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Monday, November 18, 2013

No lyin’: Lion-killer Embiid* to lead Kansas against Iona tonight

* Kansas’ gentle-giant freshman center might or might not, in fact, have slain so much as a fly

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Pittsburg State during the second half of an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Pittsburg State during the second half of an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Pittsburg State during the second half of an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Legend has it Joel Embiid once killed a lion back in his homeland of Cameroon.

“He did it with his bare hands. He had to do it for his tribe,” Kansas University junior point guard Naadir Tharpe said of his 7-foot freshman teammate, a slight smile creasing his face.

“It’s the truth.”

Or is it?

“Where he messed up with the story,” senior center Tarik Black said of 250-pound Embiid insisting he came out on top in his battle of man versus beast, “is he told me he had to carry it back home. No human being can carry a lion. It’s impossible.”

To get to the bottom of the tall tale, the Journal-World approached gentle giant Embiid on Monday — the day before today’s 7 p.m. home nonconference clash with Iona — with the question at hand: “Did you ever kill a lion?”

“That’s a secret,” Embiid said, busting out in laughter. “It might be true, though. I can’t answer that right now.”

Pressed for the truth, he stuck with his story: “I will talk about that later.”

Embiid, who has emerged as KU’s most entertaining follow on Twitter (@jojo_embiid), as evidenced by his most recent, “I think I love snow so I’m not going back to Africa when winter comes,” and his, “I’m the best rapper under 20 in French, not English,” has quickly become a favorite of his KU teammates.

Such as power forward Perry Ellis.

“Sometimes when Perry does a great move, I’ll be like, ‘Can you teach me this after practice?’ He says, ‘Yes, yeah,’” said Embiid, thankful for the tutoring sessions with the sophomore from Wichita.

And former University of Memphis player Black.

“Tarik Black is one of the few good people who ever been in my life!! Always giving me advice, telling me what to do, keeping me focused too,” Embiid tweeted.

Embiid also is a favorite of the coaches, who have given the hard-working center homework assignments — like watching tape of last year’s shot-blocker deluxe, Jeff Withey.

“Coach (Bill Self) tells me I have to have the mind-set to block every shot,” said Embiid, who has one block in two games. “He will tell me I need to be a better rim protector. He (Self) gave me something to watch about his (Withey) ability from last year. Most of the time, he (Withey) wasn’t going for the shot fake. He was just going when the ball was in the air. That’s when he was jumping. I need to work on that.”

Embiid is a work in progress, just having started playing basketball in 2011 in his native land.

“We miss that,” Self said of Withey’s presence in the lane on defense. “But I’m hopeful Joel can become a more efficient rim protector. I think he’s got it in him to do so.”

Embiid has been called a certain NBA lottery pick, sooner rather than later.

“He’s got the best feet. He moves like a 6-footer with his feet,” Self said. “He can do some things and move in a way that very few guys in the past have been able to move. The improvement Joel has seen in a short period of time has been significant. He’s still young and green and doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but there is obviously a skill-set there that few 7-footers have.”

Ellis, Wiggins honored: Ellis and Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim on Monday were named Big 12 co-players of the week and Andrew Wiggins newcomer of the week. Ellis had 24 points and Wiggins 22 in KU’s victory over Duke in Chicago.

Iona invades: KU (2-0) tonight meets Iona (1-1), a team that returns five of its top seven scorers from last year’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship team. Iona defeated Wofford, 76-55, on Saturday in the Gaels’ Hynes Center in New Rochelle, N.Y., after dropping its opener, 73-69, at Cleveland State. Leading scorer is Sean Armand, a 6-5 senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., who averages 18.0 points a game.

“This will be the first time we’ve played against a team that played predominantly zone,” Self said, noting Iona will play 1-3-1 and 3-2 and a 2-3 matchup. “They play faster than anybody we’ve played so far. They play faster than Duke as far as wanting to shoot it quick. And they’re small, so we’ll be having bigs guard on the perimeter.”

Cliff a monster: KU has signed No. 4-ranked Cliff Alexander (6-8, Chicago Curie) and No. 12 Kelly Oubre (6-7, Findlay Prep, Henderson Nevada) in recruiting.

Is Alexander one of the best big men Self has signed in his career?

“Yes, without a doubt,” sais Self, who first started recruiting the Chicagoan in ninth grade.

“His ceiling is remarkably high. If I say he’s a monster, then that’ll be the headline: ‘Alexander a monster.’ I’ll say he plays much more aggressively than what most 18-year-olds play. He really goes after the ball and attacks the basket very hard. He’s got a chance to be really good.

