Saturday, December 15, 2012


Opinion: Travis Releford making coach look prescient

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson smiles after a dunk by teammate Travis Releford against Belmont during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson smiles after a dunk by teammate Travis Releford against Belmont during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on KU's big win over Belmont

KU coach Bill Self talks about what went right during Saturday night's convincing victory over Belmont.

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Box score


Three autumns ago, in announcing that Travis Releford would red-shirt his second season on the Kansas University basketball team, coach Bill Self predicted the Kansas City, Mo., native would score 1,000 points during his career.

More than a few eyes rolled at a statement believed by many at the time as an attempt by the coach to make the player feel better about not having what it took to join the rotation as a sophomore.

Three years and two seasons into Releford’s career, the 1,000-point prediction had become a punch line. At that point, Releford had just 194 points down, 806 to go.

Looking back on that bold statement, it’s fair to say that if Self could project stock performances as well as he can basketball players, he could turn his millions into billions in no time.

Releford, a tough-to-stop finisher on fast breaks, scored 17 points in Saturday night’s 89-60 victory against Belmont. If you’re scoring at home, that gives Releford 631 career points, leaving him 369 shy of 1,000.

At his current rate of 13.2 points a game, Releford must play 28 more games (37 for the season) to make Self the modern-day Carnac the Magnificent. If Kansas plays three games in the Big 12 tournament, the 37th game of the season would come in the third NCAA Tournament game.

More significant than making the coach’s prediction spot-on, of course, was the wisdom of the decision to remove Releford’s eligibility his second year on campus. Forgive Releford for not always loving the idea. Basketball players love to play basketball and leave the spectating to others.

“At first, when I decided to red-shirt I wasn’t too happy about it because coming into school here, I was one of the guys who was going to play right away and try to make an impact,” Releford said. “When I came in, I realized real fast it wasn’t going to happen for me.”

It’s happening now. Releford ranks third on the team in scoring, first in minutes (32.7 per game) and steals (14) and second in field-goal percentage (.566) and assists (31). Since starting the season 0-for-11 shooting three-pointers, he has made nine of 16.

“He’s doing great,” Self said. “He’s a consistent defender. He’s having fun. He’s becoming more of a consistent scorer. I thought he was really good tonight.”

Self always was high on Releford’s potential. Had he not been, he never would have tied up his scholarship for an extra year by having him sit out a year between his freshman and sophomore seasons and doing it in a way that left Releford feeling as if it were his own decision.

“We talked about my future here, and I agreed with what he was talking about, sat out the year, continued to get better, built up a lot of confidence throughout that and, so far, I think it’s played out best for me,” Releford said.

His efficient line in the Belmont box score captured his versatility. He made six of nine field goals, including both three attempts, and had five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

On a night when Elijah Johnson showed how much better and faster his return to health has made Kansas, Releford showed that the more his team is able to get out and run, the greater his value. He had two dunks, including one of the reverse variety.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said of dunking. “I’d rather watch Ben (McLemore) do a break-away dunk than me do one, but I’m having a lot of fun.”

Kansas moved the ball rapidly in the half-court as well.

“A lot of reps on offense and playing unselfishly,” Releford said of the team looking better of late offensively. “That’s what’s getting us going. We’re all having fun out there, and we’re all having fun doing it.”

Thanks to having the discipline to red-shirt as a sophomore, Releford still is doing it for the school for which he always wanted to play.


chriz 9 years, 1 month ago

Man, this guy seems to "get it" more than anyone else on the team. I love his newfound aggressiveness. Go for the 1000, Relly.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 1 month ago

"...making coach look prescient"

"...two dunks, including one of the reverse variety"

Wow! Keegan has dusted off his literary skills!

Joe Ross 9 years, 1 month ago

I was thinking the same thing. I dont know the stats, but I bet less than 4% of all English speakers would know the meaning of the word outside of its use in context. I guess we're pandering to intelligentsia. Kudos Tom.

John Randall 9 years, 1 month ago

Evidently, it must be a reflection on your spelling. Actually, it's a bunch of guys acting smarter than they are.

