Saturday, November 26, 2011


Travis Releford’s defense never rests


With a bench that’s thinner than the traffic going from Lawrence to Arrowhead Stadium will be today, Kansas University’s basketball team can’t afford for any of its four juniors new to the starting lineup to flop.

Based on the way they played in the Maui Invitational, it looks as if they’re ready for the responsibility.

Thomas Robinson’s strong play was expected and not what left those who made the trip to watch KU feeling better about the team.

Elijah Johnson showed he has the versatility to create his own shot driving to the hoop and stopping and popping long three-pointers. He made KU’s biggest bucket against Georgetown on a drive and hit the biggest shot in the Duke game, putting Kansas up 61-60 with 1:33 left by drilling a three-pointer with a defender in his face. In the game between those two big shots, Johnson torched UCLA for 23 points.

Jeff Withey, after watching most of the Georgetown game because of foul trouble, played much better against UCLA and had a particularly strong first half against Duke and finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.

While the contributions of the improved Johnson and Withey screamed loudly, it was stealth standout Travis Releford’s play that came as the biggest relief.

Slowed by a long-lasting ankle injury that hit just as he was starting to come on a year ago, Releford played poorly in Madison Square Garden in a 10-point loss to No. 2 Kentucky. He had four points, three rebounds, didn’t have an assist and turned it over five times.

Was it just an off night or was he out of his league? Considering he’s not a particularly gifted passer, dribbler or shooter, it seemed like a fair question. He answered it in Hawaii by playing well against strong competition.

Releford put the big-time clamps on Duke’s leading scorer, Seth Curry, holding him to single digits for the first time all season. Curry made just two of eight shots and scored nine points.

Against Georgetown, Releford was extremely productive late in the game, converting a weak-side offensive rebound into a bucket, chasing down a loose ball and hitting a pair of free throws. He scored 10 points and also held Hoyas sharpshooter Hollis Thompson to four second-half points.

Coming into the season, Releford knew where he needed to excel.

“Defense has always been a strength,” he said. “Coming into games, I’m always thinking about the things I need to do on defense. I never go into a game thinking about anything on the offensive end. If I stop the other team’s best player, that gives us a chance of winning, and it keeps me on the court.”

Playing behind Brady Morningstar, Releford studied the things that made him a standout defender.

“He was always getting in the guy’s head, changing how the guy’s playing, making him uncomfortable,” Releford said. “He was real smart on defense. He knew how to get around screens and get under guys. He did stuff you can’t teach. I’m longer, stronger, taller and hopefully just as good.”

Or better. KU needs to play great defense to win, and Releford needs to be the best of the bunch. Nobody in Maui defended better than Releford.


yates33333 10 years, 6 months ago

Keegan at his best!! Short, to the point, and penetratingly accurate.

AsadZ 10 years, 6 months ago

It is great to see Travis's improvement on D. He is a classic example of Bill Self molded player, learn from experienced players in your 1st/2nd year during practice, and deliver in your 3rd/4th year. And if you want PT, play solid D. Having said that, we will need little bit more production from 3 spot on O. I am sure Travis will be able to deliver.

Good Luck Travis. Your have paid your dues. Your time is here. Seize the opportunity.

Alohahawk 10 years, 6 months ago

+1 Having earned his starting position, and adding more gametime experience, Releford's game is only going to get better as the season progresses. With confidence, his scoring should improve. But more than ever KU needs his defense now, because of our lack of quality depth. The Jayhawks will need to stay within striking distance to win games this season.

Which leads to the following:

KU has already proved that its starting five can compete with every team this year. (Yes, even Kenstinky, which they battled to a tie during the first half.) But I don't see KU with a lot of blowout wins like they have in the past. However, KU's bench is comprised of some very good athletes (with exceptional speed and leaping abilities). Allowing for HCBS's prowess for improving a player's defensive skills (case in point - Releford), hopefully, the bench will improve across the board, enough so they can spell the starters and give them the necessary rest during those games when KU will need the starters back on the court at the end of the game. The game against Duke is a prime example that KU has the starting horses (ie. team) to compete. They just need some breathers to keep the team fresh enough to compete at the end of close games.

AsadZ 10 years, 6 months ago

I am totally with you on these points

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

"Would You Please Stop Underrating KU 3s, Please?"

Travis Releford--not a gifted passer, shooter, or dribbler?

To strip Raymond Carver, would you please stop underrating KU 3s, please?

Reading all the things Travis is not is like reading board rats rain on BERated Morningstar, while the guy is leading us to 26 wins, 30+ wins, 30+ wins, and now is in the NBA D League!

It's like reading about BRush having no left and disappearing in games, while he lead KU to four conference titles, a ring and became a first round draft choice!

Recalibrate yer gauge fer Jesus, ignatius and the Pope's sake.

Travis has a trey.

Self just wants him to play D, only take a couple open looks (same as he instructed 40% trifectate Brady his first two years), and play through Tyshawn, TRob and Withey!

Travis can pass.

How do you think TRob and Withey are getting the ball. Trav has learned to be a ball mover a la Brady. When Trav plays well, the team plays well. It stays in games, even TT hemorrhages turnovers and KU shoots 25% vs. Fluke.

Trav can, yes he can-can.

AsadZ 10 years, 6 months ago

You have misread/misunderstood my comment. I am not underrating Travis. I said that it is great to see Travis improvement on D. I also said that we will need production from him on O and that I am sure he will deliver, but that's not under rating him. I have full confidence in him and that he will bring more production on O.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

I was not responding to you.

Your take seemed clear and correct to me.

I was responding to Keegs.

Rock Chalk!

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

I know, because I doubted him after UK.

Every player has a bad game every fifth or sixth game. Trav had his vs, UKonvictucky. TT had his vs. Fluke, but I digress.

Holding nearly 60% triacetate Seth Curry to 2-8 ranks as one of the top five perimeter defensive jobs of the Self era. It is not shooting %; that can always be an off night by Seth. It was the way Travis surgically removed Seth from the game. Trav denied Seth every spot on the floor Seth tried to get to. It was a clinic in defense.

But Trav was good at both ends. The awkward trey he took came only because his legs were gone at the end of 3 Gs in 3 Ds and a hellatious defensive effort on Curry.

Trav has only one weakness and he is close to mastering it. Overstimulation. When he shows he can control it a half dozen games, then you will see his shot count rise a bit.

He will break loose offensively in time. He definitely can dribble slasher style. Open court dribbling is still sketchy, as it is when the coach does not let you do it much. Tyrel and Brady got sketchy on the bounce until their last seasons, when Self asked them to carry some of TTs load. Trav will dribble when Self asks.

Next year will be Trav's year to lead, or be second in scoring each game. he is going to make a lot of money playing ball professionally, maybe even in the NBA.

His only structural deficiency is his long neck. It makes him play a little shorter than his height. Fortunately, he is blessed with XTREme Springs that make up for it. Still, if I could wish for anything for him it would be 2 inches less neck and 2 inches more trunk. But he is so gifted he can compensate.

We are all on the way to the waterfall, but his way passes through some very good college basketball that is just starting.

Lucky us.

Don't underrate his game for what Self is not asking him to do.

Just pray for him to keep getting better at dialing in his stimulation control.

