Okay, so when I last left you, I had to some extent recapped the 2011-2012 season, and given you what I consider are my expectations for the returnees to the 2012-2013 team. In summary, last year's lack of depth let us learn quite a bit about the handful of upperclassmen that are returning, but leaves plenty of minutes in the rotation to be earned from a crop of newcomers.
This type of season with seven newcomers (and it would have been eight but we already had one transfer away!) is a formerly rare phenomenon which rears its ugly head every few years due to mass defections (transfer or early-NBA-entrants), inconsistent recruiting class sizes, or other factors. This makes predicting how the upcoming season will go an even less exact science than normal. Luckily we have two players who essentially were forced to red-shirt last season due to eligibility issues, so those two (McLemore and Traylor) may not look like FRESHMEN at the beginning of the season.
As a re-cap, I predicted about 50 points out of the returnees, and about 110-115 minutes per game. So we've got about 90 minutes of court time to fill between 7 new guys (read: some people won't play very much, or at all). Also, 50 points isn't going to win you many games, (Except in the Big 10) so we're going to need 25 to 30 points per game from the newcomers as well.
Ok. I think that gets us up to speed. I'll lay out my expectations for these guys in order of who I think will have the most to the least impact this season.
Ben McLemore. Ben has the benefit of being on the "red team" for the second semester of last season, and going against the likes of Releford, Taylor, and Johnson every day in practice. Much like a scout team player can make or break a football team's season, I think McLemore had a huge impact on the success of last year's team. McLemore has been praised by Coach Self as being maybe the potential best defender on the team. This is high praise for a youngster on a team with other great defensive talents. McLemore is a freak athlete as well. He can shoot, he can jump, he can glide. ANECDOTE ALERT! After last season was over, I was running on the "track" at the KU Rec center and had the privilege of watching T-Rob, Tyshawn, Jamari Traylor, and Ben McLemore playing some pick up basketball on the courts below. The basketball was largely sloppy. T-Rob was running the point and popping threes, but I did get to see Jamari throw Ben an alley oop dunk. The dunk itself was pretty vicious and impressive, but the most amazing thing was (and maybe it was just my viewpoint from above) I swear Ben could have grabbed the top of the backboard when he went up to get the ball. He got UP. Anyway, I think Ben is going to be great. Hopefully for more than one year, but since we're just worried about 2012-2013 here we can at least hope for one year along the lines of Xavier Henry, instead of Josh Selby. Ben will surely struggle as all freshmen do. He'll have terrible games. He'll have fantastic games. He'll have wholly mediocre games. I think he'll be the 3rd starting guard, and I think he'll get around 25 minutes a game. I'll also give him a very Brandon-Rush-esque 13 points a game. The key for him will be moving the ball as much as Self likes to. Self doesn't want the ball to stick in anyone's hands, and for a newcomer to the system, the pace of play and passing in the offense can be troublesome. I think Ben's "red-shirt" year will greatly improve his ability to impact the game on a consistent basis right away.
Perry Ellis. Perry Ellis increases the number of McDonald's All-Americans on our roster from 0 to 1. That is high praise. Looking back on the McD's guys on KU's roster, there are very few "busts" out there. In fact, the last bust (Micah Downs in 2005) transferred away after 1 year, and David Padgett (who some might consider a "bust" but was a solid, if oft-injured performer for Louisville) also transferred away. Every other McD's all american from this millennium was either drafted or spent time on an NBA roster. That is a pretty impressive accomplishment. Perry Ellis is a great kid. He had a 4.0 in high school, he did volunteer work and I think started a program pairing special needs students with peer mentors (or something like this) at his high school. He has a chance to be a special player. He also is the kind of kid who will probably stick around for all 4 years, even if he has a chance to leave early and make a lot of money, like Wayne Simien and Raef LaFrentz before him. For this year, I think he will be the 5th starter, and I think he'll be a solid contributor. I'm looking at 8 points, 6 boards. This might seem low for such a ballyhooed player, but remember that Self LOVES experience, and Ellis is one of 4 incoming big men who will all be vying for minutes. His points might go up a bit if Withey ends up getting double-teamed and his touches get limited, but I wouldn't expect more than about 10 points a game. He'll probably play 20-25 minutes a game, so I'll call it 22 minutes. Ellis apparently has the skill set to play the 3, and if he proves he can he might get some minutes there, but Self has proven that he likes having ball-handlers over size on the court, as he has really limited combinations of three bigs on the court at once. I think Ellis has a chance to play the three after his frosh year, when Releford and maybe McLemore will be gone, but he'll have to compete with Andrew White and next year's incoming Brennan Greene for minutes there. In any case, I think Ellis will be solid, and he'll be fantastic by the time he's done at KU.
