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Where does each KU basketball returner need to improve?

It's the basketball offseason, which means it's the best time for the Kansas men's basketball players to improve their skills before the games begin to matter again in November.

So what types of drills should each returning KU player be focusing on?

Taking a look at last year's statistics, here's a suggested area of improvement for each of the Jayhawks' five returning scholarship players.

Perry Ellis: Finishing at the rim

As mentioned earlier this summer, Ellis had an impressive statistical first season, thanks mostly to a low turnover rate and an ability to get to the free-throw line and make those shots when he was there.

Blue team forward Perry Ellis puts up a jumper against Red team center Joel Embiid during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue team forward Perry Ellis puts up a jumper against Red team center Joel Embiid during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

The next step, though, is to make a few more bunnies. Ellis — often undersized in the lane at 6 foot 8, 225 pounds — made just 52 percent of his shot attempts at the rim last year, according to Hoop-Math.com. That number is well below the 61 percent national average on layups/tipins/dunks and also was the lowest mark on the team among players with at least 75 field-goal attempts.

In the first camp game last week, Ellis showed an improved face-up game offensively, which included range past the three-point line.

To become an even greater scoring threat this year, though, Ellis will have to improve upon his 47.1-percent two-point shooting from 2012-13. The easiest way to do that will be to body up to shot-blockers and put in a few more close ones when he's next to the rim.

Andrew White III: Lateral quickness

As a three-point specialist, White's 27.8-percent three-point accuracy last year had to be considered a disappointment, but it also could be the product of a small sample size (36 three-point attempts).

Here's what was more troubling for White when he was on the court: He had trouble keeping the person he was guarding in front of him.

Kansas guard Andrew White defends as Emporia State guard Chris Sights looks to pass during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew White defends as Emporia State guard Chris Sights looks to pass during the first half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

White's foul numbers reflect that. In 125 minutes, he racked up 20 fouls, which comes out to 6.4 fouls for every 40 minutes. That number is too high for any player and especially worrisome for a perimeter player who typically doesn't have to use up whistles to prevent easy baskets.

White has shown the potential to have value offensively, but the sophomore will only get significant playing time when KU coach Bill Self starts to feel more comfortable with him on the other end.

Naadir Tharpe: Field-goal shooting

Tharpe had an impressive assist rate last year for KU, and while his turnovers were a touch high, they're in an acceptable range if the junior can make a few more shots.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Naadir Tharpe laugh with newcomer Tarik Black before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and Naadir Tharpe laugh with newcomer Tarik Black before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

Though it hasn't been talked about much, Tharpe had the second-worst shooting year of any player in Self's 10-year tenure at KU (minimum 100 field-goal attempts).

Worst eFG% in Self era.

Worst eFG% in Self era. by Jesse Newell

Though Tharpe especially struggled inside the arc, he really could use improvement in all his shots. His field-goal percentages at the rim (52 percent), on two-point jumpshots (30 percent) and three-point jumpers (33 percent) were all below NCAA averages.

The point guard shouldn't be relied upon to score much next season, but he'll still need to hit enough shots to prevent defenses from sagging off him.

Justin Wesley: Hands-off defense

When Wesley checks into a game, he's being put in to defend, rebound and most likely help KU avoid further foul trouble.

Red team forward Justin Wesley fights for a rebound with Blue team guard Wayne Selden during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Red team forward Justin Wesley fights for a rebound with Blue team guard Wayne Selden during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

If Wesley is to fill that role better in 2013-14, he's going to have to tone down his aggressiveness and avoid fouls better than he did a year ago.

Wesley's foul numbers were sky-high last season, as he picked up 16 whistles in 68 minutes. That's a whopping 9.4 fouls per 40 minutes, which decreases his overall value, especially if the opponent is already in the bonus.

Wesley will always be primarily a ball-mover on the offensive end (though eight turnovers to just four field-goal attempts last year is a ratio that could be improved), but to be a better role player for KU, he'll need to improve his defensive technique and be a little less hack-happy in the lane.

Jamari Traylor: Two-point jump-shooting

Much like Thomas Robinson in his freshman year, Jamari Traylor had poor offensive numbers last year because of a high turnover rate.

Part of the problem, though, was Traylor's hesitance to shoot the ball. When he was in, he only attempted 13 percent of KU's shots, which was the lowest mark of the Jayhawks' rotation players.

Though Traylor was OK when shooting at the rim (58 percent is slightly below NCAA average), he struggled quite a bit with his jump shot.