Hail Mary, Mother (and calming influence) of God!

Hank Cross 10 years, 6 months ago

I think he's overthinking his shots and is still worried about getting the hook. He does need to ease his mind on offense and the shots will fall. A couple of open threes, some finishes on the fast break, 1 or 2 garbage putbacks - and he can easily be averaging 10-12 points per game.

Jack Wilson 10 years, 6 months ago

oxcal .. agreed. The dreaded "looking over the shoulder". Old habits die hard. I guess Young's there, but in reality, Releford's p.t. is probably guaranteed. He'll loosen up.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

It is very difficult to score 12 ppg playing a glue 3's role.

You have to be Brandon Rush and someone who is a first scoring option guy to score 12 and up out of that position.

Self clearly wants outside shooting from EJ. He wants drive and dish from Tyshawn. And he wants TRob and Withey to keep getting more and more looks, as Withey gets more comfortable.

This leaves about the same number of FGAs to Travis as what was left to Brady.

As I have said repeatedly, Brady easily had the tools to score 15-20 ppg if he had ever been made first option, but that was never going to happen on a team with the kind of talent KU had.

Same deal here with Travis.

He's a very, very good player.

But Self wants to rely on Tysahwn and EJ outside. And so he needs a ball mover. Travis is the designated ball mover this season.

Next season he might get asked to score 12-15ppg.

This season, he will only score situationally, when the higher options run into bad match ups.


Because more than ever Self has to worry about the energy budget on each player.

Self needs Travis on defense. His energy budget has to be spent there most. It leaves least for offense. So he is the designated ball mover, because all the slashing he is capable of requires big energy expenditures.

Tyshawn is also probably a better FT shooter, so you want TT going to the rim and shooting foul shots rather than Travis...this season any way.

It all makes simple, clear sense, without resorting to the added complexity of psychological patterning carry over from last season.

After all, EJ got the early hook all last season, too, and he's not looking over his shoulder.

These guys aren't stupid. They know what the depth situation is. They know they are going to play in the big games. Self goes with who he knows in the big games, when the chips are down.

Until KY can prove he can stop the help defense lapses he makes off ball, he will never see a minute in a big game this season, unless foul, or injury makes him unavoidable.

I do think KY will cross that threshold sooner than later, but you never know for sure.

Travis last season is very hard to gauge. He was coming on like gang busters after an incredibly bad performance early in the season. But then he got injured. And then nothing. So for most of the season he was not looking over his shoulder at all. He was watching from the bench.

I think Travis is playing great in the assigned role. He could score a lot, but contrary to popular belief scoring is not this teams problem. Withey has changed all that. The problem now is how to reduced pop tarts.

Guys who give up the bakery, and play sound will see their minutes rise to 40.

Guys who don't will see others playing more as usual.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Hawks who rawked vs. Duke: TRob, Withey, Releford, Taylor, that order.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

We've gotta find minutes to strengthen the bench crew, as well as rest starters from chances of early season injury. IMHO

KU_Alumn_2000 10 years, 6 months ago

I think depth on the bench is overrated. Our guards should be in good enough shape to play nearly the entire game. Prefer developing Tharp over Teahan.

Wesley looked solid defensively...and Young had a couple of decent moments.

Really like our chances at winning another Conference Championship !!!

Kye Clark 10 years, 6 months ago

Regarding our bench depth:

It's a very big deal, because it's non-existent. You don't need to be 2 deep at every position like we have been in years past, but you need at least 2 quality bench players to spell guys in foul trouble and that are fatigued. Now in years past it may be argued that we've had too much depth, and it led Coach Self to have a quicker hook with guys than maybe he should have. Playing through mistakes is important. It's important for guys to make a turnover and not be looking to the scorer's table anticipating being taken out of the game. However, it's not good to be so thin that you have a player in the midst of an 11 turnover performance and not have another option to pull said player and have him rest and get re-focused.

The '08 team was the perfect example of having the right amount of quality depth. 7 players head-and-shoulders above the rest. Collins was perfect coming off the bench to spell the guards and provide a spark, and Kaun was a great 3rd big, providing defense, rebounding, & toughness. You also had the 8th and 9th players off the bench that were quality and provided depth for injuries and foul trouble. Roderick Stewart stepped in and played well early in the season when Rush was injured. And we all know the legend of Cole's performance in the UNC Final Four game. How much would a Roderick Stewart help this year's team? Tremendously. He was the 9th guy on that team, and might start for this year's squad. That's saying a lot.

While in Maui consider our bench's contributions: Against Georgetown - 52 minutes played, 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, no blocks. Against UCLA - 44 minutes played, 7 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, no steals, 1 block. And against Duke, 30 minutes played, no points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks. Concerning to say the least. In a 3 game in 3 days tournament, Self uses his bench less and less as the tournament progresses. Clearly an indication that he does not feel they can positively contribute as the competition becomes tougher.

Now no one is realistically expecting us to be a legitimate Final Four team this year, and no one is expecting Naadir Tharpe to suddenly become Sherron Collins off the bench, or for Justin Wesley to become Sasha Kaun. But Self needs to use every opportunity he has to develop those guys, as well as Kevin Young, in order to better prepare us for the Big 12 grind, and for the NCAA tournament. Especially Tharpe. Tyshawn won't be around next year, so you have to start thinking long term as well.

AsadZ 10 years, 6 months ago

ict, all very good points. Our 3 freshmen ineligibility has messed up HCBS and KU badly this year.

But we need to have a plan on what to do with this team now. I was surprised to see HCBS did not use KY at all against Duke. He knows players better than all of us but certainly not playing KY at all was perplexing. I can understand he does not have confidence and he was trying to win the tournament. At the same time it is important to develop couple of bench players. It will be very important that we get 2-3 players that can provide some meaningful minutes.

chriz 10 years, 6 months ago

We need to remember that the next time we play a "3-straight" tournament is the Big XII tourney. No biggie if we lose, and our bench might be a lot stronger by then. So long as we're injury-free, our depth situation doesn't worry me too much. In fact, because of how it prevents Self from the "yanking" luxury, I think it will only help us come Big Dance time. Kids are gonna play with some more freedom and won't be so tight like they were against VCU and UNI. I'm excited for this year! Rock Chalk!

Jack Wilson 10 years, 6 months ago

Following up on ict's post (and I think he is right on) the development of the depth is incredibly important this season.. Just as many of us thought the more rapid development of Releford and EJ were important over the past couple seasons. Difference is that we now don't have any other options.

Bilas quote - "But Kansas does not have quality depth right now, and can only rely upon five players to score,” Bilas wrote at “When Jamari Traylor and Ben McLemore were declared ineligible by the NCAA, that really hurt KU’s depth. Still, the Jayhawks are very good, and will continue to get better. The margin for error, however, is slim. Kansas cannot have injuries or foul trouble.”

Bilas's quote above could have been taken from this message board.

One of the traits I have discussed many times here is Self's reluctance to place the development of players over the small picture desire to win a particular game. That is, having a big picture plan to get certain players quality minutes so that they develop in crucial situations, and are better players quicker. Self gets into big games, and then goes with his comfort zone. Hard to argue with wanting to win. The last two seasons, some (including me) felt that he did this with Brady, and to an extent, Reed. Favoring the comfort of Brady/Reed over the potentially higher ceiling of EJ or Releford. But the debate is not about the higher ceiling. That's another argument.

