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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Take it from Traylor: KU’s ‘definitely stacked’

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When 11th-year Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self evaluates young talent, he ranks “hard-to-guard” as among the most important qualities he seeks. He struck gold with this team in that regard.

So quick and strong, sophomore forward Jamari Traylor has the ability to check a variety of players, even if he is struggling with guarding them without fouling under the new rules. I figured he would be a good one to ask about what makes his teammates a challenging matchup in practice every day.

“Go through the roster,” Traylor said after a practice shortly before the season started. “I’ve definitely guarded everybody already.”

The most difficult assignments for him?

“Quick guards like Naadir (Tharpe), Frank (Mason). Conner (Frankamp) is a crafty guard,” Traylor said. “Brannen (Greene) has a jump shot you have to respect. Wayne Selden is an animal. (Andrew) Wiggins, I don’t need to say much about him. He has a great first step. Very athletic, quick. Guy like Tarik (Black), strong. Perry (Ellis), very crafty, finishes at the rim great. His footwork. (Shakes his head.) Joel Embiid and Landen Lucas, so big and strong.”

Traylor called Selden and Andrew White III, “the most physical guards that you’ll find. These guys are physically fit. Wayne, he’s just like a man-child out there. … He attacks the rim like nobody else on the team.”

White didn’t do much of that last season, but has improved.

“When you’re strong and physical like that, you don’t really get guys with that touch,” Traylor said of White. “He can really shoot it. When you close out too quick, he can attack the rim. He’s getting better at putting it on the floor.”

Traylor paused and summed it up: “This team’s definitely stacked.”

The young Jayhawks are loaded with scorers who know defensive improvements are needed if all those points can translate into six victories in a row in the NCAA Tournament. Sure, the rules make it tougher to defend. Michigan State was whistled for 27 fouls against Kentucky, but that didn’t force the Spartans to back off. They challenged every dribble in the post, every pass in the half court, and rode 13 steals to victory in a game Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 44-32.

High school players don’t defend anywhere close to the demands of Self and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans’ experience advantage makes them better defensively than Kansas, but with anticipated improvements from young and talented UK and KU, Duke and a handful of others looking loaded, Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds of the tourney promise a Final Four feel.

“I think this is going to be an unbelievable year for college basketball,” Self said after the United Center doubleheader. “There is an unbelievable freshman class and it appears to me there’s potential to have more great teams than what we’ve had in recent memory.”

Comments

Doug Cramer 5 years, 6 months ago

This team is unbelievable...and they all seem to have great attitudes.

Self has gone to a recruiting strategy...to get guys that have a knack for scoring...even though he emphasizes defense. It makes sense...it's easier to teach defense than it is to develop a guy like Perry Ellis that has a natural ability to just score.

While I loved guys like Russel Robinson...I just don't see Self recruiting those types of players anymore...that's gifted heavily with a defensive presence coming out of high school...unless they have the O to go with it.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 6 months ago

RussRob was fairly highly ranked. If I remember correctly he was a 20+ pt scorer in HS but mostly a slashing and transition type player. I don't think that he came out of HS with an elite A:TO ratio, probably because he was his teams primary scorer. When he got to KU it was evident that it was a lot harder for him to drive to the paint, and he didn't have an elite jumpshot, but he really grew as a distributor. He never really had a truly elite assist average but he definitely accumulated a ton of them for his career just from playing in so many games.

He's probably the classic example of a highly ranked HS player (top 30 I think) who's game took 4 years to develop as a college role player. His JR and SR years he was a very good PG and an elite on-ball defender. I still can't believe that he's never made it in the NBA. Then again, the only KU on-ball defender in the Self era that I was better than him is Rele and he's probably in the same situation as an outside fringe NBA player.

Rush was a more versatile defender because of his size, but Russell's ability to stick on his man and create bad passes and TOs was a sight to behold. Releford's defense though was just a think of beauty. I loved watching him shadow MacGruber last year.

Doug Cramer 5 years, 6 months ago

Don't forget Chamers...when talking about great defenders.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 6 months ago

Chalmers was great pickpocket. I remember him talking about how he timed his opponents dribbles when he'd go for the steal. But most of his steals at KU actually came in the form of intercepted passes. I give RussRob a lot of credit for that, even though Chalmers led the charge as far as the number of steals. They were a two man wrecking crew as perimeter defenders. Robinson as the primary on-ball guy and Chalmers filling the passing lanes.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 6 months ago

Oubre, Alexander and Vaughn would be just fine with me!!

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