Kansas University’s men’s basketball team will have a different look for today’s final exhibition game against AMW Team France.
KU coach Bill Self said after Saturday’s 74-73 loss that seniors Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey would not play in the team’s European finale.
Kevin Young might not play, but if he does, it’ll only be to get some work on the perimeter.
Self said his plan all along was to rest his three starting seniors today to get a better look at his newcomers.
“Those guys deserve it. They haven’t had a chance to play as much,” Self said of his new guys. “I know what those returning guys can do. It’s going to be good for these other guys to get their feet wet.”
Self said that he never considered playing guard Ben McLemore on Saturday because of the freshman’s injured groin.
“It’s bothering him. He can barely walk,” Self said. “He’s still walking with some pain, so he’s definitely not going to play (today) either.”
KU guard Milt Doyle also left Saturday’s game because of a dislocated finger. Self said the freshman was fine and would be available for today’s game.
Though it was only an exhibition loss, most of KU’s players looked dejected when walking to their locker room after the game.
“If you’re a basketball player and you play for the University of Kansas, you want to be a winner,” KU guard Naadir Tharpe said. “You should be disappointed by this game. We lost.”
KU guard Elijah Johnson had mixed thoughts after the defeat.
“I like that our team fights back. I like that I see that in our team, and I like that our young fellas aren’t scared of an opportunity,” Johnson said. “Mixed emotions because I love to win. I don’t really like to lose, but I think that it was best to lose now so we could learn from it.”
Short on skill … for now
Self was quick to point out in the postgame that while KU didn’t play well, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.
“What I would probably say more than anything else is that we’ve got a long ways to go to become a good team. Of course, we knew that,” Self said. “We’ve used 10 practices to try to get better, and we should be further along, but we’re just not a very skilled basketball team right now.
“We’ve got good athletes, but we don’t pass it, catch it and dribble it very good. We’ve got to get where our guys can make plays.”
The Jayhawks’ post players had an especially difficult time handling the ball on Saturday, fumbling a few of passes out of bounds for turnovers.
“One of the most simple things ever; we couldn’t catch the ball tonight,” KU freshman forward Zach Peters said. “Honestly, we’ve got to work on doing the easy things right and then the hard things after that, because we can’t even do the easy things right now.”
Following Self’s critical words about his returning players Saturday, KU senior point guard Johnson said he knew exactly what the coach wanted from him.
“To run the team. To be a point guard. And that’s what I’m going to do,” Johnson said. “I don’t run from a challenge. If you ask me to be a point guard, I’ll be a point guard.
“I think I’m personally a point guard. I think it’s in my blood. I think that I have fun leading and controlling and telling everybody what they should be doing, so maybe this is testing me to step up and do it the whole time on the court and not just do it when it’s crunch time.”