Tuesday, December 26, 2017

KU’s Bill Self enjoying Joel Embiid’s rise to stardom

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid gestures to the crowd after being shoved by Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Philadelphia. Mitchell was called for a technical foul on the play. Philadelphia won 107-86.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid gestures to the crowd after being shoved by Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Philadelphia. Mitchell was called for a technical foul on the play. Philadelphia won 107-86.


Former Kansas center Joel Embiid has officially taken over the NBA and he's not afraid to let everyone know about it.

But there's one man who saw it coming long before the player they now call The Process ever actually suited up for an NBA game.

That man is Kansas coach Bill Self and Self recently told the Journal-World that the entire Embiid experience which dominates headlines, fills up highlight shows and fires up even the best and baddest players in the league, was something he knew Embiid had in him from the first time he saw him play.

“One day when I went down there to watch him, I saw him go after a kid,” recalled Self of a trip to Gainesville, Fla., while recruiting Embiid to Kansas prior to the 2013-14 season. “The kid hit him and there was no doubt he was going after that kid. He has a very nasty streak and I knew that he wasn't the least bit intimidated or soft about anything.”

Other than his touch around the rim and footwork, of course. When asked recently if he saw any weaknesses in Embiid's game while he was recruiting him, Self spit out the word “no” even before question was finished being asked.


Former Kansas center Joel Embiid laughs while working with Philadelphia teammate Dario Saric in Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, during a Sixers practice.

“I thought he was a great passer, vision, intellect, he could shoot, he could score on the block, he was a good rim protector,” said Self, before bending his mind just a little to think of one area — both then and now — in which Embiid may have underachieved. “If anything, I don't think he's as good a rebounder as he should be, if I was going to be nit-picky. But he's still getting 11 a game, so...”

Embiid's mean streak, though manifesting itself at Kansas in the more mild-mannered thumb-and-index-finger pointing the gun celebration after a big bucket, is one Self said he would like to see current 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike discover.

While the two have been compared because of their massive size and African roots — Embiid from Cameroon, Azubuike from Nigeria — Self reiterated that there was no comparing the two when it came to basketball skills. But there actually is one area in which Self said he would give the edge to Azubuike at this point in their college careers.

“The skill set's obviously unbelievably different,” Self began. “But Dok is a bigger specimen than Jo was when he was here. (Embiid) was a little thin and everything. Dok, physically, can do some things better than Joel, but Joel had a nasty streak that Dok hasn't developed yet.”

Through the first 24 games of his first full NBA season, Embiid is averaging 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per night. That's after averaging 20 and 8 in 31 games last season after injuries created a two-and-a-half-year delay to the start of his NBA career.


Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) goes to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Washington. Smith was charged with a foul on the play.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Injury concerns and a routine of closely monitoring his playing time continue to be everyday parts of life and keep the big man's megastar future from being a sure thing. But most believe that, if healthy, Embiid is positioned to become not only the face of the Philadelphia 76ers, but potentially of the NBA and one of the franchise's biggest stars of all time.

“He's going to grow into a superstar's role,” Self said. “But he's doing great. I love the charisma and all that. But he does talk a lot. It's unbelievable. I look at him and I say he's the craze of the league and everything, but I also wish, I mean there's sometimes he could tone it down a little bit. But, I also know that personality and charisma also sells and it's probably put him in position to make quite a bit of money off the court, as well. He's proven that he's a pretty bright marketer.

“I watch him as much as I can,” Self continued. “But I look at his stats every game.”


Kent Richardson 4 years, 9 months ago

He is meeting the requirements of the NBA in self promotion and is one of the few who can actually back it up. His downfall will be his ability to stay healthy which is suspect. Playing only every other game leaves us with a doubt about how the grind will effect him.

His skill set is top ten no doubt and Self has over and over stated he was off the charts even when a freshman here. And as here he still leaves a gap in total belief because of his fragile lower body and now back.

Oubre Jr. is coming around and but his me first proclivity is being brought out by the NBA culture.

Go Frank!

Tony Bandle 4 years, 9 months ago

The thought of of Dok being infused with Joel's "mean Streak" is almost frightening in concept. The big boy would have to register himself as a Lethal Weapon!

I agree with Kent. Joel's "arrow in the heel" [refer to the Iliad] will be injury. The pace of the NBA can break a body down rapidly. I hope I get proven wrong and he has a Hall of Fame career but if initial indicators mean anything, that may be long odds.

I have come to the conclusion we won't know anything about Billy until game time at Texas and he is either talking warm up lay ups or he isn't in the building.

Kent Richardson 4 years, 9 months ago

If there is a player named Paris then the Iliad reference is scary. Lol.

Armen Kurdian 4 years, 9 months ago

I really hope he does stay healthy, he's got a very long career ahead of him, and a lot of selections to the All-Star game coming down the pike.

Len Shaffer 4 years, 9 months ago

I will forever wonder what KU could have done in the tournament that year if Joel had been healthy. He was already starting to show how dominant he could be, and he could have taken over that tournament.

Just one in what seems like an endless streak of crucial injuries that KU gets as the tournament approaches ... (or am I just biased because I pay more attention to KU than to other teams?)

Tracey Graham 4 years, 9 months ago

I don't remember Joel having this persoanlity while he was at KU. He seemed pretty quiet.

Also, those stats are wrong. Christmas Day was his 25th game of the seson: He is averaging 23.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 2.0 BPG.

I'm not sure where the reporter got his numbers, because prior to Monday, Joel had put up 23.7/10.9/1.96 through his 24 games this season -- not 21.7/9.2/2.2

Joel is having problems with his back, which has led to him sitting out 3 of the last five and 5 of the last 9 games. Even though he has returned to play the last two contests, he isn't moving that wel. If his career is cut short, which hopefully it won't be, I'd bet it would be the back issues that end up being the culprit, not anything with his feet.

As a lifelong 76ers' fan and a KU alum, I'm loving Joel being on my hometown team. He does need to cut way down on his turnovers though. Sometimes he acts like he thinks he's a PG, not a C. He is turning the ball over 4+ times per game, which is way too much. Ben Simmons is also turning it over 4+ times per game. The team in general is just really careless i with the ball and that's cost them at least a couple of wins.

NBA All-Star voting has opened, if anyone's interested in going onto and voting for him. He deserves to make the All-Star Game this season

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 9 months ago

So today (12/27) is Silvio's first practice session with the rest of the Jayhawks. Really don't see how he can help out much against the first round with Texas.

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