Jonathan Allison 9 years, 1 month ago

it's a brand of coffee popular in Keegan's beloved Chicago.

actorman 9 years, 1 month ago

I'm not always a fan of Keegan's writing, but these types of columns that focus on specific players are generally his best, and this is another good one.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

Travis, once a high flying 2, now is a horizontal 3 that can do vertical take off and landings too.

Travis is the Harrier of 3s--a human jump jet--Mr. Versatile.

Go, Travis, go!!!

mojayhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

Had to love the Travis' 2 back to back steals when EJ 'goal tended' him out of the second bucket. Way to keep him humble, EJ! lol! Great game last night, boys! (sorry about the "boys", I just watched Miracle.

jhkprd 9 years, 1 month ago

Did anyone else have to look up "prescient"? Nice word, Keegan. Helps an old guy like me with my crossword puzzles. And thanks for the special attention to Releford. I've always like his attitude and work ethic.

FarSideHawk 9 years, 1 month ago

There's no one better at finishing in transition on this team than Travis. I think it was early last year (or early the year before) that we were horrible, except for Travis.

EJ should have known that and not messed with that bucket. :) Just like a Lannister always pays his dues, Travis always finishes in transition!

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

I didn't read the article because in 54 years, I have never seen the word " prescient ". I don't know what it means. I didn't google it. I don't care.

I just looked at the comments to see if I'm the only one in this group who isn't a wordsmith.

dylans 9 years, 1 month ago

Have you been reading since birth or are you close to sixty?

jgkojak 9 years, 1 month ago

Sorry - but journalists should not dumb down editorials for those too lazy to expand their vocabulary.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

No, but they should eschew obfuscation for those who would like to read articles about sports. I know lots of.......big words....mister. I'm a knower of big words. Big words is my life. I eat, sleep, and breathe big words. Like Grand Canyon kind of big words. Big, man. Now, I ain't talking LJW sports editor kind of big words. I'm not on that level. Oh my goodness, no. But, still - - -Big.


Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 1 month ago

FYI nuleaf...

Pre´scient Pronunciation: prē´shĭent or -shent a. 1. Having knowledge of coming events; foreseeing; conscious beforehand. Henry . . . had shown himself sensible, and almost prescient, of this event. - Bacon.

Chandler James 9 years, 1 month ago

Journalists are supposed to write to connect with the average reader. I don't think the average reader would know what that word means.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 1 month ago

jgkojak: You're effulgent. Yeasty with sagacity. But also fluffed.

A writer should write for his audience.

John Randall 9 years, 1 month ago

Do you mean to intimate that some of these comment are just 'full of it'?

Joel Thomas 9 years, 1 month ago

Prescient isn't on the same level as effulgent or sagacity. I think it's fine Keegan used it.

Chandler James 9 years, 1 month ago

it basically means foreshadowing. Maybe a better headline would be Bill Self foreshadows Travis Releford's future

jhox 9 years, 1 month ago

I can remember when people in the basketball community here in KC constantly talked about what a big mistake Releford had made in going to KU. Guys like Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon were getting meaningul minutes at MU while Travis was watching from the bench. Travis' little brother had a starring role at Alabama as a freshman.

It's funny how much difference a year or two can make. I'm confident Travis wouldn't trade his KU experience for anything now. He's played in an NCAA title game, and has got to play in the greatest atmosphere in all of college sports...probably in all of sports period. He's adored by Jayhawk fans. He'll probably even put himself in a position to make a decent living playing basketball, if not in the NBA, certainly overseas. He's a perfect example of how patience pays off. Too many guys transfer or declare for the draft early, and never develop to their full potential.

I watch Perry's body language on the bench. He doesn't appear to be having a very good time. But just watch him develop over the next year or two. Once Self finally gets him to go all out all of the time, he'll probably leave KU as a first or second team All American. Other guys go to lesser programs, they get to be a 4 year star, then you never hear from them again. Nobody develops players the way Bill Self does. I can't wait to see what he does with a guy like Wayne Seldon.

