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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Gathers’ strength KU’s next challenge

Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) stuffs a shot from Kansas forward Jamari Traylor during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. In front is Baylor guard Al Freeman (25).

Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) stuffs a shot from Kansas forward Jamari Traylor during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. In front is Baylor guard Al Freeman (25).

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One of the cooler aspects of the Big 12 featuring even more loaded teams than usual is that it presents 11-time-defending league champion Kansas University with a legitimate problem nearly every night.

Saturday’s puzzle to solve: How to defend Rico Gathers, Baylor’s 6-foot-8, 275-pound block of power and underrated skill.

Gathers averages 14.1 points and 11 rebounds per game. He has an abundance of one quality the Kansas frontcourt lacks: Brute strength.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self: KU's big 12 title streak gets taken for granted

With Big 12 play beginning Saturday, against Baylor, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discusses KU's 11-year streak of winning at least a share of the regular-season title, describing why he thinks some people take it for granted. Self also shares his thoughts on talented Bears big man Rico Gathers, and ...

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UC Irvine’s 7-6 Mamadou Ndiaye presented a different sort of challenge, but one that also tested the strength of KU’s frontcourt players. Gathers is a better basketball player even if he is nearly a foot shorter.

“Rico, he’s an athlete,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Thursday. “I mean, he’s a guy, you know, you think that would be an NFL tight end. Great hands and is active and can move around and can run. I mean, he’s a real athlete, where Mamadou, not taking anything away from him athletically, but he couldn’t move like Rico. ... There’s few guys in college basketball if any that rebound like Rico.”

Kansas will find a way to defend Gathers without giving the assignment to Perry Ellis. Why putting Ellis in foul trouble or exhausting him to the point he’s not effective at the other end?

Ellis’ passing, driving, shooting and finishing after receiving passes from the short corner on cuts to the hoop make him an ideal candidate to play in the middle of KU’s offense when Baylor plays zone, so the senior forward is an even bigger key to KU’s success than usual.

So Kansas will hope that a combination of Landen Lucas’ strength, Hunter Mickelson’s length and Jamari Traylor’s pesky energy will give Gathers enough different looks to keep him from dominating in the paint.

Kansas won all three games vs. Baylor last season by an average margin of seven points. Gathers averaged 12.7 points and 11.7 rebounds against the Jayhawks.

Nice numbers. For Kansas, strength in numbers will come in the form of multiple bodies.

“Kansas has more big guys that they can throw at our big guys,” UC Irvine coach Russell Turner said after his team lost by 25 points in Allen Fieldouse. “I think that that wore us down, which is good strategy for a team that has the type of depth Kansas has. Not many have that.”

True. Not even in the Big 12, which so far has been the nation’s deepest college basketball conference.

— Sports editor Tom Keegan appears on The Drive every Sunday night on WIBW-TV.

Comments

Suzi Marshall 1 year, 11 months ago

Ellis, Selden, Mason and Graham need to drive the lane in an effort to get Rico into foul trouble. On defense, we need to use all our fouls to wear him down. We have 25 fouls to give!

Rico's foul shooting improvement last year was impressive.

Mike Riches 1 year, 11 months ago

It's hard to believe the conference season is already starting. This weekend will give us a good idea of where this team really is. We've got to take care of business on Saturday; over the years we've owned Baylor, especially at home. But you can bet they will be hungry to change that. Still, I think we will be ready and win handily. Happy New Year's to all and Rock Chalk!

Clarence Haynes 1 year, 11 months ago

Hope that we don't forget the other capable Baylor starters that complement Gathers extremely well.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 11 months ago

Nice catch Clarence.

Prince at 6'7" is a 15.5 with 6 rebounds and 3 assist senior forward and guards Medford and Freeman can score and assist.

This shapes up as a close game with advantages in KU scoring as we have made 37 more FG including 23 more 3 pointers.

Baylor counters with 54 more offensive rebounds and 50 more assists.

Every other team stat is very even.

Doug Cramer 1 year, 11 months ago

Make no mistake about, Mickelson will take care of Gathers.

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd say this time Lucas & Traylor will be accompanying Rico on the court for most of game. Have fun guys!

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