Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Column: Absence proved Embiid’s worth


Maybe Fred Hoiberg was right. Maybe Joel Embiid was the best player in college basketball. Hoiberg seems to be right about a lot of things, such as how to get a team peaking for the postseason.

The coach whose Iowa State Cyclones enter the Sweet 16 riding a six-game winning streak made that statement about Embiid after KU’s 77-70 victory on Jan. 13 in Ames, Iowa. Embiid totaled 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists, five blocked shots and seven turnovers in that one, a great deal of activity for a 7-footer who played 28 minutes and fouled out.

Embiid’s combination of size, agility, footwork, soft touch and shot-blocking ability enabled him to change the game in so many areas.

Nothing about the way Kansas University played without the 7-footer disputed Hoiberg’s opinion.

In the final six games, after an MRI revealed Embiid to have a stress fracture of the lower back, KU was just another team, not one worthy of a No. 2 seed, even though center Tarik Black was the team’s best postseason performer. Embiid paired with Black would have been too much for Stanford to handle.

KU went 3-3 after the stress-fracture diagnosis, with victories at home against Texas Tech, in Sprint Center in overtime vs. Oklahoma State and by 11 points against Eastern Kentucky in St. Louis. The losses came at West Virginia, in Sprint Center to Iowa State and in St. Louis to a 10th-seeded Stanford team that demonstrates the slim margin between getting fired and gaining the respect and admiration of the entire university and alumni base.

Sixth-year Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins reportedly was told before the season that if he did not get his team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time, he would be replaced. Now, if Dawkins’ team can defeat No. 11 seed Dayton, he will be an Elite Eight coach from an elite university.

With such fine lines defining March, it pays to enjoy the journey, which for KU included a 10th consecutive Big 12 title and three first-year players who in different ways were equally entertaining to watch develop: freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Embiid, and Black, a senior who transferred in from Memphis and did everything in his power to extend KU’s season back to his hometown, site of the South Regional.


Eric TheCapn 8 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

Tom is there any list of possible transfers like T Black available?

Kevin Jenkins 8 years, 8 months ago

he could maybe of helped on defense, but the shots still wouldn't have fallen

Mel Clare 8 years, 8 months ago

We already have one transfer. The Mickleson kid that transferred in from Arkansas. 6'10 240 I think? Also, Lucas is a red shirt freshman and will provide size also and another year in weights and the system. We will have some size if Jo leaves. Actually more so I think. Black is 6'9? Alexander is 6'9. If Embid goes......he is 7'0............Mickleson and Lucas are both 6'10 and Mickelson is known as a shot blocker. Ellis and Traylor are 6'8 and Oubre is the same size as Wiggins. The key next season is how improved Greene, Frankamp and Mason will be ...........and if we can count on Tharpe.

I think White is going to transfer.................

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure that Oubre is the same size as Wiggins, but he's comparable. Wiggins may have a couple inches of height on Oubre (listed at 6'7"), and Wiggins likely has several extra inches wing span. Oubre should be adequately long to guard most perimeter players that he'll face next season (but he's going to have to learn how to play defense first). Selden should improve as well next season and I would expect Selden to be the man to guard the teams best player. We will have no one who can plug in to the team to fill the defensive holes left by Wiggins and Embiid (if he leaves). Mickelson and Oubre may look like the closest fit, but it's going to have to be team defense that improves in order to pick up the slack on not having Wiggs and Biid. I expect team defense will improve and it will start with Selden who I expect to be the teams lockdown defender, and Ellis who has no excuse to be a weak link defensively. It may also require a tweak in the defensive philosophy to allow for freedom of motion without fouling or giving up easy drives to the paint.

