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Finding game wind just one issue for Kansas basketball in-season additions

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Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe (3) throws down a dunk off of a lob from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the second half on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe (3) throws down a dunk off of a lob from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the second half on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

After huffing and puffing his way through a solid 20-minute performance Monday night in his Allen Fieldhouse debut, Sam Cunliffe did a nice job of explaining how the only way to truly get into game shape is to play in games.

"It's crazy. It's been so long since I've played in a game," Cunliffe said after scoring nine points in a 109-64 victory against Omaha. "In practice, coach stops it a lot for teaching moments. He can’t stop the game, so you’re just running up and down and you just keep going and going and going, and after a while you get pretty tired. Also you’re super locked in at the same time. In practice, people tend to take possessions off. I feel like in the game, you just have to be more focused for a longer period of time and be more active.”

Cunliffe's performance will determine whether he earns 20 minutes of playing time against stronger competition. Regardless of how that plays out, it was nice for him to get that much run so that he could be reminded that he's not yet in game shape.

"Once I get my, I call it game wind, where your body gets used to being in the game, I think I'll be fine," Cunliffe said.

Kansas coach Bill Self has expressed optimism that Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa could join Kansas soon. If that's the case, the three in-season additions will transform KU's bench from weak to strong, but it won't happen overnight. All three players will struggle to find the right ways to earn Self's trust to the point he's comfortable using them in tight spots. For example, Cunliffe played just two minutes in the 73-72 victory vs. Nebraska in Lincoln.

Plus, there is the issue of getting into game shape, which shouldn't be as difficult as learning and implementing the subtle contributions — such as productive ball movement, help defense, and smart aggressiveness — that put players on Self's good side. Once players' stamina becomes game-ready, it will become easier to focus and their minds will adapt more readily to what Self wants out of them.

"Running up and down in the game and running up and down in practice are a lot different," Cunliffe said. "Those first couple of games are like a whole new type of run, a new type of wind."

Comments

Suzi Marshall 7 months ago

If Cunliffe can continue to develop the defensive intensity he showed in spurts, his size and athleticism might be able to hold down OU’s Hot freshman PG.

We are going to need Preston for the UT game, which will for sure require us to play big. Although Preston has been practicing, it will be a tall task to expect too much from him in his first game. Down the road, it will be nice to have 10 fouls to give in the post!

Kent Richardson 7 months ago

Trae Young owned WSU's vaunted defense. He got to the basket and finished almost any time he wanted. OU can shoot threes with us and we will need Preston against them also. Young is the best offensive player I have seen in the conference this year. He is as advertised a little bit of a head case and as he pushed OU to the lead at the start he also let WSU come back late in the game after his ego and attitude led to unforced errors. He works the refs all the time and gets pissed when things are physical. We are going to hate his attitude if he has his way with us.

Suzi Marshall 7 months ago

Yea, I know all about this kid. Self recruited him hard. Keegan wrote a good article about him after he committed to OU.

Jeff Coffman 7 months ago

Trae was hitting everything from about 5-7 feet beyond the arc. Really carried OU the first 12 minutes of the game. The second half he was pretty winded or tired, because I think he scored 22 in the first half (18 in the first 12 minutes) and finished with 6 in the second half, and that included a couple of late free throws.

The key to success is to work Trae early and by the end of the game he won't be effective.

Titus Canby 7 months ago

My concern about Preston, other than getting him on the court, is that early indications were that he thinks of himself as more of a "stretch 4." I'd be interested to know if that's still the case. We already have plenty of good shooters. We need someone who can defend down low and rebound. I'm not sure if we'll get that from Preston.

Kent Richardson 7 months ago

I remember Self saying Preston would have to get over the stretch 4 mindset and prepare to scrap and bang for rebounds. Self will not give in and if Preston resists then he will either come around or get in the dog house. We are going to compare him to JJ so he is up against it already. Hope he is mentally stronger than most frosh.

Creg Bohrer 7 months ago

I bet we see De Sousa before Preston returns and I also believe we need De Sousa's style of play more than Preston.

Pius Waldman 7 months ago

Watching the game on TV sorta wonder how Sam will add to the team. Yes the competition was not highly rated but his play surely indicates he will be a big help. I'm thinking dilly dilly that dude will sparkle.

Tony Bandle 7 months ago

Having either Billy or Silvio avaialble will help but if both can play it will be huge beyond just adding big bodies:

1] Dok, Lightfoot, Billy and Silvio can divvy up the time better to allow for maximum effort. As this article says, wind will be a factor at the beginning. Having both new big men will exponentially improve the front line.

2] Billy has been practicing and has played in some exhibition games, so the transition to live play will not be nearly the steep curve that Silvio will face.

3] With Billy playing, Silvio can concentrate on taking up space, rebounding and committing five fouls that Dok will not have to commit..Any offensive contribution will be an extra plus.

4] And from an "in the grand scheme of things" perspective, every minute that Silvio plays this season will be valuable lessons learned for next year!

In my opinion, I feel that it is essential that both young men are eligible. Just getting one, no matter which one, still leaves this team vulnerable.

Kent Richardson 7 months ago

You've got Silvio down. He is stoic, hard to push around and can out run both Dok and Mitch to get back on D.

Kevin Whelan 7 months ago

Great article Tom! Good to see stories from you down below. You and Tait add a great dimension to Jayhawk coverage. You are both a tribute to your profession. Keep it up! You are appreciated!

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