Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kansas-bound: With help from mom, Josh Selby makes it to KU

Josh Selby, right, gives his mother, Maeshon Witherspoon, a hug on the court following the Jordan Brand Classic. Selby announced that he would play basketball at Kansas University on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Josh Selby, right, gives his mother, Maeshon Witherspoon, a hug on the court following the Jordan Brand Classic. Selby announced that he would play basketball at Kansas University on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.


— Josh Selby committed to Kansas University on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in front of hundreds of thousands of fans on ESPN2. He’s the country’s fourth-ranked player according to, and that ranking might move up. Most fans know him as the 6-foot-3 guard with mad hops and nearly unlimited shooting range.

His mother, Maeshon Witherspoon, says there’s something much more impressive about Selby than his basketball skills, though.

To make it to this point — in a single-parent household and through a tough Baltimore neighborhood — he never let himself get lost along the way.

“He’s never given up,” Witherspoon said. “I would say that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”

‘Rough times’

Selby doesn’t talk much about his childhood, simply labeling it as “rough times.”

Witherspoon, meanwhile, admitted her son has seen more bad things in west Baltimore than even she has.

When Selby was 5, for instance, Witherspoon took him to his grandmother’s house on New Year’s Eve so that she could go to her job at McDonald’s.

The neighborhood that night was filled with gunfire, as people randomly shot off bullets in the street to celebrate the holiday. Witherspoon received a call from her son. He was frightened, talking about the sounds he had heard outside the windows.

Witherspoon didn’t hesitate.

“I’m on my way,” she told him.

Though she had additional cleaning work still to do, she left her workplace to pick up Selby.

Witherspoon and Selby had an even tougher experience when Selby was in middle school.

Witherspoon, who was working on buying a house, quit her job as an assistant manager at Boston Market to take another position.

When that job fell through, Witherspoon and a roommate fell behind on rent. They received an eviction notice shortly after.

Selby and Witherspoon were homeless.

The two moved in with some of Witherspoon’s friends. Selby slept in the same bed as two boys, while Witherspoon shared a bed with two other people in the living room.

Selby on Selby

Baltimore, Md., guard Josh Selby talks about himself and getting to where he is.

“You feel like a failure as a parent,” Witherspoon said. “As a parent, you look around, watching your kid in bed with two other kids. To me, that wasn’t acceptable. Not as a parent.”

Worse for Witherspoon was that she was seeing a difference in Josh’s attitude. She started to see the signs of him becoming what she calls a “street kid.”

“He wanted to be bad,” Witherspoon said. “He was thinking about ditching school and talking back and skipping curfew, because that’s a product of where we were living at.”

Witherspoon knew, at about that age, many kids started to sell drugs. It was only natural for middle-school boys to want the clothes and new shoes that their friends had.

Though Selby had shelter, food and clothing, he didn’t have those luxury items.

“I was worried,” Witherspoon said, “that I was going to lose my son.”

Still, Selby never gave into the pressures. And after two weeks, Witherspoon said she made one of the best decisions of her life.

Before, Witherspoon had been too embarrassed to go home to her mother. Witherspoon had pride, and she didn’t want to be labeled as the kind of person who moved back in to her old home.

“It wasn’t about me anymore,” Witherspoon said. “And that’s what I had to do. I had to take me out of the equation and make it about my son.”

Witherspoon’s mother, Pat, gladly opened her home to Josh and his mother.

Witherspoon sensed a positive change in Selby.

Selby switched middle schools, transferring away from a rough neighborhood to a school with the positive influence of his cousins, Will and Antonio Barton. Suddenly, he wasn’t as alone. He also was having more fun.

Selby still had to push on when other events brought him down.

He was present when one of his friends was pistol whipped, breaking the friend’s jaw to the point where he had to have his mouth wired shut.

Also, when Selby was 15, his cousin, Shelton Turner, was shot while sitting in his car.

Selby made it to the hospital in time to see Turner, who was in poor condition with brain swelling.

On April 8, 2006, Turner died. It was one of a string of difficult family deaths, which included Selby’s grandmother, great grandmother, grandfather and uncle.

Mother knows best

So who was it that helped Selby to keep going?

First and foremost, it was Witherspoon.

