Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Column: Alexander candidate for huge progress at break

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for position between Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and forward Colby Wollenman (41) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for position between Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and forward Colby Wollenman (41) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.


That stretch between semesters is improvement time for college basketball squads across America because restrictions on practice time are when student-athletes take a hiatus from the first half of their titles and focus on making their games better.

Since Kansas University has a better basketball coach than most, the Jayhawks improve at a more rapid pace than most.

Much of the improvement that takes place has to do with teams as a group meshing, but individual improvement takes place as well.

Obviously, now that he is in the rotation, Kelly Oubre will steadily improve. But so will Cliff Alexander.

His minutes limited by foul trouble, Alexander is averaging 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds, strong numbers, especially the rebounds, considering he’s playing 19 minutes a game.

“I think that he’s probably played as well as any inside player we’ve had this year,” Kansas coach Bill Self said recently. “In all honesty, Perry (Ellis) has played well, but a lot of Perry’s stuff is done on the perimeter, too.”

Alexander already has shown strides, but with all the practice time coming up, he seems primed to make even louder contributions.

“His passing has improved dramatically,” Self said. “His rebounding outside the area has improved dramatically. He’s getting a better understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively, whereas early on he was just out there. Now he’s actually out there with a purpose. So I’ve been really pleased with him.”

But the 6-foot-8 freshman from Chicago did not arrive as a polished low-post scorer. He has a long way to go and the right attitude to get there.

“Cliff is as coachable as anybody we’ve had here,” Self said. “He’s trying to be a sponge. Some guys, because of backgrounds or whatever, where they played before, it’s just natural for them to instantly ... you show them one move and they pick it up.”

For comparison purposes, Self talked about a pair of former Kansas big men with great feel for the game.

“Joel (Embiid) was one of those guys,” Self said. “Nobody is going to be like Joel ever again. He’s smarter than the coaches. Joel gets it. Joel was Danny (Manning). Danny had that same type of mindset. Some guys it takes a little bit longer and they learn through repetition. They learn through being visual or whatnot. Cliff is one of those guys that’s going to learn through repetition. Once he gets enough reps, he’s going to be fabulous.”

For basketball players, the semester break is all about reps.


Greg Lux 8 years, 1 month ago

I only have one addition to your remarks. You should have written "Since Kansas University has better basketball coaches than most," We are blessed with some of the finest assistant coaches in college basketball and we should not forget to recognize their contributions.

John Randall 8 years, 1 month ago

Excellent comment, Greg. Much credit goes to HCBS for the selection and development of these assistants and their presence has a huge effect on the overall quality of the program. Bill Self has a remarkable ability to recognize qualities in people that will help them develop toward their maximum potential. There can't be a more valuable ability for any leadership position.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 1 month ago

I can't wait until conference play commences! It's going to be a great year in which the conference champion could have 4 or even 5 loses. Sweeping home games will be challenge enough, let alone going into Austin ......Ames, Norman, Morgantown. Even trips to Lubbock, Ft. Worth and Waco won['t be a picnic.

Nevertheless, when Alexander, Oubre and Mykailliu get fully operational, the Hawks will bring hell on earth to each game. I see this team emerging from the break much like the American Army emerging from Valley Forge in 1778. Just as Washington took a spirited ragtag disorganized group of men into a winter break and emerged as a world-class fighting group, Self will do the same. Baylor in Waco will be a huge test right out of the break.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 1 month ago

ummm You mean Baron Friedrich von Steuben took a disorganized group of men and gave Washington a world class fighting group right? I love Washington, but it was Steuben Washington himself credited with turning our disorganized group into a skilled army at Valley Forge. Nathanael Greene, Martha Washington, many others helped Washington with morale and supplies, but in my many tours of the camp everyone agrees Washington knew he needed an expert to train his men and Steuben turned out to be well suited for the job. Washington was everywhere in that camp, there is no doubt he was the man who they all respected, he just did not coach them into a well oiled fighting unit that winter. I thought you were a History teacher?

I agree 100% with you basketball comments. When the Freshman get operational we will be a much better team.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 1 month ago

Washington was the top guy who knew what was needed and hired von Steuben. A big part of being a great leader is picking the right person for the job. There can be no doubt that Washington, like Self as our BB coach, is the man. My family comes from VA. John Marshall, whose roommate at Valley Forge was Monroe, wrote the "Life of Washington", which was his definitive biography for about 100 years.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 1 month ago

I just do not think it is an accurate analogy. History and Washington himself would agree. Self will be directly involved with training these young men. Washington left that training to von Steuben at Valley Forge. He had a lot on his plate that winter, I have no issue with what he did or the results.

Not a big fan of biographies as a reference point to docuement history. Heck even with video today we cannot agree on what we see as fact.

Justin Lindsley 8 years, 1 month ago

The sky is not falling Jayhawk fans: From Grantland.....perspective!!

