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.”


naturalist 3 years, 4 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.


Greg Lux 3 years, 4 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


jhwk215 3 years, 12 months 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.


Brett Forreal 3 years, 12 months 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.


keith horinek 3 years, 12 months 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.


waywardJay 3 years, 12 months 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.


William Blake 3 years, 12 months ago

Josh... bring your mom to Lawrence with you. It's the popular thing to do these days and nothing beats mom's cooking!


MDHawk 3 years, 12 months 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!!


Mike Kendall 3 years, 12 months 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!


kirkhinrichflow 3 years, 12 months ago

holler at ur boi! we got out guy! watch out hes gonna be goin dunk face on all these wanna-be scrubs, hells yeah


Krohnutz 3 years, 12 months ago

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


rges 3 years, 12 months 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


Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 12 months 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?


SoCalAlum 3 years, 12 months 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.


Mike Kendall 3 years, 12 months 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!


Scott Smetana 3 years, 12 months 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.


Charles Shirley 3 years, 12 months 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.


SCHNBALL 3 years, 12 months 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!


Laura Hobbs 3 years, 12 months 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!


chriz 3 years, 12 months ago

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


Andy Hess 3 years, 12 months ago

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


Tony Bandle 3 years, 12 months 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!!


Matt Kenton 3 years, 12 months 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!


Turk 3 years, 12 months ago

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


Steve Brown 3 years, 12 months 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?


Theutus 3 years, 12 months 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.


Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 12 months 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.


BrockIII 3 years, 12 months 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 .


Steve Brown 3 years, 12 months 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.


jchief40 3 years, 12 months ago

Welcome to Lawrence, Showtime Selby. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!


utahjayhawk 3 years, 12 months 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!!


gardenjay 3 years, 12 months ago

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


wonderfulhawk 3 years, 12 months ago

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


bossman1962 3 years, 12 months 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.


GabrielMichael 3 years, 12 months 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!


sonofdaxjones 3 years, 12 months ago

No mention of a job for mommy with First Management set up by Big Lew, Massa Seff, and the phogtards?



Vic Janeway 3 years, 12 months ago

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


ksammo 3 years, 12 months 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.


KGphoto 3 years, 12 months 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?


Laura Hobbs 3 years, 12 months ago

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


newtown 3 years, 12 months ago

No mention of how he attended 3 different high schools and enjoys driving a Mercedes Benz.................. LOL.


Jeff Kilgore 3 years, 12 months 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!


truefan 3 years, 12 months 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.


Ben Kane 3 years, 12 months ago

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

Welcome to Jayhawk Nation Josh.


Cameron Schienebeck 3 years, 12 months 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.


Aligned 3 years, 12 months ago

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


cobweb 3 years, 12 months 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.


chicagoeddie 3 years, 12 months ago




NYJHAWK 3 years, 12 months 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.


jayhawkliz 3 years, 12 months ago

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


dynamitehawk 3 years, 12 months 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


jaybate 3 years, 12 months 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!


lv_jhwk 3 years, 12 months 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?


Michael Auchard 3 years, 12 months 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.


aerohawk 3 years, 12 months ago

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


b_hux 3 years, 12 months 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!


Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 12 months 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.)


Jaminrawk 3 years, 12 months ago

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


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