KU’s Little expects big senior year

Kansas forward Mario Little pulls up for a jumper during warmups befire tipoff against Oklahoma State Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mario Little pulls up for a jumper during warmups befire tipoff against Oklahoma State Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aside from an all-too-brief trip home for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, it’s been all work and very little play for Kansas University senior basketball player Mario Little this summer.

“I worked one camp in Salina, one in Phillipsburg, one in Pittsburg, one in Wichita and this one,” said the 6-foot-5 Chicago native, wearing his bright red “Wayne Simien Called to Greatness” camp counselor T-shirt while tutoring 100 or so youths Tuesday afternoon at Free State High.

Little also was enrolled in KU first- and second-session summer school classes while rehabbing his surgically repaired lower left leg, the one in which he had a pin inserted April 16 to repair a stress fracture.

Little, who has been playing a lot of halfcourt basketball — “the game of ‘Cutthroat,’’’ he said — has thoroughly enjoyed mingling with the youths of Kansas at all these camps.

“I tell them first of all to pay attention,” Little said. “You can learn a lot. Try to go as hard as you can and try to work on things you learned here when you leave. You can’t go from being mediocre to making your varsity team in three days (at Simien camp). You have to go home and work hard.”

Little, who was slowed by injury his first year out of Chipola (Fla.) Community College, has been working hard to improve on last year’s numbers of 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds a game.

“I am really motivated to show people what I’ve got, because I didn’t really get to show what I had (last year because of the stress fracture as well as broken bone in left hand),” Little said. “My goal is to get healthy and be able to contribute to a national championship.”

Little, who was used at power forward a lot last season out of necessity, should be able to drift outside more in his senior season.

“Everybody thinks I’m a 4 (power forward) which ... that’s not going to happen again,” noted Little, who said he’s ticketed to be “a 3 (small forward), maybe a 2 (shooting guard).

“I’m not going to be a 4 unless coach throws me in for more minutes,” added Little, who contributed 12.5 minutes per outing. “The tough part will be trying to get back in the flow, trying to get back out to the wing.”

He realizes this could be a special senior season.

“It should be exciting (with) a lot of expectations,” Little said. “We don’t know right now what the future holds, just let it unfold.”

Little said he sees big things for several of his teammates, including the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff.

“Both are working hard, trying to make the transition from freshman year to sophomore year,” Little said.

Asked what’s impressed him the most about Marcus, who impressed at Bill Self campers games in June, he said: “His will to work hard. Playing the 4 is hard to get the confidence when you’ve never really played down there. I’ve probably been impressed with his work ethic more than anything else.”

It resembles his own work ethic.

“I’ve been working hard, lifting weights, rehabbing, doing everything I can do for the season,” Little said, noting his leg has had “no setbacks. I’ve been on pace the whole time. It’s not 100 percent yet. It’s better than it was.”

Barnes resting up

Harrison Barnes, Rivals.com’s No. 2-rated player in the recruiting class of 2010, will not be competing in any of the three tournaments in Las Vegas this week.

The 6-foot-6, 205-pound forward from Ames (Iowa) High, tells Rivals.com he plans on resting before competing in next month’s Global Games in Portland and Elite 24 Classic in New York.

Barnes has a list of KU, Duke, Florida, Iowa State, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Stanford and UCLA. He will trim his list to five after August. He plans on making all five official visits.