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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The general consensus I get from Kansas basketball fans is that Xavier Henry was a bust in his one-and-done year, while Ben McLemore was a success.
It's simply not true if you look only at the numbers.
For the last few years, Ken Pomeroy has listed "player comparables" in his advanced stats on KenPom.com.
The full explanation for the measure is on his site, but basically, a score of 900 or more means two players are "a great match."
McLemore and Henry's player comparable score is 917 — the highest mark for each player. Keep in mind that's comparing their statistics to every other Div. I freshman over the past eight years.
The similarity between the two is even more striking when looking at the advanced statistics. I've highlighted in red the categories where the two put up nearly the same stat line.
The two players took on the same offensive load (usage percentage) and hitched up the same amount of shots. Their rebounding numbers are nearly identical, as are their turnover percentages and three-point shooting percentages.
Basically, here are the four things that separate McLemore and Henry:
• Playing time: McLemore's per-game numbers look better because he was in a greater percentage of KU's minutes. One could easily argue that if McLemore was on the deeper 2009-10 team in Henry's place, his playing time might have been reduced as well.
• Free throws: Henry was a good free-throw shooter, but McLemore was an excellent one, which helped boost his offensive rating by a few points.
• Two-point shooting: McLemore shot six percentage points better inside the arc, which again was enough to boost his offensive production up just a bit above Henry's.
• Defense: Henry was the more disruptive defender, as his steal percentage was nearly double that of McLemore in his one season.
All things considered, McLemore is the better player. His enhanced offensive value over Henry makes up for his weaker steal numbers.
Still, it's close — and much closer than you'd expect based on the players' reputations.
So why is it that McLemore is widely considered a success while Henry isn't?
A few theories:
• Expectations: McLemore committed to KU at an anonymous high-school all-star game near Chicago. Henry's original announcement that he was attending Memphis (before he reopened his recruitment) was live on ESPN.
Fair or not, the added media exposure of recruits usually boosts their expectations. Interestingly, Henry was ranked eighth in his class by Rivals.com, while McLemore was 17th, so the two actually were closer in that respect than KU fans might remember.
Henry's stock also was elevated a bit early in his senior year when, for a short time, he was the ranked the No. 1 player in his class by ESPNU.
• Likability: McLemore's backstory of succeeding over adversity and poverty has been documented in a few places, and it added to him being an easy player to cheer for. Henry, meanwhile, didn't initially report to KU in the summer before his freshman year, which didn't get him off to a good start with KU's fanbase. Xavier — a polite kid in interviews — also probably had his reputation hurt by association, as his father Carl many times came across as overbearing while his brother C.J. often looked disinterested and self-focused while putting up a high percentage of shots during his one season at KU.
• Dunks: This is a big one. Though the two players' numbers were similar, they looked much different based on the eye test.
According to the KU media relations department's unofficial count, McLemore had 43 dunks in his one season.
Henry had only 17. And his weren't nearly as impressive.
McLemore was a more fun athlete to watch because of his leaping ability and creative slams. Even with those gifts, McLemore's offensive production was just barely above Henry's.
The bottom line? McLemore and Henry both had productive seasons during their one-year playing careers in Lawrence.
Take out the emotions and perception, and the two were nearly identical college players ... even if there's little hope that they'll be remembered that way.
If you watched a lot of NCAA Tournament games last year, you most likely heard the story of Butler graduate manager Drew Cannon.
In short, Cannon was put on Brad Stevens' staff as an advanced statistics expert, going through numbers to help Butler put its best lineup on the floor at all times.
Before Cannon was snatched up by one of the game's smartest coaches, though, he was guest-writing for KenPom.com, submitting blog posts last summer that gave statistical projections for the nation's top players.
He used different formulas for returners (taking into account past stats, basic demographics, team stats, high school rankings, mock draft projections and awards) and freshmen (basic statistical information along with a few other secret ingredients added in), but in essence, he gave us a baseline on what to expect statistically from individual players.
I want to use this blog post to evaluate KU freshman Perry Ellis' performance last year to see if he went above or below what was expected of him, but first, let's look at just how close Cannon was to projecting KU center Jeff Withey's actual performance.
No wonder Cannon is on Stevens' staff; it's almost like he had the answers to the test given to him beforehand. Cannon's projections almost are the exact replica of Withey's production at KU his senior year. Perhaps the only exceptions are that Withey fouled a touch less than expected and made a few more twos.
Still, it's amazing to think that a formula could so closely predict human performance.
Switching over to Ellis, let's take a look at his projections compared to his performance a year ago.
Though Ellis' minutes were limited (he averaged 13.6 minutes per game), we can see from the numbers that he greatly exceeded Cannon's projections, especially on the offensive end. He averaged 1.14 points per possessions used while taking on a larger offensive load (ending 21.9 percent of KU's offensive possessions when he was on the floor) than expected.
