Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Column: Kansas basketball should boast better depth, intensity

Blue Team guard Frank Mason takes the ball to the hoop over Red Team guard Devonte Graham during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue Team guard Frank Mason takes the ball to the hoop over Red Team guard Devonte Graham during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at the Horejsi Center.


Every summer, watching a camp game is all that’s necessary to trigger a debate as to whether this year’s Kansas University basketball team will outdo last year’s.

After all, so much can be learned from a camp game or two. For example, last summer, NBA general managers put great stock into the box score that showed Red defeated a Blue team that included Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, 66-61. Wiggins, the No. 1 pick of last week’s NBA draft, scored seven points, Embiid, the No. 3 pick, scored two.

For a better read on the basketball team’s 2014-2015, consider the head coach’s words.

“I think we actually have a chance to win a lot of games,” Bill Self said of his 12th KU team. “I think we can be as good at one through four and as deep at one through four as we have been in a long time. We just need to find somebody who can be a low-post presence and protect the rim. You know, be a defensive presence.”

Naadir Tharpe’s departure should help more than hurt. For one thing, it turns Frank Mason from a follower into a leader. He’ll let his natural in-your-face instincts take over, instead of watching the veteran for cues on how to act, practice and play.

Stronger and quicker than Tharpe, Mason is more equipped to make the opposing point guard uncomfortable.

Look for Kansas to use more lineups that have three guards on the floor at the same time with Wayne Selden spending as much or more time as the third ball-handler as he does the second one. Conner Frankamp and Devonté Graham won’t only back up Mason, they’ll spend plenty of time playing alongside him. Mix in Kelly Oubre and Brannen Greene getting time at small forward and it’s easy to picture intense practice battles among four sophomores and two freshmen for playing time on the perimeter. And that doesn’t even include mystery man Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk of the Ukraine, the youngest of the freshmen.

The depth inside isn’t as outrageous, but more than most teams boast. Returning power forwards Perry Ellis and backup Jamari Traylor combined for 18.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and a .577 field-goal percentage in 44 minutes per game.

Strong, powerful Cliff Alexander plays with a high motor and physical style that will ideally complement Ellis’ finesse game. But Alexander doesn’t project as a shot-blocker, a la Cole Aldrich, Jeff Withey and Embiid.

“Cliff needs to come through,” Self said. “Still though, at the end of the day he’s a 6-8 guy, as opposed to a 6-11 guy we’re kind of used to having.”

Hunter Mickelson, a 6-10 junior transfer from Arkansas, is the most natural shot blocker on the roster. His 72 blocked shots as a sophomore came in 548 minutes, compared to Embiid’s 72 blocks in 647 minutes last season. What remains to be seen is whether having Mickelson’s shot-blocking presence in the paint will be worth shortchanging the team in other areas such as offensive skill and speed, compared to Alexander, Ellis and Traylor. Landen Lucas has a big body and isn’t afraid to use it to lean on players, but doesn’t have nearly the same quickness and speed of KU’s main interior options.

“I’m excited,” Self said. “We’ve got good players. We’re more athletic. We’re definitely more competitive.”

An active Big 12 title run of 10 seasons teaches that it’s always best not to consider the talent that has left for the professional ranks to project KU’s fortunes, rather to look at the players coming back and entering the program. No way of doing that objectively without concluding Kansas again has what it takes to contend for the Big 12 title and draw another high seed in the NCAA Tournament.


Jeffrey Nelson 6 years, 4 months ago

Your articles still have passages that confuse me. This one would be the second paragraph. Learn your craft.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 4 months ago

TK I had to read that first sentence in paragraph two a few times myself, is the word "only" missing, as in After all, only so much can be...

Page Butler 6 years, 4 months ago

His attempt at sarcasm was weak and was irritating as a reader. I was given the impression that NBA scouts were there watching the scrimmages.

Len Shaffer 6 years, 4 months ago

It was pretty clear to me that it was sarcasm. As Page noted, it wasn't particularly brilliant sarcasm, but it was sarcasm nonetheless.

