Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Leaps & bounds: Justin Wesley works to earn playing time

Kansas forward Justin Wesley watches  as campers work on setting picks, Monday, June 24, 2013 during the Cole Aldrich basketball camp at Olathe Northwest High School.

Kansas forward Justin Wesley watches as campers work on setting picks, Monday, June 24, 2013 during the Cole Aldrich basketball camp at Olathe Northwest High School.



Kansas forward Justin Wesley watches as campers work on setting picks, Monday, June 24, 2013 during the Cole Aldrich basketball camp at Olathe Northwest High School.

Kansas University men’s basketball freshman Andrew Wiggins might have some competition for the top vertical jump on the team.

KU senior forward Justin Wesley says his vertical has been measured this year at 45 inches — up from 42 inches a year ago.

“I don’t know what Wiggins’ is. We’ll see,” Wesley said with a smile. “But I’d still say I jump the highest on the team.”

Athleticism hasn’t been the problem for Wesley, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound transfer from Lamar.

Wesley still was limited to just 68 minutes a year ago, partly because of injuries and partly because of a limited offensive arsenal.

In his fourth year at KU — he red-shirted in 2010-11 — the Fort Worth, Texas, native says he’s working hard to become a more complete player.

“I’ve been in the gym working on my shot, trying to get that better,” Wesley said. “Just having the mentality that I can score and that I can play, that’s helped me a lot. Confidence takes you a lot further than you think.”

The lack of faith in his offensive game showed in last year’s statistics.

According to, Wesley attempted just 4.3 percent of KU’s shots when he was on the floor. To compare, the average shot percentage for a player is 20 percent; forward Jamari Traylor had the second-lowest shot percentage on the team, and he was still at 12.9 percent.

This offseason, Wesley has made 250 shots per day — both mid-range and long-range, which includes three-pointers — in addition to the reps he gets during individual drills with coaches.

His improved skill set was evident in the second camp scrimmage on June 19, when he scored 14 points for the red squad, with many of those points coming on jump shots.

“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” Wesley said. “Honestly, I didn’t know that I played that well.”

Wesley also has been motivated by his older brother, former KU guard Keith Langford. The two talk on the phone often.

“He’s just told me, ‘You’ve been there four years now, going into your fifth year (of college). There’s nothing that’s going to get thrown at you that you haven’t encountered before,’” Wesley said. “‘You’re one of the older guys in the game right now. Just enjoy it, have fun and be confident. Just know that you can play the game.’”

In scrimmages, Wesley has enjoyed going against KU’s talented newcomers, which include Tarik Black, Joel Embiid and Wiggins. All three have the chance to be future NBA pros.

“Since I’ve been here, this is the most athletic team I’ve been on,” Wesley said. “I don’t know exactly who we’re getting compared to, but I’m very excited about this year. I don’t think there’s very many teams out there as athletic as us.

“As long as we come together as a team and play unselfishly together, I think we’ll be pretty good.”

Wesley also knows the reality of the situation. Because KU coach Bill Self has brought in so much front-court talent, the opportunity to get minutes might be limited.

“However coach Self plays me, or whatever he does, I trust him,” Wesley said. “He’s very successful. Right now, I’m just trying to get better in all areas. However he sees how I fit the puzzle, then I’m OK with that.”

Wesley knows — on the court or not — he has a valuable role to play for this year’s team.

“The least (that) I want to do now is help the younger guys and try to be a leader, either by example or vocally or whatever it takes to be a leader,” Wesley said. “I’m a senior, last go-around, so I want to leave with an impression on these guys, and I want to help them be the best they can be.”


chriz 8 years, 5 months ago

Would love to see him be the X factor for a couple of meaningful games, similar to how Kevin Young was over the past couple of years. Or maybe pull out a Cole vs. Hansbrough.

Glad to see that he's working on his jump shooting. Bring it this year, Justin. Justin case.

hawk316 8 years, 5 months ago

What a terrific attitude Justin has. Also, he's spot on with this observation:

“As long as we come together as a team and play unselfishly together, I think we’ll be pretty good.”

