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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Collins: Jayhawks similar to ’08 squad

Kansas center Cole Aldrich puts his arm around guard Sherron Collins as the two make their way from the floor late in the second half against  Iowa State Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Cole Aldrich puts his arm around guard Sherron Collins as the two make their way from the floor late in the second half against Iowa State Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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KU veterans face media Thursday

Bill Self is preparing to bring his two brightest stars - seniors Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins — to Kansas City for Big 12 Conference Media Day.

Sherron Collins, who played a sixth-man role on Kansas University’s 2008 national championship basketball team, agrees with those who believe the 2009-10 Jayhawks ultimately could match the accomplishments of that wildly successful squad.

“Maybe ... if we get on the same page like we did then,” said Collins, KU’s senior point guard from Chicago. “Talent-wise, you might say the teams are similar. I think it’s a little better (this year), though.”

The 2007-08 Jayhawks, who went 37-3, boasted current NBA players Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson, as well as Russell Robinson, who is in the preseason camp of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Sasha Kaun, who plays in Russia.

It remains to be seen how many of the ’09-10 Jayhawks wind up in the pros. Junior center Cole Aldrich and freshman guard/forward Xavier Henry are expected to be NBA lottery picks. Collins, sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor and several others also entertain NBA dreams.

“Coach (Bill) Self even compared the two teams. He said if we played them (’08 champs) right now, they’d beat us real bad,” Collins said. “That’s exactly how he said it. When February rolls around, maybe we’d have a chance. We’ve got to become a team first.”

Self doesn’t dispute the notion this could be a repeat of 2008.

“I do think there are some similarities,” Self said. “I don’t know if this team is quite as athletic, fast. This team may be bigger. This team is probably deeper, which doesn’t always translate to positive things. You can only play so many guys.

“This team is not ready to beat that team. It would not be a contest as of today,” Self added. “That team was coming off a 33-5 record, winning a conference championship, losing in the Elite Eight. It was battle tested, hungry. This team didn’t operate in pressurized situations as much last year. I felt everybody was happy with their performance, going 14-2 (in league) and to the Sweet 16, a lot of people telling them how well they did. That team before was driven to do better. Hopefully this team will be driven the same way.

“That team didn’t rely on newcomers. This team will have to rely on some newcomers. There are some unproven pieces. There are a lot of similarities from a talent standpoint. From a natural talent standpoint, we have some nice players.”

And, just like the 2008 team …

“I think they are good kids. They are fun to be around, unselfish. They play like they like each other,” Self said. “We don’t have guys into the game just for them.”

One thing is certain: Comparisons between this year’s team and the ’08 title squad will be discussed much in the media, but not in the locker room.

“Some of us weren’t here in 2008,” senior guard/forward Mario Little said. “We’ll set our own goals. We won’t go off 2008. There’s not pressure we have to win because the 2008 team won. We’ll just go play.”

“Coach lets us know we have a long way to go,” sophomore guard Taylor said. “It’s good that people see us as the best team in the country, but we know we’re nowhere near that yet. If we come in with the attitude of getting better every day, the better we’ll be in March.”

The 2009-10 Jayhawks, who have practiced four times since Friday’s Late Night in the Phog, will take part in Big 12 Media Day festivities today at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., before holding a late-afternoon practice at KU. The first exhibition game will be 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 against Fort Hays State.

Comments

isaac6 10 years, 3 months ago

Right, drgnslayr. They also now have a coach who cut down the nets. When (if?) they lose a game during the regular season, Cole and Sherron will not let the rest of the team get down too long, because they know the ultimate goal is to win the last six.

ChiJayhawk21 10 years, 3 months ago

Hopefully this team can work together and improve as the season continues. The schedule is tough and that should help the team identify what they need to work on come April. If the Morris twins can stay out of foul trouble and X can match the hype, this is going to be a tough team to beat!

jayhawkinnc 10 years, 3 months ago

Of course the 2008 team would beat the 2009-10 team badly......09-10 team hasn't even played a game together yet.