Bob Forer 9 years, 1 month ago

"Nobody develops players the way Bill Self does."

As long as the player buys in to the plan. Luckily, Travis deferred to Coach Self. Perhaps if players such as Micah Downs had also bought in, they would be playing in the NBA rather than Europe.

Robert Murphy 9 years, 1 month ago

Recently I say him play for the Celtics, I guess it didn't last?

Choctaw 9 years, 1 month ago

He just signed with the Maine Rdclaws in the NBA D league

Jerry Rockhold 9 years, 1 month ago

jhox, great comments & couldn't agree more. I've had 2 sons go to Rockhurst in KC & have watched Travis R. since he was in high school playing for Bishop Miege vs. Connor Teahan & Rockhurst. They used to guard each other & have some great one-on-one athletic matchups.

I was at the game yesterday with my youngest son & thoroughly enjoyed watching the growth & maturity of TR's game.

Scatterhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

Not surprised the commenters on this site aren't big readers.

dylans 9 years, 1 month ago

A few comments about a relatively obscure word qualifies all of the people who read/comment on this site as illiterate to you? The one negative comment regarding prescient is from a Keegan hater not an idiot.

I'm done feeding the troll. Sorry to all with more self restraint.

Norm Jennings 9 years, 1 month ago

KU has been honored with many super-classy young men in our men's Basketball program. Many who were not just terrific athletes that attract the spotlight, but more importantly outstanding team players. I listed a number of gentlemen when I started this post, but realized I would inevitably omit someone that I respected highly. T-relli owns a spot in this club.

John Randall 9 years, 1 month ago

I agree about the guys in our program. Just wish the percentage was as high on this board. Class (or lack thereof) is as discernible in writing as in interviews or performance.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago


You're class half full. :-)

And so easy and fun to poke fun at, too.

Alohahawk 9 years, 1 month ago

Prescient. Not one of those everyday words and surely not befitting most individuals, but Coach Self seems able to foresee a player's potential and to set them on the red-shirt path to maturity. (And for those few who haven't been up to the task, that are advised to transfer.) Releford has proven Self correct in his assessment. Will the same be true for Landen Lucas? Time will tell.

This brings up another possibility: Is Perry Ellis a candidate for red-shirting next year? He definitely has the potential to start, even this year. But if he doesn't improve enough this season, is it foreseeable that he go the same route as Releford? Nine games have been played. That's a quarter of the season. A lot may depend on Perry's on-court performance over the next 23 to (hopefully) 31 games.

As for being prescient, I pat myself on the back. I posted preseason that Releford would score a lot to begin the season, till the underclassmen learned Self's system. Of course, I also predicted that his scoring would then drop off and he would concentrate more on his defense. In that, I hope I'm proven wrong and that he does attain 1000+ points during his KU career. (BTW, I also predicted, from the day he decided to join the 2013 class, that Selden would chose KU.)

As for being prescient? If one predicts that KU wins the next Big 12 Championship, it's 9th in a row, is that being prescient, or just seeing the writing on the wall? As this season has progressed, I've been seeing more and more writing on the wall.

FarSideHawk 9 years, 1 month ago

Aloha, I disagree on Perry redshirting. Not in a million years. He will be a starter by early conf season. With what we have in the post next year, Perry is the only sure starter.

Michael Sillman 9 years, 1 month ago

My education at KU included the word prescient and that was in the School of Pharmacy. What programs were you guys in? Basket weaving?

Jack Wilson 9 years, 1 month ago

The point is that picking a word like "prescient" in a sports headline is idiotic. No one uses the word, the focus of the entire column is on the word, and it distracts from the article/column (which by the way, never used the word). Whether your speaking, or writing, you're playing to your audience.

John Randall 9 years, 1 month ago

What a surprise that the 3-syllable words you use come from someone else's vocabulary. The four syllable one, however, seems to fit like a glove.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago


Foppery again.

Wait to post till after the Prep H takes effect. :-)

HawkKlaw 9 years, 1 month ago

Travis Releford is probably the most efficient player on this KU team. As the broadcaster mentioned several times, he doesn't take any possessions off on either end of the court. And his stats speak for themselves. What a great player he's becoming!

