Thursday, December 20, 2012


Opinion: KU’s fast break is as good as it gets


In the early years of the transition from Roy Williams to Bill Self, one complaint centered on Self coming from the Henry Iba coaching tree, which requires a defense-first, pound-it-inside mentality. Some missed the off-to-the-races style preferred by Williams, the most prominent branch to sprout from the Dean Smith tree.

It didn’t take long for those voices of discontent to fade away, and this year’s team has a chance to become Self’s best transition squad yet. He still preaches defense first and believes that in the half court the way to go is inside-out, but there’s nothing he likes more than the buckets that come from numbers advantages. His current team has the athletes to gain those advantages and cash in on them consistently.

“I don’t think our secondary break is very good at all,” Self said. “We don’t emphasize it as much as some other people do. But I think our primary’s real good.”

For one thing, Self has front-court players who run the court well, but that’s always the case. It’s the perimeter players, point guard Elijah Johnson and wings Ben McLemore and Travis Releford, who make this team pop in transition.

“I think if we can get numbers and are able to get the ball ahead in transition, there are few people who probably do it a lot better than us,” Self said. “Of course, we have two wing runners who are probably as good as anyone in the country and they’re great finishers. Trav has a nose for doing it and Ben, of course, he’s a gazelle.”

If McLemore and Releford are to college basketball what West Virginia wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are to college football, then it’s Johnson who plays the part of Geno Smith.

“Elijah does a great job of pitching ahead,” Self said. “One thing Elijah doesn’t do a great job of is attacking himself to create for others, but he’s an unbelievable pitch-ahead point guard, and when you pitch ahead to fast guys and they’ve got an angle, you know they’re hard to catch.”

No. 7 Ohio State, of course, is far better equipped to choke the break than Colorado, Belmont and Richmond, KU’s three most recent victims in Allen Fieldhouse by an average of 31 points.

“The better the competition, the less easy baskets you get,” Self said. “I’d be really disappointed if somebody were to play us and they say, ‘Yeah, they’re easy to get out and run on.’ That would be bad. I will tell you this, they’re not going to be easy to run on.”

That fact makes Self put all the more emphasis on making plays that lead to fast breaks.

“If you look at the game last year in New Orleans, we didn’t play very well at all, but they guarded us,” Self said. “And they didn’t play great, but we guarded them. The difference was for us in the second half, we were able to get some three-on-twos and two-on-ones and were able to make six or eight easy baskets or easy points that we didn’t have to go against half-court defense. That’s always a huge key, just stealing some points any way you can. And on the flip side, you just can’t give up easy points.”

For McLemore and freshman reserves Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Andrew White III, the game represents the first taste of playing on another school’s home court.

“It’s a new experience for me,” McLemore said. “I just have to play aggressive, play as a team and give it all I’ve got.”

New environment, same approach. The location of the game doesn’t make it any easier to stop Releford and McLemore when they get ahead of the defense and Johnson has the ball in his hands, ready to thread the needle, the start to an explosive finish.


jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

Aaron Craft's Season Averages

Yr...........FG%.....3FG% 12-13....38%......33% 11-12....50%......36% 10-11.....46%.....38%

Craft has to have been injured lately.

Let's hope he still is.


jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

“One thing Elijah doesn’t do a great job of is attacking himself to create for others, but he’s an unbelievable pitch-ahead point guard..."

--Bill Self on Elijah Johnson

Okay, this quote completely changes what I expect.

Elijah's going to iron for sure in this game. :-)


bville_hawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Roy William's teams utilizing Richard Scott and Mark Randall were excellent with the secondary break. They could make a training video of Richard Scott on the secondary break...


William Blake 1 year, 3 months ago

"“I don’t think our secondary break is very good at all,” Self said"

Since when have we ever exposed a secondary break? I'd love to see it happen because we give up so many opportunities when the initial break dies.

"Opinion: KU’s fast break is as good as it gets"

If we ever think that high of ourselves, we are doomed! Maybe we need another loss to get people back on the understanding of humility and how it helps us focus and motivate at practice.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

"Erin" Craft is the Suckeye version of Tyrady MorningReed. Sure, he does some nice things for his team. But I would like to see EJ+BMac+Releford dismantle that guy. Would like to see his jock strap, ego, and non-hops in full, busted, beaten display for his hometown folks to feast on. Early XMas present would be nice. Signed, NotCraftFan.


Jim Jackson 1 year, 3 months ago

What about the mistake of of not full court pressing Northern Iowa?? Or playing Thomas Robinson and Elijah more against VCU?


jgkojak 1 year, 3 months ago

I don't care about #1 seed - give me a 2 seed and a favorable spot regionally (i.e. the midwest) that means we don't have to travel for hours and we have some fan support in the crowd.

In the end, you end up playing someone - in our case its probably Duke because 1) they like to pair us against Duke and 2) everyone wants to see the Withey/Plumlee matchup.


Sam Constance 1 year, 3 months ago

Dean Smith sure was a good coach. I wonder where he learned his craft...


UncleMiltyN 1 year, 3 months ago

Self is my favorite basketball coach. I never missed Roy. It was obvious to me from the start that Bill was one of the best game coaches I'd ever seen and that if he could bring it some recruits, things were going to be great.