Here are a few other positives from Ellis' numbers:
• Turnovers: This is where Ellis overachieved most. He gave the ball away on just 10.7 percent of his ended possessions, and though it's often overlooked, that kind of ball security from a big man greatly enhances his offensive value. Ellis had just 20 turnovers in 503 minutes last season.
• Free throws: Ellis also helped his offensive output by getting to the free-throw line often (a 52.5 free-throw rate is a solid number) and making those shots once he was there (his 73.8-percent accuracy was nearly 10 percentage points better than his projection).
• Defensive rebounding: Though KU coach Bill Self often pushed Ellis to be more aggressive, his defensive rebounding percentage ended up well above average. Ellis' 19.9-percent defensive rebounding percentage was second on the team behind Withey and much higher than his projected total of 16 percent.
If we're using the projections as a guide, here are two areas of improvement for Ellis in the offseason:
• Overall defense: Ellis wasn't a disruptive defensive player last season. His block percentage was barely half of his projection (2.1 percent), while his steal percentage also wasn't as high as you'd expect for a player with his quickness (1.8 percent).
• Two-point shooting: Ellis finished with below-projection two-point numbers despite an impressive end to the season. In his final seven games, Ellis was 30-for-46 on twos (65.2 percent), which lets you know just how much he struggled early. As an undersized 4, Ellis will have to continue his evolution offensively, learning how to create space and also avoid blocks against taller competition than he faced in high school.
The numbers above indicate that Ellis is ready to take the next step for KU in 2013-14. He's already a good offensive player — thanks to his low turnover count and ability to create and make free throws — and with some improvements defensively and on two-point jumpers, he could quickly turn into an all-conference-type player with an increase in playing time next season.
Kentuckysports.com recently put together a blog post about the Wildcats' recruiting class and how it might have looked like in earlier years.
Because Kansas coach Bill Self has compiled his best recruiting class (at least on paper) in his 10 years in Lawrence, I thought it would be interesting to do a similar exercise for the Jayhawks.
For this blog, we'll use the RSCI recruiting rankings, which compile many of the top recruiting rankings to come up with a single list.
Here's where the Jayhawks' class finished up in those rankings:
KU's recruiting class of 2013
1. Andrew Wiggins
13. Wayne Selden
16. Joel Embiid
36. Brannen Greene
40. Conner Frankamp
89. Frank Mason
Just for fun, I looked up what KU's recruiting class would have looked like if it had the first, 13th-, 16th, 36th-, 40th- and 89th-best players in previous years.
Here are the results (two/three players are listed under each other in case of a tie in the rankings):
1. Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
13. Ricardo Ledo (Providence)
16. Gary Harris (Michigan State)
36. Katin Reinhardt (UNLV)
40. Brice Johnson (North Carolina)
89. Mike Gesell (Iowa)
Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
1. Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
13. Myck Kabongo (Texas)
16. Jabari Brown (Oregon)
36. Trevor Lacey (Alabama)
40. Jakarr Sampson (St. John's)
89. Sidiki Johnson (Arizona)
1. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)
13. Cory Joseph (Texas)
16. Joe Jackson (Memphis)
36. Cameron Clark (Oklahoma)
40. Jordan McRae (Tennessee)
89. Jarell Eddie (Virginia Tech)
1. Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech)
13. Dante Taylor (Pittsburgh)
16. Alex Oriakhi (UConn)
36. Aaric Murray (La Salle)
40. Jamil Wilson (Oregon)
89. Donnavan Kirk (Miami FL)
Keith Clanton (Central Florida)
1. Brandon Jennings (Europe)
13. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
16. Elliot Williams (Duke)
Kemba Walker (UConn)
36. Kenny Kadji (Florida)
Darius Miller (Kentucky)
40. Anthony Jones (Baylor)
89. Matt Gatens (Iowa)
1. O.J. Mayo (USC)
13. DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M)
16. Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)
36. DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh)
40. Chris Allen (Michigan State)
89. Bradley Wanamaker (Pittsburgh)
1. Greg Oden (Ohio State)
13. Daequan Cook (Ohio State)
16. Vernon Macklin (Georgetown)
36. Jerome Dyson (UConn)
40. Davon Jefferson (USC)
89. Taylor Harrison (California)
1. Josh McRoberts (Duke)
13. Greg Paulus (Duke)
16. Gerald Green (NBA)
36. Theo Davis (Iowa State)
Dominic James (Marquette)
40. Eric Boateng (Duke)
Fendi Onobun (Arizona)
89. K.C. Rivers (Clemson)
1. Dwight Howard (NBA)
13. D.J. White (Indiana)
16. Juan Diego Palacios (Louisville)
36. Josh Wright (Syracuse)
40. Dorell Wright (NBA)
Isaiah Swann (Florida State)
Brian Johnson (Louisville)
89. Nick Young (USC)
