Opinion: Open practice a peek at recruits, rotation

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Late Night resulted in so many local crazed basketball fans getting turned away at the door that Kansas University coach Bill Self has decided to have another open practice. Call it Early Morning.

Of course, accommodating the masses isn’t the only reason Self has decided to swing the doors open at 9 a.m. for today’s practice that includes a scrimmage scheduled to tip off at 9:45.

The anticipated crowd in the neighborhood of 10,000 won’t do anything to hurt KU’s chances of landing prized Chicago recruit Jahlil Okafor, a center who is the top-ranked player in the Class of 2014, and point guard Tyus Jones, the fifth-ranked recruit per Rivals.com. They have talked about attending the same college.

Just as having so many turned away for Late Night was great for recruiting in that it became an instant national story about the greater-than-ever popularity of the Kansas University basketball program, so too could the less formal Early Morning event, which just might catch on as an annual tradition.

Okafor and Jones can’t play in the scrimmage, so what to watch today? Well, if you really want to make your brain hurt, challenge yourself for a solution to this puzzle: How will Self reduce his rotation to eight players working a roster so rich with young talent?

Generally, he plays eight men, with six or seven getting double-digit minutes. Doing the math makes that challenge seem nearly impossible.

Forecasting the starting lineup requires no great taxing of the brain: Naadir Tharpe, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Tarik Black. Barring an upset, those five will hear their names called during introductions.

Assuming two post players will come off the bench, third-year sophomore Jamari Traylor and talented-yet-raw 7-footer Joel Embiid have the edge on second-year sophomore Landen Lucas and senior Justin Wesley.

Embiid and Traylor make six and seven.

That leaves sweet-shooting small forwards Brannen Greene and Andrew White III and guards Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp battling for the eighth spot? So, again, how can he get it down to eight players?

Impossible, at least initially. Either Mason or Frankamp makes eight. If it’s Mason, then the ninth spot goes to White, Frankamp or Greene. White’s experience gives him the edge.

Plenty of time for Self to sort out all those issues.

As for where all the scholarships will come from if Self lands his top three remaining recruiting targets — Okafor, Jones and Chicago power forward Cliff Alexander (No. 4 in the nation) to join already-committed Kelly Oubre — even more time to solve that puzzle.

Heading northeast from Allen Fieldhouse, a more urgent challenge faces football coach Charlie Weis today a few hours after the basketball show ends: figuring out a way to score points against Oklahoma, no easy task even though the Sooners have lost defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Corey Nelson to season-ending injuries.

Basketball in the morning, a break for lunch, football in the afternoon. TGIS. Thank God It’s Saturday.