Trusting that Coach Self and staff can get these extremely talented stars to share the ball and play together as a cohesive unit. Otherwise, they will not reach their amazing potential.

Michael Auchard 8 years, 5 months ago

The first link off of the one below should help you. It really takes very little effort...

Brian Skelly 8 years, 5 months ago

Minutes are going to be scarce for him. That said, im also quite sure Kevin Young wasnt supposed to get the minutes -- especially early -- that he did. But Traylor and Ellis not doing what Self wanted at the time had more to do with that than anything else.

It wouldnt surprise me if his minutes are still limited this year, but with an increase in those minutes based on performance.

If he forces the kids to take minutes from him -- which less of a stretch, especially early -- then lets hope they do it.

dynamitehawk 8 years, 5 months ago

I've been guilty of flagging comments accidentally on a tablet while scrolling.

TxJyHawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Apparently, the answer is to use Chrome instead of Google ....I don't get any of the questions

nuleafjhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

I was hoping you were scolding someone for the ignorant " answer this stupid question if you want to read the article " thing.

I guess I'm just stubborn enough that I will NEVER answer their dumb questions, so I'll just comment on the comments from now on.

BayPark 8 years, 5 months ago

I hope they reverse it, but until then, I too am only reading the comments.

Marcia Parsons 8 years, 5 months ago

It isn't that much of a problem, and you only have to do it one time a day on the first article you open. I'd rather do that then pay to read like the Topeka and KC web pages.

jayhawkinATL 8 years, 5 months ago

KUSports just sold itself to the devil!!!

ccarp 8 years, 5 months ago

Justin has plenty of leadership to share with this squad. Pretty sure it was his call for the Harlem Shake video, which seemed to inject energy into the team after the rough loss to TCU. This team is deep in talent and possesses leadership in many forms.

KansasComet 8 years, 5 months ago

Justin Wesley will earn a degree from KU and has had one of the best seats in the house for years. Hopefully, he plays at the level he strives for. In any case, it's not a bad thing to be Justin Wesley.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 5 months ago

Kingfisher/BPSkelly/chriz: I have some very bad news here, and I don't like to be the bearer of such disturbing information. But Justin Wesley playing meaningful minutes is actually a sign of the apocalypse as it relates to 2013-14 KU hoops. That is a take it to the bank type statement.

Sure, he'll get a cameo appearance or two when Self gets angry at his rotation guys or he'll get mop up time in the last 2 minutes of a game. But meaningful minutes? No.

Justin Wesley is not turning any corner, is not going to improve dramatically, is not going to earn playing time of his own accord. The young man has a ceiling, a plateau. We've seen it. He is a high level athlete for sure, but one lacking in D-1 skills. Wesley is bench depth. And that's fine. That is what it is. He's an emergency body -- God bless him and his effort and commitment. But he's not a high level D-1 quality player.

Best of all, though, he doesn't pretend to be. He seems like the perfect teammate. His comments in this article show how grounded he is. Jesse did a very nice job of presenting the situation as it is, and not suggesting he'll break into the rotation. Wesley is a part of Kansas basketball. He could have played at, say, Towson, or Niagara, and gotten rotation minutes. But he chose KU.

And how lucky were we to have his minutes in 2011-12 when we were desperatly thin? How lucky are we to have him now, as as senior, in the lockerroom (as ccarp pointed out)?

If Wesley "earns" minutes this season, it's because of what goes on with other guys .. recruited scholarship players either play horribly, are suspended, or are injured. None of that is good. We know that.

In 2011-12, when Wesley was our 4th post player by sheer circumstance (Self surprised we lost both Morris twins to the draft, then Traylor and Anderson aren't eligible), Wesley still played sparingly .. meaning, only when he had to. We have double the available scholarship post players this season (6 vs. 3). And he did not play meaningful minutes last season with less post competition (we lost Withey and KY, but added Lucas, Black, Embiid to the post mix).

