Kansas has talent, but still needs to develop.
By Dylan Gehlbach
The score was 36-28 favoring Chattanooga, and it was safe to say that Jayhawk fans around the country were growing restless. KU had lost to Michigan State just two days prior. Losing two games in a row is unthinkable for the Kansas faithful. While those around me were the picture of anxiety as the second half began, I was excited for what would soon follow.
What came next was no surprise. Over a twelve minute span, Kansas scored 27 points while only allowing the Mocs of Chattanooga 4points of their own. He game was blown wide open and Kansas rolled to a 69-55 victory.
That wasn’t all that kicked into gear in the Thursday night game. Ben McLemore stepped out as a legitimate scoring threat with 25 points. Elijah Johnson, who had been struggling to contribute in his new role as a leader for the team, scored 18. Jeff Withey, a critical part of this Kansas team, got a double-double against a very physical Chattanooga squad. At some points in the second half, the Jayhawks looked scary good.
Although the Jayhawks delivered their first impressive half of the season, fans should expect Kansas to go through its share of ups and downs this season. And that’s something that the fans should enjoy.
This is a very unique Jayhwak team. The typical Kansas team will return around three starters with some experienced bench players. That is not the case this season. Kansas is returning three starters, but Elijah Johnson is taking on a new role in running the point, and Jeff Withey will not have Thomas Robinson to draw attention off of him and dish Withey easy passes. Kansas has players like Kevin Young, Justin Wesley, and Naadir Tharpe, but Young was the only one that saw a considerable amount of playing time last season. In the playing time that Young saw, he was inconsistent.
There is also the large freshman class that is loaded with talent. It will take players like McLemore, Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis, Rio Adams, and Andrew White III quite some time to find their roles for this expanded Kansas team. The way I see it, the only player on the roster right now that knows his role is Travis Releford. This means that there will be some games where players will disappoint the Jayhawk faithful. But with that, there will also be games like McLemore had Thursday that will have ESPN anchors talking.
Even with all of the ups and downs that will come this season, this will be a team that Bill Self will enjoy coaching. Forget the wealth of physical talent that Self gained in this freshman class, it’s the diversity of these newcomers that will make the Jayhawks a treat to coach. With so many players of different sizes and talents, Self will be able to go with a variety of lineups to match up best against opponents.
This is a season that with be both painful and exhilarating at times for KU students and players. But Self has made it very clear that the highs and lows will both be crucial to the success of the season. So when Kansas takes a disappointing loss like they did on Tuesday night, fans need to understand that these are a learning moment to the team and look forward to what the Jayhawks bring to the next game. This could be a difficult task for a fanbase that has had so much success over the past decade, but it is doable, and Jayhawk fans should learn to find joy in the process.
Trust me, I’m a Royals fan that has trusted “the process” for years now. There is joy for fans in the process, otherwise I would be a Cardinals fan by now.