Joel Hood 10 years, 3 months ago

This team reminds me of the 2006-7 team, not the 2008 team. Both have/had a moderate amount of experience and surprisingly won the conference title the year before. Both teams' have/had new faces that are supposed to contribute immediately. That team was the first to beat the defending champs Florida and that team also lost to Oral Roberts in AFH. The 2008 team was so battle tested against good teams and the three come-from-behind wins against Texas prepared them to beat Memphis in OT. Who knows how good the 2009-10 team will be, but there is no way they will be as battled tested as the 2008 team. And as we all know, talent is great, but experienced talent wins championships.

Brett Forreal 10 years, 3 months ago

The missing piece last year was mostly not have the 3rd scoring threat. This year relies on X filling that void. Hopefully, Little can step up too being healthy and all. You can't forget though Collins and the big arm of the law have already cut down the nets once. That is a whole lot of experience.

FairgroveJayhawk 10 years, 3 months ago

Great leaders and great followers make a successful combination. Bill self is obviously a great leader. Having the seasoned leaders in Collins and Cole to help mold the new, exceptionally talented players into Self ball will make all the difference. Collins' first quote says it all.

Joe Baker 10 years, 3 months ago

“Some of us weren’t here in 2008,” senior guard/forward Mario Little said. “We’ll set our own goals. We won’t go off 2008. There’s not pressure we have to win because the 2008 team won. We’ll just go play.”

“Coach lets us know we have a long way to go,” sophomore guard Taylor said. “It’s good that people see us as the best team in the country, but we know we’re nowhere near that yet. If we come in with the attitude of getting better every day, the better we’ll be in March.”

Well said and great perspective this early!! I would like to hear more hunger. We need more hunger- starving, ravanous hardwood court ballers dying for a NC!!! I want to hear, "We have one team goal, another championship!" What else is there?

arvadajayhawk 10 years, 3 months ago

Head's up, the caption on the photo needs correction.

It says "seniors Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins"

Thanks!

kccalvin 10 years, 3 months ago

This year's team has more talent and more leadership than the '08 team did. That doesn't by any means guarantee a championship, as the best teams often fall short of the title. But I think our depth will be our advantage, both in games and in practice. You can't underestimate the value of a good second team to battle and push the first team in practice.

Joel Hood 10 years, 3 months ago

kccalvin - I can't argue about talent/athleticsm when you compare 2008 to 2010, but leadership?

2008 Seniors - Robinson, Jackson, Kaun, Case, Stewart 2008 Juniors - Chalmers, Rush, Kleinmann

2010 Seniors - Collins, Little 2010 Juniors - Aldrich, Reed, Morningstar, Buford, Teahan

The core leadership in 2008 was rock solid. I'm not saying leadership in 2010 won't be great, but I'm not sure how you assert it will be better than 2008? I'm not saying you're wrong - I just don't see how got there.

86finalfour 10 years, 3 months ago

jayhawkerjoel, I can see your comparison to that 2007 team that lost to UCLA (man, that was a frustrating game). They were beasts on the defense end but they would have offensive lulls (often go 2,3, sometimes 5 minutes without scoring a field goal and who can forget all of those missed layups against UCLA!). I thought that team lacked an offensive spark, at times. I always felt like Collins offered that with the nat'l championship team (I'm a KU fan who believes, in the Memphis game, that Collins' late steal followed by a three point shot and then his amazing assist to Mario's Miracle was the difference in winning the title -- no disrespect to clutch Chalmers). And remember Collins suffered injuries in 2006-07.

Not only will Collins be the spark again on offense, I think Xavier will be that too. I'm not knocking those older guys but Wright, Jackson, Robertson and even Rush weren't naturally talented on the offensive end. They had to work at it, i believe. Time will tell, but Xavier seems like a natural scorer. Let's hope this will be the difference between those teams and KU can at least make the final four. I think anything else will be a disappointment with all of the expectations.

kccalvin 10 years, 3 months ago

The difference is that Collins and Aldrich are pre-season All Americans, who both have National Championship rings. Its not about the quantity of older players, its the quality of the experience and leadership ability. Combine that leadership with the young and athletic talent we'll have on the team, and this should be a special year.

