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