“We got two guys, obviously top-10 players in their respective class, and that doesn’t happen every year we get two guys like that.”

Self said KU, which has filled its two-scholarship allotment, is still recruiting.

“We don’t know exactly how our situation will play out (with players heading to pros), so we’ll always be recruiting.”

Comments

Kent Richardson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

This team has size, speed and scoring skills that could be absolutely awesome come conference time. It's almost scary. As with most projected high draft picks it comes down to personal needs and beliefs. JoeEm could be amazing if he has the work ethic and skills I keep hearing about. The are so many story lines and what ifs this season it is gonna be a fast ride. Hang on to your toes.

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Tony Bandle 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Oakville Oddities:

1] I think ole Jo Jo is lyin' about the lion. :).

2] The one compelling argument for Jo Jo staying two years is that he will share time this year and be the main focus in the middle next year. I think that one extra year at Kansas will be equivalent to 2-3 years on an NBA bench!!

3] I agree however with the majority..NBA GMs won't be able to resist his upside which, quite frankly, is sky high. If you start hearing comparisions of Jo Jo to Hakeem, you had better listen!!

4] Hey, Suzi...are you the only gal who posts now???

5] Jaybate, Ralster, stupidmichael, BigManU and all the rest of you, just call up the LJW and get registered. This year is gonna be epic and we need your slants.

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Jack Wilson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The second contract thing is a good point. The first contract for lottery picks, though, is winning the lottery. Here's the rookie pay scale. I'd be interested where the cut-off would be where folks wouldn't take the money -- meaning, where the risk of getting nothing on a second contract wouldn't matter? Personally, I think it's right in that 14 to 15 range. Taxes, plus agent % of 5-15%.

Two year deals guaranteed with third year club option, so focus on the first two seasons.

http://basketball.realgm.com/nba/info/rookie_scale/2014

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Eliott Reeder 4 months, 3 weeks ago

How does nobody mention the number one argument against staying put? What if his knees go all Greg-Oden on him in year two at Kansas and NBA GMs see danger signs and then he's drafted in the second round with no guaranteed contract and then doesn't pan out? Then you will be thinking he should have taken that first chance to get 3-4 million in the bank with a rookie contract in '14. It is not a question of NBA player development vs. NCAA player development. It is a question of risk. There are no guarantees of a great second contract in the league. However, if you are projected lottery at the end of a school year, that is about as close to a guarantee of several million dollars as you are going to get. Gotta take the money while you can...

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Jordan Powell 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I like how some fans try to give all of these logical reasons for him not to leave like they really looking out for whats best for him. You can give all of these reasons why he is not ready (or so you think after watching 2 games) and needs to stay but if you were to be honest with yourself you just don't want to see him leave for more selfish reasons like wanting to see KU be that much better next year. While we are all entitled to our opinions none of us are in a position to tell somebody when they are ready, not even from a basketball standpoint.

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Billy Smith 4 months, 3 weeks ago

On Friday when he announced his decision, the article said he "has touch out to 8 feet". So he just dunks everything?

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Jordan Powell 4 months, 3 weeks ago

A lion weighs between 300-500 lbs. I don't think thats impossible to drag, probably not carry.

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Brianna Zaleski 4 months, 3 weeks ago

For all the ppl suggesting that JE make the jump to the NBA because he would be a lottery pick and u HAVE to take that if the situation arises, I'm glad you are not his personal advisors. The NBA, for Embiid, is all about the 2ND!!! contract. It would be a travesty for this kid to go to the league next year and rot on the bench for most of his career. There is no player development in the NBA. It's all about if u can play right now. The owners are more than willing to risk a little up front, in the way of a 1st rd guaranteed contract, knowing that if the kid doesn't pan out, they don't lose much. It's the 2nd contract where they set themselves (and their families) up for life! Do u know how easy it is for an NBA player to blow thru 4-5 million dollars? Not long... This kid, God willing, will stick around for 1-2 more years and really develop his game. Then we could be looking at the next Hakeem O.

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John Randall 4 months, 4 weeks ago

It's great the whole team is buying in to the fun with that lion story ... too bad they didn't sneak it in with just a few hints so they could drag it out through pre-season. Joel seems to really be enjoying himself and his teammates, as well as they him.

This kind of camaraderie can help build chemistry as long as it doesn't get completely out of hand. It would be a real shame to waste this 'lull' before another real test without continuing the development all the players need this time of year.

I think we can trust the coaches – both the proven ones on staff and those growing up as walk-ons – to keep everyone on a level perspective.

ROCK CHALK, JAYHAWK!

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Todd Jones 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Enjoy the one year we have to watch Joel improve and play!

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