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Monday, October 29, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: Jayhawks’ next top scorer tough to predict

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson looks to push the ball up the court as he is defended by Long Beach State forward James Ennis during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson looks to push the ball up the court as he is defended by Long Beach State forward James Ennis during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self called Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey and Travis Releford “without question our best scorers on the team,” Monday and added “that’s not good because they were the third, fourth and fifth scorers last year.”

In other words, it’s business as usual for Self’s powerhouse basketball program. The top scorers are gone and his team is a bona fide threat to make it to the Final Four.

Self lost Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry, the two leading scorers (28.9 combined points per game) from the 2009-2010 team that went 33-3 and was upset by Northern Iowa in the round of 32, and had no problem rebounding from that.

He lost Marcus and Markieff Morris (combined 30.8) from a 35-3 team that lost an Elite Eight game to Virginia Commonwealth and promoted a pair of complementary starters to primary scoring roles.

Now, Self must replace the 34.3 points Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor combined to score and it’s not quite as easy this season guessing which players will develop into the leading scorers.

For now, Self said it’s the three returning starters, but with a deep freshman class with their hands out for shots, it will be interesting to see how the points are distributed.

“We’ve got more guys who can get the ball in the basket, but more guys doesn’t necessarily equate to 35 a game,” Self said of replacing Robinson and Taylor’s points. “Maybe more balance than last year, but I don’t know if we have more scoring punch than last year. We might before it’s all said and done.”

Perry Ellis arrives at Kansas as a more natural scorer than Robinson did, and Robinson grew into a 17.7-ppg scorer by his junior season.

“Perry could be a natural scorer and get six if he doesn’t put himself in position to score,” Self said. “Thomas could play bad and get you 15.”

A look at the leading candidates to lead Self’s 10th Kansas team in scoring, with odds in parentheses:

Johnson (3-2): With the ball in his hands, he’ll drive to the hoop more often than a year ago when that was Tyshawn Taylor’s role. More drives means more trips to the foul line.

Plus, it’s easy to picture Johnson improving his .338 three-point accuracy rate from a year ago, when he averaged 10.2 points.

His savvy and the strong probability he will lead the team in minutes make him the safest bet.

Ben McLemore (4-1): A 6-foot-5 red-shirt freshman Self has compared to three-time KU leading scorer Brandon Rush, McLemore has the capability of scoring points in bunches via the three-point shot and on put-backs, his top two offensive skills.

Ellis (5-1): He will need to play a more physical brand of basketball and have a consistently hot motor in daily practice before Self rewards him with the starting position his talent merits. Once he gets there, his smooth moves close to the basket and soft touch from the perimeter make him a legitimate candidate to lead the team in scoring every year he plays at Kansas.

Withey (8-1): His moves aren’t smooth enough for him to become this team’s top scorer, and the easy buckets that came when defenses loaded up on Robinson won’t be there. He could become the team’s MVP, but the leading scorer? That’s a stretch.

Releford (10-1): Led the team in scoring in last season’s first two Big 12 games with 16 points against Kansas State and 28 at Oklahoma, but never before and never after. He’s a versatile contributor who does just about everything well, but does not have a pure enough shot to be this team’s go-to scorer.

The Field (100-1): It always pays to include the field, just in case a player now considered raw blossoms way sooner than expected and becomes a phenomenal player.

Freshman guard Rio Adams, an explosive, long-armed, 6-3 combo guard from Seattle three times led the state of Washington in scoring and had a 54-point game as a sophomore.

Comments

mikehawk 1 year, 5 months ago

The 08 team had balanced scoring and the high scorer changed from game to game. While I don't think we will have the game to game balanced scoring with five in double figures, I do think it likely high point game will move around with the frosh getting in the act from time to time.

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nostradavid 1 year, 5 months ago

Watch out for Perry Ellis. He tore it up in Wichita. He will get a lot of shots off rebounds.

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HawkKlaw 1 year, 5 months ago

EJ will most likely lead the team in scoring. I think he'll have around 14 ppg with all those minutes he'll get.

I think the next tier will be BMac (12ppg), Withey (10ppg), and Ellis (8-10ppg once he breaks the starting lineup).

And let's not forget that there will be some games where Releford, White and Young make big contributions in the scoring department. (And if Releford comes on strong, there's a great chance he'll break the 10ppg threshold.)

This is a very balanced team, both in talent and experience (I know, lots of Freshman. But also 3 senior starters). It may not be quite as highly-touted as that 2008 National Championship team, but this squad is very capable of winning it all.

I'm ready!

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jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

"What Will It Take for the Less Testeds and the Newbies, to Sustain PT"

First, every new player will get a look for a month, or so, except for anyone that is going to get thrown a red tank top.

