Sunday, June 16, 2013

Joel Embiid happily signs for campers

Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins signs an autograph at the Bill Self basketball camp on Sunday, June 16, 2013, at the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.

Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins signs an autograph at the Bill Self basketball camp on Sunday, June 16, 2013, at the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.



Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins signs an autograph at the Bill Self basketball camp on Sunday, June 16, 2013, at the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.


Kansas center Joel Embiid laughs during warmups before a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at the Horejsi Center.

Seated at a table with freshman teammate Brannen Greene to his left and Andrew Wiggins to his right, Joel Embiid bent over, closed his eyes and placed his head on the hard surface Sunday afternoon in Kansas University’s Booth Family Hall of Athletics.

The 7-foot, 240-pound Embiid feigned the need for a nap at the conclusion of a 21⁄2-hour autograph session on the first day of the second session of Bill Self’s basketball camp for youths.

“People want to know me, so I don’t have a problem with that (signing),” said Embiid, KU’s freshman center from Cameroon who attended The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., last season.

Embiid,’s No. 25-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2013 who is beginning his third season of organized basketball, comes from a country where fans do want autographs — just not necessarily from basketball players.

“It’s mostly soccer players, because soccer is the sport everybody plays,” said Embiid, who indeed played soccer and volleyball as a child.

“I should have been a goalie, but I was a forward,” he added with a smile. “I was good for headers. That was my job.”

Embiid was good at soccer, but even better at volleyball.

“My dad wanted me to play professional volleyball,” Embiid said of his father, a former pro team handball player in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Instead, Embiid, who dabbled in basketball, was discovered by Cameroon native/NBA player Richard Mbah a Moute at a camp when Embiid was 15. Mbah a Moute, who played at UCLA and played last season for the Milwaukee Bucks, encouraged Embiid to attend Montverde Academy (Fla.), where he played basketball his junior year under the direction of coach Kevin Boyle. Playing behind 6-10 Dakari Johnson, Embiid elected to transfer to The Rock for his senior year, and he averaged 13.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for a 33-4 team.

“I wasn’t surprised because I was working out every day,” Embiid said of his blossoming as a blue-chip basketball prospect. He chose KU over Florida, Texas, Marquette and Virginia.

“My junior year, I was playing JV. I also was working out with the varsity team, with my coach after practice, before practice. Once summer came (between junior and senior year) is when people really saw me. That’s when everybody was, ‘Who is this guy?’”

Embiid began his senior season unranked nationally, ending up as high as No. 6 by

“He’s literally just getting started. His potential is untapped,” said KU coach Bill Self, who said he has found Embiid to be a “sponge” in early-summer workouts. “From a raw skill set, he’s big, long, quick, athletic, can move his feet, he can shoot over both shoulders, jump hook, things like that. It’s unbelievable for a guy playing three years to have that skill set.”

“(But) when somebody punches him in the mouth,” Self added, “how is he going to react? He’s light, kind of like Jeff (Withey) being able to hold his spot. There’s a lot of things he has to get better at, no question, but he’s going to be a fun kid to coach because he is a sponge and wants to be good.”

Embiid, who rooms with freshman Wayne Selden, said he already has learned a lot during the first session of summer school.

“Everybody is helping,” he said. “My first week ... working with coach (Andrea) Hudy in the weight room was kind of tough because it was my first time to really work like that. Everybody was pushing me. Everybody is helping me.”

He said he hasn’t received, or needed, much help regarding one of his strengths — shot-blocking.

“I mean, there’s no technique to block shots. I am already tall. I just have to jump straight up to block the shot,” Embiid said. “When I want to spike the ball (in volleyball), I had to jump straight up. Blocking is the same thing.”

Embiid, who speaks three languages — French, English and a dialect language of Cameroon — said he feels right at home in Lawrence.

“Since I’ve been in Kansas, I love everybody, what everybody is doing for me, I love it,” he said. “I’m here to work hard, trust coach Self, listen to what he says every day.

“My teammates ... right now we have a pretty good group. We can go all the way. Practices are really intense. Everybody loves to compete. It’s really fun.”

He said he misses his mom and dad — who recently were in the States for his graduation from The Rock — as well as his brother and sister, but “it’s not a big deal. I’m here now. I don’t know when, but I think they will come,” he added of his family watching him play a game in Allen Fieldhouse.

The book on Embiid: Here’s a profile on Embiid by’s Matt Kamalsky:

“The 7-foot center has only been playing the game for a few years, and while he remains raw, his upside is obvious.

