Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Kansas University’s basketball players prepared for a return to normalcy Sunday following the end of the six-month marathon college basketball season.
“Back to school ... classes tomorrow, man,” KU junior guard Tyshawn Taylor said after the Jayhawks’ 71-61 season-ending Elite Eight loss to VCU in San Antonio.
His words served as a reminder that the Jayhawks (35-3) do double as students pursuing college degrees. Books were to be the total focus this week, with the Jayhawks to return to the weight room and gym soon enough to begin the process of working on their bodies and games for wherever they’ll be playing next season.
There are a lot of unknowns regarding the 2011-12 roster as the Jayhawks look to pursue an eighth straight Big 12 title and postseason success.
The Jayhawks, who lose seniors Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little, have at least four scholarships to give in recruiting. Senior-to-be Conner Teahan received a scholarship this year since one was available.
More scholarships, of course, will be available should Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson and Josh Selby elect to turn pro.
Taylor on Sunday strongly hinted he, as expected, would be back for his senior season.
So far, KU has filled one scholarship slot with Naadir Tharpe, a 6-foot, 170-pound point guard from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.
The Jayhawks on Sunday are expected to land a commitment from Ben McLemore at the NeXt All-America game in suburban Chicago. The 6-5 shooting guard from St. Louis recently enrolled at Christian Life Center near Houston after leaving Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. He has a final list of KU and Missouri. It seems unlikely he’d choose MU, which has no head coach at this time.
Another top priority is DeAndre Daniels, a 6-8, 180-pound forward from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. One of his best friends, Christian Garrett, is a walk-on KU’s team. Daniels has a list that includes KU, Kentucky, Texas and Duke.
Braeden Anderson, a 6-8, 215-pound forward from Wilbraham and Monson Academy in Massachusetts, recently visited KU. He’s also considering Kentucky, Florida, Arizona and others.
Stan Simpson, 6-10, 220 sophomore from Bogan Junior College in Chicago, is considering KU, Kentucky and others.
Otto Porter, 6-9, 200, from Scott County Central High in Sikeston, Mo., also has KU on his list along with Georgetown and Missouri. Other players, of course, could be on Bill Self’s wish list.
Scholarship Jayhawks who appear to be coming back include: guards Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Royce Woolridge, guard/forward Travis Releford and center Jeff Withey.
“Next year if some of these guys leave I’ll have to step up,” said Withey, a 7-foot, 240 pound sophomore from San Diego. “I’m going to try to gain a lot of weight (in offseason). I think the offense will be there. I’m not going to worry too much about that now. When it comes it comes. I think I’ll be ready.”
He said he has the makeup to be a team leader.
“I think I can definitely help out there,” Withey said. “I’ve been around the program a while now. I think it can definitely come out that way. We’ll see over the summer how it happens.”
Robinson, who said a few weeks ago he’d definitely be back, but wavered on that a bit after Sunday’s game, says he would like to improve his 6-9, 237-pound physique.
“I don’t know how much bigger I can get,” he said, “but I’m going to try in the offseason, try to get bigger. LeBron (James) is my height and he’s like 250.”
Teahan, a 6-5, 212-pound senior who practiced all season, but did not play in games, might play a huge role depending on Selby’s status and which players the Jayhawks land in recruiting.
“I will try my best to fill their shoes,” he said of seniors Reed, Morningstar and Little. “Those are some big shoes to fill. I’ve been watching them, trying to learn from them. Hopefully I can become a good leader and be somebody we can win some games with.
“No one will replace those guys. I will try my best to make this team better and hopefully make the fans happy.”
KU has a rugged nonconference slate next season and expanded Big 12 schedule. So far, it’s known KU will play Ohio State and South Florida at home with a game at USC and against Kentucky in New York. Also, KU will play in the 2011 Maui Invitational with a field that also consists of Duke, UCLA, Georgetown, Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee and host Chaminade.