Second, here are a few things the less-testeds and newbies must show to sustain PT player by player starting on the perimeter.

Peeeeerimeter:

Naadir--no blow bys in the exhibition games like last year; increased turn and burn speed in pre conference; and an obsessive protector; else no PT.

BenMac--Self's already green-lighted BM's defense and shooting, and he's going to be an offense stretcher for EJ and the Bigs; therefore, he has to protect and feed the post; else limited PT.

AWIII--it is very rare when a freshman perimeter guy of his height can defend at D1 speeds out of the blocks; defense must be sound; else limited PT.

Rio--Rio has the athleticism to look very good for a few games early and then when things speed up and get rough to look as EJ did his freshman year; Rio has to protect and defend, protect and defend; else pine time instead of play time.

Deeeeeerimeter (aka Inside):

JamTray--Self says he can board and hustle loose balls; therefore, his tests are can he guard his position (especially can he hedge defend on the perimeter), can be set the screens, and can he catch the ball when fed to him? If yes to these, he could play as much as 20 mpg giving Jeff and Perry 5 minute blows each half. If not, then its wait till next year.

Kevin Young--KY was going to be the starter until the hand went FX; this much we know. KY can guard inside, and he can chase outside, but last year, when he had to guard a big that set up out on the perimeter to start, it was blow-by-city. KY must have fixed the blow-by-itis, or Self would not have been going to start him. So the key for KY is to be able to get up on the glass with the heavy weights shoving him. If he can do that and score a little, then he's prime time. If not, or if he gets pop tart-itis, then Self could start looking to the younger bodies for PT.

Justin Wesley--Justin could guard the post last season, but he could not do it without fouling. It appears that he is still iffy in that department, or Self would be going to him now. Justin has to be patient, because Self may not give Justin a lot of looks the first month of the season, because he's trying to get Jam Tray as far along as he can as quick as he can. But I still think we are going to see some of Justin down stream.

Landen Lucas--he needs to do one thing--guard the post. Scoring, rebounding, passing, none of that matters for Landon this season. If he can guard the post, Self will use him to give Withey some blows. If he can't, then Landen may not see daylight after the exhibition games.

Zach Peters--Zach was going to be in the rotation. Now he is not. Nothing matters for Zach except the rotator cuff. If it heals, he plays and plays a lot. If not, red shirt time, not pine time, or prime time.

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Brandon Pope 1 year, 5 months ago

Love the way Self is handling this new team so far. We havent seem him coach them live, but you can tell he is hard at work getting these talented bunch of kids in the right mindset to be good down the stretch. As usual.

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Joe Baker 1 year, 5 months ago

Self is also really big on passing and lobs. We are going to see a lot of lobs from the high post. The bigs have got to pass well for this play to be productive. Withey wasn't the best passer, Wesley didn't play enough to pass, and not sure if BMac will post high. The high post passes seem be leaning toward Ellis and Traylor. Unless Withey improved his passing, which would be ideal, I see EJ, Rio, BMac, and maybe Rel (if not lobbing passes) damaging the rim on that little backdoor cut slip screen from the baseline.

Game On!

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jaydoc06 1 year, 5 months ago

Odds on Ditka... 1-100. Ditka!

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Jeff Suther 1 year, 5 months ago

What about throwing some odds at the guy who has currently led the team in scoring during live action Andrew White?

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BROJAYHAWK 1 year, 5 months ago

COACH KNOW WHAT TO GET OUT OF HIS SR THIS YEAR

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David Leathers 1 year, 5 months ago

With those odds, I'll put $1,000 on McLemore. I feel that while Elijah has the three ball and ability to score, he will put more emphasis on proving that he can be an elite PG. I have no doubts that he can be the top scorer, but honestly, I see a more all-around game this year from Elijah. His basketball IQ is through the roof, and the kid is simply a winner.

As for McLemore, I can't wait to see his athletic ability. The only question mark I have with him is if he can be aggressive. As HCBS said the other day, he reminds a lot of us of BRush, which if you remember wasn't very aggressive. If the answer is yes, look for some amazing highlight dunks, a lot of free throws, and a lot of points.

My odds would look more like this:

McLemore (2-1)

EJ (3-1)

Withey (5-1)

Ellis/Releford (8-1)

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Chris Shaw 1 year, 5 months ago

From Roberson: "Coach [Bill] Self was honest with me and answered my questions. I got to talk to the players in the team and hang out with them while on my visit."

He basically said that Dominic Cheek was in a similar position 4 years ago, left Villanova a year early, didn't get drafted, and is looking for work somewhere in Iceland.