“Everything I know about the game, she taught me,” Selby said. “She was probably better than me. I was athletic. That was the only difference.”

Witherspoon was a good basketball player in her own right, becoming the first freshman to start on varsity at Overlea High School in Baltimore. She later received a basketball scholarship offer at Coppin State.

When Selby was in seventh grade, Witherspoon recognized that her son’s left hand was weak on the basketball court. So she took him to the gym, made him put his right hand in the back of his shorts, then watched as he bounced the basketball against the wall with his left hand.

Selby would start to whine to his mom when his arm started to get tired.

“I don’t care,” Witherspoon would say. “You need to use the left hand.”

Selby also has a close bond with his uncle Mike Witherspoon, who has Down syndrome. Already, Mike has had two open-heart surgeries.

Selby treats Mike like his own brother, oftentimes playfully arguing with him about television or video games.

When talking about Mike, Selby calls him “mentally challenged.” Those words sound better than others he’s heard.

Selby even has Mike’s initials, “M.W.” tattooed on his calf.

“Having him around me, that just motivates me more because that could have been any one of us,” Selby said. “We could have been like that. He could have had our talents. So I am just feeling blessed.”

The next step

Perhaps the signs were there for Witherspoon.

Selby did score 64 points during a game as a 10-year-old. That included 48 points in the first half.

Still, Witherspoon believes everything that has happened in the last year or so is still a bit surreal.

She is taken back when she sees Facebook groups that begged her son, a Lake Clifton High School phenom, to choose a certain school. Or when she sees her son signing autographs for fans.

“I’m in awe, because it’s my son,” Witherspoon said. “The thing they really don’t see is how hard he works.”

She still wants to see how he competes at the next level. She believes the true skills of a player show up when they play bigger and stronger players at the collegiate level.

“That’s why I don’t believe in the one-and-done rule,” Witherspoon said, “because it’s so hard to judge that type of talent when you’re playing against high school kids.”

With his announcement Saturday, Selby will test his skills against college basketball’s best with the Jayhawks next season.

Witherspoon said she watched KU coach Bill Self closely while on her visit. Sitting behind the bench, she liked the way the coach disciplined his players, oftentimes covering his mouth to hide his words from public view.

Still, she saw a coach pushing his players. She believes her son needs that.

“When you throw a challenge at him,” Witherspoon said, snapping her fingers, “he turns it on. I want him to be challenged.”

She also wants him to not feel any more pressure than he has to.

Selby has already joked with others, saying if he signs a pro contract, he’s going to buy his mom a pink Mini Cooper and an apartment.

Witherspoon has told her son that he doesn’t have to do that.

“Josh has already given me any and everything I could ever ask for with him getting a college scholarship,” Witherspoon said. “I’m good. He has the college offers. Now, I need a diploma.

“He’s done half of what I’ve asked him to do.”


Jaminrawk 11 years ago

Beautiful. I'm excited for the kid to get here. He's gonna be special.

Martin Rosenblum 11 years ago

"From adversity comes character"

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

"Only the strong survive"

(I saw two kids fighting once in high school.)

b_hux 11 years ago

It's really interesting the comparisons that can be made to stories we've be able to hear and read about Sherron. I'm very excited to see this kid in a KU uniform. If you didn't see him at either the McDonald's All-American Game or the Jordan Brand Classic, you're in for a treat.

This is a true elite-level talent and seems to be a high-character guy.

Rock Chalk!

aerohawk 11 years ago

I can't even imagine growing up in Baltimore. The first part of the article sounds like the cliff notes for "The Wire."

Michael Auchard 11 years ago

Might be a bit of a culture shock for Josh here in L-Town for a few months. Sounds like his mom is a prime candidate to relocate here and cheer him on in person. So glad he's on board. He seems to have a great attittude, more what KU fans expect than some other players who have come through recently.

lv_jhwk 11 years ago

"He has the college offers. Now, I need a diploma. He’s done half of what I’ve asked him to do.”

What to make of this comment? One wish has come true tonight, but can we dare to dream a little bit more?

jaybate 11 years ago

"She still wants to see how he competes at the next level. She believes the true skills of a player show up when they play bigger and stronger players at the collegiate level.

“That’s why I don’t believe in the one-and-done rule,” Witherspoon said, “because it’s so hard to judge that type of talent when you’re playing against high school kids.”"