“Standing out at first glance with his 240 pound frame and 7-5 wingspan, Embiid looks the part of a NBA center. Very new to the game of basketball, Embiid has a limited feel for how to make his presence felt consistently, and doesn’t always know his limitations, but flashed some intriguing tools on both ends of the floor (at Nike Hoop Summit last spring), even though he wasn’t at 100 percent (because of back spasms). Knocking down a 20-foot jump shot, making a nifty move to score a left handed hook shot in the post, and putting in some impressive efforts on the offensive glass, Embiid has some unique skills for a player only beginning to pick up the nuances of the game. On the defensive end, Embiid is a talented shot-blocker who has the tools to become an excellent defender on the ball and rotating over from the weak-side down the road. The Basketball Without Borders product is a bit foul prone and could stand to be more aggressive pursuing the ball off the rim, but his timing was impeccable at certain moments in practice.

“Noted for developing big men, the Kansas staff landed an ideal long-term project in Embiid. If he can get stronger and continue developing as an interior scorer, rebounder, and defender, it would not be surprising to see Embiid emerge as an extremely interesting NBA prospect down the road and a valuable contributor for the Jayhawks as they look to replace Jeff Withey.”

This, that: Here’s a pronunciation guide for the KU freshman center: Joel (Joe-ELL) Embiid (Em-BEAD). ... KU freshman Andrew Wiggins, who arrived on campus Saturday, took part in Sunday’s autograph session for the campers. He will not be conducting any media interviews until he’s fully enrolled in class and attending class with all paperwork complete, KU officials report.


stm62 9 years, 5 months ago

Another former volleyball player ? Hmm.

Jim Erickson 9 years, 5 months ago

The last one seemed to work out alright.

dumbarton 9 years, 5 months ago

Soccer and volleyball add up to trememdous footwork, jumping, anticpation and spatial awareness skills. Given ample time to develope and mature, Joel could be a Big Dipper in the making.

Hurinfan 9 years, 5 months ago

Is it weird that I read all his quotes in his accent? Love his attitude.

Jeremy Wilhelm 9 years, 5 months ago

If it is, then I am weird too, cuz I did the exact same thing :-)

Phognatic 9 years, 5 months ago

I can hear Fran. "Embiid can really block shots. You know, Embiid, used to play volleyball." ...drink...

Dirk Medema 9 years, 5 months ago

This team is going to be so fun to watch with the O-tools on tap, and the intense willingness to learn by all the newbs. And Hudy needs to work her magic across the board, well, maybe not as much with Selden, but especially with Joel's back.

Vince Brown 9 years, 5 months ago

I like seeing John McLendon's photo in the background as Andrew Wiggins signs autographs. I would guess that Coach McLendon is smiling down on these young men as they are his "descendants" in a program that he was part of so many years ago.

KansasComet 9 years, 5 months ago

Joel Embiid will have plenty of time to use his volleyball skills by "spiking" opposing players shots and "setting" up teammates with easy transition buckets. Once again, defense and rebounding will be the key.

REHawk 9 years, 5 months ago

The more I read about this year's recruits, the more I feel that Bill Self has brought in some top quality people, not just basketball players. I really look forward to watching this group grow and develop. I hope they are all inclined to spend early minutes with Andrea Hudy and Co.

KUbsee69 9 years, 5 months ago

Thank you LJW for the pronunciation guide.

I've heard several variations of pronunciation over that last many months. Coach Self even inserted an "L" in the pronunciation during an interview a while back.

jgkojak 9 years, 5 months ago

Even with Wiggins - we have been spoiled by Withey's shot blocking the last 2 years - he single-handedly made KS a contender. We'll have to make up for it by scoring the ball consistently/not turning it over and maybe by March developing Embiid to do some of what he used to do.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 5 months ago


1] Based on Jeff's career, I am guessing the "over" for volleyball player references for Jo Jo's career at Kansas at about 800 +/-.

2] First thing to teach him....a shot block sent flying out of bounds is OK...a shot block tipped vertically and recovered as a turnover is "golden"!!!

3] I wonder if Jo Jo gave some crap to a ref in Cameroonese, if he'd get away with it??

4] 7 foot and 240 and he's "light"???!!!!.....what does Bill want, have Andrea make him a 300 lb'er!!

5] Methinks HCBS is doing everything possible to eliminate the tag "potential OAD" behind Jo Jo's name!!

6] This upcoming season's team, if nothing else, will give the LJW plenty of story lines for the summer. This coupled with a football team that has already gotten some projections as going to be bowl eligible will make the summer fun for all of us posters!

7] Can you imagine seeing this guy charging down a soccer field and going up for a header? I'll bet it was awesome.

8] MOVIE NOTE...if you can only go and see one movie this summer, make it THIS IS THE END!!. The best, raunchiest, funniest movie since The Hangover!!

canuckhawk 9 years, 5 months ago

I wish the headline photo on a nice article about JoJo doesn't have to be a photo of A&W. Just saying.

Steve Reigle 9 years, 5 months ago

Ouch! While this is a really good article, and it's about EMBIID, both pictures and captions are of Wiggins. What does that say to this young man?

Greg Lux 9 years, 5 months ago

" Jayhawks as they look to replace Jeff Withey."