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RJ King 1 year, 5 months ago

Roberson cuts list to 3:

"After taking my visit to Villanova this weekend I’ve decided to no longer postpone cutting my list to three schools.

I won’t be taking my visit to Kentucky and will most likely be making my final decision on where I’ll be playing collegiate ball within the next few weeks. I appreciate all six of the schools on my list but the three schools I’ve decided to keep on my list are Kansas, Syracuse and Villanova.

Kansas - When I visited Kansas I got a better feel for the school and got to see exactly what they would expect from me in their system. I also got to see the campus and got a chance to watch the team practice. Coach [Bill] Self was honest with me and answered my questions. I got to talk to the players in the team and hang out with them while on my visit.

Syracuse – While I was at Syracuse I had a chance to watch the football game which was a lot of fun. I hung around the team, and talked to them about the program. I also saw the campus and where the team practices. The fans take pride in the program and seemed like they make their players seem appreciated.

Villanova – I visited Villanova this past weekend and attended their Midnight Madness. I had fun and really enjoyed it. Although I was only at Villanova for a day I felt at home and knew after the visit that I didn’t need to take my last visit."

Uh oh. Kinda sounds like a Nova lean.

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johninkc1 1 year, 5 months ago

Why don't we watch a few games and then guess? Seems like trying to guess before any games are played is crazy.

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Ferd Magellan 1 year, 5 months ago

It'll be Johnson or McLemore. Everyone else is too passive. They don't have anywhere near the talent or experience of that past KU team, but I see this group being a more balanced bunch like in '08. Players were unselfish to a fault at times that year, and I feel we'll see that again this year. There aren't any cold-blooded killers on this team like Robinson, Morris, Chalmers, etc. Hopefully Johnson takes a lead role and explodes his final season.

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dylans 1 year, 5 months ago

EJ is gonna be the man! Funny to leave aw3 out of the conversation since he led the team in scoring in Europe.

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Jack Wilson 1 year, 5 months ago

Wow. jb is an Ellis optimist. 15-10 in conference. Sold. But only two guys I can recall averaging a double-double were Collison and TRob (for the season - not sure about just conference play). As a note, Marcus was appx. 7.5 and 4.5 his freshman season as a starter. And I'm curious as to how Withey gets to 10 boards a game? Sold. Not to slight the guy, but I have always viewed Withey as a exceptionally poor rebounder for a 7 footer. Perhaps simply filling the void left by TRob maybe?

KansasComet adds that McLemore, White, and Ellis are good for 30 per night. Again, Sold.

And Keegan finds time to mention Adams out of left field. "Explosive." Sold.

Ah, it is the time for optimism.

Then there is reality. But forget that for now.

I hope everyone is right.

How about this .. most points per minutes played this season: Andrew White

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Brendan Connolly 1 year, 5 months ago

The right answer is Conner Frankamp. He is going to score so many points in the Wichita league he will be able to lend 19 per night to KU. In all seriousness I can't wait for him to get here, just to have a guy that can hit a freaking free throw consistently.

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Steve Gantz 1 year, 5 months ago

My first thought when I saw the headline was Elijah. Always go with your first thoughts. The way he was playing at the end of the year was encouraging to say the least.

It's always fun though to see a team with a bunch of new faces to see who will become a reliable scorer and rebounder. Seems like we've been reading about McLemore and Traylor for about 3 years. Lets see them play!

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Eliott Reeder 1 year, 5 months ago

Tom is silly not to mention AWIII in this article!!!

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Scott MacWilliams 1 year, 5 months ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but seems that the 2008 team had something like 8 different guys take turns as top scorer, 5 averaged 10-13 ppg, and none of them made the Big 12 first team!! BALANCED ! ! ! This team might be headed in that direction....

Rock Chalk!!

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jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

Elijah is it.

He's going to get 15 FGAs/game for a few games to see if he can get to the hole consistently and make his treys at 38-40%. If he can, then he could become the guard under Self to average 17 ppg.

BenMac is going to be the designated stretcher and back door alley oop guy. 12-4

Travis is going to be the guy who operates wing point about a third of the time. 12-4.

Ellis will average 10-5 first half season, then 15-10 in conference.

Withey will be 10-10.

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KansasComet 1 year, 5 months ago

McLemore, Ellis, and AW3. They should be good for over 30.

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JayhawkRock 1 year, 5 months ago

Am I the only one that thinks this benefits KU? I wouldn't dare compare this team to the 2008 team but that team was hard to predict who would be the top scorers too.

I guess my point is that any one that was in the rotation in 2008 could score in bunches, even Kaun had a big game against Davidson in the tournament and we wouldn't have won without him.

Hard for other teams to prepare for KU if they don't know who is going to step up and score.

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