More precisely it is about developing them with crucial minutes so that they could be an option come a more important game .. say a VCU type game where athleticism, speed, 3 point shooting, slashing .. might be needed. It's not just that they are actually an option, but that they are to the point where coach Self feels that they are good option - so that he will actually play them. So that he sees that Brady isn't cutting it vs. VCU and says, ya know, EJ or Releford would be a nice change-up here. EJ, after being praised up and down, stepping in for TT last season .. all of that, played 6 measly minutes vs. VCU. My guess is that his 40% three piont shooting last season, speed, athleticism, etc., and excellent defense (remember Self saying at one point he was the best defender last season) .. would have been a nice option to try when Brady and Reed were struggling. Ugh.


Jack Wilson 10 years, 6 months ago

(cont) As simple as this .. coach Self predetermines that a certain player will play in crunch time, or predetermined minutes in particular stretches .. and stick with it. Regardless. Getting the player experience. So that the experience can then be of benefit later. Big picture. Macro. March. So the stupid mistakes, butterflies, awe, etc., can get out of the system. Perhaps what we saw in Releford vs. UK. This predetermination is done potentially at the expense of the game at hand. (Example: Coach Self believed Brady would have given us a better chance to win vs. UCLA last season. But instead of playing Brady the 32 minutes he did, just play Releford or EJ down the stretch instead. Suck it up and do it. They each got 9 and 10 minutes respectively. Just an example .. we had a home court winning streak on the line, so maybe not that game. But pick a game. Conference games; at Ames; at College Station; at Waco -- whatever). It doesn't mean you're throwing the game, or are not competing. You just say that a certain player will play crunch time minutes, or even get to play at all. A big picture plan to develop a player to be March-ready.

It goes to the heart of the importance placed on winnng the conference. Many close conference games where development can take place .. to put us in a better position in March. Against UNI. Against VCU. It may be heresy around Allen, but putting a few conference games at risk for big picture player development seems reasonable. And an interesting thing might happen. You might be better with the guy you're playing.

And I say this to ict's excellent point .. these guys on the bench definitely need to develop. Kevin Young played zero minutes ... none ... not at all vs. Duke. Tharpe played 7 minutes. Self said that he thought fatigue played a role in TT's TO meltdown and that he should have rested him more. Ya think?

But this is his pattern. That is coach Self as a game coach. He can tell himself to give TT more rest. Dooley's probably in his ear. But Self can't do it. He can't play the more riskier player in his mind.

Young had never played in a game like the KU/Duke game prior to Wednesday. Still hasn't. The guy got 2 minutes vs. Kentucky .. 2 whole minutes. Tharpe got 9 minutes vs. Kentucky and less time .. 7 minutes .. vs. Duke.


Jack Wilson 10 years, 6 months ago

(cont) But ict's point is right there .. we have to play these guys. It is a matter of necessity. If they don't develop, we'll be playing Fairfield, or New Mexico, or who the heck ever in March when TRob will be on the bench with 4 fouls at the 15 minute mark in the second half, and EJ just rolled his ankle. How many of you thought we were doomed when TT went out with cramps vs. G'Town? That can happen in March. Some might argue it was just as urgent last season, or the season before. Those arguments, in hindsight, look pretty good.

To ict's point, Tharpe and Young both need major crunch time minutes to develop. Wesley will get minutes by necessity. That is going to work out. Young and Tharpe are the bench guys we need to be game ready, anytime, any place, come mid-February.

Hank Cross 10 years, 6 months ago

All these points are dead on. Had EJ and Travis been given more minutes to develop last year, we'd have been in a better position this year b/c those two could cover for lack of depth.

Kye Clark 10 years, 6 months ago

HEM - excellent follow-up. You're absolutely right, Self is just not comfortable developing guys in-game, unless he has no other choice. It is why the '08 season set up so beautifully for him. Like I said - 7 guys head-and-shoulders above the rest. His 5 starters laid out nicely for him, and 2 bench guys who were just behind them. All with experience. There were no Brady-type debates raging that season. No one was saying we should continue giving Roderick Stewart minutes. Even with All-American Cole Aldrich as the 4th big, no one was really clamoring for him to see lots more court time. The roles and playing time issues were clearly defined. No need to develop players. Just playing to win every game.

To further illustrate the point about the need to develop a bench we have to look no farther than the Duke game. Coach K sat down Austin Rivers, the #1 recruit from a year ago, in favor of Tyler Thorton. He had played double digit minutes every game this year, and last year as a Freshman on the defending champion squad he played double digit minutes 15 times (and not just against chumps either. Many in the heart of their conference schedule). He was ready. (side note: Thorton was not some 5 star blue chip recruit either. He was a 3-star, rivals ranked #140, not ranked on ESPNU's top 100).

This may also go to the heart of some of the recent recruiting difficulties. You might be able to convince highly ranked talent to come here and come off the bench. But it's a pretty tough sell to expect guys to come here, sit the bench, and be largely ignored; having to wait a full season or two before ever developing and acquiring significant game experience.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

My feelings precisely, but you guys went at length to delve deeper than I might have. With Ben Mac and Traylor on the sidelines, Tharpe and Young have a marvelous opportunity to step up. I hope their practices are solid enough in the next two weeks to convince Self to offer them major minutes. We could well afford to lose one of those next 3 games; but we can't afford later to finish a tight contest without the dependable services of those two. Each appears to give the Jayhawks a very fresh new look when they enter a game. That has to present sudden counterpoint to any opponent who comes out from the halftime lockerroom thinking that they have figured out the Jayhawk gameplan. It is always a fascinating process, viewing the two halves of a Div. I basketball game. Often akin to watching two completely different games. Insertion of fresh feet from the hardwood can make a huge difference in a close contest. For example, the Thornton kid. To date, I like what I have seen and heard about Tharpe and Young. All they seem to lack is a bundle of gametime experience. Neither could blunder much worse than 11 turnovers, even against a less noteworthy opponent than Duke.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

What the first 5 games tell us is not that we lack scorers.

It is that we have very streaky trey shooting.

We've had already had two games where we shot 25%.

At the same time, however, we have already had three games where we shot 40% or so and two exhibition games were we made everything we threw up. Conner is still probably shooting 70% from trey.

Losing Braeden to FSU and Traylor to street clothes has not hurt our scoring at all. Neither player would likely have been a scorer, though their ability to spell the starters that are scorers more frequently would likely have kept them a bit fresher and so even more efficient. But efficiency of scoring inside has frankly been a strength.

Losing BenMac did hurt our scoring, because he would have been a 5th guy able to shoot the trey, along with EJ, Tyshawn, Travis and Conner. He might also have been our best dinger from Trinitron, too.

But all the same, four guys capable of shooting 33-40 percent from trey ought to be more than enough trey shooting.

Further, Withey has turned to be an offensive weapon no one expected us to have.

We are better than everyone expected, because Withey is better than everyone expected and because Justin Wesley turns out to be able to guard and chase the post better than most expected.

The other four starters are playing about as well as expected.

The only guys failing to produce are KY and Merv. Merv was not expected to produce much, though Self said his trey might come into play eventually this season.

KY is the glaring question mark.