Would you have believed those words 4 years ago? Jeff truly came to the right school. His progress over the 4 years he was here (1 Red-Shirt and 3 playing) was nothing short of amazing. I am sure the coaches and Hudy can do the same for Embiid.

Rock Chalk

Kip_McSmithers 9 years, 5 months ago

It's the LJW's way of helping Kansas University out with OADers. They figure if we put AW's picture into every article all OADs will want to come to Kansas University. Anybody here get the print edition? I imagine there is an article about some road repairs and the photo is of Wiggins.

always_correct 9 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the story but change the photos.

Who's next? Selden?

KUBC 9 years, 5 months ago

Embiid has the right coach to make sure he reaches his full potential. I believe his growth from year to year will be amazing to watch. Rock Chalk.

eric poncharello 9 years, 5 months ago

Come on Bedore at least look at the articles you have your name on and see if it's the right person photographed, with the correct article!

TMJhawk 9 years, 5 months ago

The last time we had a Jo Jo a lot of good things happened. Would have been even better if he had not had his heal over the line down in Lubbock

KUbsee69 9 years, 5 months ago

He didn't have his heel on / over the line. It was a bogus call.

Bville Hawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Anyone know what Joel's free throw percentage was this past season (and did he shoot a significant number of them)? Just curious as to his "touch" and ability to get to the line.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 5 months ago

If you're a Jayhawk fan, his "touch" is a work in progress...if you're a Jayhawk hater, his "touch" is..well....I'll let you fill in the blanks. But it will improve with coaching and playing at this elite level.

Steve Grimm 9 years, 5 months ago

JoJo? Jembo? Really? Don't like either of them. How about we just call him Joel for now? Let him develop a nickname that he and his team mates select. They always pick the better names anyway. And they tend to stick longer than the lame names we suggest....

Steve Grimm 9 years, 5 months ago

Besides, there's only one Jo Jo (White). that one is taken.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 5 months ago

You mean all of us Anthony's are bogus because Cleopatra's Marc Anthony came first???!! I am crushed.

REHawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Could be the case that he prefers to go by JoJo, as I seem to remember from an earlier post. If so, you don't like his preferred nickname?

MimiHawk 9 years, 5 months ago

HCBS called him JoJo in the radio interview I heard... If Coach Self calls him JoJo, with ALL due respect to Jo Jo White, I will call him JoJo, too.

AverageCitizen 9 years, 5 months ago

Uh.......his twitter account is @jojo_embiid and has been all last year. I am sure we aren't the only ones to give a kid named Joel/Joe a nickname like that. Sometimes we can get myopic about our team.

Steve Brown 9 years, 5 months ago

This week dropped off 10 year old grandson Lucas for Self Camp, nice experience. 20 years ago dropped off our son for Roy camp, nice then as well. We walked near the player table as they were signing autographs on stuff, like balls, shirts frames and the like and once in while got the eye of a few players and told them thanks, the kids look up to them.

Bet he learns defense and not to dribble the ball while a coach is speaking.

jaybate 9 years, 5 months ago

Self's description of his skills suggest he is already ahead of everyone but Ellis.

Self's question is quite simply: is he tough enough for the beatings he will attract?

What if Embiid were really tough?

Jack Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

His skill level is high. I caught a little grief from a few folks regarding my opinion that online videos of players are not good for much; but one area they are helpful is in assessing the skill level of post players. You could really see exactly what Self said about Embiid. I had posted on that back in the fall. Great footwork. Left hand. Surprisingly, as pretty high skill level guy. Much different than the "athlete."

This game is about skill. We've got a good one in Mr. Embiid.

JayHawkFanToo 9 years, 5 months ago

Where do you get, from HC Self's comments, anything that suggests he is already head of everyone but Ellis?
Self's quoted:
“From a raw skill set, he’s big, long, quick, athletic, can move his feet, he can shoot over both shoulders, jump hook, things like that. It’s unbelievable for a guy playing three years to have that skill set.”
The key words are "for a guy playing three years." which to me means he has a lot of potential and has made great progress but still pretty raw. HC Self pretty much said that in the next statement:
"There’s a lot of things he has to get better at, no question, but he’s going to be a fun kid to coach because he is a sponge and wants to be good.”
A better description is that on the DraftExpress scout report:
"Noted for developing big men, the Kansas staff landed an ideal long-term project in Embiid." The operative words being "long term."
As much as I would like Embiid to be game ready and a big contributor by the start of the next season, I now believe that it will be his sophomore year before we see that. I would love for Embiid to prove me wrong.

soapisurfriend 9 years, 5 months ago

Looks like the addition of Coach Howard is already paying off. Cliff Alexander is coming to town this weekend.

Jeff Kilgore 9 years, 5 months ago

"Raw skills" "raw" no, I'm not buying any of it. Mr. Embiid is a phenomenal athlete who already has most of the game figured out and only needs to learn the physically brutal aspect of the game and that you take no plays off. Coach Self teaches those two lessons as well as anyone.

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