James Miller 10 years, 3 months ago

jayahawkerjoel,

I may have to disagree a bit....I love RRob and DJack, but they were not leaders like Sherron. Sherron has turned into our general on the floor. He truly is an extension of Self, and Self has unwavering confidence in Sherron and his decision making abilities. I think Sherron learned a lot last year about leadership, and it will manifest itself on the court this year, freeing up the other players to just play. Sherron is a tough kid from Chicago and he can take all the pressure off of the others. I love this team. It has a much different dynamic than the 08 team, but it has just as much potential.

Rock Chalk

Joel Hood 10 years, 3 months ago

Great points everyone. I believe that Sherron tried too hard to put it all on his own back too many times last year. I think that back fired a few times and he had too little gas in the tank (missed FT against Mich St.) But, I'm sure he learned from that. I also believe that he will not feel as pressured to do it all himself this year. He should feel more comfortable to let others do more.

The one aspect of leadership not mentioned is CJ's role on the team. Some guys simply gravitate to leadershp roles, even if they don't play a lot. CJ has already shown leadership in the way they look. It was his idea for everyone to go clean-shaven. They all look like babies now - but sharp and very classy. It will be fun to see what influence CJ has on the younger guys.

kccalvin 10 years, 3 months ago

Jayhawkerjoel, I couldn't agree with you more.

Eurekahwk 10 years, 3 months ago

This team has never beaten THE MAN. In Nov 2006, Florida was the defending National Champion. And they would go on to do it again that spring. Florida was THE MAN. In a "neutral" location, we went toe to toe with them. And we scored the knock out in OT. Fast forward a year later, we have a senior led squad that has already beaten the best. Who did they have to be afraid of? This team hasn't beaten anybody. It was great that they overachieved last year, but to say they are the best based on the fact that everyone came back is bad logic. Michigan State comes back pretty much intact. I'm sure they'll be improved. But pretty much anyone can win now. The field is very even.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 3 months ago

Lots of talk about Sherron's leadership on this team compared to the leadership (void?) on the '08 team. There was lots of experience on the '08 team, but not nearly as much leadership.

What rarely gets talked about (anymore) was Sherron's followership in '08. How many times were people posting (especially after a loss or lesser game) about needing Sherron to start in place of RR. Sherron showed his leadership in waiting by supporting RR's senior-leadership/starting role, and his determination to come off the bench and support the team.

One of the big questions this year is, "Who will be the player(s) that are capable of starting, but are willing to come off the bench or whatever else is needed to make the team the best it can be?"

It won't be at the 1 like in '08, but who will pull a Sherron at the 2 or 3?

Cole essentialy did the same thing as a big in '08, but that was easier. He was the newbie. It will be a little tougher this year when there are 3 players with such a small difference in level of experience. Which big will pull a Sherron (Cole v1.0) at the 4/5?

kccalvin 10 years, 3 months ago

Well i look at Michigan State (who we lost to by 3 points) and I see their best player gone. I look at KU and I see everyone returning, including Xavier Henry and one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. KU is a far better team than Michigan State.

kccalvin 10 years, 3 months ago

And in terms of logic, it makes perfect sense that when one team retains all their players (not to mention adds several incredible recruits) will be better than a team that loses their best player that the adds very little in terms of recruiting.

86finalfour 10 years, 3 months ago

Yes Dagger, I was one of those posters in 06-08 who constantly nagged that Collins was a better point that RR. But I think it worked out the way it was supposed to. Self knew just the right role for him (he was also still not 100% healthy during 07-08 according to Self). From now on, I don't question Self :)

kansas22 10 years, 3 months ago

Is it basketball season yet? God, I can't wait til the first tipoff. Rock Chalk!

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

Warning: Some Cold Water Is Splashed in this Post

Comparing this team to the '08 team seemed reasonable, even prudent, a month or so back. Talking about a 40-0 season and a ring, given the competition in D1 this year, even talk of it making a run at being one of the great teams of all time, seemed within the realm of possibility a month or so ago. But that was then and this is now. Things changed. Excrement happened.