Steve Gantz 9 years, 1 month ago

I never foresaw that so much would be written about the word prescient in a newspaper article about a basketball player.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago


Part 1

Short Form: SWISH!

Longer Form:

Self has a great basketball mind. But what's more, he lives a deceptively simple philosophy of getting better. He apparently thinks that getting better never ends; and this makes him prone to continue to develop everything he does.

He also has another distinguishing characteristic. He apparently thinks that if one goes into a facet of one's game that is uncomfortable that therein lies the greatest potential increment possible for getting better.

Further, as I suggested awhile ago, he apparently believes that in developing opposite sides of one's personality on ecreates a wholeness of personality and player that results in something greater than the sum of a persons parts. I called it touching opposites together to create an arc that releases not just a broader skill set, but a non linear increase of energy. By energy, I am not talking about something out of channelling crystals in Sedona. I mean some greater level of energy of performance. Specifically, an increase in one's capacity to not only play one's team role, but occassionally explode beyond that role and "make plays" beyond that role.

Note: Self recruits players with the kind of personalities that are strong enough to stand going into their uncomfortable zone, develop that uncomfortable zone, and so release this arc of energy that is exploding beyond the role they are assigned.

But note also that Self recruits a kind of player the can "make plays" physically. Many players, like Ben, pass the eye test and so it is easy to say that they are guys that can go "make plays." But almost every player Self has on the team with even a smidgeon of a chance of making the rotation has the ability to "make plays" of one kind or another. The ones that don't pass the eye test are still capable of amazing athletic plays. Brady, Tyrell and Conner each could explode out of their roles to do amazing things, things many thought they could not do. The guys who pass the eye test can do more of this "making plays" but the guys who don't pass the eye tests eventually reveal remarkable abilities beyond what the eye test suggested, just not as diversely capable.

I think Self recruits these kinds of players for a reason. Get a team full of them, regardless of how many stars they have, then take them into their discomfort zones, then touch their opposite sides together, then watch them arc to high levels of energy and explosiveness. Self's glue players are explosive glue players. They glue in places and in ways that are way beyond the assigned role of glue. The impact players are more obvious in this regard to fans. But over the course of a season the guys in the rotation--impact or glue--are explosive in both roles; i.e., exploding to make basket as impact players, or exploding to give help for a stop, as glue men, or to strip a ball, or what have you.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

Part 2

This is all a long way of saying that up to the age of 45 or so, Self was perfecting the art and craft of building Eddie Ball/Larry Ball teams out of "make a play" guys, probably based on the early mentoring of Eddie and Larry. He went beyond them both, because he had a sixth sense about this opposites sides of personality thing--something I have a wild hunch that he learned from Oral Roberts, or elsewhere. Or maybe he just is wired differently this way, has an awareness of these sides of himself, and recognized it on his own. He has said repeatedly he lacked the talent to play in D1. So: how did he? Some how he learned to get more out of himself. Perhaps that was the origin. Who knows? But he figured it out.

This idea, or concept, of parts of a person's personality being greater than the sum of its parts, if properly accessed, has its counterpart with team dynamics. The traditional definition of a team is the whole be greater than the sum of its parts.

So going into his mid 40s Self masters arcing both player personalities, and teams, to release energy that is greater than the sum of the parts and does so with players with swagger that have the physical and emotional compositions to go "make plays."

The idea is simple. Protect, shoot high percentage shots inside and open look treys, win the disruption stat, and then for final separation, go make plays with greater energy than the opponent.

Self wins a ring doing this.

Self wins 84% if the time.

But Self looks around and says how do you get better?

His answer is brilliantly simple and an extention of what he has already been doing.

If you look at the history of basketball, it has been on a long trajectory of increasing specialization, much as the rest of society has been going through.

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

Part 3

But if you think about the Marine Corp, and about the more recent ideas of the Joint Special Ops military teams, the idea is to progress toward totally well rounded soldiers. Soldiers trained to lead and follow. Soldiers trained to to know a thousand ways to kill you, not just one. Soldiers trained to be high tech and low tech. Soldiers trained to be expert in many kinds of roles. Not every role, but in multiple roles.

