Originally published December 13, 2010 at 10:36a.m., updated December 14, 2010 at 12:00a.m.
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As head coach of Kansas University’s men’s basketball team, Bill Self has the right to change his mind at any time.
As of Monday, however, Self said he was leaning toward not starting prize freshman combo guard Josh Selby, but bringing him off the bench in Saturday’s nonconference clash against USC (11 a.m., Allen Fieldhouse).
It’s Selby’s first game following an NCAA-mandated nine-game suspension.
“He’s getting all the reps with the first group now (at practice),” Self said, adding, “I don’t think I’m going to start him, even though I don’t have a ‘made-decision’ positively. I don’t think I will, because he has to beat somebody out. He needs to perform well in the games, and not just practice, but he’s going to give us some scoring punch.
“He’s certainly a threat when he catches the ball. He has to figure how to play to our other guys’ strengths, and they have to figure out where to get him the ball in certain situations and play to his strengths. It’ll take a little bit of time.”
Selby said he’ll embrace any role.
“I don’t mind not starting right away because I missed nine games. There’s players who played very well over those nine games who play the same position,” Selby said Monday. “I’m not worried at all. I just hope I can bring a lot of energy off the bench.
“I don’t look into all that,” Selby added, asked of the possibility of someday starting. “That’s a coach’s decision. I’m not concerned about that at all.”
Self said the 6-foot-2 Baltimore native likely would be used at off guard instead of lead guard.
“If he and Tyshawn (Taylor) are in the game at the same time, I’ll play Tyshawn on the ball the majority of the time,” Self said. “We tried to make Mario (Chalmers) a point guard from Day One, and then we moved him off the ball and let Russell (Robinson) do it. It was so much easier for him (Chalmers).
“Josh is going to be a point guard for us. He will end up being a true point guard in time. It’s a lot to throw at a guy, ‘OK, you are not only responsible for yourself, you are responsible for every single possession, and if we don’t have a good one, it’s going to basically be your fault.’ I’d rather put that on Tyshawn right now than Josh.”
Selby said he’ll embrace his role as combo guard.
“Whoever gets the ball just brings it up in our offense,” Selby said. “I think it’d be easy to adjust to (shooting guard). The coaching staff did a great job teaching me to play off the ball and giving me some good pointers along with my teammates. I think it’d be easy for me because me and Tyshawn have got a great chemistry together in practice.”
Selby is too busy this week — finals week — to be stressing over Saturday’s much-anticipated debut.
Rivals.com’s No. 1-rated recruit has three final exams and five papers to complete in addition to hoops practice responsibilities.
“The only thing I would like to do,” Selby said of his debut, “is just don’t mess up the chemistry my team already has because they have a great chemistry out there. You can see it when you watch the games, so that’s the only thing I want to do besides winning.
“The toughest thing I think I’ll have to adjust to is the game speed. The college level is much faster than the high school level. That and just the fans because the fans here are crazy.”
He said he has appreciated the fans chanting his name and carrying “Free Selby” signs.
“I think we were ranked the No. 1 toughest place here,” he said of Allen Fieldhouse, “so just the cheering and acknowledgment is going to put butterflies in my stomach.”
He said he appreciated his teammates’ support.
“They were sending me text messages (on road trips), letting me know there was a missing piece and they were missing me with them, so I was OK. I was cool. They kept me going,” Selby said.
He said his teammates have expectations.
“From what they have been saying in my ear, just somebody who can create their own shot and (bring) toughness,” Selby said.
“The only thing I see for myself ... our offense runs through the (Morris) twins. You can see they are great guys. They are great scorers, great players. I take a back seat regardless, but whatever my team and coaching staff need me to do, I’ll do for them to win.”
Self said Selby figures to have his ups and downs.
“We may not play great all the time. I don’t know of any freshman with the exception of maybe (Kevin) Durant or (Michael) Beasley who does look great all the time,” Self said. “We are certainly excited about it. I know he’s excited. I think expectations should be tempered somewhat, not from a talent standpoint, just from the role we’ll have him play. He will be one of five. He will not be ‘the guy,’ just like we won’t have ‘the guy’ this year. We haven’t really had ‘the guy’ when we’ve had our best teams here.”