Self is in what might be called soft damage control mode. He has so many bodies he could afford for half the team to take a powder and he could still field a good club. But he is clearly not driving a V-12 anymore. He is driving a V-12 operating on 8, or 9, cylinders. He has gotten what he wanted: an 8 or 9 man team without even having to do a thing. The players have done it for him. To wit:

A thirty minute man off last year's team--the team's best outside shooter and defender-appears to be drying out the first semester.

The long awaited 7' Withey is now an out of shape gimp recovering from mono and a knee injury. He even missed the last week of boot camp, and he'll be out 4-8 weeks. Thomas Robinson leads a charmed life.

Coach Self can't see Mario Little anywhere yet, even with all the recent goofs by players, and even with all of Mario's supposed recovery.

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

Xavier, the OAD, showed zip in the Late Night scrimmage. He walked around looking good, but did zip. This is good for a model, but not for a guy who is supposed to be an impact player that is supposed to form a triad of great players--Collins, Aldrich and Henry. Everyone quickly said this didn't matter including me. But while this doesn't mean Xavier won't have a good season, it almost certainly means he is not a dominating frosh like a Michael Beasley, a Kevin Durant, or a Brandon Rush. Don't underestimate the significance of this, as I first did. This team needs some one dominating at the three, someone very close to the caliber of Rush, as a freshman. But top notch players don't disappear in grab-ass scrimmages any more than they disappear in conference games. Rush could wait for the game to come to him too much, but he inevitably weighed in. Inference: Xavier is a great body, who is not yet a dominant D1 player. For KU to be a team the caliber of the '08 team, they need a third dominant player, a third guy who always brings it, a third guy who gives match-up advantage and impact plays every game. Disappearing in a scrimmage is not indicative of a Brandon Rush, who Self turned the offense over to as a frosh. 3s like Rush and Paul Pierce don't really disappear. They have bad games, bad streaks where they can't hit, times when they let the game come to them too much, but they never disappear.

I detest press-titute Goodman as much as anyone, but Xavier did not do what great players do in an intra-squad scrimmage, certainly in an introductory one. Nerves? Uh, what happened to the guy who would go straight to the NBA, if it weren't for this silly one year rule? If he has nerves about playing against Mario Little, what? Would he have soiled his drawers in his first game in the NBA?

To reiterate, Xavier has to be a serious force this season, or KU can never be in the same class as the '08 team. Period. The '08 team had 5 impact players: Chalmers, Rush, Arthur, Collins and in retrospect Jackson. Put the ball in any of their hands and something good likely happened. This year's team has Collins and Aldrich, maybe Taylor, maybe Marcus; that's maybe four. When the "maybe's" become "are's" and Xavier plays like a second year man as a frosh, this team can match the '08 team, but not if not. It is too much to ask. It probably always was.

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

Tyshawn Taylor hasn't even been able to shoot and dribble with both hands for several weeks, because of a dislocated thumb from a punch posted about on his web page--truly one of the most stupid acts of any KU player in memory. Name me one guy on the '08 squad naive enough and foolish enough to punch someone and then post about it on a web page. The KU Kool Jazz Quintet were saavy, whether or not Arthur's head was in the game, or the hemp clouds. And they did have web pages in '08, too, so don't make excuses about how today's athletes have changed.

This year's team has great depth, so much that it can squander it, as it has done early, and still be able to field a club capable of challenging for a ring. But...

A season is sensitively dependent on initial conditions.

A team's character evolves and is the sum total of its actions, not just what it does in March.

In fact, what it does in March is a product of all the dumb things it has done and learned from, and all the smart things it knew to do (or not do) without instruction.

This team has front-loaded a lot of dumbness. Front loading dumbness is a blessing and a curse. If one must be stupid, it is good to be stupid early, because one can learn from making stupid mistakes early...when they are not so devastating.

But at the same time it would be better not to be stupid. The '08 team was NOT stupid.

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

Inexperience is not stupidity either. Stupidity is its own thing. Inexperience is inexorably overcome with exposure to combat. Stupidity takes a whole lot of reps to overcome and stupid teams keep making stupid mistakes to the bitter end, even after they have become experienced. Conversely, smart but inexperienced teams get experience as time passes and make very few stupid mistakes later. Smart and talented teams win rings. Dumb talented ones often run up big numbers (a la Memphis), but aren't smart enough to get it done when everything is on the line.