Lorenzo Wade (Louisville)
1. LeBron James (NBA)
13. Olu Famutimi (Arkansas)
16. Travis Outlaw (NBA)
Linas Kleiza (Missouri)
J.R. Giddens (Kansas)
36. Rodrick Stewart (USC)
40. Gary Forbes (Virginia)
Ronnie Brewer (Arkansas)
89. Omari Israel (Notre Dame)
1. Amare Stoudemire (NBA)
13. Evan Burns (UCLA)
16. Anthony Roberson (Florida)
36. Eric Williams (Wake Forest)
40. Matt Walsh (Florida)
89. Marquis Kately (California)
1. Eddy Curry (NBA)
13. David Harrison (Colorado)
Jonathan Hargett (West Virginia)
16. Maurice Williams (Alabama)
36. Billy Edelin (Syracuse)
40. Travis Diener (Marquette)
89. Derek Stribling (Tennessee)
1. Zach Randolph (Michigan State)
13. Jerome Harper (juco)
16. Darius Rice (Miami FL)
36. Cliff Hawkins (Kentucky)
40. Brian Boddicker (Texas)
89. Kim Bowers (Mississippi State)
1. Donnell Harvey (Florida)
13. Kenny Satterfield (Cincinnati)
16. Casey Sanders (Duke)
36. Steve Hunter (DePaul)
40. Matt Carroll (Notre Dame)
89. Marque Perry (St. Louis)
Nathan Hair (USC)
1. Al Harrington (NBA)
13. Michael Miller (Florida)
16. Ray Young (UCLA)
Corey Maggette (Duke)
36. Douglas Wrenn (prep school)
40. Jeff Boschee (Kansas)
89. Marqus Ledoux (LSU)
David Graves (Notre Dame)
A few interesting things:
• If you're wanting to dream on KU's recruiting class, look no further than 2007. O.J. Mayo, DeAndre Jordan Blake Griffin and DeJuan Blair? Obviously, the numbers fell just right for these players to be in these spots, and I'd guess 2007 was one of the strongest recruiting classes of all time. Still, if KU had close to that kind of talent coming in ... look out.
• Though 2007 is encouraging for KU fans, there are other years that show high recruiting rankings don't necessarily guarantee success. I'm thinking the 1999 grouping is the worst (Donnell Harvey, Kenny Satterfield, Casey Sanders, Steve Hunter, Matt Carroll, Marque Perry, Nathan Hair), though a few recent ones like 2010 (Harrison Barnes, Cory Joseph, Joe Jackson, Cameron Clark, Jordan McRae, Jarell Eddie) lacked some star power as well.
• It's an interesting coincidence that Conner Frankamp shares the same RSCI ranking as former KU basketball player Jeff Boschee (No. 40).
When I talked to Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi a few months ago, he even made the remark about Frankamp that "it’s too easy to make a Jeff Boschee comparison."
I would guess KU fans would be thrilled if Frankamp went on to have a Boschee-like career for the Jayhawks.
I guess Andrew Wiggins is kind of a big deal.
Not only has he moved the Kansas men's basketball team from 30-to-1 odds to win the national championship to 7.5-to-1, but the site Bovada also had individual odds on whether Wiggins would score over or under 18 points per game next season. No other college player was given similar attention on the site.
This actually brings up a good question: Will Wiggins average more or less than 18 points per game for KU next season?
• Opportunity: KU doesn't return much in the way of proven scorers. It'd even be different if a guy like Jeff Withey (13.7 points per game last year) was coming back.
Really, though, who is a guarantee to score more than 10 points per game next year? I would think most KU fans would say a healthy Perry Ellis should, but other than that, what guarantees are there? Wayne Selden is athletic, but will he be an immediate scorer? Conner Frankamp is a great shooter, but how many minutes will he get right away? Tarik Black is a nice addition, but his stats indicate he's more of a complimentary scorer rather than a go-to one.
If Wiggins is the "alpha dog" that KU coach Bill Self says he is, then it's definitely possible he'll be shooting a high percentage of the Jayhawks' shots on a team that doesn't return any starters from a year ago.
• Pace: With athletic players like Wiggins and Selden — and no lumbering centers to slow down the offense — KU should be looking to push the pace in 2013-14. And obviously, more possessions would give Wiggins extra shots to get to the magic 18 point-per-game number.
• Self's green light: When Self has had talented offensive players in the past, he's practically begged them to shoot more ... even if they didn't.
KU guard Sherron Collins said that, in practice, Brandon Rush would have to run on the treadmill if he passed up a jumpshot.
This past season, KU guard Ben McLemore often talked about how Self wanted him to be more aggressive, including this quote from a story in late January:
“Coach Self always stresses to me that he needs me to be more aggressive, and I need to create more opportunities offensively to get myself open one pass away. I need to get myself open. I need to do a better job of that. I didn’t plug myself in the first half. I wasn’t aggressive like coach wants me to be. Coach told me to go out second half and be more aggressive and plug myself in.”
Wiggins likely won't hear any grumblings from Self if he decides to be an ultra-assertive player on the offensive end.