Self said KY definitely would be an impact player this season.

But against both UK and Duke, he was given very little PT.

And when he has played, he has looked like a hard worker and a heady player in some ways, but one that still makes off ball errors of a kind that compromise not just defense of his man, but team defense. Compromising team defense is not allowed by Self.

So: KY is the missing offensive link on this team, not the guys that were ruled ineligible.

Traylor would be playing some minutes as a reserve at one of the bigs for sure, right now. He and Justin coming in to spell TRob and Withey would have made this team really, really tough inside. But again, there is little reason to think he would have been a go-to guy on offense.

Three scorers have always been enough for Self's offense, if the 3 man could pot the open look 2 to 3 out of 5 times a game.

Tyshawn, EJ, TRob and Withey make 4; this is more than enough.

Travis will almost certainly shoot 38 to 40% from trey, but it may take him awhile to get untracked since defending the number one guy is taking so much of his energy budget.

I think this team will probably win the conference title, if there are no injuries.

But extended injuries to any of the starters could make it crash and burn.

So what else is new?

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

"Would You Please Stop Asking for Crunch Time Minutes for Green Wood that Isn't Ready, Please?"

The dirge is already starting for giving big minutes to inexperienced players against teams like UK, Georgetown, and Duke.

Help me, help me, help me, I think I'm going insane! :-)

Please basketball god, tell them Self hasn't won 84% of his games, 7 conference titles and a ring playing guys who aren't ready so as to develop them for later in the season.

Please basketball god, plant a burning bush in their back yards, or maybe even just a gob of ignited tar sands bitumen being shipped over to Vancouver to be tankered down to Richmond and Long Beach California for refining, while the tar sands pipelines down the great plains is snagged up in legal maneuvers.

Please basketball god, don't strike Coach Self with a lightening bolt and make him sit Tyshawn, Travis and Withey half the Ohio State game so that Naadir, KY and Justin can magically learn get better for post season, while getting their butts kicked into the next dimension in pre conference.

Please, please, please! :-)

There is something called the availability heuristic in decision making. Without putting too fine of a point on it, it goes some thing like this:

If human's have a problem, they solve it not with the best method, but with the one easiest to resort to.

If the experienced starters aren't doing well, according to the availability heuristic, human's are tempted to insert whatever players are on the bench, whether they are ready to play, or not, because they are right there.

Rummie kept using Humvees in Iraq not because they were the right solution, but because they were the most readily available.

Please basketball god, keep making Coach Self resist the availability heuristic.

Let him keep bringing Naadir, KY and Justin along in situations that fit their abilities and levels of development and let them grow slowly and steadily and so be ready for March, rather than blow out their confidence by the end of January.

Incurring Coach Self's quick hook is sooooo much less harmful than going out and getting humiliated and crushed by players that are hopelessly better than they are at the present time.


Kye Clark 10 years, 6 months ago

Jaybate - to answer your I won't stop asking that Self plays his bench. First of all, this isn't Hoosiers. We have more than 6 players available. We are thin, but we're not as thin as Self is playing. Secondly, is it not better to be prepared? For the reasons previously mentioned - foul trouble, injuries, fatigue. You say extended injuries to the starters could make the season crash & burn. How do you protect against having guys ready so there's not as significant of a drop off. In my opinion the past couple of seasons have been of the "crash & burn" variety, in part because Self had a bench full of guys not ready to step up. Think a battle-tested EJ and his 40% trey would have came in handy against VCU? But Self never played him in any crucial situations, and thus he was never in a position to succeed. And thirdly, how do you know they're not ready for "crunch time minutes?" Self not playing them and the "Self knows all" reasoning doesn't cut it, because this is his M.O. He doesn't develop players in-game unless he has to. The last time he had to was '08-'09. Self took his team up to Michigan State and they were "crushed by players that are hopelessly better than they are at the present time". But it prepared them. We saw them later in the tournament and stood toe-to-toe with them. The time before that was in '05 when he took a team of inexperienced freshman & sophomores to Maui. Again, crushed. But Self learned a lot more about that group than had he had a group of experience players seeing all the minutes in front of them. So might they fail miserably? Sure. But really, what could Naadir Tharpe have done that would have been worse than Tyshawn's 11 turnovers? I'd much rather develop guys and risk another Big 12 title than win it and have guys still not ready come March. This is Kansas. We shouldn't be playing for Big 12 titles. That's cause for celebration in Columbia. In Manhattan. Even in Austin. Not here.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

JB, I am not promoting the thought that bench players take up half the playing time in the Buckeyes contest. But i do think they should pull down a bundle of minutes in the 3 games prior to Ohio State's arrival. Depending on our five starters to be available for energetic and injury-free 30+ minutes every game is just not realistic, from now until March. Post facto, Bill Self admits that he should have rested Taylor more vs. Duke; but he obviously did not trust Tharpe or feel that he was prepared yet to carry the responsibility in such a major competition. So, what is the remedy? Ict, I stand my ground that yes, Kansas should first and foremost strive to win league titles. Post-season success is gravy. Would be dandy for our storied program to be in the annual mix for Final Four appearances, but the tournament is such a weird crapshoot that its importance is subordinate to the seasonlong struggle for league championships. If we could reach the last weekend of the big dance every 4 or 5 years, and win the whole shooting match once every ten years, I would be very pleased. But Self's string of league titles represents the real meat of the Jayhawk hoops cuisine, IMHO.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

"On Playing Inadequately Developed and Moderately Talented Players Big Minutes at Crunch Time Against Top Teams"

Question: If playing inadequately developed and moderately talented players better, i.e., if letting them be beaten senseless by superior opponents all during the regular season develops them into competitive back-ups in March Madness, why don't these sorts of players, and teams laden with them that have to play them all season long, because the don't have any good players; why don't these sorts of players and teams improve dramatically course of a season? Most untalented teams that get pulped all season long, don't show much sign of getting better over the course of a season. :-)

Next, Self throwing Cole Adrich to the MSU dogs, when Cole is a future draft choice, has practiced against great players for a freshman season, played spot minutes all season his freshman season, and produced ten solid minutes of backup play in the NCAA tourney, seems a bit different than throwing Naadir Tharpe to 20 minutes including big minutes down the stretch of a close game in November, when Naadir is a freshman with only 4 D1 games under his belt.

Next, Self throwing Brady to the MSU dogs,when Brady was a third season redshirt sophomore, already Self's best perimeter defender, and Self's second best trey shooter at 40%, hardly seems like throwing Naadir Tharpe 4 games into his freshman season.

Self is playing Justin Wesley quite a lot, despite how limited his skill set is, for two reasons:

a) he guards the post well and does not make many mistakes that lead to break downs in team defense;

b) the only alternative is Kevin Young and KY is making too many off ball mistakes that break down team defense.

KY has a full season playing D1 ball behind him.KY is proof that being thrown to the dogs and playing all the time does not necessarily take you to a level capable of playing sound basketball. In fact, it lets you develop bad habits that are harder to break, than if you had to learned to do it the right way in small, controlled steps in the first place.

What Self and Manning both seem to agree on strongly is this:

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

They would rather bring a guy on slowly so he methodically develops good habits of play. Getting blown out for any length of time by superior, more experienced talent, does not teach good habits. It teaches you how to be blown out by super, more experienced talent, if you catch my drift here.