Wooden won ten championships, because he understood that talent was not enough. He loaded his talented teams with saavy, smart guys who could always find an edge at crunch time. It is not just that smart teams don't make mistakes. Smart teams actively find ways to win, while stupid teams with talent are simply victimized by their dumbness again and again.

Is this a dumb team?

Let's hope not. It is too early to say for sure, of course. For gosh sakes they haven't even played a game yet.

But some on this team have already come perilously close to defining it as less than tack smart. It is odd. Last year they seemed a smart bunch. But perhaps the early competition of a significant infusion of bodies, plus outrageously high expectations, has exposed some intellectual shortcomings hidden last year.

Is this a jinxed team? A team with bad kharma? Fights. Injuries. DUIs. Sickness. All before the first game? Maybe.

But jinxes and dumb actions are not the kinds of things real heroes submit to, even if they are eventually undone by them.

Heroes, and heroic teams, eat adversity for breakfast. The difficult comes easy. The impossible takes a little longer. Etc.

What to do?

The antidote to dumbness and a jinx is hard work and a focus on a team's strengths and leaders.

Collins and Aldrich--two very smart, tough, and talented guys--have to assert a ton of leadership ASAP (and probably already are)...not just over the young players, but over the returning dumb ones. They and Self have to make Collins and Aldrich once again the foci of the team in practice, in games and in the media. Here KU has two of the smartest, toughest and most talented players ever to play at KU--Collins and Aldrich--and the focus has now been on bone heads--Tyshawn, Brady--on an over-hyped new comer--Xavier--and on a guy who hasn't been able to stay healthy since he's been here--Withey.

Self, the team and the fans (especially me) have to come back to reality.

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

Collins and Aldrich are the studs. Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, is glue.

This team is still the same, good, down-the-middle team, as last year. It is still Collins' and Aldrich's team. They just may be able to get some rest occassionally this year. The 3 position, contrary to early hopes, is not likely to be a major strength. It is just going to be not quite as short as last year. No newcomers are going to change this team drastically. It is not going to become an '08 team with great balance.

Collins and Aldrich are still the only two guys with the cojones and character required to lead a team to the promised land in March. Sherron may not score as much, or take as many shots, but he is still the man. Cole will determine how much better this team is by how much he has improved in the off season, not Xavier's, nor Thomas Robinson's arrivals.

Marcus Morris might join their first rank, if he has developed a ton. Self wants him to play 3. Why? Maybe Self has seen that Xavier is a season away. Maybe Self is just trying to keep Marcus from thinking about playing garbage man 4 another season. Who knows at this point?

Taylor gonna be a money player? Not likely.You want to go to a guy in an overtime in a national final who posted his punch on his web page? He's the fastest glue in the west. Better than last year, but that's it.

Xavier? Again, get real. You want to let it all ride at the wire with a freshman who couldn't make up his mind about the college he wanted to attend until he more or less disgraced himself and his mother had to make it up for him? Bulletin: Xavier is probably a year away from being what he is supposed to be. Carl's hype doesn't matter on 90 feet of wood stalked with prison bodies out ta getch ya. No knock on Xavier. Just probability. He will be a fabulous player...but next year. We'll be utterly grateful if he can just fill the three and be big enough to guard the guys Brady can't.

Brady? The steel in him is clearly not yet tempered, or he would never have been out in the car after curfew with a snootful. He couldn't handle last year's success, so now he is going through a down year to find out what it takes. He is having the sophmore jinx as a junior, because of a red shirt.

jaybate 10 years, 3 months ago

Reed? He has the ferocity and relentlessness to be Russell Robinson-like glue. Maybe his shot can make up for his lack of lateral quickness yet again. Maybe not.

Could Thomas Robinson change the calculus inside? Oh, how I wish he could. But ask Kieff and Marcus about changing the calculus as a freshman big. And so on down through the players on this diminished roster that will take two thirds of a season at least to shake out.

