Growing up, we all knew the wild child who had the knack for doing crazy things and not only getting away with them but hogging the gold stars. The rest of us would get caught up in his mischievous spirit and get nailed by teachers, principals, parents, etc.
Eventually, the wild child unfairly would get pinned with the “bad-influence” label. It wasn’t his fault. The rest of us were to blame for not realizing we weren’t as smooth. We were slow to recognize our limitations were greater than his.
Watching this Kansas University basketball team, undefeated, ranked third in the nation and not even close to reaching its potential, calls to mind the smooth wild child because in the two games Josh Selby has played, some of the guys who play with him have regressed. Again, it’s no fault of Selby’s, who can get away with taking wild shots because they go in.
Junior guard Tyshawn Taylor, who had played so well pre-Selby, has looked, the past two games, eager to prove he can do everything Selby can do. Fits of playground basketball, and, in Wednesday’s 15-point victory against California, playground scuffling, have eaten away at the team’s disciplined style that allowed it to survive all comers while Selby sat out his nine-game suspension.
In the past two games, Taylor has made 3 of 15 shots, scored nine points, totaled six assists and 10 turnovers. He has gone from the player most responsible for Kansas exhibiting such sound shot selection to the player taking wild shots and bull-rushing his way to the basket.
It’s only natural that it will take time for Selby’s teammates to mesh with him. He has some playground to his game, too, that needs refining. Still, what’s a good shot for him is a bad one for most college basketball players. He turns it over too often (seven in two games), as do most freshmen, but the guy’s a natural scorer. Selby’s averaging 19.5 points and shooting .750 on three-pointers, .458 overall.
When Selby and teammates find the right rhythm, this team can become frighteningly good, particularly offensively and in transition.
Finding the most effective way to play together is the primary chemistry issue. Diminished minutes, shouldn’t be an issue. The players know their best shot at a Final Four lies with Selby playing a huge part. He’ll break down defenses in a way that will result in better scoring opportunities for others, particularly driven senior Tyrel Reed.
At times, Selby was caught out of position defensively against Cal, though not as often as in his debut against USC. On one possession, he offered timely help on the interior, popped back out to the perimeter and came away with a steal. His days as a reserve appear over.
“Josh played really well,” KU coach Bill Self said. “He is going to get better. We trapped the post and he didn’t give up a layup. He is starting to get it, but he missed a lot of floaters he normally makes. He is a guy who can score when we don’t really have a good offense.”
Self said Sunday is the team’s next practice.
“Josh deserves to be out there,” Self said. “So there is a great chance he will be starting.”
He already has demonstrated he knows how to finish.