William Weissbeck 8 years, 8 months ago

Mel didn't mention Selden. He doesn't yet have a shot and I don't see him taking anyone off the dribble from the perimeter. So how does he go anywhere near the high second round? I posed this yesterday I think on FOX, and didn't get a reaction. Would we follow the NFL if after every season it was wide open free agency for every player? Like a fantasy league, every team would start with a new roster. Charles Barley is right, along with Magic Johnson, Parker and Wiggins demonstrated that in the biggest game of their career, they were not yet ready. Barley says the NBA is a joke - it's a lousy product. Too bad it pays big money. Anyone remember Julian Wright? Josh Selby is never going to play. Xavier Henry isn't going to be remembered. Greg Ostertag had a mediocre NBA career, but at least I remember him on some really fun to watch Utah Jazz teams. Are any of the NBA teams really even teams, let alone teams that are fun to watch?

William Weissbeck 8 years, 8 months ago

Cole Aldrich then. Look, I'm not knocking them at all. It's good money. But unlike say MLB, there's a world of difference from being the 30th best SS or 3B in MLB and the 30th best center/5 in the NBA. And if you are on the bench and the 90th best guard? It's cheapening both the NCAA and the NBA. You'd think at least one of these would like to make their product better.

Vernon Riggs 8 years, 8 months ago

If Embiid goes...Turner steps in. If Embiid stays....Turner goes to Texas. IMHO, that is the only moving part for 2014-15. If AWIII was leaving we wouldn't have quit recruiting JaQuan Lyle.

Rich Hetherington 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure that is true. We already have 2 players leaving from our rotation (Black, Wiggins) this year, but with 3 stepping in (Oubre, Alexander, Mickelson). Like you said, we'll likely have Turner or Embiid so we'll basically have the same rotation size as this year. AWIII will not be able to find playing time with everyone we have. Even Lucas, who given some playing time could become an elite player, is going to find it tough to crack the lineup with Alexander, Embiid/Turner, Traylor, Ellis and Mickelson here. But I would say that if Seldon stays, which I believe he will, AWIII really should consider transferring. He puts forth max effort and has some skill and really deserves to get some minutes somewhere. Things were crowded this year, and are going to be just as much next year, especially if Seldon and AWIII stay! We'd basically just have 1 additional scholarship player battling for minutes if that's the case! We're going to be deep though and while I'm still sad about how this year ended, I'm already excited to see where KU starts the season ranked next year!

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 8 months ago

I'd like to see Self give Selden a shot at PG and move CF to the 2.

I heard Turner was hot for SMU, what happened to that?

Rich Hetherington 8 years, 8 months ago

That's not a bad idea really. Then again, I believe we'll see even more sets with Tharpe/CF or Mason/CF next season so CF will get chances to play more of a 2 role as it is. With the number of decent to great scholarship players we're slated to have next season, it will be very interesting to see how the minutes are distributed and to who. It will also drive people crazy (think this year all the various rants about Greene, CF, AWIII, Lucas, etc).

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago

Suzi, he saw Larry Brown's luggage already packed sitting in the hallway. :)

It's no secret that Myles is waiting for Jo Jo's next move..he loved Kansas on his visit and would love to come here. At least Texas is home and, although there is a boatload of big guys at UT and no one graduated, his family could see him.

It would be a reasonable consolation prize if Jo Jo decides to stay, which I am beginning to feel there is zero chance. You all heard it here first..Jo Jo is going, going, gone.

Joe Ross 8 years, 8 months ago

Posted this elsewhere:

I have never been disappointed so little by an exit from the tournament as I have been this year. It's harder to be disappointed when you more or less see it coming all along. Therefore, the "what if" question, with all respect to Joel Embiid (whom I love), is not the kind of question that will yield a worthwhile answer. For one thing, Kansas has been walking the razor's edge all season long. Apart from a couple of games, they never really showed the ability to dominate opponents. When having leads, they often evaporated; and they struggled to gain ground when behind. For those of us who have watched Kansas play for 30 years (and even many who have watched for far less time) never recognized the character or the will in this team to WIN. Let me make it clear that I'm not suggesting this is anyone's fault. For one thing, if you look at the personalities of our leaders--Wiggins, Ellis, Embiid--they are perhaps too gentlemanly to "be the man" on a consistent basis when the game calls for it and is on the line. This is NOT saying they aren't talented or incapable of scoring a ton of points in a hurry, but doing so under pressure is another matter. There was significant lack of leadership at the point guard position (compare this team to ones lead by Sherron Collins, Mario Chalmers, Jacque Vaughn, etc.) and when one realizes how central the point is to the overall team effort, it is easy to see why we suffered. But not only were we NOT HELPED by the PG as often as we needed to be, we were actually HURT in crucial game situations. Whatever the reasons are, whether anything I've mentioned above is a true reflection of this team's reality or not, it is undeniable that this current squad NEVER gained the confidence, the maturity, or the consistency of a Championship team. So we got bounced by Stanford in the Round of 32. It would have happened eventually at the hands of someone else anyway.

Beau Woolsey 8 years, 8 months ago

Selden I believe could transform into that tough as nails leader same with Mason. I also think Greene could be a leader in a few years when he is dropping 25 a game and dancing in opponents faces.

Beau Woolsey 8 years, 8 months ago

I want a Tarik Black every year he was huge for this team. What ku could really use is a year where we get a top 40 pg and a veteran transfer pg who can mentor the freshman. A guy can dream

Jason Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

Id love to see someone redshirt, but I know it very rarely happens in college basketball. CF or Mason and Greene or AW3

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago

Jason, my friend, it happens all of the time..... Releford, Lucas, Wesley, I think, Mikelson [OK, I know, transfer, but the same result].

Thank God I'm not running the show..I would have redshirted Conner at the beginning of this season. Based on shooting, assists, low turnovers, ball handling, defense, Conner has shown such dramatic improvement that from an OVERALL standpoint, he may indeed be our best PG!!

Jason Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

Wesley sat out a year because he transferred, same as Mickelson.

Releford and Lucas both redshirted but thats two players in the past 10 years... I can't think of any others. I am sure looking back that AW3 wishes he would have redshirted this year.

Rich Hetherington 8 years, 8 months ago

There was a couple others, some of which transferred out. Brady Morningstar and Conner Teahan also come to mind as ones that red-shirted and stayed.

William Weissbeck 8 years, 8 months ago

All right, I'll throw water on this. This exit this year makes last year's exit that much worse. That was a untested Michigan team and then a younger Florida team standing in our way to another Final Four. Michigan is older, gaining a name, stealing recruits from Purdue and IU, and all of this without their top ten NBA draft player in Mitch McGary. They did this without a true center all year. And you never, ever want to give Billy Donovan an opening. He's a fox and a devil of a recruiter. And Duke is sitting back either. Next year they have a true center, the high school player of the year, which will make their parade of 3-point shooters that much more effective. Our recruit out played him in the Chicago City Championship, but our guy has academic issues. He doesn't dance like Embiid. He muscles.

Jason Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

From what I understand, Cliff Alexander wasn't one of the players that was deemed ineligible. He also wasn't under academic suspension for the state playoffs (I think he was one of just two of their starters that could actually play)

William Weissbeck 8 years, 8 months ago

You may be correct. Surprisingly as I sit here in Chicago, we get very little in terms of the tournament news from last weekend. A friend of mine is on the HS officials' committee for the state tournament. He said Okafor was a man among boys, knows how to pass and plays through double and triple teams. He's hesitant to say anything about Alexander, in part because of the Curie situation. As an aside, he also thought that Parker would have a bigger impact, but admitted that without a true center, Duke was handicapped.

Mike Riches 8 years, 8 months ago

Yes he is! Really the best move for him! This decision will improve his game, strength and net worth, as he can be a lottery pick in 2015.

Beau Woolsey 8 years, 8 months ago

He just deleted his tweet and now I'm scared.

Jeffrey Nelson 8 years, 8 months ago

This is another one of those pieces where Tom didn't know how to end it so he just ended it.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.