--Mother Selby

If Maeshon Selby moves to Lawrence, get her a President of the NCAA.

Her comments are the most sensible things I've heard someone involved in college basketball say in about a year. ' Rock Chalk!

chriz 11 years ago

Sensible in spirit, yet certainly not in semantics. First of all, one-and-done is not a rule. It's a choice by the player. The only "rule" is that students must be one year out of high school (right?) to play in the NBA, and I think she'd agree that that rule is actually a good thing.

Secondly, it's the NBA who makes the rules because they control the pro basketball market (let's not forget that people go to college only as a stepping stone to get a job), so Jaybate, why should she be president of the NCAA? What does that have to do with anything? Is she going to be able to chain kids to a campus basketball court during the NBA off-season so they can't sign?

chriz 11 years ago

Having said that, I'm impressed with the job Ms. Witherspoon AND Josh Selby have done in terms of knowing the importance of hard work and being thankful for what's been given to them. It's fantastic that they've chosen KU.

dynamitehawk 11 years ago

Dang. Maybe he would have felt more at home in Kentucky with all their intoxicated toothless hillbillies shootin' their shotguns randomly. Kidding aside - I think that Selby is going to be great, and I can't wait until November. The good thing is that if he shows up with an airsoft gun, Facebook/twitter bug fingers, keys and a bottle of OE, we should have plenty of experienced kids ready to set him straight.

Welcome to heaven!

Rock Chalk

jayhawkliz 11 years ago

Welcome to the Jayhawk Nation Josh Selby. I can not wait to see you play! Good Luck with school and b-ball!

NYJHAWK 11 years ago

I love how his mom stated " now I want the diploma"...Although unlikely he will stay that long, i still like the approach,.Unlike daddy from last year...And you know who i mean..Kinda feels like redemption for us considering all the drama from X and dad last year.

chicagoeddie 11 years ago



cobweb 11 years ago

Raising kids is hard even coming from a cushy background. If Josh is half as tough as his mom, the sky is the limit. Good luck to both.

Aligned 11 years ago

Welcome to KU, Josh and Maeshon. We're very happy to have you both here!

Cameron Schienebeck 11 years ago

Great article. Welcome to KU Josh. I'm definitely more excited about Selby than I was about X. Though X is a good player, I love the aggressiveness Selby has. We didn't get that from X.

Ben Kane 11 years ago

Baltimore is the only city I've ever been mugged in.

Welcome to Jayhawk Nation Josh.

truefan 11 years ago

It's stories like this that make me crazy when I hear an over the top fan question a kids' character. We have been recruiting this kid for quite a while now and I've never heard this side of the story. If he had gone somewhere else some jerk on here would have called him a punk and started questioning his abilities. Josh and his mom made the best decision for them and luckily it was to play for the school I love, but basketball is only a fraction of his life and we should all remember that the next time a good recruit chooses another school.

Jeff Kilgore 11 years ago

Again, I haven't been this excited about a recruit since Paul Pierce. I agree with the above poster who said if you haven't watched him yet, you are in for a big surprise!

Welcome to Kansas, Josh and Maeshon! Just six more months!

Laura Hobbs 11 years ago

Love his mama! We need to recruit her for something.

KGphoto 11 years ago

Does Mama Selby have some eligibility? She looks like she might be able to solidify the paint for the women's team. And if she can't play, I'd bet my last penny that she could light a fire under their asses.

At the very least, she could get them to go left.

per jaybate, and LSHobbs57: Hire Maeshon! Bonnie are you listening?

ksammo 11 years ago

Hats off to Self and company if we also can include Jones into our starting line up. But lets get back to the meat and potatoes.
The biggest dissapointment from last year was our drive and desire to beat the crud out of any team that dare step out onto the court against us. When that ball goes up for tip off, we should attack on offense and defense. We take it to the opponent and not look back. We hand the other team some paper and crayons and tell them to take notes, because a clinic is about to happen. Quit playing this dog and pony type basketball and get back to hard nose, don't care who you are or how good you think you are, you will lose, up and down the court droppin treys and throwing down dunks that say, "Yes We Are Kansas." The most storied program in the history of the round ball."
Know that, Do that and watch the outcome. A glorious year we will have. All the way to hoisting another National Championship.

