After pair of 'poor' games, Bill Self expecting sophomore Jalen Wilson to get back on track

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson, left, drives to the basket in front of North Texas forward Thomas Bell during the first half of a NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson, left, drives to the basket in front of North Texas forward Thomas Bell during the first half of a NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Three games into his redshirt sophomore season, Kansas wing Jalen Wilson’s production has lagged behind what he did for the Jayhawks a year ago. But head coach Bill Self isn’t expecting that trend to last long.

“I certainly anticipate him playing better and better as we continue moving forward,” Self said.

After Wilson’s DUI arrest got him suspended for KU’s exhibition against Emporia State and the first three games of the season, Wilson made his season debut for the Jayhawks at the ESPN Events Invitational this past week. But it was far from a magical experience for Wilson, a former starter, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

As KU went 2-1 and finished third at the holiday weekend tournament near Orlando, Fla., Wilson averaged 4.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists, while coming off the bench. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound wing only hit 35.7% of his shots, and went 0-for-4 on 3-pointers and 3-for-10 at the free-throw line.

“I thought he was really good the first game,” Self said, referring to Wilson’s seven points and five rebounds versus North Texas on Thanksgiving.

“And I thought he was poor the next two games — and he did, too. So that's not saying anything negative. That's just being factual,” Self said.

During the 2020-21 season, Wilson was one of the team’s most important players. He averaged 11.8 points, started 26 of KU’s 29 games and proved to be the Jayhawks’ best rebounder, averaging 7.9 per game. Wilson shot 41.4% from the floor as a redshirt freshman, went 40-for-120 (33.3%) from beyond the arc and was a 63% free-throw shooter.

His readjustment process upon returning to the rotation early on this year, might be taking longer than the Jayhawks (5-1) expected, but Self projected Wilson will “be fine” before long.

“He's working hard to get his rhythm back, and those sorts of things,” Self said. “Obviously it didn't happen in a storybook fashion, that he comes back after being suspended and you’re automatic killing it, right off the bat.”

Wilson’s next opportunity to get back to making a greater impact comes Friday night, when the No. 8-ranked Jayhawks face St. John’s (5-1), in Elmont, N.Y.

Jalen Wilson’s first 3 games of 2021-22 season

vs. North Texas: 7 points, 3-for-4 FGs, 0-for-1 3-pointers, 1-for-3 FTs, 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 4 assists, 2 turnovers, in 18 minutes

vs. Dayton: 1 point, 0-for-4 FGs, 0-for-3 3-pointers, 1-for-4 FTs, 2 rebounds (1 offensive), 1 assist, 2 turnovers, in 23 minutes

vs. Iona: 5 points, 2-for-6 FGs, 1-for-3 FTs, 5 rebounds (1 offensive), 1 assist, 0 turnovers, in 12 minutes