This team does have a chance to win a ring, again because of Collins an Aldrich, but only if it can become a 8 man team with everyone accepting their roles and the many guys on the bench accepting their fates. Self knows the depth alone makes this a big if.

Can this team be heroic, like last year's and like '08s were? Yes.

Can this team be one of KUs very good teams of the last 20 years. Yes. There is strength in numbers.

Can this team transcend its early problems and become a Monster of Mt. Oread? Nothing is written. It could happen.

But this team no longer appears destined to pursue an undefeated national championship season that ranks with the greatest teams of all time.

(Sigh.)

Not unless complex processes have stopped unfolding with sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

DoubleDD 10 years, 3 months ago

I'm not sure you can compare too many teams to the 08 KU team. Think for a second that team is the only team to win a championship with all #1 seeds making it to the final 4. They handled a Tarheel team that went on to win the NC the very next year without any real challengers. They beat a Memphis team that many considered the best team of all time. Face it the present KU team could win the NC team and still not even come close to beating that 08 team. They were tough as they come. Many will remember Mario for is game tying shot in NC, but I will always will always remember him wrecking havoc while playing defense. That was the 08 team! They had strong guard play not only could they score, they could play some serious shut down defense. If that team could've hit the 3 ball a little better they would have been undefeated. I like our chances this year, but that 08 team was something special.

100 10 years, 3 months ago

Shnball,

Thanks for the link, I had seen someone rumoring this Wall "theory" a couple weeks ago on Sports Illustrated but now it's "official" public information.

Pretty amazing -- the NCAA isn't mess around this time around (I think the delay in the Rose story has the NCAA office a bit miffed considering what Cal did with 32 million from Kentucky thanks to the NCAA delay in reports).

I guess this explains, at least partially, why Duke & UNC backed off and Wall seemed magically to jump to UK at the last minute.

Even though Cal isn't named in the report, with Calipari, it seems it always comes down to two things -- money & grades. He just always seems to gravitate towards this type of trouble...

As for stories like this, sometimes I wonder if it's "fans" that get these things going, but obviously, once again, it's not. Some nameless poster with something in the know posts it on a big website, fans get chatting about it & soon enough, a legitimate investigation is reported that had started months ago.

Case in point Wall's eligibility -- was he paid & if so, how much & by whom? Well the NCAA might find out it's too slippery to find the truth, but it will be interesting to hear Wall's response -- he and his AAU coach better make a plan before talking. It might be time for the old "no comment" until they figure out exactly how many bottles of ketchup they had to buy for the camping trip....

UK administration, themselves, as evidenced in this story, are now getting very good at "no comment" & it might be a good time for Cal & Wall to follow their lead...

Though not tied to this case, it seems very plausible that the rumored SAT case is being investigated with Wall right now too. I really believe this to be true, mainly tied to how long it took to get to the bottom of the Rose situation -- I think they want to step it up this time around, especially when it's pretty obvious to anyone who sees Wall get interviewed that there's no way in the world he passed a college entrance exam.

Interviews with kids say a lot -- in Wall's defense, in his heart, as a fresh teen, he had absolutely no plan of ever playing college ball. Why would he? Only as he turned 16 did he realize somehow he needed to get eligible for "that one year in between high school & the NBA".

As a UK fan said in the courier story, "the worst thing that can happen is he'll go play basketball in Greece for a year, that's all he would've played at UK anyway."

You know what -- UK fan is right. From Wall's perspective, it's only a year.

ParisHawk 10 years, 3 months ago

Comparing the '08 team to this team: the '08 team could PASS, and value the ball. Weirdly, even Sasha grew a pair of hands midway through his senior year, and if he wasn't 6 for 6 against Stephen Curry we would never have made the Final Four. Coach Self does say this could become his best rebounding team; that would be huge.

How can a team with significant new pieces, and a very tough non-conference schedule, be expected to win every game? When they do lose one, let's be just as supportive and excited as we are now.

VegasJhawk09 10 years, 3 months ago

Ditto what Paris Hawk said. Sasha Kaun was HUGE for us against Davidson.

Chris Bruning 10 years, 3 months ago

just read on sportcenter renardo sidney and john walls eligibility in question......hmmmm

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