  1. Kansas


It’ll be our secret, Kansas fans. Don’t tell anyone that the Jayhawks are 8-1 against the toughest schedule in college basketball, and that their only loss came against what could be a historically great team. Don’t remind people that Kansas was a young team that faced Kentucky without much of a scouting report because it was only the Wildcats’ third game of the season. Don’t explain how that game would look completely different if they played again tomorrow. Kansas would probably still lose, but it wouldn’t be a 32-point blowout.3

But don’t let anyone know about that. Let them keep thinking Kansas sucks because Kentucky boat-raced the Jayhawks in mid-November. Let them think Kelly Oubre is a bum who won’t have an impact this year. Let them think Frank Mason can’t run the point and Perry Ellis is overrated. Whatever you do, don’t tell the rest of the college basketball world that Kansas has beaten Tennessee, Michigan State, Florida, Georgetown, and Utah in its last five games, that four of those five games were played away from Allen Fieldhouse, and that Ellis, Mason, Oubre, Cliff Alexander, and Wayne Selden still haven’t all played their best in the same game this season. That way it’ll be more fun when people realize in January that Kansas is actually pretty damn good.

Scott MacWilliams 8 years, 1 month ago

Dang decimals!!

Yes, this is a young team, and has a way to go, but now the real chemistry begins...

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!!

And happy Holidays to the entire Jayhawk Nation!!

Gerry Butler 8 years, 1 month ago

hey guys have to say I have to agree with a couple of posts here today. looks like people have been taking sensible, logical pills today must be the weather lol. NO seriously 1st have to agree with Suzi. I too also think the champion this year could easily have 4-5 losses. its always tuff to win road games, but this year is going to be a beast to try and pick up road wins which means even more then normal as tuff as the league is going to be if you can pick up some conference roads wins ya. but you just CAN'T lose any home games period. not this yr not really sure if there is any EASY road games this yr. 2nd have to agree with Justin 100% spot on we got all these people Jayhawk people and haters trying to nit-pick the team apart but bottom line is just like Justin pointed out we won right? no matter how ugly, how inconsistent, how poorly we shot the ball, no matter how much we turned the ball over, bottom line is we are still 8-1 and having played probably one of if not the toughest non-con schedule of anybody and now comes the break for practice time when coach always does some of his best work so again spot on Justin. let people keep talking their smack and then when we play their oh so mighty teams and they get their butts handed to them on a platter and looking dazed wondering what the f - - - happened? then we can say told you so. the conference championship will ALWAYS RUN THRU KANSAS- - - - ROCK CHALK

Gerry Butler 8 years, 1 month ago

sorry guys but got another comment. doesn't really pertain to us as much directly, but yet it does. have been watching other big 12 games these past few days- weeks and I have to say its pretty sad that a team is ranked 15th in the nation and always seems even in the years past to put a quality team pretty decent team on the floor yr after yr but really sad like this yr currently ranked 15th in the nation and you can't even get your arena 1/2 full for the game I mean really come on what the hell are these people doing? you can't or won't back your team? how sad is that? typical OU fans closet fans, bandwagon fans and the ones that are there are like zombies. how do you ever expect to draw top notch recruits and try to use your fan base as a selling point? same goes like the other night I was watching Okla State same dam thing all I saw was bright orange empty seats again quality program pretty decent teams what the hell? and then last night Baylor same scenario. which just solidify's how proud I am of the KU fan base. can't even remember the last time we didn't sell out, and the following we have on the road is incredible no matter where its at. tell you what, you can take it to the bank when KU plays at these fore-mentioned places they will be sold out. one last thing had to kinda chuckle at was watching Wichita State they made mention that Wichita State had their 23rd straight sellout lol ok I will get off my pedestal now just kinda interesting that's all GO HAWKS

Benz Junque 8 years, 1 month ago

I think KU and Iowa State are the only two Big 12 basketball programs that regularly fill their arenas for even the ho hum games.

Jeffrey Nichols 8 years, 1 month ago

This is for Mr. Keegan - surely you can start your article better than you did. The one sentence paragraph begins the article with "that," it rambles, and makes little sense but for the audience who is reading it happening to know what you meant to say. This isn't an exercise in stream of consciousness . . .

Justin - thanks for the Grantland post. Good stuff.

Michael Bennett 8 years, 1 month ago

This must be your first Keegan article. They all begin with a really long run-on sentence that you have to read at least three times to understand.

John Randall 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom seems to be coming in from a fog whenever he begins a new article. By the midpoint, he often remembers the beneficial effect punctuation and pronoun references can have. Once in a great while, he puts some nice finishing touches toward the end.

Benz Junque 8 years, 1 month ago

When you look at the efficiency numbers for KU and the rest of the country it's pretty impressive what they are doing. Even more encouraging is that they have much more room for improvement. I am excited to see what this team can be built into. This will be a great Big 12 season of basketball.

Jack Jones 8 years, 1 month ago

"Candidate for huge progress" ~ what a not-so-clever way to express it!

Harlan Hobbs 8 years, 1 month ago

Love your comment, Greg. Players come and go, but the one constant over the past 10 championship seasons has been Coach Self and most of his staff. What a remarkable group they are.

Merry Christmas to all!

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