Blue team forward Jamari Traylor elevates to the bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Blue team forward Jamari Traylor elevates to the bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. by Nick Krug

According to Hoop-Math, Traylor made just 21 percent of his two-point jumpers, which again was the worst mark of any player in the Jayhawks' rotation.

Traylor appeared to show some extended range in the camp game when he hit a three-pointer, but much like Tharpe, he'll need to take (and make) open shots to remain on the floor.

The sophomore has the ability to help KU with blocked shots and on the defensive glass, but he won't get to show those skills if he can't provide more offensively in 2013-14.

More from Jesse Newell

  • The biggest difference between Xavier Henry and Ben McLemore? Perception
  • Here's what KU's 2013 recruiting class would have looked like in previous years
  • Seen it? The nation's reaction to top recruit Andrew Wiggins choosing Kansas
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Comments

    fearthephog512 1 year, 4 months ago

    Fun stuff! Here's to all around improvement! Everyone keeps saying Mason will topple Tharpe for the starting gig ... I just don't see it. Sure he wasn't as great of a scorer last year, but I think we'll all be surprised with his slashing ability once he's at the helm of the offense.

    Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

    Really disappointing to see 2 (Tharpe and EJ) among the 5 worst of the entire Self-era.

    Cameron Cederlind 1 year, 4 months ago

    More so considering the fact they were our starting guards last season when they posted those stats.

    actorman 1 year, 4 months ago

    At least Tharpe had the excuse of being a sophomore and having not played a lot before. With EJ, it's yet another confirmation of how big a disappointment he was.

    jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

    EJ is an athlete. High flyers have a harder time developing outside shots, so his numbers aren't that surprising to me. Tharpe was an assist first guard in high school, if I'm not mistaken, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by his shooting either.

    With Frankamp and Greene in the rotation next year, hopefully we won't have to rely on our point guards shooting so much from the outside. If they can penetrate and dish, that would be ideal with the group we have coming in. We know Selden can slash, as well as Wiggins. Frankamp, Greene and AW III should all cash in from the perimeter next year, with a lot of open looks. I wouldn't be surprised to see Frankamp play a little PG next year.

    This assumes all 3 of those guys can defend to Self's satisfaction. We're going to be awfully young, so I don't think Self will be able to afford the short leash (on Freshman) that he has had in the past. He's going to have to let some guys play thorugh defensive lapses and turnovers.

    thmdmph 1 year, 4 months ago

    Really only three real impact returners. Ellis has most potential to positively impact the offensive board. Tharp just have to meet expectations and play a controlled game. The most important returner is Self.

    Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

    He had that sweet drive through the lane in 1 game.

    mattiesdad 1 year, 4 months ago

    I could read three of these type of articles a day. Keep them coming Jesse.

    beware0fph0g 1 year, 4 months ago

    Jesse -

    It seems to me (and could just be a problem of spotty memory) that Ellis really started improving his bunny-finish stat line towards the end of the season...like end of Big XII regular season and on...which would suggest further improvement ought to be on the horizon. Agree or disagree?

    Jesse Newell 1 year, 4 months ago

    Not sure about bunnies, but this was covered a little bit in the link above. Ellis was 30-for-46 on twos in his final seven games (65.2 percent), and though I don't have the exact numbers on close shots, one could assume at least a bit of that improvement was shots at the rim.

    Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

    Is there a football version?

    Less than 100 days to kick-off.

    TheBoHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

    Tarik looked great...really good motor and good feel for rebounding and putbacks...Jamari looked good too. Brannen looked like his usual self. Was Frank Mason wearing #1??... it didn't look like Tharpe

    rockchalk_dpu 1 year, 4 months ago

    Tharpe gave up his jersey to Wayne Selden. Tharpe will be wearing 10 this year I believe.

    Michael Luby 1 year, 4 months ago

    Yep, Ellis and Tharpe need to be better next season. Ellis just needs more confidence and he'll make those close ones. Tharpe, pretty much the same. Practice fellas, get those reps in. Sorry Wesley, your gonna be riding the bench til senior night.

    Preston Dwiggins 1 year, 4 months ago

    Has anyone watched Tarik play much? I wonder what he needs to improve on as a college graduate? I love that Tarik is hungry! Agreed Lulu, Wesley is buried on the bench with Lucas : / Still living the dream in my opinion : )

    KatnissHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

    Perry Ellis is going to have a fine year. Stop worrying so much guys.

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