Self has learned a lot of lessons in coaching.

If we have to coach attitude and effort, we are never going to have time to work on getting better at skills and execution.

Hence, anyone who's attitude or effort slumps, watches.

Good habits are something we can build forward from.

Hence, put players in situations where their good habits can be reinforced.

Learn to do something in games only after you have learned to do something in practice.

Bad habits are something that sharply slow development, because they take so long to break.

No player is a perfect expression of these rules.

Sometimes you have to choose between a player's virtues and his bad habits.

Tyshawn has a bad habit of loss of focus that triggers TOs.

But if you want his lightening quickness, his superb defensive abilities, his physical durability, his cardio vascular endurance, his cockiness, and his scoring ability, and you have no one better than him, then you have to put up with his so far unbreakable bad habit.

Sherron also was a choice between awesome virtues and some bad habits.

But as you go down the scale of talent and virtues, then you have more modestly talented players to choose among and so you have more chance to select toward those that come closer to fulfilling the rules of coaching the game.

Recognizing these rules of coaching the game and these differing trade offs of choice at differing talent levels goes a long way to understanding why Self wins so much. He gets quite a lot of talent, he gets the kind of talent for the kind of ball he coaches, and then he follows these rules very closely.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

Really in the coming games, except perhaps for Ohio State, Self is very likely to play all the bench quite a lot to get them as much experience as they can process and get better from. And that is apt to be quite a big more as the quality of teams diminish for awhile.

You've just got to recognize that who you get these young players experience against has a rheostat. You don't have to play them against Duke. Playing these young guys against Florida Atlantic will sharpen them up incrementally quite a bit, since they are practically starting at square one. Once they show they can handle Florida Atlantic, then give the a taste of the next level of talent and intensity. And when they master that kick them up a notch.

Really, December and January are plenty of time to develop players against lesser competition to find out which ones can then be taken to the next level of quality back up minutes against good competition.

Remember, a back up player often only needs to be able to do a couple of things satisfactorily. Most of the players in experience can be masked by simply scoping his role to exclude those duties. So in December and January, Self just has to find them enough minutes to get better at the few skills he will ask of them later in the season.

One of the reasons Self tends not to play green bigs against the Princeton teams is that he knows before the season starts that in March this green big is never going to be asked to go chase a Princeton big to 25 feet in a big game. The green big just is not going to be physically mature enough to go do that better than an older player, or some swing 3/4 player.

There's just some things a coach knows he is never going to ask a player to do late in the season, so there is no point in asking him to do it early either.

I have to say, I don't understand this fixation some board rats have with giving inexperienced, less talented players big minutes down the stretch of big games early in the season.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

I never see Roy, Consonants, Calipari, Donovan, Calhoun, or anyone frankly doing it that is not absolutely in a desperate situation due to fouling, or injury.

Why should Self do it differently?

This dirge has a very ideological quality to it, as I have noted in previous seasons.

Time allows me to demonstrate my point a bit better.

Last season, when KU was about the deepest team in the Top 20, Self was exhorted to give his subs massive minutes at crunch time early to get them ready for March.

This season, when KU is among the thinnest teams in Top 20, Self is exhorted to give his subs massive minutes at crunch time to get them ready for March.

Such consistency begs a question: are there any conditions under which Self should not give his subs massive minutes at crunch time to get them ready for March? :-)

I can only infer that giving subs massive minutes at crunch time to get them ready for March is being posited as some kind of law, or at least an unvarying heuristic, of coaching.

Why don't more of the top coaches evidence subscription to this rule, I wonder?

Or maybe they do.

Or maybe the just should. :-)

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

P.S.: After having read about the availability heuristic and the multitude of heuristics that can lead to bad decisions, I am very eager to embrace new heuristics...if I can understand them.

Several of the aliai here that advocate for much early season exposure of inexperienced, moderately talented players to crunch time minutes against top teams seem reasonably bright.

I am conducting this dialogue not to try to out point in you in debate.

I genuinely feel that there are many, many ineffectual heuristics in sport, especially in coaching.

But I have not yet been able to see the net benefits of playing inexperienced, less talented guys more minutes at crunch time.

I suspect their may be benefits, but I also suspect advocates of this apparent "law" of coaching may be under accounting for the costs of it, i.e., the bad habits learned and the lost confidence in the good habits so far taught.

Anyway, I am as always open to new ways of thinking about it, if folks are up to the challenge of finding new logics and/or statistics to support them.

Some research supports that increasing statistical reliance in decision making tends to yield net benefits, when the statistics are indicative of crucial drivers of performance and outcome.

In the spirit of collegiality, and in the tradition of seeking out how to improve my own reasoning by turning to those that contradict it most completely, might I suggest that you all approach this issue, to whatever extent resources permit, from a statistical stand point. Look at some batches of players from good teams and bad ones and track change in performance of some key statistics. Let group A be the group that is brought a long slowly. Let group B be the group that is thrown to the dogs early and often. And compare the net gains. Try to measure changes in positive attributes and measures of change in some negative attributes. Try to achieve some kind of composite measure that reflects net benefit of slow, steady development, versus thrown to the dogs at crunch time development.

It is quite possible that some startling findings would occur in such an analysis...findings that might substantially change the way the game is coached.

This is my idea of intellectual excitement.

There is no small amount of nerd in me.

But in fact, I am quite a hybrid.

Both nerd and jock.

Both artist and business person.

Both scientist and mythologist.

I eat questioning validity for breakfast.

And yet I am comfortable recognizing legacy effect.

Rock Chalk!

zsn 10 years, 6 months ago

Hey LJW (Gary, Keeg): Give jay a column already. Stop torturing us by making us dig deep into the comments section to read insightful, accurate and witty analysis

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

Whoa! Now you are really going to get me in trouble with the board rats around here that do know al lot more than me, plus those that just think they do! :-)

But thx anyway.

Jack Wilson 10 years, 6 months ago

I read Jaybate's summary above.

As I read -- I think his point is: Give me proof that playing an inexperienced player important minutes can pay off later in the season.

Jaybate added the words "less talented", saying "But I have not yet been able to see the net benefits of playing inexperienced, less talented guys more minutes at crunch time."

I challenge that piece. Who says "less talented?" Is Tharpe less talented than Tyshawn Taylor? That's the chicken before the egg thing. We can assess talent, but until it's developed, we don't know. But it is really irrelevant to the topic. We're talking about improving a player, regardless of where he fits on the talent continuum (generally).

Another word I saw from Jaybate was "massive" .. meaning the premise is to give subs "massive" minutes in crunch time. I never said that. Give them minutes, and experience. "Massive" is not part of it.

It is an easy concept. And I think Jaybate is missing or undervaluing a key component here.

The way athletes compete at the top levels is to simply play, and not think. How athletes get to this stage is being comfortable. To permit what they do best as athletes to flow without the interruption of nerves, anxiousness, panic ... to not over-think. Not to get caught up in the moment. But to play the game in spite of the moment.

Respectfully, I do think that Jaybate .. at times, mind you .. sometimes here and there .. maybe ... possibly .. over-thinks things. That's ok. Usually does get you to the correct solution. Might on this topic as well.