Vic Janeway 11 years ago

Hope he brings the fight that the Hawks were slacking in! We need all Hawks to give a 110% in all games!,

GabrielMichael 11 years ago

Josh, welcome to KU! We are excited to get to know you! Bring your mom with you to Lawrence! We will make her welcome well!

bossman1962 11 years ago

You read stories like this and you think that every day shoule be Mother's Day !! Mom Selby, congrats on making that choice. It took a lot for you to do that, but it probably saved your son's life. Welcome to Lawrence Kansas, where you will enjoy every second of it. In other words, welcome home.

wonderfulhawk 11 years ago

Josh, welcome to KU.We in jayhawk town are so happy that you are going to be a jayhawk.

gardenjay 11 years ago

here is a college recruit we can all be proud of. thank u hcbs

utahjayhawk 11 years ago

I'm completely impressed and motivated by Ms. Maeshon Witherspoon. She kept her eye on the prize (for her son) and got him there.

Congrats Maeshon and welcome to the Jayhawk family!!

jchief40 11 years ago

Welcome to Lawrence, Showtime Selby. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Steve Brown 11 years ago


each year coach offers a select group of young men the opportunity to wear the crimson & blue and play for KANSAS. We win some, and in due time, some of them win us. Most are are talented and some are special and it is somewhat magic as it evolves.

I'm recalling senior nights or good bye farewells from RussRob, DBlock even X getting emotional that he didn't realize he would care so much.

It goes both ways, we grow to care also.

I'm a sap for sports movies, Hoosiers, The Perfect Game, The Blind Side, and of course, Field of Dreams, "is this heaven?" Roy inquired of Kevin Costner, and I see that line and hear HCBS reply, 'no it's kansas'.

mighty proud & humbled to be a JH.

Robert Brock 11 years ago

Great article Jesse. With his offensive skillset, Selby could likely be the go to guy on this squad by years end. I'm confident he'll bring the firepower that KU lacked this year, that we expected to see with Henry .

Martin Rosenblum 11 years ago

Josh probably considerd Bruce Perl's offer to come to Tennessee where you can be arrested for being in a car with guys who have guns, open liquor bottles, weed and still end up getting back on the team. But, his mother would have set him straight.

He also, might have considerd Cal's enticement to come to KY, the first team to reach 2000 wins by signing players who had no interest in the past nor future of the school's program.

But, he picked our "little team that could", the epicenter of college basketball. No thugball, no princeton offense, no "aw shucks fellas" school, no revolving coach school and certainly no "will these wins stick?" school.

Nick Cole 11 years ago

Little team that could? Are you serious? A phrase like that should be reserved for teams like George Mason and Butler.

We are KANSAS. We are the BIGGEST and BADDEST team in the land where college basketball was established. Little team that could, HA! I want some of what you're on. One second thought, you should probably throw whatever it is away. It's clouding your judgment.

Theutus 11 years ago

I cannot wait to see Selby take the court.... He's going to be special. On top of it all, he's yet another class act that makes it even easier to root for....

While I really hope he stays for more than 1 year, i also kinda hope he just slaughters the league, wins a national championship, and goes as a lottery pick next year. Sounds like he and his family deserve it.

Nick Cole 11 years ago

Why not have him stay and slaughter the league (and college basketball) for four years and win four NCs in a row? Wishful thinking? mamhawk must have slipped me some of his crazy pills.

Steve Brown 11 years ago

Calimari has LeBron, so be it.

Aw Shucks has MJ and is it more than odd that the 1st yr. his school goes mediocre conincides with relevations that he and Sir Charles as the 3 amigos with Tiger on numerous Vegas weekends. Not sure I would want MJ as the role model for many 18 yr. old impressionable sons first jaunt off to college.

Wonder if MJ will be sued for home wrecking and give Elan a double 100 million pay out from both Tiger and his Nike mentors? UNC Tarnished?

Turk 11 years ago

Let's hope he can talk Jones into joining him. Where would we all be without our Mom.

Matt Kenton 11 years ago

Absolutely ecstatic about the announcement. If you all haven't yet, spend a little "Josh Selby" time on youtube. This is some serious serious talent. Throw in the work ethic, court vision, and desire for team accomplishments, and you've got a truly complete package.