• Schedule: Let's face it: It's much easier to put up points against patsies.
It'll be much tougher for KU players to rack up the points in the non-conference season this year, as the Jayhawks' slate is loaded with contests against Duke, Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State — and that's not even counting a three-game trip to the Bahamas in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Even some of the "easier" games aren't that easy, as Iona (101) and Towson (168) finished in the top half of KenPom's rankings a year ago.
If Wiggins gets to 18 points per game next season, he'll have earned it against what is sure to be a top-five schedule.
• 18's a high number: Only 48 players averaged 18 points or more per game last season, and just four of those players were on teams that finished the year in the AP top 25 (Creighton's Doug McDermott, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Louisville's Russ Smith and Michigan's Trey Burke). Notice also that none of those players were freshmen.
If you're wondering about Self's 10-year history at KU ... only two players have topped the 18-point-per-game barrier.
The top freshman scorer under Self? That would be McLemore, who averaged 15.9 PPG last season.
• History of No. 1 prospects: To see how other top-ranked prospects had fared in their first year of college, I looked up the No. 1 recruits over the last eight seasons in the RSCI rankings (which compiles many recruiting rankings to make a comprehensive list). I then looked at how many points per game each player scored in his freshman season.
Only one — USC's O.J. Mayo — averaged more than 18 points per game.
Interesting, only two players on that list averaged more than 16 points per game, which shows how difficult it has been in the past for a top recruit to step in and produce big point numbers right away at a top program.
Your answer to this question probably depends on your view of Wiggins.
Is he the best high-school basketball player since LeBron James, as a few analysts have claimed? If he's that kind of talent, he should get 18 points per game fairly easily.
If, talent-wise, he's around what the other No. 1 recruits have been, then it's a much tougher question to answer. Most No. 1 guys don't step immediately into blueblood programs and average 18 points per game, but then again, most No. 1 guys aren't entering a team with no returning starters and a coach that has pleaded with his elite players to shoot more in the past.
For me, I'll say Wiggins finishes just under 18 points per game. I think he'll definitely be above McLemore's 15.9 last year, but getting 18-plus against the schedule KU has next year will be a difficult task.
Vegas usually isn't off by much, and I don't think it is here, either. I'll say Wiggins ends somewhere around Marcus Morris' mark of 17.2 PPG in 2010-11.
But I'm definitely not confident enough to put my money where my mouth is.
What do you think: over or under 18 points per game for Wiggins next season? Be sure to vote in our online poll.
There's a saying in baseball that goes, "There's no such thing as a bad one-year contact."
If you were wondering why teams like Duke and Kansas were in on Memphis forward Tarik Black, who started just five games for the Tigers a year ago, it's mostly because of this same concept.
Because Black has graduated and will be eligible immediately, he essentially became like a one-year contract player. A team with a hole on its roster — and an extra scholarship it wasn't going to use anyway — had nothing to lose in recruiting Black.
The commitment gives KU additional depth in the post, where the Jayhawks have quite a few options but not many proven ones.
As you'll see from his numbers, Black comes to KU as an interesting project: A player that has shown distinct strengths while at the same time being held back by glaring weaknesses.
• Two-point shooting: Black has been an excellent field-goal shooter during his entire career, peaking during his sophomore year when his 68.9 effective field-goal percentage ranked second nationally.
One of the reasons for his success is shot selection. The last two years, he took just 17.4 and 18.5 percent of Memphis' shots when he was on the floor.
Breaking it down further, Black is a player that is especially lethal at the rim. Here are his numbers on layups/dunks/tipins from Hoop-Math.com.
To give you an idea of how successful Black was at the rim ... no KU rotation player in the last three seasons had a field-goal percentage of 79 percent on close shots (the highest was 77 percent from Travis Releford last year).
Black isn't bad when he shoots two-point jumpers, either, as you can see from the middle column below.
The forward was an above-average two-point jump-shooter in each of his last two seasons, but also be aware that most of his shots were assisted by teammates. KU's Kevin Young and Jeff Withey both had a high percentage of their two-point jumpers assisted last year (73 percent each), and both players were mostly reliant on others to get their points.
A similar high number in that stat from Black — and his low shot percentage overall — means he's not a guy that creates his own shot often.
• Getting to the free-throw line: One of Black's best offensive skills is getting fouled, as last season, he drew 5.2 opponent whistles per 40 minutes (197th nationally). That trait has led to a high free-throw count for the forward each year. During his sophomore year, he posted the nation's 29th-best free-throw rate (68.4), and he wasn't far behind that number last year (66.3).
• Offensive rebounding: Black has proven to be a tough guy to keep off the offensive glass. After grabbing 14.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds his freshman year, Black pulled down 10.8 percent (247th nationally) his sophomore year and 10.1 percent (302nd nationally) his junior year. Kevin Young (13.2 percent) and Perry Ellis (11.4 percent in limited time) were the only Jayhawks to post higher offensive rebounding percentages than Black a year ago.