In my humble experience, athletes that are comfortable perform better. To make an athlete more comfortable, the athlete, generally, needs to be exposed to "the moment" or something near it. Shooting free throws at Allen vs. Towson, is different than at the 5 minute mark vs. UK at Madison Square Garden. Some athletes need more exposure to be cool under fire, some need less. It's like anything else. Self has talked about the game slowing down for some players .. what he means is that they aren't panicking anymore under pressure. They relax. They play the game. This occurs, in part, because of experience. And that's the point.

Jaybate says: "But I have not yet been able to see the net benefits of playing inexperienced, less talented guys more minutes at crunch time."

Here is an ok example from recent KU history - Mario Chalmers as freshman. Jeff Hawkins was the starter. Chalmers was provided multiple important minutes .. in important situations. Remember that team? We started 2-3, and then were 3-4. 10-6 at one point. Chalmers took the starting job from Hawkins. Obviously, Chalmers was the better player. But Chalmers got important minutes early in that season .. November and December. He received a lot of experience early.


Jack Wilson 10 years, 6 months ago


An exception to my position might be Cole Aldrich .. he didn't get to play much at all. Certainly not in crunch time, in 2008. Then he played great on the biggest stage vs. UNC.

My thought here is not an absolute. It's a general thought. And one that is based on how athletes develop, and one that is well accepted.

Look at the freshmen that play each season. Look at their performances early, vs. late. Look at UK. Do think Teague will be that scattered and out of control in February? An age old statement in college basketball is that by the time March rolls around, freshmen are really sophomores. Why is that? What does that mean? And what about "freshmen mistakes?"

Mistakes and poor performance by players lacking experience. Whether they be freshmen, sophomores, or whatever, experience provides a less anxious or nervous athlete, where the athlete can play and not be affected by nerves, etc., as much.

By all accounts, Tharpe is an excellent player. Let's use Self's own words. He said he should have rested TT more. Excellent opportunity for Tharpe in the last 10 minutes vs. Duke. But it doesn't have to be this game. Or "massive." That's really not my point. Pick a tight game, emotions, every possession means something. That is much different to an athlete than the 6 minute mark of the first half vs. Towson or UCLA when we're up by 15.

Experience under fire. That means something, right?

And that's the point.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

JB, I will bow to your overall analysis. At crunch time, I would like to see a more rested and focused Tyshawn Taylor with the ball. And yes, every second of the Duke game represented "crunch time." So...coaching staff and starters (for the most part) did the very best that they could do in that hardfought contest, at this stage of 2011-12 Jayhawk development. The injection of Young and Tharpe for an extra 4 or 5 minutes might have doomed the tightly wound to and fro of the score. Somewhere down the pike I hope they will have developed enough experience and skill to relieve and rest TT and crew in future close contests. The majority of their learning will come from intense time spent on the practice court. RIghtly so, BIll Self measures weekly gametime minutes by what he has seen in recent practice sessions. Even with all the game minutes which Austin Rivers had accumulated going into that contest, Coach K saw cause to yank and replace him with a more experienced defender Thornton...upon whom the hoops gods showered whimsical delight. Calipari pulled his frosh vunderkind for the more experienced Miller when the going got rough. There is a lesson of some sort to be found in those coaching decisions. Bill Self does not have the elite recruits available for immediate court minutes this season. It will, indeed, be a slower methodical process than he had with the early skill and basketball IQ of Xavier Henry. And, yeah, I imagine that we will see much more of KY and NT in these next 3 games, so long as they are listening and responding to Self's instruction on the practice courts. I hold firm on the thought that the team will spiral into a few extra losses if those two are not to be counted upon come February. Self's system usually works marvels with 2nd tier talents who gradually learn to thrive and become essential ingredients in his team successes and winning seasons. I am not trying to second guess his decisions re playing time for newcomers. His winning record and string of league titles speak for themselves. As you have often declared, Self is a master at taking and making the most of what he is given in any situation. Because of the variety of circumstances involving this year's roster (twins and Selby vacating the program, BenMac and the two bigs ineligible, relatively inexperienced starters) the coaching staff might have to move more quickly to expose and prepare newcomers who are available. With luck, perhaps not. I don't envision Bill Self relying much on the shining light of continuous good fortune. He is a head coach determined to be prepared.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Somewhat off the subject, I would like to spend a moment congratulating our team for marvelous early season play at Maui and in the Kentucky contest. You guys have gone head to head with some toprated programs and talents, and you have handled the pressure with intense play and dignity. The two big losses will contribute to your learning curve and make you that much tougher come the Ohio State game and league play. I have been impressed with all of you. You are providing the Jayhawk Nation with another wonderful hoops season. It is indeed a joy to see familiar patient Jayhawks finally getting the opportunity to represent the program in all its customary glory. Here's wishing for you a terrific wintertime season.

Kye Clark 10 years, 6 months ago

Jaybate - you are right that playing Cole Aldrich & Brady Morningstar against the "MSU dogs" is different than playing Naadir Tharpe 20 minutes in a close game in November. However, those are only two players on that team, and not really a good comparison. We had three freshman playing major minutes that year - Tyshawn & the Twins. That is the better comparison. He played them because he had to, and I would argue that they were all better for it.

Also, your comparison of the debates between last season and this season are very different. It's not simply a case of "Last season, when KU was about the deepest team in the Top 20, Self was exhorted to give his subs massive minutes at crunch time early to get them ready for March. This season, when KU is among the thinnest teams in Top 20, Self is exhorted to give his subs massive minutes at crunch time to get them ready for March." Last season it was a case of fans not trusting Brady, and to a lesser extent Tyshawn & Tyrel, and thus wanting to see EJ developed more so as to be confident in a big situation in March. The case was also made at different times for Selby & Travis, but both their seasons were derailed by injuries so the cases for them were not as strong. This season fans are not advocating for the development of a bench due to trust issues (although after Tyshawn's 11 turnovers it might be headed that way), but just out of common sense. To protect against injuries, foul trouble, & fatigue. Or maybe another knuckleheaded moment by Tyshawn, where Self is forced to suspend him again. Because all the things you fear - developing bad habits and destroying confidence - are just as likely if not more so when they HAVE to be thrown into the situation of playing crunch time minutes. If you plan on it, you have a modicum of control over it, versus it being thrust upon you.

Kye Clark 10 years, 6 months ago

Last season there was also call for players to get more minutes, not necessarily to develop a bench, but because some fans just thought EJ/Travis/Selby were better options (again, the Brady debates). So I think we should not confuse those debates with the issue of developing players. This season is different, because I don't think fans think that any of the bench players are better options than any of our starters. Some of us just would like them to develop into acceptable options off the bench for the reasons listed above: injuries, foul trouble, fatigue, suspensions.

The injury (or "what if...?") component of the debate is actually true for both seasons. Yes, we were among the deepest teams in the top 20 last year...when the season started. By the end of the season we had seen injuries to three of our perimeter players. Selby was never the same after his injury. Tyrel faded down the stretch with his injured foot. And Travis never regained a place in the rotation after his injury. All the while you had a healthy EJ, and he played 6 minutes versus VCU. So we had a team where we felt that our depth should have protected us against a rash of injuries, but felt that Self should have developed that depth more as injuries mounted. After all, what's the point of being deep if your talent is ill-prepared? This season there is no margin for error with the injury bug, not yet. However, if Tharpe and/or Young were brought along and something happened, we might be better equipped to deal.