So: Self is taking the idea of basketball players on a team in that direction.

Why do it?

Because their are synergies within any team when their are several persons with broad capabilities. It is a kind of redundancy covering up injury to one person. But it is more than that. Having multiple persons that can play a role mean that you can concentrate certain kinds of abilities in certain situations and other kinds of abilities in other situations.

Self is now turning a basketball team into a JSOP team, one that is more likely to be able to cope with more kinds of opponents doing more different kinds of things, because Self can concentrate certain kinds of strengths against the opponents weakness.

"Defend where they are strong. Attack where they are weak." --Sun Tzu

Making players play more positions forces them continually deeper into discomfort zones. Each time Self takes a player into a new discomfort zone, there is a chance not only for mastery of a new role, but a new chance for arcing the player's opposites for a new boost in energy and explosiveness.

Get a team full of such guys, and the team becomes diversely capable of defending strengths, and diversely capable of attacking weaknesses.

Developing a JSOP approach to individual players and teams allows one to rethink strategic and tactical interactions with opponents. It makes it so you can put a freshman two with a recoiless rifle out at a 4, and stretch a defense so far out front that your footer and two wings can attack where they are weak, while still defending where they are strong (because they are only 6-7 at the 4).

jaybate 9 years, 1 month ago

The non JSOP mind set says, "But you can't do that against a big thug baller team with all footers." And that is exactly the point. This is a flexible response operation. Self might only do that 3 times a season, but each time he does he massively increases his ability to attack where they are weak and that equals Ws.

These kinds of players also can be directed toward scaling up and grinding it out.

There can be pressing sometimes and not others.

There can be zoning and m2m.

But only if there is no compromising on the commitment to excellence on the cornerstones of basketball.

This is how I see it so far.

But Self is reaching a highly creative phase of his career and he is blessed to have a sophisticated stat guy who is able to use that stats not only to find weakness in opponents, but also to test the effectiveness of what Self is trying, so as to keep him from fooling himself.

This is why with Self we see things tried and junked. Talked about and never used. Plus all the rich experimentation that goes on practically unnoticed by many of us.

The defense never rests.

Self believes in defense.

Self never rests.

We are entering, or well into, Self second phase--at KU anyway--we are in the JSOP phase of team development.

Self is smarter than the average bear.

So was Wooden, but Wooden needed the assistant that talked him into pressing.

So were Knight and Coach K.

So was Roy.

But now its Self's turn to push out the edge of the envelope.

And he's systematically implementing a JSOP approach that others have occassionally approached, but never advanced this far IMHO.

It remains to be seen if it can take Self to the next level.

But its as exciting as hell watching him try.

yovoy 9 years, 1 month ago

Let us not pretermit that Relly played out of position for at least a full season. That might well be one of the reasons that he isn't closer to, or even over the 1,000-point mark. He's also played on KU squads w/ Sherron, Tyshawn, TRob, The Twins, etc, so he hasn't had to be a scorer/hasn't had the opportunity to be a scorer.

T. Releford's true value - if looked at over time, and as a complete body of work - is his flexibility and adaptability. He's been a red-shirt Soph, a lock-down defender, an undersized 4, a finisher, a shooter (saw him go lights-out in Vegas a couple of years ago and a few times since), a role-player AND a leader. OurSelf was looking at using him as a 1 - if we truly believe that (I don't), but it wouldn't surprise me if he could play it.

While on the subject of prescience, I've always admired whomever it was that saw enough potential in Kevin Young to bring him here. This kid sat OUT a year and didn't play any basketball. I would love to hear the story of how we identified him as a target and how we brought him here. Like Relly, dude is a gamer.

beebe1 9 years, 1 month ago

JB, you sometimes get a bit wordy, but this series is one of your better thought out articles. Course the reader has to be sort of on your brain level to appreciate it. Many thanks for your brainwork. (Not on a par with your humor which seems a bit too quick.)

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