• Shot-blocking: Though Black didn't block as many shots as a junior, he showed the ability to be a greater defensive presence his first two years. During his freshman year, he blocked 7.3 percent of opponents' twos (79th nationally), and his sophomore year, he rejected 6.2 percent of those attempts (113th nationally). Though that percentage dropped to 3.1 percent his junior year, you'd have to figure Black still has the ability — based on the past — to have some defensive impact in the paint.
• Free-throw shooting: After posting a strong 119.5 offensive rating his sophomore year, Black's offensive rating plummeted to a mediocre 100.8 last season.
The biggest reason? Free-throw shooting.
Black's 44.8-percent free-throw shooting was the seventh-worst out of 724 NCAA players who shot 100 free throws or more.
If Black can even get back to a 59-percent free-throw shooter, he'll greatly enhance his offensive value.
• Fouling: Black is a hacker, as he has committed at least 5 fouls per 40 minutes in each of his three seasons. Last year was his worst season in that regard, as he posted 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes — a number that would have been tops out of KU's rotation players a year ago (and even above that of Jamari Traylor at 6.1 fouls/40).
• Defensive rebounding: Though Black has been strong on the offensive boards through his career, he's never excelled on the defensive glass.
After grabbing just 11.3 percent of the available defensive rebounds his freshman year and 12 percent his sophomore year, Black pulled down a career-high 16 percent his junior year. That percentage still wasn't good enough to crack the top 500 nationally.
Black provides KU with some additional depth at the 4 and 5 positions and also should help take some of the pressure off KU's young players in the post.
Though Perry Ellis' stats indicate he is ready for a bigger role, guys like incoming freshman Joel Embiid and sophomore Jamari Traylor (good defensive numbers but high turnover rate and limited offensive skills) will be able to ease their way into the rotation instead of being forced into it at the start of the season.
The Jayhawks aren't getting a go-to scorer in Black, but his skill-set might play well on a team like KU's next year, especially if mega-recruit Andrew Wiggins can draw defensive attention then dish to a guy who has been deadly when he gets it in close to the rim.
Because Self had an extra scholarship, this becomes a low-risk, potentially high-reward addition for the Jayhawks — all on a team-friendly, one-year contract.
ESPN.com college basketball reporter Jason King (@JasonKingESPN on Twitter) took some time to talk about the Kansas men's basketball team signing No. 1 prospect Andrew Wiggins and what it means for the Jayhawks in 2013-14.
Q: What's your first reaction to Wiggins committing to KU?
A: I'm actually somewhat surprised. I thought that he'd go to Kentucky, just because they've had such a track record of landing these one-and-done-type of guys, and (KU coach Bill) Self has struggled, for the most part, to get these type of players. At the same time, living here in Kansas City, I'm selfishly excited because I'll get to see a lot of a player who some say is one of the best high school players ever — or best college prospects ever.
I think also my reaction is kind of refreshing to see this kid wants to try something different than the Kentucky way. It's good to see he did put this kind of trust in Bill Self, because Bill Self develops players as well as anyone. Someone made this kid realize that. I think this makes Kansas probably a contender for the national title.
Q: You had KU No. 21 on your last top 25 preseason ranking. Where do you think this moves them now?
A: With him picking Kansas, I've moved them up to No. 5, just because I do think the players around him will develop. The reason I had Kansas ranked No. 21 was just because I thought it would really take a while for them to jell and for those young guys to adapt to the college level. I think it will happen, but I think it will happen in January or early February, not in November or December. Their schedule is so tough, I just worry about them struggling earlier. But now, a player of this caliber, I think he'll probably make everyone around him better. He'll get his points. ... Kansas is going to be right there on the cusp of a top-five team with a chance to be a top-five team when it matters most.
Q: How do you think Wiggins fits in on KU's roster with some of the other newcomers coming in?
A: I think they need something at every position. They're going to need someone to step up at every position. There are a lot of question marks out there about Kansas, just because, again, it's all about how quickly these guys will adapt, and he's probably going to adapt more quickly than anyone, because he's probably more talented than anyone on the roster. I think he'll be a guy that probably carries the team through some tough times and tough games early. As far as where he'll play, I think you've got to find a way to get him and Wayne Selden on the court at the same time. Selden can play the 2, and I think Bill Self, he's going to find a way to get his best players on the court at the same time, and both of those guys, I would think, are among his top-five players. They'll make it work. I still think the point-guard position is a concern, but by signing Wiggins, that's going to alleviate a lot of problems, even though he's not a point guard. That's going to make them that much better at other positions.
I think another key is how quickly Joel Embiid develops and how much better Perry Ellis can get. Both of those are really talented guys. All of a sudden, this is a loaded team, I think.
Q: Does this, in your eyes, make KU the favorite for the Big 12 next year ahead of Oklahoma State?
