Tyshawn Taylor says heavy roster turnover can work at Kansas
In the summer of 2008, a long, athletic guard from Hoboken, N.J., arrived on KU’s campus ready to take on the world.
His name was Tyshawn Taylor, he was on the heels of winning a prep national championship with St. Anthony’s after a 32-0 senior season and he was one of six players in KU’s recruiting class that offseason, a group that would become the foundation for a few wildly successful teams in the coming years.
That summer, of course, KU was just a couple of months removed from winning the 2008 national title and Taylor, along with the likes of Travis Releford, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and others were stepping into some huge shoes.
Gone to the NBA draft were six rotation players from the 2008 title team — including all five starters — and Taylor’s crew, along with title-team returners Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, would be asked to lead the Jayhawks into the future.
While not all of them are headed to the NBA, the current Jayhawks also are losing six players — three full-time starters — from last season’s opening-day roster, a fact that, at least in Taylor’s eyes, puts the upcoming team on par with his first Kansas team.
“I came in with a class kind of like this,” Taylor said of KU’s transfer-heavy 2017 recruiting class that features two freshmen and six high-profile transfers. “All the guys from the national championship team left and then like seven or eight new guys came in. So I know how it feels to kind of be the new guy in a big group. And it’s cool, man. You just gotta embrace it and enjoy it. I’m sure everybody’s showing them love and welcoming them so I’m sure they’re enjoying it.”
That much was obvious during the past couple of weeks, when old names and new faces got together for a couple of camp scrimmages and some good, old-fashioned pick-up basketball.
Only five of the eight new players on the 2017-18 KU roster will be eligible for the upcoming season, which creates a slightly different situation than the one Taylor walked into. But with senior point guard Devonte’ Graham playing the Sherron Collins/Frank Mason III role, Taylor said the current team was poised for big things in the immediate future.
“Devonte’ is a proven guy at this point now,” Taylor said. “So I know what to expect from him. And I just loved how hard they played. They came to compete against us old guys. They really wanted to win that game and they did. I’m looking forward to watching them once Coach Self gets his hands on ’em, you know.”
That time is now. With the Jayhawks allowed to practice in small doses this summer and planning to utilize their 10 practices ahead of the August trip to Italy to go full-speed twice a week for five straight weeks, the versions of the KU team will saw earlier this month and the one that hits the floor in Italy and ultimately at Allen Fieldhouse on Halloween night will differ dramatically.
Here’s what we know already about the new faces:
• Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, who finally will be eligible when October rolls around, has shined, testing himself against Taylor, Mario Chalmers and others.
• Memphis transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson flashed the kind of potential that should — and, no doubt, will — make fans eager to see the 2018-19 team, as well. In time, of course.
• Former Cal point guard Charlie Moore proved in short bursts that he could be worthy heir to the point guard throne held first by Mason and this season by Graham.
• And Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe and William & Mary grad transfer Jack Whitman, both of whom will be playing by January (Whitman immediately and Cunliffe at the start of the second semester), showed elite-level athleticism that surely will fit into whatever the rest of the guys on the roster will do as the Jayhawks pursue a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and make another run at the big prize.
One of the biggest reasons it all works, of course, is the existence of Bill Self and his coaching staff and the consistency they bring to the table year after year in terms of expectations, approach, pace and principles. Self and company have proven time after time that it's what you do in the practice gym in front of them and not on the recruiting rankings before you arrive that determines who plays and Taylor said that's a lesson that is both hammered home and easy to accept from Day 1.
Many people, including some close to the program, have joked this month about needing a roster with faces and numbers to identify the dramatically different looking Kansas team on the court and in practices.
But different does not always mean bad. As was the case with Taylor’s class in 2008, this new group of currently unfamiliar Jayhawks soon figures to be wowing Kansas fans across the country and creating headaches for the rest of the Big 12 Conference. Just like Taylor and his crew did.