I'm only gonna say one thing... unlike Sherron, let's save the parenting and fatherhood for AFTER college!

Tony Bandle 11 years ago

As I have been saying for the last six months, Ms. Witherspoon loved Bill Self at first sight...and was totally turned off by Coach Cal.

I am so touched by her story and her strength to guide her son through the roughest of waters, I want KU to win a National Championship for HER!!

Just a total side note: Thank you to Arizona for your impeccable timing for missing the NCAA Tourney this year and thanks to the NCAA for expansion to the 96 team bracket next year, both have which, unless some incredibly unforeseen circumstance occurs, insured Kansas University the consecutive NCAA appearance streak into perpetuality!!

kvskubball 11 years ago

I agree Oakville,

Winning a championship with Josh would be a super present....for his mom! She would love seeing her sun achieve that!

I believe Josh wants to win, and I think that as long as KU appears to have a shot at winning it all, that he will come back until his eligibility is gone...or we win a championship!

That would be a great come here to win a National Championship! Maeshon...keep selling your son on getting the job done!

Welcome to KU, we are happy to have you join the family!

Andy Hess 11 years ago

so Josh is cousins with Will and Antonio Barton, the commits to Memphis? weird...

kvskubball 11 years ago

Yeah, and it was kind of interesting that he made it pretty clear early on that, his decision would NOT be affected by where they went!

chriz 11 years ago

Doesn't Jesse know that it's "Down's Syndrome" and not "Down syndrome"?

Laura Hobbs 11 years ago

Actually, Jesse is correct. The National Down Syndrome Society and the AP Stylebook prefer Down Syndrome. See:

May the spirit of John Bremner, the KU journalism legend, live on in all of us old copyeditors!

rastameta 11 years ago

Actually, both are correct. Down's is used more in British English. Most American medical journals only use Down.

chriz 11 years ago

Okay, but he still didn't capitalize "Syndrome", removing any benefit of the doubt I would've otherwise given him. haha

aerohawk 11 years ago

You clearly didn't read the link that was provided on the subject. So why are you still acting like you are cool?

chriz 11 years ago

Because I AM cool, Arial. Get used to it. Cool people don't have to read links.

Jesse Newell 11 years ago

My AP Stylebook has "Down syndrome" as the correct way to write it.

SCHNBALL 11 years ago

Great points jbate. What will be different this year, loads of talent again but will self change anything within his coaching style? Will this team have a leader and any toughness? Are we looking for the next big thing in every recruit? I almost feel there is so much talent that there are to many players to please! Self does not sit players like he used to during games, with the exception of Tyshawn! And where do morningstar and reed truly fit in on the depth chart!

Charles Shirley 11 years ago

Great story! I hope he brings intensity to his game that this year's crew lacked. They had the talent, just not the killer instinct.

Scott Smetana 11 years ago

PG - Selby SG - TT 3 - Reed 4 - Morris 5 - Morris

Bench PG -EJ SG - Brady, Releford, CJ 3 - Little 4 - T. Rob 5 - Withey

Wow are we deep again. You all may disagree with Reed over Little, but I think he was better than X last year.

Sam Constance 11 years ago

I don't know about being "better than X" but I am definitely a fan of Reed. He has been possibly KU's most underrated player the past two years.

However, he can't play the 3 from a simple size standpoint. He doesn't have the height, length or bulk to guard your typical swing player, and a lot of swing players would be able to lock him down on the defensive end.

He's a great player, but I his best role is coming off the bench as a player who can stretch defenses and provide a spark on offense. And in the 2-guard spot.

Scott Smetana 11 years ago

Good point on the size. However, i feel he's the RussRob of this team and would rather see him getting the minutes over TT. I've defended TT for a long time on here, but think that experience, consistency, and leadership in tough games is what we need and Reed has.

So who plays the 3 spot? Markieff? I'm not that convinced about Little as everyone else.... especially his footspeed on Defense.

Sam Constance 11 years ago

Yes, Little was definitely a question mark for me as well, but I think he's our best option thus far. We'll see how the recruitment of the Terrence's (Ross and Jones) goes.