A: I believe it does, in my opinion, because talent-wise, they're just as good. They're bigger down low than Oklahoma State, which doesn't have much size. Then I think the X-factor is Bill Self. I think when the teams and the talent are even and things like that, then you look toward the bench, and I think they have the best coach, not just in the Big 12, but in the country. I think the team that wins the Big 12 is the one that is the most consistent and the one that can win on the road. I think all that revolves around coaching, and I think he's the best. I think now they have comparable talent to Oklahoma State, probably better talent overall, even though it's just not as experienced. But yeah, I do think they're the favorite.
Q: You mentioned Self. How does getting a player of this caliber affect his reputation in college basketball?
A: In a way, I think he needed something like this, because he had developed a reputation as a coach who was, for whatever reason, unable to land the big fish, even though he did get Josh Selby. That didn't really work out. He hasn't been able to land these guys on a consistent basis. I've never understood why. But I think this helps his reputation. Now, he needs Wiggins to come in and really live up to his potential, because the other guys that he's signed that have been this highly ranked like Selby and Xavier Henry have underachieved. He got the hard part out of the way by signing him. Now, he's got to be sure he flourishes in what's sure to be a one-year career.
Q: You touched on this, but what should the expectation be for KU this year now that this has happened?
A: We all know that expectations are always out of whack for Kansas fans. They want too much, too fast. I do think this is a team that could be capable of contending for a Final Four berth, but I think fans need to be patient — and now more than ever, because this is a highly inexperienced team, and they have the toughest schedule I've seen a Kansas team have in a long time. They need to expect some bumps early. But if they're patient and let the best coach in America do his work and trust him, then I think by mid-January, they'll be rolling and be really good when it matters most, because I do think that will happen. I think the key is not to overreact too quickly if there are some struggles early, because those struggles will just make the team stronger in the long run.
Rivals.com's No. 1-ranked recruit Andrew Wiggins will announce his college decision at approximately 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, with Kansas as one of the final four schools on his list.
Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi (@ebosshoops on Twitter) took some time to talk about Wiggins and what impact he might have at KU if he does commit to the Jayhawks.
Q: You’ve seen Wiggins play quite a bit. For someone who hasn’t seen him play, how would you describe his game?
A: He’s an athletic, transition player who can really slash to the rim and get on the offensive glass and find creases in the defense to get things done. He’s an improving ball-handler; someone who’s still working on his shot, but he’s such a ridiculous athlete, that it helps to cover some of the areas of his game that need some work. The jumpshot and the dribble are coming, but also, he’s a big-time defender. He’s already one of the best defenders in the country. So he’s a big, athletic, quick guy that makes plays above the rim, which is something there’s room for on any team — not just Kansas.
Q: I’ve heard a lot about Wiggins' spin move. Can you describe what he’s able to do with it offensively?
A: First of all, there are not a lot of high school kids that have mastery of a spin move. Not only does he have mastery, he’s mastered spinning right or left. How quickly he’s able to spin and how he’s able to do it in tight quarters and immediately explode to the rim … it’s just pure natural ability. You can’t teach that. It’s impossible to teach that. You can go in the gym and learn a spin move, but not like he has with the balance and quickness and the ability to still finish with power out of it. It’s really rather remarkable.
Q: If he did come to Kansas, where would you see him fitting in on the Jayhawks’ roster?
A: He’d play the small forward position. Kansas has shown they like to run lobs over the years. He would surely get plenty of lobs run for him. But he would be a big-time defender. He would help out on the glass. He would be a transition scorer. I think that his ability to get out in transition … he’d be able to help them play fast because of having an additional finisher on the floor and as someone the defense is always going to account for off the ball, because if you sleep on him, someone’s getting dunked on.
Q: He’s the No. 1 player in the class of 2013 in your guys' Rivals rankings. Let’s take the last decade. How would he stack up historically against some of those other No. 1 players?
A: That’s an interesting question. I think, because his decision has lasted for a while — and with how much coverage there is of recruiting stuff — I think maybe some of the expectations of him are being blown a little bit out of the realm of possibility. He’s definitely a big-time prospect, but is he the No. 1 prospect in the last decade? Probably not. Is he somewhere in the top 10, maybe top 5 prospects in the last decade? Yeah, for sure.
Q: Hypothetically speaking, why do you think KU would be a good fit for Wiggins?
A: Because he’s a good fit anywhere (laughs). He’s a freak athletically. The thing with Andrew is this: He’s done plenty, but I think he’s only scratched the surface of what he can do once he adds physical strength and gets a little better with the dribble and more consistent with the jump shot. He can go from this 6-7 small forward who’s an electric finisher to a 6-7 shooting guard who’s an electric finisher, because he can defend all over the court. Guys like that tend to be a good fit anywhere.
I just think another wing athlete is something that Kansas could really use. I guess if you look at next year’s lineup, Wayne Selden is the only guy you could really classify as an ‘athlete’ out on the wing in their lineup. I think the addition of another guy who puts pressure on defenses in that aspect would be really big for Kansas, because it’s just something that they don’t have a lot of. Next year’s team, if you look at who’s coming back and who’s coming in, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be quite as athletic as it’s been in the past.