The guy is what he is, and that's absolutely good enough for a walk-on, or 13th scholarship guy on this team. His impact on the team may never be truly known, but it seems like it will be nothing but a positive.

Steve Kubler 8 years, 5 months ago

Nice breakdown. Wesley will get plenty of minutes where they need him, on the scout team helping make everyone better. I think the importance of that is underrated by many. The better he is the better the starters will be prepared.

I also hope he gets a spectacular throw down after starting on Senior night!

Greg Lux 8 years, 5 months ago

I always feel bad for kids who come to KU with big expectations only to find them fall short of fulfillment. Justin is a great kid ( now man ) who has been there trying every chance he has gotten to give his best. This years KU team is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 and I know its going to be hard to get the playing time his efforts have earned. But who knows maybe he will be that Young or Darnell or Withey that no one expected to blossom at times. However the outcome I know you will see the best Wesley has to offer every time he is on the floor wearing that Crimson and Blue

Rock Chalk

JayhawkNNE 8 years, 5 months ago

I think everyone, with the exception of maybe Mr. Wiggins who finds that being the "the man" in high school doesn't always translate to the next level. That can be said about anything in life. What I appreciate is how most of the guys over the years have bought into the program, and some have risen to the challenge and we have had the opportunity to whatch them evolved, and some either haven't risen and transfered or haven't gotten the opportunity or have hit that ceiling. That's okay, that's life, but nothing to feel sorry about.

Steve Reigle 8 years, 5 months ago

Justin Wesley is the kind of young man I love to see succeed. He works hard. He doesn't publicly complain. Is the kind of person we can be proud he's a Jayhawk.

jayhawkinATL 8 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bville Hawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Justin has a 45 inch vertical??? Holy crap!

s6u6r6f 8 years, 5 months ago

At 6'9" with a 45 inch vertical, wouldn't that put the top of his head six inches above the rim? Can we get a picture of that? Rock chalk.

Ted Hume 8 years, 5 months ago

that reminds me of one of the hoops mix tapes of Wiggins, where they slow-mo on him a couple of times looking down at the rim during dunks.

mikehawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Good luck, Justin. Glad you are part of our program and you represent it well. Hoping you surprise a great many people this year. We need all the help we can get. Make it so Coach can't keep you off of the court.

yovoy 8 years, 5 months ago

I've always had a soft spot for this kid/man. He's given his best, and thanks to his brother he got to ride the pine and practice and play a little bit at a place that many other players only dream about. My hat is off to him. I always thought it was interesting that he chose to stay here instead of trying to transfer somewhere else where he might get to play. Didn't he transfer here from somewhere else? That's admirable. I thought maybe with some confidence that he might've been on the floor, but look who he's had to play behind for his entire career. I think he's that ambassador type of kid that doesn't get the credit he deserves, and it's nice to see him getting some ink for his perseverance AND his mad hops.

Thank you J-Wes: you're a credit to yourself, to your family, and to our U.

Richard Benson 8 years, 5 months ago

It is not just his effort that is a pleasure to watch, it is his gritty effort doing the things that other players go through the motions on. Specifically, it is his effort at the defensive end. He never calls it in.

There is a reason you didn't want him coming in for Thomas very often at all, far superior defensive work ethic or not. Same with coming in for Marcus, Markieff, Jeff, Cole, Kevin, Jamari (no slouch he on the defensive work ethic thing, either), Kevin, or any of the rest. But many KU fans want to see Wesley play more. Much more. I am one of them.

None of us, of course, want Wesley to play more at the cost of even one win. At some point that becomes an issue. Coach Self makes good decision.

Jeffery Barrett 8 years, 5 months ago

What is this, answer a survey to read the story??????? Wrong! I'm done! Goodbye!

Jeffery Barrett 8 years, 5 months ago

Jesse was kind enough to call & explain this is a way to keep free. Thanks, Jesse.

Jeffery Barrett 8 years, 5 months ago

I have left a voicemail concerning these survey questions for Jesse since he is Online Editor. I encourage others to do the same.

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