So you ask the question: are there any conditions under which Self should not give his subs massive minutes at crunch time to get them ready for March? I say no. Injuries can ruin even the deepest of teams' seasons. Foul trouble can crop up in a Final Four game and all of a sudden you're playing your fourth big against POY Tyler Hansborough. All this being said, I don't disagree with not playing these guys against Duke. Nor am I advocating giving them a lion's share of the minutes against Ohio State. In my original post I was simply pointing out the contributions of the bench while in Maui as an illustration as to how thin we are, and that Self feels they are not ready. I agree that it is against our next few opponents, minus Ohio St, that our bench should be developed first. And then in some conference games against the lesser foes, and then against tougher conference foes. I would, like HEM suggests, like for Self to pick a game against what should be a tougher opponent and play these guys. His examples are pretty perfect: at Ames, at Waco, at College Station. All three games figure to be tough, and none are at the beginning of the conference schedule (1/28, 2/8, & 2/22, respectively). They have plenty of time to build confidence and develop good habits before then.

jaybate 10 years, 5 months ago

We will all have to remember this exchange and see if Tharpe, KY, and Justin play more crunch minutes at Ames, Waco, and College Station, or not.

If they do, then at that time we should all analyze as best we can why they played significant crunch minutes.

You may be on to something here.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago


The right experience under fire means some thing positive.

The wrong experience under fire means loss of confidence and bad habits.

I believe there is quite a bit of evidence in cognitive sciences indicating people gain confidence from successful function and gain nervousness and doubt from unsuccessful function.

Raising a child and teaching various ages of persons at different times and in different activities, and coaching a bit and training employees and recalling my own most accomplished coaches and teachers, I recall a pattern of learning accelerating in the wake of teachers, coaches and employers engineering successful situations for growth, and decelerating when unsuccessful situations occur, not the reverse.

Again, the trouble with throwing young non swimmers in the deep water to begin with is that you tend to lose more than you teach, and those that survive tend to learn to swim in highly idiosyncratic ways that prevent them from being the best swimmers they can be. Thereafter, you have to undo the bad habits they learned by survival, which takes a way a lot of time for teaching the right way.

The crux of teaching is: spend most of your time teaching getting better, not creating experiences that trigger bad habits that then stand in the way of teaching getting better.

There is a reason KU's big men show so much more improvement in years three and four at KU, that some at other schools.

Self and Manning just relentlessly build on the positives. If they can possibly help it, they don't expose a guy to bad experiences before the guy has a foundation of good experiences to build on. Thomas Robinson had to sit his freshman year, not because there were talented players ahead of him, but rather because he was just to wild and overwhelmed with what he was be asked to master to do much other than have bad experiences that would lead to bad habits.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

Look at how Self and Manning handled needing to play Marcus as a frosh. First, he was future draft choice, so they knew he had the physical talent to play even as a freshman. But they knew mentally he was completely in over his head. So they scoped his duties to just two things: defend the 4, and grab garbage rebounds and baskets. Marcus was so talented that he could "survive" trial by fire, if he was asked to do very little. But this in fact did not prepare him, or accelerate him, much beyond Kieff in other aspects of his game. And by the end of three seasons, sheltering Kieff and allowing him to grow and develop very deliberately enabled Kieff to finally catch up and in some ways surpass Marcus their final season.

Marcus paid a very, very big price for starting as a freshman at the 4. It probably single handedly developed so many habits of the 4 spot, that he never really had time later to break those habits of a 4 and flourish as a 3. Further, he is going to have to struggle in the show to make the transition to the 3, because of his need to break a lot of his 4-habits to become accomplished at the 3.

The point is there are large costs to committing persons to activities before they are necessarily mature enough to handle them. They necessarily learn in ways that are very narrowly scoped, if they are lucky to have a wise teacher/coach, but this creates problems of habit down stream. They also have lots of bad experiences that must be overcome, rather than be allowed to keep focused on building on positive experiences.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

The desire of fans and some coaches to rely on baptism of fire techniques probably is deeply rooted in certain values of Judeo-Christian culture, which were long long ago forms of vegetation and purification myths in which the individual is imagined to die and come back renewed, like a perennial plant, or to be purged and tempered by fire.

During fully 3/4s of the 20th Century, the trial by fire values dominated thinking about physical training. When I played high school football, for instance, players in two a days were denied water because it was believed that learning to play without water would toughen a football player and prepare him mentally for the rigors of the rest of the season.

In time the scientific data documented that trial by fire physical training, whether or not it offered unquantified mental toughness benefits, it risked dehydration related injuries and fatalities, hampered weight gain, and generally reduced the amount of time that could be devoted to practicing at a high level of mental and physical focus.

Today, starving players of water was a baptism of fire that seems ludicrous to most. But not long ago it was an ideological imperative in football.

Throwing under talented, inexperienced players into intense competition against superior players with more experience seems to me to qualify almost certainly as yet another misguided manifestation of the trial by fire technique. And it seems equally, if not more misguided than intentionally dehydrating players in pursuit of physical and mental toughness.

If one were training players to play a season of games in the Sahara Desert without water, then practicing players without water might make some sense, if one concedes that playing such a game would be pretty stupid.

Likewise, it is wise to train SEALs to perform tasks in cold water and to tie capability of doing such to SEAL toughness, because in fact they will from time to time have to operate in such extreme conditions.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

But one should be able to recognize also that in both examples, one would be doing so not to optimize learning to perform the skill, but rather would be optimizing learning to perform it under specific conditions.

The key in basketball is do you want to train a player from the start to perform his role as if he were in the Madness, or do you want first to train him to perform his role the best he can, and then prepare him to perform his mastered task under difficult conditions.

Like all choices, there are trade offs to what ever approach you take.

Do you want to teach a SEAL sniper to shoot a gun first, then teach him to shoot it when cold, or do you want to teach him to shoot a gun while he is experiencing the effects of sustained hypothermia? I suppose the trial by fire ideologues could make a case for teaching the SEAL to shoot a gun from the beginning in cold sea water. But I do believe the Navy has thought some about this and separates the activities in the beginning. :-)

In fact, if I recall correctly, the Navy plucks SEAL candidates from the ranks of fully trained Sailors, but that may have changed since the last time I talked with a SEAL.

Now if I may, let me address your mention of Mario Chalmers and Jeff some years back.

Mario Chalmers is exactly the kind of exceptional talent that either starts out, or quickly gets to play ahead of a lesser talent than Jeff, despite his inexperience.

His net benefits are so great that you have to play him ASAP and mask his shortcomings ASAP, and narrow the scope on his tasks. Josh Selby and Xavier fell into the same categories. Selby coughed pop tarts, but he was such a good scorer, Self had to play him. So he hid Selby's TO-itis at the 3. Mario came to KU expecting to play the point. Self dutifully, hopefully tried him there, but it was quickly apparent that Mario would get completely skunked as a point guard his first season. But Self could still get a lot out of his strengths if he hid his weaknesses at the 2. And so on.

jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

Jeff's net benefits were so much less than Mario's that Jeff had to be a pretty polished player before he could be useful.