Q: You’ve talked to Andrew quite a bit. What kind of a kid is he?
A: He’s a pretty reserved, pretty quiet kid. Pretty much keeps to himself, really. He doesn’t really like talking to media and that kind of stuff. He’s been impossible to get ahold of (laughs), other than when he had no choice but to talk to media. I think he’s pretty quiet, down-to-earth, just kind of humble guy who wants to go along and do his thing without a lot of fanfare.
Q: How would this affect KU’s recruiting class if the Jayhawks were able to pull in Wiggins?
A: They’re already the No. 2 recruiting class in the country. It would just solidify that. … Kentucky’s still sitting on six five-stars. That would be (KU’s) third five-star guy with a couple high four-stars and a solid four-star in Frank Mason. It certainly would make an already very-good recruiting class extremely good.
Q: Would it be unquestionably Bill Self’s best recruiting class at KU if he added Wiggins?
A: On paper, probably yeah. I don’t have what (Brandon) Rush, (Julian) Wright, (Mario) Chalmers and (Micah) Downs were all ranked coming in. But on paper, it would probably be their best class. Of course, you can’t find out if it was his best class or not until a few years down the road.
Q: One more on this topic: If KU did get Wiggins, what type of impact might that have for KU and coach Bill Self in general as far as recruiting goes?
A: If you’re into recruiting badge of honors, it’s a pretty big badge of honor to have won that battle. In terms of perception, Bill Self’s already pretty highly thought of as a recruiter. Kansas is already pretty highly regarded by kids, for the most part, on the recruiting trail. I don’t know how much more those guys can be elevated, because they’re already in that elite tier of programs that are always going to be able to get their foot in the door with kids. It would be another feather in his cap, but how much can you change the perception of somebody who already has a great perception?
Q: You talked about Wiggins being in the top five or 10 high school players of the last 10 years. What kind of athletes would you compare him to that you’ve seen since you’ve been a national recruiting analyst?
A: Athletically, he’s definitely way up there. If anyone remembers what a freak Tracy McGrady was when he was young, when he still had legs. There’s a little bit of Dominique Wilkins in his athleticism, in that he also has powerful athleticism.
For a guy who’s as lean as he is, he’s pretty powerful at the rim, which is why it’s kind of scary to think about what happens when he actually hits the weight room. Athletically, there may have been guys that have come and gone who were close to as athletic as him, but he’s pretty much about what you have to figure the limit of the human body is when it comes to athleticism.
He doesn’t just jump high and run fast — he’s got great agility, great balance. He can jump two or three times while other people are still gathering themselves for the second jump. Not a lot of guys can just catch in close quarters like he can and immediately be up with elbows on the rim.
You just don’t see it very often. It’s remarkable. Athletically, he’s truly a phenom. No question.
Six-foot-10 Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson told the Journal-World on Thursday he will be transferring to play for Kansas. The big man will have two years of eligibility for KU starting with the 2014-15 season.
Here'a a look at Mickelson's statistical profile from his two years at Arkansas (stats from KenPom.com).
• Shot-blocking: Mickelson — with a body type much like former KU center Jeff Withey — also is a talented shot-blocker. Though he played in less than half of Arkansas' minutes during his two seasons there, he rejected 8.2 percent of opponents' two-point attempts last year (66th nationally) and was fifth nationally in block percentage during his freshman year (13.5 percent block percentage).
Though Mickelson does not avoid fouls as well as Withey, he's not a hacker, either. He committed 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes his freshman year, then lowered that number to 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes last year. To compare, Withey was at 4.0 fouls per 40 minutes his junior season before dropping that number to 2.7 fouls per 40 minutes last year.
• Defensive rebounding: In limited time, Mickelson had Arkansas' second-best defensive rebounding percentage in 2012-13, grabbing 16.5 percent of the available defensive rebounds (464th nationally). The power forward also was decent in this stat his freshman year, as he posted a 15.4-percent defensive rebounding percentage.
If you're wondering about offensive rebounding ... Mickelson's offensive rebounding percentage dropped from 8.9 percent his freshman year (483rd nationally) to 7.2 percent this year.
• Finishing at the rim: Hoop-Math.com's shot logs indicate that if Mickelson is an especially effective scorer around the rim.
The big man made 74 percent of his dunks/layups/tipins a year ago, and his offensive profile at the rim is similar to that of Withey did this past season.
Essentially, Mickelson isn't great at creating his own shot at the rim, but he's exceptional at finishing passes from teammates when they get it to him in close.
• Jump-shooting: The big reason Mickelson wasn't even close to Withey's offensive production in 2012-13 (Withey was at 1.137 points per possession ended, while Mickelson was at 0.97) was two-point jump-shooting.
Let's compare the two players' numbers from last year.