But, my "voice of discontent" hasn't faded. I get what he was trying to do when he came here, but I still say the biggest mistake Self has made at Kansas is squandering the strengths of Miles and Langford.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 3 months ago

REASONS TO REJOICE ON: KU has best big man in the country, the best frosh in the country, the team is on a roll, HCBS has Thad's number, HAWKS have rolled over opponents they were supposed to beat while OSU struggled against some inferior competition, we know we can beat these guys, did I mention Thad Matta??

REASONS TO REFLECT ON: KU and especially the freshmen are playing their first true away game this season, odds in OSU favor, the revenge factor, game is on CBS-not our best regular season venue, we're about due for an offensive clunker, so far, I am ten and zero in Kansas game predictions...and I have regretfully predicted an "L" tomorrow.


Woody Cragg 1 year, 3 months ago

This game should be another huge classic. Road test, top 10 match, National tv coverage, & on a mission for another #1 seed. Yeaaaaaaah! Will be watching on a 10 ft tv in a private dining room at a local restaurant with family & friends. Some will drive over 1200 miles to be home. But since I've outgrown my KU DAD sweatshirt, it's now packed away with my Dad's letter sweater (no jackets in the 1920's), photos, & his track medals for the next generation. Dig it, my Dad would be quite proud that the "Kansas Jayhawks are the substance that wills are made of." Go Hawks!


Jack Wilson 1 year, 3 months ago

KJD, ccarp and Solomon -- bingo.

Dean Smith tree? Try again.

This team's fast break "as good as it gets" ? What sport have you been watching?

How a columnist in Lawrence, KS can refer to the Dean Smith coaching tree, a mere miles from Phog Allen Fieldhouse, I will never know.

And on the fast break topic, this is sheer delusion (I assume Keegan writes his own headline). Some (most) of Roy's teams and the 2008 squad were much better than this team on the break. For Roy's teams, it was just a different style of game -- an increase the number of possessions game. 2008 was in its own dimension.

One might characterize this team's fastbreak as "efficient" or "opportunistic." But this is not a fast break team at all. When you wait for the designated person to throw the ball in to the point guad after a made basket, you are never, ever, a fastbreak team.


yates33333 1 year, 3 months ago

Young and Withey aren't exactly slouches for big men getting down the court on a fast break. Young particularly is quick, clever, and fast.


Keith Richards 1 year, 3 months ago

"Opinion: KU’s fast break is as good as it gets"

"this year’s team has a chance to become Self’s best transition squad yet."

Can you say massive contradiction? If they have a chance to become Self's best transition squad yet, how can they be as good as it gets?


Eybea Opiner 1 year, 3 months ago

I don't know about this being the best fast break team, Chalmers, Robinson, Rush, etc. were pretty good, weren't they?


FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

The thing I love about this team is that I get the impression that they love to play defense almost as much as offense. What I love to see is how they harass the opponent which usually leads often to a turnover, breakaway dunk. That is what really gets them juiced!


jhox 1 year, 3 months ago

There is little question Self's philosophy has evolved at KU. His first couple of seasons here he tried to turn great athletes into plodders and it definitely held us back. Around year 3 or 4 he seemed to start trusting guys more to make plays and push the ball. The rest is history.


ccarp 1 year, 3 months ago

Coach Williams' teams would beat a team down court after a made basket....TV crews had to stop focusing on the pose after baskets b/c the hawks were already down court. The breaks for Coach Self seem to come from defense. Steals, block shots, and turnovers late in the shot clock. I loved the way Coach Williams' teams got at it, but the squad from last year seemed the fastest I can recall. I am really excited to see how this team gets at it, especially if they maintain the full court press! Rock Chalk!


Jason Keller 1 year, 3 months ago

Coming out party for Ben on national television.

28 Points 7 Rebounds


KJD 1 year, 3 months ago

Why state "the Dean Smith tree"? Keegan you KNOW that it is the Phog Allen tree if you are going to initially connect Self to Iba. You state it in the same paragraph–in the lead even. "Self played for Sutton who played for Iba. Williams played for Smith who played for Allen." That is an entry level basic if you are going to write for Let alone be the Sports Editor.

I do agree that the substance of the observation has a lot of content. There were plenty of KU fans that had trouble with the transition of style that Williams created with the Miles, Boschee, Hinrich, Gooden, Collison era. The romp over Oregon in the Elite Eight is my favorite example of that style of play.

Williams versus Sutton in the mid 90's, well before Keegan took over for Woodling, were filled with defensive battles. KU fans might have been frustrated with Ostertag's ability to drop in the bunnies, though Ostertag was a supreme defensive force which made his match ups with Big Country epic battles in the paint. The first half of the #1 Jayhawks vs #8 Cowboys in the 1996-1997 year was an epic defensive battle. KU's team D averaged 66 pts a game and the Pokes held their opponents to 69. Both teams played ferocious D during that period.


Scott MacWilliams 1 year, 3 months ago

This will be a great game, no doubt. I can hardly wait, and the OSU crowd will be rocking. For the freshman, it will be a schocker, to hear that many yelling against them instead of cheering for them.

I'm ready for the Hawks to step it up, show us the growth that has happened in the last few weeks. Now comes the BIG test, finals are over, and your real test is about to begin. You are ready.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawks!!!


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