Now let's consider Naadir Tharpe. This fellow is a good player, but there is not even a hint in his game of the kind of talent that commands one to either start him early at his natural position, or alternatively, start him at another position that masks the weaknesses of his youth.

Before I put a hard gauge to Naadir, let me say that I like him and his game a lot, and believe he will contribute significantly to the team this season by February 1st, but unless there is an injury, he just doesn't show any signs of being better than TT, EJ, or Travis, at any of the positions.

Naadir is no where near as fast and quick as TT.

Naadir is no where near as adroit at getting to the rim and drawing fouls in D1 as TT is.

Naadir will struggle to become an adequate D1 defensive player this season.

Naadir has zero chance of becoming as good of a defender as TT.

Naadir shows no signs of shooting the ball better than TT.

Naadir does not seem a sharply better FT shooter than TT, though I haven't looked at the stats lately.

Naadir cannot possibly amass enough experience this season to exceed Tyshawn in most regards, unless Tyshawn is injured, or has a nervous breakdown.

So: giving Naadir a lot of crunch time minutes against the best teams makes no sense to me until he proves he can guard and perform adequately against lesser teams. Naadir was getting smoked on defense by Division II guards.

Naadir does seem to be on a solid, slow growth curve upwards, a rate of increase that will almost certainly enable Naadir to perform adequately in a subs role come January, and above adequately come March.

So: since he seems to be on this trajectory without rushing him, why rush him? If a worst case scenario occurs, then by your own logic, with which I do not agree, well, then a sudden rush of starting and playing full games against all comers is going to have him up to speed for March in a jiffy, right?

Once again, to be generous, I think the way to advance your point of view persuasively is to collect data on groups of players that get better from trial by fire, and on groups of players that get better from a long slow development, and compare which develops farthest at the end of a career of the same length.

Without empirics, I fear you have a very steep uphill battle to persuade either little old amateur me, or pros like Self, Consonants, Roy, Calhoun, Boeheim, Izzo, Donovan, Wooden, Eddie, and Knight among many others.

But with empirics, how could I, or they, resist?

jaybate 10 years, 5 months ago

Good added insights about managing "speed up" and the two types of responses to lack of confidence.


jaybate 10 years, 6 months ago

Post Script:

I don't think I did justice to your remark about Teague and Tharpe.

First, Teague appears to have significantly more game out of the box to me than has Tharpe. He appears to be one of those guys that you have to start, or play a lot, because Cal has no one behind him that would be as good with fewer mistakes do to inexperience.

Second, will Teague advance farther that Tharpe this season, because he starts and Tharpe is brought a long slowly? Yes, to a point. I would argue that it is very likely despite the slow rate Tharpe is being developed, by season's end, Tharpe will be equally able to handle the pressure of the crunch and produce in his back up role as well as Teague does in his starting role.

But the more important question to me is this: which player will advance farther next season, when Teague is starting his second season as a starter, and Naadir is likely playing his first as a starter?

By second season's end, I have a hunch Tharpe will have fewer bad habits, be more solid in what he does, get more out of whatever talent he has, and that whatever advantage Teague holds over Tharpe will be solely driven by whatever greater abundance of natural gifts he possessed from the beginning.

Kye Clark 10 years, 6 months ago

Jaybate - first of all, I noticed you addressed your response to me, yet much of your post was in response to points HEM brought up. Not that I agree or disagree with what he is saying (although I do agree with his general position of wanting the bench to develop with game minutes). In fact I am finding very little in your post that specifically addresses my post, other than pointing out how Marcus did indeed play as a freshman. Not sure whether that was an accidental or intentional response to my post. Most everything else - the baptism by fire arguments, the Chalmers vs. Jeff Hawkins & the Teague vs. Tharpe explanations - all things brought up by HEM.

But I get it. You don't believe in playing Tharpe or KY crunch time minutes yet, because you fear they will develop bad habits and lose confidence. It's certainly possible. We see it in baseball all the time; kids brought up from the minors before they're ready and it ruins them. I would argue that a good coach (as I believe Self is) should be able to use mistakes as teaching moments and prevent bad habits from forming on the fly.

Again, we're talking about giving these players 3-4 minutes at a time, maybe twice each half. With coaching in between these spurts. Not exactly throwing them to the wolves. And that's a good place to start. If we are so afraid of putting players into games for fear that they will make mistakes, no one would ever see the court.

jaybate 10 years, 5 months ago

Please forgive me about the mistaken salutation.

"I grow old. I grow old. I wear my trousers rolled. I dare to eat peach."

And I do appreciate your weighing in to clarify.

And it helps. Thanks.

REHawk 10 years, 6 months ago

O Boy! It is going to be of huge interest to a few posters, what Self does with KY and NT these next 3 games; also the Ohio State contest, and as the league season approaches. Obviously, there are terrific posts regarding this issue; and I detect that the debate is not really so clearcut along contradictory lines. On a day when Keegan and Bedore and Newell are silent, posters have had a hayday with this issue of bench development and game minutes. Hooray to LJW for providing the forum! This kind of discussion is what keeps me coming back to daily readings. There is so much more to Jayhawk hoops than what shows up in the w/l column.

Kye Clark 10 years, 5 months ago


This is the message board at its best. None of the name calling that we see with some of the poster-on-poster violence. No degrading the coach, players, or program. Just respectful, intelligent debating differing points of view.

Jack Wilson 10 years, 5 months ago

I take it all back .. I think Self should give all important minutes/crunch time minutes to his top 5 players. Because they are better.

Tongue in cheek, of course.

I was away from the computer yesterday p.m.

On Jaybate's reference to Tharpe's inferiority to TT. He's generally right, though I notice he didn't reference "decision making ability" as a topic.

Anyway, the logic referenced by Jaybate was basically, Tharpe is not going to be as good this season, doesn't have a chance, so don't give him important minutes in lieu of others. And that is coupled with Jaybate's position -- "I would argue that it is very likely despite the slow rate Tharpe is being developed, by season's end, Tharpe will be equally able to handle the pressure of the crunch and produce in his back up role as well as Teague does in his starting role."

My point is not that Tharpe will be as good as TT this season. The point is that he'll likely be better in a pressure situation later in the season, if he gets those type of minutes now, than if he had not experienced that same type of pressure situation before. Same applies to Young.

I'm not saying it as a definitive. I'm saying it as a higher probability than if the situational experience is not provided.

jaybate 10 years, 5 months ago


We agree then that Tharpe would benefit from some crunch minutes before madness.

Perhaps we differ on whether he is ready to benefit from them.

I suspect it is almost certain that over the course of the regular season, either Tyshawn, or EJ, is going to foul out, and Tharpe will get the crunch minutes you would like for him to get before Madness.

Perhaps you find him ready to benefit already from such an exposure.

I think delaying such an experience until he tends to do everything soundly in less pressurized situations enables his development for March best.

Tharpe is doing more and more things well. But he is looking steadily better, because Self is not putting him in situations that sharply expose his defensive short comings.

Duke's guards were sizzlingly fast. They were so fast even Tyshawn was having to operate at his defensive envelope much of the time.

If Tt and EJ hadn't been so gas themselves, Naadir likely would have been forced into action.

I like him cutting on leaders.

But we agree he needs minutes sooner or later.

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