When Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self sat down to meet with the media following Saturday night’s Late Night scrimmage, the KU coach joked that the box score sitting in front of him could be “the most studied box score” he had ever read.
With good reason.
Self, like many Kansas fans, enters the official start of the 2016-17 season with at least a little curiosity about who will lead his team in scoring this season.
Saturday’s scrimmage, which ended in a 48-all tie and did not provide any real insight regarding KU’s likely leading scorer, featured four Jayhawks (Carlton Bragg, Frank Mason, Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman) in double figures and three more (Josh Jackson, Devonte’ Graham and Mitch Lightfoot) who came within a basket of reaching double digits, all during the span of a single half played with a 20-minute running clock.
“We haven’t defined roles yet,” said Self, who, like all good coaches, acknowledged that his team still had a long way to go before it could be dubbed an elite team. “I don’t know who’ll lead us in scoring. I asked our guys the other day who they thought would lead us in scoring. I think Frank had five votes, Devonte’ had four, Josh had three, Carlton had three, I think Landen (Lucas) had two. The bottom line is, I think we could have six or seven guys that could lead us in scoring at different times throughout the season.”
So what about Jackson, the one-and-done freshman phenom who is projected to be a Top 3 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft and did not even score Saturday until 14 minutes into the scrimmage? Self liked just about everything he saw from the smooth, athletic and wise-beyond-his-years forward.
So did just about everybody else in the building. Fans oohed, ahhed and cheered every time he was introduced or touched the ball. Cameras clicked and followed the 6-foot-8 freshman’s every move. Teammates smiled and ribbed the rookie, with junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk going as far as to stop, mid-dribble, during the pre-scrimmage lay-up line to watch what Jackson would do on the other end.
They all saw the same thing.
“Josh can do pretty much everything,” said Bragg after pouring in a team-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. “He can help us a lot.”
Added Self, sounding eerily similar: “You watch Josh, he can do a little bit of everything. He’s good with the ball in his hands and he can drive it, pass it. He’s gonna be outstanding.... He knows how to play with others, too.”
With the season now officially under way, the Jayhawks are off today and Tuesday and will practice again Wednesday.
The NCAA requires that teams take 12 days off during the 42-day stretch before the season opener and Self said earlier this summer that he wanted to get a good chunk of them out of the way early so KU was not taking a day off every couple of days in October. By the time the Jayhawks practice again, KU will have taken four days off and will need to find just eight more before the Nov. 11 opener against Indiana in Honolulu.