Thomas became allergic to PT. If we could get them in foul trouble...and if Quintrell could get back to playing 10 minutes...and if Releford could get his line score out of Base 2...and if The Twins and Taylor get over fear of flying among opponents that want to first foul you and then kick you as you hit the floor, well, we could upset them.Still, it is pretty tough to get the break through win against a Top 5 ranked team with two, maybe three, future NBA players.So: yes, KU could get beat on the road in Norman, Oklahoma by the Blake and Willie Show. This leaves Tayhas. KU beats the Horns, splits in the Conference Tourney and gets a very low seed that pits them against a Number 1 seed in the second round.The game against that Number 1 seed should be this team's finest hour, win or lose. They will be mean by then.

Dyrk Dugan 11 years, 3 months ago

We play Texas at home. I don't know if jaybate was saying where we play them, but i think it infers a road game...and it is not. it doesn't matter about the road record, or how many tries we have to play well anywhere you play. the reason why road games are tougher, is because the home team plays's just that simple. so to win on the road, you have to overcome that.Nobody, and i mean nobody, goes out and whips everybody they play on the just doesn't happen. if you're really good, then you'll win a majority, or even a vast majority of games on the road...and you may win them by scant margins, or a few by big ones.KU has to figure out a way to win 10 games in the league.....that's it. it's the goal of this team, or should be. i buffer it at 11-5....7-1 at home, and 4-4 on the road...and we'll drop one somewhere else. we should, emphasis should, win the following games: HOME vs. KSU, OSU, MU, NU, CU, ISU, A&M. ROAD vs. NU, ISU, TTech, CU. if that happens, it's 11-5. one more loss, and it's 10-6. can we beat UT at home? of course, but don't bank on it. can we win at MU and KSU? sure, but it should not be counted on.The twins and Tyshawn HAVE to play better. that's all there is to it. we have to rely on them for SOMETHING. if they play like they did yesterday, we won't win 8 games in the league. concentrate on ball handling, D and rebounding, and they'll be fine. think about everything else, then it's woe is me. i expect them to overcome "the wall" they seem to have hit. Go Jayhawks! and get 'er done.

Okoboji84 11 years, 3 months ago

There is no question in my mind that Markieff is going to be a good player! He is already better than Jackson and Kaun were as freshman. Hopefully is brother Marcus doesn't pull him down. Hopefully Marcus isn't the seacond coming of Cj Giles.

doug_lemoine 11 years, 3 months ago

You guys probably saw the same thing that I did during the MSU game: The Michigan State players were bringing it. It was ROUGH. They went out of their ways to needle everyone, especially the twins, and the MSU big guys seemed to constantly tangle themselves under the hoop. It's JV sh*t, of course, but the twins have to learn to let it go because they're only going to get more during the conference season. They spent more time complaining about it, pleading with the refs, and whining. Was it any surprise that they weren't more effective? On the coaching side, I was baffled by the lack of alternate schemes during the MSU run in the first half. Why not throw a press at them? The timeouts seemed to disrupt the flow, but the offense and transition games were just not working. Against Siena, Self switched Brady to the point when it got close (and when Siena was keying on Sherron) at the end, and he was able to penetrate and dish. Maybe Brady wouldn't have been right against MSU, but there needs to be someone (other than Sherron) who can break down the defense. Tyshawn just isn't getting it done here.

Chris Corley 11 years, 3 months ago

One of the things that always impressed me about last year's team was the lack of whining. I can still see a clear picture in my head of Rush being the victim of a bad call and just putting his head down and jogging to the other side of the floor. I always wanted to ask Coach Self if that as something that his staff stressed or just something that his players were classy (and confident) enough to do. The Morris twins need to 86 the whining. Seems like everyone is getting tired of it.

Chris Corley 11 years, 3 months ago

Also, realistically, I can see us splitting with every team in the North. Sad but true. But, hey, we won the National Championship last year so I'm not sweatin' it.

kcroyal 11 years, 3 months ago

MSU killed KU on the offensive glass. KU gets half of those rebounds game is a lot closer.

jaybate 11 years, 3 months ago

mvjayhawk,Best news all day. Texas IS a home game! You are right. I thought it was a road game.

Tony Bandle 11 years, 3 months ago

Youth is no excuse...I beg to differ.1] So far only two games further than 50 miles from Allen Fieldhouse.2] No conference games.3] Best players are a junior and a sophomore, neither who started last year.4] ZERO senior leadership.5] Supposedly strongest new player {Little] ineffective to the point of redshirting.6] Defending National Champion target on our backs for EVERY game.Come on, everyone. Three months ago we all talked of patience, support and understanding for this team to grow into a force. I won't judge this team till the Big Twelve Tourney and if they come up short, so be it!!Next year's crop of recruits are all higher ranked than anyone we have this year, plus this year's Hawks will be tempered and battle tested for 2010...that's the season we should all be pointing for.

ku98 11 years, 3 months ago

I find the twins unimpressive at best.... and please stop comparing their stats to Gooden's or Julian's when they were freshmen. Yes, their stats look fairly similar... but definitely not in terms of skills, intensity, and most of all, ATHLETICISM. The twins look like they have their feet stuck in concrete... When I saw Drew or Julian back when they were freshmen, I could see potential, I could see NBA written all over them... When I see the twins, I just see a couple of crybabies who thought that bringing their prep school game to Kansas would be enough to get by. They can't shoot, they can't defend... but they sure can foul and whine...

vmwskywalk 11 years, 3 months ago

The twins look lazy, lost, and don't show any smarts. Worst of all they whine. Certainly not the way to capture the hearts and minds of Jayhawk faithful.

rawkhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

I still like the twins...give them time...

kranny 11 years, 2 months ago

I don't think this team has near the natural athleticism of the championship team-no high flyers, etc. But, I do think this team has exceptional talent. At some point it will all click and the game will come naturally. They won't be quite so easy to defend. Quite frankly, I like the twins attitudes. After they mature some, that tough-mindedness will be the difference in getting those 50/50 rebounds. Like I said before, 09-elite 8, 10-final 4, 11-championship game(if everybody stays).

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