While Withey was well above the NCAA average of 35 percent on two-point jumpers (40 percent), Mickelson struggled on those same shots, making just 23 percent of his attempts.
The good news for KU is that Mickelson has shown some signs of being a good jump-shooter. He made 36 percent of his two-point jumpers his freshman year, and in a small sample size, he improved his free-throw shooting from 52 percent his freshman year to 80 percent his sophomore year.
• Getting to the free-throw line: Mickelson is not an aggressive offensive player, as he had just 20 free throws last season compared to 166 field-goal attempts. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 12.0 would have ranked last on KU's roster last year, lower than even seldom-fouled players like Elijah Johnson (24.2) and Naadir Tharpe (17.4). Mickelson averaged just 2.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes a year ago, and since KenPom began keeping the stat in 2005, Self has never had a rotation big man with a fouls-per-40 number that low.
In Mickelson, KU gets a player with tremendous upside defensively as evidenced by his high block percentages. Mickelson's biggest weakness is his two-point jump shooting, though other statistics indicate that he should have the skill set to improve in that area. Based on his free throw and fouls-drawn numbers, Mickelson also appears to be a guy that might need to develop toughness — a trait that quite a few players (including Withey) acquired under Self. A year sitting out could help in this area as well, as it will give the 245-pound Mickelson a year in Andrea Hudy's weight program.
For Self and KU, adding Mickelson provides some insurance in the frontcount in case Joel Embiid emerges to becomes a one-and-done player (ESPN's Chad Ford listed Embiid as a potential top-five pick next year if he continues to develop [subscription required]). This also seems to indicate a preference for Self to continue to recruit tall shot-blockers in a college basketball age where many teams have elected to play small.
Going back to 2008-09, KU has had one high-level shot-blocker in the starting lineup (Cole Aldrich, Withey) for four of the last five seasons. With Embiid and Mickelson signed on, the Jayhawks have the potential to be covered at that position for at least three more seasons.
Studies have shown the best shot-blockers have more defensive value than the best defensive guards because of their ability to bring down two-point shooting percentages, and Self seems to have found a comfort zone with these types of players. Though Mickelson still has plenty to work on offensively, he seems to be in a good location if he hopes to improve his toughness while thriving in a defensive system that will allow him play to his shot-blocking strengths.
Sunday was the 10-year anniversary of Kansas coach Bill Self's introductory press conference to become the men's basketball coach at Kansas University: April 21, 2003.
Let's take a look back at the archives from that day.
• Gary Bedore's main story from the press conference reads like you might expect ... with plenty of talk about how Self was committed to KU and believed it was a "career-ending job."
Here's Self's quote from that day (remember, concern was that Self might want to coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma State, when Eddie Sutton retired):
"My future is not in Stillwater. It is in Lawrence. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think contractually there'll probably be a couple of things in there to make sure that couldn't happen. But I can tell you right now that (job talk) is over."
Also interesting: Self's first contract was $1.1 million a year for five years, which is a far cry from the 10-year, $53-million extension he signed with KU last September (the $53 million figure is based on the assumption he fulfills the contract to the end).
• Here's the transcript of Self's introductory press conference.
This was an interesting comment from Chancellor Robert Hemenway in the introduction while presenting Self with the head coach's chair:
"We'd be pretty glad if you'd just keep it for the next 25 years or so."
Self is 40 percent of the way to that lofty goal.
• Lawrence attorney Wint Winter Jr. seemed to sum up the fan reaction pretty well with this quote:
"It's like we fell out of a 10th-story window and we just landed in a vat of tapioca."
• Then-Kansas State coach Jim Woolridge had some nice things to say about Self immediately after the hire.
Both are Oklahoma natives.
"People really take to him," Woolridge said. "He's an outstanding coach, an outstanding recruiter. People really will be pleased with Bill Self. He obviously will be different than coach Williams, but I know Bill's teams will play hard and be fundamentally sound and play great defense. He didn't get where he is today because he's not a great coach."
• The KU players at the time seemed happy with the selection of Self as the new head coach.
Then-KU center Jeff Graves, though, might have underestimated Self's tough style a little bit with this funny quote:
"With Coach Williams, I thought I was in trouble every time I looked at him. Coach Self is a laid-back guy. I think we'll be a lot closer."
• It's interesting to read back to the recruits' reaction to Self's hiring in this story from Drew Hartsock:
At the time, David Padgett, Omar Wilkes, Jeremy Case and J.R. Giddens were the four KU signees.
None of them ended up having an extended impact in KU's rotation. Padgett, Wilkes and Giddens all transferred, while Case averaged just 4.9 minutes and 1.8 points per game over his five-year KU career.
At the time, KU also was in on unsigned recruit Charlie Villanueva, who later committed to UConn.
• And finally, it appears young Tyler already was photogenic from looking at these pictures (the second one almost could be considered a photobomb).
Just to compare, here's Tyler now: