Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jamari Traylor’s tale captivates campers

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor turns to wipe away a tear as head coach Bill Self tells a group of young basketball campers the story of Traylor's upbringing which included bouts of homelessness during Self's basketball camp, Monday, June 10, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. Traylor was the guest speaker for the day and took questions from the campers. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor turns to wipe away a tear as head coach Bill Self tells a group of young basketball campers the story of Traylor's upbringing which included bouts of homelessness during Self's basketball camp, Monday, June 10, 2013 at the Horejsi Center. Traylor was the guest speaker for the day and took questions from the campers. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo



Kansas forward Jamari Traylor smiles with coach Bill Self as he talks with a gathering of young basketball campers during Self's basketball camp, Monday, June 10, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Jamari Traylor describes why he became emotional when complimented at camp by Bill Self

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor describes why he became emotional when complimented at camp by Bill Self on Monday, June 10, 2013.

Kansas University sophomore forward Jamari Traylor didn’t expect to break down and cry before 800 youths during his appearance as guest speaker at the Bill Self basketball camp on Monday in Horejsi Center.

Yet that’s exactly what happened. The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder wiped away tears as his coach used phrases such as “there’s not a bigger stud in the world” and “I’ve never been prouder of a kid I’ve coached” in reference to the Chicagoan, who survived about a year of homelessness on the cold, mean streets of the Windy City during his freshman and sophomore years of high school.

“Listen,” Self exclaimed to the campers, bringing them to attention. “Jamari lived on the streets for almost a year and in homeless shelters and on his own, sleeping in abandoned cars with no heat. The only reason he went to school was to get a free lunch. A bad day for him is a little bit different than us. Try to go three to four days without eating. That’s a real bad day. That’s why he’ll be an unbelievable father and husband, provider and play pro basketball someday — because he cares so much.”

Traylor moved out of his house on 27th and State Street, losing his motivation for high school and life after his dad was imprisoned.

With the help of his mom and a caring mentor, he was able to return to school and eventually surface at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior year. That’s where he caught the eye of KU’s coaches, who were initially recruiting IMG’s DeAndre Daniels. Traylor accepted a scholarship and is now entering his third year in Lawrence.

Revisiting his life path — and listening to the approving words of coach Self — proved emotional for him Monday.

“That’s coach Self. He knows me. He’s proud of me. It’s good for him to share that with the kids, so I understand,” Traylor said. “Sometimes I just get emotional in talking about it. It’s crazy. Little kids look up to me. My life can inspire other people, so it’s a little touching to me.”

Self said Traylor’s big heart and toughness on the court will enable him to make it big on the court and in the classroom the next three years.

“Some of the things I went through definitely made me a lot tougher, made me a lot smarter, made me appreciative,” Traylor said. “Anything I do, I appreciate it. I always say, ‘Thank you.’ It’s made me more humble.

“It was tough,” he added of a year roaming the streets at night. “No shoulder to lean on as much. It was pretty much a life lesson, helped me get to where I am today. I’m in a good situation now. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s definitely made me a lot better.”

Traylor, who averaged 2.1 points and 2.1 boards while blocking 28 shots in 37 games a year ago, is trying to expand his game in battling the likes of sophomore Perry Ellis, freshmen Joel Embiid and Landen Lucas, senior Tarik Black and others for precious inside minutes. He averaged 9.6 minutes per contest his red-shirt freshman season.

“I can definitely get a lot better. I think I have a lot of potential,” Traylor said. “Like coach said (to campers), I haven’t been playing that long (since junior year of high school). With a good coach like that teaching me, I know I can do anything.

“I’ve been working on my jump shot. It’s what I’ve been working on the most. You’ll see me putting up a couple jumpers next season,” Traylor added.

Of KU’s inside players, he said: “Pretty much everybody looks good. We’re stacked. We are going to look good, do our thing. We are going to compete. Teams going against us ... we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Traylor, who red-shirted his freshman year because of academic reasons, has three years of eligibility remaining.

“It’s kind of crazy ... all these guys (eight newcomers) coming in, it’s like I’m the oldest person now as opposed to when I came in,” Traylor said. “I remember my first workout and (being) dead-tired. Thomas (Robinson) was showing me around, telling me, ‘Run this way.’ I was following him the whole time. Now I’m giving guys directions, helping other guys out. That’s what the crazy thing is this year.”

Self has big plans for Traylor.

“Offensively, he has to get where he can score consistently. He can be a great defender and is an exceptional athlete. He’s not real big for the position he plays so he has to get a little more skilled where he can step away from the basket and do some things,” Self said. “He works hard at it. He has three years left. He’s going to be a terrific player.”

Wiggins update: KU freshman forward Andrew Wiggins could be in town by Wednesday, Self said.

“He’s ready to get here,” Self said. “He has some things to tie up from his situation back home with the Canadian National Team. That was a pretty gutsy move to say (Saturday), ‘I’m not going to play (for Under 19 team). I want to come here.’ That wasn’t coerced by us at all. It’s something we were hoping he’d come here. We were going to work with the Canadian team to try to make both things work.”

Self said Wiggins “will probably still go up there at some point in time this summer and participate in some way. I think it speaks volumes he’s trying to get here as soon as he possibly can.”

He will enroll in summer-school classes.

“His life has been so much fast-forward right now,” Self said of Wiggins, expected to be top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. “I think he should relish being a kid for as long as he possibly can. If he were going to spend nine weeks with that team and come right in and be intense with us right off the bat that makes for a long year for a kid not used to carrying that kind of pounding. I’m excited he’s going to be here and work hard, do what he needs to do but not feel the pressure he has to perform each and every day up until he gets here.”


BewareofOz 9 years, 7 months ago

Jamari, I think everyone in Jayhawk Nation sees incredible potential in you. I am so glad you are here. Your story truly is an inspiration. You've gone from the outhouse to the Fieldhouse, and if you stay on the path you're on right now, next will be the penthouse. Rock Chalk, my fellow Jayhawk!

David Leathers 9 years, 7 months ago

Everyone except HEM...

Joking HEM... I do love your analysis.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 7 months ago

Well, thanks .. and I do love Traylor's story. Seems like a terrific young man. Can't do anything but hope this kid succeeds. Really, it seems like he already has.

David Leathers 9 years, 7 months ago

I can't imagine what was going through his head at the time of being homeless. Other than wondering when his next meal will be, of course. But I would guess that he wasn't thinking about playing basketball at one of the premier schools in the country.

This is what I love so much about Bill Self. He not only recruits for himself and the school, he also recruits what I would call "challenge" players. As long as the kid has good character, Bill will work with him and his basketball skills to hopefully develop them into a pro player, whether that be on another continent or this one.

Tim Orel 9 years, 7 months ago

I also think he helps them pick up skills like coaching that will help them once their playing days are over. Really good coach and leader of the program.

hawk316 9 years, 7 months ago

How can you not help but root for Jamari? So much to overcome, but look where he is. This kid is oozing with potential. It appears that he's very coachable and works extremely hard. Combined with his great athletic ability, what we have here is a formula for success.

actorman 9 years, 7 months ago

"You've gone from the outhouse to the Fieldhouse, and ... next will be the penthouse."

Great line!!! What's so impressive about Traylor is not only what he's had to overcome, but the fact that he doesn't seem at all bitter or angry about having to go through all that. It's a lesson we can all take about how to deal with adversity.

actorman 9 years, 7 months ago

Penthouse can have more than one meaning, lumpy. I realize that he was referring to the NBA, but I choose to think of it as another KU championship.

Scott MacWilliams 9 years, 7 months ago

I'm continually impressed with the content of character across the board of these young Jayhawks. Jamari's incredible life story, Ben Mclemore's similar hard life, and they come in to Lawrence and show such poise. I think it is a fine testimony to HCBS's judge of character, and the support staff doing a phenomenal job of helping them grow up in a hurry. A big part of that, I think, is also the older players helping the younger guys learn their jobs in the best way possible. It IS a family, no more, no less. FOE! Jamari Traylor, you have a great future, and we are all so glad that you came to KU to play basketball and learn so much more about life. What's it like to have 800 little kids looking at you like you are a god? To them, you are. You have survived a terrible period in your life for a good reason, and we are all pulling for you all the way!!!

Dirk Medema 9 years, 7 months ago

Can Wayne teach him that killer turn-around J from the baseline? Now that would be sweet. Both were a little undersized, and Jamari has even more hops it seems. Sort of crazy to think he has 3 more yrs to work on it.

REHawk 9 years, 7 months ago

I hope that Wayne finds the time to play, often, with this young group this offseason. From a defensive standpoint, I imagine that T. Black will provide solid early instruction.

REHawk 9 years, 7 months ago

Speaking of T. Black, I am trying to imagine the transformation in his body during these five months of Hudyization prior to official practice. Wow!

ohjayhawk 9 years, 7 months ago

The only thing is, I don't know that Duke has any big men that will be able to school much of anyone next season. That's why they were after Tarik so hard. Looking at their roster, their forwards for next season are Alex Murphy, Rodney Hood, Josh Hairston, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee and Todd Zafirovski. The player out of that group that had the most "impressive" stats was Jefferson who averaged 4.0 ppg and 2.9 rpg last season. I can almost see Tarik schooling them rather than the other way around.

ohjayhawk 9 years, 7 months ago

Gotcha. With Duke you are more than right in that assessment, I'm sure! They flop like no other.

Nikki May 9 years, 7 months ago

The sad part of this is I knew you meant a comment on flop city. Some of the kids I know have started flopping. I have been known to say, "Get up, this is Kansas not Duke." But seriously, do they teach that at Duke?

KemDooKU 9 years, 7 months ago

In readying Jamari's story from the past it seemed to me that his mom was always there for him and he kind of left on his own when his dad was sent away - I dont claim to know anything about what really went down but being homeless may have been partly his choice. Either way that must have been a real interesting time in his life to say the least - it is great when there is a happy ending because Chicago has had a lot of unhappy endings of late-

jaybate 9 years, 7 months ago

Jam Tray impacted the first month last season, I.e., he exploded out of his position to make impact plays.

But from Mid December, when the knee quilts started showing up unexplained, as if on an EJ with TRob shoulders, the Jam Tray lost his H&P--his hop and pop. His pound of pounce was reduced to an ounce of bounce. His Y-axis function flat lined on Sam Orez, whose last name is zero backwards. He was forced to learn to guard the post Sasha Kaun style, as in without knees.

Now Self says Jamari can be "terrific" and play pro in 4 years, when he learns to step away for a J. That sounds like Coach Speak for another backup year while skills develop.

As with EJ, Jamari's KU future terrific-ness depends on whether his hop and pop restores, or not. Fortunately for Jam Tray, Self has not uttered the dread phrase: "his knee needed a few things cleaned up, he'll be fine." Why is that fortunate? Because that phrase of Self's signals about a 50/50 chance of a return vertical wellness.

And when that phrase is conjoined with learning to "step away from the basket and do some things," then a player is also in danger of having to "learn to play an old man's game."

But Self is rarely wrong when he says a player will be "terrific" for KU.

And he said Jamari would be terrific.

But Self also implied Jam Tray has three years to reach terrific.

Conclusion: Jamari is not quite ready to be terrific. He is being retooled to play a TRob game at 4 for two seasons from now opposite Embiid/Mickelson. This season he fills for Perry and Black as needed, when his 6-6 height, 6-8 in KU inches, permits and if his hops and pops restore. And Lucas and Embiid mean he could be playing fewer total minutes than last year. And Lucas, Embiid and Mickelson mean his future is as a short, athletic, step away four, not a five. That could take a year, or two, more to develop. But Jamari has two aces up his sleaze that those with more talent have to beat. The kid is tough enough to beat the street. And Jamari gave Self what he asked for out of position at the five at only 6-6 and without his H&Ps. These two things make him a man in Bill Self's criteria.

And men stay in the rotation at way or another.

jaybate 9 years, 7 months ago

Sleeve, not sleaze! Spell checker strikes again!!!