TK definitely could use some work on his craft, but that paragraph wasn't that difficult to comprehend.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 4 months ago

TK when does the schedule come out that will help in understanding how much better we will be next season? We have questions at the point, at rim protection and defending. We are going to have our hands full with taller teams that can play to their length, Texas, KY, and Baylor just to name a few. I think Cliff will defend his position fine, but who takes their big(s)? We are going to need to be much better on defense. Texas and ISU will be better than last year too. WV is going to be load. Summer camp games as you point out TK do not tell us much.

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 4 months ago

Self says that we're more athletic.

We lose Wiggins and Embiid and we become more athletic? I don't buy that. Hopefully Selden will be improved post surgery. Losing Tharpe is an upgrade in athleticism, but other than that, I don't know if individual gains can replace Wiggins and Embiid for athleticism...

Andy Tweedy 6 years, 4 months ago

That caught my attention, too...but Selden is healthy, we'll have a more athletic point and the freshmen are obviously pretty athletic, so maybe 'tis true.

John Myers 6 years, 4 months ago

Because I'm sure you're more familiar with all the guys on the team than Coach Self is.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 4 months ago

Not at all, we just have eyes is all John.

Sean Lancaster 6 years, 4 months ago

Oubre is not a huge step down from Wiggins, but just about anyone would be because Wiggins was extremely athletic. Joel wasn't on the team the last 6 games and didn't start the first part of the season, so the average center position is probably a wash from last year to this coming year regarding athleticism (i.e., Black was not very athletic). Mason will be a significant improvement over Tharpe. Selden should be healthy this coming year so he'll be an upgrade over himself. And we'll have more depth, which allows athletic players to get a rest to provide more punishing D. We certainly won't be less athletic, so there's that.

Brad Farha 6 years, 4 months ago

Loved that dunk. Selden's reaction is priceless.

Sean Lancaster 6 years, 4 months ago

Black had power, don't get me wrong. But he was not fast and he was not quick. His jump was more labored than bounce (e.g., see Wiggins for bounce). Cliff is a much quicker jumper and Cliff will be much faster than Black, particularly after a summer and fall of working out here. Black was powerful and strong, but he was only average athleticism.

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Elliott, just because Black was 260 LBs doesn't mean that he wasn't athletic. He's a big dude, but he's also really agile for a man that size.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 4 months ago

Athletic - physically strong, fit, and active, I think Black qualifies. Talented or skilled - did not see a lot of that.

Greg Lux 6 years, 4 months ago

We will me more athletic do to the use of players we didn't use last year and their improvement. Selden will be faster and a better handler and driver. Greene will be much improved. Frankamp has shown he will be a plus in tight games and I have always believed in his outside game to come along. Mason will be more experienced and should be improved. Let's face facts. Last year Mason, Frankamp and Greene had to keep from making a mistake to stay in the game. It limited their aggressiveness and hampered their natural talent. This year will be a totally different game for them and I believe you will see the true talent of those three come out big time.

For Ellis it's showtime or no go time. If he wants a future in the League he has to demonstrate better range and more consistent aggressive play. Traylor should be a load to handle. He is quick, more experienced and like Ellis, it's showtime . Then you add the incoming 4 freshman and we "Should" be a load to handle. I think HCBS is referring more to the defensive side and getting after the ball then he speaks of being more athletic.

Although the lose of Tharpe will help on both ends ( nothing against Tharpe but he didn't have a good year on ether end last year. ).

As for Lucas or Michelson only time will tell if we have a rim defender we need. But if we can do a lot better job keeping players from penetrating we will limit the need for a rim protector somewhat. This team will be good and fun to watch ( all the above is imho of course )

Doug Cramer 6 years, 4 months ago

Tom - I agree overall with your article. We should be a clear favorite to win the Big 12, and have a shot at a National Championship.

Just have to wonder if Frankamp is the better option to start at PG as opposed to Mason. I love Mason's's pretty incredible actually. But after all these years of poor PG play, it seems as though we need a guy that has basketball IQ, and has the ability to take care of the ball.

That's where Frankamp comes in. I thought toward the end of last season, our offense was much more effective when Frankamp was running the show. Stable - Smart - Takes Care of the Ball.

Mick Allen 6 years, 4 months ago

Other than the Stanford game, please give me an example of when you thought the offense was more efficient when Conner was "running the show". I love the kid and while running the offense does require being able to take care of the ball obviously, you also have to on occasion force the action to get a shot for yourself and your teammates. While admittedly Frank has to make better decisions once he penetrates the lane, his teammates, as they become more familiar with his game, will become more adept at finding the open space and giving him the proper angle to get them the ball when help defenders attempt to stop his dribble drive. i believe Frank has the innate ability to create more shots for his teammates, both when pushing the ball up court on the break and in the half court offense because of his speed and strength off the bounce.

Doug Cramer 6 years, 4 months ago

Mick - there were plenty of stretches in the 2nd half of the season when Conner's presence seemed to improve the offense. Look, the guy doesn't turn the ball over. If we have a PG such as Conner 2 years ago against Michigan in the Sweet 16...we win that game by double digits. We need stability at PG. I'm not hammering on Mason because Mason's physical ability is incredible. Unfortunately I don't believe his IQ or his ability to not turn the ball over is as good as Conner's.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 4 months ago

It will be interesting when and if Graham plays next season. He has seemed to be a little lost so far, not surprising, but can he get playing minutes once he gets enough understanding of how the system works. Can Svee play it?

What concerned me about Conner is that he never found his shot all year. He also had some issues with quick PG's on defense. He does not look like the answer for next season. I wish he would become like Phil Forte or Brady Heslip, somebody that comes in and just messes up your whole day with rainbows and assists.

Race - I actually don't care if the player is purple, green, or vibrates colors. If he has on the KU jersey and can play the position who cares? Heck even if he had I love KY and DUKE tattooed across his chest, if he can play let's play him and move on.

Shawn Van Ross 6 years, 4 months ago

A guy that has Basketball IQ?? you are suggesting that Mason, a guy that has played basketball his entire life and was offered a scholarship to one of the historically best programs in the country has no basketball IQ?? You are suggesting that Self would recruit a player with no BBall IQ??? You my friend are a FOOL. I'm sure Mason has forgotten more about the game then you will ever know. I wonder if you assume Connor has more BBall IQ simply based on the color of his skin.......

Ryan Michael 6 years, 4 months ago

Or instead of playing a ridiculous race card here, you could maybe consider that the argument is based on turnover ratio...

You know, since Mason had a bunch of unforced dumb turnovers and Frankamp had very few and protected the ball. That's not to say Mason can't be an amazing PG, only that what the previous guy said has merit and in no way implied any racism whatsoever.

Shawn Van Ross 6 years, 4 months ago

Well of course Mason had more turnovers.....HE PLAYED MORE THEN TWICE THE MINUTES AS FRANKAMP. No one is playing the race card. Just curious why he would make an asinine comment.

Shawn Van Ross 6 years, 4 months ago

....and I'll add, if Conner is a huge liability on defense. Frail and can't stay in front of his man. He would get exposed by some of the quicker PG's he would be facing most of the time. There is a reason he stayed glued to the bench most of the year. Conner is a shooter first and foremost. Great sub but no way a starter with that frame. Eat your Wheaties son.

John Randall 6 years, 4 months ago

The race card may say, aww - forget about turnovers. The scoreboard very seldom talks that way . . . Have we forgotten who was the #1 PG on the '08 team, as well as the #2 PG, as well as #3 PG ???

Greg Lux 6 years, 4 months ago

Doug I have to agree with you about Frankamp. It's great to have Mason's speed going to the basket, but how effective is that really? Most of his shot missed or were blocked so it was not that big a plus in the long run. Frankamp is an exceptional ball handler who can break most pressure and like you said "we need a guy that has basketball IQ, and has the ability to take care of the ball." I believe like you that Frankamp is that guy until the current class of freshman get up to speed at least. What I want more then anything is to see our guards do a better job of playing the passing lanes. We didn't do it last year at all and except for Ellis I can't remember hardly a time when we anticipated the pass and intercepted the ball for an easy layup. We are quick enough and need to do a better job of getting into the lanes like Chalmers use to do so often.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 4 months ago

Clear Favorite, really Doug? We have four freshman coming in that we expect contributions from, at least 2, 3, or all 4 of them. Nothing clear about that. Who is going to protect the post? Questions at PG too. IF we play better defense, If we get more production at PG, if we can protect the post, then we have a chance to win the B12. Lots of if's there to be crystal clear about our team. I reserve any NC discussion till we we see how we are playing heading into to it. Just too many variables to say we have a shot right now.