Jamari Traylor Traylor, like McLemore, has a significant advantage in experience over the rest of the incoming big men. Traylor got to bang against Robinson and Withey on the practice squad all of second semester last season, and this, along with a semester of work with Danny Manning, will hopefully show results on the court this year. Traylor isn't a great talent, but he was a top 150 player. He also doesn't have great size, as when I saw him playing pick-up ball at the rec center at KU, he looked about the same height as McLemore, but with broader shoulders. So while he might be a bit undersized, hopefully he can build up his frame and be a solid energy guy off the bench. I don't think Traylor will score much, so I'll give him 4 points and 4 boards in 15 minutes a game. I can see a Darnell Jackson like career for Traylor, where he slowly develops his first 3 seasons and then really explodes onto the scene as a senior. (180 minutes, 77 points)
Andrew White We know one thing about Andrew White, which is that he can score. I've been blown away by some articles about how he practices shooting and the percentages he makes during his gym sessions. Lots of scorers show up at KU and something just doesn't translate to keep them on the court. Jeremy Case was an incredibly prolific high school scorer, and he just couldn't get minutes. Its hard to figure how/where he would get his minutes on this year's team, since he pretty much plays the same position as Releford AND McLemore. For this reason, I'm going to set my expectations low for this year, with a hope for growth in the future. I'll say 2 points in 8 minutes a game.
Anrio Adams 'Rio is the secret weapon that we know as little about as our opponents. He comes from a great basketball program and family, as he attended Seattle's Rainer Beach High which also produced the Stewart twins (Lodrick and KU's Rodrick). I believe he is also the god-son or nephew (or both) of their dad, Bull. He might be a complete surprise and a real offensive threat, or he might be Royce Woolridge and just never look like he's going to be in Self's plans. I'll give him 6 minutes, and 1 point, but he has the potential to steal minutes away from White and Tharpe if he proves worthy.
Zach Peters Perhaps a bit underrated due to his participation in football (and lack of AAU basketball exposure) Peters appears to be a solid guy with a good head on his shoulders. The football no doubt toughened him up a bit, but fewer minutes on a basketball court might hold him back in the short term. I think Peters will develop into a high level big man, but for the time being, I think he's at a disadvantage to Withey (talent and experience), Young (experience), Ellis (talent), and Traylor (experience). He'll get a few minutes, especially early in the year while the rotation is still being settled and a few chances for blowouts give Self a chance to empty the bench. I'll say six minutes, 2 points, 2 boards.
Landen Lucas Rare is the recruiting class with 4 big men, and when you add that to 2 returnees including a preseason all big 12 type player, one of those 6 guys is going to be left out. Lucas is the least heralded of those 6 guys, aside from maybe Young, who has a significant experience advantage. Self isn't big on redshirting guys as freshmen, but I think it would be worth Lucas' while to take a year to get bigger, and better. What likely happens is he gets some early season mop-up minutes (like Merv Lindsay last year) and then if the next recruiting class gets a couple of highly rated big men, he transfers down to a mid-level program. Else he can be next year's 4th big man and hopefully develop from there.
So there you have it. There is a range of expectations for the newcomers to this year's team. We are now down to a couple of weeks from late night, so we, as Jayhawk fans, will be able to get our first real glimpse of the promise each of these guys has. Well, it'll be a first chance for those of us who couldn't afford the european vacation this summer...
I don't know about you guys, but I sure am excited.