Column: Traylor should turn up the heat

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) defends against a shot from Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews (0) during the first half on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) defends against a shot from Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews (0) during the first half on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Since starting the first two games of the season and playing 29 and 26 minutes in a victory over UC Santa Barbara and a loss to Kentucky, Kansas University junior Jamari Traylor has seen his minutes dip and only once — Dec. 13 vs. Utah — played as much in a single game as he did in either of those contests.

Traylor, like many Jayhawks on Bill Self’s deep and talented roster, appears to be thinking too much about how he’s playing or what he’s doing instead of just letting it rip.

With roles still being sorted out and chemistry, rhythm and confidence coming and going, there’s one way Traylor could nail down his spot and increase his minutes while helping the team at the same time.

He needs to channel Rick Mahorn, Bill Laimbeer, Charles Oakley or Anthony Mason. Those guys were some of the baddest dudes in the NBA during their days. And they became that way by making the paint a place opponents did not want to enter.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Traylor does not have to go as far as developing a reputation for which Detroit’s “Bad Boys” or Oakley and Mason’s Knicks were known. But would it hurt if he were to lean that way ever so slightly?

Think about it: In 10 games this season, Traylor is averaging just 4.9 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 40 percent in fewer than 20 minutes a game. Those aren’t bad numbers for the second or third guy off the bench, but Traylor is not the guy to look to for increased scoring or as a defensive stopper. He has just 11 blocks and eight steals all season.

He can, however, become an enforcer. If just one guy on this roster did that, it would be interesting to see how many others would follow. I’m sure sophomore point guard Frank Mason would love to be that guy. But his small frame and overall value prohibit him from being the answer. Traylor can be, and he can do it without risking much. In his 10 games, Traylor has committed two fouls or fewer seven times and has yet to foul out. This is not to suggest that Traylor should become a cheap-shot artist or fall head over heels for the hack. But they give you five fouls. Why not use them?

Doing so would give KU an edge it currently does not have. Traylor could even expand the role. Go crazy on the defensive glass. Swat everything that comes near you, even if it leads to a foul or goaltending. The whole idea has nothing to do with production or statistics and everything to do with making a statement the Jayhawks need someone to make.