Glen Miller 6 years, 4 months ago

The fact that Self has said nothing about Mickelson at any point since his initial thoughts on him makes me wonder how much he's going to contribute this season. If we have defenders that are better at staying in front of their men, the rim protector won't be as big of a deal. If we play D like last year then not having a rim protector will cost us the Big 12. I'm sorry, but the teams behind us in the league are gaining fast and we will have to play much better this season without Embiid to save our ass and Wiggins to lock down their best scorer.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 4 months ago

Mickelson is going to battle Lucas to be the 4th post player which historically under Self means about 7-10 minutes per game with those minutes coming at the end of the first half and midway through the second half or when there's foul trouble. Mickelson is not going to be a big factor in the rotation next year.

Sam Burns 6 years, 4 months ago

I love KU basketball and wouldn't trade coaches with any team, college or NBA, but,....... does this team of excellent players match up with the Bill Self coaching style? I don't think so. Will he change to a perimeter oriented offense? I don't think so. His offensive philosophy has always been to pound the ball inside. Who is going to score inside? Perry does great against smaller teams, but loses his touch and composure against taller players and just throws it up, or gets blocked. He's too short for someone that doesn't have an excellent vertical jump and quickness. Texas and any other team with bigs will stop us inside, so what do we do. Do we throw the ball inside, if we don't throw it away, just to pass it back out? Cliff has tremendous power and will be incredible against small teams, but.... same story. So, where do we get enough points? Are we going to play faster and run this year? Will Bill let our talented shooters take over outside without pulling them for shooting the ball too soon in the offense? We have a lot of questions to consider. I have loved our shooters for the last couple of years, but they have never gotten into the flow of the game. How do we change that? Stanford beat us and knocked us out because of their size. They finished in a tie for third with 5 other teams in the weak PAC-12.

Mick Allen 6 years, 4 months ago

Sam you make some good points and I will tie my reply into my earlier reply to Mr, Cramer above. In my humble opinion we will have to "play faster" this year by pushing the ball whenever we can as I don't think we will be as dominant a half court team as we have been in the past for reasons you pointed out.To do that we need to be able to beat the opponent's bigs down the court before they set up their half court defense and to accomplish that we need the ball in the hands of a jet of a ball handler who pushes the ball up court before the defense gets set up and who can create open looks for his teammates in the first 10 or 15 seconds of the shot clock, With the exception of Mikkelson and Lucas, all our guys run well.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 4 months ago

Mick I would like to see us press more after made baskets too, takes a lot of energy but we are deep and can run like you say. Maybe throw in some zone defense due to our lack of height. I know Self hates zones but they do not give out anything for how you win, just if you win. I would not think our team was weak, but able to better play the zone then previous teams.

Joe Baker 6 years, 4 months ago

Mickelson ? Get your shoes on boy, it's time to show yo stuff.

Lucas ? Get your game face, it's go time.

Traylor ? You know what to do...the same as last year, only even better.

Alex ? Get your engine running...headed up the highway...lookin' for adventure at whatever comes your way...You're BORN TO BE WILD!!

Ellis ? You do that voodoo that you do so well.

Mickelson and Lucas are going to be a huge load for any 5 man. Traylor, Alex, and Ellis will hold their own with any 4 in the country.

Now the real question is...who will be the leader of this gaggle of Jayhawks? Selden, Mason, or maybe Connor? This is the NC question.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 4 months ago

Hey. all you guys!!! It is almost time for football. There will be plenty of time for KU to manufacture it's next flopolla in the next year's tournament!!

DaNeille Dani Davis 6 years, 4 months ago

Some of you guys are so tough on Keagan. Can't you just leave your comments about KU basketball and not about how it is written? You couldn't do his job for a day if you tried. I personally can't wait for the new season to start and see how much the freshmen from last year improved. Hopefully we will have better team chemistry and a true leader. Rock Chalk!

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