It's entirely possible that he struggled somewhat in 2009 because he wasn't fully healthy and because he was making the transition from JC player to starting on one of the most storied Division I programs of all-time. I have also heard that Little is much improved based on his practices/scrimmages.

Of course, you may remember that Mr. Case was the most dead-eye shooter of all practice. Never could put it together in a game outside of that performance against TCU his senior year.

Mike Kendall 11 years ago

Great, inspiring story on Josh. You know Paul Pierce came from a similar situation (rough neighborhood, etc.) in Oakland, California. You have to admire Mom working at McDonald's, trying to make ends meet. Welcome to Jayhawk Nation, Josh!

Dr. Robert s. Mosser 11 years ago

Paul Pierce came from Inglewood, A suburb of LA, close to LAX and the old Forum

SoCalAlum 11 years ago

The truth is, "The Truth" spent most of his pre-KU life (through high school) in Inglewood, California, not's impossible to judge who came from a "rougher" background when considering Paul Pierce, Sherron, and now Josh Selby, but the important similarity is, they all survived...and succeeded.

Martin Rosenblum 11 years ago

BleedCandB -

Having trouble comprehending the subtle style of writing know as sarcasm? How could you take that one small piece of my comment out of context and twist the whole message that I was going for? Surely, you don't think that my opinion is that KU and Butler should be compared. The mere flaw in the whole NCAA tournament that allows for teams such as Butler and Duke to advance and for KU to exit prematurely is a pet peeve with me. Any team that wins their conference's regular season and conference tournament is clearly a more worthy team than one that didn't acheive those feats and only had to win basically 4 games to advance to the Final Four against lower seeded teams. Maybe I should have used my alternate description for our team, the Rodney Dangerfield of Division One. Did you get that analogy?

rges 11 years ago

This kids story sounds a lot like a former Jayhawk... Darnell Jackson anybody??? If he has half the heart of Darnell he is going to be a hell of a ball player! Thats great to hear im already excited for next years team

Spencer Goff 11 years ago

His mom sounds awesome, I don't recall a student I have been more stoked about coming here. Rock Chalk buddy!

Mike Kendall 11 years ago


Thanks for setting me straight on "The Truth." I guess one shouldn't always believe what is in the print media now days. You make an excellent point on surviving and succeeding! Well said, man!

MDHawk 11 years ago

One of the things I love about KU is that each of our players seems to have an interesting background story. Perhaps Sherron could speak with Josh a couple of times to help ease his transition to life in Lawrence, which is surely the polar opposite of his life in Baltimore. If anything, Josh will learn he has an 80,000 member family the moment he arrives in town, although it seems as though his mom is tougher than all of us combined.

Looking forward to seeing you in Crimson and Blue, Josh. You seem like a stand-up kid, which is all we ask of you here. We know you're a winner, or you wouldn't have come here, and those two traits together typically translate into something special. Gosh, I can't wait until basketball starts up again!!

waywardJay 11 years ago

I lived in Baltimore a Short time and West baltimore had some really ugly parts.... Hopefully, he will not miss the crab cakes too much.

keith horinek 11 years ago

Sherron said a lot of the same things about the way he grew up in chicago and the tough neighborhood that he grew up in. I know sherron had some problems adjusting to life in the midwest where everybody looks out for each other. It will be culture shock for Josh. Hopefully someone will take him in like Brady did for Sherron. Welcome "home" Josh. You will never forget your time in Lawrence.

Brett Forreal 11 years ago

Thank you Momma Witherspoon.
How did Josh have more points and not get West MVP? ESPN bias...UNC and Duke is getting very old. Both MVP's are UNC and Duke bound. I sorry Josh to you and your mom. You deserved MVP.

jhwk215 11 years ago

beautifully written article, I'm so glad he has such a close relationship with his mom and really hope he stays all four years. Not just so that the team has him for four years, but becaue i like to see the players go all the way and get an education out of their talents.

Greg Lux 10 years, 5 months ago

It is so awesome to see a success story come out of the hood. Most of us can't understand the pressures these kids have to handle not to become part of a gang and stay in school. To make a success of himself is a true american dream. Congrats to Mom and Son.

Rock Chalk

naturalist 10 years, 5 months ago

If Josh is successful in college basketball and goes onto pros maybe he can help Maeson to finish her college degree. That would be awesome! Heartwarming story.

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