Jack Wilson 9 years, 7 months ago

jb: Do you really think it was an injury? It seemed he made athletic plays, follow slams, and blocks as the second man in periodically all season. Didn't he have a follow slam vs. Michigan? I guess I don't recall seeing an article or hearing that he was hurt. But that doesn't mean he wasn't, of course.

It's all skill development for him .. Self summarized it nicely: "He’s not real big for the position he plays so he has to get a little more skilled where he can step away from the basket and do some things,”

As I've mentioned, with Lucas and Traylor .. we should really judge them by their impact in their junior and senior seasons. But it would be great if it were earlier.

Here's a picture showing him wearing the same things on his knees as EJ was wearing.

It looks like they are either wearing this:

Or this

jaybate 9 years, 7 months ago


All these L&As with knees problems can still get up once or twice a game on a run and jump. But they can't do it consistently and they can't sergeant jump (no step) a lick. It is easier to mask in a PG who penetrates x-axis to dish, or run and jumps infrequently to finish, but with a 6-6 big it shows unmistakably in his rebound stats. As you've pointed out before, Jamari lacks the rebounding knack of anticipation even when healthy. My point is when bad-knee bigs can't sergeant jump (and lack great anticipation), their RPG stat flatlines, as Jamari's did, and as Sasha Kaun's did his last two seasons.

Yes, I thought Jamari's already limited game withered to nil due largely to gimpy knees that improved slightly the last few weeks as practices largely ended and his slim minutes combined to let him recuperate some.

We know from past experience Self will never admit to a player losing his hops, and he will only admit his pop will take awhile to come back.

My guess is Jam Tray's tendons and ligaments were all stretched, but not torn. So he was not scoped, but played sparingly to save his knees. EJ's lost function from playing on problem knees was fresh in Self's mind.

Jamari probably show signs of getting his pop back, but the question remains: will the knees hold for a season?

Stay tuned. :-)

Robin Smith 9 years, 7 months ago

just for the record, DeAndre Daniels was a sophomore for the postseason-ineligible UCONN Huskies last season, where he played 29 mpg and avg'd 12 and 5. We'll be hearing more from him this season now that their pariah status has been lifted.

jaybate 9 years, 7 months ago

UConn is like Collinwood in Dark Shadows and Jim Calhoun is Barnabas lurking in the background biting players and turning them into the living dead. Their new coach is just Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. Barnabas and his battle with Angelique are still the dynamic of evil driving the dark tradition of the Huskies. Where Kentucky is corrupt, UConn are the blood hungry vampires of the game. Deandre was bitten. He is doomed to live forever. :-)

KansasComet 9 years, 7 months ago

Will definitely be pulling for Traylor to have an outstanding season. At this point no one knows what will happen, but it is entertaining to read everyone's opinion. Who knows, one of us may even be right as to how things play out? Go Jayhawks!

Tony Bandle 9 years, 7 months ago

Jamari having to redshirt his frosh year, couldn't have been a better option. His senior year, Jamari will be THE MAN!!!

As a five year Jayhawk, he will be ready to take on anybody or anything.

Tarik, Andrew, Jo Jo, Wayne, Naadir maybe even Perry will have moved on but by 2015, the team could be The Jam Man's to lead!!!

Robert Brown 9 years, 7 months ago

Jamari's story shows the positive side of college athletics. There always seems to be 1-2 players on the roster who has had similar hardships. Off the top of my head, you have McLemore, Thomas Robinson, and Darnell Jackson.

I am sure this in not unique to Kansas athletics. I am sure there that most rosters has people who have had to overcome similar hardships.

Mike Barnhart 9 years, 7 months ago

Looked up 27th and State Street on Google. Not really the "great street" Sinatra sang about - mostly projects! Chicago's still a "toddling town", though!

Andrew Horigan 9 years, 7 months ago

State Street stretches from the most wealthy areas of town to some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America.

jgkojak 9 years, 7 months ago

After T-Rob and Jamari, and even B-Mac, I wonder if Self is getting the good and deserved reputation of being able to nurture kids who need it.

I also think it shows how amazing he is in connecting with his guys - especially those guys who are "studs"/fierce competitors.

DDDHawk 9 years, 7 months ago

Jamari, we can't wait to see you play this year! Jayhawk fans love you! You are family!

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