Bill Self says he’s looking for one or two of his Kansas University basketball players to adopt a take-charge, take-no-prisoners mentality.
“We had two guys last year that were assassins,” Self said Saturday, referring to current NBA players Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. “We haven’t developed those guys yet. We don’t have an assassin as a senior. Now you are banking on freshmen to become your guys? That’s not right.
“Those seniors have to step up and become those players everybody draws confidence from, because one thing about Tyshawn, it was, ‘Hey, put it on me.’ Or Thomas? ‘Hey, put it on me.’ We don’t have anybody like that yet.”
Self, whose Jayhawks (2-1) will meet Washington State (2-1) at 9 p.m. Monday in the CBE Classic in Kansas City’s Sprint Center, is still assessing personnel at this early juncture.
“Right now, I am set on four starters,” Self said of seniors Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson and freshman Ben McLemore. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor have started at the other slot.
“I am not even close to being set on the fifth. I don’t know who is better off the bench and who is better starting,” Self added. “We haven’t given Kevin Young a chance to start yet because of his hand (which forced him to miss two exhibitions and the opener). Jamari has played better off the bench than starting. I don’t know what the answer is. We need energy and points off the bench. Our bench for the most part has played OK,” he added, noting he’d like to develop a scorer at the power-forward spot.
“Jamari against Michigan State played great. He had six points and four rebounds in 25 minutes. In the past, when guys in that position played great, they got 20 and 10. That’s not a knock on him. That’s not who he is yet. We somehow have to get production out of that spot.”
Self said one bench player needs to step it up — sophomore backup point guard Naadir Tharpe.
“His man scored nine straight points on him the other day,” Self said of Chattanooga’s Farad Cobb, who scored 18 the first half. “He (Tharpe) has to run the team, be poised and guard and take care of the ball. The responsibility is easy compared to somebody who has to make shots in order to play well. I just think his effort defensively is at the point where it has to improve, or we’re going to seriously have to go in a different direction. We need him. But if you are not making shots and you are not guarding, that’s a bad combination.”
Tharpe said he needed to “put more pressure on the ball, just come out with energy, basically.”
Travel: Self cut a joke when asked about KU’s fans venturing to nearby Kansas City for Monday and Tuesday’s CBE Classic as opposed to heading to the Maui Invitational last November.
“Hey, our fans went to Maui last year and are going to Atlantis next year (Battle 4 Atlantis tourney in Bahamas), and they went to New Orleans last year. I think they’ll be OK,” Self cracked.
Recruiting continues: Self, who has signed five incoming high school players, says he’s not finished recruiting.
“It’s incomplete still. We need to get another guy or two to make it as good a class as we’ve had,” Self said.
“I think it’s a great recruiting class because there are two players nobody is talking about just about as good as anybody at their position in the country — Mason and Joel,” Self said of guard Frank Mason and center Joel Embiid.
He’s also inked guards Conner Frankamp and Wayne Selden and wing Brannen Greene.
“Everybody talks about Frankamp, which they should, and Selden, which they should, and Greene, which they should. Those other two are really good players,” Self said.
KU has filled all five of its available scholarship openings. There’s always the possibility of players turning pro or transferring.
Royce returns: Former KU guard Royce Woolridge is starting point guard at Washington State. He has averaged 7.7 points with 10 assists against nine turnovers while logging an average of 31.3 minutes a game. He has made eight of 18 shots (44.4 percent) and four of eight threes.
“Royce is their point guard. It’ll be fun seeing him again,” center Jeff Withey said of his former teammate who sat out last season at WSU in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.
Still out: There’s no change in the status of freshmen big men Landen Lucas and Zach Peters. Lucas is being red-shirted barring any injury to a KU big man, while Peters is expected to red-shirt because of his ongoing rotator-cuff problems. Peters has yet to practice this season.